The Big Reveal – January 2017

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything here that it’s become a “thing”. A niggle at the back of my mind of something that I should be doing but I’ve got out of the habit. One of the benefits of the Cliff challenge, that I hadn’t really given the whole thing credit for, was the focus it gave me and the momentum it provided to make me share – sharing my trials and tribulations and also my achievements. I haven’t stopped crafting, I make something almost everyday,but the recording bit has got lost somewhere so I’ll start my 2017 here and now with the big reveal of all the Cliff makes!
Due to holidays and commitments of extended family, we were really lucky to have three Christmas celebrations (complete with full Christmas dinners) – the final one of these was with my brother-in-law in January. For anyone who may have missed earlier posts, as a running joke with my husband’s family, I have been the long-suffering recipient of numerous Cliff Richard calendars over the past several years. In 2016, I decided to get my revenge!


And so as part of the after dinner entertainment, my brother-in-law was presented with the 12 Cliffs of Christmas. I’d wrapped and labelled each one with a hand-made gift tag – it was almost sad to say goodbye to the collection that I’d put so much time and effort into but it was worth it! I think the most successful piece was probably the jewellery made from rolled strips of calendar. The most challenging piece was the sonobe origami vase or perhaps the unsuccessful attempt at spinning paper into something able to be woven. I think I actually miss the challenge although I’m grateful that I don’t have to look at as much tanned and leathery old man skin – but I digress!


He took it well. I would describe his reaction as a mixture of confusion, amusement and mild astonishment and I’m relatively confident that there will be no more calendars – at least this should act as a deterrent!

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December Cliff 2016

dsc_0144The end of an era – the final project of a year long challenge! I needed something festive for my grand finale. I had a couple of ideas but really wanted to combine fairy lights and paper stars. I found a few different techniques, mostly involving origami (which we know is not my favourite thing) so settled on 8-pointed stars woven from strips of paper. I cut loads of 12cm by 0.5cm strips. Each star is made from 12 strips each and created in two halves which are then fitted together. The link to the tutorial I used is here:
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I joined all the stars together in a long string then threaded some LED fairy lights (Poundland bargain!) through the gaps. The end result is pretty – I probably could have sized everything a bit better so the lights lined up with the centre of the stars – but it fits the bill!
It’s been fun and I feel like I’ve achieved a great deal. The big reveal will take place on 14th January so I’ll let you know how that goes. It’s been a bit of a mad month craft wise. I do love Christmas but always seem to set myself far too much to do to the point where it all gets a bit manic. After having crocheted a bespoke dinosaur mermaid for my son and handmade little gift boxes complete with homemade fudge and cookies for my team at work I was up until midnight on Christmas Eve making snowball pompoms, needle-felted sprouts and printed lino-cut gift tags. I was all great but I definitely needed a rest which is why it’s taken me until now to get December Cliff sorted out! Hopefully I’ll be back to more regular updates in the new year!

November Cliff 2016

dsc_0130Firstly I’ll have to apologise for this being late. I did finish it about a week ago but have been frantically trying to finish off Advent baskets (which I’ve still yet to do – three missed chocolates so far!). I’ve gone back to paper cutting for November’s project but rather than a flat picture, this is a 3-d model.
The pattern for this project, a festive woodland scene with reindeer, was taken from Mollie Makes issue 71. Theirs was very on trend with gold reindeers and a blush border. Cliff was posing on a yacht this month which gave me two distinct colours to work with – tanned skin, as always, and beautiful shades of blue from the sea. The tree in the middle was made with 6 flat shapes from plain white paper folded in half and attached together which gave a nice solid base to the whole design – I chickened out a bit and cut them all out with scissors though! The cutting out of the border was a nice way to ease myself back in to paper cutting – tiny circles with a craft knife were challenging but I got there in the end. I’m very pleased with the reindeer – I managed not to chop off any vital parts – legs and antlers remain fully intact! Most of it is put together with double sided tape although I used hot glue to secure the tree to a sturdy piece of card and glued the border in place to make everything a bit more robust.
20161127_222817I really like the finished result! In the magazine, they cover the whole thing in a glass bell jar, I’m too much of a cheapskate to fork out but I can see that it could look really lovely as a centre piece. It’s been decorating our mantelpiece for the past week and I’ll be sorry to see it go to it’s new owner!


Only one more project to go on this whole crazy adventure – I’ll do a round up and reflection at some point and of course I’ll document the big reveal. My brother in law is out of the country over Christmas and New Year so it’s likely to be January before the 12 Cliffs of Christmas are finally handed over – I’m childishly excited thinking about the look on his face!

October Cliff 2016

dsc_0111Papier mache – how could I forget about papier mache? I’ve created many papier mache creations over the years from the sublime (silver and pink waste paper bins that resembled giant Easter eggs) to the ridiculous (life sized palm trees for a pirate birthday party which were reused to great effect as the giant worms from Tremors for Halloween!) but to use papier mache to make the calendar into something useful and beautiful posed more of a challenge. I love Autumn with all the colours and the leaves and the splendour and have been waiting to make use of the spoils collected from various walks round the park so decided to combine the two ideas and make two bowls – one from real leaves and one from paper leaves.
I used some patterned scissors to cut out 20 leaf shapes from the calendar page then cling filmed the top of a glass jug to act as my mould. I did the same to a small glass mixing bowl for the leaf bowl. I layered up and overlapped the paper leaves to create my bowl shape and as always made sure that the “best” leaves (any containing Cliff’s hair or tanned skin) were on the final layer forming the outside of the bowl. I did the real leaf one in two layers, top side of the leaves facing down for the outside and facing up for the inside of the bowl so both sides would both have a pretty finish.
Once the Cliff bowl was dry, I painted the inside using acrylic paints in silver and dark blue in a gradient pattern (or ombre to be trendy!). The finished bowl isn’t as sturdy as I would usually make but is rather lovely in spite of the Cliff-ness! I’ll post pics of the finished leaf bowl at a later date as part of a full post on Autumn crafting. Only two more Cliff craft challenges remain – 3D deer in the forest papercut for November and baubles, bows and frivolities for December I think.

September Cliff 2016

It’s been a funny crafting month, this month. I went to the Handmade Fair with my Mum a few weeks ago and was inspired with so many more crafty ideas of things to try that I overwhelmed myself. So September Cliff is a quick and simple make, done in an afternoon, to make way for all the other projects I’m trying to cram into my already busy schedule! So – on to paper flowers. I used my trusty Anyone Can Papercraft book as a starting point, adapting the instructions for paper poppies.


Armed with floristry tape and wire I began by using a small piece of foam which I secured with the wire to form the centre of my flower. I then put a small circle of card on top of the foam and covered it with two circles of green tissue paper which I secured with the tape. Wow – floristry tape is weird! I expected it to be like washi tape but it’s only mildly tacky until it comes into contact with itself, then it’s super sticky – weird! I decorated each flower centre with gold marker. Using 5cm by 10cm rectangles of the calendar I fringed each piece with scissors then wrapped it round each flower centre, using more tape to secure. In the poppy pattern that I adapted, the poppies were created using 7 petals made of crepe paper, unfortunately, the size of my calendar pages didn’t afford me the luxury of making more than 6 petals so when I say I adapted the pattern, I was actually forced to, to be able to make the whole project work! Also, once again, the consistency of the calendar paper (stiff and shiny) as opposed to crepe paper (stretchy and pretty floaty) meant that my flowers – using just one petal – kind of look like a bit like cala lillies, which I’m pretty happy with. Cliff on his Harley Davidson in his double denim worked well colour-wise, lovely shades of blue for the petals with white centres. A quick but relatively successful make – all in all!


I’m struggling for inspiration for October so if anyone has any ideas for transforming a piece of roughly 30cm by 40cm paper into something beautiful or functional, please let me know!

August Cliff 2016

DSC_1077For some reason I always associated quilling with “old fashioned” crafting – kind of like the dried flower arranging that my grandmother used to do. I’m not dissing it as a craft but I kind of always thought that it wasn’t for me – until I actually tried it! I need to stop letting my crafting misconceptions get in the way of just having a go! Which is kind of the beauty of the whole Cliff Craft Challenge. I also did an internet image search of quilling and there are some incredibly talented people out there making beautiful quilled fish, birds, hearts and so much more.
I bought myself a very cheap and cheerful set of quilling tools from Fred Aldous a while back (while on a total crafty shopping spree). Three little plastics thingies – I’m sure they have proper technical names which I have no clue about – and a set of 5mm by 300mm paper strips. I cut this month’s calendar into 5mm by 200mm strips and I was ready to go. I picked up a little wooden box from The Works (an absolute goldmine for crafty bargains) with a view to using this as the base for quilling onto. A lot of quilling seems to be decorative pictures but sticking with the functional and beautiful mantra for the year, I decided a box would be more practical and stand more of a chance of getting used! And having said all that about quilling being seemingly old fashioned I went with a totally traditional floral design!
I based my design on one from Anyone Can Papercraft by Elizabeth Moad (I’ve used this book before, I’m sure I will use it again before this year is through!). I started off making the springs of foliage using one of my tools to curls strips of varying shades of green into loose circles before pinching each side to form the leaf shapes. I then attached the leaves in pairs to a single strip. The background swirls were made by twisting up one end of a strip then twisting the other end the other way to make a kind of S-shape. The flowers are all made of pieces of calendar – more specifically Cliff’s face. I wrapped strips of paper around a 9mm knitting needle and secured the end with a little bit of glue, then pinched the sides to make the petals. The centre of the flowers were made by twisting yellow and orange strips really tightly and gluing them so they couldn’t unfurl. I finally attached all the components to the top of the box with PVA glue.
I also had loads of spare strips of calendar and rather than let them go to waste I decided to decorate the bottom half of the box. Simple but rather effective design, strips glued on then varnished with PVA.
I’m really pleased with the end result and now I’ve seen how easy quilling is to do and how impressive the results can be (not including my efforts!) I’ll definitely be having another try at it soon.
Materials: Pack of three plastic quilling tools and 5mm quilling paper pack of 100 both from Fred Aldous (www.fredaldous.co.uk)
Pattern: Anyone Can Papercraft – Elizabeth Moad

July Cliff 2016

DSC_0669 (2)Origami – the ultimate papercraft! I suppose it was only a matter of time before I had to tackle origami. I like the idea of origami; I make a mean paper aeroplane – in fact, as part of a job interview, I once had to do a presentation on paper aeroplanes. I discussed an alternative history of the paper aeroplane, explaining how they were the precursors to modern email and fax communication but I digress…

The type of origami that I’m using is called sonobe. It’s a particular form of origami where lots of tiny modules are fitted together to create any number of polyhedrons – google it (other search engines are available), the possibilities are amazing! The pattern I used was from Issue 68 of Mollie Makes for an origami vase. The idea is that you fit these sonobe modules together to create a kind of sleeve for a glass jar thus forming the vase.


I started with 5cm x 5cm squares of paper which I folded into the little sonobe shapes. It took some trial and error but I finally got it right. It’s a bit like when you fold a box lid to close it without taping it, so each bit folds under the next. Then it was on to the actual construction. This was challenging! I tried for a whole evening, just to get started and a full 24 hours plus a handy guide to sonobe downloaded from the internet later I cracked it! More cardboard box lid folding! Each pyramid is made of three sonobe modules slotted into each other and you keep adding and adding to it. Once the sheet of pyramids was the right size, I wrapped it round a recycled baby food jar and used the final sonobe modules to make a joining row of pyramids. Cliff’s fuchsia shirt against the dark green foliage made for some striking colour combinations although I also had to use lots of leftover bits of calendar from previous months and even had to steal a small slice of August Cliff to get enough paper for all the squares I needed.

It’s not perfect. I lack the total precision to be great at origami. There shouldn’t be any spaces between the pyramids and I don’t feel it’s quite as neat as it could be but I’m pleased with what I’ve achieved. Another craft attempted, another worthy addition to the Cliff Craft Challenge and yes I’m using the beautiful hydrangea flower from my garden to distract from the imperfections!

June Cliff 2016

I love paper cutting. It’s such a beautiful, delicate craft and there are so many astonishingly intricate examples of gorgeous work out there. So I can’t be criticised for wanting to have a little go myself. I’m pretty good with my attention to detail and I have reasonably good levels of patience – this could be the craft for me.

Or so I thought…

I still love paper cutting but I have a completely new-found respect for the purveyors of this art. Yes, a steady hand and a great deal of patience are definitely a bonus, but I’m pretty sure you need to have some kind of in-built laser vision and perhaps the ability to shrink yourself down to the size of an elf to even begin to achieve the levels of accuracy and intricacy that I so admire and so much wanted to be able to replicate!

DSC_0640I started with a 20cm by 20cm square of paper from the June page of the calendar – Cliff was wearing a particularly lovely sequined zebra print shirt so I tried to include as much of this as I could. Working on the reverse of the paper I first drew out a rough border then got to work on the design. Knowing that the ultimate recipient of the 12 Cliffs of Christmas is a big Stone Roses fan, I looked for a lyric that I could use. I don’t really like the Stone Roses and the only thing that seemed halfway suitable was “I Wanna Be Adored” (shoot me now, I’m sure there are a million Ian Brown quotes that would be perfect but my limited internet research was not forthcoming). I found a Steve Martin quote that I really liked “A day without sunshine is like, you know, night” but I felt that the humour may be slightly too off-beat! So I settled on the following:

80% of success is showing up – Woody Allen

I drew the text out backwards and then began designing the star motifs. I wanted to use a series of 5 pointed stars and having taken inspiration from several designs on Pinterest I decided that I’d like to include a starburst design as well. I cut a couple of stars first then began on the text.

Most of it went according to plan, there are a couple of bits that tore (around the tiniest stars) but I’m pretty sure you can’t tell now that everything is glued down. I did all the cutting over two nights and backed the whole thing in hot pink. I think that if I was attempting this craft again I wouldn’t use a patterned paper as it detracts from the design but as an addition to the whole Cliff Craft Challenge I’m quite happy with the results!

 

May Cliff 2016

We’re only just into June and I’ve only just finished my May Cliff Richard Craft Challenge.DSC_0341 May Cliff has caused me untold problems. As previously mentioned, I bought myself a drop spindle. Following several very informative YouTube videos and a couple of unsuccessful false starts, I successfully managed to spin some yarn from mohair wool tops. It was all going well until I got to the end. I’m still not entirely sure how to remove my newly spun yarn from the spindle without it all untwisting itself – it’s still there… I’ll write a post about my adventures in spinning at a later date but for now back to the challenge.

I had been under the impression that spinning paper into yarn would be a reasonably straightforward thing to do. Trust me it isn’t. Firstly (and I feel, in my defense), the calendar is made of the “wrong” sort of paper. All of the tutorials I looked at were using newspaper – shiny calendar paper doesn’t behave in the same way. I cut the calendar page into one massive strip of paper (like the plastic bag to plarn idea from my previous post) and tried to spin it myself by hand which worked a bit but mainly ended up with a lot of swearing and a lot of short lengths of twisted paper. Secondly, I’m pretty sure the tutorials lied – spinning anything, let alone paper is hard! There are so many ways to make a mess of the whole thing! After a serious rethink I adapted my plans but continued with the intended May project.
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The May Cliff Challenge was to use circular plastic canvases as the base for weaving a set of raffia and paper coasters. After the disappointment of the whole calendar to yarn failed experiment, I decided to use the calendar pieces as a feature rather than the main component of the coasters. I used strips of the calendar as the centre of the canvas, weaving them into a cross pattern before completing the first round of the coaster with green raffia. Once again I made sure that Cliff’s eye was prominent in the centre of one of the coasters along with an eyebrow and some more of his leathery face. I also wove strips of the calendar at uniform intervals around the canvas then filled in the gaps with natural raffia. This sounds so simple! The strips that I’d originally cut the calendar into were too thick to thread through the holes in the canvas even after twisting them so after several obscenity filled attempts, I had to cut the strips in half to make them thinner. I once again tried twisting the thinner strips but was once again defeated by the make-up of the calendar paper – I’d manage maybe two or three stitches before the paper “thread” broke and I had to, once again, tidy up the ends and start again. So I carefully and delicately used the calendar paper in flat strips to add the detail. You may be able to spot tiny snippets of Cliff’s particularly “jazzy” (snazzy or natty would also work here – perhaps read hideous) shirt if you look closely! Each coaster was then edged with orange raffia and I did a round of double running stitch between each different colour.
I used a spray gloss lacquer to finish to coasters and to try and make them more durable. A great craft find – so much easier and quicker than painting a layer of varnish. I also backed them with circles of cork (leftover flooring tiles from the DIY store). My husband said that they looked almost like something you might buy in a shop – damned by faint praise indeed! I’m pretty pleased with them – OK they didn’t go exactly as planned but the finished article is useful and almost beautiful, so all in all a successful project.
Materials: 7cm plastic canvas circles (mine were from Fred Aldous), raffia in various colours, Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Craft Enamel in Clear, Cork floor tiles