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Using A Cricut Cutting Machine & Learning Adobe Illustrator

Using A Cricut Cutting Machine & Learning Adobe Illustrator

If you love to make things, then there is a chance that you like to try all of the new things you can. Maybe not; maybe you are monogamous in your craft. You may knit, or crochet, and find such sublime pleasure in that particular […]

Hey Duggee Betty Sweater DIY!

Hey Duggee Betty Sweater DIY!

We are big fans of Hey Duggee in our household, and Darwin’s absolute favourite character is Betty, the five-legged purple octopus. Darwin’s adventures with Betty are many. She (in toy form) was his companion to his first days of nursery when he needed some comfort, […]

Teacher Gifts: Personalised Flower Pots Made With Vinyl Transfers

Teacher Gifts: Personalised Flower Pots Made With Vinyl Transfers

Yesterday was Darwin’s last day of nursery for this year, as he has now broken up for the summer holiday. Though he will be back again next year (he actually has another two whole years of nursery ahead of him!), I thought it was important to thank those who have cared and nurtured him for his first year of learning.

Thank you for helping me grow plant pots for teachers

I decided a sentiment that reflected this would be important to include in some manner, and decided that it fit very well with one of the topics that Darwin has most enjoyed at nursery this year: gardening, and care of flowers and plants. So, I decided to decorate a few plant pots and give one to each of the six nursery teachers along with a plant. I wanted to keep costs down due to the number of staff at the nursery I was making for, so off I went to Ikea, which is one of my favourite places for crafting materials and craft blanks.

Bingo. These Papaja Plant Pots are a nice medium weight ceramic pot and came in three bright and vibrant colours, for just £1.50 a piece. These are the 12cm circumference pots. There is an identical but smaller 9cm pot in the range for just £1, but the extra 50p buys a lot more pot, and makes the application of lettering a lot less fiddly. Armed with my bag of pots, I set off home with lots of ideas but no actual clue as to how to achieve what I wanted.

I wanted to use permanent vinyl to attach to the pots. Similar to the contact paper people line drawers with, adhesive vinyl arrives in sheets or rolls with a sticky-backed vinyl sheet, placed on a peel-off backing sheet. There are many makes and brands available, but I used Arteza Self-Adhesive Vinyl in a variety pack of colours and finishes.

I decided on a sentiment ‘Thank you for helping me to grow’, and that I wished to include each of the staff members’ names. The pots were all bright colours, so I decided to keep the majority of the text in a matt black, skinny font, but to highlight the teachers’ names in a foiled modern calligraphy font.

I browsed the internet for tips on applying vinyl to curved surfaces, specifically plant pots, and noticed something immediately; the text was smiling. A lot of the tutorials on the internet seem to not take into account the flare of the pot towards the upper edge when setting out text. So, armed with a piece of paper and some maths, I made a template. You can download the template to allow for the placement of your own text – just follow the curves by applying an arc transformation to your lettering in your graphics program.

Example of text with arc transformation to match curvature of pot. The name is applied on a slant, so the effect less noticeable, but the transformation has been applied there also.

The template will only work on this specific size and shape of pot as other pots will have a different ratio of upper to lower edge circumference, as well as a different height and size. Once text takes on this slight curve, it allows it to remain an equal distance from the top of the pot, rather than dipping in the middle of the line.

Applying the vinyl was relatively straightforward, but included an extra step in comparison to the heat transfer vinyl that I used last week. Unlike heat transfer vinyl, the Arteza self-adhesive vinyl is cut with the colourful side up, and isn’t mirrored as when using the Arteza heat transfer (check your own brand, though, as I believe that application details can differ). Firstly, excess vinyl is removed from around the lettering and all the little bits within letters (the circles within Os, and little pieces from within the Ps, etc. Once you are left with only your lettering a wide piece of ‘vinyl transfer tape’ is applied, sticky side down, straight onto the lettering, and rubbed all over with a scraping tool, fingernail or credit card to get the letters to stick to it. Some transfer tape looks like book covering film, which some users say can be used as a replacement, but the brand I used was more reminiscent of painter’s masking tape, but 30cm wide.

Getting all of the letters to stick to the tape was not easy. The UK was experiencing a long and drawn out heatwave, and it was extremely hot and humid. I couple of times I lost a letter or two and had to apply them by hand, but for the most part, it worked as intended. The transfer tape is placed down on the post and then rubbed all over again with the scraper or credit card, pressing firmly. The transfer tape is removed, et voila, you have transferred your lettering.

By all means you can load up the transfer tape with all your lettering at once before making the transfer, but I found it far easier to apply line by line: top, bottom, and then name in the middle, to give best fit. If transferring the whole design at once you’d want to copy the image of the curvature template onto your transfer tape to ensure the curvature was kept aligned.

Once I got the first pot finished, the rest were a breeze. I found that putting the transfer tape on, burnishing really hard with the scraper and then lifting the tape off carefully but quickly meant that no letters were left behind. On a less humid day and with less spindly lettering, this would likely not have been a problem, but the process sped up quickly once I had the first pot complete, and the rest I finished in a production line manner.

All that remained was to pop back to Ikea to pick up six appropriately sized plants, which came in at £2.50 each. I labelled the cellophane wrapper of each plant with a greeting from Darwin before giving them to the teacher. I had considered putting ‘love from Darwin’ in very small letting on the bottom edge  of each pot, at the back, but thought even inconspicuously, that I would rather the sentiment be entirely for the carer. They are the carers of many children, and hopefully it will be a reminder of the gratefulness of their care for all our little ones and that their job is recognised as important.

Thank you to all teachers and staff of schools, nurseries and other childcare groups for your work this year.

As I wanted to keep costs down, here is the final cost total:

  • 6 plant pots @ £1.50 each: £9.00
  • 6 plants @ £2.50 each: £15.00
  • 2 half sheets of vinyl, calculated to 36p per sheet: 36p (remainder can be used again)
    TOTALS £24.36p, or £4.06 per pot and flower.

Fonts used are Amatic and Anisha Free.

Sewing & Embellishment Project: Toddler Painting Smocks, V2.0

Sewing & Embellishment Project: Toddler Painting Smocks, V2.0

Back in March of this year I made a couple of toddler art smocks for two awesome little guys in my life: my little boy and his best friend. My little guy’s art smock gets used at least a couple of times each week as […]

First Experiments With Heat Transfer Vinyl

First Experiments With Heat Transfer Vinyl

If you are a creator, a maker, artist, crafter or dabbler then you may well agree with me that few things feel more exciting than new supplies. So, as I needed a bit a creative boost I decided to treat myself to a crafting medium […]

Four Seasons Wall Art – A Toddler Paint Activity

Four Seasons Wall Art – A Toddler Paint Activity

Since Darwin was a few months old I have always tried to encourage him in mark making and exploring colour with art materials. We have progressed on somewhat from our first experiments with making baby-safe cornflour paint, and now that our young one is less inclined to eat all of the bright colours have a huge drawer dedicated to nothing more than bottles and bottles of bright, ready-mixed paint (thanks, Nana and Grandad, for encouraging his messy, colourful side!)

We’ve always hung Darwin’s artwork on the walls of our home, because it is bright and full of happiness, but we decided that our hall needed a bit of a refresh, and that we’d replace the gallery of paper-plate crafts that we created at the library playgroup with something a little more permanent.

Over spring, Darwin became enthralled with the tree just outside of our living room window, watching it spring to life in a cloud of pink blossom. Every morning he ran straight to the window to check on the blossom and to tell us all about it. Then, one morning, after a particularly rainy and windy night, he threw open the curtains and slowly said ‘blossom… gone…’

It was actually almost heartbreaking the way the words came slowly and sadly across the room. So, we decided to explain to him (as best as you can to a two year old) about the seasons, and trees, about blossom, the green leaves of summer and the reds and oranges of autumn.

So I quickly sketched out the basic shape of a tree trunk and bare branches, four times over. As I drew them quickly, and freehand, mine are all a bit different, but if you wanted to have four identical tree bases then I have put together a simple and free Four Bare Trees Printable Template.

Older children may wish to paint the sheet while it is whole, but younger ones will probably benefit from being presented with each pre-cut tree template in turn, as well as the corresponding selection of paint colours (or confetti, small pieces of tissue paper, or whatever seasonal decorations you are applying).

We used a small cotton bud dipped in the paints to apply the blossom/leaves/frost to the trees, but fingerprints would give another personal and unique touch, especially when making a gift. If you have a larger family then the fingerprints of each member might form the tree decoration. Babies can be guided to gently make fingerprint leaves by helping to gently push baby’s fingers onto a paint-saturated sponge and then onto the paper in turn. The template provides a lot of open-ended possibility to create colourful scenes. Older children may wish to add birds, or snow and autumn leaves on the ground.

Once Darwin had painted his trees and left them to dry we went to find the four-aperture frame that I had some vague notion that I had lying around. When I found it, it had three apertures. Of course it did. My memory betrayed me again. My husband suggested we could just have spring, summer and autumn. My inner voice screamed what are you thinking…how could you live with that?! at him, but my outside voice said ‘well, let’s just go to the shop and buy one!

Yeah, so, they don’t exist. At least not in the shops I went to. Three? Yup. Five, a-huh. Six, seven? Sure thing. Not four. So, I panic-bought these:

A matching 3-aperture and single frame. I had the genius idea of hanging it around a corner.

Apologies for the picture quality on that one. It’s our entrance hallway and very short on natural light. Now it looks like I purposefully wanted a three aperture frame and a single one, for design purposes, and not like I panic bought these at Wilkos because I was hungry and wanted to go home.

So, whether a rainy-day activity, or artistic work worthy of a wall and a dash to buy the nearly perfect frame, download and print up a few of the free tree templates and see what you come up with.

PS: four aperture frames definitely exist by the way… I could have had one the very next day if I was patient (I’m not) and sensible (nope) and less fond of ‘creative’ solutions to problems.