When I was four we moved to Nauru, a small island in the Pacific halfway between Australia and Hawaii. There were a lot of benefits like massive land-crabs and no taxes to pay (that’s right, MASSIVE land-crabs), but also a few downsides like the extortionate cost of posting letters and cards to the other side of the world (and the desalination plant broke occasionally, so we’d have to fill up all the baths, sinks and other watertight receptacles to use until they fixed it and turned the water back on).
My mother’s family has a bit of a thing about sending cards, for birthdays in particular, so when she found out how much it would cost to post small bits of paper to the UK she decided I was just going to have to hand-make every card we sent from then-on to justify the airfare. Thanks for that mum.
Anyway, this did inspire a life-long obsession with making my own cards, so I thought I’d give you a how-to guide for one of the designs I created recently. It’s easy and quick, but definitely one of my favourites. I made sets of cards as Christmas gifts this year and decorated gift boxes to present them in, so I’ll also show you how I decorated the boxes at the end. They’d make great birthday/ Mother’s Day presents.
- a peacock feather (The Feather Factory)
- two shades of green satin ribbon (V V Rouleaux)
- rubber stamp and green ink pad (Blade Rubber Stamps)
- red card and matching envelope (The London Graphic Centre)
- gold spray paint (The London Graphic Centre)
- a glue gun and spare glue sticks (The London Graphic Centre)
Step 1 – stamping
Make sure your stamp is well inked, then press down hard on-top of a hard surface and give it a little wiggle to make sure all the ink is transferred. I usually stamp the top-left corner and the bottom right, but depending on your design you can stamp anywhere you like really.
Step 2 – spray paint
Splatter the outside of your card with gold spray paint. Just as fun but not quite as easy as it sounds, you have to press really gently to make sure you get a pleasing dribble rather than a big gold splodge. If you do accidentally splodge, more is better than less in this case – just go for it and spray the whole thing.
I always make a sort of spray-paint tent out of a plastic bag, as the paint spreads further than you’d expect. If you accidentally spray yourself it’ll last a few days. The floor? Forever. Have fun with that.
Step 3 – attach the feather
Cut the shaft of your feather down so it fits onto the front of your card, then put a 2cm line of glue along the card where the top of the shaft needs to be fixed. You have about two seconds before that glue dries and ruins everything, so stick your feather down straight away.
Step 4 – ribbon
With small drops of hot glue, affix the ribbon. Twist and swirl it across the top and then down the left-hand side of the card. Thinner ribbon is best for this as it looks more elegant, say 7mm rather than the standard 14mm ribbon. You’ll find you get strands of glue all over the place, like strands of silk or spider’s web, but they’ll easily pull or rub off.
Leave a few mm of ribbon sticking out on either side, then trim this until it is flush with the card. Run a thin line of hot glue along the edge of each end, otherwise it will fray. Wipe off the excess (NOT with your finger – just use the side of the glue-gun) or wait until it has dried and simply cut it back down to size with scissors.
Finally, tie a small bow in a different coloured ribbon, glue-gun the ends so they don’t fray, then affix with a large dollop of glue where the swirled ribbon crosses the feather in the top left-hand corner of the card.
That’s it! See, easy, and it looks pretty damn good if I do say so myself. You can use any colour of card like black or dark blue say, but the red contrasts beautifully with the green peacock feathers.
Gift Boxes Equipment
- boxes (Stockpak)
- pearl buttons (Vintage Button Emporium)
- pocketwatch buttons (Hobbycraft)
- black or white ribbon (V V Rouleaux)
- gold spray paint (The London Graphic Centre)
- glue gun and spare glue sticks (The London Graphic Centre)
- metal cutters (any DIY shop)
Now that you’re getting into the swing of using that glue-gun, we can make a box to put your beautiful cards in. I spent hours and hours and hours searching online for the perfect boxes, and found these from Stockpak. I wanted burgundy as they were for Christmas presents, but any colour would be fine for a different occasion. They’re 1mm too short one way (the envelopes don’t quite fit), so to compensate for this I cut the cotton filler in half and doubled it up, raising one end of the cards.
Step 1 – spray paint
Splatter the box and lid with gold spray-paint, and allow to dry.
Step 2 – ribbon
Twist and swirl the ribbon across one of the diagonals. Avoid being too uniform in this, and leave room between each swirl for buttons.
Step 3 – buttons
The pocketwatch buttons need to have their ‘shanks’ cut off so they don’t stick out too far, so do this with the metal cutters. A good task for husbands, I discovered.
Then using your new best-friend the glue-gun, attach the pearl buttons and one of the stopwatch buttons to either side of the ribbon.
And that’s all there is to it. Hope you like them!
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