Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to Work with Shrinky Dinks

Shrinky Dinks where have you been all my life! I've been puzzling for a while now about how I can make a thick image for a brooch and I have finally figured it out! Polystyrene! aka shrinky dinks or the #6 recyclable plastic you get in some clear takeout containers. I looked for clear containers but no such luck, plus I wanted a white background so I caved and bought the branded Shrinky Dink paper, about 5$ at Michaels. There is a printer-friendly version that costs almost three times as much for 6 sheetes ($13!) if you're interested. I figured I could just trace my own artwork and so I did. This is what I found out about how to (and how not to) work with shrinky dinks:

The white sheet is translucent and I could trace a print of my artwork through it on a window or just a well-lit room. Also the sheet was thin enough to cut very easily and if I cut into my artwork by accident, it just melts back together in the oven!

The media that worked well were:
- sharpies (but sharpies smear when resin is applied over it)
- sharpie paints - baked well, but, again, smears when resin is applied over it - should be fine if you don't want to varnish it.
- copic markers - these worked great and did not smear BUT the color doesn't lay down normally, it just kind of pools on the surface of the plastic. I decided to do a textured fur on my kitty so it worked fine, but you will not get a smooth wash of color like on a piece of bristol or marker paper.
- pastels - bright color, good for covering large areas evenly. Might need some fixative afterward so the color doesn't flake off.

Worked poorly or had issues:
- staedtler water-based markers - smears in the oven
- pencil - just doesn't put color down, might work if you lightly sand the plastic

I pre-heated my toaster oven to 325F and popped it in on top of a piece of parchment paper. It took LITERALLY 20 seconds to shrink, curl and flatten - so don't walk away! Don't be alarmed when it contorts into strange shapes, it will settle down I promise! I didn't handle it much after it flattened but I've seen people say you can extra-flatten it with a spatula. I tried this once with a paper towel and spatula and found that the paper towel's texture gets imprinted on it, which I didn't like. Live and learn. Here's the "after" with resin applied on top:

The drawing shown at the top is the center cat. It looked great before I added Lisa Pavelka's Magic Glos which made the black sharpie paint smear like crazy. Same thing happened to the left kitty which had regular sharpie for its black lines - ARG. The bunny face ended up nicely because I used copic and prismacolor markers for everything with no smearing. The resin is uneven because only one layer has been added, I plan to add another layer when the first is cured. Note that the colors also darkens significantly when the images shrink too.

Another thing I found was that the images all shrank unevenly - they shrank more horizontally, or got 'skinnier' than the original image. If you look at the cat on the very left, I drew him at slight angle to the vertical axis of the plastic sheet, and he shrank on an angle too. So beware! Align your pictures perfectly up and down with the page, and widen them about 15% to compensate for this uneven shrinking.

So in summary, things to be careful of with shrinky dinks:
- uneven shrinking - stretch your image because it will get 'skinnier' as it shrinks
- you probably don't need to handle them much to make them flat
- plastic sheet doesn't like: pencil crayons, water based marker
- if you want to finish with a resin topping don't use sharpies, they will smear

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

DIY: How TO - knit from a hank and avoiding winding a skein

My favorite yarns always come in unfriendly hanks that require winding and I don't have a swift. Plus I have just been recently told that winding a skein too early is bad because it stretches and warps the yarn. What to do! This all came to a head when I recently bought a hank of SUPER fine yarn from Habu (if you have never checked them out, they sell lust-worthy luxury yarns). I wondered why it was that yarn came off a swift into a winder so easily but doesn't when a hank is unwound by hand.... 

Finally, I came up with a super easy technique to knit directly with a hank. Hooray!

All you need to do is stretch the hank between your knees and unwind loops by hand. Most hanks come in just the right size to be stretches over both my knees like below and when I need to unwind, I just put a little tension on the hank so it's stretched out by my knees - this magically prevents most tangles from happening just like when a hank is unwound from a swift! Tension is the key! (see photo #1 below)

This is slightly more time consuming than knitting from a skein, but it only takes a few second to unwind a few long loops from hank and this avoids the issue of stretching out your yarn improperly. Try it yourself! It's a lifesaver for me.

Another tip is to keep to position the hank so the non-working end of the yarn is near you between your knees like below, this way if the non-working end tangles you up, it's easy to figure it out. 

Yarn coming off the hank - easy! You don't have to keep the hank stretched out the whole time, just when you unwind. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Odette, after a long haul

I finally finished this piece of art, thank god! It took me a rather long time, from sketch to fully digitally colored piece. Whew!

This print is available for purchase at: 

Art vs Craft

I've been thinking a lot about how to get more business on my etsy. I just saw an article about a woman who started her shop the same time as me but has gotten 7x more sales! Her artwork is not particularly complex, but it is very cute, all in one style, and all for one niche market (weddings) whereas I do sketches, artwork, crochet, needlwork and my shop is a mishmosh. I know this is handicapping my ability to have a 'brand' develop. Considering starting a new shop. Puzzle.

On another note, this is a scanned and cleaned up image I did for my husband a while ago with staedtler writing markers!

Friday, March 8, 2013


Whew it's been a long time since I posted!!! I've gone through a whirlwind of interviews around the country and am now awaiting my fate which will be handed down by the medical match.

I've been thinking a lot of inspirational characters to girls that are also light and humorous. Fairy tales have been floating in my head for a while now and I finally did my first; the frog prince! More to come.. I hope

I also did the first of what I hope will be a line of ethnic princesses. They remind me a bit of classical drawings of tribes and ethnicities and would look great in a grouping on the wall.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Stuck at Hartford

I was stuck at the Bradley airport... So I crocheted a heart

Pattern from mini crochet motif and pattern published by Asahi. All jape se but the patterns are readable :)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

New Year and lots of changes

2013! A new year and lots has happened. I've almost finished my extremely long stream of job interviews and I've posted a ton of new stuff on my etsy site. My husband has continued to encourage me to draw which he considers my foremost gift so I've obliged and somehow a tweaky little pufferfish was born as well as a bunch of other creatures.

All of these were done with copic and prismacolor alcohol markers, white gel marker, and judicious use of a clear blender marker. If you want to start with alcohol markers, I'd recommend buying prismacolor first, they cost about half as much and perform almost as well. I did the pufferfish on marker paper which I'd never used before - it's ultra thin and smooth and surprisingly holds onto marker aggressively. I've used mostly bristol before and you can move pigment around with the blender after colors have dried on bristol but not the marker paper. 

Please feel free to check out my etsy shop for prints of any of these :)

Also I've gone on an Oya lace tangent and have been making these little flag charms like mad. I think i'll make a series since I have all this lovely vintage mercerized cotton lying around.

~ happy new year