X is for X-Acto knife

I love projects that involve using an X-Acto knife. Maybe it’s because I like the fine detail work.  Maybe it’s a remnant of the part of me that entertained the idea of becoming a surgeon so many years ago. Whatever the case may be, I really enjoy using X-Acto knives to carefully cut out shapes needed for a certain craft or project.  It’s not brainless, per se (you wouldn’t want to you cut yourself!); but it’s an activity that allows me to focus on one thing rather than the millions of thoughts that would normally be running through my brain.

X-acto knife crafts

There are a lot of different crafts you can do with an X-acto knife.  Sometimes I will simply cut out ornate shapes to just be pasted into a card, or attempt kirigami, a Japanese paper art that is sort of like “origami meets pop-up books”.

X-Acto knives are also great for cutting out stencils.  Cutting out shapes on freezer paper works well for decorating t-shirts and such, as you can iron the stencil directly onto the fabric.  Simply apply fabric paint or a bleach solution, and you can add any design you want.

In a similar manner, you can cut out stencils on contact paper to stick onto glassware — mirrors, wine glasses, picture frames — and use glass etching cream to create some cool designs.  For my cousin’s wedding, I etched Super Mario-themed wine goblets as a gift.  A silhouette of Princess Peach for her, Mario for him, and some stars, mushrooms, and ? blocks to fill out the set.  They turned out really cool; I may make something similar for myself!

I have a strange fascination with the Blue Willow pattern, and started some glass etched art pieces to hang in my apartment.  I was going to have these two smaller pieces (shown below) and then one large frame with the whole pattern, but I accidentally shattered the glass from the large frame that I bought (classic clumsy me!) and have not yet got around to buying a replacement.

Blue willow glass etch

I haven’t had much time to work on any crafting or art projects lately.  I hope to be able to pick some of these things up again, maybe come summertime.  There is something very satisfying about cutting out intricate patterns with an X-Acto knife.  I promise to post pictures and/or how-to’s if I start to work on anything in the near future!

Do you have any cool craft ideas or hobbies that employ an X-Acto knife?  Let me know in the comments!

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N is for Needle felting

Hey, Wise the Simple!

Yeah, Boldy?

I’ve been meaning to ask you… What is that in your gravatar icon?

Oh!  The little owl?  I made that.

You made that?  How?

Needle felting!

What’s “needle felting?”

Well, you asked at just the right time, Boldy.  Because for today’s A-to-Z Challenge, N is for Needle Felting!

I just learned about needle felting this past year.  Unlike other needle crafts (knitting, crochet, sewing, etc.) needle felting doesn’t use yarn or thread.  Instead, it uses the unspun form of wool known as roving.  Felting needles are similar to sewing needles in size and thickness, but are generally flat or triangular rather than cylindrical.  The most significant difference is that felting needles have several small notches along the shaft.

If you want to try needle felting, you need just a handful of supplies.  In addition to wool roving and the special needles, you will need a foam pad.  The foam pad acts as your working surface, and allows the needles to puncture it without being damaged.  Alternatively, you may use a bristle mat.  I’ve personally found that using individual needles works best on a foam pad while the bristle mat is good when using a multi-needle tool.  You can get these supplies online or at a craft store.  There are also kits available that give you a few needles, instructions, and the roving you need for an included pattern.

Needle felting

Needle felting supplies: Foam pad, felting needles, a multi-needle tool, bristle mat, and many colors of wool roving.

Needle felting is basically sculpting with wool.  When you stick a felting needle into a clump of wool roving, the notches on the needle will grab onto the fibers.  By repeatedly reinserting the needle into the roving, the fibers will become tangled and matted — essentially forming felt.  The trick is to constantly manipulate the roving in order to form the desired shape.

Not-So-Fantastic Mr. Fox

Not-So-Fantastic Mr. Fox — My first attempt at needle felting.

I didn’t use a kit or have any instructions when I first started needle felting.  I watched a few youtube videos to get the basics, then let my imagination fly.  Because of this, my first project was a fairly sad-looking fox.

Through this trial attempt, I figured out the best ways to manipulate the roving in order to get the shapes and textures that I wanted.  I also learned that if you puncture the roving with the needle too much, the wool will become more matted and dense, making it hard to correct any mistakes.  Other than that, needle felting is a fairly forgiving practice.  As long as you leave the wool loose enough, you can pull your project apart and start anew.

While I’m still very much a novice at needle felting, I’ve really enjoyed working on the few things that I’ve finished.  Once I get a little more free time, I hope to start working on a new project.  When I do, I’ll try to take some in-process photos and make a post about it.  But until then, enjoy the rest of A-to-Z Challenge!  Can you believe we’re already halfway done?  I’ve been having a lot of fun so far, and am excited to see what the rest of April has in store!