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Loner: Craftiness - Make a little twist on Victorian butterfly collections you can hang in your home

So I've just realised a little too late that some of the things I do in this post accidentally breaks the laws of several countries. Woopsy daisy. The day I get thrown in a Vietnamese prison for my first arts and crafts blog post is a bad one. A good day, however was the one on which I moved in with my boyfriend Will, a little over six months ago now. Partly, because I was moving in with my favourite boy under 57 (haven't forgotten you Dad) who isn't a cat (or you either Leo, my cat who totally can read hence why I put this in) and partly because I came armed with freshly made Beyonce artwork to hang on our wall. I am sure Will would agree that artwork really added to his move-in experience too, and even today as that lovely homemade Beyonce crafts hangs above the TV in his lounge it makes his day a better one...

A few weekends ago I finally completed the trio of my butterfly collection artwork, so I thought I'd take a few photos and show you how I, without many a craft bone in my body, produced something my boyfriend actually allows me to hang in the house (cos it is good enough) and people sometimes even compliment on.

For my butterfly projects I ended up using:

1. Printed off half photo/half maps of all the places in the world Will and I had been together (I'm adorable)

2. Travel money, and then when I realised that was illegal, google images of travel money, from all the countries I visited when I went off for a post uni travelling trip in 2010 and I found in my old money belt. Yeah that's right I went travelling with a nude money belt my Grandma bought me. Safety first.

3. Google images of Beyonce's album covers. I am sorry but that Bey has released 9 studio albums to date (including her Destiny's Child ones, not including 8 days of Christmas, though, that is a great modern RnB Christmas record) and that this DIY project fits 9 butterflies in one frame is just a sign that she should have been a subject of one.

So what will you need for this easy peasy lemon squeezy DIY project?

1. Sewing pins
2. Blue tac
3. Pritt stick
4. Scissors
5. A pencil
6. A "choc box" frame - you can get any one, and to be honest any size just means you can have more or less or bigger or smaller butterflies.  Just make sure it is a box frame so there is space between where the picture lies and the glass of the frame. My ones cost six quid and are from Cargo and measure 20 x 25 cm. They come in a variety of colours and you can buy them here
7. Depending on how arty you are - a piece of paper to draw a lovely butterfly on, or if you are less arty like me - a computer, printer and google to find a stencil of a butterfly
8. And again, depending on how arty you are, how willing you are to maybe go to prison in one of your previous holidaying spots, depending on what you want to make - you will again either need to rely on google, a computer and a printer or you could use some travel money, magazines, sweets wrappers, whatever you have lying around really...the possibilities are endless. Read the rest of this post and then have a think about what you would like to immortalise as a butterfly. Probably it will be Beyonce for you too, but I guess you might have other thoughts.
9. A cup of tea or maybe even a glass of wine. Or a gin and tonic. This is thirsty work.
10. 60 minutes of spare time. Tops. (Ok maybe a little bit more depending on how many gin and tonics you are drinking as you work).

Step 1 - Get your butterfly template ready

If you are a better artist than me, then you could draw a butterfly yourself. But if you are more like me, or just lazy then google "butterfly template" I went with this design as I figured it was detailed enough that it would make my butterfly collections look fancier, but not so difficult that I would have trouble cutting out the butterflies later. My butterflies measured about 6 x 6cm (at the longest and widest points) so I printed off my template at this size but do not get your knickers in a twist about this. Depends how many butterflies you want in your frame (big ones will be easier to cut and less time consuming, but might not look as good, little ones will be very fiddly and it could be hard to show the detail in the cuttings), but even if you want them similar sizes to mine don't worry about getting the measurement exact, just use your eye to decipher how many could comfortably fit on the choco block frame.

Once you've printed out or drawn your butterfly, you want to cut it out so you've got a template for later.

Step 2 - Get your subject matter ready

As I said earlier, you could choose whatever you want as your subject matter - maybe don't be me and illegally cut up foreign currency, but there are plenty of things it is legal to cut up. I'm thinking about making my Mum one from red wine bottle labels. You could cut up an old map, a comic book, photographs, chocolate bars...the list is endless. You can also google image anything that you want, which is how I made 2 and a half of my butterfly collections. Depending on how many butterflies you are putting in your frame, depends on how many designs you need. Mine were all groups of 9 butterflies, so 9 designs for each.

If you are google imaging, or if you are using a magazine or something you've already got you need to think about the size of that compared to the butterfly. For Bey's album cover butterflies for instance, I made the album covers the only a little bigger in height and width as the max points of the butterfly, so you would be able to clearly see her face on each one.

Step 3 - Start stencilling and cutting

I guess this could really be step 3 and 4 but I would stencil and cut one butterfly, then move on to stencil and cut the next etc. Just make it easier for you to follow the pencil lines you've just drawn.

To stencil, just place the butterfly on top of your subject matter and draw around it, thinking about the fact that what you can't see (cos the butterfly is covering it) is the bit that will show. I am not a perfectionist, and I was using a very light pencil, so I just placed the butterfly on the same side I was cutting. But if you are a perfectionist, or if you've chosen something very white where any pencil marks might show you might want to flip your subject matter over and stencil on the other side.

Then hand cut each butterfly following the pencil marks you've just made. I wouldn't worry too much about if your butterflies each look a little bit different. Firstly they would be a little like that in nature, and secondly because the designs are so busy and because they will bend and bits of the butterfly will curl up at the next stage it is not going to be too obvious. Unless you really are reckless with the scissors, it would be hard to stop the butterflies looking like they are all pretty much matching.

Then repeat for each butterfly. For my design, you'll need to do this 9 times.

Step 4 - Make the labels

Again, depends what you have access to here, and how arty you are feeling. I just played around with Word, using old looking fonts and text boxes until I had something that looked a little like a mounted butterfly label. I think it makes sense to use a black outer on your white label, so it sticks out against the white background, but you could do whatever you like here.

Your labels imitate how the Victorian butterfly collectors would label each species, but yours can be what your design relates to. For Bey's albums therefore my labels were Destiny's Child, The Writing on the Wall, Survivor, Dangerously in Love and so on. For my money it was each of the countries I'd visited (and then underneath the dollar "Everywhere" as my little joke to myself about how widely US dollars are accepted wherever you are). 

You can play around with these aswell to get the font size that you want. Most of mine are font size 14, with a box closely around them but it depends which font you are using really and the size of your butterflies and frame.

Step 5 - Stick down your labels and think about where to place your butterflies.

Once more, you could probably do this more carefully than I did. I used the white flipside of the piece of paper already in the frame (as it was white and the right size - if you don't have this you could just cut a piece of paper to size) and I just approximated spacing my labels out evenly, remembering to leave no gap at the bottom (as the butterflies will go above not underneath them) and a butterfly sized gap above the top label. You could get a measuring ruler and think about this more carefully, but when you have decided on placement you can just stick them down with pritt stick.

Step 6 - Add blue tac and stick down your butterflies

By using blue tac instead of glue to stick your butterflies down it means they get that nice 3D effect, and start to look more like butterflies as different pieces of paper curl up at the edges and sit in different ways. It also gives you something easy to stick the pins in at step 7. 

Place the blue tac above your labels, in the centre, so that you can stick the centre of your butterfly to the blue tac. For mine, the blue tac is placed about 2cm higher, but again depends on the size of your butterflies, how many there are, your frame etc. 

You don't want to make your pieces of blue tac massive, but you want to make them round and big enough that your butterflies are actually going to look 3D when placed on top. I used a blob of about this size.

Then place your butterflies on top, pressing down on the centre point to make them secure.

Step 7 - Add the sewing pins

So I am not quite sure how Victorian butterfly collectors hung up their butterflies. Probs without blue tac. To be honest it was mostly likely with pins alone and they had a thicker board. You can copy this effect, by just sticking pins in the blue tac. Don't stick the pins straight in from the top so the pin is at a right angle to the frame, as you won't be able to get the glass on top. Go at a slight angle from underneath, so they are visible, but not right up against the glass.

To add insult to injury, not only did I cut up some of these country's currency, I then accidentally stuck pins in the faces of the some of the worlds most amazing and inspirational people, like Gandhi. But in a nice way, making them into butterflies to be on my wall forever! Not in a weird voodoo dolls way.

Step 8 - and you are done!

Pop your work of art in the frame, and hang somewhere lots of people will see it and compliment you on your artistic abilities. 

How much will this cost you? Well I guess it depends on what you've got in the house. If you have to buy a laptop and a printer, then maybe a thousand pounds. That is an expensive hour of crafting. (Or I guess you could always use an internet cafe. Or just cut up a magazine or something). But assuming your house is already stocked with the essentials like pencils, pritt stick, blue tac and a computer, it cost me only the size of my choco box frames:

Like learning something new? Maybe check out one of the Literary Festivals mentioned in Loner: Go to a Literary Festival.

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