Wednesday, 9 May 2018

A Major Health Setback

Warning – medical details, but some nice photos at the end!

After being discharged from hospital recently for the second time after the bleeding from my stoma, I was hoping to make a good recovery and start picking up the threads of my life again.

However, although the early days seemed to be going OK, I didn’t pick up as quickly as I’d hoped, and for several nights running, woke up soaked to the skin having had night sweats – something I’ve never suffered from before, even during the menopause. I mentioned it to the district nurse and she agreed that it could be a reaction to ongoing use of paracetamol and I tried cutting this down but it didn’t help. Later, several doctors and nurses said that paracetamol didn’t usually have this effect. (So much for Dr. Google…)

Towards the end of that week I was starting to feel worse and was off my food, until on the Sunday (15th April) I couldn’t bear the smell of it cooking. I kept feeling extremely cold and shivery and that night we took my temperature and it was around 38 degrees – I didn’t really trust our little thermometer and decided to ask the district nurse to take it again the next day when she came.

That night I started to feel quite poorly and my hubby phoned the out-of-hours doctor – why is it that I always get ill over weekends and bank holidays when nobody is around??!! – he was absolutely useless and was clearly going down through a printed checklist and wasn’t really listening to me. At the end I said, “What about my high temperature?” He said I’d probably got flu!!! I said I definitely hadn’t got flu because I’d had no throat or nose symptoms – he said you can get flu without those. I knew I hadn’t got flu! Anyway, if someone reports a temperature and has recently undergone surgery, you don’t think “flu.” He said to phone the GP surgery in the morning if I was still concerned.

In the morning I felt terrible and collapsed in the bathroom. My hubby happened to come in just at the right moment and helped me back to bed. We took my temperature again and it was still high.

Then the district nurse arrived and we asked her to check it and she was so concerned that she immediately phoned the GP surgery and a doctor came up within 20 minutes. He examined me and said he was calling an ambulance. I was apparently showing two markers for sepsis and this needed dealing with immediately. Apparently if we’d left this another 24 hours it could have been curtains for Shoshi…

Once we got to hospital we had a bit of a wait but at least I was able to be lying down. I was in a cubicle in A&E and various people came in and took details and examined me, and all the while I felt absolutely freezing cold and my hubby wrapped me up with extra blankets etc.

Eventually a bed was found for me and they said that my feeling cold was my body deceiving me – my temperature was in fact quite high – nearly 39 degrees – and if they didn’t bring it down I was likely to have a seizure. They therefore proceeded to take away all the blankets, saying that they were actually making things worse rather than better, and turned electric fans on me to cool me down! I spent the next two nights shivering uncontrollably and not sleeping at all, but my temperature did fall a bit, and over the next few days was up and down.

The first thing they did was to try and identify the source of the infection I evidently had – I had a chest X-ray and they tested my urine, both of which were OK. I had a CT scan that revealed some post-operative haematomas and this was believed to be the source.

I saw my surgeon and he said that haematomas can often cause night sweats, so that was the explanation for those. I continued to have them during those first few nights in hospital – one night having two – what a hassle having to change all the bedding etc.

I was put on my first cocktail of IV broad spectrum antibiotics and was given one unit of blood as my haemoglobin levels were falling alarmingly. They were supposed to give me two units but they said a side effect of blood transfusion can be to increase one’s temperature so they held off on the second one – this happened a few days later.

Once they had established the location of the haematomas, they inserted a drain on the left side of my abdomen, with ultrasound guidance under local anaesthetic. I was pretty nervous about this procedure but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. This drain was a fairly fine tube and didn’t penetrate very deep; it was attached to a bag from which they took samples for culture, and at the top end it had a two-way tap to enable them to flush the drain daily. This drain wasn’t uncomfortable at all but limited my movement somewhat. It also had the effect of lowering my temperature quite rapidly as the infected fluid was draining away, but it was apparently not having completely the desired effect, so a couple of days later I had another CT scan that revealed more problems.

It’s hard to remember the exact sequence of events because I was feeling pretty lousy most of the time.

12 Infection 28-4-18

I do remember that my surgeon wasn’t on call for ward rounds for a few days and I was looked after by one of his colleagues, and he hummed and haa’ed about the infection being under the mesh, and query remove mesh? He wrote this on my notes. This gave me great cause for concern because this is a very serious matter and extremely difficult to deal with. When my own surgeon came back, he read this and said, “What’s all this about removing the mesh? We don’t need to do that!” He wrote in large letters in the margin, “Leave mesh alone!!” and signed it, putting my mind at rest straight away.

He said I needed a second drain, and as this one would be bigger and deeper, it would have to be put in under general anaesthetic. This was done, and afterwards I remained in severe pain until a couple of days after it was removed – it was very difficult to get out of bed and I managed to get onto the commode and that was it. This drain was connected to a vacuum bottle to assist the drainage of fluid, and with drains on both sides of my body, with a bag on the left side of the bed and a bottle on the right, my movement was even more restricted.

During the rest of my time in hospital, they tried me on two more cocktails of IV broad spectrum antibiotics because we were clearly dealing with what my mum would have described as “a very virile germ” haha! The final lot did seem to start working, and all through this time my temperature remained within normal limits, and my blood pressure (always on the low side) began to climb a bit so that the systolic pressure was up to three figures again – when it was down in the 80s they were quite concerned.

After a few days my surgeon decided I should have another CT scan to see how things were going, and said that the large drain on the RH side needed to be withdrawn by 2 cm in order to continue to drain more effectively. When the nurse tried to do this the pain went through the roof, before it had even moved a millimetre, and she said she wasn’t going to touch it any further without consultation.

They tried again, this time administering gas and air, but this had absolutely no effect except to make me feel slightly woozy. The pain was absolutely excruciating and I dreaded the moment when the wretched thing would have to come out altogether.

This drain was the first of the two to be removed. I told my surgeon that the gas and air had been useless and he said that because of the risks, it was not usual to remove drains under general anaesthetic, but he would give me some sort of sedative. I was given a Valium tablet which I had very little faith in, and again, all it did was make me feel slightly woozy – and less so than the gas and air. When they pulled out that drain I thought my last hour had come! It was about the worst pain I’d ever experienced.

By this time I was at a pretty low ebb, having been through so much, and all my reserves seemed to have gone, and everyone who did anything to me seemed to hurt me in one way or another! My poor hubby was so worried because I was at such a low ebb physically and emotionally, and it didn’t take much to reduce me to tears. Everyone has told me in the past how strong I am but on this occasion I definitely wasn’t, and felt completely at the end of my tether.

My surgeon said that that drain was very large and deep, and had penetrated through the same complex muscle layers to the right of the stoma (which is why the hernia operation had caused so much pain as well), and when a drain has been in for a few days, one’s body tends to develop tissue which “glues” it in place, which is why it is painful to remove. He said that after a day or two the pain should reduce, and it did. He said that the other drain was of a different sort – a much finer tube, less deep, and into simpler muscle layers. It came out a day or two later, and although it was pretty uncomfortable, it was nothing to compare with the removal of the deep one.

From the beginning I had problems with cannulae failing again. I had requested a PICC line from the outset before my hernia repair surgery but they were reluctant to do this and for once, the cannula they put in did stay the course. However, with this recent admission I was having endless problems, and having them dig around for a new site, causing me yet more pain and then for the wretched thing not to work from the outset, was becoming very wearing. They left the first one in for a couple of days longer than regulations required because it was still working and I was anxious about how a new one in a different vein would perform, but eventually they said it had to come out because of the risk of infection. Over the weekend I again requested a PICC line and they muttered on about risk of infection, and it not being necessary for short-term treatments, etc. until I was getting desperate. On the Monday my surgeon turned up again and I told him the trouble I’d been having, and immediately he said, “Let’s get the vascular access team straight down here and get a PICC line in right away, shall we?” He cuts through all the flim-flam with such authority but with such charm, and I always feel so safe in his hands! While I was in, I told him I’d already trusted him with my life three times, and he knew more about my insides than anybody but God, and I didn’t want anyone else messing about with me! He laughed! My hero.

I must share this funny photo with you. My hubby was endlessly amused by this chair – there was a stack of these chairs in the corridor for visitors. He pointed it out to quite a few other visitors and everyone had a good laugh!

13 Please Ruturn Chair's 2-5-18

Note the redundant apostrophe before the final “s” – this is something that always bugs me lol lol! We both thought that the writer’s spelling and grammar left a lot to be desired!!

After being in for 2 1/2 weeks they said I could be discharged. The infection was 90 percent plus dealt with, the drains had done their job, and the current course of antibiotics (now being taken orally) would do the rest. Because I’d had almost total bed rest during that period I was almost unable to walk, but could only shuffle very slowly with a walking frame. Because my hubby was so tired and so worried, and to give him a break, and also to allow me a transition period during which I could regain enough strength to be able to wash and dress independently and also to be more mobile, he fixed for me to spend a few days convalescing, and found me a room in the home where Mum had been.

This was rather a bizarre experience! I had had pretty negative vibes about the place because she had been so difficult, although I knew it was the best place and the care second to none. I knew a few of the staff and knew them to be efficient and caring. So off I went, last Friday, 4th May.

I didn’t sleep well throughout my time. On arrival there was a regular mattress which proved to be too hard after resting on it for half an hour, so they gave me an air mattress – I spent several hours sitting out of bed getting very tired indeed as they tried first one, and then a second, mattress – both of whose pumps were not working properly – they had been put away without being checked. In the end, I had to sleep the first night on the regular mattress, and they found a third air mattress the next day which did work, but the pump made such a loud buzzing noise that I had to continue to wear my earplugs as I’d done in hospital! Also, the room was small and the window couldn’t be opened very wide and I got very hot. I had come out of hospital in winter woollies and suddenly we were in the middle of a heat wave!

They cared for me so well. After that first night, a carer showered me and washed my hair – I was still very weak – and this gave me a tremendous boost, not having been able to do this for nearly 3 weeks!

The next day my mobility improved greatly, and I was able to walk, not shuffle, with the walking frame, up and down the corridor several times. The weather was glorious, and my hubby came over and we spent quite a bit of time over the few days I was there, sitting on the wonderful roof terrace they have, high up, overlooking the beautiful bay, and it was so hot that I began to catch the sun, and we had to go back nearer the building to sit under the umbrellas there.

15 Lincombe - Bay from Roof Terrace 5-5-18

The care home is part of a retirement village, which consists of the original beautiful Victorian manor house where I believe there is some accommodation, and where you can have meals; they have various functions there, and people who are not resident can join the club. My hubby belonged for a while during the time Mum was in the care home – he would often sit in the lounge with a book and a cup of coffee if his visit had been a difficult one. He got to know the staff there quite well.

Another part of the complex is a small building above the care home which is for convalescence, but since there were no available beds, I had a room in the main care home.

Below, there are some luxury apartments for people who are able to live independently. You can see the edge of this building on the left in the next photo, opposite the manor house.

16 Lincombe - Manor House from Roof Terrace 5-5-18

Last year they had an open day and we were able to visit a couple of vacant apartments, and they were stunning – one or two-bedroom apartments with a small kitchen, bathroom and a lounge with a balcony looking straight over the sea.

Higher up, above the retirement village, is a block of luxury apartments, privately owned. In the foreground is the overflow convalescent home.

17 Lincombe - Flats from Roof Terrace

Looking back towards the care home from the roof terrace.

18 Lincombe - Back Towards Home from Roof Terrace 5-5-18

I think if the weather had been bad during my few days’ stay, I would have gone stir-crazy a lot sooner than I did – but sitting up in the sunshine and getting my first taste of fresh sea air and warm sun, and the sight of natural beauty after so long being confined in a place where everything you looked at was functional, was bliss. The views over the bay were stunning, and just what I needed!

On bank holiday Monday (2 days ago) my hubby took me out for a little drive and we went along the sea front, and enjoyed seeing all the holidaymakers in their summer clothes and the  kids fishing in the rock pools with their little nets – some things never change – I remember loving this when I was a child! – and being so grateful for the glorious weather which would attract the holiday-makers and give a boost to the flagging economy of the town.

It was so lovely to get out and about, to be in the car, to see how much more green the trees were – just to look at something different and alive!

During my stay at the home, I got to know quite a few of the other residents (I was the youngest by far lol!!), most of whom were absolutely delightful and charming. I sat with the same people in the dining room and they were good company. The home has a weekly schedule of entertainments and activities, and on my first full day, you could go down to the manor house for a meal, and my hubby joined me for that. Half way through the meal my energy suddenly drained away and my hubby knew immediately that I had to go and rest, and said afterwards that it must have been serious if it prevented me from staying and enjoying some pudding!! He knows me too well… Yesterday was the day when residents could go out for a meal – this happens about once a fortnight. They have a mini-bus which can accommodate quite a number, including several wheelchairs, but my hubby drove me, and joined us. We had an excellent meal in a place near Dawlish, and when I came home, arrangements had been made for the continuation of my injections by the district nurse at home, and I was allowed to go.

Staying there opened my eyes to a few things. I was aware that there were social activities laid on, and how kind and efficient the staff were, but when Mum was there, she did not avail herself of any of this and preferred to spend her whole time in her room. I know that her deafness really isolated her, but having met the other residents, it saddened me that she didn’t make the effort to make any friends because they were all so lovely, and it was not surprising that she got so depressed, not taking advantage of all the lovely facilities in the home – there were several beautiful sitting rooms, one with a TV (she preferred to watch the TV in her room) and the beautiful sun lounge on the top floor giving access to the roof terrace. There were always jigsaws out, and lots of books and magazines. One of the things they provide is for someone to sit with residents in their rooms to keep them company on certain days each week, to prevent loneliness for those who perhaps are not well enough to leave their own rooms. Mum never took advantage of this, and then complained that nobody ever talked to her!

I am very glad I went, but oh so glad to get home yesterday afternoon – a few days was enough for me. My hubby had anticipated me being in for a week, but as I was so much better and he was looking so much more relaxed and less tired and strained, we decided to call it a day and get me home. Never has “Home, Sweet Home” meant more to me!

As for the kittens, when I first got home, they ran away from me, and when I attempted to get close to Ruby she was having none of it – I tried to cuddle her a couple of times but she squeaked and pulled away. Very disappointing when she had missed me so much during my absence but I thought maybe I smelt different! However, later in the evening I had two lovely long cuddles with her and she purred her little head off and got quite drowsy in my arms – this morning she’s again been a bit wary of me but things are definitely improving! My hubby says she’s a lot more settled since I got home, and isn’t looking for me and crying any more. I’ve never been away from home for so long and it must have been very worrying for her, wondering where I’d suddenly disappeared to for so long. I have missed them so much and last night I told my hubby how glad I was to be home, back with my little family! Life will soon return to normal, I am sure.

Meanwhile, he is doing the meals, which he was doing anyway in my absence, and having had that few days of convalescence, he doesn’t need to help me with any personal care. He is coming and going, and not worrying about leaving me on my own – all visitors (including the district nurse) have been told to let themselves in round the back to save me from having to get up to answer the door! Oh, it’s so good to be home!!!

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Floral Mini-Album Pt 9 Page 7

Recently I made a new mini-album, about my mum who died in December. I was unable to publish anything about this until now because it is a present for her best friend, who sometimes visits my blog, and I wanted it to be a surprise for her. I wrote a series of blog posts as I did each stage of the project, so I didn’t forget what I did, and they will be published in sequence now the project is finished and has been given to our friend.

If you want to see the finished project, please click here.

During this couple of sessions, I worked on page 7, which is predominantly turquoise and green to co-ordinate with page 6.

I had made the page with a simple, full-width pocket across the bottom. I began by matting the two sections, using paper from the stack, distressed with Forest Moss Distress Ink, and then created a flap, also matted and layered in the same way, and attached with a tab inside the cavity between pages 7 and 8. The piece of printed card I used for matting this had a touch of purple in it which I intended to bring out later on the page.

In the first photo you can see the flap closed, together with two small strips ready for making a retaining strap for the flap.

085 Page 7 Flap and Beginning Retaining Strap

The flap open.

086 Page 7 Flap Open

The materials for making the retaining strap, in this photo for both copies of the album. The white flower pieces and the small leaves were from my stash – these had been cut with my cutting machine, and in the case of the flowers, had not yet been coloured.

087 Page 7 Retaining Strap Materials

Colouring the flower pieces with Distress Stains – first of all I smeared a little of the Seedless Preserves on my craft sheet and spritzed some water beside it, and mixed it with a brush. I smooshed the flowers through this, and then dried them with my heat gun. To prevent these small pieces from blowing away, I held them down with a wooden skewer.

088 Page 7 Colouring the Flowers for Retaining Strap

When they were dry, I mixed up a small quantity of Dusty Concord Distress Stain in the same way, and painted the tips of the petals with this to darken them, and again dried them with my heat gun.

When they were dry, I hand-embossed them from the back, with a round embossing tool onto a piece of fun foam.

089 Page 7 Embossing the Flowers for Retaining Strap

I pierced holes through the centres of the flowers and through the strap, and lastly through the pocket and the page, and attached everything together with a small brad through the centre of each flower.

090 Page 7 Attaching the Retaining Strap

The final step was to slip a leaf under each flower and attach it with hot glue.

This is the finished result.

091 Page 7 with Retaining Strap

There will be plenty more flowers or other embellishments on the page, and if these little flowers look a bit lost, I can always add more, but for now I’m happy with the result.

Just page 8 to do now, and then I can begin the serious business of making photo and journaling mats, tags and other bits and pieces, and then the embellishing! I can’t wait to start that.

I am also planning to make a mechanical waterfall mini inside the front cover, and a holder for a CD of Mum’s favourite music inside the back cover. There’s still plenty to think about.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Floral Mini-Album Pt 8 Working on the Inside of Page 6

Recently I made a new mini-album, about my mum who died in December. I was unable to publish anything about this until now because it is a present for her best friend, who sometimes visits my blog, and I wanted it to be a surprise for her. I wrote a series of blog posts as I did each stage of the project, so I didn’t forget what I did, and they will be published in sequence now the project is finished and has been given to our friend.

If you want to see the finished project, please click here.

During the next couple of sessions, I worked on the innermost part of page 6, underneath the two large flaps that fold up and down respectively.

On the central section, I decided to make three flaps which would open, revealing photo mats or journaling spots.

062 Page 6 Inside Flap Construction

For these I cut strips of black cardstock, and then made some more of the background paper as before, from the boring green paper in the stack, with the addition of Forest Moss Distress Ink, and Broken China Distress Oxide. I’ve now more or less used up this green card. These mats were stuck down onto the black strips. You can see that the top edge of black card extends further from the mat – this is a tab for attaching the flap to the page.

For the reverse, I took some cream cardstock and added Broken China and Peeled Paint Distress Oxides, smooshing the ink on my craft sheet and building up the layers until I was happy with it. I wanted this to be paler than the front, in case I wanted to write on it. In the above picture, you can see the three flaps, showing the fronts and the mats for the backs.

To create the mat for the central section of page 6, I took more of the cream cardstock and swiped vertical stripes of Distress Stains in Antique Linen and Old Paper, to mimic the background of the spotty paper used for the mat under the top flap. I am pleased with how this turned out. It’s quite subtle, and has a woodgrain look about it.

063 Page 6 Making Inside Mat

I distressed the edges with Forest Moss Distress Ink – as I have done with most of the elements on page 6.

Once the mats were attached to the backs of the small flaps, I attached them onto the back of the large mat with double-sided tape, using my Tim Holtz centring ruler to make sure I spaced them correctly.

064 Page 6 Inside Flaps Closed

Here are the flaps in the open position. I think the papers all co-ordinate very nicely – a combination of unaltered and altered papers from the stack, and backgrounds created from scratch to co-ordinate.

065 Page 6 Inside Flaps Open

I haven’t yet decided what to do with that great blank space.

Here are pages 5 and 6 (one from each copy of the album, obviously, because page 6 is on the reverse of page 5) showing how much I’ve done so far.

066 Pages 5 and 6 So Far

Moving on to the bottom flap of page 6, I selected some of the turquoise printed paper from the stack, which like the green version, I felt needed further treatment.

067 Page 6 Bottom Flap Inside Papers

I smooshed on Forest Moss Distress Ink and then did the same, using Peeled Paint Distress Oxide. The edges were distressed with Forest Moss Distress Ink.

068 Page 6 Bottom Flap Inside Papers Inked

Here is the mat in place.

069 Page 6 Bottom Flap Mat Attached

I made a small envelope to attach to the bottom of this flap. Here is the piece cut and ready to be assembled, made from the plain cream cardstock. The pencil line across the middle indicates the position of the envelope liner, which you can see ready to cut from a scrap of paper from the stack – same pattern as the green, but in a different colour.

070 Page 6 Bottom Flap Envelope Construction

The envelope liner in place, trimmed to follow the shape of the flap.

071 Page 6 Envelope Lining

Creating the back of the envelope, using the same technique that I used for the mat on the central section of page 6.

072 Page 6 Envelope Outside

I distressed the edges of the envelope with Forest Moss Distress Ink.

The first brad attached to the flap of the envelope.

073 Brad on Page 6 Envelope Flap

The inside of the envelope, showing how I have clipped off the ends of the back of the second brad attached to the inside of the envelope front, and protected them with a small strip of masking tape.

074 Page 6 Envelope, Inside, Shaped, with Brad

The front of the envelope, showing the two brads.

075 Page 6 Envelope Assembled

The envelope, open.

076 Page 6 Envelope Open

The envelope in place, showing the thread attachment around the two brads. It is tied onto the top brad so that it doesn’t get lost when the envelope is open.

077 Page 6 Envelope Complete, Closed

Making the envelope insert. This was cut from a scrap of the same paper I used for the mat for the top flap of page 6, and distressed around the edges with Forest Moss Distress Ink.

078 Page 6 Envelope Insert Front

The back of the envelope insert, prepared with Distress Stains as before, and distressed around the edges.

079 Page 6 Envelope Insert Back

The envelope insert in place.

080 Page 6 Envelope Complete, Open

I had been waiting for a few days for a new punch to arrive, before I could complete the little booklet to go under the magnetic strap on the top flap of page 6. This punch is the Floral Doily Border Punch from XCut. I wanted a border punch with a small pattern repeat for projects like this.

081 Page 6 Top Flap Booklet with Punched Mat

I made a mat for a piece of the altered green paper, using black cardstock, and punched around it with this new punch. This turned out to be a major pain to do, with lots of trial runs!

The punch removes 1/16 in from the edge of the card. I worked out that I had to cut the mat 3/4 in larger than the top layer in order to make it fit correctly, i.e. 3/8 in on each edge. I also discovered, from my first attempts with pieces that turned out too small, that it is virtually impossible to centre a very small piece of card in this punch, if the edges do not extend beyond the central part, onto the gauge you use to line it up. I tried attaching it temporarily to another piece of paper with a spot of glue stick but this wouldn’t punch properly as it was too thick. In the end, cutting the piece large enough to fit the top layer, it extended just far enough for me to see the edges, enabling me to punch it in the centre and work outwards. The excess at the edges of each punching (part-scallops), I trimmed away with fine scissors.

The inside of the booklet, using more of the beige card from the stack. I didn’t alter this in any way, although on second thoughts I could have distressed the edges.

082 Page 6 Top Flap Booklet Inside

The back of the booklet, using unaltered green paper from the stack, distressed around the edges.

083 Page 6 Top Flap Booklet Back

The booklet in place under the magnetic strap on the top flap of page 6. Unfortunately this tends to fall out. It may be better when it’s a bit thicker with photos etc. but I may have to think of a way to keep it in place. (Note added later: it continued to fall out constantly, but the addition of some carefully placed embellishments sorted the problem – see later post.)

084 Page 6 Top Flap Booklet Under Magnetic Strap

This completes the work on page 6 to date. I am pleased with its colour scheme, with the altered background paper and the use of Distress Oxides. These are definitely a good investment and a great addition to my stash!

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Floral Mini-Album Pt 7 Page 6

Recently I made a new mini-album, about my mum who died in December. I was unable to publish anything about this until now because it is a present for her best friend, who sometimes visits my blog, and I wanted it to be a surprise for her. I wrote a series of blog posts as I did each stage of the project, so I didn’t forget what I did, and they will be published in sequence now the project is finished and has been given to our friend.

If you want to see the finished project, please click here.

Moving on to page 6, I used pieces cut from the paper stack in my stash to mat the top flap of the page. I lightly distressed the edges with Black Soot distress ink. This particular paper was one of the least objectionable in the whole stack so I decided to leave it unaltered.

054 Page 6 Top Flap Mat

Working on two identical albums side by side presents a slight problem in that I don’t always have two sheets of the particular designer paper, and I can’t cut two matching pieces. In this case, however, I was fine. I found some green card with a slight pattern in it but thought this was too stark and didn’t suite the page, so I inked it with Forest Moss distress ink, using the smooshing method (by which you smear the ink pad on your craft sheet, spritz it wit water, and smoosh the card around in it, which generates some lovely random patterns.

055 Page 6 Bottom Flap Mat Papers

This paper proved rather difficult to use for this technique because as I mentioned in part 1 of this series, I think there is a slightly waxy layer on it and the ink tended to bead up, but I got the result I wanted in the end, and once it as dry, I distressed the edges first with Forest Moss Distress ink, and then with Black soot distress ink, until I got the desired effect. Finally, I added some Broken China distress oxide ink, also using the smooshing method. In the above picture, you can see the two pieces I made for the album, and underneath, a piece of the paper in its original stage for comparison.

Here is the mat on the front of the bottom flap, complete.

056 Page 6 Bottom Flap Mat Complete

When you fold the top flap down over it, you can see a small amount projecting beyond the top flap, so it needed to co-ordinate.

057 Page 6 Flaps Closed

Keeping with the bright green and turquoise theme for this particular page spread, I am now working on the undersides of the flaps, and the page itself, to produce mats which co-ordinate with the whole. With all this paper lying around, my studio looks as if WWIII has struck it.

I had an offcut of the black card I’d punched with the Multi-Shaper Punch, and I punched it again, into the shape I wanted. I glued this down on the front flap of page 6. I subsequently distressed the edges of the flap, using Black Soot Distress Ink.


Lifting the flap, I added some more of the paper from the paper stack as a mat for the underside of the front flap.


I distressed the edges of this paper with Forest Most Distress Ink.

I was wondering how to create some sort of pocket to hold something, and thought things might fall out with the action of the “up and over” type flap. In the end I created another strap, inserting a little magnet concealed between the layers.


Here it is again, showing the circle punch I used to create the rounded end.


I cut a piece of black card from an offcut, measuring 1 1/2 inches wide, and with some difficulty (it was quite a fiddle!), pushed the end into my 1 1/2 inch circle punch from the bottom until the end was just visible. When I punched it, it came out with a semi-circular end. Unfortunately I don’t have a circular punch of exactly the right measurements to cope with the strap mat, so I drew around a bottle of glue with a circular base which was the right size, and then cut out the semi-circle with scissors. I stuck it down onto the black magnetic strap and folded the top tab over and glued it in place. Turning the flap over, I put the other half of the magnet down and it found its own place, being attracted to the first half. I taped it in place with double-sided tape, and then I attached the mat layer to the strap, using double-sided tape. This strap will be used to hold a small booklet.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Floral Mini-Album Pt 6 Page 5–Piano Keyboard Pop-Up

Recently I made a new mini-album, about my mum who died in December. I was unable to publish anything about this until now because it is a present for her best friend, who sometimes visits my blog, and I wanted it to be a surprise for her. I wrote a series of blog posts as I did each stage of the project, so I didn’t forget what I did, and they will be published in sequence now the project is finished and has been given to our friend.

If you want to see the finished project, please click here.

For the music spread in the mini-album, I have created a piano keyboard pop-up. This is a revamped version of the one in a birthday card I made for Dad back in 2010 – my goodness, was that really 7 years ago? That was the year I started this blog!

There were one or two things I wasn’t quite happy about with the original, notably the fact that the white keys were too short. I had to redesign the template anyway, to fit the page in the mini-album, so I corrected this in the new template.

Here it is at the planning stage. The album page is on the left, and the mock-up of the keyboard is on the right. The middle piece is marked with measurements and folds, to try and get the keyboard profile correct.

045 Page 5 Planning Keyboard Pop-Up

The template I finally came up with.

046 Page 5 Keyboard Pop-Up - Template and Beginning to Fold

On the right in this picture, you can see the piece I have cut, with a bamboo skewer woven through it. I have found that this is the easiest way to get the pop-up folds started. It’s really hard to get the folding started because it is completely flat at this stage, and you need to fold quite small pieces individually, without creasing the rest. It helps to score the fold-lines first, of course.

In the next photo, you can see that the folds are beginning to be established.

047 Page 5 Keyboard Pop-Up - Template and Folding

I opened and closed it gently, a very little distance at first, and increasing until it folded flat, to establish the folds. It becomes a lot easier to complete the fold once you reach this stage, and once you can fold the pop-up right over, it is a simple matter to burnish the folds with a bone folder, to establish the shape.

The white keys on the keyboard are a solid piece, and you need to draw lines between them to indicate their shape. I did this with one of my Zentangle drawing pens (permanent, archival).

049 Page 5 Keyboard Pop-Up - Drawing the White Keys

The next step was to paint the black keys, using black acrylic paint. This was a really fiddly job, and on several occasions I accidentally touched the brush onto the back piece, but it was a simple matter to touch up these blemishes with a bit of white acrylic paint afterwards. It might have been easier to do this before I began folding the piece.

050 Page 5 Keyboard Pop-Up - Black Keys Painted

The pop-up mounted on the mini-album page.

051 Page 5 Keyboard Pop-Up Mounted

A success! This took a long time to do, but it was such fun in the making. I want this mini-album to be as interactive a possible, and also to contain some fun surprises.

The difficulty with designing the keyboard template was to determine where on the pop-up the fold of the album flap will be. If you don’t get this right, the pop-up won’t fold correctly and will get damaged. Also, the way it folds flat when the flap is closed, is that the keys are pushed forwards and collapsed, and it is important that they don’t project beyond the card flap. I did a bit of trial and error to get this right. The final potential problem with this particular pop-up was that in order to get a nice symmetrical order of keys (and I think 2, 3, 2 black keys as I have done gives a nice balanced effect and also leaves one in no doubt as to what it is supposed to be), you need a white key at either side, and to fit it into the space, I was left with a very narrow margin on each side for gluing the pop-up in place. However, it worked OK, but it needed fairly careful handling, particularly at the early folding stage, in order to avoid tearing it.

The next day, I added the text (a quote from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night) and lightly distressed the edges of the white card, carefully avoiding the white keys, using Hickory Smoke and Broken China distress inks. Again, with a bit of forethought, I might have found this easier to do before folding and installing the piece, because I could easily have masked off the areas I didn’t want distressed.

I also added a few random floating music notes along the front piece, to fill the blank space.

052 Page 5 Keyboard Pop-Up Complete with Text

To complete the basic structure of page 5, I added a belly band above the pop-up. I will make a tag or an envelope to slip behind this, and the top of the pop-up flap will serve to prevent it from dropping out. (Note added later: This proved to be inadequate – the tag kept falling out, so it needed extra measures to keep it in place. More will be revealed in a future post.)

053 Page 5 Belly Bands

I have always been fascinated by pop-ups, since I was a small child. There is something quite magical about a 3-D structure made of flimsy paper, that looks quite solid, and which folds completely flat. When I first started making them, I found that there are just a few basic types of pop-up and once you’ve got the basic structure, you can make each one appear completely different. The keyboard pop-up is an adaptation of a simple box pop-up. These are very useful because you can stick pieces of card onto the vertical surface of the box(es), extending upwards, such as letters spelling a word, for instance, “Happy Birthday.” This would look completely different from, say, a scene with trees and a house, but they could both be made from the same pop-up mechanism.

The plan is to add another pop-up of a different type, towards the end of the album.

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