a quick cup of tea


Today I present to you — a teacup bookmark, with a hanging tea tag! :D Possibly a father’s day gift for a tea-drinking, book-loving dad?

Or for anyone who enjoys a good cup of tea. And a good book. At the same time.

So! Instead of favourite things Friday this week I’m going to share how I made this teacup bookmark, because one can only do so much in a week, and I’ve had this idea in my head for a while now. It was something that Mike has seen somewhere and told me about it, and I was inspired by the Victorian Tea we had at the Tollhouse.

It may look like there are lots of steps, but it’s actually a pretty quick project. It probably took me under an hour to make all three, and that’s with my picture-taking.

So! It’s time to get out the glue and scissors!

… and a bunch of other stuff… here are all the materials and tools I used.

  • Used gift bags (one could use other kinds of paper as well, but I thought gift bags would be a good idea because it’s coated, so it’s slightly heavier and more durable than, say, construction paper, and they have nice patterns. And because I save them when people give me gifts and I have tons on hand)
  • Cotton thread (I used crochet thread because that’s what I have, but thin yarn or kitchen twine should work too).
  • A glue stick
  • A marker (or pen)
  • Scissors
  • A thick tapestry needle
  • A utility knife
  • White glue
  • A ruler (if you want to be precise)
  • A cutting mat (or something to cut on, like old magazines)
  • Teacup templates

I made up this project partly to learn how to use Illustrator, particularly drawing simple shapes and curves. So I made this set of templates with different teacups and a tea mug. Just click on either the image or the link above it and it will bring up a PDF file. Print it at 100% and you’ll get the same size teacups as the ones I made (each is 3 inches wide).

First, I cut out a template. It might be easier to cut out the part inside the teacup ear with a utility knife. (Or teacup handle? It’s “cup ear” in Chinese and I’ve always called it that…)

Next, I traced the template on a part of the bag with the pattern that I liked. (I used a Sharpie for this so it’s easier to photograph, but one could use a pen or a pencil)

Then I removed the side of the bag where it’s folded, so it would be easier to cut out the teacup.

Then I cut along the top edge of the teacup, and the general area around the teacup through BOTH layers of the bag.

So now we have two pieces, with a straight edge at the top.

I then cut a piece of cotton thread, about 5 inches in length.

I tied a knot close to one end of the thread. Then I placed a drop of white glue on the back of the piece that doesn’t have the teacup tracing on it, about 3/4 inch from the top edge. I then put the end of the thread into the drop of glue, with the knot just below the glue, like so…

Then I cut out a scrap piece of paper (from the cut-off of the template) about 1/2 inch tall and 1 inch wide. I glued this piece of paper on top of the thread and glue dot, with the knot sticking out, like so…

The thread is now locked in and won’t get pulled out easily.

I then slather a generous amount of glue from a glue stick onto the back of the piece with the teacup tracing on it (not white glue, or the paper will buckle), and then pressed it onto the piece with the string, lining up the top straight edges of the two pieces (it’s OK if the other edges don’t line up, as long as the top edges are lined up).

Wait a moment or two for the glue to dry completely, then cut out the teacup shape. Again, it’s probably easier to use the utility knife to cut out the inside part of the mug ear (aka mug handle).

Ta-da! We’re almost done!

Now for the tea tag. One could do lots with it, like write a message (like happy father’s day?), make a monogram (cut out a letter from the magazine?), or just leave it blank. But here’s what I made…

I salvaged the folded side of the bag that I removed earlier, and cut out a 1“x2” rectangle, then folded it in half, with the white side facing out.

I then cut out some tea leaves on one half with the utility knife (free-hand too! I was pretty proud of myself).

I then used a tapestry needle to poke a hole through the middle of the fold.

Then I threaded the end of the thread (with the other end already attached to the teacup) through the hole. I then slather a generous amount of glue with the glue stick on the half of the paper with the leaf design. I placed the thread end on middle fold of the paper, so it lied along the fold, then I put a drop of white glue on the thread.

Fold the top down and… ta-da! A one-of-a-kind paper-cut tea tag!

And guess what? The bookmark is ready to mark those pages! :D

I also made a pink one, with a flower tea tag, for an herbal tea kind of day…


Now I’m going to make myself a nice cup of tea. Thanks for stopping by! Have a great weekend!


blooming kaleidoscope

Recently I received a lovely email from a visitor to the blog :D She’s an editor of a book arts journal in Australia (being able to connect with wonderful people from different corners of the globe is one of the best things about keeping a blog! :D), who kindly shared not only encouraging words but also lots of great ideas and inspiration about printmaking and book arts. (One of which is gelatin printing — so intriguing! I’ve got to try that out soon!)

Conversations about book arts reminded me of a bookbinding class I took while in university. (Ah, that was quite a few years ago…) The bookbinding course was one of my favourite classes, and one of the coolest assignments was the altered book project, using discarded books from the Reference Library.

I pulled this botanical reference book from the discarded book pile.


I couldn’t read the text, but I loved the pictures of flowers and plants. One of my first childhood toys was a kaleidoscope, and I remembered how much time I’ve spent looking through it, couldn’t put it down, just mesmerized. I thought the bright photographs of the plants and flowers would make beautiful images to look through with a kaleidoscope. So that was what I made (cylinder on the right), and I covered it with the end papers of the book.

It really does work! See? This is the hole through which one looks in, made with the table of contents.


The book now houses the interchangeable “lenses”, made with the pages of photographs and illustrations from the book. Kind of looks like a collection of specimens in petri dishes.


The end piece fits around the looking tube like this…


And you turn it and take a look through… (psst! click for a larger image!)


It’s more crafty than “artsy”, and I guess since I was attending an art college I should be making something “artsy”, with more of a statement or meaning or whatever, but I was rather happy with it. Just a simple appreciation of light and the perfect beauty of nature.

And with the brilliant weather we’ve been having lately, I’ve had a great time looking through all of the “specimens” again with the lovely sunlight streaming through.

In order for the kaleidoscope to work I made the images transparent. That process in itself needs a post of its own, I think. I’ll write about it more in the next week or so, stay tuned! :D

Have a great day! :D



Not exactly like Kevin from Up, but since I was wearing blue when I took the photo it kinds of remind me of him :D

More crafting with kids last week. A rather large group of kids. What’s simple and straightforward and costs next to nothing?

The animal masks from RiceBabies reminded me of the mask-making workshop from school. The masks we made were less “sculpted” than the RiceBabies masks, but still three-dimensional. Last time I presented the idea to other kids they were pretty impressed, so I decided to go with it. I even found a pack of 200-sheet construction paper at the dollar store for $2. The cashier wouldn’t believe me until she scanned the bar code.

This is the template we used. See? Pretty simple. I suppose one could refine its shape more by having 3 cuts on each side instead of 2. And it doesn’t have to be perfect either, since it’s going to be decorated and shaped. This is just on a piece of 9“x12” construction paper, and it’s large enough for an adult’s head, like mine. I just estimated the position for the eyes; I think placing them slightly above the middle and 3 fingers apart generally works well.

And then it’s building and drawing the features of the mask — the sky’s the limit! We weren’t going to be able to use paint, so I made this test one with construction paper and drew on it with pencil crayons. It worked out fine, though it needed to be decorated first before shaping and stapling the mask together. Definitely better to use card stock.

I think it’s a pretty good project for a rainy day, like today. Happy Saturday, everyone!

city of light


One of the best things about making crafts with children is that I get to try it out first :D

Frugal Family Fun Blog has a brilliant idea for making suncatchers, with contact paper (or clear shelf-lining) and bits of tissue paper, or this self-adhesive document protector I found at the dollar store, for $1/roll.

I built my “city” on one sheet of plastic, sticky side up, and then covered it with another sheet of plastic. And there are so many other things one can make with the same idea, like this lovely fall tree, and snowflakes.

When I was a kid I liked to make suncatchers with wax paper and crayon shaving, like these, and these. I loved to mix different colours and watch them swirl and blend together under the heat of the iron.

Anyway. I thought the contrast between the tissue paper city and the real city makes an interesting picture. And I hope the kids enjoy making this as much as I did. We’ll see…

I’m definitely enjoying getting more sunlight each day as we approach summer. How about you?

happy spring!

Happy first day of spring, friends! :D



Diagram for my daffodil came from this book. But a similar one is posted here if you’d like to make some to celebrate spring’s arrival, like our friend Wage here.

Have a great day!



Every once in a while I test myself to see if I’m still able to fold the paper rose. A friend showed me how to fold one back in high school. There was no diagram, just visual learning and muscle memory. Perhaps that was how Japanese children learn origami in the past.

And I’m always surprised to see that, after all these years, my fingers still remember order and position of every crease and fold. After all, it’s a rather complex model, involving a long series of pre-creases and three-dimensional shaping. I’ve never timed myself but I know that making a small bouquet takes more than half a day.

For all the work that goes into it, I’m struck by how much it also resembles a crumpled ball of paper when looked at from far away. In fact, I can easily obliterate all the carefully calculated folds and meticulous artistry with one squash of a finger, reducing it to nothing but a crumpled bit of scrap paper. And how much, I thought, that resembles our human existence.

And yet our lives are so rich. We build relationships. We share laughters and sorrows. We love. We may be here today and gone tomorrow, but the echo of our love is endless.

Initially I took the photo only for the post, but then I thought it would also make a nice wallpaper on my desktop, so while I was creating that I made several different sizes to share with you :)

Download wallpaper with origami rose:
1920 x 1200
1280 x 1024

Please refer to Content Sharing for use of images from this blog.

If you’d like to fold your own paper rose here’s one instruction.

Take care, friends.


If time is money, then I’ll spend it all for you
I will buy you flowers with the minutes we outgrew
I’ll turn hours into gardens, planted just for us to take
I’ll be reckless with my days, building castles in your name

– Sleeping At Last, Next to Me

if pain

I have been working on this for a while now. I started a painting on a small wooden braced panel but I didn’t feel very inspired to continue, so the painting, with printed leaves in fall tones, had been sitting on my shelf collecting dust for a few years now. Last fall, one of my teachers brought in the idea of making shadow boxes, and I had been wanting to try making one. When I looked around the house for boards and things to make shadow boxes with, I saw this half-done painting and I thought, the back of it would make a great shadow box.

But still I didn’t start working on it, because I had no vision for what could inhabit the shadow box. And then on the first Sunday of the year, I saw this quote in the sermon note:

If pain causes us to go inward, there is no communication with the world outside; if it causes us to go outward in retaliation, then we lose the message we bear… If pain causes us to go forward, then we are not bearing the pain, we are using the pain.
- Dr. Samuel Kamaleson, 1976

Somehow that led me to the image of the Walled City. Like I had mentioned before, I have never set foot in the actual Walled City. All I have of it are stories, from videos and posters and museum exhibits and a friend who’ve spent time there, and a tour of the meticulously manicured park that holds the same space as the Walled City but looks nothing like its former desolate self.

I suppose it’s easy to romanticize what life was like in the Walled City. The poverty, the injustice, the sufferings of the soul, the resilience of the people. And frankly that’s what I imagine, but I also know that the reality of the place was anything but romantic. And I have no idea, and I will never have any idea, about what it was really like to live there because I have never been there.

But something about that place resonated with me. Perhaps not the reality of that place but what it represents. And I can’t really explain what it represents to me. I suppose that’s why I made this, because I don’t know how to express it otherwise.

I used the classified section of a Chinese newspaper, with small boxes of text and many mentions of the word “home”. And ink, which reacted with the adhesive I used to paste the newspaper and crackled in frost-like patterns. And pieces of roots, which were salvaged from a yucca plant that didn’t survive the winter. On what was the front of the panel I wrote part of the quote, and the leaf prints were still visible through the black paint. I think as a whole it has said what needed to be said.

I have been working on this for a while now. The making of the image is complete, but the work of learning, and of understanding, isn’t.

Hope you are well. Enjoy the weekend!

Favourite things of the week!

My favourite craft projects are the resourceful ones involving clever incorporation of things one can easily find around the house. Like this lone mitten squirrel I saw via Craftzine!

Mittens (or technically gloves?) that have holes in the fingertips also make excellent squirrel material! I’m hoping I can find a lone white mitten so I can make a white squirrel

And while browsing on Dollar Store Craft (a goldmine of thrifty craft ideas!) yesterday I came across these lovely skate ornaments from Not Quite Vintage, cleverly fitted with paper clips!

The post was from almost 3 years ago so you may have seen it already, but I just thought it’s brilliant and felt compelled to post it!

And my own thrifty project of the week was to make travel tags. The airline website suggested tying “unique” tags to our luggage for “easy identification”. I don’t own any travel tags and I thought the ones that the airline gives out at the airport aren’t very good for “easy identification”. So I scoured the house for materials and this is what I ended up with…

I found some vinyl material from packaging and bright colourful pictures from magazines. I then stacked them together and taped them to death with packing tape, scraping out as many bubbles as possible with a plastic card. I’m particularly pleased with the rubber ducky one.

My mom also suggested tying thick ribbons onto the luggage so we’ll be doing that as well.

Will be reporting from far, far away land of Hong Kong in a few days! (hopefully… depending on internet access) See you soon! :D