Monday, June 22, 2015

Back to School DIY: Elastic Notebook Strap with Personalized Shrink Plastic Emblem

My sketchbooks and notebooks are what I'd call an organized mess. I'm a bit of a collector in the sense that I'm always sticking pieces of paper, doodles, our daughter's drawings, lists, magazine clippings, and anything that catches my eye into my sketchbooks. They end up getting really chubby and unruly pretty quickly. I always tell myself I will get around to gluing things in place but more often than not the pieces stay where I left them. And to tell you the truth I love them that way and, surprisingly, I know where everything is! But it is a little unnerving to think of the mess I would have to contend with if they ever fell on the floor...

I thought it would be useful to have some elastic straps to secure them. But I wanted to add a personal touch and a bit of whimsy to them with a small illustration or one of our daughter's drawings. My mind immediately went to shrink plastic!

These elastic straps would be a fun accessory for school notebooks and binders. And kids can personalize them with their own drawings or tracings of their favorite characters. They are also so easy to make and a fun activity for a rainy August day!

Here's what you'll need:
  • Shrink plastic
  • Permanent markers such as Sharpies
  • Acrylic paint and Paintbrushes (optional): I felt that the colors of the permanent markers weren't vibrant enough after baking the shrink plastic, so I colored the drawings with acrylic paint.
  • Craft Polyurethane Varnish (optional): I wanted to give the acrylic paint a layer of protection so I covered it with a coat of varnish.
  • Craft felt
  • Elastic: Braided elastic, knit elastic, soft waistband elastic, ruffle elastic, glitter elastic, whichever one you love!
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Sewing materials (optional): Necessary if you want to add pen and pencil holders. I sewed the elastic wherever needed but the elastic could just as easily be glued to the shrink plastic.  
  • The Reluctant Dragon (with Robert Benchley) (not part of the process but so much fun!): A really cute Disney movie with a tour of the Disney studios and a good look into how cartoons were made in the 1940s. While painting the shrink plastic, I kept getting flashbacks of the lady painting Bambi on a cel (transparency film)! If you want to watch this great movie be aware that there is another "Mini Classic" version that cuts out the entire studio tour part of the film.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

I made two different types of elastic straps, illustrated by the Creative Bug and the Piggy Ballerina. The former has a few additional steps because the elastic is secured to the shrink plastic by "wings" and has pen/pencil holders. The latter is a much quicker and simpler design (a better option if you are doing this with kids).

I'll start by explaining the process of making the Creative Bug elastic strap:

1 - Select the image you want for the shrink plastic.

2 - Trace or draw the image using a permanent marker. If you don't want to use acrylic paint later, color in the drawing with permanent markers.

3 - To create the "wings" I made a template that I traced onto the shrink plastic. During the baking process the shrink plastic will shrink to at least 50% of its original size. With that in mind, I made the holes in the wings 0.75 cm wide, which, once shrunk, would give me plenty of room to slide the elastic through.

4 - This is what the final design looked like.

5 - Time to cut it out!

6 - Cut only the outer border with the scissors, do not try to cut out the holes yet.

7 - Using an X-acto knife, carefully carve out the holes in the wings.

8 - Holes successfully cut out! You can erase any permanent marker that was left over from the "Cut Here" guides by carefully wiping it with rubbing alcohol (be careful not to let it touch your drawing!).

9 - Bake the shrink plastic according to the manufacturer's instructions. Here it is, fresh out of the oven! 

10 - My daughter was doing her own along with me! Hers was a family portrait (she's the one in the middle hugging us)!

11 - (Steps 11 - 18 are optional. If you colored your drawing with permanent marker in Step 2, then skip ahead to Step 19.) Start painting! I painted my drawing "backwards", starting with the tiny details and then moving to the larger areas. The side you paint on will be the underside, this way you don't have to worry about painting over the black outlines. Start by painting the highlights and tiny details. Flip the shrink plastic over every now and then to make sure everything looks the way you want it to. You will need about 3 coats of paint to achieve a vibrant color. 

12 - This is my first layer (details and highlights).

13 - Move on to painting the small areas. As long as the paint is dry, go ahead and paint over the previous layer.

14 - Then paint the larger masses.

15 - And, finally, paint the background.

16 - Flip it over and this is what it looks like!

17 - I wanted to protect the paint because I didn't want to risk the hot glue messing up my paint job. So I pulled out my craft polyurethane varnish.

18 - I applied one coat of the varnish to the painted side of the shrink plastic.

19 - To hide the messy underside and to make the shrink plastic slide easily on a notebook or binder, I selected a piece of coordinating craft felt.

20 - I cut the felt to match the shape of the shrink plastic.

21 - And I hot glued the felt to the shrink plastic.

22 - Slide the elastic through the holes in the wings of the shrink plastic. Measure out the amount of elastic you will need by wrapping it around a notebook. If you are creating a pen/pencil holder, leave some excess elastic on one side.

23 - Sew the elastic in place.

23 - Measure the size of the pen/pencil holders and sew the elastic loops shut.

25 - Once sewn, this is what the pen/pencil holders will look like (I made three loops).

The finished elastic notebook strap with a Creative Bug emblem!

Now onto the simpler design! Preparing the shrink plastic is the exact same process as before (Steps 1, 2, 5, and 9 - 20), except here there are no wings

26 - Measure out the amount of elastic you will need by wrapping it around a notebook. Sew or hot glue the loop shut by laying one end of the elastic on top of the other.

27 - Position the elastic so that the seam you made in Step 26 is in the middle of the felt. Hot glue the elastic to the piece of felt.

28 - You are now ready to attach your shrink plastic design to the elastic loop and felt.

29 - I put the elastic around a notebook so the felt and elastic would be nice and flat for the next step.

30 - Hot glue the shrink plastic design to the felt and elastic.

31 - This is what the final piece will look like.

The Piggy Ballerina elastic notebook strap!

And here is our daughter's masterpiece!

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