Friday, March 20, 2009

Washi Eggs

Making washi eggs is a fantastic stress-free way to spend an afternoon; and since it doesn't require serious concentration, you can join the family while getting something really cool done. You may even gather helpers as you work! It sounds complicated, but once you get the first one done, you will find ways to streamline the process to make it work for you. Although some people use real eggs and blow the insides out before covering them, I prefer to make a trip to a local craft store and buy some of the unfinished wooden ones that are usually available. They are much more durable, and you might even be able to pass them on to your grandchildren! I made the eggs in the back bowl more than ten years ago, and all the eggs in the four bowls in front were made in one day last spring and given away as gifts. The basic instructions are simple. You can google Washi Easter Eggs and find lots of tutorials. Here is one that is fairly similar to my method and the illustrations will help explain parts of the instructions below.

You will need:
1. Eggs - real ones emptied out or wooden ones .
2. A lightweight, clear-drying glue made for working with paper. My favorite glue for this project is either PVA which dries very quickly or a more manageable product like Mod Podge or other decoupage glue/sealer. The finish is up to you. I personally prefer the satin lustre look more than the matte or high gloss. 3. Glue brushes - foam or bristle (don't use your really good ones!) 4. An assortment of washi papers. 5. Paper crafting scissors. 6. Some damp paper towels for keeping your hands unglued! 7. Newspapers or disposable cloths to work on.

If you are using wooden eggs, they are likely to be the same size. If you have eggs that vary in size you will need to make the following template for each size. Cut a trial strip from a piece of scrap paper, making it long enough to wrap around the largest part of the egg and create a small overlapping seam. Holding the test strip on one egg, gently press the paper toward the top (narrow) end of the egg, noting where the paper touches the tip of the egg. Mark that spot and repeat the same process at the bottom (wide) end of the egg. Leave a very tiny margin to allow for overlap at both ends. (You'll figure out what you need after you do your first one!) Cut your strip and use it as a guide to cut your washi papers.

Cut one strip of washi, fold it lengthwise, and start cutting strips from the outside edges in toward the folded edge, stopping about 1/2 inch from the fold. The strips should be about 1/4" wide. Trim the ends of the strips into points so they look like the pickets in a picket fence. It is now ready to go on the egg. Some people put their glue on the egg - some people put it on the washi. I've found that I like to limit the amount of gooey glue just waiting for me to get it all over everything, so I start by brushing a band of glue around the middle of the egg, and then fit the washi strip around the egg, onto the glue, and overlap the seam. The overlap should be big enough to hold the paper in place with no empty spot, but not add a lot of extra paper. Then I add glue to one end at a time, usually starting with the small end of the egg and covering all the surface from the center to the tip. You may find you need to add glue as you work. Don't be afraid to use it liberally. It dries clear, and the washi will be molded into the glue! You will also be sealing the egg with the glue when finished, so stray glue on your paper will not matter. Fold the cut strips toward the tip of the egg, pressing the paper into the glue in the center to smooth the area where the strips join the uncut center and move out from there. It's easier to cover the tip smoothly if you first attach three or four strips, skipping some strips as you go. You can then trim the remaining ones to fit, removing extra paper, until all the points touch and cover the tip of the egg. Washi is very forgiving and workable. If you cut too much, patch it! If you end up with a hole, cover it. Smooth it all over with enough glue to make it flat. Pay attention to what you have done so you can adjust your cuts the next time. Repeat with the bottom end of the egg. The spacing is different, but the process is the same. Make the strips longer or shorter as needed when smoothing them down. Don't worry if it still looks a little rough. When you have finished your egg, put it aside to let the glue dry while you work on the next one.

The final step is to add a coat of sealer or finish to the egg. This step is optional, really, but the sealer will protect your egg, give it a look of lacquer, and help to smooth all those edges you were worried about. You can use the same glue you have been working with as long as it dries clear. I like to have a soft look to my finished eggs, so I avoid a glossy product. Other people like the high gloss. They are YOUR eggs! Have them the way you like them. With your brush, paint the glue over the outside of the egg, pressing any edges down as you go. I usually paint about one-half of an egg at a time - then rest the wet egg upright in a small container. Paint the other end when the first one is dry. I like to cut the bottoms out of very small plastic cups, turn them upside down, and make small pedestals for several eggs to dry at one time. You can have eggs drying while you are still working on new ones. You can always start with a few - or go for dozens. Think big! As long as you and your kitchen and maybe the dog and cat are covered in newspapers and glue, you might as well make it worthwhile. You will always find someone who wants them, and you will always want more to add to your own collection. Bonnie

Editor's Note: I wondered if plastic eggs would work for this so here is a modification that worked for me after some experimentation. I tried the method above with mixed results, in part because the plastic is slippery to work with. And though it doesn't show so much in the photo, the plastic eggs are split to put things inside so while working with the egg it slid apart and I ended up with a ridge when I tried to push it back together. You can avoid this and also secure you papers better by putting a strip of doublestick tape around the egg over the seam where the two pieces come together. For the blue egg I cut 12 strips of paper about 1/2" wide (way to use those little leftover strips....) and long enough to go from the bottom center to the top center. Then I folded the pieces in half both ways. Starting about 1/2" up from the bottom fold on the narrow strip I cut a line diagonally to the center fold at the top (now I have to figure out what to do with the four long triangles of scrap, trust me I will--I never throw anything away!) for each of the 12 pieces and then unfolded them. With a "finger bowl" of water handy to "destick" my fingers, I took four of the strips and adhered them equal distances apart to the strip of doublestick tape around the center of the egg, placing them so that the points reached the top and bottom points of the egg. I used a watered down solution of a water soluble paper varnish (you could use pretty much any water soluble glue you have at hand) and coated the underside of the upper portion of these four strips using a paint brush. Then strip by strip I pressed them down in place and smoothed them out onto the egg surface. I took the second set of four strips and place them to slightly overlap the first while also filling just over half of the empty space between each set of the first strips. Paint on glue and smooth down with your fingers. Then I ended with the last four which slightly overlapped the pieces on either side of the remaining opening. You can apply more of the glue by paintbrush or with your fingers as needed to help you smooth out the egg. I placed them wet side to the top into cups to dry. After the tops dried I repeated the process with the bottom half. Bonnie's method above will also work with these plastic eggs (but add the ds tape to secure the paper around the center and keep the two halves together). If you have papers that have a pattern that wouldn't work chopped up into overlapping strips then Bonnie's method would work better -- be sure to consider the design when starting out to have the larger motifs around the center band to preserve the largest portion of any images on the paper.

You can play around with these and try your own modifications--for example start with a cheap solid paper base on the egg and add bits and pieces of washi scraps in a crazy quilt fashion (aha! I knew I would think of something for those leftover triangles!). And of course you can try papers other than washi or even start with a plain paper, stamp it out with your own favorite stamps (small is good) and then apply to the eggs--but be sure it is a soft paper rather than stiff. I'd love to see what any of you do with this!

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