Time spent creating: 2.5 hours (not including waiting-to-dry time. or driving-to-the-beach time!) Money spent: $8 for spray varnish and E6000 — free if you already have those on hand!
What you’ll need
Rocks, all sizes, rinsed thoroughly
E6000 industrial strength craft glue
Crochet thread, like you would use for a doily
Heavy laundry starch spray
Matte clear spray finish (I used Krylon)
Toothpicks (for fine-tuning)
Foam paint brush
Tutorial, the short version: Arrange and glue spray-finished rocks in your chosen collage shape. Arrange, starch, and glue crochet thread to form the word of your choice. Frame and enjoy.
PART ONE: Creating the rock shape
Draw or trace your desired collage shape on a piece of paper and cut it out.
Make at least two copies.
Cover the cookie sheet with newspaper and place your paper shape on the newspaper.
Arrange your rocks in the collage shape so that you’ll know they fit. Think of it as a “green” jigsaw puzzle.
Carefully transport rocks outside and spray with clear finish. I gave my rocks two thin coats to give them a nice wet-looking sheen.
Keep the rocks laid out in your collage, if at all possible. That will make it so much easier to glue them in the same arrangement as you laid them out.
While the rocks are drying, take the second copy of your shape and trace it very lightly in pencil onto your shadow box back piece (the one that goes right in the frame).
If you plan to re-use the shadow box later, you’ll want to find and cover another material to serve as the backing and to glue your rocks to. (That’s another thing that I didn’t think about until too late.)
Once the rocks are completely dry, begin gluing them to your backing, one by one using E6000. Use a toothpick as needed for positioning.
Very important! Be sure to erase the penciled line in sections just before you glue the rocks.
PART TWO: Creating the crochet thread word (inspired by MADE and peace love crafts) Please note than an extra measure of patience is required for this part of the creation process. The method I chose for forming the letters is long and complicated, but it was exactly what I wanted in my crazy perfectionist head. Unless you are also crazy like me, try another method, like those listed at the end of the post.
Trace or write the word(s) you want to frame with your collage. I used a font from my computer because my cursive handwriting is not pretty at all.
Carefully cut closely around the traced word(s) (which I did not do until later) and place your trimmed paper on your ironing board.
If you don’t want your ironing board cover drenched with starch, place a cloth underneath the paper.
Pin the crochet thread to the paper and ironing board, following the shape of the letters.
Place the first pin a quarter inch or so from the end of the thread, not right at the end. The tension as your form the other letters will pull it out and fray the end, and you’ll have to start over.
Another do as I say not as I did (at least not until later): Push the pins all the way down into the ironing board.
Keep pinning. This will take awhile.
For some sections, I used the pin as a post to wrap the thread around instead of putting the pin right through the thread.
Use a toothpick as needed to get the thread in the right place.
When you’ve pinned the entire word(s), douse (and I mean douse) the thread with laundry starch and allow it to penetrate the thread.
If you get impatient at this point and start ironing before the starch has penetrated, you’ll have flakes of starch on your painstakingly pinned thread-letters.
Carefully remove the now-soaked paper in small chunks, using a toothpick.
While you’re allowing the starch to penetrate the thread, heat your iron to a high steam setting.
Once the starch has had ample time to penetrate the thread, begin steam-setting the starch.Steam steam steam your painstakingly pinned thread and then gently iron the thread-letters.
Repeat the dousing-waiting-ironing at least once more. I starched twice, but a third or fourth starching would be even better.
Once you are happy with the starching and ironing, dry the pinned letters completely. Just leave them overnight or for the day while you go run errands.
If you remove the pins while the starch is still wet, your letters might not hold their shape. Do you really want to have to redo all that pinning because of impatience? I didn’t think so.
When the letters are completely dry (and I mean completely dry), very carefully remove the pins.
It’s helpful to use a toothpick to lift up the head of the pin and/or hold the thread in place while you remove the pin.
Apply a thin layer of ModPodge on your backing where you will place your thread-letters.
Carefully transfer your letters to your backing. This is where my spatula came in handy.
Arrange the letters exactly how you want them using a toothpick.
Cover the letters with a thin layer of ModPodge.
This is the time to pinch closed the little holes that the pins may have left in your thread. I just used two toothpicks. The ModPodge helps keep the holes closed.
Apply 1-2 more thin layers of ModPodge, until you feel confident that the letters are firmly attached to the backing and will hold their shape.
Allow the ModPodge to dry completely (an hour or so) and take a minute to admire your hard work.
Place the backing in the frame.
If you adhered the rocks and letters to a backing other than the original backing, this would be the point where you attach that backing to the original backing before placing it in the frame.
Then, all that’s left is to decide where to put the frame. For me, this is the most difficult part of the project!