The other day I was out shopping for some yarn for some project or other and – as you do when you wander aimlessly along the craft aisle, it just so happened I came across a pot of “Foto transfer potch”! This is something I’ve always wanted to try – I’ve seen those pieces of shabby chic furniture with transferred images and they look so amazing.
Something else that I have wanted to do since we opened the Craft Room is get a picture of my Nana on the wall. More about her and her significance later, but I decided to see if I could transfer a photo of her onto a piece of wood as an experiment.
The photo of my Nana is one that was taken during the war, it’s one of those old fashioned thick paper images – I had taken a photo of it myself so that I had a copy of it. It was old and crinkled with even some small rips around the edges – I imagined that would add to its charm in the transfer. It’s also black and white and there’s quite a lot of dark grey in the image – I’m not sure if that was a good thing or not, but that’s how it was.
This is my beautiful Nana:
I followed the instructions and printed out the image onto regular printer paper (the normal thin stuff not super thick). Got my bit of wood, glue, a paintbrush and the ruler I thought would be handy for flattening after I’d glued the image.
So then, following the instructions on the glue, I applied a hefty layer of glue to image and wood board and stuck the image face down on the board. I smoothed it with the brush and there were loads of air bubbles which I assumed was not good, so I used the ruler and my fingers to get rid of them as much as possible. During this process I managed to scratch a hole in the paper 🙁 but never mind, I continued anyway.
The next step was to dry it with a hair dryer for 10 minutes. Now, have you ever turned a hair dryer on for 10 minutes solid? It’s a long time. The room got hot (I did it in the bathroom)! I lasted for about 7 minutes, and after that it felt bone dry to me so I thought that should be OK.
Then you have to leave it to cool, which was about 5 minutes, not long.
And now, the tricky bit. You get the thing wet. I actually submerged mine in the kitchen sink because it didn’t really seem to be getting wet by just running the tap on. The paper has to get really really wet and start to look transparent before you can rub it off.
Now, you need to carefully and slowly rub the wet paper off. The best implement for this is your thumb. Don’t be tempted to scratch or pick at it. As you can see from the finished thing there’s a couple of times when I did this – and you will scratch the image right off if you do. Keep on rubbing until you can feel that the paper is gone.
While I was doing the rubbing off the image looked fantastic – it was like magic. But then I stopped after removing as much as I dared. And it started to dry.
At this point I panicked a bit because it started to look rubbish. There was a white sheen all over the image and it went cloudy.
I thought it must be that I hadn’t got enough of the paper off, so I wet it again and tried to rub more, but that’s when I began to really damage the image.
I was ready to write it off at this point, but I though I would give it one last chance and just varnish it and see if that saved it. I used the glue & varnish that we use at the Craft Room for decoupage, and it basically saved the day.
On the left before the varnish, on the right the finished product:
It’s not perfect, but this was the first time I had done it, and I’m pretty happy with the result. Nana will be appearing at the Craft Room anyway!
So, I promised I would say something about my Nana. Well, setting up a new business requires a bit of start up capital, and when my Nana a few years ago, she left me some money in her will. Before she died she made me promise that I would spend the money rather than put it away – because it had been saved for too long for too many rainy days that never happened. My Nana was always knitting when I was young, and she did tapestry and other needlecraft too. I’m sure my love of knitting comes from her (because my Mum is not really into that kind of thing at all!) So, it’s thanks to my Nana that the Craft Room is up and running, and I’m sure it’s a place she would have loved to be.
The photograph too deserves a bit of explanation, because my Nana was in fact not a model despite the look of the photo! This photo was taken during the war while she was stationed in Reims shortly after D-Day. My Nana was a teleprinter operator who joined SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force), and during this time she was serving under General Eisenhower, since a group of British teleprinter operators had been loaned to him to send and receive messages. While they were in Reims the girls met many American GIs who brought them all kinds of treats and special gifts – one of these was a talented photographer. I don’t know if he was there specifically to take photos, and my Nana did not remember his name, but he took this amazing glamourous picture of my Nana and all the other girls who were there, declaring that they were quite as lovely as all the film stars of the day – and quite right too! After a few weeks in Reims, my Nana told me how there were German high officers in the compound where they were stationed. The girls were both a little afraid and hopeful that something big was going on. And it was indeed something very big. My Nana was lucky enough to be on night duty when the message finally came down at 2:41am on the 7th May 1945, declaring peace, in the little red school house in Reims.