Category Archives: Creating

Eleven Travel Souvenir Ideas Based on Maps

Working on blog posts is a bit like ambling around a new destination. Start in one direction, keep your eyes open and soon you’ll find yourself among unexpected delights. I was putting together a post on Amsterdam’s canal houses, which grew into a larger research effort. In doing the research, I looked at old maps of the city, which led me to a surprising array of items made using maps.

Map of Amsterdam by cartographer J Blaeu, 1649.

Map of Amsterdam by cartographer J. Blaeu, 1649.

Antique, vintage and reproduction maps make great travel souvenirs. Not when tucked away in drawers, but when put on display, or turned into fun and useful items. Here are some of the ideas that I came across, along with one item that I quickly made myself.1 - 9 Handcrafted
With the holiday season coming up, these items could make wonderful gifts for the traveller or want-to-be traveller on your list. Or perhaps as bon voyage or welcome home gifts.1 2 3

  1. DIY magnetic board covered with a vintage map. This easy-to-do project is by graphic designer Michael Jon Watt. The instructions are via Apartment Therapy.
  2. Drawer pulls or cabinet knobs created by Kristy and Matt of Daisy Mae Designs. Use a different destination for each drawer or cabinet. In addition to the knobs, you’ll find a variety of other items in this Etsy shop, from cuff links to wine stoppers, that incorporate original vintage maps.
  3. Certified organic cotton cushion cover printed with a map of Amsterdam. Created by Cath of My Bearded Pigeon. Cath is an Etsy featured seller, you can read an interview with her here.4 5 6
  4. Canal-house shaped cushions in cotton printed with maps of Amsterdam from the Fanatica Barcelona Etsy shop. Shown is a set of three different gable styles, single cushions are also available.
  5. DIY six-sided block puzzle using old maps, as seen on a blog here. For inspiration only as no instructions are available via the link.
  6. My own 20-minute DIY project, a map-covered box. Mini-instructions are at the end of the post. I’m using this box to store paper clips. Larger boxes could be covered with actual maps.7 8 9
  7. Custom-made photo album created by Ali Manning of Vintage Page Designs. Ali also creates travel and other journals which she will personalize for you.
  8. Handcrafted coasters made by Jonathon Wayne Sopotiuk, an artist and designer studying at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, Canada. The coasters shown display a map of The Netherlands. Coasters showing many other destinations along with custom options are available through his Etsy shop (click through link provided on his name).
  9. DIY decoupaged glass trays. You can find instructions here, the image that I used is from here. If you aren’t a DIYer, search Etsy for handcrafted ones.

10 Framed Maps Banner
Maps on Floating ShelvesFramed antique and vintage maps of places you’ve visited or are on your wish list would make a wonderful art collection. A relatively low-cost version would be to frame reproductions using coordinating stock frames. By placing them on floating shelves, you could mix the maps in with other pieces as you add new travel destinations over the years. Or perhaps combine the maps with photographs taken while travelling.

The image is via the Majesty Maps and Prints online shop. Among their offering of reproductions are large-scale and black-out maps.

When searching for online sellers of original antique and vintage maps, I was surprised at the range of prices. At the lower end are maps taken from old atlases.
11 Folding Screen BannerMap Screen

As a DIY folding screen option, you could decoupage flat boards with a single large map cut into strips or with a collage of smaller maps. The sides and back of the boards could be painted or covered with fabric. For a more durable option, cover the decorated boards with Plexiglas, cut to size, and frame the edges with decorative moulding. The image above is also via the Majesty Maps and Prints site.

These are just some ways to keep travel memories using travel maps. What sort of travel souvenirs do you collect? Have you used maps to decorate your own home?

Steps I followed to make my map-covered box:

  • Scaled an image of an antique map of Amsterdam (more about the map in my next post) to fit on A4 paper.
  • Printed it out using a colour printer.
  • Rummaged around the house for a suitable box. An A4 sheet was the perfect size to cover the lid of an old iPhone box.
  • Used an acid-free glue stick to adhere the image to the lid. Folded and trimmed the paper on the short sides of the box.
  • To further secure the paper to the box, I ran a strip of 38mm wide binding tape (purchased from my local paper shop) around the lid edge. I placed it so that 5mm was on the outside of the lid, folded the tape over and adhered the rest to the inside.
  • Added pull tabs to the bottom of the box, by applying two strips of binding tape to the sides of the bottom, making the tab by folding the tape back on itself. The tabs make it easier to pull the box open.
  • Gave the paper a coat of a matte lacquer to protect it.

Sometimes, Eight Headers are Better than One

A believer in continuous learning and self-development, I signed up for an e-course on blogging. Inspired by what I learned during week one, I revamped my blog header to better reflect my developing “brand.” If you’re new to my blog, I’m an on-a-career-break-to-see-more-of-the-world finance pro who quickly launched this blog in mid-August.

While my finance role required a great deal of creative thinking – my team and I found clever solutions for and provided insights into challenging business issues, working with the limited level of resources and tight time constraints that are all too common in today’s corporate environments – as a blogger I have the freedom to be artistically creative.

I thought it would be fun to share my blog header design evolution with you. Directly below is my inspiration photograph. I’ll come back to the story behind it in a minute. As you scroll through the header iterations, I think you’ll agree that I’ve come a long way from the blurry first one.

The image below shows my first header attempt…a scribbled mess.
Header 1 Aug 2013
Re-scaled and lightened…a smidgen better.
Re-scaled again, tried to pretty it up with a deep teal border…still looks like a scribbled mess.
First major change…
New font and and more colour…
At the end of September, it looked like this…
cropped-header-faded-updated-with-new-compass-rose-in-colour3.pngThen bye-bye colour…
cropped-header-faded-updated-with-new-compass-rose-grey.pngAnd now…

My husband and I were travelling in Spain on our honeymoon when I took the photograph. It was my first visit to Spain, a country that I had long wanted to experience. Weeks after returning home, we put our home on the market, packed up the two cats (but not my live-at-home daughter who was attending university), and headed off on the first of two corporate relocations, from Toronto, Canada, to St Louis, Missouri in the United States. Then three years later, across the “pond” to Switzerland (now with three cats). Each move was life changing (a mix of pluses and minuses) for my husband, me and our family (including the furry family members).

The photo, taken at Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, shows a small section of a Flemish tapestry.  It depicts an exciting era. European led explorations of distant lands were underway. Queen Isabella I of Spain was at the Alcázares complex when she agreed to finance Columbus’ expedition to find a new route to the Indies. As we know, he bumped into the New World on that adventure. In the spirit of exploring the world, I chose this photo as the basis for my blog header.

Columbus Before the Queen. Painting by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze

Columbus Before the Queen. Painting by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze

Columbus' map, ca. 1490.

Columbus’ map, ca. 1490.

My “header” experience involved learning how to use GIMP and Inkscape, which are open-source illustration and graphics tools. I sliced and reversed the tapestry, re-scaled it, played with colour, fonts, the layout and re-drew and re-positioned the all-important compass rose four times. In my latest header re-do, I used CSS code for the first time to modify the header and menu bar.

As for my choice of the style and colour palette…at times, the world is a difficult and dark place. Hence, the Gothic styling and dark background. However, one finds incredible brightness in that darkness. Beauty, synchronicity, multiculturalism and connectivity are what I post about. They form the bright and colourful content; the beauty that I encourage you to bring home.

Will this be the final header? Stay tuned.

Image credits above: top photo and header graphics: Sara Lynne Moffatt, all others via Wikipedia.

The Beauty of Natural Dyes

As a follow-on to my post about Venetian Velvet, I’m very pleased to bring you a colourful guest post by my sister, Andrea Moffatt.

DSC02568I adore beautiful fabrics! And those created by hand, I cherish even more.

Creating stunning colours naturally, from bugs, plants and minerals is a fascinating science. So, recently, I jumped at the opportunity to take a natural dye course at OCAD University in Toronto. Lead by Chung-Im Kim , we spent six evenings sampling the amazing colour wheel of natural dyes.

image3079The versatile onion!

Now, when I cook with onions, I think of the beautiful shades of yellow that onion skin produces as a natural dye. My silk velvet samples illustrate how the range of colour is extended with the use of mordants – (from left) alum, iron, tin and copper.

From the palest soft butter to a deep spicy gold, the range of natural yellow dyes is amazing. I’m looking forward to trying turmeric. And I was just reading that fustic makes a lovely teal colour when over-dyed with indigo.

DSC02504Glorious red!

Silk velvet displays the variety of colour produce by cochineal (top row) and madder dyes. We had a great time exploring how each dye changed with the use of mordants – (from left) tin, alum, copper and iron.

Turkey red, an incredible colour made famous through vibrant cottons in the 18th and 19th centuries and hand woven carpets, required a long, laborious and very involved process to produce a bright and lasting red.

DSC02508Blue Indigo!

Capturing the many moods of indigo takes such time and patience. My experiments with creating light, medium and dark blues on silk velvet and silk dupioni. The lightest shade was dipped for less than 10 seconds. The temperament of the silk velvet made it a challenge – it was so quick at soaking up the stunning blue indigo.

9780500516607_25558I recently read Catherine Legrand’s, Indigo: The Color that Changed the World – so many beautiful photos of indigo-dyed fabrics from all around the world, including the deepest, darkest blues. It would be fabulous to travel and see them up close.


Creating the colour wheel. The beautiful warm yellow of marigold (centre) is over-dyed with madder (left) for a rich orange, or quickly dipped into indigo (right) for a calming green.

Natural fabrics take differently to natural dyes. You will find differences when dying cellulose fibres (cotton & linen) and protein fibres (silk & wool). Every dye batch can be a little bit different.

DSC02479It is interesting to see how (left to right) silk velvet, Belgian linen and silk dupioni each took to the beautiful purple logwood dye using different mordants (iron mordant on the top row and alum below).

The ancient technique of Japanese Shibori dying produces such beautiful patterns. I experimented with wrapping and tying silk around wooden chop sticks as well as randomly binding the silk scarves with string to make a variety of abstract designs, and layering with over-dyes.Shibori GroupingI can hardly wait to use natural dyes to create beautiful fabrics for my family and friends!

Thank you for sharing your experience, Andrea. It’s fascinating to see the different effects mordants can create. Sara.

Photos: Unless otherwise noted, all photos are by Andrea Moffatt.

About Andrea Moffatt:

2007 Photo Shoot Corporate

Passionate traveller. Lover of the arts. A consummate explorer.

As a senior business strategist for a global company, I bring excellence and innovation into everything I do. Driven by my never ending sense of wonder, it is these same qualities that delight me as I explore the world.