Stained glass the fast way.
Vibrant, glowing colors from these tissue-paper panels can turn a window into a cheery focal point this holiday season. In the daytime, sunlight through the windows can bathe your home's interior with color; at night, the window becomes a festive beacon for friends.
The window-size panels are easy and fun to make. A family or group of friends can create one in a few hours. You start with a piece of clear plastic and use polyurethane to adhere pieces of precisely cut or loosely torn tissue paper. Your designs can be abstract or realistic. For inspiration, consider a child's drawing, a favorite greeting card, or a wrapping paper design.
Tissue paper in assorted colors offers a rich palette, but the real surprise comes when you overlap the colors. Secondary colors and new shapes appear. Layering the same color adds intensity. Practice with scraps to discover what can happen. When your masterpieces are ready, they'll be lightweight enough that clear doublesided tape can hold them in place. After the holidays, you can roll them up and store them until next year.
Supplies you'll need
We used 4- to 10-mil clear plastic, sometimes called clear vinyl, for the panels. Some fabric stores sell it in 54-inch-wide rolls costing $1.80 to $4 per yard.
As the plastic comes off the roll, it appears clear and relatively free of distortion, but we found that wadding it up and leaving it overnight before using makes it look like antique glass. (Flatten out before starting to work--too heavy wrinkles make it difficult to adhere the tissue.) Buy enough to more than cover the window or door where the panel will go.
Art supply and variety stores sell 20-sheet packs of tissue paper in single or assorted colors for about $3. Each sheet measures about 20 by 30 inches. Assorted packs usually have only one sheet of several colors, though some have light, medium, and dark hues of certain colors. If you want to feature a particular color range, buy several packs and use leftovers to wrap gifts.
You'll also need a yardstick, a roll of newsprint or brown wrapping paper, a pencil, a black felt-tip marker, masking tape, newspapers, 1 pint of satin-finish polyurethane, a 2- or 3-inch paintbrush, scissors or a craft knife, and a roll of double-sided tape.
Design and assembly
Start by measuring the glass area in the window or door. Reproduce it at same size on newsprint or brown paper that is sized at least 1 foot larger that the glass on all sides. Lightly sketch the outline of your design with a pencil; when you're satisfied, go over it with the felt marker. For multipane windows, you can plan one big design and later cut it to fit panes. Lay the plastic over the pattern and cut it to extend about 1 1/2 inches beyond the window's outline. Tape it to the pattern so it won't slide around.
Before you open the polyurethane, be sure to provide adequate ventilation where you're working. Follow precautions on can, and work in old clothes because polyurethane can't be removed from fabric. Further protect the surrounding floor with newspapers.
Cut or tear tissue before you start "gluing,' so you can work fast and avoid getting your hands too sticky. Don't make pieces too small; detailing and color changes come from overlapping. Don't worry about exactly following the pattern --enjoy the random surprises. You'll probably have to do some later cutting or tearing to fill in design details.
To make to tissue pieces stick to the plastic, paint on a thin coat of the polyurethane, starting in the center of the design. Cover about a square yard at a time, less if your design is complicated. Position the tissue pieces and press them lightly in place with your fingertips.
Darker colors can overpower lighter, brighter colors if they overlap. if you want to have certain areas of bright yellow, for instance, layer several pieces of yellow tissue and avoid adding darker colors on that section.
You can add the black lines of traditional stained glass with black tissue paper, 1/4-inch-wide illustrator's tape, or marking pens. The latter two can be applied only after the polyurethane has dried.
After the first layer of tissue is down, add a second coat of polyurethane, then more paper. Some of our examples have four or five layers. You probably won't need to add another complete coat of polyurethane after the second application, though you may have to add small touch-up coats between thick layers of tissue.
Complete layering the tissue so that it extends beyond the outline of the window, then add a final coat of polyurethane. Leave the panel flat on the ground until dry. Following the outline of the window on the pattern, cut the panel to size with scissors or a craft knife.
Before mounting the panel on the window or door, clean the glass and remove any condensation that could keep the tape from sticking. Face the tissue side toward the living space; run the tape along the top and bottom edges of the plastic backing. Panels may need extra tape on the sides to hold them in place, and you may have to add more tape after a few weeks. After the holidays, you can remove tape from glass with a single-edge razor blade. To store panels, fold in half, plastic sides together, and roll up.
The sparking colors of your creation may be ephemeral. If it's in direct sun for much of the day, the tissue paper will slowly fade over a few weeks' time. But in indirect light, the colors may stay vibrant for several years.
Photo: Two-part wreath fits sliding-glass door. To give angular texture to greenery, three colors of green tissue were cut into small triangles.
Ribbon and background were loosely torn; center was left open for views
Photo: Pastoral triptych filling 10-foot-square entry window combines cut and torn tissue. Woolly curls were drawn with black markers after finish dried. Design: Suki Diamond
Photo: Four-part design, cut from one big panel, installs in windows with double-sided tape across top and bottom of each panel
Photo: Inspired by greeting card, cityscape uses cut shapes, mostly in one layer. Pieces were arranged, then polyurethane was applied
Photo: Backlit Christmas tree glows cheerily on glass-paneled door
Photo: Quilt-patterned panel has rectangles, hearts, and triangles cut with scissors. Its whimsical geometric design has charm but doesn't require great artistic ability
Photo: Working on floor this mother-son team is busy adhering precut triangular "leaves' to big wreath. Outline of window and design were first drawn on paper beneath plastic. Note the ready supply of torn and cut shapes
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|Date:||Dec 1, 1984|
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