Throughout this past summer, I used Sharpies to record some of the fun activities our family did. I included both big vacations, and small moments. Then, at the end of the summer, I baked the porcelain plate in the oven – instant summer memories! Learning from my experience with the teacher mugs, I baked the plate at a higher temperature – 425 degrees for 30 minutes. The upside – I think it’s finally waterproof (and maybe even dishwasher proof, although I’m reluctant to test that out). The downside – the Sharpie colors really faded, so the final product isn’t nearly as bright or colorful as I thought it would be. I figure that’s okay, though, because you can still read all the memories!Pin It
This was a fun and simple project – we purchased inexpensive white mugs at IKEA and used Sharpie markers. We used stickers for the teachers’ initials, then used the Sharpies to put dots all around the stickers, creating negative space. Once the stickers were removed, we baked the mugs in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Then, we put a few chocolates in cellophane bags, and tucked a bag into each mug.
I learned about this technique online, and the directions said that this process would make the mugs safe to wash, but not to put in the dishwasher. However, one of the teachers told me that the markings on her mug had already smeared. I’m not sure why the baking didn’t “set” the marker – I’m going to go back and experiment a little, see if I can figure it out.Pin It
Then I tried something very simple – just a looped strand of knotting cord on each end of the connector makes a beautiful bracelet:
Here you can see the detail of the pull closure – I used the macrame technique to make a 4-5 bump closure that the strands pull through to loosen or tighten, then I strung beads onto the ends of the cord and knotted them on the ends.
You can find complete directions for these bracelets in my earlier posting here.Pin It
I’ve used embroidery thread to make friendship bracelets in prior summers, but this Chinese knotting cord is a game-changer! It’s so much easier and much more fun to work with, and the colors are bright and saturated. The bracelets I made with this cord are sturdier and show off their colors better than anything I’ve tried before.
My inspiration was, as is so often the case, the Purl Bee: you can find the instructions here and the Chinese knotting cord here. I experimented with several of the patterns, but my favorite was the simple braid with six strands (two each of three colors). To me, this produced the best color and the ideal weight and thickness for the bracelet.
I tried Purl Bee’s closure instructions, but I wasn’t satisfied with the result. I surfed around on the Internet and made several other attempts before finding these instructions. This technique worked perfectly – I made the macrame closure, per the instructions, then I threaded a bead onto each of the two “pull strings”, knotted the end of the cord, sealed the cut end with a lighter, and used a drop of glue to secure the bead to the knot.
I initially had a lot of trouble stringing the beads, but I found that if I rolled the end of the cord in a little bit of glue, then when it was tacky, used my fingers to roll it into a stiff point, it threaded much more easily.
My daughters loved making these, too, and were very successful with the braiding, although it took a little practice to keep the cords from rolling and to maintain the perfect amount of tension along the chain as the braiding progressed.
The Chinese knotting cord is not very expensive, and you get a lot of cording on each reel. We plan to make a whole basketful of these bracelets to sell at our school’s winter crafts fair this Christmas.Pin It
Another one of my forays into hand-stamping fabric – this time, I used store-bought stamps in the shapes of a fork, spoon, and knife, and a black ink pad. I cut apart flourcoth tea towels and hemmed them, then stitched a line of ribbon on each napkin, running horizontally along the bottom third. The stamped images are not clear or crisp, because of the flourcloth – I tried them on muslin and cotton, with much clearer results – but I decided I liked the blurred affect for this project.
I added in a tea towel, with two parallel vertical lines of ribbon and a variation of the stamping pattern. Then, to create a gift set, I paired the towel and six napkins with six small, melamine plates. Tied up in a bow with matching ribbon, the entire package makes a nice gift set.Pin It
I always find beautiful cards that I’d love to save and display in some way, because they’re really art, in and of themselves. Since I don’t send or give many cards anymore, I usually regretfully pass them up. However, when I saw these flower-inspired cards, printed by a Portland-based company (Push Me Pull You Press) at Collage, I knew I had to find some creative way to display them.
I found scrap wood at home that was the perfect width – probably about 6″ – and cut it into 4″ lengths. I’m not sure what previous project the wood was from, but it was the ideal thickness – not near as thick as a 2×4, but not as thin as plywood, either. Then I sanded the wood blocks and used paint from the wooden door mats I made last summer. Luckily, I had so many colors of paint that I was able to pretty closely match each of the flower prints.
Once the wood blocks were painted, I used sticky tape to seal the cards, and then affix them to the blocks. The final step was to use Mod Podge to coat the blocks, sealing in the cards and giving the blocks a glossy finish.
One mistake I made was not sealing the cards tightly enough – I can see tiny gaps between the front and back of the card, even though it’s glued to the block and coated with a sealant. Other than that, I think the project was a success. It was a good idea to create a separate display for each card, instead of mounting them all on one surface, because I can adjust the layout to fit whatever wall space I have available. For instance, right now they’re all mounted vertically because I had a long, narrow wall space that didn’t fit anything else – perfect!Pin It
In our family, my girls have to wait until they’re twelve to get their ears pierced. This makes the event a rite of passage – something they look forward to and celebrate when they finally reach their twelfth birthday. Now that my oldest daughter has her ears pierced, she is accumulating quite a collection of earrings; however, I noticed that she is losing them almost as quickly. I understand this, given how tiny they are and how difficult it is to find a good system for storing them, other than in a big jumble at the bottom of a jewelry box.
I went looking for a better storage system for earrings, and although I found racks for hanging dangling earrings, no one seemed to have a good solutions for posts. So . . . I made one. I used a letterpress box – you know, a box from the “olden days” that they used to store typeset blocks in? I found it on this Etsy site, and it is really cool – weathered and authentic, but still in good condition. I thought the small cubbies would be perfect storage for small pieces of jewelry.
I cut up an old cork board and made squares the same size as the letterpress cubbies, then used craft glue to glue the cork into the cubbies. I used two layers of cork, so that it would be thick enough and stick out far enough. You can see below how you can stick the posts into the cork, and then set the backings on the ledge of the cubby:
Next, to provide storage for dangling earrings, I cut out a piece of an old screen door and used decorative thumb tacks to secure it to one row of the cubbies. The holes in the screen are the perfect dimension for slipping the posts of the dangling earrings through:
I had so much room left in the letterpress box that I decided to provide storage for necklaces and bracelets, too. I ordered the fancy thumb tacks from this Etsy site, and screwed them into the upper sides of the box and into one of the larger cubbies, filled with cork. The thumb tacks became hooks for hanging necklaces:
As a final touch, I ordered little wooden letters from this Etsy site – which turned out to be a craftsman in Thailand, isn’t Etsy amazing! – to spell my daughter’s name. I painted them each a different color, and displayed them in one of the rows of cubbies:
I mounted the box on the wall with velcro mounting strips, because I couldn’t find a good way to put nails through the box (alternatively, I could have mounted a hanger on the back, and then hung it from a nail, but this worked much more quickly and easily). I positioned it right next to my daughter’s sink, up close and in good light so she can easily find what she’s looking for. The possibilities for the cool details you could incorporate into this box are endless – I’m working on ideas for the remaining spaces (unless, of course, my daughter acquires so many earrings that I need to fill up the rest of the cubbies with cork 🙂
My dad, who has been in the newspaper and publishing business most of his lift, tells me that this box is properly referred to as a California Job Case, and that he used to pick individual letters for making headline type from boxes very much like this one. So much cool history in one simple item 🙂Pin It
A fun purchase from Collage – this all-in-one stamp kit from Yellow Owl Workshop made great tags for all of the gifts I give from the garden. Now whenever I gift a jar of canned goods, or a basket of fresh veggies, or a bowl of berries, I’ll have the perfect tag to go with it! The stamp works on other surfaces, as well – metal, wood, fabric – but so far, I haven’t been able to figure out other projects – still thinking about it . . .Pin It
I think that every knitter is at a loss as to what to do with yarn scraps – everything from the tiny pieces we cut off when we’re weaving in ends, to the longer strands that are leftover when we knit almost – but not quite – to the end of a skein. I keep my in large mason jars, and by now I’ve accumulated a large number of those jars, so I went wandering around Pinterest looking for ideas.
I found several sites with tutorials for making yarn bowls, so my daughters and I gave it a try. It’s pretty simple in concept – we found simple, nice-shaped bowls (pretty large ones, like mixing bowls) and carefully covered the outside of the bowls with saran wrap, being careful to wrap it around the edge of the bowl and press it on the inside so that nothing would leak onto the bowl. Next, we mixed up the paste – here’s the recipe we used:
Mix 1/2 cup flour and 2 cups cold water in a bowl
Boil 2 cups water in a sauce pan, then add the flour and cold water mixture
Bring to a boil again
Remove from heat and add 3 tablespoons sugar
Let cool (the paste will thicken as it cools)
The next step was the time-consuming part – we dipped each individual yarn scrap in the paste, then wrung it out with our fingertips (you don’t want too much excess paste), and placed it on the bowl. For the “Koigu scraps” bowl (all generated from my Rainbow Blocks blanket project), we used shorter scraps and tried to place them in curved patterns – swirls, curlicues, loops, etc. We added in a fair number of white scraps to balance out all of the colors. For the “Brooklyn Tweed” bowl (scraps from all of my Brooklyn Tweed yarn projects), we used longer strands and tried wrapping them around tightly, so that there was no space between the strands.
The bowls took at least two days to dry – before we started, we placed them on tin foil-covered cookie sheets, so that we could move them around if necessary. Once dry, we turned them right side up and carefully pried the sides of the yarn bowl away from the “mold” bowl – this is a little delicate, as you need to get enough space in between the two to pull the yarn bowl off the mold, but you don’t want to break the shape of the yarn bowl. Once we pulled off the yarn bowl, we peeled away the pieces of saran wrap, and it was done!
The results: we liked the Koigu bowl better, even though it has spaces between the yarn and couldn’t be used for anything other than, for instance, holding embroidery thread or yarn balls (anything that isn’t small and won’t fall between the cracks). We weren’t as crazy about the Brooklyn Tweed bowl, but I think that’s because the wool in Brooklyn Tweed yarn looks a little matted and unattractive once it’s been “pasted.” Also, even being very careful to push the strands together, we still ended up with some spaces – it might have worked better with a different, thicker yarn (much of what we were working with was fingering weight).
This was a fun project, but I’m not sure I like it so much that I’ll want to do it again and again with all of my yarn scraps. Back to the drawing board (or the Pinterest boards) . . . does anyone out there have something fun they do with their yarn scraps?Pin It
I’ve got all sorts of great ideas for fabric stamping tea towels (and napkins, and place mats, etc, etc), but I wanted to start simple, so I took an afternoon and a basketful of fruits and vegetables, and played around with mixing colors of fabric paints.
My first complete project: a set of fruit-themed tea towels, stamped with apples and pears. I used simple flour sack tea towels and fabric paint – that was it! I learned that you need to cut the fruit in half very precisely, so that one side isn’t higher or lower than the other. I mixed green and yellow paints until I liked the hue for the pears, and used a ruler and fabric pencil to make sure that my placement of the stamps was straight and even.
After finishing the pears, I wasn’t sure that they really looked like pears (especially the upside-down ones), so I used a small paint brush and added the stems (which I think was a huge improvement). Once the paint was dry, I heat set it with an iron accordingly to the directions.
Next, I’m going to play around with carving stamp blocks and try a set of vegetable-themed prints – I’m thinking beets and carrots, maybe asparagus running top to bottom down one (or both) sides of the towel?
For a hostess gift at a Christmas party we attended this weekend, I made this cinnamon Christmas candle – I ordered 6″ cinnamon sticks online, then used them to encircle a 3″ x 6″ Pottery Barn ivory candle. After trying (and failing) at a few ways to hold the cinnamon sticks on while I got them tied together, I simply put a rubber band around the candle, then stuck each of the cinnamon sticks in and positioned them. I was going to cut the rubber band off once I tied the twine around, but decided that the band would probably keep the cinnamon sticks in place better than the twine, so I just wound enough twine around to hide the rubber band.
When the candle is lit, it will warm the cinnamon sticks and release the smell into the air. Nothing says Christmastime to me like the smell of warm cinnamon!Pin It
This year I’m trying a more natural approach to my Christmas decorations, and even to my wrapping. I decided to wrap all my gifts in brown craft paper and then decorate with red ribbon and cuttings from our farm – cedar, pine cones, nandina berries, and even a few trimmings off of the new holly trees we’ve planted. I bought blank cream-colored labels, stamped and embossed a red or green glitter conifer on each, and hand-wrote the recipients’ names.
Continuing the theme of bringing nature indoors, I cut a branch from one of our white birch trees and suspended it from the kitchen ceiling, over our kitchen island. Then, using thin-guage wire, I hung the handblown ornaments that our family created at Elements Glass last year. I was nervous at first – what if it fell? – but it’s held on so far, and I love the effect.Pin It
My youngest daughter wanted to participate in our school’s upcoming Christmas bazaar, so we hunted around online until we came up with the perfect project – candy cane reindeer! As with almost everything I find on the Internet, these were harder to make than they appeared, at least until we experimented a little and figured out the best approach.
Initially, we tried holding the candy canes together and wrapping the pipe cleaners around them, but we couldn’t pull the pipe cleaners tight enough to hold everything together, so after trying twine and hot glue, we landed on taping the two candy canes together with clear strapping tape, then twisting 5-6 pipe cleaners together so that the ends lay flat at the point of joining, and then twisting the pipe cleaners snugly around the conjoined candy canes, tucking in the end at the top and bringing the end at the bottom around to the back, with a little bit sticking out (for a tail), and a spot of hot glue to hold the tail in place.
We hot glued on googley eyes and a red puffball nose, and then tied on a tiny bell with a strand of thin red ribbon. For the “girl” reindeer, we tied the ribbon in a bow and hot glued it to the starting point of the pipe cleaners.
My girls were distressed that the candy canes wouldn’t really be edible – at least, not unless you tore apart the reindeer – I pointed out that the “antlers” provide the perfect hook for hanging the reindeer on the tree, so that he can be a Christmas ornament year after year 🙂
A good use for all of my extra yarn – at least, 100% wool yarn that isn’t super wash . . . I hand-wound different sized balls of yarn, then put them in old pairs of panty hose and tied knots in between, so that they wouldn’t unwind or move around at all.
Surprisingly, it took three times in a hot washer and hot dryer before they felted enough to hold together. These are all too big to string together, but if I made smaller ones, I could use a large needle and string them into holiday garlands.
At this time of year, I always yearn to find some way to preserve the brilliant fall colors all around me – I love to watch the leaves turn red, yellow, and orange, but I know that the time is fleeting, and I wanted to be able to make that color last a little while. One of the leaf projects I’ve tried this fall is leaf pressing. It’s very simple – just select the brightest and freshest leaves, sandwich them between pieces of wax paper, and press them between the pages of heavy books for a week or so. Then, arrange them against cream-colored cardstock and frame them.
I thought I might need to put spray adhesive on the backs of the leaves to keep them in place in the frame, but they stayed on their own once they were locked in there. When they’re pressed, they lose some of their brilliant color, but I think they’re still beautiful. I’m curious to see how well they are preserved in the frames – will they lose more color or start to crumble? I hung the series of three frames on a wall that doesn’t get any direct sunlight – maybe that will help them last longer.Pin It
I have been looking for a creative use for Mary Flanagan’s felted wool and the large bag of colorful felt scraps in my hobby room closet – after messing around cutting out silhouettes and various animals shapes one evening, I happened upon this idea.
First, using a shape template, I cut out identical bunnies in various colors from wool felt. Next, using hand embroidery thread, I embroidered on a black eye and white whiskers for each bunny. I then sized and cut the wool felt to cover a 16″ square canvas board, positioned the bunnies, and glued them down. I wanted there to be some character to the look of the art, so I turned some bunnies so that they were facing their friends, and tilted others slightly.
I glued them down with fabric glue, just to hold them in place temporarily, then machined sewed them down. The final step was to stretch the wool felt around to the back of the canvas square and staple it in place.
I think it would be the perfect hanging above a crib or on a nursery wall – it would be fun to do a set of these boards (or maybe a triptych), each with a different animal silhouette (chicks, cats?) and then hang them as a series.
This is what happens when I play around on Etsy too long and find too many things that I can’t resist . . . after a recent trip to Paper Source and an impulse buy of six different colors of baker’s twine – no good reason, I just loved the colors! – I got on Pinterest to see what uses I could possibly find for my new purchase. Armed with inspiration, I surfed around on Etsy until I found the perfect supplies. It’s no exaggeration to say you can find just about anything on Etsy!
Baker’s twine comes in an irresistible array of colors:
I picked up another package of colored cording here – no thought as to what I might end of using it for, but if nothing use, I think it will look beautiful against kraft paper for wrapping packages:
Next purchase – a collection of tiny vintage keys:
I used baker’s twine to tie the keys onto my homemade jam – kind of an identifying tag for my jams when I give them as gifts.
I used all six colors of baker’s twine to create tassels for the keys that were too large to use on the jam jars:Pin It
While surfing some of my favorite crafting blogs, I found a great new product – Inkodye. This amazing liquid is sun-reactive and will dye just about any surface – wood, paper, and, of course, fabric! The Inkodye website has some great tutorials and how-tos – I experimented with all three colors (red, orange, and blue). This is how it did it:
First, I used a large poster board as a surface – you have to work in a room with subdued lighting and as little natural light as possible, so that you don’t start the chemical reaction prematurely. I cut out smaller pieces of fabric to experiment with first – approx. 6″x8″. I laid the fabric squares on the poster board, then went outside to pick a variety of leaves, plants and flowers. I knew that I’d get the best prints from plants that would lie flat, so I tried to find flowers that would flatten out well, along with maple leaves, silk tree leaves, grasses, asters, daisies, and others.
I brought in the cuttings and was ready to begin. I poured out two tablespoons of the red Inkodye in a small mixing tray, and added two tablespoons of water (because the Inkodye is very expensive, and the website tutorial said that a 1:1 mix of Inkodye and water will produce the same color was undiluted Inkodye). Using a small roller with a foam brush that I found in the paint section at Home Depot, I rolled the liquid onto the fabric squares. I learned several things:
* It’s important to get a completely even coat all over the fabric, or the colors will be mottled once they are exposed to the sun (which can be a pretty effect, but not if you’re looking for solid color!)
* Even at 1:1 dilution, the color is very bright – I played around with 1:4 and even 1:6 dilution, and liked how each of the variations looked. I also tried mixing the red and orange, along with an equal amount of water, and was able to get different colors with each different combination.
* The solution isn’t like paint at all – it’s an almost clear liquid, which can make it challenging to see if it’s been evenly applied to the fabric, especially in subdued lighting. This wasn’t too much of a problem with small fabric squares, but when I tried larger pieces of fabric (like 25″ square), it was virtually impossible for me to get a smooth application.
* The Inkodye solution in the mixing tray evaporated very fast, so it was important to have several fabric squares out at once, and do them simultaneously – otherwise, you would lose any leftover solution.
After I applied the solution to the fabric, I experimented with arranging different flowers, leaves and grasses on the fabric squares. A few lessons learned:
* It’s important to put down a piece of glass or plexiglass over the fabric once the cuttings are arranged – I tried my first batch of dyeing without it, and it was difficult to get the flowers and leaves flat enough to get really good silhouettes. I took a large piece of glass out of an unused picture frame (about 20″ x 24″) and used that.
* Don’t remove the cuttings until you take your poster board of fabric squares out of the sunlight! I made that mistake the first time, and saw that the silhouette of the cuttings starts to react to the sunlight almost immediately. This can be pretty if you want your silhouettes to have a light color, but of course it can be tricky to make sure that they don’t fill in with color altogether.
After you press the glass pane down on the fabric squares, carry them out to the sunlight – I used a picnic table on our back deck. The color starts to react almost immediately – very cool to watch! It takes 12-15 minutes for the process to be complete. After that, take the poster board back inside, take off the glass and the cuttings, and immediately put the fabric squares into the washing machine set on “hot.” This is an important step to stop the color reaction and keep the fabric from continuing to change color, even after you’ve removed the cuttings. The directions say to run the fabrics through a hot cycle in the washing machine twice – probably a good idea.
I then threw all the fabrics in the dryer, let them run until completely dry, and then ironed them to get them ready for use in my next project. After experimenting with the red and orange, I tried different dilutions with the blue – a pretty color, but more difficult to get a lighter color dilution than with the red/orange. Also, very difficult to get a consistent color over any larger pieces of fabric.
Right now, Inkodye only comes in red, orange, and blue – maybe other colors will be coming out eventually? It’s very expensive, but you can buy it in small containers and you can make it last a long time by diluting it. I’d love to find a way to soak the fabric in the solution, instead of rolling it on – maybe that would give it a more consistent color on larger pieces? – but I don’t know how that would work, and it would take so much solution, it would probably be cost-prohibitive. This wonderful product has a lot of potential and almost limitless possibilities, but it’s a good idea to just play around with it first, because it takes some time to get the hang of it and figure out which cuttings, and which techniques, work best.