Sunday, December 6, 2009

German Paper Stars

I remember making these German paper stars as a kid. I couldn't remember how to do it so I found this great video of the process. I imagine getting the paper ready back then was kind of hard. Now we have large varieties of paper and rotary cutting systems that make the prep work easier.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wood Crafts

My dad is busy in his workshop making some cool wood items that would make good Christmas presents (or presents to yourself.) There are some pretty cool recipe card boxes. Also, I'm still a big fan of his blank wooden scrapbooks because they are sturdy and personalizable--much easier than trying to find the perfect one in a shop.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Beaded Counters

These are beaded game counters. My family play Magic: The Gathering and other games that require counters. We used to use ten-sided dice but these counters make more sense because they can be accidentally nudged without losing track of the number. I pair the beads I am using with homemade cording in the color and thickness I need. The beads must be movable but not slide around unless forced to do so.

I have ten beads in the top section and ten beads in the bottom section. The bottom section are the "ones" and the top section are the "tens." This way they can go up to 110. However, for some games, I only need 20 counters so I just make them all "ones."

The top have a loop for hanging (or for holding onto) and the bottom of them are finished in tassels. One the third from the left, I actually baked polymer clay right around the cording with the glass beads in place. However, on the rest, I made some beaded dividers and other decorator accents.

I wish I could get a better picture but this will have to do until the camera returns.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Camera Vacation

I have some more crafty stuff to share SOON. My camera went on vacation with my oldest daughter and is late in arriving home--the camera, not the daughter. I have a phone on my camera that might work but I don't use it regularly. As soon as I have some good pics, I'll start putting a few things up.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Parchment Board

I used my tea stained paper to make this "parchment board" version of a white board. The idea is that you fill a frame with a solid or very lightly patterned background and then use dry erase markers on the surface as a "white board" for notes, reminders, etc.. In this case, I am using a few of these in the kitchen. I like the sort of medieval-meets-modern look of these with faux parchment paper. I plan to do this with some embellished gothic frames.

Instead of plain backing, you could fill it with a printed list of categories and blank spaces, a chore list, or anything really. Since items can be written on the surface and erased away any time, it's a neat way to do a checklist.

To create the board all I did was glue down the tea stained paper to a backing piece and placed it in a frame. I hung the frame, got a dry erase marker, and was all set. Standard erasers work fine. Check thrift stores and yard sales for large frames.

My kids are teens so I think I would do this differently if I had small children that might be using the board. You can always use Plexiglas. I tested dry erase markers on Plexi that I have and it didn't stain. Also, you can screw the frame right into the studs and make it so it can't wriggle (or swing from its nail) when it is in use. Just pre-drill a hole in the top center of the frame and the bottom center of the frame when it is empty. Then pre-drill the wall and carefully secure your filled frame with screws.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tea Stained Paper

Tea stained paper has a lot of uses. I am putting some into regular glass frames to use as white boards. This will prevent the boards from having that drab "office" feeling.

To make it, start with a white or antique white paper. You don't have to use linen paper or anything of that sort. Regular copy paper will work and is sturdy enough to withstand the process.

Heat some water and soak your tea bags in it for a minute or so. Use either less water or more bags than you normally would for tea--you want it concentrated. Different colored teas will give a different look to the finished paper so experiment away. When ready to stain your paper, squeeze the bags over the steeping water just enough to prevent them from being drippy. Dab the tea bags randomly over the paper's surface until the page is wet and mottled. You may want to use paper towels to dab pools of tea that collect on the surface.

If you are going for an uneven edge, as in the picture, the best time to tear it is while the paper is still somewhat damp. Turn the paper over and carefully tear the edge. Putting a ruler down to define your rough edge will help you to gauge your tearing work. After it has been torn, dab the torn edge with the tea bag and it will soak it right in, giving a darker color to the edge.

To make dark stained creases, you need to crumple the paper. Once the paper is dray (or at least somewhat dry), crinkle it up and smooth it out. You can do this a few times for more creases. Once you are satisfied with the creases, drag your the prepared tea bags along the surface of the paper until you've dampened the whole thing again. The dark tea will sink into the creases giving a truly aged look. Allow to dry.

For a smoother finished product, you can iron the paper between layers of scrap cloth. Steam may aid this process but protect the ironing surface as some tea may stain it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Potter Preparation

I apologize for not posting much in the last few weeks. I've been on a genealogy tangent lately. When a few family facts on family origin present themselves, it is important to follow them through. My great grandparents immigrated 100 years ago, this year. Most of their nine children have passed away and it is important that I get confirmation and information before too much time has passed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The sixth Harry Potter movie was released today! The book releases and movie releases have been fantastic fun for my family. Today I am making Butterbeer. I have butterscotch candies handy so I am making a syrup from them to use in creating cold and warm Butterbeer with Karen Hancock's instructions from Bella Online.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Paper Stars

To celebrate Independence Day and because it's a "skill" I've been meaning to share, I am posting a tutorial for building a paper star. These stars can be folded to come to a peak in the middle--like the metal star decorations that seem to be so popular. Make them out of printed paper and hang them. Make them in pairs and staple them back-to-back to create 3D stars. Or just make them for fun.

1. Fold your piece of paper in half.

2. Make an angular fold with the vertex roughly centered on the first fold. Fold over the paper as shown to the 32 degree angle mark. If you don't have a protractor, make an educated guess.

3. Fold the left side up and crease it where the extra layers of paper you've folded over in the previous step start. (Just follow the pictures.)

4. I hope you're still with me. Next, you will be folding so that the "outsides" of your angular paper configuration come together. Crease along the line where the layer change begins.

5. Press the new crease down flat and cut a sharp angle from the double-layer side toward the crease. Unfold your paper and you'll have a star! If you don't like the angle of the point, refold it and cut it again.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hello, my name is ME

I was looking for an interesting picture for an avatar, one that really screamed "me" and decided to make my own picture using my favorite art form: words. I tried to come up with all of the things about me that were true, from my perspective. I'm sure there would be other more and less complimentary things to add if I asked around.

Feel free to snag this blank one to add your own words (copy-paste away). Otherwise, it's easy enough to make a fresh tag yourself, if this isn't big enough. Any basic graphic arts program can pull off this stunt.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Alien Mutant Plants of Doom

For you elementary school teachers, homeschooling parents, or crafters with unusual tastes I'd like to direct you to my math education blog: Family Math where I have posted instructions on building alien foliage for a math puzzle called Evil Mutant Plants of Doom.

Family Math is where I get to discuss math education and encourage a dialog about mathematics problem solving between adults and children. I developed a number of math puzzles and games intended for Family Math fairs. It is a fantastic way to combine my math fandom and my crafting skills.

My Dad's Handiwork

My dad has been busy in the workshop again. He's built this unfinished pine table whose base works as a magazine rack. He has it on offer at Etsy. It would make a good end table, near an entry -- anywhere, really.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Custom Lamp Finials

I made this custom two-sided final for a tall lamp. It's built from polymer clay and faux cabochon gems. I wanted a sort of sun/moon look so I built each side as a medallion. However, more interesting, sculptural pieces are certainly possible.

First, I took the old finial to the hardware store where I found a bolt that fit inside it. I didn't need to buy the bolt but used it to find a threaded insert into which it could fit. This steel insert cost about a dollar. It's meant to be hammered into wood. There are styles with outside threading that is intended to be screwed into wood. However, I liked the fatter base and sturdy prongs of this hammer-in style.

Then I built the clay around it. I should have taken more pictures to show what I did. It was simple enough to cover the insert and then build-up the piece in layers. In this case, I covered it and shaped the top into a flat disk. Then I built medallions to fit the disk and added those on a second and third firing.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Using Paper Cones

Here are some cones made with the directions in my Paper Cone Tutorial in use. The "tree" is just three stacked cones made with the same angle cut and different slant heights.

My favorite use so far has to be the snack stands. I made the top cones as usual and snipped off the tip. Then I lined them with waxed paper for food safety. To line them, I just cut a half circle with a radius of the same slant height as the cone it went into, rolled them to fit inside, then folded over the tip. The bases were cut using an arc I drew with the compass--about 1.5 - 2 inches away from the center point. I suggest making the snack cones and their bases fairly wide so they aren't "tippy."

I plan to give specific directions on the snack stands in a later post so stay tuned. I may also be talked into making some templates for those who don't want to figure out the math.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tutorial: Modular Paper Cone

Paper cones are versatile for crafting.
- tip down, they serve as hanging vases
- holiday paper cones can represent trees
- they make great party hats

It's simple to roll paper into a cone. But what if you want to make a cone that's a specific radius and height? What if you want the base to sit evenly on a flat surface?

Making custom cones is simple and only uses a little math. To make it more accessible (that is, to prevent your eyes from glazing over), I will simply give the instructions here. I plan to post an explanation of the calculations on my Family Math blog.

Step One: Determine the radius (r) of your base and the height. You'll use these to find the "slant height". This online calculator will do it for you: Calculator. Just enter the radius of the base and the height as the sides. The result (hypotenuse) is your slant height: s. (If you know a little geometry, this slant height is calculated using the Pythagorean Theorem.)

Step Two: Determine the angle of the wedge shape you'll need to cut from paper. This another simple calculation: Angle=360r/s
(r is the radius of the base, s is the slant height from the previous step)

Step Three: You will be drawing this angle on your paper. To do this, select a point for the vertex of the angle. Draw one line that starts at the point and is length s.

Using a protractor, mark a point that makes the angle you determined from this point. Draw a line that connects the point to this line and extends beyond it for length S. At this point, you should have an angle with two legs of equal length on your paper.

Step Four: To draw the arc which will be the edge of your cone's base, you will need a compass*. Adjust your compass so the distance it spans is the same as the slant height, s. Place the point of your compass on the vertex of your angle and sketch the arc.

Step Five: Make a tab along one side of the wedge, as shown. This will be the gluing tab. I added the red lines to this picture to show the details. Notice, I cut the tab short on the point side.

Step Six: Cut out the wedge, roll into a cone and glue together.

*(You can also substitute a strip of paper a little longer than S for the compass. Place the paper to be cut onto cork board or some other surface you can pin into. Mark a line on the strip that is the same length as S. Make a small hole in one end of the line. Then pin the other end of the line through the vertex of your angle. Place a pencil into the hole and make your arc line.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Baked Potato Salad

Every crafter, writer, parent, etc. needs good, quick kitchen tricks. After a day of projects, I was going to make burgers for three of us one evening and wanted a fast side dish. I rooted around in my fridge and found a few things that I thought would work. The result: Baked Potato Salad.

First I made a dressing by thinning (light) sour cream with (light) ranch dressing. I diced cold, leftover baked potatoes with the skins on then lightly salted and peppered the potatoes. I combined the dressing and potatoes with some bacon bits. I would have tossed in some chives or maybe green onions but I didn't have either at the time. I'm sure I'll be making this again because it went fast.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pirate Pushpins

These are sword, dagger, and knife pushpins I made for my bulletin board. I created them because of my husband's love of "pirate culture." I was also inspired by the image of the dagger in the door when Captain Hook kindnapped Peter's kids in the movie "Hook."

They are even sturdy enough to be put into a wall and hold a small amount of weight--like a parchment ransom demand or declarations of pirate rights. This one is in my husband's office at work where it holds a little sign in full pirate style.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Candle Holder

My father just added this candle holder to his etsy shop. It's two sided--one side holds votives or tea lights and the other holds tapers. I received one like this last Christmas and just love it!

These are really versatile. I can make long, tall centerpieces by putting narrow cylindrical bud vases (less than a dollar at Walmart) in the votive holes. Then I put single flowers or bunches of small flowers in the vases. It's a really nice look.

Steampunk Princess Fairy Door

My daughter drew a concept for this door and I built it for her. I suppose it's steampunk meets fairy princess. It was difficult to stay faithful to her window details which were pretty cool. Only the most amazing fairies would live behind this door.

The "glass" was more distressed than I had anticipated, having handled and rolled the clay for it carefully. Next time I think I'll pool liquid clay over a color to get the look I'm after. It seems to be more consistent.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Making Paint on the Cheap

My tutorial about painting clean lines posted on Instructables has been so popular (over 7k hits in less than 3 days) that I thought I would redirect anyone who is interested to my only other paint advice: Penny Pincher's Paint. This is an article I've written about how to buy tempera paint (for teachers and parents) and make acrylic paint (for crafters, parents, and teachers) out of bulk purchased tempera powders.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tutorial: Crisp, Clean Paint Lines

This tutorial was featured on Instructables.

Have you ever tried to use masking tape for its intended purpose only to discover that, no matter how carefully you apply the tape, paint bleeds under it, ruining your efforts?

Making clean paint lines between two colors doesn't have to require a steady hand or special equipment. This technique is very simple and requires only paint, brushes and masking tape. This time, however, you will be controlling the bleeding paint and using it to create crisp lines that precisely follow the edge of the tape.

Lay down the first color, extending past the area where the line will be. If you are using two layers per color, paint both layers.

Once it's dry, place your masking tape. In this case, the bottom of the masking tape marks the location where the edge between the two colors will appear.

Using the same color, paint along the tape edge. This seems strange but, there will always be some bleeding under the tape. By deliberately painting against the tape, you seal the edge with the first color, allowing it to bleed under the edge, so the second color can't do it. The edge of the tape becomes the edge of your line.

Make sure the lower edge of the paint feathers softly away so you won't see a thick ragged layer of paint later on.

When the bleed-under layer has dried, paint the second color. Make sure your paint overlaps the location of the tape line.

Remove the tape by pulling it at a 90 degree angle. Do this when the paint is wet, if possible.

Tah-dah! Crisp, clean paint lines!

(I hate adding a caveat but it seems warranted here: I haven't had any problems with the line when removing the tape after the second color has dried BUT other people I know have. It has to do with paint setting up and binding to itself. So, if you cannot pull the tape while it is still wet or at least soon after it dries, you might consider using a craft knife and a straight edge to score the line before pulling the tape.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Great Popsicle Experiment

I found these cute little rocket popsicle molds at Dollar Tree. I got a set but didn't really look at them very hard until I got them home. They are small and 1 cup of liquid fills all 8 so I thought they would be good for small, cold treats like frozen smoothies. However, I noticed that the sticks were completely smooth and imagined that they would slide right out of the popsicles when frozen. I was right--6 out of 8 came out without their frozen treats attached.

So I tried a little experiment. I drilled holes in the part of the stick that was put into the mold. I used as large a hole as I thought could work, structurally. Then I cleaned them up with a sharp knife, inserted in the hole and turned until the slivers of plastic came off. Then, I sterilized them.

I only drilled out half of the sticks, then I made popsicles. When I tried to unmold them, not one of the plain sticks held its treat. However, 3 out of 4 drilled out sticks slid out properly. I did warm the outside of the mold in both cases.

So, don't despair at poorly designed popsicle sticks. Get out power tools instead!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Improved Solar Night Light

This is an improved version of my solar night light. I put small clear flat back marbles in the base. If you are making a plastic version of this, an option would be to use opaque acrylic beads--faceted or pony beads. I like the idea of the faceted ones because they would make the light appear more fractured.

Monday, June 1, 2009

No Bake Cookies

My Instructable for these classic No-Bake Cookies was featured. Cool. We consider them the quintessential summer treat. Because they have no egg, no gluten and can be made without dairy, they tend to fit everyone's dietary requirements--except for the part that they are more candy than cookie.

Giveaway Winner

I used the random number generator at to pick a winner for my fairy door giveaway. The winner is Jerri from Many Crafts.

Thanks so much for all of the great comments! I hope you come back and visit. I will consider giving away more items in the future. I was also thinking about opening an etsy shop for selling my wares.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Solar Night Light

I made one of these solar night lights for a bathroom. These would be great for a kids' room, to take camping, or probably a hundred other uses. I was inspired by this instructable for a solar jar. The nightlight is even simpler. It took just a couple of minutes to assemble.

I bought a $4 path light at Walmart. Then I took the post and shade off it. The only tool I remember using was a screwdriver. I wish I would have taken pictures to show how easy it was to take apart. Maybe I'll make another just so I can take pictures to prove the simplicity of the task.

What was left was kind of like a hockey puck with a solar panel on top and an LED protruding from the bottom. I found a glass candle holder in my candle cupboard that was the perfect size. To secure the pieces together, I used super glue. If you are worried about dropping these and breaking the glass, you could probably find a clear plastic container to use as the base.

The hardest part of using this is remembering to put it in a sunny window in the morning.

To make it more interesting, you could:
- etch the glass
- frost (faux etch) the glass
- wrap a piece of vellum around the glass
- adorn it with ribbons, etc..
- fill the glass with interesting marbles
- put star-shaped stickers on the glass, paint the glass, then carefully remove the stickers

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Give Away!

I am taking part in the Sew, Mama, Sew! Blog May Giveway. To enter for a chance to win my offering you must leave a comment on this post by May 31, 2009. Make sure your comment includes a way to contact you in the event that you win. I will be using a random number generator to select a winner.

I am giving away this fairy door made of polymer clay. It's a great whimsical accent for any home and is tiny enough to go just about anywhere. The door is 3" x 4", has a recessed wire hanger and can be hung from a small nail. It features rustic wood with iron looking hardware and a glittery golden window. The door is surrounded by faux smooth river stones. It comes with its own scroll bearing my original fairy door legend.
Good luck!

Math and Crafts

I found this lovely post on Math and Crafts . I am always looking for patterns in things. Maybe it's the closet synesthetic in me, but it really gives me a thrill to see math used as an expressive form--which it kind of always has been to me.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Give Away!

This year I will be participating in the Sew, Mama, Sew! Blog May Giveaway Day on May 27th. If you are a crafter with a blog or online shop, consider participating. It's a great way for other people to see what you've got and, by visiting the participants (there will be MANY), you will discover a lot of great craft websites.