Friday, January 29, 2016

Made It: Fabric Crafts Fast And Slow

Hello! Sometimes I'll do a craft that takes a long time, sometimes I'll do one that's very quick. Both kinds of projects are satisfying in their own way.

An example of a slow project is this: 

I've written about making these scrap fabric wreaths before, here.However, this time I wanted a wreath to cover a large expanse of newly-painted family room wall, so of course I needed a bigger wire wreath form than the 12" ones I'd found at thrift stores. 

No larger wreath forms surfaced secondhand, so I was forced to buy a brand new version. Still, with a coupon I only paid a little over five dollars for a wreath form about 30" in diameter. 

Naturally, it took a lot of time to cut up the strips needed to fill in such a large wreath form, but at least I had plenty of fabric scraps ready! I keep generating these from working on a very slow, ongoing quilting project (which I'll show off if when I get it done.) This wreath project used a LOT of scraps, but the actual tying wasn't as tedious as I'd thought it'd be. Being much bigger than the 12" wreath forms I'd used before, there was more room to tie the strips on, so that helped. 

I was pleased with how the wreath turned out; such a fun way to use a variety of fabrics bits and pieces:

(close-up of some of the fabrics)

It looked fine on the family room wall, but after awhile I wanted something to hang up in the middle of the wreath. Found a nice Waverly fabric remnant at the thrift store, which I coupled with a 10" white plastic embroidery hoop that was also a thrift store find. 

All I did was put the fabric in the hoop, cut the fabric a bit larger all around, then glued that excess to the back of the hoop. Very fast! 

Hung it up "inside" the wreath:

Hmm, looks like I could have centered it better, but it'll be easy to move since I hung the hoop up with a removable sticky thing. 

Close-up of the print:

May have been a fast craft, but I still like how it turned out. Of course, I could have turned it into a slow craft by sewing on buttons, adding embroidery or other embellishments. And I could still do this sometime if I want. 

Fast, slow - there's not right or wrong in doing craft projects. The main thing is to enjoy the process - and the finished results!


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Get Carded: A Blizzard Of Birthday Greetings

Hello! My husband's birthday was yesterday, which means I had to come up with a card for the occasion. The past few years I've been making his cards with specific themes, often based on something we'd been talking about lately.

So what theme to use this year? I was stumped, until finally the day before his birthday it hit me: we'd been following the progress of the East Coast nor'easter, so there was my theme!

Having lived in the Philadelphia area in the 1990's, we are all too aware of the impact these monster storms can have. In fact, the Weather Channel referred to two past nor'easters that had hit the region worse than the weekend storm did - both occurred while we were there. One of them, the early January 1996 weather event, produced 31" of snow! But of course, this most recent storm still caused plenty of trouble.

But how to tie in a nor'easter with a birthday card? Here's how:

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • snowflakes images (upper right-hand corner and middle left) cut from paper company sample booklet
  • image of child out in snowstorm photocopied from 1960's children's science book
  • "No nor'easter here!" cut from newspaper and 1960's parochial school magazine that had belonged to my husband
  • "just a blizzard of birthday greetings!" -  a combination of rubber stamping and vintage dictionaries
  • "In the city snow is a bother to most people. It makes walking and driving hard." cut from vintage children's dictionary
  • "It snowed all day. Everything was covered with snow." cut from vintage children's dictionary
  • "Snowstorm" word cut from newspaper article about the nor'easter; the first letter "S" was covered up with another "S" from the paper company sample booklet
  • "birthday" in upper right-hand corner from vintage children's dictionary
  • "Snow comes down" cut from same vintage science book that the accompanying image of a child in the snow had come from. 
  • a few random rubber-stamped snowflakes images
My husband enjoyed his card! Yes, it may seem that its theme came at the expense of our former friends, neighbors and co-workers, but we don't really feel too sorry for them. No matter how much snow they may get from nor'easters, spring still comes there before it shows up here.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Thrifty Acres: Thrift Store Scores

Hello! Hadn't been to a thrift store in awhile; I tend to hibernate when the weather turns cold and snowy. But conditions have improved over the past couple of days (we actually have sun today!), so I visited one of my favorite thrift stores yesterday. 

And I'm glad I did, for I scored some good stuff. Magazines and books are always fun to scoop up at thrift stores, and I was happy with a book about Tasha Tudor's gardens and some recent issues of Country Living magazine. But what really made me happy was this:

An 18"x24" oil painting of a Ye Olde Dutch scene. I live in a town settled by Dutch immigrants and so have begun to collect old-fashioned images typical of that country.

A close-up:

I love the vivid oranges and greens in the painting. 

This work had been signed and dated by the artist - W R Hudgins, 1978. I looked online for more information but didn't find anything in particular. Thus, like most oil paintings I see at thrift stores, this was likely done by a hobbyist. I think this windmill scene is a cut above the usual secondhand oils though.

When I spied the painting at the thrift store, it was lying on its side near the back room where the pricing is done. It was near that part of the store because it hadn't been priced yet. A staffer stopped by and asked if I needed help, so I pointed at the painting and asked if it would be priced soon. He asked me what I would be willing to pay for it. I volunteered five dollars but figured he would want more. 

The man picked up the painting to examine it more closely. "Hmm, it looks homemade", he announced, and further determined that the framing needed to be repaired. That was true, but I didn't tell him I didn't care about the frame, thanks to what I'd learned in this post. I just agreed with him about the framing, and was rewarded when he offered to price the painting at $4.00. Sold! I have a feeling that left up to other staffers, it would have been marked up higher than that. 

On a much smaller scale, and with a much smaller price, was this find:

Vintage guest book. The "Our Guests" title barely shows up on the cover, even when seen in person. But I liked the illustrated page inside:

Very sweet! I don't know how old this guest book is, but judging from the graphics, perhaps no newer than the early-mid 1950's. 

All in all, some good thrift store scores - just the thing to get me out of wintertime hibernation!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Made It: Recycled Mini Journals

Hello! Checked out some Greencraft magazines from the library recently. If you're not familiar with the magazine, it's dedicated to arts and crafts projects created with materials that typically would end up in the recycling bin or garbage can. There's a lot of cutting up of old t-shirts, jeans, packaging and so on to create decorative items, gift packaging, jewelry and more. 

I'm a sucker for journals, so I decided to give Vanessa Spencer's "Recycled Mini Journals" (Summer 2015 issue) a try. I had the materials called for on hand and it looked easy and quick as well.

The project begins with cutting the journal covers; Spencer used food box sections. For the pages, cut paper to a size that's approximately 1/4" smaller than the cover around the entire edge. 

Spencer used 8-10 sheets of paper per journal so that she could sew the pages and cover together on her sewing machine. Before sewing, she folded each sheet of paper in half (do the same with the cover), then sewed cover and pages together. The finished journal now had 16-20 pages. 

Spencer folded the food box section so that the printed side was inside and the blank cardboard side was out. She then embellished the cover with cloth tape along the spine and a rubber-stamped image. 

Easy and quick indeed! I dug out boxes from the recycling bin that had held tea or candy canes and got to work. I found the process to be fun and addictive. Here's how some of my recycled mini journals came out:

This journal is 4"x2 3/4". It has red duct tape along the spine and embellished with a scrap from an Italian tourism guide and a stamped heart.

3 1/4"x3 1/2". Decorative tape, stamped image of grid and dots, stamped eye image. The letter "A" is from a set of vintage file folder labels. 

The two previous journals didn't have the usual plain cardboard color but the last two do:

3 1/2"x5" Blue duct tape, paint chip piece, calendar page scrap, "sail" stamped in black ink. 

A close-up of the sailboat image:

I love that image, especially as a reminder of summer on a typical cloudy, wintry January day in these parts. 

Last journal:

This journal measures 3 1/4"x4 3/4". It's embellished with red duct tape, a heart image cut from serendipity paper (paper made by a friend in an art class we took together years ago), the word "YES" (cut from a vintage magazine mail-in offer) and rubber-stamped images. 

Although Spencer used a sewing machine to bind her mini journals, she suggested one can also use a stapler, twine or hand-stitching. I decided to try the sewing machine method. I wasn't sure how the cardboard/paper stitching would go, but I used a heavy-duty needle and all was well. 

Spencer mentioned using vintage graph paper for her journal pages. I dug through my supply of vintage papers (purchased at thrift stores for DIY journal usage), and here's some of what I used:

Some sort of ledger paper.

Vintage penmanship practice pages. 

Of course, you can use any sort of paper you want; it doesn't have to be vintage. And if you don't want to embellish the front cover, just use the printed side of the package for the outer covers. (and you don't even have to use packaging - the above journal's covers were made from a scrap of watercolor paper that I'd stamped and colored. 

These small journals are a good size to carry around in my purse or a pocket, and I'll enjoy using these simply-crafted items. I think I'll start with the "sail" one - so I can pretend it's a sunny summer day!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Made It: DIY Coloring Pages

Hello! I've been enjoying the adult coloring trend, which I previously discussed in this post. I'd mentioned buying a page-a-day calendar, which has a 3"x3 3/4" design to color in. Here's a recent design, which has a kaleidoscope effect:

I also bought a coloring-page calendar for the kitchen, which has much bigger designs. Consequently, they took much longer to do. Luckily I bought the calendar about three months in advance, so I had time to fill in the images before the new year began. Sure, I could have just worked on the pages one month or whatever in advance, but that would have meant taking the calendar off the wall to do that. I figured it would be less hassle in the long run to just get the whole thing done before we began using it. 

Anyway, it looks pretty nice on the kitchen wall, as you can see below:

It's great to color in others' designs, and there's certainly loads of coloring books out there, but I thought it'd fun to try my own designs. Since I also enjoy rubber stamping, I wanted to use them for my first DIY coloring page efforts.

I decided to start with some of my larger-scale rubber stamps, just to experiment with design placement:

Detail from the second piece:

Yes, the designs on both pages are a little rough around the edges, but I didn't want to spend a lot of time on my initial effort. I've got lots more rubber stamps in my studio (like all the ones shown above, many were cheap secondhand purchases), so I can experiment with many more images. 

And since I also do a lot of papercrafting, I can use my "coloring pages" when creating greeting cards, collages, etc. 

Other hands-on possibilities include stencils, the vintage Spirograph kit I bought years ago (to make up for not ever owning one as a kid), and, of course, drawings. And I haven't even explored any computer-generated design possibilities, as I'm rather low-tech in that area. 

This DIY activity doesn't mean I won't buy any more adult coloring books; I'm just trying to see what I can come up with on my own.

Edit: here's another example of my DIY coloring page efforts: (I drew in the stems with a fine-tipped marker)
Not bad, I think - at least it looks somewhat more like what you'd see in a commercially-produced coloring book. Or at least I can tell myself that! Still, it was fun to use some lively colors on a cold, snowy day.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Challenging Year - In A Good Way!

Hello! I don't know if it's just me, but seems like everywhere I turned online last month into this one, there was some sort of self-improvement activity in 2016 to sign up for. Juicing challenges. Green smoothie challenges. Goal-setting planners. Fitness challenges.

I don't know if 2016 is a particularly noteworthy year for this sort of thing, or maybe I didn't pay attention to these web offerings other years. Since all the activities I noted above have freebie options, I signed up for a few. 

I'm sort-of doing the 30-day green smoothie challenge, which is suggested as a drinkable breakfast/pick-me-up. What I discovered is that the smoothie I'd made for breakfast didn't give me enough fuel to shovel a half-hour's worth of snow in single-digit windchill temps. I was so famished I had to come in and make a bowl of oatmeal. For now I think I'll stick to a regular breakfast when winter weather is harsh, and make a green smoothie for a post-shoveling drink. (I signed up for this challenge here.)

I checked out a couple of goal-planning programs, and eventually printed out the one here.(it's labeled "New Year's Revolution.)There's a good deal of thinking/writing before the calendar pages can be filled in, but of course all that work is meant to set the stage for planning the year. 

The goals I've set for myself will keep me pretty busy, but I also signed up for two more 30-day challenges. One is from a positive- thinking website and can be found here. What I like about this challenge is that it's relatively quick to do each day and is pretty fun too. I certainly enjoyed doing yesterday's exercise, which was to perform a random act of kindness. 

And speaking of exercise, the second 30-day challenge is from the folks at Canyon Hoops, the company from which I'd ordered a fitness hoop (I discussed this purchase in this post). This challenge only occurs every other day so that one has ample time to complete it. 

Yesterday's challenge instructed one to do a round of Andrew Weil's 4-7-8 yogic breath technique - while hooping. This turned out to be a bit tricky, but I made it work, and continued on with 15 more minutes of hooping (without the yogic breathing though!)

So, it looks like I've got a lot of ground to cover in 2016 - yep, it's a year of challenges, all right, but in a good way!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mitchell Park Domes

Hello! After a mild December, it's turned cold and snowy here. Ah yes, we knew winter would show up sometime. 

So, what better time to show off some pictures taken at the Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee? We visited the Domes earlier this month, when snow still wasn't prevalent. 

Snow or not, the conservatory domes are nice any time of year. We've visited them in the past and have always enjoyed seeing the large variety of plantings. There are three domes, each with its own theme: desert(arid), tropical and show. The latter dome changes plantings several times a year, according to the chosen themes. The day we visited marked the end of the holiday show.

I took several photos:

Poinsettias and gingerbread in the holiday-themed show dome. There was a lot here to delight the young and the young-at-heart, like two tiny fairy gardens and a bakeshop window display of goodies. Very charming!

Just a few examples of the very cool cacti in the desert dome. The colored cacti are due to a man-made process but still fun to look at. 

Vividly-patterned leaves in the tropical dome. It had turned cold outside the day we visited, so the warmth and humidity of this dome was welcome indeed!

My pictures show just a fraction of what can seen at these domes. It's a great place for all ages - we saw grandparents, parents and kids enjoying themselves, and our college-age daughter likes the domes too. If you're in the Milwaukee area it's well worth a stop.

For more information on the Mitchell Park Domes, go here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Made It: A Happiness Jar

Hello! Saw something called a "happiness Jar" on Pinterest a few days ago, so I clicked on the pin to learn more. 

I read that writer Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat Pray Love and other works) is attributed with popularizing the project, which consists of writing down on a slip of paper  every day something that made one happy. The paper is dated and then placed into a container of some sort. The examples I saw online were primarily large glass jars. 

Although I've kept a gratitude journal for years, I liked the idea of writing down one happy bit every day and watching those bits pile up in the jar. It sounded like it could be a nice visual reminder of the good that can occur every day. 

Online, I saw some pretty papers being used for the daily writings; I suspect these were scrapbook papers. Gilbert is more laid-back and suggests using whatever piece of scrap paper that's handy. 

I went the in-between route. Although tedious to do, I thought it'd be convenient to have all my paper pieces ready at the get-go. I looked around my studio to see which of the many paper possibilities I could use. My decision was made when I spied a small pile of vintage cookbook pages leftover from some now-unremembered project. Since the pages were all blank on one side, I had set these trimmings aside to use for a small notepad. Never got around to that, but these papers would only need to be cut in half before using. I ended up with papers that measure 2 1/4"x1 3/4".

I also had a glass jar on hand that I think will be the right size to fill up this year - if not, I have one that's even bigger. So I grabbed that jar and got to work cutting up those vintage cookbook pages. Old community cookbooks make me happy, so it seemed fitting to use part of one for my Happiness Jar!

According to Gilbert and others who have blogged on the subject, there's no right or wrong with this project - decorate the jar or leave it plain, use it as a family activity with kids taking part, and choose whatever you want to write about every day. 

I did come across various suggestions on what to include, such as   gifts, goal completions, nature encounters, funny moments, memories, quotes, prayers, tickets from special events and photos of loved ones. 

Here's my Happiness Jar in its infancy:

I know, it doesn't look like much, in part because the papers are mostly off-white. To jazz up the jar's contents a bit, I'm using colored pens to write, and am writing the word "happy" on the other side of each paper before folding it in half. 

To give a couple of examples of what I wrote about thus far: on the 1st, I wrote that our aging cat is using the pet steps I'd recently fashioned for her out of some thrift store finds, and on the 4th we were spared the lake effect snows that had been forecast for our return home from the Chicago area. (To me, every winter day without lake effect snow is a happy one!)

If you'd like to learn more, just search "Happiness Jar" on Google or Pinterest. And you can find Gilbert's take on the subject here.

Here's to a Happy 2016!