Art is Good


Dollhouse Bookcases P1060242  

I really LOVE this project. There are endless possibilities for design and décor… you can build your dream house, try out designs you’d never do ‘in real life,’ and more than anything… have a blast.

Beach House Hero Straight P1060276

When I began this project, I had intended to make a Dollhouse Bookcase… rather than a Bookcase Dollhouse. (One being a place that looks like a house, where you can display books and objet d’art, the other being a house for dolls that is made from a bookcase.)  But as the pieces progressed, I decided to make one of each. (Click here to see video of the bookcases on Home & Family!)

Brick House Hero P1060236

Variations I’d seen were very pink and very fancy, and designed for a little girl’s bedroom. I wanted to stretch the capabilities of a cabinet. Who says a boy can’t have a place to house his books? Why can’t a chic city-dweller use this architecture-inspired repository to shelter her curios?

A beach cottage and a brownstone house were my choices.

Beach House Materials:

Photo: Ikea

Photo: Ikea

White Ikea “Billy” 41 ¾” tall Bookcase (or comparable)

4 Foot Pine Board 1” thick by 12” wide (NOTE as this is “dimensional lumber,” the actual size of a 1-by-12 is ¾” x 11 ½”. Go figure.)

4 Foot piece of Decorative Molding

Picture frames for Windows

Screws

Wood Glue

Glue Gun

Paint

Wood Putty

White Spray Primer

Acrylic Paints – Turquoise, Apple

Laser-cut picture frames

Wooden craft sticks or popsicle sticks/tongue depressors

Bead-board style panel

Assembly:

To cut holes for windows, measure and mark outsides of bookcase. Drill 2 holes at opposite corners inside the border, to create starting point for jigsaw blade. If using the Ikea bookcase, I highly recommend taping the surface of the board, to reduce tear-out of the board finish.

Drill Window Holes P1060106

Cut Window Holes P1060108

Tape Window P1060102

For a more finished look, putty and paint the inside “sills” of the windows. Remove tape. Glue picture frames to outside.

To make Roof:

Cut 1” x 12” in two pieces, one at 24” long, one at 23 ¼” long.

Drill Holes P1060010

Drill 3 holes along the short face side of the 24” board.

Drill Pilot Holes P1060014

Butt the shorter board up against the longer one at a perpendicular angle, drill pilot holes.

Screw roof P1060062

Finished Roof P1060066

Glue the two boards together, secure with screws. Putty holes if desired.

Prime and paint.

Cut decorative fascia molding and attach to front of roof edge, using hot glue.

Attach Roof P1060149

Screw roof onto bookcase house at inside corners of bookcase.

Atop Beadboard P1060135

Lay bookcase house atop bead board panel, square up cabinet. Trace outline onto bead board, remove house and cut along outline.

Attach Beadboard P1060171

Attach to back of house with screws (best to drill pilot holes before screwing).

Popsicle Stix P1060170

To make fence pickets, cut rounded edges to a point, and straight cut the opposite end.

Picket Fence CU P1060191

Glue fence pickets along the side of house.

Adorn with shells, sea glass, etc.

Interior Beach Ttop P1060209

Beach House Hero Side P1060260

Picket CU w Stuff P1060256

Brick Cottage Materials:

White Ikea “Billy” 41 ¾” tall Bookcase (or comparable)

4 Foot Pine Board 1” thick by 12” wide (NOTE this is “dimensional lumber,” but the actual size of a 1-by-12 is ¾” x 11 ½”. Go figure.)

4 Foot piece of Decorative Molding

Picture frames for Windows

Screws

Wood Glue

Glue Gun

Paint

Cellulose Sponge

Gray Spray Primer

Acrylic Paint – Brick Red, Chocolate Brown

Roofing material

Wood 2” x 2” cut at 8” long at 45° angle

Trellis fence material

Ivy

Assembly:

Apply gray primer to exterior sides of bookcase. Let dry.

To make brick detail, cut cellulose sponge with a serrated knife to 4 ¼” x 1 ½”.

Mix Brick Paint P1060034

On a ceramic or plastic plate, pour out brick-colored acrylic paint, spread out on plate. Add a few drops of chocolate brown to add dimension and variation in brick color. Dip sponge into paint to cover the stamp ‘face.’

Finished Brick Stamp P1060039

Beginning at the bottom of side of bookcase, place sponge “stamp” to create first row of bricks. About ¼” to ⅜” away, apply another sponge stamp of paint. Repeat, until first row is complete. Re-apply paint as needed to fill any gaps or blank spots.

To make next row, place sponge ¼” to ⅜” above the top of the first brick line, and center the sponge above the ‘grout line’ of one of the bricks from the first row. This will give your wall a staggered brick look. Continue with the rest of the row. Repeat until the bottom half of the house is covered in bricks. Let dry.

To make Roof: (Same method as Beach Cottage, above.)

Cut 1” x 12” in two pieces, one at 24”long, one at 23 ¼” long.

Drill 3 holes along the short face side of the 24” board. Butt the shorter board up against the longer one at a perpendicular angle, screw the two boards together. Putty holes if desired.

Glue on Roofing P1060185

Cut roofing material to size, adhere with hot glue.

Attach Chimney P1060187

To make chimney, paint pre-cut eight inch wooden 2“ x 2” using brick pattern. Attach to roof with screws.
Adhere picture frames to exterior ‘wall’ for windows.

Trellis Fence CU P1060190

CU Brick Side P1060270

Make your own trellis fence, or find at a craft or hobby store. Secure to house and weave in faux ivy.

Hero Both w Brick Side P1060275

Interior Dollhouse CU P1060272

Use scrapbooking paper as wallpaper. I even had vinyl flooring scraps for the floors!

Bathtub P1060245

I envision making a series of these… seven-foot bookcases, lined up side-by-side, each decorated a little differently. Use as bookcases, maybe fashion some bookends that look like railings… add some steps… a perfect row-house neighborhood in my own library. A gal can dream, can’t she?

Tamara w Houses P1060248

Wait. Is that a skeleton in the attic?! Enjoy!

Floral Head Wreaths

In northern European countries, where the winters are very long, very cold and very dark, the much-anticipated arrival of summer is definitely something to celebrate. The festival commemorating such an arrival is aptly titled, Midsummer. It’s celebrated on or near the solstice (the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere), which usually falls on June 21st. Depending on cultures and calendars, however, the date for midsummer festivals varies, and can come as late as June 25th.

In Scandinavia, Midsummer is so revered it’s nearly as anticipated as Christmas or New Year.

Often thought of as a food-and-drink holiday, it’s traditional to eat foods that honor new life: new potatoes and the year’s first strawberries are consumed, and herbs are thought to be at their most flavorful and potent.

Strawberry Ganache Cake

Other traditions include placing greenery swags over doorways to bring good fortune and health, staging mock-weddings, and young girls placing flowers under their pillows, thus ensuring dreams of their future spouse.

Another charming tradition is the making and wearing of floral head-wreaths. They’re pretty, and unmistakably festive. Grown women and girls alike wear them, and they are easy to make.

Wreath on Kristen

Supplies:
22 gauge wire
Green Floral Tape
Assorted Flowers — smaller ones work better
Ribbon 1/8″ to 1/4″ wide
Wire cutters
ScissorsP1050901 Supplies

Measure out enough wire to fit around your head, then add 2″ and cut.
Form that length of wire into a circle.

P1050823 Wrap Wire Ends

Using the last 1” of each end, twist together to secure.

Choose flowers, cut stems to 3″ to 4″ lengths.

P1050899 Cut Flowers

To make the wreath you’ll start at the front of the wire circle (the part farthest away from the twisted ends), and add flowers to one half of the circle, working your way to the back. When that half is done, you’ll return to the front and repeat the process on the remaining half.
P1050844 Wrapping Tape

Beginning at the front, hold flower parallel to the wire and wrap with floral tape. Start near the blossom, and spiral the tape tightly around both stem and wire until the entire length of the stem is fully wrapped around the wire.

Lay on the next flower, overlapping stems and wrap with floral tape as before. Continue overlapping flowers and wrapping stems with tape toward the back of the wire where the ends are twisted together.

Once the first half is complete, return to the front, and repeat the process overlapping stems and wrapping with tape on the remaining half until the wire circle is covered with blossoms.

 Rose and Mum Wreath

Once all flowers are in place, you may need to add more tape to make everything more secure.

Cut ribbon to 72″ long, use a half-hitch knot to attach at the center-back of the ring, or tie in a bow.
P1050842 Rose Wreath
For a full wreath, you’ll use 15 to 25 flowers, depending on size. If your desired wreath has flowers that just cover the front, use the floral tape to cover all the bare wire for a finished look.
P1050868 Beauty Orange Wreath
Faux flowers are hardier, and a bit easier to work with. Real blooms can break and lose petals as you work with them, so treat them with care. For the best of both worlds, create the base of your wreath with faux greens and light filler flowers, then add real rosebuds or other less-fragile flowers to add scent and a more natural look.

Parts of Scandinavia are called The Land of the Midnight Sun, because on these long summer days, the sun never sets! When I was there as an exchange student, we would go out in the evenings and tell my Norwegian mother, “We’ll be home by dark!”

Enjoy this welcoming of the summer sun, and happy Midsummer!

On Set

P1050795 Pink Shirt in Window

I am thrilled to share my latest obsession: screen-printing. It’s fun, easy, and sooooo creative! I’m familiar with fabric paints, but never knew that bold, graphic, repeatable designs were something I could do at home with items I already had in my craft closet. Helloooooo gift giving!

Screen Printing Collection

There are other tutorials available, but I think I’ve improved upon the home-printing possibilities.

Some techniques recommend using pantyhose for screen fabric. I found they stretched too much and the spaces between fibers in the fabric were too large, creating messy-looking images.

Some folks found success using white glue on their screens. For me, decoupage medium is sturdier, more reliable, and holds up to repeated screenings and cleanings.

As for creating the mask, most suggest tracing the image onto fabric, then hand-paint decoupage medium outside the lines. For me, this method was imprecise and very time consuming. What I’ve come up with is faster, easier and creates a better, sharper design. This allows me time to make lots of screens and many prints!

Click here to link to the segment on Home and Family site.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Embroidery hoops

Sheer woven fabric – organza, voile

Decoupage medium – Mod Podge, etc.

Clip art images – silhouettes, bold shapes, etc.

Full-sheet stickers – available at office supply stores

Scissors, large punches or Sizzix/Cricut cutter

Screen printing ink made for Fabric

Expired gift card or credit card

Foam brushes

Small paint brushes

Paper plates

Heavy paper or cardboard

Items to print on – onesies, t-shirts, dish towels, aprons, totes

Pull organza fabric over the smaller of your embroidery hoops, and secure with the larger.  Once in place, adjust and pull until fabric is taut. Make sure there are no wrinkles or gaps in the fabric.

Choose your print design.  Simple outlines, bold shapes with minimal detail work best.  Here are some silhouette designs (from my Cameo blog).

Print designs on the sticker paper and cut out with scissors, or use a Sizzix/Cricut, etc. to cut out shapes. (My fleur de lis is from my Sizzix.) If you’re using letters or something that has a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ direction, make sure that designs are printed in mirror-image as they’re being apply to the underside of the hoop.

On the ‘flush’ or ‘drum’ side of the fabric, apply your sticker.  Turn over the hoop and fabric, and burnish the underside of the sticker with a credit card to make sure the sticker is … stuck.

Burnish Fleur Sticker

Turn over the hoop and with a foam brush, apply decoupage sealer to the fabric on flush side of the hoop. At this point you can use one of two methods:

-Apply a thick coat of decoupage sealer. This is an easy method, but drying will take several hours – and in some cases overnight.  My latest batch took nearly 8 hours to dry, so plan accordingly.

-Alternatively, you can apply two thinner coats of decoupage medium, letting the first coat dry at least 30 minutes before adding the second.  This method will dry faster, but requires more attention.

Screen with Podge

P1040459 Fleur with More Podge

When painting on the sealer, make sure it coats the edges of the sticker completely. If not, your image will have bumpy edges. Carefully turn over the hoop and check the underside to make sure there are no holes or voids in the fabric where you don’t want them.

P1040492 Cupcake Underside

Lay the hoops flat to dry.  Do not prop the hoops vertically … the decoupage glue will run!  (I learned that the hard way.)

P1040517 Multi Screens Drying

When the decoupage medium is dry, carefully remove the sticker.  You may have to pick a bit at the stubborn edges. Once most of the sticker is removed, run the screen under water to help rub away and remove the extra bits.

Screen Printing,  Peeling Sticker

P1040509 Finished Fleur Screen

What you’ve created is called a “mortise mask.” That’s a big fancy word for a cover that leaves your ‘subject’ area exposed, and the area around, masked.

After the sticker is removed, you can begin printing!

Place a piece of cardboard under the item you’re printing (or inside, if a t-shirt), to keep the ink from bleeding through.  Place the hoop flush-side-down on top of shirt.

Put Paper In between layers

I used the tag to help me position the screen.

Hold the screen in place with one hand. With a foam brush, dab ink into the voids in the mask.

P1050734 Screen Printing,  Add Ink 2

Using the credit card, scrape off the excess.

P1050737 Screen Printing, swipe with card

Screen Printing After Swipe 4

Carefully lift the screen off, and look at your beautiful work! If there are any spots that got missed by the screen, use a small paint brush to fill in.

P1050725 Filling in Mustache with BrushP1050771 Fill in Green Fork with Brush

P1050730 Fleur Finish wout Tag

P1050781 Red Fleur on Tote

Follow manufacturers instructions for heat setting your image – usually you just have to pop the t-shirt in the dryer for a bit, or iron for 3 to 5 minutes.

Once used, you can get many images from one hoop-screen.

P1050807 Hero Collection Later

TIPS:

For the screens, you’ll need fabric. You can get new pieces from the fabric store, but here’s a great tip: Use old sheer curtain panels! They’re pretty easy to find at thrift stores, and a terrific way to upcycle.

I sometimes test my screen on a piece of scrap paper to make sure there aren’t any undesirable holes in the mask. If you do find some, cover with tape, and begin printing. If you want to reuse your screen, reapply another coat of decoupage medium to the unwanted voids in the screen.  Let dry completely before printing.

P1050733 Fleur Fix Screen with Tape

Screens can be washed and re-used if rinsed quickly and carefully.  Don’t let them sit more than 5 minutes with ink on them, or you’ll be too late.  Also, take care not to wash away the decoupage glue. Rinse, rub lightly with fingers to remove ink, and let dry.

P1050775 Rinse green Fork Screen

Tips on silhouette clip art:

You can find them all over!

I found this dinosaur one here:

http://www.arthursclipart.org/dinosaurs/dinosaurs/page_05.htm

Folks sell beautiful ones on etsy – just search for silhouette clip art.

www.etsy.com

Search online for silhouette ‘vectors’ and you’ll find zillions.

P1050804 Tamara on Set

Enjoy your art!  And remember, it’s supposed to look hand-made.  Little rough edges add to your piece’s personality!

Three Chair Bench

Earth day is coming up so I was inspired to do a little upcycling with a project that has been brewing in my brain.  The end result is beautiful, the process easy, and it can prevent a bunch of ‘junk’ from landing in the landfill.  And if you are creative, you can spend almost no money!  It’s a bench made from three chairs.  It requires only basic tools and simple skills, and here’s what you’ll need to make it.

Three ugly chairs become one beautiful bench!

You’ll need:

3 chairs

Bench base material – planks or solid wood

Tools – drill, saw, sander, file

Primer

Paint

Hardware

The Three Chair Bench can be done in lots of variations, and often the chairs you have and the place you want to use your bench will dictate the design.

Gal with a jigsaw

A mention about power tools… this project can absolutely be done without them — a hand saw to cut the bench seat, a coping saw for notches, sandpaper and a screwdriver are all that are needed.  But, if you haven’t before, give power tools a try!   In making this bench, I used a chop saw, a jigsaw, a sander, and drill.  I know that power tools can intimidate some, and if you don’t have easy access to them, the prospect can make you want to stop before you begin.  My advice:  Don’t let them intimidate you!

“If you want to control someone, all you have to do is to make them feel afraid.”
Paulo Coelho

A healthy respect, yes, but fear not the tools.  They are, by definition, there to assist you.  So use them, and remind them that they work for you.

First, the chairs

It’s easy to find cast-off chairs – look in your attic, you might find some gems.   Ask neighbors if they have old college-era furniture they have squirreled in the back of the storage unit, or you can check out garage sales, flea markets and thrift stores.  Your chairs can be all the same style, all different, or a combination of the two.  I had two inexpensive, pine Ikea dining chairs and a weird metal upholstered chair.  They happened to all be rather angular, so fit together nicely.

P1030817

Now for the seat

Decide if your bench will be used outdoors or indoors.  If outdoors (as mine is intended), decking planks are a perfect choice.  Again, leftover materials were used, from the deck-building project lefovers of a friend.  Deck boards are made to be durable and resistant to weather.  I was lucky, in that my friend’s deck had been constructed from ipe – a Central- and South American- grown hardwood.  Ipe  (pronounced “ee-pay”), also called Brazilian Walnut, is the ‘rock-star’ of outdoor woods.  It’s resistant to rot, bugs and water.  It is very hard and very dense – 368% harder than teak and 40% heavier.  It is the wood used to create the famous Atlantic City and parts of the Coney Island Boardwalks!  Ipe will turn silver after several years of outdoor use, and because of its properties, doesn’t require any protective finishing.

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(If you want to know a little more about ipe, look here.)

You can also create your bench seat from a solid piece of wood – a slab of hardwood, plywood, butcher block counter-top material, etc.  If a solid piece of wood is used, create a template from cardboard to help visualize the finished size and shape.

Arrange chairs, paying particular attention to the spacing between them.  When mine were laid out, I didn’t like the jumble of legs in the center, so decided to remove the front legs from my middle chair.

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This particular chair’s construction required simply removing the back from the seat/front legs section.  Since I knew I was also going to remove the seats, this made the disassembly quite easy.  Depending on the design of your chair, you may cut off the front legs, remove the seat and legs from the back… or leave it all intact.  You choose!

Removing the chair back

Once satisfied with the chair arrangement, measure the overall length of your bench.

Measurement Screen Shot

Because my center chair wasn’t free-standing, I made a brace to mark its placement, to help keep the outside chairs at the proper distance.

chair brace

Next, decide the overhang measurements for the side and front of bench.  Cut bench seat to size.

Notching the back board

For a more finished look, notch the bench seat around the chair’s uprights.  Use template to transfer markings to wood, or use a square.

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Measuring notch

Measuring depth of notch

Transfering measurement to wood

Cut the notches using a jigsaw. Dry-fit the seat to make sure everything fits properly.  Make adjustments.  If necessary, file or sand the raw edges.  Sand other edges to soften any sharp sides.

jigsaw

Cutting cross mark

Filing notch

P1030904

Painting

For best results, sand, prime and paint.  I used 120-grit sandpaper then a second pass with 220-grit.  Next, I sprayed on a coat of primer.  Since my bench is intended for outdoors, I applied three coats of exterior paint.  Always follow manufacturer’s directions on the paint cans for drying times and when to apply additional coats.

Primer coated chairs

Assembly

Once paint is completely dry, arrange seat planks, making sure all boards are set properly.  From underneath, use a pencil to transfer chair placement onto deck boards.

Marks for chair placement

Chairs in place

Remove seat planks, and arrange upside down on workspace.  (I highlighted my pencil marks with tape, to make them more visible)  If the back board is notched, make sure that the plank hangs over the table edge far enough for chair upright to fit and not scrape workbench.

Place chairs onto the boards, aligning chair edges with pencil marks.  If using hardwood, drill pilot holes for seat screws, using existing chair holes as guides.  Be sure not to drill through the deck boards.  To prevent over-drilling, use tape to mark drill bit depth.

Securing screws

Attach boards to chairs with screws.  For an outdoor bench, use stainless steel hardware, it won’t rust or stain if the wood gets wet.

Because my center chair was only a back, I created this brace to keep it from pivoting on the bench seat.

Brace on center chair

Underside of bench

Turn over your creation and enjoy!

P1030830

Before

Three Chair Bench

Other tips:

If your bench is made for indoor use, consider making a cushion or pillows.

Hardware stores and lumber yards often will cut wood to size, sometimes for free!  Additionally, they also rent power tools.

Occasionally lumber yards have scrap piles… dig around to see if you can find some good deals!

Wooden palates can be another source of cheap/free wood.

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I’ve been making these sugar eggs since I was a kid… in fact, I still have one that I made back then!  It’s a bit faded, and my kitties licked off the frosting in a couple spots, but I’ve kept it all this time, because I love it.

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The origin of the panorama – or diorama – egg is unknown.  Some folks say they’re German, some say they hail from Italy, others claim they possess Ukrainian or Russian roots.

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An interesting article from 1987 (!) on the subject can be found here: http://bit.ly/10eDYbq   Another, from the New York Times, notes that while current commercial eggs must be entirely edible, early models had paper scenes inside.  http://nyti.ms/14AcxOL

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No matter their provenance, I adore these little sugared gems.

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A few years ago I made some eggs that were more modern and updated, using bold colors, whimsical themes.  They were fun and festive, and something I could keep out year-round.

Sugar egg... ladies with hats.

Sugar egg… ladies with hats.

This year I wanted to go back to the traditional Easter sugar panorama eggs.  They’re classic, beautiful, and have a particular charm.

Materials Needed:

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Egg molds – found in craft stores, cake decorating shops – I found mine at Marshalls.

Cornstarch

Superfine sugar

Meringue powder

Water

Food coloring

Spoon

Cookie sheet

Royal icing (recipe below)

Piping bags

Scissors

Candies

Shredded coconut

Sugar eggs:
4-1/2 C super fine sugar
2 tsp. meringue powder
3 Tbl. water

Place sugar and meringue in a large mixing bowl, whisk to combine.  Add water and mix with electric mixer or spoon.  If you are coloring your eggs, add color to water.  For light pastel eggs — which work best for light diffusion — use only 1 or two drops of liquid food coloring.

Mix until well combined, knead with hands if necessary.  Keep an eye out for meringue powder- or color-lumps, which sometimes form.  Work them into mixture with fingers, if necessary.

Making the Sugar Egg Shells:

To prepare molds, dust lightly with cornstarch.  This will help the sugar release from the mold.

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Mound sugar into molds, and press firmly against the sides and bottom, creating a thin shell — about 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick, depending on the size of the mold (with a larger mold, thicker sides).

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Straighten the edges by running your finger along the rim.

Using a spoon, cut out a ‘window’ in the narrow end of the sugar eggshell.

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Gently turn eggs out onto a cardboard square, and place onto a cookie sheet.

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Remove plastic molds.

Bake at 200 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Allow shells to cool.  If the insides are not hard, return to oven with inside exposed for another 15 minutes.

After shells are set and completely cool, decorate with royal icing.

P1030741

Royal Icing:
4 C powdered sugar
3 Tbl. meringue powder
1/2 tsp. clear-colored extract — almond, lemon, etc.
1/2 to 3/4 C warm water

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat sugar and meringue powder until well combined.  Add extract and water, beginning with 1/2 C.  Beat on medium until thick and glossy, and stiff peaks form – about 5 to 7 minutes.

Consistency can be adjusted by adding more water or sugar, depending on use. Color as desired.

coconut grass

Colored Coconut Grass

Place shredded coconut in a glass bowl, add a few drops of green liquid food coloring.  Stir with a fork for several minutes until the coconut is the desired color.

Assembling the Eggs:

Pipe a layer of green icing in the bottom of the egg (the side with a flattened surface).

Stick decorative items into the frosting – chicks, bunnies, flowers, etc.  If they start to lean, use q-tips to hold in place until the icing fully cures.  Before the icing is dry, sprinkle with green coconut.

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When the inside is perfect, pipe a thick line of icing along the edge of the egg.  Place the top on the egg, and press down.  Remove any excess icing with your finger.

Embellish the exterior of the egg using cake-decorating tips, covering the seam and opening edge with a decorative piped line.  Attach flowers or pipe designs on the top.

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Allow the egg 1 hour to dry completely.

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Tips and tricks:

Royal icing is like sweet cement… once’ it’s cured, It’s not going anywhere.  And it smells much better than it tastes.

Meringue powder in the sugar-mixture makes the eggs super strong.  Some people recommend filling the mold completely, curing for some time to create a shell, and then scooping out the interior.  I tried this method several times, and never had one survive.  With the mold-and-press method I describe above, I didn’t have one fail – and I made nearly 40 shells!

The eggshells can be made weeks ahead, stored in a dry place.  Don’t throw them away if you get tired.  Store them well and you may be able to complete the eggs next year!

Interior shapes can also be made days in advance – I piped bunnies, chicks, flowers and carrots onto parchment paper, let them dry and stored them for use later.

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Candy -covered almonds look like giant eggs inside your diorama!

I collect little pretties – tiny ornaments, small silk flowers, stickers, etc. year –round.

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Enjoy, make something beautiful, and Hoppy Easter!
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To commemorate St Patrick’s day, here’s a project that incorporates an important Irish symbol – the Celtic Knot.  This bracelet is macramé, and uses one of the most popular types of “Celtic knots” (it’s called a Double Coin in Chinese knotting, and a Josephine knot in other macramé).

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There are many interpretations of the Celtic knot, which is characterized by loops and crosses.  The ‘classic’ Celtic knot has no end — symbolic of eternal love and devotion.  The most simple version of the knot is comprised of three points with connected intersecting loops, symbolic of the elements – fire, earth and water.

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 9.27.36 PM

The knot pre-dates Christianity, but as often occurs, the early Church leaders adopted regional motifs and incorporated them into religious symbolism.  For example, the ‘endless’ thread is symbolic of God’s eternal love, and the triple Celtic knot, like the shamrock, is often used to refer to the holy trinity.

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Here’s what you’ll need to make your Celtic Knot Bracelet:

72” of leather cording – 1.5 to 2mm thick

4 to 6 Beads — with the hole large enough for 2 widths of cord to pass through

Button for clasp — with the hole big enough for one width of cord to pass through

Clipboard

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Find the center of cord.  Thread on the button, tie an overhand knot to hold button in place.

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Secure the button-end of the cord in the clip of your clipboard.

Tie first Celtic knot.

Using the cord on the left, form a loop.P1030592

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Bring the right cord over the top of the loop and pull it under the left-hand cord.

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There is a ‘triangle’ space at the top of the two cords, just under the knot that holds the button.  Place the ‘right hand’ cord through that triangle, then thread it under, over, and under the next cords.  Pull through.

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Adjust the knot so the two sides are even and it sits near the overhand knot.  Click here to see video of tying the Celtic knot.

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Slide on the first bead, and place it up near the knot.

Tie another Celtic knot, as above.  Add another bead, and continue until the bracelet is one inch smaller than you want the finished bracelet to be.

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After your final Celtic knot, tie another overhand knot and pull tight.

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Measure the diameter of the button clasp, and tie another overhand knot with that distance in mind, thus creating a loop for the button to pass through.

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Trim off ends, and you have a finished bracelet!

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A few tips:

If you have trouble with the bracelet laying flat, pin the unruly loops to a surface and let the bracelet sit overnight.  Think of it like blocking your wool sweater after washing! (My work and I both enjoy acupuncture!)

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Buttons with a shank give you a bit more ‘play.’  If you use a traditional button (with holes drilled through the button), make sure you leave some space between the holes and the first knot.

Raw cording is a bit easier to work with – the ‘finished’ or ‘polished’ cording is a bit stiffer and takes some getting used to.  You can also make this bracelet out of silk cord, cotton twine, hemp or yarn, but I don’t recommend using ‘fuzzy’ cords… the result is messy-looking.

For a more masculine look, eliminate the beads and tie knots close together. I found that in making this bracelet with the knots against each other, it’s best to reverse the knot-tying direction, so as to eliminate twisting of the bracelet.  For pictures on how to tie the knot in reverse, click here. 

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The bracelet can also be made with two or three strands of fiber, be sure that the holes in the button clasp can take the two or three thicknesses of thread.  This process takes a lot more time and patience, as the individual threads must be separated when knotting for a smooth, uniform look.  But the result is gorgeous!

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On set with the bracelets.

On set with the bracelets.

I’m really excited about this: Art Glass Clay.  Imagine.  Glass you can actually mold with your own two hands, and fire at home! That’s kind of like alchemy to me.  I needed to know more.

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by Paula Radke

I did an overview segment on Home and Family today, with clay and instruction we got from artist Paula Radke.  It was fun, and a good place to start, but frankly, one could spend a LOT of time learning about this clay.

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It’s a powder, that you mix with water, add some heat, and it becomes glass.  You can mold it, stamp it, sculpt it… it’s really pretty amazing stuff.

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by Paula Radke

Here’s the lowdown:

The powder is 99% smoothly ground glass, mixed with a small amount of organic binder, that’s what makes it behave like clay.

It comes in 24 colors, in 2-ounce jars, and they cost between $12 and $18 each.

You can make 4-5 large pieces or 6-8 smaller pieces from one jar.

The clay shrinks about 20% during firing.

You can make beads, pendants, ornaments, earrings, buttons, even drawer pulls!

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Here’s what you’ll need:

Art Glass Clay

Molds/stamps/sculpting tools

Water

Mixing Bowls

Knife or palette

Files, sand paper

Olive Oil

Parchment paper

Kiln.  We’ll talk more about that later.

First:

Mix powder with water.  The ratio is roughly 2 parts powder to 1 part water.  Start with a little less than 1 part and add as you go.  You can always add more water.

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Mix in a glass bowl with a knife or offset spatula.

When it begins to hold together, pick it up and knead/roll with your hands.

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At this stage, the clay will keep indefinitely in an airtight container.

Molding your clay.  You can use polymer clay molds, molds made specifically for glass clay, I’ve even used candy molds.  Silicone molds work best.

Next, prepare molds.

Brush with a little bit (not much!) of vegetable oil as a release agent.

Press clay into mold, make sure it’s well pressed, and no air pockets are hiding.

Turn mold over, and pop the clay out onto a piece of parchment paper.  This will make it easier to transport the finished clay pieces while they are drying.  If you want to add holes, do so while clay is still wet.

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Set aside to dry.  Medium sized pieces take about an hour to dry at room temperature.   You can also dry in a 200-degree oven.  Turn over to make sure it’s dry through.

**Make sure your piece is completely dry before firing – any water in the clay could cause it to super heat, and crack or explode.  And that’s a pain in the glass.

Once dry, sand or file away any bits, rough edges, sharp points, etc.  Use emery boards/jewelry files, sand paper, etc.  Be careful, this is when your piece is at its most fragile.  While sanding, work over a piece of paper.  The filings can go right back into the jar and be rehydrated later!

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Firing:  If you have a kiln, lucky you.  Perhaps a friend does, or there’s a studio nearby that will let you fire in their kiln.

In my experience, the clay fires best in a standard kiln.  But if you don’t have access to one, you can get a microwave kiln.  This is a fiber-ceramic 2-part vessel that has a special liner that allows it to get super hot.  Remember, the glass has to get over 1000 degrees!

Microwave kilns can be found online or in specialty glass stores. The one that is recommended is made by Paragon, and can be found here.   It’s not cheap, but considering all you can do with it (you can also fire precious metal clay in it too!), it’s worth the investment.

If you have a tiny one like mine, you really can only fire small pieces – a quarter or smaller.  My kiln only cost $70, but if you have a larger one, you can fire larger pieces.  Kilns can range up to $300.

Microwave kilns vary by manufacturer, be sure to read and follow the instructions for your specific kiln.  While there are differences on how to use and/or set-up microwave kilns (some require kiln paper, others a kiln wash, etc.), the actual firing method stays the same.

Perfecting firing techniques takes time and practice, but anyone can do it.  Be patient, and you will be rewarded.

Microwave firing:  Begin by setting the kiln in the microwave oven and heat for 1 minute.  Using a heat-safe mitt, lift the lid of the kiln to view it… only do this for a few seconds.  Put the lid back in place, then microwave for another minute.  This allows your glass piece to “breathe” and absorb the heat more evenly plus you can monitor its progress.

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Next, microwave for 30 seconds.  First the piece will turn black – that’s the binder burning off.  In the next intervals of firing, the piece will return to the dried color, then eventually begin to get glossy, and may even glow red-hot.

Continue in 30, 20 or 10 second intervals, until your piece looks sufficiently shiny.

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These are my first attempts. Not perfect, but pretty darned cool! (I used a candy mold to make the ‘gems.’)

(For more detailed instructions on firing clay go here.)

Depending on the size of the glass piece, it will take approx. 5 minutes to fully fire in the microwave.

When you are finished, let the glass cool down for a minimum of 30 minutes.  And, at the risk of stating the obvious, DON’T TOUCH IT WHEN IT’S HOT.   

Once fired, the piece is 100% glass.

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Until you get the hang of firing, I recommend using pieces you haven’t spent a lot of time making. Also, using molds creates beautiful detail with minimal effort but start with only one color at first.  That way if you have a failure, it won’t be devastating.

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I’m a big fan of this clay.  Be safe, be creative, I hope you enjoy it!

Today’s craft on Home and Family was a versatile one… whew!  We found Craft Attitude inkjet printable film at the Winter Craft and Hobby Association’s trade show (aka CHA).

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I demonstrated how to apply it to wood, fabric and LED candles (you know, the battery-operated ones).  My favorite application was the candles.  Covering candles with this film is a beautiful way to spruce up simple decor — imagine decorated candles at a wedding or romantic table-setting.

You can find the film here at Craft Attitude.  It comes in packages of 8 sheets, for $16.99.  The packs are categorized for wood, fabric, etc., but the material inside the packs is the same, they just package it with different names to illustrate its versatility.

A couple of tips I’d like to offer after working with the film:

It’s pretty tough.  If you don’t place it perfectly the first time, don’t give up!  Just carefully peel it up and reposition.  But do this before the adhesive dries!

When printing pictures, use images with rich colors — very light pastels don’t show up.  When using graphics, choose fonts with bold strokes.

Once the film is positioned on a surface, gently ease out any wrinkles or creases with the pad of your finger.  It takes patience, but will be worth it in the end.  Promise.

The film is transparent.  Consider this when working with heavily-textured fabric, wood-grain, and dark colored base objects.

The film can stretch a bit.  Let that work for you when placing on items with curves.  Think of it like lycra yoga pants.  Or not.

The film has a matte and a glossy side.  When the page is loaded into a printer, the image is printed on the glossy side.  This side can be placed facing out, but the image is then vulnerable to wear.  If you choose glossy-side-out, you may want to use a clear coat to protect the image.

~

This film is great for simple projects, but we saw beautiful, elaborate multi-layered collages on canvas.  Wow!  Once you master basic projects, try a more complex design.  You’ll like it!

When you work with the film — send me pics!  I’d love to see what you come up with!

Happy crafting — make something beautiful!

In the very first post I ever created for this blog, I included a traditional housewarming gift.  Relocating, or ‘moving house’ — as my British friends call it — can be a whirlwind-y stressful process.  Time-honored, traditional gifts can be a reminder of the truly important things in life.  These classic items are even mentioned in the film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” when George and Mary give the Martinis a gift of bread, salt and wine.

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Wine – So you will never go thirsty.

Bread – So you will never go hungry.

Salt – It represents life’s tears, may they always be happy ones.  (You can also use a pinch at threshold of each door and window for good luck.)

Candle – May you always have light.

Coin – May it bring good fortune.

Broom – With it, sweep away the evil.

Honey –It represents the sweetness of life.

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In Jewish traditions, salt represents ‘home’ as sanctuary.  In other traditions, it is meant to ensure luck, or seen as a reassurance that this home always have flavor or ‘spice.’

Whatever meaning you assign to these gifts, the thought behind them will surely be received with open arms, and remembered as thoughtful mementos to honor a milestone for new home owners.

Happy New Year, and happy crafting!  You may have seen it on Home + Family… we’re revisiting cameos. Original post here (tutorial and template). Be sure to read below for details on the giveaway!!DSCF8695

I came up with this idea last year, and it was quickly scooped up by the fabulous Kathy Sheldon at Lark books.  She asked to include it in her upcoming book Shrink, Shrank, Shrunk, and here we are!

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My original post is here.  You can find tutorial, templates, all the goodies there.  Even more info than you might have seen on the TV show.

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Supplies set up, and ready to tape!

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Now… a giveaway!  I have two copies of the book, autographed by me, and ready to send to you!!  To enter, just make a comment in the comments section below this blog entry, and tell me your favorite shrink plastic project, memory, or the one you hope to do!  For an extra entry, “like” my facebook page and make a comment there, and you’ll have an additional entry. (Make sure your email address is correct when you make your comment! One entry per person.)

Entries end at midnight PST on Saturday, January 11th, 2013.

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Have fun, and good luck!

UPDATE: Winners are Ricki Duke and Ron Perry!  Thanks everyone for your comments.  Happy Shrinking!

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