Sugar Egg Tutorial — Diorama, Panorama, Sugar-rama!

 

Panorama Sugar Eggs Tutorial

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.

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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.

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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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Celtic Knot Bracelet Tutorial

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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.

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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.

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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.


Brown Sugar Shortbread — Happy 100th Episode, Home + Family!

It was a delight and pleasure to commemorate the 100th episode of Home + Family on the Hallmark Channel.  I feel so fortunate to be a part of the ‘family.’

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Dean McDermott, Cristina Ferrare, Mark Steines, Andrea Schroder, moi.

To add to the celebration, I brought Brown Sugar Shortbread cookies for the entire cast, crew and guests.  I wanted something sweet, not too heavy, and something I could personalize.  I added gold ‘luster dust’ to the sugar on the edges, in honor of the 100th show.

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These cookies are light, buttery, and have a very slight toffee/caramel flavor, because of the brown sugar.  They are a perfect cookie to make in large batches.  The dough can be prepared one day and baked another.  I often will make a double batch, that way I can keep a log in my freezer, and whip up a sheet of cookies in minutes.

Brown Sugar Shortbread

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

coarse crystal sugar

Luster Dust (Optional)

Preheat oven to 325°.

Cream butter and brown sugar, add 2 cups of flour and mix well.

Divide dough in half, and form each portion into logs, approximately 1-1/2” to 2” in diameter. Roll logs in coarse sugar until coated.

Place logs in freezer for 10 to 30 minutes.   Remove from freezer and cut in ¼” slices.

Bake on un-greased cookie sheet for 15 to 22 minutes (depending on thickness), until just barely brown.  Cool completely on a rack.

If using luster dust, add dust to crystal sugar, until the sugar is the desired color.  Or, custom color your sugars using a post found here.

Enjoy, and happy 100th Episode, Home + Family!

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Metal Letter Stamping on Cardboard – Labels for Everything!

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The holidays are over, and it’s time for spring cleaning, and one of the keys to getting organized is labeling.  I decided to make labels for chore lists that are whimsical and vintage-looking, using metal stamps.  Instead of your local politician’s magnet or the one from the neighborhood dry-cleaner, you’ll have these pretty, coordinated list holders, which may motivate you to get the tasks done!

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These steel letter punches are often used for stamping leather or metal, but using them on cardboard reminds me of letterpress printing.  And you can get out some aggression while crafting – that’s always a good thing!

Plain letter stamps are available at hardware stores (Dudes, you may have a set in your garage.  They’re often used to mark tools.) and cost about $10. You can find some here.

Fancy fonts can be found from Impress Art, cost about $50.00 to $70.00 for a set.

How To — Making To-Do List Clothespins:

Items needed:

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  • Wooden clothespins
  • Magnetic tape
  • Cardboard ovals
  • Gesso
  • Dye-based ink pads
  • Decorative Papers
  • Glue Stick/Glue Dots
  • Hammer
  • Surface to Hammer on (heavy wood or steel block)
  • Letter Stamps/Punches

Prepare your ovals by painting with gesso. Set aside to dry.

Attach magnetic tape to clothespins.

Cover other side of clothespin with decorative paper.

Once ovals are dry, choose letter stamps, and find the center of your oval. Beginning at the center, carefully space out the letters Use a very light pencil to mark, if desired.

Working on top of the wooden or steel block, pound the stamp with one or two firm blows.  Lift to check your work.  Continue with remaining letters outward, alternating sides, to make sure your placement is even. Erase any pencil marks.

When letters are done, apply color by brushing surface of oval with inkpad.  Use your finger to fill in as necessary.

Color edge of oval with contrasting color.

Attach oval to clothespin using glue dots.

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Use on fridge or memo board to assign chores.

I also made labels for all the nuts in my house…

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And made these Happy Sticks.  I thought of using these as get-out-of-your-funk sticks (Think of them as anti- (tongue) depressors.).  You can also make encouragement or affirmation sticks, activity sticks for kids, or even chore sticks if kids fight over who does what.

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To make the sticks, I brushed the stamps very lightly on dye-based inkpads, then hammer-stamped them onto the craft sticks to give them color as well as dimension.

A note about letter stamps.  I’ve used both the basic and fancy versions for years.  The Impress Art font stamps are worth the money, especially if you have other projects in mind, and their fonts are cool!  They are clean (the others are greasy), and much easier to work with.  They’re more precise than the hardware-store versions, and easy to read.  I never stamp upside-down with the Impress Art stamps.

But if you’re just trying things out, or don’t know if the letters are something you want to invest in, start with the hardware store version.  They are sturdy, and work well for simple projects.

Now go out and get hammered!

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Art Glass Clay. Firing glass in the microwave!

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!


DIY Wedding — Fabric flowers, paint pearls, mirror paint

Hello all, I’m happy you’re here!  It’s been a whirlwind few days.  Traveled to CHA, the Craft and Hobby Association’s trade show, a little over a week back.  Saw some wonderful art, met up with some old and new friends, and survived the onslaught of massive creativity brimming from all corners of that convention hall.  Then worked to present the best and most inspiring finds to share.  Whew!

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Today on Home and Family, I demo-ed some cool paints from Viva-Decor.  (Click here to watch video.)  These folks had a visually stunning booth at CHA.  The theme was Alice in Wonderland, and it was truly a feast for the eyes — teacups and Cheshire cats included.  I wanted to highlight some of their new products, as well as a few that are staples in their artistic arsenal.

More than anything, I wanted to jump-start any brides-to-be out there who are wanting to have a hand-crafted wedding.  You can do it!  First on the agenda, the bridal bouquet.  I am fascinated by fabric flowers, and love the vintage look they embody.

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What you’ll need:

At least 5 different types of synthetic fabric — polyester, nylon, etc.  This is necessary, as the process of making the flowers involves fusing the edges.  If you use natural fabrics (silk, cotton) the edges will burn rather than fuse.  Not a good look.  Choose lightweight silkies, chiffons, lace, organza.  Also consider color.  If all the elements are one color, the bouquet may just appear as a ball of a single color.  Contrast helps highlight the main color. (For one bouquet, I began with 1/2 yard pieces of 7 different fabrics.)

Needle and thread

Jewels, crystals, fabric paints, cast-off jewelry pieces, etc.

Compass or saucers, glasses, or bowls to use as circle forms

Water-soluble marking pen (found in fabric stores)

Candle

Bouquet form

Felt (optional)

Determine the exterior diameter desired for your flowers.  My roses were 3-1/2″ across.  Stack fabrics one atop the other, pin in place, and use the water-soluble pen to mark circles, starting with the exterior diameter.  Cut.  Then create circle stacks 1/2″ smaller until you have 4 or 5 different sizes.

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In preparation for the next step, have a glass of cold water or ice cubes handy, and set up your workstation in a well ventilated area — melting of fabrics can create stinky fumes.  Ice cubes are just in case you touch a melted edge before it has cooled.  Protect your paws!

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Carefully hold the edges of the fabric circles over the candle flame until the edges begin to melt and curl.  Continue turning the circle until the entire edge is finished fusing.

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When you have completed finishing the edges of all your circles, assemble.  Stack the circles, gradually working toward smaller circles until satisfied with the result, then stitch together.

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To create dimension, turn the flower over, and pinch in half.  Take a few stitches to hold pinch in place, and knot.

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Turn flower right side up.  Add a center to the bloom.  This is where the crystals, pearl paint, glitter, or old earrings come in handy.  Go crazy with the accoutrements!

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When you have plenty of flowers, begin assembly on the bouquet form.  I also added ribbon roses to my arrangement.  My tutorial for ribbon roses is here.  When using wider ribbon (1-1/2″ wide), begin with a length of 30″.  Attache the flowers to the form using long pins or low-melt hot glue.

Mirror Paint

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Viva Decor’s Mirror Paint was fascinating to me.  Make any non-porous surface into a mirror?  I want it!

It’s really cool, but a bit difficult to work with.  It’s new, so maybe I need more practice, but I found it pretty tricky.  Some tips and insights:

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On glass, it’s hard to get complete coverage.  I mostly didn’t mind that — I like the vintage/mercury glass look.

A second coat works to fill in the voids, but sometimes I found that in an attempt to apply more paint, I only succeeded in lifting the prior coat.

Use a sponge with small cell-structure, for better coverage.

Pouring and swirling the paint in the vessel, without use of a sponge, doesn’t provide more even spreading.  Stick with a sponge applicator.

The paint dries in about 30 minutes, and when it does, the mirror-sparkle is surprisingly shiny.  Better than any mirror spray-paint I’ve used.

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Pearl Pens

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Dimensional paint pens aren’t new.  And these pens aren’t new for Viva Decor, but I like them. Here’s why:

Old pens had a tendency to create “elf hat” pointed dots.  These are always rounded, lovely little dots.

They come in 25 colors.

One tube ($5.99) makes more than 700 quarter-inch pearls.

Items are machine-washable after being ‘pearled.’

A couple of tips:

When working on tulle (wedding veil), PATIENCE and a light-touch are requirements.  I learned to ‘float’ the pearls on top of the fabric.  And if you mess up, wipe away the paint with a q-tip when wet, or peel it off when it’s dry.

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Also when making a veil, begin by applying tiny pearls.  Once dry, you can apply a larger pearl over it if you like.

Resist the temptation to touch the pearls to see if they’re dry.  They take about an hour to cure, and if you tempt fate and give them a nudge, they will dimple and look not-pretty.

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OnSetViva Paint

Have fun, and make something beautiful!


Printable Craft Film — Hallmark Home + Family

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.

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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!


Traditional Housewarming Gift — Wine, Bread, Salt and a Broom.

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 – May you never go thirsty.

A beautiful bottle of sparkling wine is always appreciated.

Bread – May you never be hungry.

A loaf of crusty sourdough is perfect, but if your friend is a foodie, perhaps some gourmet flour could stand in.

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

With the salt renaissance that has emerged in the past few years, you can have fun with this one… pink Himalayan salt, a beautiful truffle salt, or even a salt slab could work.

Candle – May you always have light.

Consider unscented candles, so the scent doesn’t interfere with dinner aromas.

Coin – May you have good fortune.

An antique or foreign coin is charming, or perhaps a coin minted in the year the house was built or purchased.

Broom – With it, sweep away the evil.

Straw brooms can often be found at Farmer’s markets or, of all places, Asian markets or Chinatown.

Honey –It represents the sweetness of life.

Local honey is a lovely choice, and often has prettier packaging than commercial choices.

 

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Find a container that can serve as a double-gift. Baskets are always useful, but there are lots of options: A colander, soup pot, salad bowl, or even a laundry basket could be a thoughtful choice. Fill the bottom of the vessel with beautiful kitchen towels, add gifts, and wrap the whole thing with tissue or cellophane and a bow. The addition of a hand-written note explaining the contents will add to the charm of your gift, should your recipients not be familiar with the traditions.

In Jewish customs, 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.


Shrink Plastic Cameos Redux, and a Giveaway!

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!


Christmas Eve: Traditions, gifts and food, on Home + Family

We had a lovely time celebrating Christmas at Home And Family on the Hallmark Channel. Great food, lots of laughs and a really fun time goofing off. When we’re together, it truly does feel like we’re family.

I have bunches of traditions as well as  holiday “must-dos” every Christmas.  Some of my faves revolve around… you guessed it… food and drink!

My glogg is legend.  Many have had of it, some sisters have regretted drinking it (kind of), and all have enjoyed it.  My original post can be found here.  It’s good whenever the weather is cold, but is particularly lovely on Christmas Eve.

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Glögg (pronounced GLUHG)

If you wish, this recipe can easily be adapted by substituting the alcohol with apple or cranberry juice, and eliminating the sugar.

Makes 18 servings.  9 cups.

3 Cinnamon Sticks, broken into manageable pieces

10 cardamom pods, lightly crushed — or 1/4 teaspoon ground

6 whole cloves

4 strips orange peel

4 strips lemon peel

2 bottles (750 ml) dry red wine

1 cup sugar

1 cup raisins

2 cups brandy

1 cup dark rum

1/2 cup whole blanched almonds (we use slivered)

Place cinnamon sticks, cardamom, cloves and orange and lemon peels in cheesecloth and tie to enclose.

Combine wine, sugar, raisins and spice bag in 4 quart nonreactive (stainless steel or non-stick) saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then quickly lower heat and let steep, uncovered, 10 minutes.  Add brandy, rum and almonds.  Simmer 10 minutes – do not boil.

Serve immediately, Or, cool to room temperature and refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days.  To reheat, place over medium-low heat until hot; do not boil.  Ladle into glasses adding a few raisins and almonds to each glass.

Make it even better:  Serve with gingerbread cookies.

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I think it’s really special to give homemade gifts.  They don’t have to take a lot of time or cost a lot of money, but something you’ve made with your own hands shows just a little more thought.  My top two favorite food gifts to give are the Rosemary Almonds below, and toffee pretzels.  We just made some today… and about half will end up gifts.  The rest are the rewards of the makers!  Recipe here for toffee pretzels.

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Rosemary Herbed Almonds

4 cups raw, whole almonds

4 Tbs. olive oil

1 Tbs. dried rosemary

1 Tbs. herbs de provence (if not available, substitute rosemary)

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Crush the dried herbs with a mortar and pestle or use the back of a spoon.  Heat the olive oil in the microwave for 20 seconds, add crushed herbs and mix together.

Pour  the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet.  Add the herbed olive oil and stir until all the nuts are coated.  Spread the almonds in a single layer, and place in the oven for 25 to 35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.

I use two timers for this.  One I set at 25 minutes, the other for five.  I re-set the 5 minute timer each time I stir, and keep the 25 minute one, so I don’t lose track of the overall time.  After 25 minutes, taste an almond to see if it’s crunchy.  Don’t over cook the almonds.

When done, let cool, then add salt and stir.  Allow to cool for 1 hour before packaging.

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Finally, we have the bacon.  Sorry all you vegetarians.  (I used to be one!)  This bacon is a favorite for fancy brunches, but I often make it as an hors d’ oeuvre.  It goes quickly!  Make ahead and serve at room temperature or serve warm.  Top Chef contestant Fabio Viviani is a (big) fan!

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Candied Bacon

1 package thick-cut bacon

Fresh ground pepper

Light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°.   Cut the bacon in half, and place on a rack over a foil-covered pan.  Lightly season with pepper.  Sprinkle each strip with a thin layer of brown sugar.

Place in oven and bake 25 to 40 minutes, depending on the thickness of bacon.  Remove when crispy.

Serve immediately, or set aside to cool.  Can be made one day in advance, and reheated before serving.  Best when served warm or at room temperature.

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I hope you take pleasure in our traditions, and maybe incorporate them into yours.  For me, holidays are times to share and enjoy.  I wish all the best for you, and yours.  For me, there is always something to celebrate, so enjoy!  And the happiest of celebrations to you.