Thursday, April 29, 2010

Craftless in Alaska

I owe you all an apology.

I haven't been posting as much as last month.

But the snow if finally gone! I live in the interior of freaking Alaska where it's winter for 9 months of the year! I want to be outside!!!!

You see in addition to my elation about the return of the sun, April and May are an extremely busy time for me and my family. Both of my kids were born in May and their dad was born in were 3 grandparents, a friend, an aunt (my sister), and an uncle (brother-in-law). What with all those birthdays, Easter, Mother's day, and the not so occasional new baby, you would think I would make more stuff. And I do! But you've seen it all before: mushrooms, mushrooms, ninja head, and more mushrooms.

Perhaps I'll just post a picture every time I make a mushroom....except that would get boring for you...unless you made a game of could start a betting pool on when I'll post the next mushroom...but I digress.

Also, for some reason, I haven't been doing a whole lot of crafting the last few days. Which is bad considering I have a couple of projects to complete for Mother's day and one for a birthday the day after Mother's day.

I need to get off my butt and get to work!

I have plans to have the kids finish up the kid friendly batiking that I tested out and that they started. The plan is to make my mother a ninja head set for Mother's day and sew up the batik fabric I made--the pretty parts of it at least--into a credit card pouch for her and one for my sister. Slap the kids' batiked fabric together to make a couple of wall hangings and viola, we have presents! And here will definitely be pictures of them.

Has anybody out there created anything lately?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A jar for your flowers...and memories

Do you have dried flowers from a special event that you want to remember like a wedding, party, or prom?

Maybe you're tired of the tedious process of cleaning the dust off of your dried flower displays. Or you have a variety of items that you want to show off.

Whatever the reason, today I have a solution:

Make a memory jar!

Pictured are some of the flowers from my wedding bouquet in a 48 ounce square jar

Memory jars are similar to shadow boxes or dioramas and add an interesting visual element to any display. You can embellish the outside of the jar as I did, or leave it plain so that focus remains on the contents. 

The nice thing about memory jars is that they are as diverse as the contents inside them. 

These days you can find just about any shape or sized jar you need for a decent price. There are also durable plastic containers that would work well, too. And hit up a yard sale or thrift store for an even better deal on jars for displaying your memories.

If you look closely at the pictures of my memory jar, you will see that the flowers inside it have a shine to them. The shine is caused by a sealant that I dipped the flowers in before placing them into the jar. The sealant step is not necessary, but I am hoping that it will add to the life of the display. I've already noticed that the flowers are more sturdy and less prone to breaking/flaking now that they've been sealed.

If you're going to use sealant for your flowers, the time to create this will increase substantially. Sealing the flowers isn't a long process, but waiting for them to dry is! Also, make sure you have a well ventilated area set up. The sealant reaks! Thought I should mention that since I'm talking about the pros of using the sealant.

So are you anxious to make one of your own? Well, you're in luck!

How to Make a Memory Jar
 There are an endless amount of variations to the memory jar and how you can make it, but here's a basic how-to to get you started.  

Materials Needed:
  Dried flowers, knick knacks, other items you want to save
  Jar with lid
  Ribbon, beads, other embellishments for outside of the jar

**If you are using a sealant on your flowers then you will also need a block of florist's foam, floral picks, newspaper, and latex gloves.**

  1. Seal the flowers using the directions on your sealant's package. Allow to dry for at least 6 hours.
  2. Rinse out the jar with warm water. 
  3. Pour the marbles into the bottom and put the embellishments on the outside of the jar. Let stand to dry.
  4. Arrange flowers and knick knacks inside the jar.
  5. Put the lid on the jar and enjoy your beautiful display!
There you have it. Just as simple as that. You can make this as simple or elaborate as you like.

I only have one request:
If you try this project, please please please please please send me pictures! I want to see the lovelies you create!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kid Friendly Batik Test

So I gave the kid friendly batiking that I found at That Artist Woman's blog a shot.

I could tell immediately after reading the how-to that this had the potential for some major messiness. This is significant because I have the young ones to worry about cleaning up--which requires planning ahead of time and gives me the excuse to "test" this stuff out first. So that's just what I did.

I don't have any in progress shots because my hands were too messy to pick up the camera and take them., but here is the finished project for your viewing pleasure:

A few tips that I'd like to share about this project:
  1. It was a lot of fun!
  2. It was messy!
  3. The instructions recommend that you water down the paint but not too much. I'd say it should be about the consistency of shampoo, maybe a little bit thinner. This, I can tell you for sure, is good information. If the paint is too watery then it's easier to use too much paint, and ...
  4. When you use too much paint, the colors will run into areas that you don't want them. Note in the picture above that the bottom right corner of the design where the blue paint bled into where the orange should be.
  5. After the finished product is washed and dried, the fabric is somewhat stiff. At least mine was. Perhaps it was all that extra paint I used since my paint was watered down(?). It's definitely not the kind of fabric that you're going to want to use for a pillow or blanket. I'm thinking I'll use it to make a little bag or credit card pouch or something. Line it with an orange fabric...oooh! That might be kind of cool!

In conclusion, I recommend you give this project a shot. It's not a quick project--what with all the drying time for the glue and paint--but I still found it fun.

Have you tried anything new in your free time lately?

**Edited to add:**
Check out the comments section. Gail from That Artist Woman's blog stopped by and left some suggestions for the stiff fabric conundrum. Thanks, Gail!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My First Major CRAFT FAIL or To Pre-Wash or Not to Pre-Wash

I'll admit it.

I rarely pre-wash my fabric before sewing it.

There. Now you know one of my dirty little secrets.

Call me lazy, call me a fool, but I don't do it about 90% of the time.

It slows me down! I want to be able to pick my fabric, bring it home, and use it. Not pick it, bring it home, wait for 90 minutes while it washes and dries, THEN use it. I live in the boondocks. That's like, 2 hours of waiting if I go straight home after purchasing my fabrics. I don't want to wait that long!!

But at what cost do I feed the need for this instant gratification?

Pictured above is the very first quilt that I ever made. It's about 10 years old.

I didn't pre-wash any of the fabrics that I used to make it. When I was done sewing it together, I used it for a little while and eventually washed it in a regular old household washing machine. As you can see, from a distance the quilt looks fine. Even decent for a beginner, right?

How about we take a closer look at some of those squares...

See that? The red that I used for the outer trim pieces bled onto the other fabrics. And it bled like crazy. All over the blanket with splotches of red and pink everywhere.

I'll never forget that day when I pulled my prized quilt out of the dryer--I almost cried.

It was RUINED!!

Okay, so it wasn't ruined. In fact, I have used it quite a bit since that day and have grown to appreciate the blotches of red rather than loathe them. But that's exactly how I felt when I pulled it out of the washing machine that day. Ruined.

And all I would have had to do was pre-wash the fabric to prevent this...right?

Oh, my friends, if it were only that easy.

In the 10 years that I've owned this blanket, I have washed it many times. And each time the red bleeds a little bit more. It's not nearly as bad as that first wash, but it still happens. I put the blanket into the wash and it comes out just a little bit different every time. It's like Christmas, I tell you.

So is just pre-washing the fabric going to save you?
Sometimes, yes.

Nothing in life is certain, though. We all know this.

So I throw caution to the wind most of the time and use these two tips for when to pre-wash:
1) Always pre-wash fabrics that have colors on them that bleed more easily than others, like red.
2) When the finished product needs to be square or measure to a specific size so there's no room for shrinkage (like pillowcases and garments), pre-wash.

It has worked for me for the most part. I guess that's obvious since I only have pictures of the one quilt to show you, huh? It just seemed like a good phrase to close with. :)

Do you have any tips for fabrics with bleeding color or to prevent colors from bleeding in the first place?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Photo silhouettes and other goodies from this week

I made a couple more mushrooms and started the purple ninja for my friend this weekend. Sorry, no pictures yet. They will come soon enough.

So since I don't have pictures of many projects that I've done this weekend, I thought I'd mix in some cool things that I've come across this week.

First, here's a project that I did this weekend. It has changed a little bit since I took the pictures, but I wanted to share.

Inspired in part by Katie Sokoler at Color Me Katie (again!), I cut out some pictures of my family and taped them to our front door. Here is a close up of me:

The kids:
And what kind of show and tell would this be if I didn't share the whole window of the door?:

Now some things from my week...

Let's see, on Monday, I captured the elusive Super Keys.

To our right, you will notice an excerpt from a note that I left for my husband this week. What can I say? I love him...

...And I'm a little bit dorky...but it works for us.

On our left, we have a stamp from a letter that I received on Friday. It's Maggie Simpson! I'm impressed that the post office didn't stamp it. They must have known how awesome this stamp is or something.

That is what I made in my free time this week! How about you?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Keep your eyes open!

As I was pulling out of the coffee shop on my way to work this morning, I had to stop and wait for traffic. Being the constant day dreamer that I am, I looked up into the sky for a moment and saw something wonderful.

It was a rainbow peeking out of a hole in the clouds.

Sneaky little rainbow...

Thanks for making me smile.

Have you seen anything unexpected that made you smile lately?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We all have to start somewhere

Last night, I was looking at my very neglected Myspace account and found some buried treasure!

Dog, octopus, and turtle

The dog stands alone

A couple of pictures of my very first amigurumi! I used the book, Amigurumi World, to teach me the art of crocheting amigurumi. I remember being really surprised at how fast I was able to complete the animals. I think that's what hooked me (ahahahaha no pun intended--it just happened!) along with being able to make stuff for my kids other than blankets and sweaters. Blankets and sweaters are awesome, but if you're going for that eyes-light-up-when-they-see-it look then usually toys are a better option for kids.

What an awesome find!

Monday, April 5, 2010

More mushrooms and half an octopus

I made 3 little mushrooms for a friend's baby and started an Amigurumi World style octopus for my son this weekend.

When I first started making amigurumi again I made a mushroom for this baby, but I stashed it away instead of mailing it as soon as it was ready. I'm kind of glad I did now because a month later after MANY mushrooms made, I would be embarrassed to send it now.

For a beginner, it's not too bad. The stitches are loose and I hadn't quite perfected the pattern or art of the color change yet, so it's just a mess by my standards today.

What's a crafter to do?

Why, make 3 more mushrooms to replace it, of course!

I'm quite pleased with how they came out. I got to play around with some of my bright colored yarns some more which is always fun. And I decided to do a sort of counting theme with the spots on the mushrooms. So you will notice each mushroom has a different number of spots for counting and are different colors for color identification.

The baby's only 3 months old, but we're starting her early. :)

What have you made in your free time?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Project Completion - Crochet

I finally finished the mushroom bag!!

<--Head banger mushroom here is supposed to represent how happy I am right now.

Actually, the whole family is pretty excited and that even includes my husband. I'm excited because it's done and pretty much what I thought it would look like. My kids are excited because it's for them. And my husband's excited because he thought it was "a cool idea." And because I was so excited about this last night that I took pictures so I could share the completed project with you.

With that I present to you--in all of it's glory--the mushroom bag!!

This is the bag all closed up:

And this is the bag open with some of the contents pulled out:

And here is a view from above:

Now I have received a request to make dragons for at least two people. And I still need to make a purple ninja for L and a pair of ninja heads for my mom's mother's day present. (Yeah...she's that kind of mom.) So it looks like I will be posting more crochet projects that I made in my free time very soon! Hopefully some more patterns and tutorials, too.