The Gift of Warmth (282nd new thing).

February 8, 2012 § 3 Comments

I knew I would be making and gifting circle scarves for the ladies in my life, but I didn’t have an idea for a homemade mens present. That is, until I stumbled upon a tutorial on making rice filled heating pads. You know, the ones that you can either pop in the microwave to warm up or lay in the freezer for an ice pack. On Day Two Hundred Eighty-Two I once again pulled out my sewing machine (which has been seeing more use this year than ever) and set to work to make a heating pack.

There are many different tutorials online to sew your own version of the microwavable warmer, and I looked at several different ones before starting off. I ended up simplifying all I had read into an easy, streamlined process.

Ready to go fabric.

Most of the tutorials instructed me to create a simple pack of linen or muslin, and then sew a washable cover for the outside. Yeah, that seemed like too much sewing, so instead I just used the fabric. I bought some of the “fat quarters” found in any fabric store and folded the large rectangular material in half, ironing it flat to erase creases. Then I folded it in half again and re-ironed. It was a good size for a neck warmer, and without having to measure or cut anything, I was happy.

The machine does its work.

Next I sewed the folded over edge of fabric and one end to create a tube once it was all turned inside out. Now I could fill it with rice, scented with a touch of relaxing lavender oil I had leftover from some other random craft project.

Once the rice was added I sewed up the final opening, folding the seams inward and ironing for a flat surface. I added a finishing top seam on the other end for balance, et voila! My own rice heating pad!

A chair of rice pads.

I tested it out on Patrick and it seemed to work very well. The double thickness of fabric made it feel sturdy and didn’t allow the initial heat from the freshly microwaved pack to burn the skin. The lavender scent was pretty awesome too, although maybe a touch strong.

And everyone marveled at my craftiness come Christmas. We sat around the house with our heating pads draped around our necks, relaxing under the lavender warmth.

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If you heat it, it will shrink (279th new thing).

February 1, 2012 § 2 Comments

One of my crafty purchases on Cyber Monday was a pack of Grafix shrink film. I had seen this tutorial for a Shrinky Dink Ring and thought it would be a cool thing to try out. On Day Two Hundred Seventy-Nine I made shrink film jewelry (or at least attempted it).

I checked out a few websites for any additional tips on using the shrink plastic. I found out that permanent markers like Sharpies work well and you should lightly sand the side of the film you are going to mark up, especially if using colored pencils.

I began with a test, writing a “Merry Christmas” on a piece of film, punching a hole in the top, and cutting around the message in a circle. I thought it could be an ornament for my bare Christmas Tree. Next I stuck it in a preheated toaster oven and watched. It only took about thirty seconds for the plastic to bubble up and then flatten again. However, the finished product was a quarter the size and had turned into an unbendable white chunk. I was amazed that it worked, but also annoyed that it was white. I thought I had ordered clear. Hmmph.

Next up I tried to make a ring from the tutorial. I tested out my colored penciling skills on a lightly sanded side of the plastic. The rubbing didn’t seem to adhere very well to its surface, but I figured the colors would become more vibrant in the heating process, so I continued.

I popped the plastic sheet into the oven and waited for it to swell up and then shrink. I knew the difficult part would be coming up. After I felt like it was finished shrinking I pulled the pan out of the oven and set to work forming a ring-like shape.

It didn’t work. It turned into some strange lumpy, badly colored in piece of white plastic. I thought about trying again, but fear of burning myself led me to decide to try to make earrings or a necklace instead.

With my hole puncher, stamps, and sharpies, I was far more successful at the earring and necklace jewelry. I made a pair of green dangles with a bird stamp (putting birds on things!) and in the vein of my previous jewelry-making experiment for this blog I fashioned a shrinky dink bunting necklace.

Despite my shrink film ring failure, I was pleased with my other jewelry-making endeavors using the material.  Besides, watching plastic shrink in your oven is kind of awesome.

Holiday Joy for my Door (273rd new thing).

January 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

I had leftover trimmings from my Christmas Tree adventure. The Lowes employee suggested I take home the evergreen leaves and make a wreath out of them. I took his advice on Day Two Hundred Seventy-Three and channeled my inner Martha Stewart to fashion a holiday decoration.

Ready to Wreath

Speaking of Martha, I found the most basic “how to” on her website. Basically you keep wrapping bundles of leaves or twigs around a wreath base until a circular garden appears. And it was really that easy.

Half way around the wire frame

I think my wreath looked a bit wild, with its longer pieces of Christmas Tree  jutting out at odd angles. But it also gives the garland character. I added a few stolen spray painted pine cones from the fall decorations at work and some purchased fake holly berries.

The most difficult part of creating my ode to Christmas was affixing the ribbon to the back. I ended up jerry-rigging the red fabric into a knot tied around a wire loop. At first the wreath hung crookedly, leaning forward as though trying to leap off the door, but after a few carefully coordinated maneuvers, I managed to somewhat secure the thing in an acceptable manner. I had Patrick help me fasten the ribbon to the top of the door with a pushpin and voila! My very first door wreath.

A scene worthy of a Christmas card

Bunting Jewelry (270th new thing).

January 28, 2012 § 1 Comment

I had made a circle scarf. Now it was time to move into another homemade project/Christmas present: the Bunting Necklace. I had found this tutorial online, and on Cyber Monday had purchased a half pound of leather remnants to recreate the project. Alas, by Day Two Hundred Seventy the goods had not yet arrived at my doorstep, so instead I fashioned a felt bunting necklace.

I started by stiffening up the felt with a Modge Podge. I figured it would be easier to work with. After those little triangles dried, I stuck a needle through them to create holes for the chains. It required a bit more strength than I had imagined, and had to rest a afterwards from a hand cramp and wounded finger (I pricked myself).

After my quick recovery, I began to try and manipulate little gold jumprings into the holes of each stiff felt triangle. You know when you have a stubborn key that refuses to be added to your key ring? It was like that, but more difficult and extremely tinier. I had to use a pair of needle nose pliers in each hand to bend out the ring and then carefully thread the felt into the slight gap. I looked like a poor man’s Edward Scissor Hands. At first I had planned to add a little chain between each flag, but after a few painfully tedious threadings, I modified my plan to “one ring, two flags.”

While shaping the findings back into a circular form also proved more intense that I thought it would be, adding the chain was child’s play. I made a long chain, knowing I was going to gift the necklace to the lurvely Kristin (plus I didn’t want the hassle of a clasp), and called it a day necklace.

It may be the only Bunting Necklace I make. Sorry, leather remnants.

Kristin models her necklace

Neck Warmer (267th new thing).

January 27, 2012 § 1 Comment

It was time to begin making Christmas gifts. I found this easy-enough looking tutorial from Craft Magazine on crocheting a circle, or infinity, scarf and figured it could be a great gift for either me or someone else. On Day Two Hundred Sixty-Seven, I attempted the art of crochet.

The first part I had trouble with was making the simple slipknot. My Girl SCout troop spent more time playing dress-up in our mothers’ clothing than learning survival skills, so it took a few attempts before I had successfully managed the basic loop. I had to watch the video a few times to get started.

Once I had the hang of the basic crochet move, I soared through the first chain. I ended up with 120 loops. During the next step of adding the second row of stitches I manage to twist the chains completely. I didn’t realize this until I was halfway through making the scarf. I thought perhaps I would have the perfect number of twists where the infinity scarf would lay perfectly against my neck, but that was a false hope. It ended up being a bit of a twisted mess.

A scarf AND head warmer.

Fortunately, my second (and third and fourth) circle scarves turned out better. I even improved my time. I made them for my mom, aunts, cousins, friends, Patrick’s family, and even a couple for myself. By the time January came around, I had whipped out more than a dozen of these neck warmers. I may have shocking wrist pains every time I see a fat crochet hook, but at least I’ve done my part in keeping necks warm across the globe.

Book Art (264th new thing).

January 27, 2012 § 1 Comment

My coworker Jeremiah showed me someone’s Etsy store where you could purchase art printed on written words, images pasted over the pages of a novel, dictionary, or any other text-filled book. He asked if we could feasibly copy the idea, and on Day Two Hundred Sixty-Four I took the challenge, and decided to create my own printed book art.

I had a dictionary I had purchased from a thrift store waiting for such a craft. Actually, I bought it with the thought of turning it into a purse, but since I had yet to tear out all the pages, the book found its new purpose.

I carefully sliced out a few pages. I have been collecting Dover publications free clip art for awhile, so I had a plethora of images to print on the paper. I chose a colorful image of a butterfly and decided I would add it to the page which included the “butterfly” definition. Next I headed to my color printer to create the art.

The only problem I encountered was choosing the right kind of paper in the printer settings. There is no option for the almost tissue paper like consistency of  the dictionary pages. I ended up taping the pages carefully to a normal piece of printer paper and feeding it through the machine in that manner. I’ve heard you can also use re-mountable adhesive or even a glue stick. For every good looking print, I ended up with a couple of very smudged ones.

I left the butterfly image as it was and used a decoupage technique of a bird image to mount the paper to a small frame. It actually turned out pretty well, so someone may be getting it for Christmas!

Snap into childhood (239th new thing).

January 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Remember the Eighties fad of Snap Bracelets? I do. I remember owning several and annoying my mom for hours with the incessant click of the fabric covered metal as it hit my wrist. I had several, in various bright colors and patterns. The really cool kids at school wore five on each arm, at least until the principal banned them. On Day Two Hundred Thirty-Nine I decided to bring back the trend, or at least fashion my own homemade snap bracelet.

The ingredient to create your very own version is common: a tape measure. Simply cut a piece of the tape to 8 inches or so and start bending. I bent it backwards, sideways, curled and uncurled in various directions until I could wrap it around my wrist. I trimmed the edges into a rounded shape and voila! A piece of my childhood!

I made about three, one of which needs a little more molding. I didn’t cover the thin metal; I liked the bright yellow measuring tape. And then I annoyed Patrick as I had annoyed my mom twenty years ago by repeatedly throwing the bracelet over my arm.

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