Monday, August 10, 2020

DIY Pressed Paper Logs

Ok, so this is kind of a weird one, but it's been a weird summer. So here we are. I usually do a post each summer where I make fire starters for our annual camping trip. Since cabins were closed until the week before we normally would go camping, I didn't risk making a reservation, and alas, no camping trip this summer, even though it's probably the safest vacation you could go on this year. At any rate, we've been having fires in our backyard--usually to clean up after yard work. That coupled with cleaning out our file cabinets this spring and putting a ton of stuff in boxes to shred or destroy, here I am making pressed paper logs. Because, why not|?

I made a test batch of these to make sure they worked last week, but each time we make more logs, we come up with better ways to do it. Using a blender is the easiest way to get your paper slurry. You could soak paper for a day or two and then stir it until it breaks up, but I'm super impatient, so blender-ized it is. If you use your blender a lot for daily smoothies, you might want to pick one up at the thrift store. I rarely use the blender, and all that is going in here is paper and water, so I'll just clean it out really well when I'm done. I filled the blender loosely with paper torn into roughly one-inch squares.

I used the giant pink cup to fill the blender with water up to the quart line. If your blender is struggling, add more water. It's better to have a loose slurry than to burn out your blender motor. Pulse it to get started and then run it until it looks sorta smooth.

After about 30 seconds, it will look like a scary paper smoothie.

Pour the paper smoothie into a colander lined with a flour sack towel style dish towel. Then bundle up the edges of the towel and lift it up to drain some of the water off of the paper smoothie. Squeeze the paper to create a ball and keep squeezing out water until it feels like play dough and then open the towel back up.

Plop your paper dough into a loaf pan (preferably one you have two of in that size--you'll see why later). I used the smaller banana bread loaf pans--but any loaf pan should work. You may have to adjust the amount of paper dough that you use in different sized pans.

You can make thin boards with one batch of the paper dough, but we wanted to make something a bit more log/brick like, so we went with two blender-batches full of paper dough per loaf pan.

I mixed the two batches of paper together a bit and spread them semi-evenly along the bottom of the loaf pan.

Then my husband took the pans with the paper in it and an empty second pan out to the deck and squeezed excess water out of it to create a brick. They do sell presses for making logs like this, but two loaf pans was a much more economical choice.

He squeezed the second loaf pan into the one with the paper until water stopped coming out. You could do this over the sink, but sometimes little dribbles of paper come out, so we did it outside.

I ran a butter knife along the edge of the paper brick in the loaf pan and then turned it over. I had to thwap it a few times to get the brick/log to come out of the pan, but it came out onto our drying rack eventually.

Since getting it out of the pan was a little annoying, we made a sling out of parchment paper (we tried wax paper first, but it soaked up the water and started to tear when we pulled it out of the pan).

We repeated the same process as before with two batches of paper from the blender and squished it into the loaf pan. The parchment paper sling worked great. It was a little wet, so we made a second sling so that they could dry out between batches.

After a few logs, you start to get the hang of it. We even made 2 batches with nothing but receipt paper. After each log/brick was complete, it was set on a rack to dry. When the rack was full, we put it outside in the sun to dry. Our first batch took 3-4 days to dry, but they were thinner (made with just one blender full of paper), so I'm expecting these to take about a week to dry--depending on conditions. Be sure to bring them in to dry if it's super humid or if there's rain in the forecast. 

We successfully burned one of the test bricks in the fire pit, but it was when the fire was good and hot. I can't wait to report on how these work when starting a fire. We'll keep you posted!


Monday, August 3, 2020

Galaxy Spray Paint Tin with Serenity (Firefly) Decal

Over the years, I've had some practice at spray painting objects to look like a starry night. I've painted boxestrays, altar candles, and even composition notebooks. So when I came across this tin with a Terry Redlin scene on it (probably a Boy Scout popcorn tin from ages ago), I decided it needed the galaxy treatment.

I got a cardboard box and a can of black spray paint and took the tin out on my deck.

I gave it a couple of good coats of black paint and let it dry between coats.

After the black paint had a chance to set completely, I came back a few days later and a ton of colors of spray paint.

I splattered and sprayed purples and teals and blues and pink paint all over the tin until it look like 1991 threw up on it. It darkened a bit as as it dried, but it was still pretty ridiculous.

After the colors dried, I came back and knocked them down with some black and silver paint sprayed over the top. I continued to layer and splatter paint until I liked the way it looked.

I let the paint dry for a few days (with the lid off) and then came back to add some stars. I found that you can spray a puddle of spray paint onto a paper plate and use some round toothpicks dipped into the paint to make some stars.

I tried to position the stars randomly. Everything in me wants to make them symmetrical and evenly spaced, but they look better in little groups here and there and with different sizes of stars (the stars will get smaller as you run out of paint on the toothpick). I even made a little comet on the lid to commemorate comet NEOWISE that made its appearance this summer.

After letting the stars dry, I decided to add a decal from my stash of holographic decals I cut earlier this summer. I had a few ships, but I selected Serenity from Firefly and turned the tin to the plainest/least colorful section. I cut a section of transfer tape the size of my decal. I selected the stickier variety because this decal has lots of little separate parts. 

I peeled the backing off of the transfer tape and tried to center it over my decal. Then I burnished the design with the handle of my scissors. I rubbed over each piece of the decal as carefully as I could to make sure it would stick to the transfer tape.

I peeled the backing off of the decal, a few pieces didn't want to stick to the tape, but I caught them backed up in time to get them to stick. Then I applied the decal and transfer tape to the tin. I burnished the decal again with the scissors handle and carefully peeled the transfer tape off of the decal.

Shiny! I love the way my tin and the decal turned out! It's pretty cunning, dontcha think?

Monday, July 27, 2020

Most Popular Blog Posts

While I'm finishing up a few craft projects this week, check out Sarah Jane's Craft Blog's Most Popular projects: Most Popular Post Collection.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Modified Olson Mask Tutorial

When the pandemic started, I did a little research and found a pattern from a local hospital to make some masks. Those masks turned out well, but took quite a while to put together and sometimes felt a bit small. So, when I realized I would need to make more masks, I went looking for another pattern. There is no shortage of face mask patterns out there these days. So I found a new mask pattern, but when I did, I realized I could easily modify the old Olson mask pattern to sew up more quickly and keep it's shape better.

So, earlier this week I showed you how I made the new pattern. A the same time, I cut out the front face piece from the old Olson mask pattern so that I could try a more streamlined version.

I cut out 4 pieces from one of the front pattern pieces (on the right).

Then I placed two pieces of fabric right sides together and stitched the curved seam that runs from nose to chin.

Then I repeated the process with the other two pieces of fabric so both sets were stitched along the nose seam. If you want to, you can zigzag stitch the nose seam open to help keep it's shape.

Then I placed those newly made pieces right sides together. Feel free to put a couple of pins in, but if you're using woven cotton material, it stays put pretty well.

Then stitch around the outside edge of the mask and leave one of the side tabs open so you can turn the mask right side out.

(Photo of the inner and outer mask pieces stitched together.)

Then use the opening to turn the mask right side out.

(Photo of the mask turned right side out.)

Then I made a nose piece out of some pipe cleaner.

I used the open side seam to place the pipe cleaner inside the mask, and then I pinned it at the top of the mask where the nose seams meet. Place your pin right up against whatever you use to create your nose piece to hold it in place.

Tuck the edges of the open side of the mask under and pin it into place.

Then top stitch around the whole mask. This creates a channel for your nose piece and helps the mask to keep it's shape (and helps to keep the mask from twisting in the washing machine as much).

Then attach your elastic or hair ties by folding one of the side pieces over and stitching it shut.

We learned that this elastic beading cord stretches a lot more than hair ties do, so it needs to be even shorter to ensure a snug fit.

I was pleased with how these turned out--both the new pattern and old patterns come together using these methods very easily. I keep looking for slightly better fitting shapes, but the basic method is super simple. Happy mask making!

Monday, July 20, 2020

DIY Fitted Face Mask

Towards the beginning of the pandemic, I made some face masks to wear when going to the grocery store. They turned out pretty well, but as this crisis has continued, it became clear that we would need more masks. So, I set out to find a pattern that I could sew more quickly and that fit a bit better. I wanted one that was a little bit longer from nose to chin than the Olson mask I made last time so I felt comfortable talking while wearing it and wouldn’t worry about it slipping off my nose or chin. I also wanted a pattern that had fewer steps to sew so I could crank out a few in a sitting.

As I was searching online, I came across a pattern from Made by Barb that seemed to do the trick. I made a test mask and found that it was actually a bit big. after the first mask, I cut the bottom of the pattern off at the seam allowance line on the paper pattern to make it a quarter of an inch shorter. Everyone's face is a bit different, so when you find a pattern that seems close, it's pretty easy to adjust it a bit. Barb's pattern even allows for a few different cuts at the nose based on your preference.

After I made my test mask, I realized I could use the same steps that Barb recommends with her pattern while using the Olson mask pattern. So, I found some neutral fabric and folded it so that I could cut four pieces from one pattern piece at a time (folded in half and then in half again). I pinned the pattern piece from Barb’s website with its bit cut off at the bottom on one side and one of the front pattern pieces from the Olson pattern on the other.

I cut out both pattern pieces so that I had 4 identical pieces of fabric for each mask.

To make the new Made By Barb mask, I placed two piece of fabric right side together to create the front and the liner of my mask. I sewed along the curved seam that runs from nose to chin with both pairs of fabric pieces.

Barb recommends opening up the nose to chin seam and doing a zig zag stitch to help it lay fat and help the mask keep its shape. So, I gave that a whirl. I haven’t noticed a substantial difference with the zig zag stitch, but it does seem to hold its shape a bit better.

I repeated the zig zag stitch for the liner pieces. 

Then I placed them right side together to connect the front of the mask to the liner.

I stitched around the outside edge of the mask, but I left one of the sides open, so I could turn the mask right side out.

Then, I turned the mask right side out.

I cut a piece of pipe cleaner for the nose. I hadn’t used pipe cleaner before, so this was a test. I doubled it to make it a bit stronger and so the pokey end bits would be wrapped up in the middle. I’m not sure that’s necessary, but it seems to be working ok.

I used the open edge of the mask to place my pipe cleaner inside the mask and pinned it in place at the nose.

Then I tucked in the open side of the mask (pin it shut if it’s not staying put) and top stitched the edge of the whole mask. This helps the mask keep it's shape and keep from turning into a total crumpled mess every time it gets washed, and it allows for a channel for your nose wire, too. Just stitch carefully when you get to the pin. I didn’t think the pipe cleaner would slide around since it’s covered in fluffy stuff, but it did move when I washed the mask. So, either be prepared to slowly pull it back into place after washing, or put a couple of vertical stitches on either side of your pipe cleaner to keep it from moving.

Since this pattern didn't have tabs built in to fold over your elastic or ties, I stitched them directly on to the mask. I used some elastic beading cord that I had in my craft stash. I tied knots in the ends and stitched right over the cord a few times to secure them. They seem secure for now. I did have to use a lighter on the frayed ends after it went through the wash. 

And success! I made a mask that was a littler bigger and pretty fast to sew. After making a couple, this one took me about 20 minutes to make, and I'm not fast. I have neglected most pinning with these now, but even if you put some pins in, it's a quick mask to make.

I even made one of the mask (the tie-dyed one below) with three layers--two inside layers of cotton fabric and the outer layer of t-shirt fabric.

You can see in the completed photo that there's a longer skinnier blue mask  (bottom right). I also tried the Olson mask out using these same basic steps. Stop back on Thursday if you want to see how I made that mask!