Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cardboard Tube Christmas Wreath

I said when I posted the Cardboard Tube Snowflake Ornament tutorial that I had made a couple of crafts using my cardboard tubes. Well, here's the next one--a Christmas Wreath.

You will need:
Cardboard Tubes (toilet paper, paper towel, or wrapping paper tubes will all work)
Hot glue gun and glue
Green Spray Paint
1" Round Paper Punch
Red Paper
Festive Bow

Cut your cardboard tubes into one inch pieces and pinch the ends to make them oval.  Glue five of the tube sections together at the point to create a flower.

You'll need 9-10 flowers for a wreath made from wrapping paper tubes.  I ended up using 9.  Place the flowers in a circle and glue them together at two of the points to create a wreath.

After the glue on the wreath is dry, spray paint it green.  I was using cheap spray paint, so it took several coats to get full coverage.  The photo below is after just a couple of passes with the spray paint.  It really felt like I was spraying the box more than the wreath.

Once you've gotten a good solid green coverage, punch out some red circles to cover the centers of the flowers.  Hot glue them and a bow to the wreath and you're all set. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Cornstarch Dough Ornaments

Last Christmas I saw a recipe for Cornstarch Clay to make ornaments. So, after I was done baking Christmas Cookies, I whipped up a batch and made a giant mess (as seen below).

The recipe is as follows:
2 cups Baking Soda
1 cup Cornstarch
1 1/4 cup Water

Stir all ingredients together in a stove pot and bring to a boil.  Cook the dough until it thickens to the consistency of mashed potatoes.  Then remove the dough from the heat (turn it out onto some parchment paper or onto a plate) and let it cool.  I found that the dough was the easiest to work with when it was luke warm--not cold and definitely not hot. When I worked with the dough too hot, the dough was too loose and stuck to everything.  When it was cold, it was crumbly. 

Once the dough is the right temperature, roll it out on a cornstarched surface (I used a silicone mat) and cut out with cookie cutters.

Be sure to poke your hole at the top of the ornament (I used a chop stick). You can then let them air dry or pop them in a 250 degree oven until they are dry.  I let them air dry and it took a couple of days before they were completely dry.

A few of the ornaments dried with cracks in them, so I filled the cracks with white Elmer's glue.  Then I used some fine grit sand paper to remove any deformities or jagged edges. I wanted to try to paint some of the ornaments, so I spray painted them all with a white primer and let them dry. 

When they were all dry from the spray painting, they were ready for whatever I wanted to do with them.  Some looked great white and could be hung on the tree right away.  Others I wanted to paint (like the Star Wars cut-outs), and I'm still working on getting those just right.

Some of the snowflake ornaments I thought would look cute with some glitter on them.  So I coated them with Mod Podge and sprinkled some white/clear glitter and just a bit of silver glitter on them. When the glue was dry from the first round, I applied additional Mod Podge over the glitter to keep them from shedding.

Admittedly, I've been working on these ornaments off and and on since last Christmas, so it feels good to finally get some of them hanging on the tree. It ended up being more work than I thought it would be.  However, if your goal is to make plain white ornaments, it's not too big of a project, and in the end, I like how my snowflakes turned out.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cardboard Tube Snowflake Ornament

Cardboard tube crafts have been really popular on the web lately.  Last Christmas, I saved all of the tubes from the wrapping paper I used up, and chopped them into 1 inch tubes using my paper cutter. (When you cut them, they get smooshed into ovals.) After I chopped them up, I threw them in a cardboard box and shoved them in a closet, and there they sat for a year.  

Last week I dug them out and made a couple of holiday crafts with them.  

You'll need:
A cardboard tube (a paper towel roll, toilet paper roll, or wrapping paper roll)
hot glue gun and glue
spray paint
mod podge and a foam brush for application

First off, I cut 6 (because thanks to my sister, I know that real life snowflakes always have 6 points) of the tubes in half so they are approximately 1/2 inch thick.

I then grouped 3 together and glued them at the points with a hot glue gun (you may be able to use other glue, but the hot glue gun is probably the easiest since it dries so quickly).  I had to pinch each grouping of 3 to make room for all 6 pieces.  Then I glued the two halves together at the center.

After the snowflake was glued together, I spray painted the snowflakes with cheap white spray paint. Spraying them makes any of the hot glue gun threads that you failed to clean off, pop right out against the cardboard--which makes it easier to clean them away.

After they were sprayed white, I spread glue on the sides and top edges of the ornament and covered the ornament in silver and white glitter.  After the glitter dried, I went back over it with some mod podge so that it wouldn't shed glitter quite as much.

The finished product is definitely an upgrade to the cardboard tubes that almost ended up as trash. Hubby even gave them the "they look store bought" seal of approval when he saw them hanging on the Christmas tree. :)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Glitter Ornaments

Most projects you see posted on the internet are not as easy as they appear.  Sometimes, the simple directions turn into a disaster.  This is not one of those projects.  These glitter ornaments are just as easy as all of the online articles make them seem.  Just swish around some floor wax inside the ornament, and the glitter sticks right to it.

For this project you need:
Clear Glass Ornaments
Floor Wax (it's not really wax, but it's the stuff that makes your floors shine--not degreaser or cleanser)

The only "catch" to this project is that the floor wax stuff costs about $5 a bottle--and that's the cheap stuff.  Of course, you use very little in the ornaments, and you can shine the floor with the leftovers.  I bought this brand because it was less expensive than some others, it is safe for laminate floors (which I have), and has a pull spout at the top that will make squirting into the ornament easier.

Squirt about a teaspoon of floor cleaner in your ornament.  Swirl it around so that it has covered the inside of the ornament.

Then dump out the excess.  This bottle's opening was just the right size to rest it on top as it drained. :)

Next, use a funnel (or folded sheet of paper) to put glitter in the ornament.  I made one solid colored ornament with moderately fine glitter (from the dollar section at Michael's) and one with red and green glitter that came in a five pack from the dollar store.  I thought for sure that I would need to use the expensive super fine glitter that I have been saving for a special project, but the cheap stuff worked great.  The finer glitter covers a little better, but you can make it work with anything you have on hand. Swirl the glitter around  until it covers the entire ornament, add extra if you need to.  Then dump out any glitter that hasn't stuck to the sides of the ornament.

After your ornaments have been effectively swirled and covered with glitter.  Set them someplace safe to dry without their cap on for a while.

Replace the cap after an hour or two and hang on your tree. These ornaments are super easy and I'm really pleased with how well they turned out.  They sparkle beautifully on the tree.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Button Ornament

This is a super easy project. I bought two bags of cheap buttons at Wal-mart and attached them to the Styrofoam ball with stickpins. I wished I had more variety in the sizes and colors of the buttons, so if you had some lying around in a jar at home, that would probably work even better. I used a T-pin to attach some red and green ribbon to the top of the ball because the weight of the ball was too much for a regular pin.  The T-pin solved the problem and kept the ribbon from pulling free of the ball. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Adventures in Dehydrating: Kiwi

My husband received a food dehydrator from his mother for Christmas last year.  In the past year we've dehydrated lots of fruits and some meat for Jerky.  And during those experiments, most of what we dried turned out great.  Of course, it's always trial and error when cooking, and that's especially true of dehydrating because of all of the factors that keep recipe books from having definitive times, widths to cut things, and even temperatures to set your dehydrator at.  Much of these estimations and ranges have to do with your dehydrator--they don't all have the same motors or settings.  Air temperature and humidity also play a part, and so do variations in the food you are drying (ex: different types of apples grown in different climates harvested at different times are going to have different water content).  That being said, I hope I can share a few of the things we've learned about dehydrating by showing some of the things we have been successful at drying.

HyVee (our local grocery chain) had kiwi on sale for 5 for $1 last week.  So we'll start with Kiwi!

My husband filled a produce bag with 20 kiwi.  When he brought it over to the cart, my eyes grew larger as I thought of all of the peeling, but it only took us about a half an hour to peel and slice them.  In our few times drying kiwi, I have learned some tricks about prepping them--which is generally a slippery ordeal.  First, slice the ends off of your kiwi with a knife and peel your kiwi like an apple (in a spiral around the fruit).  This is faster, easier, and a bit less slippery than peeling pole-to-pole. Next, though a mandolin/v-slicer works fine, we've found the easiest way to slice kiwi is with a wire hard-boiled egg slicer. It slices them the exact right thickness to achieve a slightly chewy, but a little crisp, kiwi.

This batch of kiwi dried quickly on the fruit setting (135 degrees).  It only took about 12 hours and yielded a not-quite-full quart-sized Ziploc bag of kiwi.  These dried kiwi will stay preserved for months--but they never last that long. :)

In a household of two (plus a dog), drying fruit is really handy.  It allows us to take advantage of sales to stock up and we avoid the problem of dealing with spoiled fruit. They also make great healthy snacks--most of which can double as dog treats (but fruit is full of sugar--so give in moderation).  Our dog loves this kiwi almost as much as my husband does.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Painted Glass Ornaments

Several years ago, I was shopping at the Ben Franklin in Wilmar, MN (yeah, that long ago), and I saw a flyer for a craft project where you drip craft paint into a glass ornament and swirl it around to create nifty marble effects.  Well, that day I bought some glass ornaments and grabbed the flyer.  I then went to grad school and moved 3 times before I actually completed the project....but the ornaments survived the moves and I finally did the project. :) 

All you need for this project:
Glass ornaments
craft paint
a tray lined with paper towels to let the ornaments dry in

My craft flyer from 2002 said I should clean the ornaments out with rubbing alcohol before I painted them, and since these were older ornaments, I went ahead with this step to remove any dust.  If your ornaments look clean, you can probably skip that step.

Next, take the metal caps off and drip some paint into the ornament.  The amount you see in the photo below would probably be plenty to cover the ornament if you were patient. I am not patient, so after some swirling, I added more to cover the gaps.  Then I poured out any excess paint and set the ornament in the tray to dry and be turned at regular intervals. Start out with turning them every 20-30 minutes two or three times, and then when the paint appears near dry, you can start turning them every couple of hours or so.

The slow movement of the paint as it dries is what really swirls the paint.  If you want your paint less swirly--use less paint, super swirled--use more paint.  Of course, too much paint will mean colors may mix and you may end up with voids if you leave your painted ornament without turning it for too long.  I ran into this problem after they set overnight.  So I had to add a tiny bit more paint to cover up a couple of empty spots.

When they were all dried, they turned out pretty nifty, even if I feel like I used a bit too much paint and left them in one position for a bit too long.  The project turned out to be very forgiving, and I look forward to making more with a little less paint and starting earlier in the day so I can keep an eye on their drying. And since I have more ornaments that I bought last year, I can give it a whirl, or a swirl, again sometime soon.

These glass ornaments are tough to photograph.  I ended up reflected in many of the photos--the one below was my favorite reflection.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Snowflake Punch Ornament

I saw an adorable ornament on Pinterest made with flowers from a paper punch pinned onto a Styrofoam ball.  I thought a ball covered in snowflakes would be even more Christmas-y....that and I have a snowflake punch, some nice blue scrapbook paper, and a spare Styrofoam ball on hand.  I love crafts where I don't have to buy anything!

This project requires:
a Styrofoam ball (I bought mine at Wal-mart)
a shaped paper punch (mine is a snowflake, but you could do stars or flowers--whatever you prefer)
a ribbon to hang the ornament
and a scissors

After I gathered my supplies, I punched a bunch of snowflakes out of some light blue scrapbook paper.  I had planned on using white card stock to contrast with the blue, but the thickness was a bit much for my cheap paper punch (which was most likely picked up in the dollar bin at Michael's), so I ended up using plain old copy paper.  It was a bit flimsy but worked fine.

After you've punched a bunch of snowflakes, start pinning them in a random but alternating pattern.  Try to get the pin in the center of the snowflake to keep things looking tidy.

When you're finished filling in with snowflakes, pin a ribbon to the top of your ornament so you can hang it from your tree.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Transparency Christmas Ornaments

Last year I picked up a couple of boxes of plain glass ornaments at Hobby Lobby or Michael's at 50% off after Christmas.  So this year, I get to figure out what the heck to do with them.  My first project was to print out a couple of designs on transparency paper to create a cool translucent effect.  Of course, the real trick with this project was getting decent photographs.  The rest of the project was super easy.  

I had some leftover printable transparencies lying around from back when teachers still used overhead projectors (5+ years old).  You may have better luck photocopying your designs onto regular transparency film as I have no idea where you can get ink jet transparencies anymore (perhaps office supply stores or here).  I found a few designs online that I thought would work.  The first was a black and white silhouette of a nativity scene.  The second was a snowman with a blue background (think snow globe effect). The third one I found was a snowy scene that didn't print out very well on the transparency as it was mostly white--so it got nixed from the project.

After I printed out my images the approximate size of the ornaments (mine were 3 1/4 inches), I found something about the right size to draw a circle around the design.  My choice was a Star Trek glass.

After I had circled the images, I cut them out with a scissors. I made sure to cut off any of the pen markings by cutting inside the lines.

Next I rolled the transparency up so that it could be slide into the ball. It pops right open once you get it in the ornament. If you cut the circle too big, you should be able to pull it out with a tweezers (but it will probably take a bit of finagling).I pushed my transparency image around with a chopstick and then added some fake plastic snow using a funnel. I had to push the image forward and put snow both in front of and behind the image.

When you're done, decorate with a bow, or hang it right on your tree. Because these ornaments are so transparent and reflective, it was difficult to take photos that showed what they really looked like.  I hope you get the general idea because I feel like they turned out pretty cool and took very little time and money to make.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Hubby's work was having contests this Halloween for costumes (he is going as Corporate Darth Vader--Vader wearing a shirt and tie) and treats and decorated pumpkins.  He didn't have a clue what to bring for a spooky treat, so I pulled up my Halloween pin board and thought that the witches' fingers made out of dipped pretzel rods with almond fingernails would be easy and cute.

To make your own you'll need:
A bag of pretzel rods
A package of almond bark
Food coloring
A microwave safe bowl
The smallest bag of almond slices that your grocery store sells
Wax Paper

The inspiration used green colored candy melts.  The comments discussed peoples' problems dyeing white chocolate with liquid food coloring.  I opted for almond bark and made a test batch for the coloring just in case.  The almond bark is artificial enough that it doesn't seize up or get thick when using liquid dye.  I melted half the big block (six cubes at once) and used 3 drops of green and one drop of red (so it looked a bit more brown instead of pastel).  I would have liked to try going even greener, but I didn't want to risk it. If you do use white chocolate, you could probably dye the chocolate with paste dye without having problems with it seizing up.  

After figuring out the dye, dripping/dipping on the chocolate was easy enough.  I smoothed out the excess with the back of a spoon and put the almond slices on the tips immediately after I put them on wax paper to set.  I couldn't get the knuckles drawn on the way that the inspiration did. It didn't work at all right after it had been dipped, and when I waited until it had set up a bit, all I could manage was a sloppy line with a butter the knuckles are a bit crude.  

I think they turned out pretty cute for my first poke at them--and no matter what, they taste great.  I hope you all have a great Halloween!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Halloween Themed Felt Flower Wreath

I've been on a bit of a felt flower kick lately. They are super easy and inexpensive, so it's hard to say no to making more.  This wreath was originally inspired by a wreath I saw on Pinterest that took a dollar store wreath and spray painted it.  So that's where I started, with one dollar store wreath and some spray paint.

After I successfully painted the wreath orange, I opted for making some orange and black felt flowers since the orange would be lost on the background of the wreath and the black would be so dark that you wouldn't be able to see the details.  Cut two circles of felt the same size and stack the strips up as you roll them up. (For more pictures of this process, see my first felt flower project)  The flower below started with two circles about 4 inches in diameter.

Once the felt has been rolled up, glue it all together on the bottom with some hot glue or fabric glue.

I liked the orange and black flowers so much that I decided to make some black and purple ones too.  After you've created a bunch of flowers, attach them to your wreath in a pleasing fashion.  I decided to also add some leftover translucent ribbon (which can be added before or after your flowers--ah the magic of hot glue!).  

This wreath ended up costing just a few dollars when all was said and done and the only trouble I ran into during the project is that I added so many flowers, that the wreath didn't want to hang straight. :)