Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Burner Cover Magnet Board

I've always wondered if I could make something fun out of those electric burner covers you can find at dollar stores (and Walmart). So when I saw some projects floating around turning them into little magnet boards, I knew I wanted to try it out.

You will need the following:
a metal burner cover (or cookie tin lid)
spray paint (optional)
nail and hammer or a drill for making a set of holes in the cover
scrapbook paper
Mod Podge and brush to apply
a ribbon to hang
fine grit sandpaper
pen or pencil

I started out by trying to drill holes into the lip of the burner cover, but either I had the wrong kind of drill bits or my drill is a weakling because it didn't work at all.  So I switched to the method you see below of poking a hole in the metal with a large nail. The nail went through pretty easily, but it left the edge of the burner cover with pretty unsightly metal shards poking up.  I did my best to sand these down with some sandpaper and even used the drill to go back through the hole to try to flatten the metal down--it sort of worked.  Punching the holes was by far the most complicated part of this project though. If you want to skip that part and just glue your ribbon onto the edge of the burner cover with a hot glue gun, that would work too.

Next I put all of the covers (they come two to a pack for a dollar, so I bought two packs) into some cardboard boxes and spray painted the backs and edges of the cover to match my scrapbook paper that I had picked out to cover the front of the burner cover. (If you opt to glue on ribbon, you could cover all of the outside edge with ribbon instead of painting it.)

After the paint has dried, flip the burner cover over and trace around it on a piece of scrapbook paper. Cut it out carefully and and glue it onto your burner with the Mod Podge. I used a foam brush to apply a thin coat of paint onto the burner cover and then positioned the paper as carefully as I could and smoothed it out. Once you're sure the edges are all glued securely.  Let it dry.

After it's dried, take a look at the edges of the paper. If they hang over the burner or aren't perfectly circular, you can correct that by sanding off the edges with some sandpaper or an emery board. When your edges are all smooth, put on a couple of coats of Mod Podge over top to seal it. Pay special attention to those edges to make sure they are secure.

When it's all dry you can string it up with ribbon. I just poked the ribbon through the holes and tied it into some double knots. It worked out great. I used a command hook to hang it on the cardboard backing of my desk--I'm sure a nail or little cup hook would look a lot better, but it wasn't an option on this particular material.  It's nice to have a little magnet board on my desk to stick up little notes and the blue patterned paper gives it a nice pop of color on an otherwise dreary cardboard backer.

Be sure to let your mod podge dry for a day or two before using magnets or putting paper on your board so that they don't stick. If your magnet board is still tacky to the touch after your mod podge has completely dried, you can use a clear acrylic sealer over the top to reduce the sticky feeling.

The cost for this project was pretty low--the burner covers were only 50 cents a piece. The biggest cost for this project came from buying some new spray paint, but there's plenty left for additional projects. I was able to use one 12 inch sheet of paper for a small burner cover and the 4 coasters from my terra cotta coaster project.  I picked up some ribbon from Wal-mart for 49 cents a roll and only used 10-12 inch pieces, so there is lots left of that too. If you had paint or chose to go with the existing white edges, this project would come in at around $1. Pretty schnazzy for a buck!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Linoleum Block Printing

I have done linoleum block printing before, but I was 13. I actually still have the print I made. I thought I had kept the block too, but who knows where that ended up at....now where did I put that...oh there it is:

It's a masterpiece, I know. 13 year old me was quite proud of this, so don't crush my spirit. :) Now that I've revealed my pack rat tendencies, on with the post.

I was reminded of block printing when I saw this project on Pinterest. I thought, hey, I can totally still do that and it will be just as awesome as last time (I hadn't dug the old print out yet when I thought that last bit). So I looked at the craft store and was a little surprised by the prices to buy the tools to get started...but thankfully Amazon saved the day. A starter kit costs about $20 bucks. Fortunately the linoleum is fairly cheap (especially if you're buying smaller pieces), so I picked some extras up at the craft store.

For this project you will need:
A linoleum block (or you can make one with carving linoleum and a scrap piece of wood like I did)
a design and a pencil
something to print on when you're finished
paint or printing ink
a brayer (optional, but handy even if you're printing with paint)

You can save about a buck by making your own block. I knew I had a bunch of scrap pieces of wood at home, so I went ahead and bought the linoleum sans block. I had a little crafty plaque and I glued a small piece of linoleum onto the block with some E6000 glue. I put a weight on it as it dried to try to keep it as flat as possible.

The hardest part of the whole project was coming up with something to carve. I wanted to do something simple since it was my first try at this in 20 years (gah, I'm getting old). So I chose a meeple. For those of you unfamiliar with meeples, they are wooden people-shaped playing pawns used in board games. They are most famously used in the game Carcassonne. If you have a specific design in mind, you can print out the design and outline over it heavily in pencil. You could also make your own design in pencil (in reverse) to transfer onto the linoleum. Flip the piece of paper over and center it on your block. Rub the back of the design with your pencil like shown below:

The thicker line on my block below is from the transfer, I then drew a ring around the meeple to add a little extra flare to the design. You can always draw directly onto the linoleum with a pencil or ballpoint pen if you want to be all free-form about it :).

Once you've sketched out your plan and determined what would be cut away (won't print) and what will stay (will print), you can begin carving. The starter kit comes with a large scoop, medium v-cutter, and a fine detail cutter. I started with the fine tool. I went over all of the lines carefully and then began cutting away with the larger tools. Be careful and patient while your cutting. It's easy to make a minor mistake, and no way to undo it. However, there are ways to cover up and compensate for mistakes by carving over or adjusting designs.

After the details are mostly cut, you can then take the largest tool after the parts of the block you know you want to get rid of. This scoop tool takes quite a bit of force to use on the regular linoleum, so be careful. I stabbed myself good in the finger and it bled for about an hour before it stopped. But, lesson learned--I was much more aware of where my hands were after that. You can also get bench hooks that would help keep your hands out of the way by providing a ledge to wedge your block up against when carving.

Once I was finished with the major cutting, I went in for some detail. I made sure my background cuts were neat and straight in case they showed up in my printing and I added a rustic swirl design inside my meeple. Some very patient and practiced artists can make amazing clean lines and incredibly detailed art on these blocks, I am not even remotely close to that point. So I kept it a bit rustic looking so the mistakes would fit in. :) If you want some better contrast for the detailed parts of your stamp--you can use a permanent marker (like a Sharpie) to color the linoleum so that you can see the cuts more easily. My design was pretty simple, so I didn't bother.

When you're satisfied with your block, you can decide how and what you are going to print on to. I chose to use craft paint and some cheap blank white cards that were cut in the shapes of tags. I figured I could use them as gift tags or cards or cut the design out and use it for whatever I like. It worked out pretty well, but I learned that unlike the printing ink, which is thick and a bit sticky and goes on well with the brayer, using a foam brush to put the paint on the block gets much more even coverage with paint. I then used the brayer to apply the paper to the block. If you want to use your block as a stamp, you'd have better luck with the softer varieties (like the speedy carve that was used in the inspiration link).

When it was all finished, I ended up with a rustic artsy meeple. The craft paint goes on thinner than the printing ink does, so it adds to that rustic flavor, I think (and is infinitely easier to clean up--just rinse your stamp block off under water). If you are hoping for a very crisp print, use the printing ink.

Not bad for my first stab (literally--ow) at block cutting in quite some time. Not too much better than the 13 year old print, though. I guess I have some more practicing to do.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Terra Cotta Coasters

I saw this cute idea for making coasters out of the saucers you put under terra cotta pots. I had most of the supplies to make them already, and I had just bought a big jar of Outdoor Mod Podge to use on coasters (as it's more water proof). So I made these coasters to match our patio set, thinking that they would be handy on hot days.

You will need the following:
4-4 inch terra cotta saucers (I bought mine at Walmart)
a 12 inch sheet of scrapbook paper
pen or pencil
spray paint or craft paint in a coordinating color
Mod Podge (regular or outdoor) and a foam brush to apply
felt circles (if you don't have a sheet of the sticky kind, you'll also need fabric glue)
Optional: Acrylic Sealer if your Mod Podge is still tacky after drying for a few days

Start out by spray painting your saucers. I applied many coats as the terra cotta is porous and soaks up quite a bit of paint. You could paint these with craft paint, but you get a more even brush stroke free finish with the spray paint. If you have a nice dry day, spray painting is also faster since a coat will dry under the right circumstances in minutes.

After the paint has dried, find some circular item that is the right size to trace around to fit inside your saucers (or sink a thin piece of paper into the saucer to make a pattern). I found that a cardboard ribbon roll just happened to be the right size, so I traced around that on the back side of my paper. If you are worried about cutting the pattern on your paper in weird places, trace your circles on the front of the scrapbook paper instead (then just erase any pencil marks that survive the cutting process).

Carefully cut your circles out of the paper and then glue them to the saucers using a thin coat of Mod Podge. Like I mentioned above, I had just picked up some Outdoor Mod Podge at Michael's with a 40% off coupon with the specific purpose of using it to make more tile coasters, so I thought it would be perfect to try out on these coasters. A more water-resistant Mod Podge means I don't have to worry about whether to seal these with acrylic sealer or not--one step. I haven't tested this out with a summer's worth of perspiring drinks yet, but I'll keep you posted. 

[Update: Outdoor Mod Podge is more water resistant, but stays a bit tacky even after it's dried. You may want to spray your coasters with some clear acrylic sealer to help cut down on the tackiness (yes this works--seems a little counter intuitive but it does help). So much for the one step sealing.] 

So after the circles are securely glued to the saucers and have dried, then you can apply a coating of the Mod Podge as a sealer. I applied about 3 coats to make sure it was good and resistant, and so that the edges of the paper stayed down. Outdoor Mod Podge is thicker than regular Mod Podge and, therefore, not quite as easy to apply, but for this project, it worked great.

Once your coats of glue have dried, you can stick some felt to the bottom of the saucers so they don't scratch the tables or stick together when they are being stacked. I had some of the little cabinet door protector kind lying around, so I stuck them on the bottom. Gluing a circle of acrylic felt on the bottom with tacky glue or hot glue would work just as well, though.

I look forward to using these outside this summer. The higher edges will be great for corralling the slipperiest of drinks. 

The most expensive part of this project was the saucers. They cost about 75 cents a piece so the set costs about $4.00 to make after figuring in paint, paper, felt, etc... They turned out great for the money spent! Now to go find a cold beverage!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring Wreath

I wanted to make something to hang on the door after Easter and I have seen lots of yarn wreaths and tutorials for making felt flowers floating around the internet, so I thought I'd give one of those a try. I picked up a foam wreath form from the dollar store and gathered up my felt squares and got to work.

You'll need the following:
a wreath form (I used a foam one, but I've seem these done on straw and wire forms as well)
yarn of your choosing (mine is Vanna's Choice--yeah Vanna White has yarn--in Seaspray Mist)
straight pins
fabric glue
ribbon for hanging

Start out by tying your yarn to your wreath form. I also pinned it to the foam form so that it wouldn't slip as I wound the yarn around the form.

Just keep winding and pushing it tight to completely cover the wreath. This was by far the most time consuming part of the whole wreath project. Not difficult at all, but it took some time.

Once you've gotten it started, I recommend finishing it while watching TV--it makes the time go by much more quickly--the next thing you know, it'll be done. It will look a little something like the picture below. I noticed that the front side was near perfect and the back side (which is pictured below) was a bit more layered and rustic looking, since I hadn't been paying close attention to getting that side all lined up and straight. If you like things very neat, you may want to keep an eye on the back side of the wreath. :) This smaller wreath form used a little less than half the skein of yarn--so you could easily use some you had lying around the house.

After I finished the wreath, I started making some felt flowers. There are lots of different kinds of felt flower patterns going around these days, but these are the simplest. You start out by cutting a circle out of a piece of felt. My wreath form was on the small side so I started out making circles that were about 4 inches in diameter. It doesn't need to be a perfect circle, actually, the more wonky your circle is, the more character your flower will have. For a smooth looking rose--like a buttercup, make a smooth circle.

If you want more of a petaled rose, make a bumpy circle. Cut into the circle in a spiral as shown and leave a small circle in the middle to cover the bottom of the rose when you are done.

Pick up the start of your spiral and tightly wrap it around itself to create the center of the blossom. When you pick up the spiral of felt, you'll notice that the inside of the cut is straighter than the outside, use that straighter side as the bottom of your flower.

Keep wrapping the felt around the center creating your rose blossom.

When you get to the circle at the end/center of your felt, you may have to cut a little more to make the circle match the size of the bottom of the flower. When you're done wrapping, put some tacky glue (or hot glue) on the bottom of the blossom and cap it off with the circle of felt.

These roses are so simple that they are almost addicting. The first one I made looked exactly like the pictures I had seen, and it took about a minute to make. 

I look forward to trying out weird cutting patterns on all of my leftover scraps of felt to see what kind of flowers they will make. Once you've finished your roses, you can pin them or glue them to your wreath form. I pinned my roses to the wreath in a pattern around the largest rose (which was made from an approximately 5 inch piece of felt).

Once I felt good about my rose design, I decided to add some little felt leaves in the crevices between roses. I free-form cut the leaves out of scraps of green felt and then pinned one end in between the roses so you couldn't see the pin.

After the leaves, all that was left was to find a ribbon to hang it from. I feel like it turned out pretty well for my first try. The variegated yarn looks more spring-grass-like in person than the washed out almost gray color it looks like in the pictures. Next I hope to do one with ivory colored yarn and some of the felt flowers that require a little sewing. :)