Friday, June 28, 2013

Fun Foam Stamps Part 2

When I left off, I had just crafted some great stamps made out of fun foam from the dollar store glued onto cardboard.  The leaf shape and the circle shapes proved the concept, but after I saw how they stamped, I knew I needed to make some geometric background patterns.

I started out with some strips cut on my paper cutter--half inch and quarter inch. I glued them carefully onto cardboard--eyeballing them as parallel as possible (hey, the end result will look imperfect even if I measure, so why not, right?).  Next up, the ever popular chevron.  I tried just free-hand cutting the shapes, but they were very uneven.  I thought for sure I'd have to measure or print out a pattern...then I had a pretty genius idea (ok, just clever, not really genius).

I cut my long narrow rectangle shape, folded it in half, then  cut at an angle.  I then made cuts at the same angle about the same distance apart (again, I eye balled it because I'm impatient and knew the result would be rustic looking).

When I was done, I had a bunch of shapes that looked like the picture above.  I lined them up in what looked like the order I cut them and picked the best ones to glue on the cardboard. 

My test stamps turned out so well, that I used them all to make cards!  I just stamped the pattern twice on this strip of paper.

When I tried out the quarter inch strip stamp, I rotated it.  

And with the wider stripes, I used a lighter shade of ink.

These geometric patterns didn't need anything too fussy to accompany them.  The chevron got a cute "one of a kind" stamp that I picked up at Michaels in the dollar bin and then was paired with a coordinating solid.  The purple thin stripes were paired with a "Make a wish..." stamp.  I also put a purple birthday cake on the inside of that card.  I added a "thank you" message to the light blue stripe and then paired it with a tag stamp (which I'll show you how to make in my next post) and a textured background. I love how these turned out, and I can't wait to make more cards with these stamps--and I already have ideas for more stamps!

In fact, I like them so much, that I'm including another photo of the cards standing up :).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fun Foam Stamps Part 1

I found this lovely pack of Fun Foam from Dollar Tree in my craft room.  I don't even remember when I bought it, but I knew exactly what I wanted to make with it first: homemade stamps.

I cut up some spare cardboard from a box (the non corrugated kind would work even better, but use what you've got). Then I used a scissors to cut out some shapes.  Then I used some tacky glue to glue them onto the cardboard.  Super easy!

Next I thought I'd try out some paper punches.  The dollar store fun foam is very thin, so I figured it might work.  I could only fit the fun foam into one of my paper punches--the circle, so I punched out four circles and made a single stamp and a grouping of three the same way as I made the leaves.

After the glue dried, I tested out the stamps.  They create rustic impression--a bit imperfect. I immediately got some ideas for other designs (which you'll see in my next post). These are so much fun to make--very cheap and very easy.

Below are some cards I made using these new stamps.  I layered the circle stamp to create a background to pair with my new washi tape that I picked up at Big Lots (3 dollars for 3 rolls!) and I'm sure a washi centered project will be in the works soon.  The fun foam leaf stamps I paired with a leaf stamp I've used before and another blowing leaf stamp--they make me want to buy some orange ink for fun autumn cards!

Monday, June 24, 2013

DIY Cotton Rounds Campfire Starters

The best part of camping is the campfires. Who doesn't love making s'mores and roasting hotdogs over a fire? Sometimes the fires are a bit difficult to get going though. If it's a bit breezy or if your wood is a bit wet or even if you're just in a hurry, getting a fire started can be a real pain. We use fire starters most of the time when we're camping.  We've tried lots of different kinds (including the store bought variety). Of all of the homemade ones I've tried, these pack the most bang for their size. They are also very easy and inexpensive to make.

To make your own Cotton Rounds Campfire Starters you'll need:

Quilted Cotton Rounds
Something to melt the wax in--I used a tinfoil pie tin
Your stove top or a hot plate
Cooling Station--I used a cookie sheet lined with nonstick tinfoil

I bought a pumpkin candle on sale at Wal-mart a while back.  It is a lousy candle.  The wick burns faster than the wax, so the wax is always putting the candle out.  So I started pouring the wax off of the candle and into a plastic solo cup.  I cut the cup off of the wax and plopped it into my pie tin and turned the stove on low. If I did a lot of candle making or working with wax, I'd probably just buy a little kettle/pan at the thrift store...but these pie tins are 2 for a dollar at Dollar Tree, and they work great on my electric stove.  If you don't have a stash of wax or a candle that you don't really care for the scent of or that's almost burned to the bottom of the jar, etc... you can pick up a candle at your local thrift store or dollar store.

Once the wax has started melting, use the tongs to dip your cotton round into the wax.  It will soak it right up.

The cotton round should be covered in wax, but still have white spots visible.  If you coat the rounds in too much wax, they are a bit more difficult to start on fire (which kind of defeats the purpose).  Let the round drip a bit before moving it to the cooling station.

You can whip up a whole pan full of these in about 15 minutes.  Since the wax was destined for the trash bin and the cotton rounds cost $1-1.50 per 100 rounds--these cost less than 50 cents to make (including the sheet of tinfoil).

The best part about these fire starters is that they are pretty compact.  You can fit an entire weeks worth into a sandwich bag--which makes them great for backpacking or squeezing into a camper drawer.

I made a batch of these bad boys last summer before we went camping. Hubby tossed an extra one in the fire because he didn't know how well they'd work. They were surprisingly effective at keeping the fire going long enough to start your kindling. We did find that the higher quality wax (I had made some with a stinky Yankee Candle votive I got at a thrift store) did burn longer--which makes sense--but the ones I made with a dollar store candle still did the job.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ribbon Bookmarks

I bought this awesome swirly grosgrain ribbon from Michael's in the Dollar Bins last year.  I thought it was cool, but I had no idea what I'd use it for.  Bookmarks are perfect. I've been on a reading binge lately (all fluffy YA novels--delightful summer reading), so I knew I'd put them to good use.

I started out by measuring the lengths on a trade paperback and a mass market paperback to get a couple of different sizes.  I wrapped them around each sized book and just snipped them when the ends met.  The next time I make these bookmarks, I'll probably cut them just a bit shorter to allow for the stretch of the hair tie.

I folded over the raw end that was going to get a button later and double stitched it.  Then I moved on to the side with the hair tie.  I folded over about an inch of ribbon and pinned the hair tie in place.  Then I sewed with the presser foot right along the pin.  Then I pulled the pin out and sewed again with the presser foot up tight against the hair tie.

When it was done sewing, I trimmed the edges of the ribbon and used a lighter to melt them so they wouldn't fray.  If you wanted to sew a little less, you could even just carefully melt the end that gets the button and call it good.

I picked out two large buttons from my stash.  Since I wanted to recycle the buttons, I had either brown or black to choose from--so I went with black.  I sewed the buttons on by hand and I was all done. Super quick and easy.  Time to go read!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Neck Coolers

The first time I visited the Iowa State Fair, I saw someone wearing a neck cooler. I thought, I'm uncomfortably warm (as it almost always is at the State Fair), I want one of those. I started looking online for instructions and found that I needed a specialty item to make them work: water absorbing crystals. I didn't really want to buy them in bulk on Amazon when I had no idea if I'd like the neck coolers or if they'd really store water the way they said they would. Fast forward a few years, and a post from a fellow blogger reminded me of making my very own neck coolers. She said she got her crystals in a little packet at Michaels. So I did a little searching online this time and found out that the crystals are available in a lot more places now. Miracle Grow is selling these Water Storing Crystals for use in potted plants....and they are for sale anywhere that sells planting supplies. I picked up a bag at my local Wal-mart and dug out my little sewing machine.

For this project you will need:
A sewing machine (but any kind will do--just a straight stitch--nothing fancy)
cotton fabric and coordinating thread
A sharp scissors (and/or a rotary cutter)
a measuring tape
water absorbing crystals

I started by picking some fabrics out of my stash, but you could buy a yard at the fabric store and make 9 neck coolers with it. I cut my fabric 4 inches the whole width of the fabric (usually 45 inches). If you were making coolers for someone who's petite or for kids, you probably wouldn't need to cut them as long. You should prewash your fabric before you make your neck coolers. The fabric gets softer, and you won't have to worry about possible color bleeding.

I used my rotary cutter to cut several strips of fabric (I mean if I'm going to be dragging out the sewing machine, I might as well make a bunch). You could easily mark off four inches with a ruler and cut with a regular scissors.

After your strips are cut (and washed), fold them in half so the top is on the inside and the back is showing.  I ironed them so that I wouldn't have to bother with pins for this step. Then go ahead and sew a straight line along the open edge. I used the tightest straight stitch on my little simple sewing machine (it's like the kind you buy for a preteen to learn to sew on--it's about as simple as it gets). Then use the presser foot as your guide for the seam allowance. Then comes the most tedious and hardest part of this whole project--turning those tubes back out to the right side. I don't own a Loop Turner (I have a tiny sewing machine--so I don't have all the fancy tools), but I hear those help a bit. I turned a couple of them while watching TV, and set forth for the next step. [Update!  Hubby helped figure out a good way to turn these inside out using a dowel and a push pin. Check it out here.]

Fold your tube in half to find the center. Mark it with a pin. Then top stitch a straight line in that spot. I went over each line twice to make it good and durable. Then unfold your tube (that now has a stitch in the center, and pour 1/4 tsp of Water Crystals down one of the sides of the tubes. It doesn't seem like much, but they expand to fill it--I promise, you don't need more. Which means that I could make a gazillion of these coolers with that bag of water crystals (which isn't that big--remember, tiny sewing machine).

Note: Different brands of crystals may expand differently. If you're using something other than Miracle Gro crystals to make these coolers, you may want to do a test with a quarter teaspoon to see how much they expand.

Shake your crystals down so they are all situated next to the line you stitched.  Then measure 4 inches and stitch another line.  Pour another 1/4 tsp down the tube, shake, and measure 4 inches and stitch that section closed.  Then move to the other side and repeat.  You'll end up with 4-4 inch sections stitched into your tube--each with 1/4 tsp of water crystals (so 1 tsp for the whole neck cooler).

These sections help the neck cooler to bend and keep the crystals from clumping up in areas.  You may want to adjust the size of the sections a bit if you're making a smaller one for kids.

This photo below is of a 36 inch neck cooler I made from a fat quarter (cut two 4 inch wide pieces the width of the quarter, so 18 inches long, and sew them together to make a 36 inch long cooler).  The contrasting thread makes it a bit easier to see the 4-4inch sections sewn into the cooler (click the image to make it larger).

Then when you're all finished with the crystals and the sections, tuck the ends of your tube in and top stitch them to finish the neck cooler off.  I did the blue one below at an angle and the starry printed one in a straight line. I like the angled finish better and will probably use it for the rest of my neck coolers.

Neck Cooler Tutorial

They don't look like much when they are dry--which means they are super easy to store in a camper or drawer at home.  Then when you need them, toss them in a sink or bowl filled with water.

After ten minutes they looked like the photo below--and they continued to plump after that (see photo at the bottom of post). So allow atleast 20 minutes of soaking time for full effect.  Then toss them in a zip top bag in your cooler or fridge to cool them off even more.

Neck Cooler Tutorial

With the investment of a $7.99 bag of water crystals, I can make neck coolers for everyone I know and still have some crystals left for my potted plants. :) 

DIY Water Crystal Neck Cooler Tutorial

Update: We wore our first batch while doing yard work and they worked fantastically!  They stayed cool for hours, and they stay plump for days! It amazingly took about 10 days before they dried out enough to be stored flat again.

Update 2015: I'm still using the same set pictured, they dry out and re-plump with a soaking like the first day we used them.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Wooden Photo Plaques

For this project you'll need:
Wooden Plaques from a craft store (I got mine at Michael's)
Print outs of photos
Mod Podge and a foam brush to apply
Black Craft Paint and a brush to apply
Sandpaper for distressing
Hanging brackets

I started out with these inexpensive wooden plaques from Michaels.  I painted two coats of black craft paint right onto the wood.

Once the paint had dried, I was worried it was too flat looking, but then I remembered I would be applying Mod Podge, and stopped worrying about it. :)

I used some fine sandpaper to rough up the edges.  The photo below is from just a quick swipe of the edge. I had to work a little harder on the corners and any areas that were rough before I painted.

When they were all done, they looked pretty rustic, just like I wanted.  There isn't a whole lot you can do to mess this up.  If you take too much off, just repaint and try again.

Next I used a paper cutter to cut out photos that I printed out on some matte photo paper. I applied a black and white effect on the photos so they matched the black plaques. I used Word to print them out as my photo editing software only allows me to print the photos in standard photo sizes.  In Word 2010, the size of the photo is displayed in the ribbon (at the top of the page) while you adjust it.

After I cut the photos so they fit on the plaques with a little space around them, I glued them on with Mod Podge and applied a layer over top.  Since the Mod Podge creates a glossy finish, I applied the glue to the whole plaque. Unfortunately, the paper I used, bubbled up and created wrinkles.  If your paper does this...don't panic.  Let it dry all the way and most of the bubbles and wrinkles will disappear.  To diminish wrinkles, use as little glue as possible when first putting the pictures on the plaque.  The tricky part about this is that the less glue you use, the less you can move the photo when you put it down.

When the glue had dried, I put some hanging brackets on the back of the plaques...

...and picked out a place to hang them up.  Easy wall art for around $5--can't beat that!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dr. Who Guess Who

I love board games.  I love crafting. I love Dr. Who.  This project was made for me.  A lovely blogger and designer, Karen Kavett, was amazing enough to design a set of Dr. Who themed cards for the classic game, Guess Who.  She then made the designs available to print for anyone who wanted to make their own copy.

I started out by spray painting the bright blue and red Guess Who frames and the yellow pegs. Just pop out the white frames and set them aside. I used Rustoleum Navy Blue on the base frames.  It's a bit dark to be for Tardis Blue, but it was the best I could find. I used some cheap silver spray paint on the pegs.  I sprayed them laying down first, then I poked holes in the box to finish them off.  I'm still working on how to keep the paint on the bottoms of the pegs as they fit tightly into the base frame and the paint has a tendency to flake off.

After spray painting everything, I printed out Karen's cards on white cardstock.  She also includes a question mark background pattern that you can use if you don't like the white backs, but I opted to leave them white to save ink.  I cut all of the cards out using a paper cutter, but then I had to re-cut everything using a scissors because they weren't quite the right size for the white flip-frames. I used a card from the old Guess Who set to make sure they were the right size to fit in the white frames. You could even trim the larger cards down a bit so they would fit horizontally in the front slot, but I realized that after I had already run them through my laminator, so they'll just have to be used vertically.

If you're looking to make your own set, keep an eye out for one that comes in a box like the one pictured below.  Mine is the 1991 edition.  I found it at my local goodwill for 99 cents (score!).

So for a little ink and spray paint and some time spent cutting, I have my very own Dr. Who Guess Who set--complete with Cybermen, Daleks, all three new series Doctors, the Ponds, etc...  I can't wait to play!