Monday, August 25, 2014

Shoebox and Cardboard Tube Organizer

I've been meaning to create an organizer to hold my colored pencil collection for years.  Colored pencils are one of my favorite art media.  I'm not sure why, there's just something very satisfying about having a rainbow of fine tip erasable colors at your fingertips (and the Crayola ones are pretty good and relatively inexpensive).

So the easiest and cheapest way to get my large collection of colored pencils out of the box they were being stored in and into an organizer was to use a shoebox (free! yay!) and cardboard tubes (also free! woo!). I started out by covering my cardboard shoebox with some gift wrap from the dollar store.  I chose this dotted brown craft paper variety for two reasons--it's thicker than regular cheap wrapping paper and it would match the cardboard tubes I was using to divide the box.

I cut the paper in a strip wide enough to fold over the top and bottom edges.  I cut two pieces off the end of the roll.  I could have cut a longer piece so there was only one seam, but I didn't want the odd sized chunk of paper left on the roll.  I applied mod podge to the box with a foam brush and carefully applied the paper and folded the edges over.  I trimmed the corners at an angle to keep them neat. As you can see in the photo--there was some wrinkling.  Don't freak out, most of these wrinkles will disappear as the mod podge dries--just get it as flat as you can and you'll be good to go.

After the sides were covered, I cut a square to cover the gap on the bottom. Then I let the whole thing dry overnight and almost all of the wrinkles magically disappeared. 

Then I filled my box with cardboard tubes. I used a toilet paper tube as a height reference as it was just a bit shorter than the box and I had several of them (I had been saving them for a while) and I trimmed down some tubes from paper towels and wrapping paper and lined them up in the box.

Then I started sorting my colored pencils.  As I loaded my colored pencils, watercolor pencils, and drawing pencils into the box, I noticed that the cardboard tubes leaned, so I crammed more tubes into the box until they didn't shift around--problem solved.  You'll need more tubes than you think, and having some smaller ones to put in the smaller gaps will help you out.

It worked out perfectly after I got all the tubes shoved into the box to keep them all in place, and now I have a fantastic place to keep my pencils that will encourage their use instead of hiding them away all mixed up in a covered box.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Stenciled No Sew T-shirt Infinite Scarf

Last week's stencil project had me inspired.  In my stack of stencils there were a bunch of butterflies, but I didn't know what to make with them.  I had seen some projects online to make an infinite scarf out of an old t-shit, but all I had were old white t-shirts.  The t-shirt below was from 1998.  It was a freebie from my college days, and since I worked in the department that gave them out, I had 3 of them.  This one was pretty white for being 16 years old, but it had a small hole in the top back and the hem was starting to pull out--a perfect candidate for a cut job.  It was also a XXL, which would make for a decent sized infinite scarf.

I grabbed a pair of scissors and trimmed the bottom hem off.  I made a quick slit and then cut through one layer of the shirt. After the hem was cut off, I folded the shirt right below the screen printed image and tried to get it relatively straight.  Then I cut along the fold.  I ended up breaking out my good fabric scissors to cut through the doubled up fabric.  A dull scissors will make a very jagged edge.

After my tube of fabric was cut off of the t-shirt, I trimmed up any ragged edges.  Since the edges roll up and jersey fabric doesn't fray, as long as you get it relatively straight, you're good to go.

After I was all trimmed up, I stretched the fabric out to create my scarf.  Stretching curls the edges of the fabric over and hides any imperfections--it also makes the scarf longer.

After I stretched my fabric, I knew I needed to jazz up the white.  So I grabbed some blue craft paint, a makeup sponge, and my stencils.  I created a grouping of butterflies, and then painted a few smaller ones flying up and away from the grouping.  As I stenciled, I made some little smudges, and I tried my best to paint over those smudges (from my paint-y fingers, the sponge going over the edge of the stencil, and from transfer from the back of the stencil).

It's pretty impossible to take photos of stenciling, but here you can see me placing a butterfly next to my grouping.  When I was done, there were still a couple of light smudges that I wasn't able to cover.  Before the paint set up, I put a little rubbing alcohol on a q-tip and gently rubbed the smudges off.  With a little rubbing, they mostly disappeared.  It's latex paint, so you may be able to use just water on the q-tip, but I knew alcohol would dry quickly and would be a little less apt to smear--luckily it worked out. 

Some folks say if you're going to use craft paint on fabric, you must use fabric medium to thin the paint and keep it from feeling hard and thick once dry.  When stenciling, I used just enough paint to fill in the stencil, so I wasn't worried about it being too thick, but I did read online that whether you use fabric medium or not, you should heat set your paint.

Since it's a scarf, I probably won't wash it unless it gets something on it, but since it's white, I figured I'd better be safe and heat set it.  So after letting it dry for a day, I grabbed an old cotton towel and sandwiched the scarf in between it. I set my iron on high with no steam and ironed over the design long enough to get the surface quite hot (about 5 minutes).

I moved the iron around on the fabric, but I did leave it setting long enough to take a picture. I didn't have any paint transfer onto the towel, but it sounds like it could be a possibility with this step.  When I was done ironing, my scarf was all done!

I did try to take a picture of me wearing the scarf, but I was using my camera and couldn't get good lighting or a good angle, so you'll have to settle for a hanger shot instead.  I can't wait until I find a nice colored t-shirt in my thrift/scrap pile to turn into a scarf--it was super simple and transformed something that was destined for the rag bin--a total win win!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Stenciled Cork Coasters

Awhile back, I was in the Walmart plant section and noticed they had theses great cork mats for putting underneath plants.  The smallest, were coaster sized and had MDF on the bottom and a layer of cork on the top.  I figured they'd be perfect to decorate.  So I bought them, and then they sat in my crafting stash for quite a while.  In fact, I'm not even sure that Walmart still sells these (I'll have to check the next time I'm there).

For my birthday in June, my sister gave me a bag full of crafty freebies that she had laying around, and one of the things in the bag was some stencils.  I have never stenciled (aside from tracing letters with magic marker onto poster board, which doesn't really count).  So I grabbed my craft paint and a foam brush and I tested out my stencil on failed big time.  The paint got underneath the stencil and it looked a total mess. So I ran upstairs and grabbed a makeup sponge and tried again.  So much better. Now I was ready to stencil on my coasters.

I grabbed some black craft paint because I knew it would contrast well, and I was being boring and safe since I had never really done this before, and certainly never on cork, so I didn't know what would look best. I spread out my paint and stamped it on the paper plate until there were no globs of paint and it was even on the makeup sponge.

Then I carefully held down the stencil and stamped.  There was no way to take a picture of this in hands were all tied up and getting paint on them.  So I took a picture immediately after I pulled the stencil off.

Here's where I could lie and say that I thought it looked a little plain so I put the stencil back on and painted the trunk of a tree along side the branch.  But that's totally not true.  On my second coaster, I accidentally got paint over the edge of the stencil.  I panicked.  I thought I had ruined it.  So in an effort to salvage it, I went ahead and filled in all along the edge with paint.  When I pulled up the stencil, I was pleased to see that it looked like a tree trunk and actually did help to balance the space better, so I went back and did the previous coaster, and made sure to ink along the edge with the last two.  

I think they turned out pretty cute for my first stencil project.  I'm leaving them unsealed so that the cork can soak up the water from the dripping drinks, but if you want the coasters to last longer, you could always spray them with some clear acrylic sealer

Monday, August 4, 2014

Fun Foam Photo Mattes

So I bought some really inexpensive black and white photos at Big Lots a while back because I thought I could hang them in the guest bedroom.  Well, I painted the guest bedroom earlier this summer and I'm now working on finding stuff to hang on the walls, so I dug these out of storage and wondered why the heck I bought them.  They each had cheesy inspirational sayings on the bottom of them.  So I tried to figure out how I could cover up the words without breaking the bank, since all 4 photos and frames cost about $15 bucks. It simply didn't make sense to pay money to get custom I brainstormed and decided I should try out fun foam. The kind you buy at the craft store has a label that says acid free, so they should be ok, at least in the short term as a matte, it's already pretty thick and easy to cut, and the biggest factor--it's super cheap, way cheaper than matte board (and it doesn't require any special tools to cut).

So here's what one of the photos looked like before hand.  The back side was covered with the thinnest craft paper I've ever encountered, it ripped before I was even trying to take it off.  I pulled the staples out of the backs of all of the frames (they held cardboard over the corners and the hook in the back).  Then I ripped the cheap craft paper off.

The first one I did had this unusual cardboard glued to the print, the cardboard was held into place with these long staples (one is in the top left corner of the frame after I pulled it out).  I used a small flathead screwdriver to gently pry those long staples out and set them aside (hoping to use them to put the whole thing back together later).

The first one I was working on was the water lilies "Dream" print.  It was glued to that lovely cardboard above.

I placed the print over the top of my fun foam and laid a straight edge along the sides that weren't already lined up with the edge of the foam and used a cheap rotary cutter to cut a square the same size as my print.

After I had my square cut out, I measured the edge of the print and determined a simple one inch matte would work to cover up the word and leave the artistic edge of the print (maybe I should have covered that up too, but it seemed like a good idea at the time).

So I used my ruler to measure one inch and used an exacto craft knife to cut an inch in each corner.  Once each of the corners had a marked cut, I used the straight edge and the rotary cutter again to cut in between the corners.

Then I went over the cut lines with the craft knife and popped the square out.  Some of the edges were a little jagged and were cleaned up with a scissors and the craft knife before I was satisfied.  It's hard to get it cut perfectly, but with just a few seconds of cleaning the edges up, it's definitely passable.

Then I put the frames back together.  I put the matte in and turned it and adjusted it so it fit just right, then I used a pliers to push the long staples back into the frame.  If you were working with wooden frames, it might be easier just to grab the staple gun, but with these plastic frames, I didn't want to take any chances.  I only needed to replace half of the staples to get the matte to sit securely in the frame.

After I was done with all four frames and mattes, I glued a piece of craft paper on the back with a hot glue gun. It was my first time gluing a backing on a frame, next time I think I'll trace the paper around the frame instead of measuring and cutting, and I might iron the paper out or put it between some books over night (it came off the roll a bit crinkly and difficult to deal with, but no one will see the backs of the frames anyhow.

After all the staple pulling and cutting, I ended up with 4 coordinating matted pieces of art--all for the cost of 4 sheets of craft fun foam......and I have fun foam leftover (I used one of the center squares to make last week's Death Star Stamp) for more projects. Pretty good for just a couple bucks!