Monday, June 29, 2015

Alcohol Ink Decorated Tin

A while back I bought this tin filled with three Christmas cookie cutters (I'm sure on clearance). They weren't really a set that went together, so I took them out of the tin and threw them in with the rest of my holiday cookie cutters to save space. I was left with this cute little copper colored tin. I knew I wanted to decorate it--alcohol ink seemed like a perfect fit, but I wanted to try something different. But as we all know...the best laid plans....

So I stamped up the lid of my tin with some brighter lighter colors so that I could stamp something over the top. The process was pretty standard. I dripped several colors of alcohol ink onto my felt applicator and stamped across the lid until I got the coverage I wanted. I added a couple of colors to the felt after I filled in the lid to go back over the color and get more stippling and texture. Then it was ready for my experiment.

I used a dye based ink and stamped over my pattern. When I pulled the stamp off, you could hardly see the design--just enough to have to wipe off the lid with alcohol and start over. You might be able to make this process work if you're looking for a very faint pattern or design to layer over the color.

So on this next one, I stamped the lid in the same fashion, but this time, I mixed some dark colors of ink on the craft mat and thinned it just a bit with some rubbing alcohol and wetted a stamp. I stamped a few times on the craft mat to make sure it wouldn't just be a blob, and then tried stamping over my alcohol ink. It was just a faint outline--not really what I was looking for. It did mix with the ink a little bit which could possibly create an interesting effect with some practice.

I was growing frustrated so I decided to play around a little and drip ink onto the lid to see how it turned out. After I nearly filled the lid with color, I dripped a little alcohol over the ink to get some reaction. I didn't like the tone of the mixing colors with the copper--it was turning muddy almost immediately, so back to the drawing board.

I wiped my tin off the best I could once again and started fresh. This time I selected darker colors and stamped across the top with my felt applicator. After I was happy with the color and texture, I added some ink to the edge of my applicator and stamped the sides of the lid.

I left the tin base plain to provide contrast and that pretty copper color. I ended up liking this color combination the best, so even though I didn't get a successful stamping, the multiple tries worked out in my favor. After a quick spray of acrylic sealer, I hope to use this tin either to hold playing cards (if they fit) or as a mini sewing kit for mending and sewing on buttons.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Campfire Eclairs

I keep seeing photos and posts online about what are essentially the same campfire dessert: campfire tarts, dough boys, woof'ems, campfire eclairs, etc... They are all made by roasting biscuit or crescent roll dough (I've also seen it done with bisquick) on a stick of some kind over the fire. Then you slide it off of the stick and fill it with whatever your heart desires. I had wanted to try them out for a while. I was going to make the sticks that were explained on this website. But I couldn't find the charger for my drill, so when we went camping, I just threw the dowel rod in the car and off we went.

Before I stretched my biscuit over the end of the stick, I soaked it in some vegetable oil and and made sure to wipe it down with the oil before each new biscuit. The first biscuit I tried, was doughy in the center--too doughy to eat, so I scrapped it and tried again. I tried to stretch it thinner and handed it off to my husband, who is much more patient, to roast it higher over the flame. The thinner dough ended up with holes in it and was still a bit under done inside, so the third time was the charm. 

To cook the biscuit, hold them a good 1-2 feet above a fire that is mostly coals and turn as it cooks. It took us about 10 minutes of roasting to get a done biscuit. We noticed that if you roasted it well above the fire until the edge of the biscuit started to lift off of the dowel, then you could lower it to brown it over the fire, and have a pretty done biscuit to work with.

You can use a butter knife to loosen the edges and scrape the dough pocket off of the stick, then spoon your filling in while the dough is still warm. We used vanilla pudding and chocolate frosting, but you could use whatever you'd like.

They were tasty when done, but took a long time to cook and required a great deal of patience. We used grands biscuits because we couldn't find the regular sized ones when we were shopping and would probably try using smaller biscuits or crescent dough to see if it would take less time to cook and be less doughy in the process. Any suggestions for other fillings?  

Happy camping!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Recycled Pill Bottle

My dog needed some medication recently and our vet puts the pills in these lovely cobalt blue pill bottles. I had seen some great ideas for reusing pill bottles floating arounds, so I knew that decorating one of these pretty blue bottles would make a great organizer for my purse.

I picked out some coordinating washi tape and wrapped it around the top and bottom edge of the bottle. This washi tape was 97 cents at my local Wal-mart in the craft section. It's very papery and not much comes on a roll, but it did the trick for this project.

Now to figure out what to store in it: over the counter medication, coins, bobby pins or barrettes, q-tips, matches, emergency candy stash, ear buds, screws or nails (though probably not in my purse), sewing kit, mini first aid kit, the options are nearly endless. When I decide, I'll let you know. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Homemade Fire Starters Time Test

Last week I restocked my supply of fire starters before a camping trip we took to Lacey-Keosauqua state park in Southeastern Iowa. So, while we were there, we took the opportunity to test out the fire starters and see how they each work. We lit them all (at roughly the same time) and timed them as they burned. There was very little wind, so it was a pretty good test of their burn time. I lined up the cotton rounds, the new shredded paper versions, the old trusty dryer lint variety, and a store bought Coleman/Diamond brand strike on box sawdust and wax fire starter in a neat line.

The cotton round fire starter lasted about 7 and a half minutes before flaming out. Next up was my new experimental shredded paper fire starters. They lasted just over 8 minutes before dying out, but they make a nice big flame as they burn. Hubby's biggest complaint about the shredded paper starters is that they shed. Little pieces of shredded paper come flaking off and float all over the place.

The two longest lasting fire starters were the store bought fire starter and the homemade dryer lint starters. The dryer lint starters flamed for almost 12 minutes before finally blowing out and the store bought starter continued burning until about 16 and a half minutes had passed.

Conclusions: I wasn't terribly surprised by the outcome of the test, except by how long they all burned. The store bought variety costs 50-75 cents apiece and are clearly the largest fire starters of the bunch, but they do work well. The lint starters have always been my favorite, and now I have data to show why: they lasted the longest of the homemade varieties. And, as long as you have some old candles laying around, they are free to make.

However, they all work to start fires. We had some wet weather while we were camping and we were very happy that we had fire starters to rely on to help us dry out our wood and get it going.

Note: This is an unscientific test. Your results may vary. Weather conditions and the quality of wax and materials may affect the outcome of your fire starters. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Crafting Revisit: Homemade Fire Starters

It's camping season once again, so as we plan our next trip, I decided to stock our fire bag (a sturdy tote bag that I've stocked with a plastic bag of newspapers, fire starters, lighters, matches, and a couple small marshmallow roasters) with some freshly made fire starters. I loaded up a cardboard egg carton with dryer lint for some traditional egg carton fire starters. Next I filled another cardboard egg carton with some paper from my shredder. This is a new experiment, so I'll let you know how they work after our first camping trip. You could also fill them up with sawdust if you happened to have some lying around (I do not).

Next up, melt some wax. You could buy some wax, but I almost always have some crappy or old candles laying around. You can also pick them up at the dollar store or thrift store and melt them down. This one was a pumpkin spice jar candle from Wal-mart where the wicks burned way faster than the wax did, which left me with extra wax that I had to pour off. When I got down to about an inch left, the wicks were just in a pool of wax, so I broke the candle up and melted it down. The crappy candle gave it's life to several fire starters, so if you're thrifty like me, you don't have to throw out a crappy candle, you can melt it down and use it. I melt my wax in a tinfoil cake pan from the dollar store. It works great since it can be bent for pouring the wax and can be thrown out whenever it gets too bent or gunked up (I've been using the same foil pans for a long time though).

Once I had melted down the candle, I used some pot holders and bent the foil pan a bit to create a spout and carefully poured it over my lint. I melted another batch of wax and poured it over the paper. Then I melted a little more wax and poured it over any bare spots. The goal isn't to drown it in wax, but to make sure everything gets wetted down so that it becomes a solid mass and you don't have lint or paper falling out of the egg carton. Some wax will bleed through the bottom of the egg carton, so you'll want to put it on some newspaper or parchment to keep your counter or stove from getting wax all over it. I used a lot more wax on the shredded paper to try to get them all stuck together. I have no idea how well they'll work, so stay tuned.

I had a couple more small candles leftover in my stash, so I also made some cotton rounds fire starters. These don't burn for near as long as the lint fire starters do, but they are much more compact (and don't require me doing 12 plus loads of laundry to make them). All you need to do is dip the cotton round into the wax just until it soaks through the cotton.  If there's a little bit of cotton that's not soaked with wax, that's even better--they light more easily that way. The waffle textured cotton rounds work a little better for that reason, they soak up the wax really quickly and leave little bits that are unwaxed instead of turning into just a brick of wax.

And there you have it. No need to spend money on commercial fire starters when you can make your own with stuff you are probably going to throw away (well aside from the cotton rounds, but you can make several batches of those with one bag of rounds bought for a dollar or two).

Monday, June 1, 2015

Striped Alcohol Ink Vase

These great cylinder vases are only 97 cents at  our local Wal-mart. They are so versatile and can be used in all different kinds of ways (candle holder, flower vase, tall greenery vase, floating candle holder, etc...). So I picked one up the last time I was at Wal-mart and knew I wanted to decorate it with alcohol ink, but in a way I hadn't tried yet. So stripes it is.

I used some painter's tape to tape off some stripes on my vase. I knew from previous experience, that trying to measure and be really precise would be nearly impossible, so I just eyeballed it.  I wanted each stripe that I was going to decorate to be a bit smaller as it went up the vase.

Then I used my homemade applicator to stamp some colors on the bottom stripe. I've found that the most important first step is to try to get as much coverage as possible before you re-ink your applicator, that way it will remain a fairly consistent color. You can drop more ink onto your felt to make a second coat or grab a new felt and put new colors on. The more you use a felt, the more muddy (brown or darker) the colors will become. I would usually not make more than two passes with the same felt before changing it.  Each of the stripes took 2-4 passes with the applicator to get the look I was going for. As I stamped each stripe, I changed the colors just a bit to create a sort of gradient effect.

On the top stripe, I even added a little silver. When I was all done with the stamping, I even rubbed the silver along the top edge of the vase. In the photo above, you can see just how many felt pieces and different colors I used to finish my vase.

It was really hard to get a picture of the vase where you could really see what was going on with the striping and the colors, so I put a piece of white paper in the vase. I would have liked the void stripes to be a bit narrower--so some narrower tape may be in order for my next striped project. But all in all, it turned out fantastic. Alcohol Ink is so much fun to work with. Remember that if you plan to do something other than simply setting this vase on a shelf as a decorative piece, you'll want to seal it with some clear sealer.