Monday, November 28, 2016

Milk Jug Christmas Ornaments

So I was browsing the internet looking for some inspiration and came across a couple of projects using milk jug plastic and sharpies. I knew that if sharpies worked, so would alcohol ink. And thus continues my lifelong quest to ink everything that can be inked.

So I grabbed a gallon milk jug out of the recycling bin and a scissors and box cutter. You'll need to use a box cutter or craft knife to cut the top off of the jug. After the top has been removed, you can cut the rest of the jug with a scissors.

I cut out all the parts that would lay flat. I wasn't left with much. I'm sure there are other types of jugs that would give you more plastic to work with, but I used what I had in the trash.

Next, I printed out a star template with 2 and 3-inch stars. Then I used a fine point sharpie and just laid the plastic on top of it to trace. It doesn't need to be perfect. Your scissors will cut a fairly straight line since the material is thick, so you just need to have the size and angles to reference.

After I traced the stars onto my plastic, I cut them out with a scissors.

I ended up with 7 stars from my milk jug. I was satisfied--plenty of stars to give this surface a good solid try with the inks.

Since there was blue ink all over the edges of the stars, I put some rubbing alcohol onto a paper towel and wiped the excess sharpie off the edges.

As long as your sharpie ink is pretty fresh, the rubbing alcohol will take it right off.

On my first stars, I tried the classic Christmas colors of red and green. I put red on one side of my applicator felt and green on the other since those two colors don't play together very well.

As I stamped them, they did turn a bit brown and muddied, but I was able to get a good layer of ink on three of the smaller stars with just the one application of ink. I tried adding a little gold ink over the top, but it was barely visible.

Next, I tried some blue stars. I used three different shades of blue ink on my applicator and covered the stars.

Then I put some silver on a piece of felt and stamped the stars. The silver showed up vibrantly and was a great addition.  My last star I stamped with a bunch of different colors.

After they were all stamped, I let them dry while I cleaned up my craft mat and felt pieces. Then punched holes in the stars and I strung them up with some silver thread.

This was a super easy and fun craft. Tying the thread on was the most time-consuming partof the whole project. The milk jug plastic works great with alcohol ink and takes sharpie ink very well if you don't have any alcohol ink in your craft stash.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Silhouette Cut-Outs and Mod Podge Sign

Last week I made a cut-out on my new Silhouette cutting machine to try it out. It turned out so well that I thought I'd make a little Thanksgiving sign with it. I had originally planned to use a pine board and a brown paint wash or some stain, but when I looked in my stash of supplies, I was all out of boards. I hunted around looking for something to glue the cut-outs to, and my next best idea was stretched canvas. I bought a pack of 6 of them for like $10 at a Michael's sale and hadn't done anything with them for a couple years, so it seemed like a perfect fit.

As I was digging through my supplies, I looked at my craft paints. Because my original cut-out was made on an orange leaf-type paper, I was looking for some dark chocolate brown paint. I didn't have any. Before I went into my art paints, though, I saw a pretty dark purple. I held the bottle of paint up to the paper I used, and I thought it looked good in the basement lighting. I brought the paint, the canvas, some brushes, a paper plate and a plastic cup of water up to the table to work.

As I was painting, I noticed it was much lighter than it appeared in the bottle. It was also going on the canvas in a pretty streaky fashion. I tried to work with the streaks as best as possible to give it sort of a paint wash look. I painted along the edges and left it to dry for about a half an hour.

When I came back to my dried canvas, it was a bit darker, but when I laid the original cut-outs on the canvas, it was clear there just wasn't enough contrast in color. It was the right size, and I did save the original design, so I figured I'd just cut another one. Back into my stash of craft supplies I went. I came back with a piece of thick scrapbook paper that was a sort of blackish-grayish-brown. It was definitely dark and would work better against the purple.

I had some room on the paper, so I cut an owl out too--just for kicks--I have no idea what to do with it yet. If you read last week's post, you know that I complained about how sticky the new Silhouette mat was. It's really hard to get the design off the mat. I read a tutorial that suggested sticking it on your pants to get some of the sticky off, so I gave it a whirl. I felt a little silly sticking the thing to my jeans, but hey, whatever works. Between the pants trick, it being the second project stuck to it, and me just expecting it to be difficult to peel off, it seemed to go a bit better (but I'm not sure which of those three things made the biggest difference).

Once I had the cut-out peeled off the mat, I set it on the painted canvas. In the afternoon light, the blackish-grayish-brown paper started looking dark green. Regardless of what color it actually is, it looked better with the purple than the leaf print. I flipped the paper frame over and painted it with some mod podge. I usually use a foam brush with mod podge, but this design was much finer than what I usually end up gluing, so I used a small paint brush to paint glue onto any of parts of the frame that weren't sticking after an initial gluing.

For the wording, I painted a generous layer of mod podge onto the center of the canvas (with a foam brush) and set the lettering down onto it. After I made sure it was properly positioned, I used the small paint brush again to work glue under the lettering.

After I was pretty sure the lettering was stuck down, I painted a layer of glossy mod podge over the whole design and the rest of the canvas (so it would all be equally shiny).

Then I let it dry. It took about an hour for it to turn clear. I did have a couple spots where the paper wrinkled just a smidge, if this happens to you, don't panic, as long as it's a small bubble or wrinkle, it almost always flattens out as it dries completely. I'm pleased with how my little sign turned out. I can put it on display until I put up the Christmas decorations, and then since it's not typically Thanksgiving-y, I can hang it up in my guest room the rest of the year to remind us all to be thankful.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving week filled with thanks and giving!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Getting Started with a Silhouette Cameo

Let's start this post off with a bit of a disclaimer. I am a total Silhouette newbie. I've wanted a digital cutting machine for a while. But I'm cheap, so I never caved and bought one until about a month ago when the Silhouette Cameo popped up as an Amazon daily deal. That coupled with enough money in credit card rewards to get it means I totally caved. If you've never seen one of these things, there are several brands, but the big two are Silhouette and Cricut. They allow you to buy or create digital designs and then cut them out on a variety of media (paper, cardstock, thin cardboard, vinyl, thin plastic, etc...). So in this post, I'm going to write about my experience setting up and cutting my first design.

So I got my machine in just a couple of days (thanks, Amazon prime), but I wasn't able to even open it up for about a week. The fall is a very busy time in our house. So when I did finally get it open, I followed the instructions to remove the tape and foam and install the software from the included disc and then forgot about it for another couple of weeks. 

I messed around with the Silhouette Design Studio that comes with the machine and figured out the basics pretty quickly. If you've ever done any photo editing or document design, you'll probably be able to figure it out. If you aren't used to those kinds of programs, you may want to watch some youtube tutorials. I then went to the Silhouette store and downloaded this month's free design. All of that seemed pretty easy, but I did have to go to the Silhouette website and update my software from the version I installed from the disc (after the program crashed a couple of times). After that download, it was working great.

For my first try at cutting, I used the maple leaf that comes free with the program and typed my name and my husband's in the center to make some little prototype place cards for Thanksgiving, and then I used a frame that came with the program around the free "Thankful" design that was up for this month. I found a piece of thick scrapbook paper and peeled off the protective sheet on the cutting mat and stuck the sheet to it. After figuring out the steps for cutting the design (like putting the blade in and figuring out how to set it) the actual cutting was a snap. My machine did sound a bit like an angry cat while it was cutting though. I also learned that you need a fair bit of space next to your computer to use it.

After the mat came out the back side of the machine with the design cut, I started peeling the paper off the cutting mat. I learned that a new mat is very sticky. So sticky that this was probably the hardest part of the whole 1st project. My paper ripped several times, but thankfully it was the paper around the design and I went very slowly and carefully when I was peeling up the actual designs.

Because the mat was so sticky, the paper curled up a bit from being pulled off the mat, but otherwise, my designs came out perfectly. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my "thankful" cut out and frame, but if I make something with it before Thanksgiving, I'll be sure to share it with all of you.

So, what have I learned? There's a bit of a learning curve to the software, but it's fairly simple to use, and I had no problems making a basic design. Figuring out how to do more with it make take some time. The cutting mat is VERY sticky when you first use it. This will be fine if you cut just basic shapes your first times through, but If you do something even a bit more ambitious with lettering, it's gonna be a pain to get it off the mat. Desticking it a bit might be useful. The machine makes some weird noises as it's cutting. Do not panic. And when all else fails--find some tutorials online to help. I can't wait to make some awesome projects with my new machine. If you have any tips for a newbie--be sure to post them in the comments!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Foil Tape Backed Alcohol Ink Glass Gems

My most popular blog post is a project where I stamp these large 1-inch flat glass gems with alcohol ink. It was so popular that I made a second post on it after I got some new alcohol ink colors. I then tried a couple of methods to make the gems more opaque and get the colors to pop. I tried aluminum foil and spray painting the backs white. I even did a round-up post because I had done so many projects with glass gems that it seemed like a good idea to keep them all in one place. But then a reader made a comment to one of the posts about using foil tape on the back, and I thought that was such a great idea that I just had to try it out.

Since the last time I made gems, I also acquired some of the Pinata alcohol inks to go along with my Ranger inks, so I was excited to try them out on the glass. I grabbed my craft mat (parchment would work too), some inks, my applicator, some felt squares, and some clear glass gems. The last time I made a Dollar Tree run, they didn't have completely clear glass gems, they were slightly iridescent, so I thought I'd give those a whirl and see if they worked.

I dripped some ink onto the applicator and flipped the gem over so the flat side was up and stamped the ink onto the gem until it was completely covered. I had to stamp several times to get complete coverage, then I let the gems dry for a bit while I worked on the other gems. The first coat tends to blend together into one solid color. Then I came back to the gems and added additional color to make them more variegated. I didn't notice too much difference between the Pinata inks and the Ranger inks in this project except that the Pinata inks were a bit stickier and would sometimes cause the felt to stick to the gem. I'm sure a little rubbing alcohol would fix this problem, but I didn't add any to the felt because I wanted to keep the colors dark and saturated.

After the ink was dry (just takes a few minutes), I grabbed my foil tape (it's the kind you can buy at the hardware store) and used a 1-inch circle punch to create circles to apply to the back of my gems.

Because I was putting foil on the back, I didn't seal my ink with anything, I just stuck the foil stickers on to the back after I peeled off the paper backing. It was a snap.

They turned out really neat. They shimmer when they are turned at different angles and probably look the most like real stones of any of the alcohol ink gem projects that I've made. The foil tape was a lot easier than gluing aluminum foil circles on the back and produces a smoother shinier finish.

Next, I grabbed some glue-on bails and some E6000 glue and made my gems into pendants. After they dried (takes at least a half an hour for the glue to dry), I used some suede cording to string them up.

These turned out really pretty. I'm not sure I'll use the iridescent gems again (though it seems those are the only large clear ones that Dollar Tree is currently carrying) as the ones that were the most iridescent made it difficult to see the alcohol ink colors, but the foil tape worked a charm, and I can't wait to use it again.