Showing posts with label tools. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tools. Show all posts

Crafter Thoughts: Polymer Clay Beads

Curious about this crafty tool? It's a clay extruder.My name is Ellen and I am a craft addict. I knit, crochet, sew... and love to experiment with new materials, tools and techniques.

My latest addiction? Clay.

I don't have a lot of experience with clay, but it's something I have always wanted to learn more about. So, on a recent trip to Joann's I stocked up on some basic tools by Sculpey:

Here's a sample of beads that I have been creating. I love all the interesting designs and texture, not to mention the fun colors.

My new craft addiction is making beads with polymer clay.

Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing some project ideas and tutorials so you can learn how to squish, roll, mold and sculpt, too. You won't believe the intricate designs you can make (and how much stress you can relieve) by smooshing up pretty wads of clay.

Easy Graphic Design with Canva

Canva offers free and affordable options to create professional looking graphics for your web site, shop, blog and social media. I need to send out a big "thank you" to Amy, from amydscrochet, for introducing me to my new, favorite tool for my blogs and shops, Canva.

Canva is a website that can help you create professional looking info graphics, social media posts and covers, ads, marketing materials and so much more!

It's easy to use and free to set up an account. Canva offers premium design features for $1 each, but there are plenty of designs that are free to use.

After you create your account and log-in, decide what type of graphic you want to make: collage, infographic, Facebook cover, Twitter header, wedding invitation and more. (As I sat down to write this post, I was excited to see one of Canva's newest designs, Etsy Banner.) You can also choose to make a design in your own, custom size.

Everything is drag and drop. You can use a pre-designed layout.

Or make your own by adding text (there are tons of great fonts to choose from),

a background,

or even upload your own images.

Once your design is exactly what you want, just click "Download." Easy-peasy.

Here are a couple designs I made for the collections on my Google+ page. For these, I only used free elements available in Canva and customized the colors and text.

I also designed a few graphics for my new online shop (opening July 2015). This time I used free elements combined with some of my own photos.

So, if your struggling with graphic design, check out Canva for some inspiration.

Two Helpful Silhouette Cameo Tips

I bought my Silhouette Cameo Starter Bundle Kit almost three years ago and it is still one of my favorite tools in my studio. I have cut paper, cardstock, tag board, fabric, vinyl, and plastic in a variety of sizes and shapes.

I love that the Silhouette Cameo is able to cut any font that's on my computer. I love the trace feature that allows you to trace and cut any images from your computer. And, I love that I can purchase shapes inexpensively on-line and they can be downloaded and used immediately.

Yes, it takes a little bit of time to learn the ins and outs of the machine settings and the Silhouette Studio software, but overall, I have no buyer's remorse over this purchase. In fact, I have only had two problems with my Silhouette Cameo and both were very quick and easy to fix.

My first problem occurred when I saved files from my computer to my SD card and inserted the card into my Cameo. I became quite frustrated when I slid the card into my Cameo and on the screen were the words "SD Error."

How to fix an SD Error on a Silhouette Cameo cutting machine.

I checked to make sure I saved my files properly using the Silhouette Studio software, so why the heck am I getting an SD Error on my Silhouette Cameo?

I took the SD card out and pushed it in again and still would get the SD Error. Grrr...

I still don't know what causes the error, but the solution is simple. Take a deep breath. Whew! Turn off the Cameo. Remove the SD card. Unplug the Cameo. Wait at least 10 seconds. Plug in the Cameo. Insert the SD card and turn on the power. Problem solved. (This is much easier than angrily pushing the card in and out 100 times only to get an SD error each and every one!)

The second problem I had was also an easy fix. After a number of uses, the cutting blade was not lowering at the beginning of the cutting process. So, I would have a small section of my shape that was uncut.

All you need to fix this problem is some silicone spray or WD40.

Turn off your Cameo and open the lid.
Locate the cutting mechanism.
Remove the blade.
Press down the blade holder.
How to lubricate the Silhouette Cameo cutting mechanism so the blade lifts and lowers properly.
Spray a little silicone spray or WD40 into the top portion above the blade holder. Gently lift and lower the blade holder a few times to spread the lubricant around. (I also had to use a cotton swab to clean up a couple drips because I went a little crazy with the spray.)
Replace the blade, turn on the Cameo and you are ready to go.

If you are looking for more information about using a Silhouette Cameo or are interested in some of the projects I have made with my Cameo, check out my Silhouette Cameo posts.

PhotoScape Editing

Let me preface this post by saying (again) that I am not a photographer. Taking pictures does not come naturally to me and it is definitely not one of my passions. However, in an effort to improve my blog, Etsy shop, and pattern photos, I am continually trying to learn more about photography.

When I first opened my Etsy shop and started blogging I was aware of two things. Some of my pictures were too dark, too bright, or not as clear as I would like them to be. Second, If I am going to build a presence on the web, an identifying watermark would be helpful.

Unfortunately I wasn't quite sure what to do about these issues. I was not about to invest hundreds of dollars in a fancy camera or photo editing software for a business venture that may or may not be successful. Not to mention the time it would take to learn how to use either of those.

Then one day when I was reading a craft/photography blog called Joy's Jots, Shots and Whatnots, the topic was photo editing and Joy talked about a free editing software called PhotoScape. I decided to give it a try.

PhotoScape has features that are quite helpful to a photography novice, like myself. Within no time I was resizing, cropping, brightening, and adding text watermarks to my pictures. All pretty basic stuff, but it helped.

After taking the product photography class on Craftsy and learning more about taking pictures and editing I started experimenting more with the features on my camera as well as some of the features in PhotoScape like adjusting the color temperature, white balance, contrast and blurring sections of photos.

Here's an example of how I edited my crocheted pumpkin picture.

Crochet Pumpkin Pattern by The Chilly Dog

Here's a sneak peek at how I edited the photo for an upcoming project.

Wine Bottle Hummingbird Feeder by The Chilly Dog

I'll never be a professional photographer, but I think my pictures are improving. For now, I'll keep practicing and over time I hope my crafting tutorials, inspirations and pictures will keep my blog readers coming back for more!

Using the Trace Feature on your Silhouette Cameo

I have been using my Silhouette Cameo for almost a year now. When I wrote my review of this product back in April one of the "cons" I listed was that it takes some time to learn all of the features that are included in the Silhouette Studio Software. I am still finding some hidden gems in the software that make me love my Cameo even more.

Recently I discovered the "Trace" feature and have been experimenting with it. The idea is that you can open an image file with the software and trace around it. It didn't impress me much until I tried it out. Ultimately, the trace feature allows you to create a die cut of virtually any image. That's powerful!

Here's how it works.

Open Silhouette Studio on your computer. Then, open an image file. I used my logo. Position your image where you want it.

Select "Object" and then "Trace" from the menu bar at the top. The Trace Window will open on the right side of your screen. From there, click on "Select Trace Area" and pick the region you want to trace.

There are a couple different methods available in the Trace window. First, you could just "Trace Outer Edge." It makes a nice outline of your image.

After I traced the outer edge, I moved my image over to try the plain "Trace" method. To do this I clicked on "Select Trace Area" again, but this time chose "Trace."

It then traces along both sides of the lines.

Once you are done tracing, you can move your image out of the way or delete it.

Then, it's time to cut. I cut my images twice to show both the positives and negatives of the cut design.

Now you may be wondering what kind of projects could you create with this feature.

One idea, stencils. Stencils are always a favorite drawing tool for the kids, especially if it's a stencil of their favorite animal or character. You could use this feature to create stencils of just about anything you have an image of.

Another idea, vinyl decals. I used this process to make a cling vinyl decal for my computer.


Of course, there are many shapes and designs available to purchase at the Silhouette Website. But, if you can't find what you need, or are looking for a customized design, the Trace feature in the Silhouette Studio software gives you the flexibility to create a die cut design of just about any image imaginable.

Product Review - Martha Stewart Crafts Glass Paint

After some prodding from one of my friends, I decided to try a glass painting project. I created stencils using Grafix Cling Vinyl and my Silhouette Cameo, then used Martha Stewart Crafts Glass Paint by Plaid to make a couple funny wine glasses.

Overall, I really liked this product.

The paint comes in a variety of colors and finishes. I especially like the pearl and metallic colors because they are shiny and sparkly. What girl doesn't like shiny, sparkly things?

You can apply the paint a variety of ways. I created three glasses using the following techniques.

Glass 1 - I used a paintbrush.

I simply used a flat brush to apply the paint to my glass. If you look closely, you can see slight ridges in the paint giving the lettering a little texture.

Glass 2 - I applied the paint with a foam dauber or detail painter.

I simply tapped the paint into the stencil with the dauber. This method produced a more random texture than the paint brush.

Glass 3 - My favorite effect was achieved with a rubber scraper.

First, I applied the paint with the bottle tip. Then I used the scraper to press it into the stencil. The paint was so smooth that the design almost looked professional.


  • variety of colors and finishes
  • affordable way to personalize glassware
  • easy to apply with the fine tip on the bottle
  • non-toxic
  • can be applied using different techniques to create various textures
  • project ideas on the Plaid website
  • other Martha Stewart Crafts accessories such as stencils and adhesive silkscreens are available
  • can also be used with your own stencils and accessories
  • designs can be air or oven cured
  • projects are dishwasher safe after curing


  • challenging (but not impossible) to get a completely smooth finish
  • can be bubbling after curing if the paint is too thick or is applied to glass that is not completely oil and residue free
  • oven curing instructions are not on the packaging. However, they can be found on the Plaid website.

Overall, I thought this was a good product. Getting the exact texture you want from the paint takes a little practice, but many crafts require a little practice to perfect the technique. If you are extra artsy, you could use this paint with a brush to freehand designs onto glassware as well. I preferred using the stencils because it allowed me to create crisp, evenly spaced wording to decorate my glasses.

If you are curious... This is the only French phrase I know. It means "I would like a glass of red wine."  It seemed appropriate and funny to put it on a wine glass. Cheers!

Product Review - Grafix Cling Vinyl

A couple weeks ago I discovered Grafix Cling Vinyl. I was looking for something that I could use to create a removable stencil for a glass painting project that I will be sharing soon. I had already tried using Contact paper (one of my "go to" materials) and while it can be used to make great die cut stencils, it was just a little bit too sticky for what I had in mind.

So, I decided to try cling vinyl. My hope is that it would adhere to the glass long enough to do some painting and then peel away without leaving a sticky residue.

I bought a package of the Grafix Cling Vinyl at the craft store. It had nine, 9 x 12 sheets of vinyl in assorted colors (clear, white, black, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.)

The colors were pretty basic, but since I was only planning to use them as stencils, the colors wouldn't really matter to me for this project.

I have a Silhouette Cameo that I use for all my die cutting. After formatting my design, I had to fiddle with the cut settings a bit, but finally dialed in (blade depth - 3, speed - 5, thickness - 20.) My Cameo cut through the vinyl leaving the paper backing in tact.


Loved the first sheet, so I tried another.

Again, in cut beautifully.

So, the vinyl is perfect for die cutting, but what can you do with it?

It's simple to peel your design from the backing paper and stick it on to...

Well, it seems like you can stick it on almost anything.

First I stuck it on piece of glass. Then I tried the mirror, the refrigerator, the dishwasher, my granite counter tops and my computer. The only thing that I couldn't get it to stick on was wood. My design adhered easily to most other smooth surfaces.

Once I was done with my little test I smoothed the vinyl back onto its paper backing.


  • easy to cut
  • sticks to most smooth surfaces (except wood)
  • easy to remove
  • doesn't leave any sticky residue
  • can be repositioned countless times
  • has a nice, glossy finish


The only thing I didn't like about this product were the colors. A variety pack is fine for many kid's crafts, school projects, windows and lockers, and more. But, there are times when it's likely that I would want to create something using just a single color of vinyl, school colors, for example. I could not find single color packs of this cling vinyl at my local craft store. However, after a little research I discovered that you can buy the variety pack as well as single color packs in red, blue, white or clear on Amazon. Still, not the most exciting colors.

Overall, I really liked this product. I definitely will be using it again. In fact, after creating my glass painting stencils, I thought it might be fun to create a decal for my laptop that has my logo and blog name. I can't wait to try more projects.

Let it Snow!

It's kind of ironic that I dislike cold and snowy weather since my ancestors come from Finland. Even though I prefer heat and sunshine, the idea of a white Christmas is still romantic. Maybe that's why I like to create my own flavor of a white, snowy Christmas here in the middle of the desert.

This year I used my favorite new tool, my Silhouette Cameo cutting machine to cut snowflakes out of a textured, frosty Contact paper. Then I stuck my snowflakes to our sliding glass door. When the sun hits them just right they sparkle, almost like real snow.

Once the holidays are over these snowflakes can easily be removed from the glass. No shoveling or waiting for the snow to melt.

While it may not be as festive as a true white Christmas, I am happy to stick to my snowflakes on the window instead of braving the cold winds, slippery streets and bulky winter clothing to experience the real thing.

Whether it is a white one or not, have a very Merry Christmas!