Resolutions - Part 1

It's that time of year when we reflect on our successes and failures from the previous year and make a few resolutions to better ourselves in the coming year. Personally, I am not very good at sticking to my resolutions. I'd really like to say that I am going to start running every day, learn a new language, or buy fewer shoes this year, but unfortunately that is probably not in the cards for me.

However, yesterday I received a little inspiration that made me reevaluate my goals for the new year.

My inspiration came from, of all places, Zappos. If you are an online shopper, you know that Zappos is the most amazing online shoe retailer ever! (And now you also now that I blew my third resolution of buying fewer shoes before the new year even began!) After I completed my purchase of new running shoes, I got a confirmation along with one of Zappos Core Values,  "#9 Be Passionate and Determined."

I hate to say it, but I think there are times in life when you just get stuck in a rut and do the same things in the same way day after day because it is easy and comfortable. It doesn't matter if you are an artist, an engineer or an educator. Good becomes good enough. It can happen with your job, relationships, or just your lifestyle in general.

So this year instead of breaking making resolutions I think I would rather focus on #9. Be Passionate and Determined. This philosophy has reminded me that I am on the right track with my Etsy shop and blog. I love designing and making new things! I want to create great items to sell. I also want to share my ideas so others are inspired to create great things.

I am passionate and determined to design, create, and share some inspiration in 2012 and you can bet I'll be wearing my new running shoes the whole time.

Próspero Año Nuevo.


Quotation Art

Elizabeth, this post is for you.

If you can use a word processor and a paper cutter, you can make this cool quote art. It is one of my favorite gifts because it's easy, inexpensive, and you can personalize it for your recipient. When you see how nicely it turns out, you may even end up making one or two for yourself.

Materials
  • 14 x 14 float frame - the only place I have been able to find these frames is at Michael's. Make sure to use the 40% off coupon that comes in the Sunday paper or you can print a coupon from the Michael's website.
Everything else I usually get at JoAnn's because there is a better variety of paper and adhesives in their scrapbooking section.
  • Scotch double sided vellum tape
  • 2 pieces of 8 1/2 x 11" translucent vellum
  • 2 pieces of 12 x 12" scrapbooking paper with the same design on each sheet
  • Paper cutter
  • Scissors
  • 4 quotes

Directions

Prepare the frame
Float frames have two pieces of glass and your artwork goes between them to make it look like it is floating.

Carefully clean each piece of glass. Tack down the mounting bracket on the back of the frame while the glass is removed. Set your frame face down and replace one piece of glass. Set aside the other piece of glass until you are ready to frame your work.

Print your quotes

This may be the trickiest part of the project if you aren't comfortable with your word processor.

You need to type two of your quotes so they fit in an 8 1/2" wide x 4" tall space. Keep your paper in the portrait direction and use 1/2" margains on the left and right. Experiment with different fonts until you find ones you like that will make your quote fill as much of the space as possible. I usually use a different font for each quote to add a little variety.

Print your horizontal quotes on plain paper to make sure they look the way you want.

Now it's time for the 4" wide by 8 1/2" tall quotes. This time have your page landscaped with 1/2" margains on the top and bottom of the page. I like to make two columns and set their width to be 4".

Type in your quotes, and pick a font that looks great and makes your quotes fill the space.

Again, print your vertical quotes on plain paper to make sure they look the way you expected.

Print your quotes on the vellum and cut them carefully so they are centered along the 4" distance.

Cut the decorative paper

The idea is to cut the backgrounds of your quote art to look like it came from one piece of paper that has a little space between each section. In reality you need to use two pieces of paper to make the backgrounds.






 
Cut the first piece of paper into three horizontal strips that are each 12" long and 4"tall.







 
Cut the top strip so that the left side of it is 8 1/2" long. (The right piece of the strip will be 3 1/2" long.)

Cut the middle strip into three 4" squares.

Cut the bottom strip so that the right side is 8 1/2" long. (The left side of the strip will be 3 1/2" long.)


 
You won't be using all of the pieces. Keep the top left rectangle, the middle square, and the bottom right rectangle.






 
Now cut the second piece of paper into three strips that are 4" wide and 12" tall.









Cut the left strip so it is 8 1/2" tall from the bottom.

Cut the right strip so it is 8 1/2" tall from the top.







Again, you don't need all of these pieces. Keep the bottom left rectangle and the top right rectangle.







 
Now you can take the remaining parts from the two pieces of paper and lay them out as shown.

It looks like it is all from one piece of paper, but you know the trick now.







Stick the quotes to the background

Using a small amount of the vellum adhesive, attach the quotes to your background paper. Make sure to follow the directions on the package if you have never used this kind of tape before.

Note: Do not use ordinary double stick tape between the vellum and the background. Vellum adhesive is almost invisible under the vellum. Double stick tape is very noticeable.




Turn the pieces upside down as though you had flipped the entire collection over like a big pancake. (The piece that was in the top left position is now upside down on the top right.)

Apply a small amount of vellum tape on the back of each piece.

Placing quotes in the frame

Position the pieces face down in the frame. Slowly and carefully set the second piece of glass into the frame or your quotes will move. Secure the frame.

That's all there is to it. Enjoy your quote art or give it to a special friend!


Corn Husk Angel

It's not uncommon to see corn husk angels adorning a Christmas tree here in Tucson. They are inexpensive to make and really give some southwestern flavor to the holidays. They do take a little patience to make because corn husks are not the most forgiving material to work with. 

Materials

  • 1 bag of dried corn husks (they can be found in the mexican food section of the grocery store) 
  • Heavy duty thread
  • 6-8 inches of Ribbon 
  • 4 inches of twine or metallic cording or a metallic ring favor
  • Clear craft glue

Directions



Begin by soaking 10-12 husks in hot water for about 10 minutes. This makes them more pliable and easier to work with. You only need about 8 husks to make an angel. However, some will probably tear as you are working with them, so it's nice to have a few extra softened.
Note: It's easier to work with thin husks. The thicker they are, the harder they are to bend and tie. Also, if the husks are extremely wide, you can tear them in half. 

The Head: Lay two husks together with both of the points facing down. Using the thread, tightly tie the two husks together in roughly the middle. Once they are secure, wad up the narrow end of the husks to form a ball. Pull the wider ends of the husks down to cover the ball. Secure tightly around the neck with thread.



The Body: Lay one thin husk behind the head with the narrow part pointing down. Next lay another husk over the top of the body, also narrow end pointing down. Secure tightly with thread around the neck of the angel.

Fold both husks down and secure loosely around the angel's waist. I used a strip of husk to secure it here, but an easy way to do it is with a clear hair elastic.

The Wings: Make a wing by folding a husk in half lengthwise and tightly securing it together with thread. Make a second wing the same way.

Attaching the Wings to the Body: Set the wings down so they cross where they are secured. Set the body over the wings and secure loosely.

Again, I used a strip of the husk, but a clear hair elastic would work well, too.


The Front of the Skirt:  Lay a husk over the front of the body with the narrow end pointing down. Secure tightly at the waist with thread. Gently pull the husk down to form the front of the skirt.
The Back of the Skirt:  Lay a larger husk under the body with the narrow end pointing down. Secure tightly with a strip of the husk. Gently pull the husk down to form the back of the skirt.


Drying: At this point, the corn husks will still be slightly damp. If the skirt is uneven or too long, use a scissors to trim it before it dries. Also, Make sure the skirt and the tie at the waist are properly positioned while your angel dries. Once the husks have dried, you will not be able to change which direction they are laying without breaking them. Let your angel air dry overnight. 

Finishing: Every good angel needs a halo. You can tie the ends of a piece of twine or cording together to form the halo. Then carefully glue the knot to the back of your angel's head so the halo floats above her. Another option is to use a silver or gold ring favor. You can find these in the bridal section at a craft store. Next, make a ribbon or cord loop to hang your angel on the tree. After you have knotted the ends together, glue the knot to the back of your angel.


Deck the Halls: All that's left now is to hang your angel on the tree and have a very Merry Christmas!




Paper Snowflakes

Here's an easy, inexpensive winter craft. I made several snowflakes and hang them using clear thread in our archway during the holidays. It's as close as we get to a white Christmas in Tucson. You could also use them to decorate the tree.

Surprisingly, these hold up pretty well year after year if you put them away carefully at the end of the season.

Materials

  • 1 piece of white cardstock
  • 8-10 inches of ribbon, thread, or yarn
  • paper cutter
  • knitting needle, chopstick, skewer or pencil
  • glue


Directions


Step 1: Cut 12 strips of paper that are 8 1/2 inches long x 1/4 inch wide.









Step 2: Fold each strip in half.









Step 3: Curl a strip of paper tightly around the knitting needle start at the end and curling towards the fold. Make sure to stop curling about an inch and a half before the fold. What you will get is a nifty curlicue heart. Repeat this step for each strip of paper.






Step 4: Lay out your pieces to make a snowflake. Six pieces will be at the center with the points facing in. The other six pieces will go around those with the tips pointing out.
Step 5: Carefully glue the pieces together, starting with the center pieces. I used a clear craft glue, but Elmer's glue works fine, too. Don't use too much glue.

Step 6: Tie a piece of ribbon through one of the tips of the snowflake and you are ready to hang it on the tree.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can experiment with curling the strips of paper into different shapes and sizes.

For some more sparkle, spray your finished snowflake with gloss sealer and sprinkle with glitter.


Candy Wrappers

A couple months ago I was surfing the internet looking for some inspiration. I wanted a new project that would not only highlight good design and craftsmanship but would also incorporate the use of recycled materials. Then, I stumbled across candy wrapper purses.

Unfortunately, I don't have tons of candy wrappers around, but I do have plenty of old magazines and comic books. I decided to start with those.

Also, the process of making an entire bag seemed a little daunting so my first projects were a little smaller. I started experimenting with the basic process of folding and weaving the paper pieces. My daughter liked one of my preliminary attempts when I made a comic book bracelet. Since then I have made a few other bracelets out of everything form magazines to pages from old books. My latest bracelet is my favorite so far. I used some scraps of Christmas wrap that were too small to cover any presents. The paper was shiny and silver, so the bracelet almost looks metallic.




After a few bracelets, I decided to try making a bag. There are plenty of places on the internet that describe how to fold and weave the paper into strips, but I couldn't find any good descriptions of how to form the strips  into a bag. That meant a lot of trial and error. The bottom part of the bag is the trickiest. But after numerous attempts (that ended up in the recycle bin) I finally figured out how to make a rectangular bag.







Good is never good enough, though. I liked the rectangular bags, but I really wanted to make something with a more polished look. I was back to the drawing board trying to figure out how I could improve the shape of the bag. After a few more failed attempts, I was finally able to fashion a more tapered bag. I still have to put the straps on, but that's the easy part. I'm hoping to post a few bags in my Etsy shop, http://www.etsy.com/shop/thechillydog, in the near future.



Crocheted Hacky Sack Pattern

Hacky Sacks are quick and easy to crochet. But why just make one when a 1.75 skein of sock yarn is enough to make 5 or 6?

Materials

  • Lightweight sock yarn in cool colors
  • Size 2 crochet hook
  • Small organza bag
  • rice (uncooked)

 

 

Directions


Chain 4. Join with a slips stitch to the first chain to form a loop. Chain 1.









Round 1: 6 sc in loop. From this point it is easier to crochet in a continuous spiral than in actual rounds. Your next stitch will be in the first sc and just keep working around and around.
Round 2: *2 sc in next sc* 6 times (for a total of 12 sc)
Round 3: *sc in next sc, 2 sc in next sc* 6 times (for a total of 18 sc)
Round 4: *sc in next 2 sc, 2 sc in next sc* 6 times (for a total of 24 sc)
Round 5: *sc in next 3 sc, 2 sc in next sc* 6 times (for a total of 30 sc)
Round 6: *sc in next 4 sc, 2 sc in next sc* 6 times (for a total of 36 sc)
Round 7: *sc in next 5 sc, 2 sc in next sc* 6 times (for a total of 42 sc)
Round 8: *sc in next 6 sc, 2 sc in next sc* 6 times (for a total of 48 sc)

Now just sc in each sc around until your word measures about 2 inches from the center of your ch 4 loop. Then, it's time to start decreasing around your work.









Round 9: *sc in next 6 sc, insert hook in next st and draw up a loop, insert hook in next st and draw up a loop, (there are 3 loops on the hook), yarn over and draw through all three loops* 6 times (for a total of 42 stitches)
Round 10: *sc in next 5 sc, insert hook in next st and draw up a loop, insert hook in next st and draw up a loop, yarn over and draw through all three loops* 6 times (for a total of 36 stitches)
Round 11:  *sc in next 4 sc, insert hook in next st and draw up a loop, insert hook in next st and draw up a loop, yarn over and draw through all three loops* 6 times (for a total of 30 stitches)

Let's fill it up! Set the small organza bag into the hacky sack, fill it with rice, and tightly tie it shut, or even better, stitch it shut. Make sure not to fill the bag too much. You want there to be a little give.








Round 12:  *sc in next 3 sc, insert hook in next st and draw up a loop, insert hook in next st and draw up a loop, yarn over and draw through all three loops* 6 times (for a total of 24 stitches)
Round 13: *sc in next 2 sc, insert hook in next st and draw up a loop, insert hook in next st and draw up a loop, yarn over and draw through all three loops* 6 times (for a total of 18 stitches)
Round 14:  *sc in next sc, insert hook in next st and draw up a loop, insert hook in next st and draw up a loop, yarn over and draw through all three loops* 6 times (for a total of 12 stitches)
Round 15:  *insert hook in next st and draw up a loop, insert hook in next st and draw up a loop, yarn over and draw through all three loops* 8 times or until the hole at the top is closed.

Cut yarn leaving a 6-12 inch tail. Pull yarn through the last loop to secure it. Carefully weave the tail into the last round or pull it to the inside of the hacky sack and trim it.

Have fun with one or make a couple more so you can impress your kids with your awesome juggling skills. It's great to surprise them with odd talents they don't suspect you have. My tutorial on juggling will have to wait for another day, though :)


Go Ahead and Ask

There are two questions my friends and family occasionally ask me that really get my creative juices flowing. The first is, "Would you teach me how to...  ?" The second is, "Do you know how to make a ...?" And recently, I have been lucky enough to hear both.

Would you teach me how to...?

Usually this question is about how to make a specific item, but sometimes it is about how to do a certain craft. A group of my friends have been asking me this one about knitting. So we got together for an afternoon of knitting. It was loads of fun, and yes, it was all about knitting and not just an excuse for a bunch of ladies to get together and drink wine. At the end of the afternoon my advice to them was to go home and practice, practice, practice.  Knitting is one of those crafts that you really have to experiment with and do repeatedly before you feel comfortable with it. In the beginning, it can be tricky to remember which stitch is a knit and which one is a purl. And quite often the edges of your work look like the path of a drunken sailor walking across the deck of a ship sailing on rough seas. That's not a look most knitters are going for.

Over the past couple weeks I have been hearing updates about people's progress. There was a little frustration and a few questions. Then one day this week someone showed me their first completed project, a simple yet well made scarf. It was absolutely beautiful. Way to go, Jennifer! She was happy that she was able to make something wearable, and I was happy that I sparked an excitement about crafting in someone.

"Do you know how to make a ...?"

I especially like this question when my answer is, "I don't know. I've never tried." I can assure you that I will spend the day thinking about how to make the item in question. It is also quite likely that the first thing I will do when I get home is start designing or crafting.

My niece asked me if I knew how to make fingerless gloves. I guess they are popular with the teen crowd right now. Personally, I like fingers on my gloves so my hands stay warm, but for some fashion is more important than comfort. Before long I got out my knitting needles and a new skein of yarn and voila! Fingerless gloves.


Of course, since there was still some yarn left I couldn't stop myself so the matching socks are in progress. Well, they are almost matching. The socks aren't going to be toeless socks because that would just be too crazy!

More recently I was asked if I know how to make crocheted hacky sacks. Again, my favorite answer. "I don't know. I've never tried." After a little bit of thought and a couple pretty close attempts, this was the result.

So go ahead and challenge me. I love those questions that spark new ideas and start the creative process!