Monday, August 26, 2013

Mod Podge Dyed Mason Jars


I started seeing people post about coloring their own mason jars.  They would usually be to a shade of blue--reminiscent of the classic teal colored Ball Jars.  Why dye them blue when you can still buy them that color?  My favorite color is purple, so I thought I'd try to make a purple Ball Jar.

You'll need:
A Mason Jar (I picked mine up at the thrift store for 89 cents, but you can get cases of them everywhere this time of year)
Liquid Food Coloring
Foam Brush
Something disposable to mix the paint on/in (I used a paper plate)



I dumped a good pile of Mod Podge onto my plate--you'll need quite a bit in order to get good coverage.  Then I used 4 drops of red and 2 drops of blue food dye to get the desired saturated purple color.


I stirred the color together until there weren't any streaks of blue or red.


Then I quickly brushed the inside of the jar to make sure that everything would get covered even if the rest of the Mod Podge didn't want to run down the sides in a particular area.


Then I scraped all of the rest of the dyed glue into the jar and swirled it around a bit.  It's a bit thick, but I tried it once before with thinning the glue, and it didn't stick to the sides of the glass (so if you do decide to thin the glue down with water--don't use much water).


Then turn the jar over and let the excess glue drip out.  Turn it periodically (every half hour or so) until it's stopped dripping and seems to be set up. It will remain opaque for quite a while.  I wasn't in any hurry, so I just set it on a baking rack to dry the first night, then just left it sit.  It stayed opaque for 4 days, and then in one day, it just turned clear.  You can put your jar in an oven with a pan underneath it to speed your drying up if you'd like.


I was pretty happy with the way the purple turned out.  But the lip of the Jar was a bit globby from where I wiped up the glue that dripped down while it was drying, so I put a bow on the top.  I'm not sure what I'll do with my pretty purple jar, but I took some photos of it with an LED candle inside that turned out pretty cute--so it might be a candle holder for a while. 




Monday, August 19, 2013

Homemade Shrinky Dinks


As soon as I heard you could use any clear #6 plastic to create your very own homemade shrinky dinks, I've been checking the bottoms of food containers.  I finally got one with some flat surfaces that was labeled #6! I knew right away what today's project would be.  I should preface this with the fact that this project was very much a learning process for me; I've never used real shrinky dinks, so I was excited to try out the recycle version.  I grabbed a bunch of Sharpies and lined a pan with foil.  I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and got to work.


I cut out all of the flat surfaces of the container and a couple of the ridged edges just to see what would happen.  I got to work drawing and quickly learned that the fine tip Sharpies didn't draw very well on the plastic.  I switched to regular Sharpies and drew some hearts and leaves and some cute stick figures.   Then I did some artsy patterns on the ridged plastic.  I didn't put too much thought into the drawings as this was mostly a fact-finding mission.  I did remember to punch holes into everything ahead of time so that it could be used as pendants or keychains.  To get an idea of scale, the robot and the owl were about two inches tall.


I popped them in the preheated oven and set a timer for 2 minutes (the other tutorials I read all recommended 3-5 minutes, so I thought I'd start checking it after 2).  The plastic had all shrunk super tiny and had mostly flattened out after 2 minutes.  I was shocked by how much it shrunk (which is kind of funny since the whole point is that it shrinks).  The pieces cut out of the ridged plastic were now flat, and tiny and most of the pieces that I filled in with Sharpie were so tiny that I couldn't tell what they were any more. However, the pieces that I drew plain black figures on turned out great--tiny, but great.  It's hard to tell from the picture below, but the Eiffel tower went from over 2 inches tall to about 3/4 of an inch, and the plastic probably quadrupled in thickness.  These pieces I intended to use as pendants or keychains are the right size to be used as charms on a bracelet. The process is actually very forgiving since it shrinks so much, most of the imperfections are reduced.  I can't wait to find my next piece of #6 plastic so that I can shrink even more designs!


What I learned:
  • Make the pieces bigger than you think you'll need to--they'll shrink to less than half their original size (probably close to 1/3 their original size).
  • Use light colored Sharpies when coloring, the dark colored sharpies just turn into a dark blob.
  • Coloring with Sharpies on plastic is tricky as one color will color over the other.  You may want to leave outlining in black for last.
  • Simple designs seemed to work better.
  • The pre-shrunk plastic cracks and breaks easily, handle with care--especially when cutting a design out or using a hole punch.
  • Don't worry about any stamping, indents, or ridges on the plastic--they smooth right out when cooked.
  • 350 degrees may be a bit hot, though these worked pretty well.

Friday, August 16, 2013

As Seen on Pinterest: Roasted Starburst


This spring, I started seeing a photo someone posted of roasting a Starburst circulating Pinterest.  My first thought--yum! My second thought, well, how does that work?  So, when we went camping last weekend, I used the opportunity to give this post a whirl.  

I had lots of questions that I was seeking to answer, so here's what I found out:

Do the Starburst roast?  Not really.  They mostly just melt.
Do they caramelize? A tiny bit, but as soon as they get warm, the starburst start dripping off of the fork.
Does it catch on fire?  Nope.  It just melts off the fork. We sacrificed one to find out....it will completely drip off the fork and won't catch on fire.
Is it too hot to eat?  At first perhaps. I waited about a minute after bringing mine out of the fire before eating.
Does it come off the fork?  Yes, it leaves less residue than a marshmallow if you let it cool a minute before pulling it off.
Does it taste good?  It tastes like a warm-gooey Starburst, so yeah, it doesn't taste too bad. :)

So yes, you can put a Starburst in a fire and then eat it (assuming you don't leave it in too long and it drips completely off the fork), and yeah, it tastes good, but it doesn't "roast" or caramelize (at least not very much).  Will I be bringing Starburst camping on a regular basis?  Probably not.

Melty Starburst

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tissue Covered Canister


I love a good recycle craft, and when I saw the change they made to the French's Fried Onions container a while back, I knew that container could be used for storage. The tricky part was covering it since it has these nice indented sides so you can get a good grip on the container. After my experience covering the candle holder, I knew how to handle the tissue paper and Mod Podge a bit better, and since it's cheaper and a little easier to work with than gluing fabric, I decided tissue paper was the way to go.

You'll need:
a clean plastic container
patterned tissue paper
a rotary cutter and mat (or a scissors)
Mod Podge and a brush to apply
glue safe work surface (I used a paper plate)

I started off by cutting the vacuum sealed label off.  There was no glue to clean off or anything--just a quick snip.  Then I cut my strips of tissue paper.  I ended up with two pieces that measured 4 1/4 inches by 14 inches. 


Next I covered half of the container in Mod Podge and carefully lined up the straightest edge with the top of the container and patted the tissue paper down onto the glue.  Then I glued the other half of the container. This tissue paper held up much better than the tissue paper did when I was making the covered candle holders. I don't know if it was the tissue, the smooth plastic surface, or the fact that I was better aware of how careful I needed to be, but it didn't tear at all.  This tissue paper is Hallmark brand, but I bought it at Wal-mart.


After one layer of tissue paper, it looked pretty cute.  If I had cut the length so that it didn't overlap as much, I might have stopped there and sealed it up--but I expected the paper to tear, so I had a big overlap...so I let this layer dry a bit and then put on another.


Using two layers of tissue paper creates that layered, textured look and covers up any sins from the first layer.  I carefully applied my Mod Podge onto half of the container and applied the tissue paper once again.  Be careful to line up the top of the paper with your edge and don't brush the glue on too vigorously so you don't tear your tissue paper.

I finished gluing down all of the edges and any tissue paper that hung over the bottom of the container.


I let the two layers of Mod Podged tissue paper dry for about an hour before I came back and coated the whole works in a good layer to seal it up.


When I was done, I filled it up with crayons. When I finish my next container, I may make one just for letter stamps, or it could also be a good place to store a small collection of washi tape. Pretty good for trash, don't you think?


Monday, August 12, 2013

Alcohol Ink Washer Necklaces

Alcohol Ink Washer Necklaces Tutorial

I received a package of alcohol inks for Christmas and then bought a second set with a 50% off coupon at Michael's.  I've used them now to make coasters and to decorate some candle holders.  I was just getting my sea legs with these inks to begin with.  I applied the ink directly onto the surfaces and played around with rubbing alcohol as a blending solution.  But I thought it was high time that I used an applicator to use them the way they were intended.  Of course the applicator is just a stamp with some velcro on it and it costs 6+ dollars....not to mention buying the pre-cut pieces of felt. So I figured I'd make my own.  I was very much in a use what you've got mentality, so I grabbed a scrap piece of wood and a couple of strips of velcro (hook and loop tape).  I used the hook side and lined two pieces up next to each other.  Luckily they were just the right width.


I had the sew-on kind of velcro, so I spread some tacky glue thinly onto the surface and glued it down. Then I used the block as a guide to cut a few pieces of felt the right size (any light color will work--you just need to be able to see where you've applied the ink).  Once the glue has dried, I stuck the felt right onto the velcro--worked like a charm. [Update: I've posted a tutorial just for the DIY Applicators.]


Next, I set up my alcohol inks and a paper plate to work on. I have the Farmer's Market set and the Nature Walk set.  The alcohol ink is an alcohol soluble dye, so it will stain.  If it gets on the table, wipe it off with some rubbing alcohol before it sets completely dry.


I squirted multiple colors of alcohol ink into a portion of my applicator (since I was working on small washers) and stamped away.  The photo below is what the washers look like after stamping over them twice.  You can continue to stamp until you get the look you're going for.


These were so easy, and I ended up with such pretty results so quickly that I made a bunch of them.  I let them dry for a few hours.  Be aware that the alcohol ink gets a bit darker as it dries, so if you think your washers are turning out too bright--give them some time.


The above photo was just at the end of my stamping session and the photo below shows darker hues after they have dried and I had sprayed them with some clear acrylic sealer.

Alcohol Ink Washers

Then I strung them up on some beading cord and tied the ends.  I would have put a bead above the washer, but I didn't have any on hand that both pieces of cord would fit through, so I may pick out some beads for my next batch.  I think they turned out great and they were so much fun to make.

Alcohol Ink Washer Necklaces

Friday, August 9, 2013

10 Great Ways to Save Money on Craft Supplies!

Save on Crafting
I think most folks who are crafters are frugal. The whole mindset of making something from scraps or parts is right in line with saving money. I am definitely frugal. I love making things, but I have a hard time spending money on something that I'm supposed to be making or creating. So, with that in mind, I thought I'd share some of the ways I've found to keep crafting costs to a minimum.

1. Garage Sales

Buying secondhand requires patience, but can really pay off. Use Craigslist and your local newspaper’s website to look for garage sales near your neighborhood where crafting, scrapbooking, or stamping supplies are listed.  Be careful, though, as sometimes the folks selling stuff off have hoarded over-priced supplies and will be trying to get some of their money back. Do your research and be knowledgeable about prices.

2. Thrift Stores

Some thrift stores will carry more crafting supplies than others, so shop around and find ones that you can hit up regularly. Thrift store inventory is constantly changing, so you never know what you're going to get.  You may also want to check to see if you have a pay by weight thrift store (like a Goodwill Outlet) near you. Many craft supplies are lightweight and can be bought very cheaply (I came home with a big shopping bag full of foam paint stamps for less than a dollar from our local Goodwill Outlet).

Thrift stores and garage sales are also great places to find glassware (jars, vases, candleholders) and other household decorations (lamps, baskets, wall art, tchotchkes) that you can repaint or remake into something wonderful.  And if you like to sew, you can find lots of projects waiting for you in mountains of used clothing.

Not only is shopping at thrift stores and garage sales easy on the pocket book, it also keeps stuff out of the landfills.

These skeleton key wall hangings used to be gold.  I picked them up at the local Goodwill for about 3 bucks and painted them black.

3. Dollar Stores

There’s an entire website dedicated to Dollar Store Crafting.  It’s an art form in itself.  Dollar Tree regularly sells wreath forms, glitter, candle holders and vases, craft paints, fun foam, and various other crafting supplies at a fraction of their regular price.  Their wreath forms are great and just as high of a quality as the craft store versions; however, they are often limited in their size and selection. 

Dollar Stores also often sell other seasonal items (Christmas ornaments, pool noodles), household decorations (picture frames, figurines), and party supplies (craft paper, plastic tablecloths) that can be crafted into something wonderful. 

Some of the products sold at dollar stores are of a lower quality (for example I don't generally recommend their silk flowers). So check out the items carefully before buying.

These chevron stamps were made with fun foam from the dollar store that was just glued onto some cardboard.

4. Recycle Crafting

One of the easiest ways to save money crafting is to recycle and repurpose items that you were thinking about getting rid of.  Turning your own trash into treasure requires very little money.  Save those plastic and metal containers to turn them into storage containers or bird feeders.  Turn cereal boxes into magazine holders and turn shoe boxes into craft containers.  Take that old painting you were starting to hate and paint right over the canvas to create something new.  Turn those jeans with a hole in them into a bag.  The sky’s the limit!

I made the fridge caddy on the right out of an empty crystal light container covered in scrapbook paper.


5. Wal-mart

Depending on where you live, your local Wal-mart could be scary, picked over and messy, or just large and time consuming, but they have some of the best prices on basic crafting supplies. Wal-mart is the cheapest place to pick up things like crafting glues (like Mod Podge and Tacky Glue) and kid’s crafting supplies (like felt and plastic beads). They also have great reasonably priced craft paint, and they have spray paint over in the hardware section. 

If you're lucky enough to have a Wal-mart nearby that includes a fabric section, you can also pick up reasonably priced sewing supplies and fabric.

The best part about buying craft supplies at Wal-mart is that the prices are always reasonable. They may not have all of the specialty items in stock, but it’s the best place to go to if you're looking for supplies to finish a project and you can’t wait for a sale.

6. Michael’s Coupons and the Dollar Sections

Shopping the sales and using the coupons at Michael’s is one of the best ways to get the crafting staples. Craft paint, foam brushes, and scrapbook paper will regularly (a few times a year at least) go on sale for fractions of their regular price.

Those 40 and 50% off coupons allow us to buy things that we normally wouldn't try out, and it’s even better when you get a 20 or 25% off your entire purchase coupon. My recommendation is to not buy anything that isn't on sale when you're shopping at Michael’s. It’s easy to run in for something you need to finish a project, but unless you have a coupon, you’re probably overpaying. Most stores will let you use multiple coupons, so be sure to check their website or their phone app before you go.

The other great bargain at Michael’s is their dollar bins. They rotate in different rubber stamps, ink pads, paper punches, blank note cards, and a variety of other great supplies that are only a buck. Check this section every time you go to the store—you never know what you're going to find. Of course the tricky part is if you pass on something and go back for it, they may no longer carry it. 

These paint chip bookmarks were all decorated with stamps I picked up from the dollar bins at Michael's (and are also a recycle craft).

7. Tuesday Morning

Tuesday Morning has the best crafting section of any of the overstock discount stores.  They regularly carry great paint brushes, scrapbooking supplies, and sewing supplies. But like any overstock store, their merchandise varies in quality and supply.  I have picked up many great finds from Tuesday Morning—most at 1/2 or 1/3 the regular retail prices.  My best find was sets of knitting looms that retails for over 20 bucks that I picked up 7 dollars. 

Another nice feature of Tuesday Morning stores is their Product SKU hotline (explained on their customer service page). If you pick up an item at a store and you want to know if they have more in stock or if another local store has more in stock, you can call 1-800-901-0881 and enter the SKU number on their UPC sticker and the zip code of your store to find out.

8. Big Lots

Like Tuesday Morning, Big Lots is an overstock discount store, so sometimes you strike out  I usually go to Big Lots to buy things like paper plates and laundry detergent, but every once in awhile there will be some great craft supplies. I recently picked up Elmer’s Washi Tape for $3 for 3 rolls. I've also found inexpensive scrapbook paper (3 and 4 dollars for a 12 inch bundle pad that normally costs $10+), cheap ribbon, and jewelry making kits. Be aware of the prices there, as sometimes they are only an ok price without too much of a discount from the regular retail, and sometimes they are marked at a good discount.

Big Lots also has a free customer loyalty program that offers multiple 20% off everything shopping weekends each year and chances to earn additional 10% off days.  The added discount makes their deals even better. 

The washi tape tea lights project used some of the tape I picked up at Big Lots.


9. Shop the Remnants

Most stores that sell fabric have a remnant section, even Wal-mart.  It’s a great place to pick up fabric for smaller projects at a discount. This is especially true if you're doing a small upholstery or curtain project and would like some heavier weight fabric. Buying the smaller quantity at a discount is really your best bet. I've also picked up small portions of fleece and knits for little projects like my homemade rope bones.

10. JoAnn's Coupons for Fabric

Like Michael’s, JoAnn’s stores often have 40% off coupons in their circulars and on their website. You get the best deals when using those coupons to buy fabric. So if you need a specialty fabric for a project—or more than a yard or two for just about anything—be sure to check for a coupon! Of course you can buy other craft supplies with the coupons there too. I have also heard that most JoAnn's will honor competitor’s coupons (like Michael's, Hancock Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, etc...), but that may be at the store’s discretion as I can't find confirmation from the JoAnn’s website.

Finding Free Inspiration

And the ultimate money saver is finding inspiration, ideas, tutorials, and patterns online.  Websites like Craftgawker and Pinterest are awesome for collecting all of the best ideas on the internet and making them easy to compile and read through.  These websites were the inspiration for most of my recent crafting ideas, and I’m so grateful to all of the bloggers and crafters out there who help to inspire people to create!

Bonus Idea:  A Craft Swap Party

I didn't include this in the list because I've never hosted or been to a swap party.  I've seen articles and posts online about folks having clothing and accessories swap parties, and they sound like so much fun. What if you took that idea and had a party just for the supplies you bought but had too much of or decided you no longer wanted. What a great excuse to come home with new crafting supplies and hang out with like-minded friends (not to mention getting rid of stuff you don't want any more)!

Please share your ways to save in the comments below!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Duct Tape Water Bottle Holder


I've been searching for a simple, cheap, and easy solution to carrying water bottles with you when you're hiking or at the county fair.  I knew I could sew a holder, but stitching in that small round bottom made it seem a bit like too much work for what it's worth.  But then I figured it out--what's waterproof, downright super strong, and easy to shape, and cheap?  Duct Tape!


After making a few prototypes, I decided that I needed a form that was just slightly bigger than the water bottles we buy (I tried the first one using the water bottle as a form--but it was too snug to remove.  You could always wrap your water bottle in a wash cloth or some paper to make it just a smidge bigger too.)  I decided on using a large Mod Podge Bottle as my form.  Then I made a sheet of duct tape out of three strips.  The sheet was 10 inches wide and 5 inches tall.  A cheap rotary cutter works great for trimming all of the edges so that they are straight, and working on a cutting mat makes it easy to peel the duct tape off after you've created your sheets.


I carefully placed the duct tape sheet on my form (the glue bottle) sticky side out to form the inside lining.


Then I created the bottom inside piece.  I used a patterned duct tape for a secret pop of color (I tried using the patterned tape on the outside for one of my prototypes, but the mis-matched edges and wrinkles made the pattern look bad--so I stuck with mostly solids for my final holders).


Next I set the bottom inside piece with the sticky side towards the outside and folded the edges up along the bottom of my form. Then  I cut a square the same size, and put it sticky side in and folded the edges along the form to create the bottom outside piece.  Don't worry if the edges are a bit messy, they'll be covered up later.


Next I made the loop straps.  I folded a piece of duct tape into thirds and then cut it in half (these are 3 and a half inches long--longer works fine too if you want to tape even more of the strap to the bottle for durability).


Then I folded the loop straps in half and taped them on opposite sides to the top of my form with about a half of an inch showing above the top edge of the water bottle holder.


Then I cut another piece just like my first liner piece--10 inches by 5 inches--and carefully placed it over the form to cover everything as your outside piece.  I then cut a piece of duct tape in half widthwise and used it to cover the top edge between each of the loops.  I just folded it over the edge to finish it off.

After the duct tape base is done, you can clip a strap to to your loops.  I used some small carabiners to attach a grosgrain ribbon strap to the water bottle holder, but if you have a spare bag strap with clips on it, that would work great too.  If you didn't want to use the carabiners you could put some D-rings into the loops when you tape them to your bottle too. I liked the idea of using the carabiners so I could change the straps to different lengths or colors very easily, and they also allow you to clip other stuff to your water bottle holder. The only design issue with these holders that I've come across so far is that in order to make them a size that's easy to take the bottle in and out of, there isn't any grip or anything to keep the bottle from falling out if the holder is tipped over.  If anyone has any ideas, let me know! Happy taping!


Monday, August 5, 2013

Adventures in Dehydrating: Cherries


Cherries were on sale last week.  $1.98 a pound.  That's about as cheap as they get around here.  My husband loves cherries and loves dried fruit.  So we gave dehydrating cherries our first try.  We bought two big bags of cherries, rinsed them off, and pulled their stems.  Then we set about pitting them.  If you want to stay sane, you'd better use a Cherry Pitter, but if you're a glutton for punishment, you could slice them in half and pry the pit out of every little cherry.  Once they are pitted, we sliced them in half and set them on the dehydrating trays.  I was surprised that we used both bags to fill our dehydrator. I was also surprised that it took so long for them to dry.  We left the dehydrator running for about 30 hours on the fruit setting (135 degrees).  Some of the cherries were still a bit tacky, but the smaller ones were dry to the touch.  They come out looking almost like big raisins, but not quite as shriveled.


When we were all done, the two big bags of cherries dried up into a single quart sized zip top bag.  They turned out pretty well, but they took forever.  Most of the online articles I read suggested drying times of 12-16 hours--we were about double that.  I wonder if slicing them into quarters would help, or maybe the humidity in the air had an effect? At any rate, I'm glad to put another fruit into our drying repertoire.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Mod Podge and Tissue Paper Candle Holders


I was inspired to Mod Podge some tissue paper onto glass candle holders from the dollar store by this adorable project post. I brought out a bunch of colored tissue paper and my paper punches in hopes of creating a masterpiece.  Guess what--my paper punches won't punch tissue paper--not even my more expensive paper punches. I tried several of my paper punches, and then I tried neatly folding the paper over to provide a thicker punching surface--no luck, it just mangled the tissue paper.  Well, I already had all of the stuff out for this project, so I switched gears and tried something else.


You'll need:
Mod Podge and a brush for applying
A scissors and/or rotary cutter
Patterned tissue paper
Work surface you can get glue on (I used that paper plate)

Cut strips of your chosen tissue paper the right size for your candle holder.  My tissue paper ended up being 3 inches by 12 inches.  I got my candle holders at Dollar Tree.  They worked really well for this project since they had pretty straight corners (they do angle slightly). I found that cutting the tissue paper with my rotary cutter (just a cheap one I use for crafting--not my good fabric rotary cutter) leaves you with much straighter lines than cutting with a scissors (and I could see the lines from my cutting mat through the tissue paper).

Paint some Mod Podge onto the candle holder and line your tissue paper up as best as you can with the top of the candle holder.


Gently Lay it down onto the glue and smooth it out.  It is very delicate when wet. It may tear, but don't panic, we'll fix/cover that later. Just be very careful when handling it when the glue is wet.


As you can see from the picture, you have to fold the slightly angled corner a bit, and I was left with a little tear in the top corner.  It wasn't my only tear.


The first layer looks a bit sloppy, but let it dry completely (leave it alone for at least 20-30 minutes).


Next we put on a second coat to cover up any tears and make it a little less translucent, and in the case of my paper--stripier!


Use the same process as before, but this time since you're painting onto the tissue paper with your glue--be gentle.  I dabbed with my foam brush.  Then I carefully laid down the paper.



After the second layer is on, it will probably still look a bit sloppy.  Let it dry again  Then come back and trim any excess tissue paper from the top.  I then glued the extra paper that hung over the bottom edge down better, but you could trim that too if you like.


Next up is a good couple of top coats to get everything to lay down smooth and to make it a bit glossy.  Be sure to let the glue dry between coats (I sometimes don't when working with Mod Podge, but this tissue paper is super delicate).

Even though it didn't work out quite the way I anticipated (whoever made the paper punch candle holder from the link above must have some seriously delicate hands and very very sharp paper punches), I think they look pretty good.  Just be prepared for a little tearing on your first layer and you should be good to go.  

Mod Podge and Tissue Paper Candle Holders

P.S. The tissue paper I used for this project is from Target--I got it on clearance a while back--it probably doesn't exist any more.  However, there are lots of cute patterned tissue papers available at Target and Walmart.