Thursday, January 03, 2019

Christmas Gift Projects Revealed!

Happy New Year!

The gifts are all distributed, the holiday trip is complete, and now it is time to reveal what I've been spending all my "spare" time doing for the last couple of months!

Upcycled Mint Tin Mini Albums:

The most time consuming of my gift projects this year was my group of upcycled mint tin mini-albums.  The extra time was not due to construction, but just the nature of how I approach collage in general - I tend to spread out all potential components (paper, dimensionals, paint, etc...) shifting options and items around until I find the final combination that I am happy with.  

We'll start with the photos of the finished projects

I put small dimensionals on the front cover of each album, the ribbon poking out of the lid is the tab to pull the album pages out.

I used one paper pattern for the interior pages, and chose alternating red and green patterned papers for the fold out pages.

Fully extended, the albums are meant to stand upright as two-sided display.  I left the pages blank for the recipients to add photos/art work/etc... from their holiday celebrations.

To begin construction, I start by taking the lid off the mint tin, line the tin parts up on the chosen paper, trace around the tin, and cut out the outer cover.  I also trace and cut the paper for the interior of the tin, checking the size and trimming the interior paper slightly smaller so that it will fit.

Always check for correct size before adhering!

Once the papers have been chosen, I sand the outside of the tins and paint the exterior edges.  

While the paint dries, I cut the folded paper for the interior pages.  I used plain white paper as the base for my accordion-folded pages, cutting a strip 12 inches long with a width that would fit inside the tin, and I scored the page every 2 inches to create the accordion fold.  I then clipped the corners with one of my corner punches to make them rounded.  

I cut the interior green and red pages slightly smaller than the accordion page, clipped the corners with my corner punch, and then glued them to the pages.  I made a pull tab out of ribbon, which I glued to the end page prior to adding the decorative paper on top.

Here are a few finished tins showing the tin closed, open, and unfolded.

The interior hinges are two additional pieces of ribbon which I attached to the interior of the tin with double stick tape prior to gluing down the interior paper.  I did not take photo of that part in progress, but hopefully you can see how it works from this zoomed-in shot.

One thing that I had changed from my original plan was the exterior of each tin.  After having painted and constructed two albums, I discovered that the paint was chipping in several spots.  I've painted tins before without a problem, so I presume that I did not sand these tins enough prior to construction.  As a fix, I decided to cover the exterior edges with thin strips of paper instead of paint.  This made a nice, smooth finish, however the tins no longer closed all the way - which I think is fine, as they aren't really meant to stay completely closed anyway.

Block Carving Project

In April of 2017 I enjoyed a crafty afternoon in Portland carving linoleum blocks with my friend. During my visit she introduced me to carving blocks which were much easier on my arthritis than the hard linoleum blocks I'd had in my craft stash.  Having experienced this magical material, we took a ride down to her local art store where I picked up a few pieces, along with some printing paint, for me to take back home with me.  These supplies sat in my "Someday I'll do this" area of my craft room until this past fall, when I determined that I could not allow myself to load up on another new set of art materials until I at least tried to work with the brand new set of art materials I already had. To that end, I decided to try to carve a design that could be used as this year's Christmas card.

My initial attempt was a simple design of snowflakes and swirly wind, printed in blue.  It took a few tries to get the correct amount of ink and pressure for a nice print.  

I was inspired by my first attempt, but limited in my choice of color because I'd only purchased small tubes of shades of blue paint to begin with.  I bought more blocks and paint colors online, and thought I might attempt to do a multi-layer effect, carving tree branches on one block in green, and ornaments on another in gold, then layering the two.

The layers did not turn out the way I had hoped, the green branches showed through the gold paint, so I went back to the printing portion and did a three step process instead... printing green branches, then black ornaments, then gold on top of the black.  The end result was a sort of shadow effect - an example is on the right below.  

This is a shot of the work I shared at my November APex meeting.

Although I liked the final result of the ornament photo well enough, my mind was buzzing with more ideas.  I thought it would be fun to do some carvings based on photos that I've taken.  The first photo that came to mind for this was a head shot of a nene I'd taken on my first trip to Kauai.  Rather than draw freehand, I thought it would be more accurate to trace the photo and transfer it onto the stamp. 

The process actually worked precisely the way I had hoped it would... I traced the parts of the nene that I wanted to have on the block, turned the tracing paper over onto the block, rubbed the tracing paper (which transferred the pencil lead onto the block) then carved around the pencil to bring out the nene.  

I used the same process on a photo of a black-capped chickadee which I'd taken last year, and after much deliberation I ended up using this print for my Christmas cards.

All of my other Christmas gift projects were fairly straight forward:

Cork message board:
I actually had enough corks to make two of these as gifts this year.  I bought the frame, poured out my corks, and went to work designing a pattern to put them in.  Some of the corks needed to be cut down to size, so I steamed those for 10 minutes to soften them up and cut them with a serrated knife.  After deciding on a final pattern, I then glued the corks down with a super strong (and stinky) glue to hold them in place, attached the wall hanger on the back, and there you have it - a cork message board.

Photo Coaster Set:
I made a set of photo coasters for D's mom using photos from our trip to Jamaica back in 2009.  I had the photos printed, cut them down to size, glued them to the coaster squares, sealed the top with resin, let that cure for a few days, then covered the bottoms of the coasters with soft felt.

Reusable Coffee Cup Cozies:

I had a lot of fun making these coffee cup cozies!  I found the pattern online and chose fabrics based on the recipients.  The batting I used for the inside is an insulated batting made for things like pot-holders, so they should keep the coffee hot and the hands protected.   This project also involved digging into my stash of buttons.
I just love this Hobbit-themed fabric!  Here is how the cozy looks on a cup.

I used paper from my Christmas paper stash to cut the flat cup-shape out for each cozy to wrap around.

 Pencil Pouches
These pencil pouches had a dual-use in wrapping.  As a Christmas surprise I had picked up tickets to the local showing of Broadway's Lion King, and I wanted a clever way to wrap the tickets.  G uses a separate notebook for her scripts for drama club, so I found this Playbill themed fabric and I made a couple of pencil pouches for her.  The one on the right has an elastic band built into it which holds it to the outside of her script notebook.  The larger one on the left is a loose pencil pouch for her to keep other stuff handy.  I tucked a copy of the show tickets in the pencil pouch when I wrapped it for her.

Recipe Towel
I saw this idea online and thought it was very clever, so I made one for my sister.  I scanned one of our mom's recipes, flipped the image, printed it on T-Shirt transfer paper, then transferred it onto a tea towel.

Custom Ears
As a post-Holiday gift to myself, I made a pair of Chewbacca- themed Mickey ears just prior to our New Year's trip to Disneyland.  I did wear them for the entire duration of the trip, and random people would do a Chewey-call at me as I passed.  I was also singled out by Kylo Ren as a rebel spy on Star Tours (perhaps one of my proudest moments on a ride ever)  I made the ears from craft fur and put them over ear-shapes cut from foam to give them structure.  The belt is made from felt, which I glued together and put across the ear prior to sewing the pieces together.  I made the bow from black felt and glued it in the middle.  I had originally wanted to make the bow from Porg-printed fabric, however I could not find any Porg fabric anywhere (not even Spoonflower!) and I didn't have time to design my own... so as a compromise I made the bow from black felt and purchased a Porg pin to put on it.

This shot shows the ears after adding the porg pin.  The fuzz could not be tamed, even with hair spray, so after day 1 I gave up on combing the ears.

This photo was pre-planned for months - hence the immense grin on my face.  Look at how the belt on my ears lines up PERFECTLY with Chewey's belt!  

I now find myself in that post-holiday meandering, debating about whether or not I should pack Christmas crafts away immediately or give myself that bit of time with my vintage findings that I'd hoped to have prior to Christmas.  On the one hand, it seems a shame to pack it all up when I have ideas now, on the other hand I have no shortage of other projects that I want to accomplish before next year's Christmas gift blitz sideswipes me.

For the time being, I think I'll just enjoy another cup of tea while I straighten up my work space and contemplate my options.

Happy New Year, and may the force be with you!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Tis the Season

I apologize for my writing being so scattered.  It's that time of year where I begin Christmas gift projects in October, with the belief that I have "plenty of time" to "do them all"... and am too busy creating to post about what I'm creating.  Also, most of what I've been spending my time on cannot be shared until after Christmas, so as not to spoil any surprises.  Therefore, I have a brief update with the few things I *can* share, then I should be capable of a full update around the New Year.

Without further ado...


I finished my 2019 calendar!  My list of mail-out calendars has gone out, my list of in-town-drop-off recipients will be taken care of this weekend.
Most of my energies in photography over the course of October were geared towards completing my calendar.  Upon placing my calendar order, I turned my attention to my photography site and quickly determined that it is just too overwhelming.  I began posting photos in 2007, and the volume of images online is immense and dizzying to me now.  I've decided I need to scale back, and perhaps reorganize and redesign, neither of which I have the time to do at the moment.  So I have hidden most of my older albums for now, posted the link to my 2019 calendar, and will revisit the site reorg in the New Year.

In the meantime, here are a couple of images from my October outings.

In early October I visited Bloedel Reserve and crated this accidental double exposure.  My intention had been to capture this large pumpkin display, however I forgot to wind the film after the exposure and my next image was of a marsh further down the trail.  I did go back to Bloedel to reshoot the pumpkins, however I found this accident far more intriguing.

On my return to Bloedel, along with shooting panoramic pinhole, I experimented with my lensball (remember the crystal ball for my Halloween costume?)  I learned that the ball needs to be perched on something off the ground, unless I want to lay in the dirt.  Which I'm not opposed to doing under normal circumstances, I was unable to this day because I had an appointment after this outing.

I am in a flurry of Christmas Gift creating!  For the moment I'm only able to share two items, which have already reached their end destinations.

Mickey's Sorcerer's Apprentice hat.  This was inspired by G having made something similar using green pipe cleaners to make a tree.  It reminded me of Micky's hat, which made me think of our friend who is a Disney FANATIC, so I had to make this for him!  I used glittery blue pipe cleaners on a paper mache tree shape, stars from a bag of confetti, I cut the moon out of shiny paper, and the ears are black pom-poms.  

Bunco Pie Ornament - I found this pattern on Etsy and thought it was adorable, so I picked this as my annual Bunco ornament exchange ornament. This is my second attempt, for my first I used a lighter tan felt and it ended up looking like an unbaked pie!  This is made from felt, a little stuffing, a few beads, ribbon, and a mason jar lid.  I made the box out of card stock, stamped it, and used cellophane to make the little window. 

These two ornaments I made for myself using items I picked up at a vintage market

I found the two owls and the plastic light-topping stars at the vintage market.  I already had the wood base and glass bell in my supplies, along with the bottle brush trees, so I decided to put them together as an owl percussion jam session in the woods on little ice-star stages.

This owl is actually a large macrame bead.  The booth had a large bucket of them for a buck a piece, I decided he would make a nice ornament so I brought him home.  The branch, ribbon, berries, and presents came from my stash of supplies.

I am probably far more excited about my holiday sweatshirt than I should be.  Chewey with lights!!

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Very Harry Halloween

I belong to my neighborhood Bunco group, which meets once a month (it's a dice game I can't explain quickly, so google it if you are curious)  We all take turns hosting at each other's houses, and I regularly sign up to host October so that I have an excuse to decorate my house for Halloween.  This year, while browsing Pinterest for Halloween ideas, I came across an entrance to Platform 9 3/4 that I thought looked cool, and from there my mind took a flying leap down the rabbit hole of Harry Potter Decorating Ideas.
(I'm fortunate that my co-host doesn't seem to mind my enthusiasm for themes!)
For much of the theme, I was able to draw from our existing inventory of Halloween decorations, it was simply a matter of grouping and organizing.  I had a few projects that were planned and then changed, a couple ideas that came up during the project shopping, and a couple ideas that were scrapped.
So, without further ado... here are the photos from my Very Harry Halloween!
The evening begins with the entrance through Platform 9 3/4.  I was originally going to sew a curtain and paint it to look like brick, then I discovered this photography backdrop for only $18.00 (less than what I would have paid for the fabric paint)  I purchased the platform decal on online as well, and set it up on my photo backdrop stand.  (alternatively, I've seen people mount this in their doorway with a shower curtain rod)  The backdrop is vinyl, so I was able to cut up the center without any fraying of the edges.  Bonus - no wind on Bunco night, so it hung straight!

Professor Trelawney, at your service!  My costume was fairly simple - top and skirt bought online, I removed the last layer of the skirt (which was - of course- too long) and used that as the orange headband, and I wore several long silver necklaces, my own glasses (which happen to be the correct color) and comfortable shoes. 

Bonus points for the person who can spot the other fandom in the costume.

The crystal ball is actually used for photography, I did purchase it for the costume and will be using it on future photography outings

The front hall contains the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets and various HP critters

Nagini presides over the Chamber entrance

Looking over the edge of the chamber, it is a long way down.
D made this bottomless pit back in 2009 or so, as soon as I started thinking about a Harry Potter theme, I realized this can be the Chamber entrance.  I just wish I could have fit it inside the bathroom!

A few editions of the Daily Prophet and some wanted posters

Spiders flee from the monster which resides in the Chamber

A niffler is ready and waiting for the bunco money

If you have any letters to send, the owls in the owlery are ready to oblige.

Just off the front hall is the girl's bathroom... (simple window pen from the party store)

Moaning Myrtle is a new addition this year, I printed her onto a transparency and put her up using double stick tape

The family room is transformed into Snape's dungeon classroom

Detail of the mantel show the potions and ingredients (I printed the labels and bought a series of tiny bottles from the craft store)

Two of Harry's books (Quidditch through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts) are among the texts on the shelf (I already had these)  I did add embossing powder to the floo powder jar after I took this photo

Neville's toad, Trevor, sits beside a bubbling cauldron.
(the potion was created with a rotating pumpkin light and clear cellophane)

The dining room is Aragog's hollow. Done with spider webbing and large spiders which I already had in inventory
The lights in the jars are Fairy lights, similar to what Bill and Fleur had at their wedding.  I originally wanted the jars to have moss in them, however the moss was either too see through or too opaque, so I went back to fluffy clouds.

Aragog sits atop the bar

The living room showcases the candles that you would see in the Great Hall, and Hagrid's fire, where his dragon egg is getting ready to hatch

The "scales" wouldn't stick to the styrofoam dragon egg, so I had to cover it with silver tissue paper first, then roll it in the scales.  The fire is done in layers... underneath the wood is a rotating orange pumpkin light, the flames are tissue paper glued to an upside down clear plastic cup, each one sits over a flameless tealight candle. 

Bats taking off for the Forbidden Forest (not specifically part of the books, but I have them and put them up every year)

Crows hanging around Hagrid's pumpkins (I already had all of these decorations)

On the way to the kitchen you pass the closet under the stairs, where Harry's acceptance letter has been stuck to the door.  Inside the envelope is a print out of the letter.

Dinner is served in the Three Broomsticks (I know the brooms don't match the books, but I like the lights.  I made the sign by printing the label, aging the edges, the mod-podge it onto the wooden plaque)

Liquid Luck!

Refreshing Gilly Water

Harry's Patronus hangs over the head table (this was a last-minute addition to the decor, it is actually found in the Christmas section of the store.  I painted it silver.  By the way, see what I did there?  Head table?  Hahahahahaha)

The score sheets are printed on the 4 house colors, this is how players were sorted into their houses. (in hindsight, it was difficult to see the pencil on the darker sheets - if I did it again I'd put the house emblems across the tops of the sheets and print them on white paper)

Scabbers has been seen skulking around the grounds (A new purchase this year, just a common Halloween rat, I cut off the right index toe)

I couldn't resist this one.

Once the games began, I forgot to photograph the snacks we set out on the tables... I made little signs for them, pretzels were "magic wands", jelly bellies were "Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans", Ferrero Rocher chocolates were "Edible Snitches" and mixed nuts were "Dragon Roasted Nuts"

The projects I didn't complete:
Turning the bird cage into a dementor - our bird cage sat in the corner of the living room with it's regular black cover over it.  I thought I could add a dementor head to the top, but I couldn't get the dementor to look right before game night.

Monster book of Monsters : I've seen DIY's about making one and they look SO FUN, but I just didn't have the time to do it correctly before game night.  I could still make it before Halloween though...