Monday, October 15, 2012

Polymer Clay- Baking The Basics

Polymer Clay is marketed under a few brand names- Sculpey, Fimo, and Premo. I have only worked with Fimo and Sculpey, but the basics are the same for all brands.
Polymer clay 'cures' or hardens in the oven, by polymerizing. I was never good at science, but basically it means the plastic molecules in the clay need a heat reaction to solidify.
I recently rediscovered polymer clay when I came across an old shoebox full of old Sculpey. Even though the clay was at least fifteen years old, it was still usable. It just took a lot of kneading to get it back into shape, but it has baked up just fine. If the clay is very crumbly, I have heard it is no longer good, but how long that would take I don't know.
  • Be immaculately clean- Polymer clay picks up every piece of dust and pet hair it can find. I don't have a cat, but have found the occasional stray cat hair in my clay. Make sure to wear clothes that don't produce lint, and clean everything (including your hands) really well in between colors.
  • Follow directions- To 'cure', or harden, polymer clay must be baked in an oven or toaster oven. Do not use a microwave. Follow the temperatures and baking times on the package of clay.
  • Removing forensic evidence- Before baking, you can try and smooth out fingerprints using the edge of your finger . Or after baking, you can use a very fine grit sandpaper or a nail buffer to smooth out fingerprints.
  • Conserving clay- for large projects, balls of crumpled aluminum foil can be used as a base. You build up clay over the foil, instead of using as much clay.
  • Metal and glass *before*, plastic *after*- you can bake metal and glass right in the clay, but plastic will melt in the oven and must be attached later. E6000 glue works well to glue plastic to baked polymer clay. If you're not sure if something will melt, best to attach it after baking and cooling.
  • To Poly Clay or not to Poly Clay- polymer clay should not be exposed to open flames and is not food safe. Do not use it for an ashtray or a drinking glass. However, you can improvise. Cover the underside of a glass ashtray (the part under that touches the table, not the cigarettes), and you can safely use it. Polymer clay works really well for sculpture, magnets, Christmas ornaments, jewelry, miniature making, and accents for other crafts like scrapbooking.
  • White or Multicolored- There are large blocks of plain white polymer clay, and smaller blocks of colored clay. There are pros and cons to each option. The plain white is cheaper in the larger size, and white is a commonly used color for mixing. Plus, you can paint the polymer clay once it's been baked and cooled, by using acrylic paint. The colored clays are the only way to go if you are making clay canes, since once the cane is cut to reveal a design, the color is necessary. If you make very small creations, painting them can be a pain. The basic colors you will need are a red, yellow, blue, white and black because you can mix any colors using those five. Colored clays also come in glow-in-the-dark, pearl, glitter, metallic, neon, and pastel colors.
  • Glazing- If you want to add a glaze coating, only use one made to be used on Polymer Clay. Again, ONLY use a poly clay glaze on poly clay. I have tried clear nail polish and floor polyurethane, and both times my projects went horribly wrong. The nail polish melted the top layer of clay, and years later, its still gooey and gross. The floor coating turned this awful tobacco-stained brown and flaked off. Save yourself frustration and buy the good stuff.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

10 Ways To Make Over Your Stickers

I am a sucker for many things. One is makeover shows- I just love seeing how happy everyone is when they look prettier... and another is stickers.
Ahhh, stickers... fond memories as a child, collecting them and swapping them with friends. Before you judge, I actually do not have any of those stickers left from twenty-odd years ago. What I have are a million stickers, bought early in my papercrafting journey. Most of them were just cheap and there was little selection, so I got suckered in to buying ugly stickers :). So, here's a list of 10 ways to make over the drawer full of stickers you know you have too
  1. Ink 'Em- this works really well to tone down and antique those shiny stickers, and adds a shabby chic look to matte ones. Lightly tap a brown inkpad over the top of the sticker, or use a piece of cosmetic sponge to apply a little ink over the top
  2. Paint 'Em- This adds a bit of country charm, and is nice on bright colors to mute them. Using a very dry paintbrush and the smallest amount of paint, brush on white or light-colored acrylic paint. Or, you can use acrylic paint and fill in parts of a matte sticker to alter colors for your needs.
  3. Bling 'Em- I love glitter... it hides almost anything by blinding you with its bling. Using Stickles or generic glitter glue painted on thinly with a paintbrush adds just a bit of bling. Painting the glitter glue on straight from the bottle will add a bit of dimension and glitz. Or, you can use white glue and glitter from a jar or bottle and add a lot of thick, chunky bling. This is cute on feminine, kids, or holiday stickers.
  4. Chipboard 'Em- apply sticker to a piece of chipboard (I use old cereal boxes) and cut out. You now have a 'dimensional chipboard element', which sounds way more impressive than a sticker. This is easiest with sharp scissors, and bigger stickers with little detail to the edge.
  5. Layer 'Em- if you have multiples of a sticker, apply one to a piece of cardstock and cut out a few areas you'd like to add dimension to. Using foam or pop-dots, layer the cut-out pieces.
  6. Sand 'Em- using a piece of fine sandpaper or an emery board, lightly sand the sticker. The white underneath will begin to show. This works well to tone down shiny stickers, and works well for masculine or vintage themes.
  7. Punch 'Em- sounds violent, huh? I mean, paper punch! Apply sticker to cardstock and use a punch to cut out just a small portion. A great reason to bust out the square, round or oval punches. This can also add uniformity to different-looking or various-sized stickers, since they will all be the same size and shape due to the punch.
  8. Collage 'Em- Take a piece of paper, and just add stickers in random order, over lapping as you go. Cut strips or use a paper punch to add a fun accent to a scrapbook page or card. This is a great way to use up odd stickers you only have one or two of.
  9. Use 'Em Together- if you stick a bear sticker to cardstock and cut him out, you can cut around his paw and tuck another sticker (say, a flower) underneath, so it looks like he is holding it in his paw. That theory goes for anything- layer a house underneath a car, and it looks like the car is driving past it. Layer a dolphin behind the waves and he looks like he's in the water.
  10. If All Else Fails...Donate 'Em- preschools, grade schools, Senior Centers, VA Hospitals, Ronald McDonald Houses, scout troops, and many other organizations would be delighted to receive your castaways. Maybe the local Church has a cardmaking ministry, or the local Yeshiva has an afterschool program. Someone will use what you can't. Just use Google or the phone book to find a charity you're interested in and contact them.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Seven Craft Supplies From The Kitchen

I have two grandmothers. One is Italian, and spends hours perfecting dishes like broccoli rabe and lasagna. The other one burns Minute Rice. Genetics are such that I inherited the culinary skills of the latter.
Other than making coffee, or mac and cheese, I avoid the kitchen. But as any hoarder will tell you, there is always something hiding in a drawer, waiting to be used. Here are seven common kitchen items you can easily re-purpose for crafting.
  1. Aluminum Foil- Line a baking sheet with foil to bake polymer clay on, ball it up and use it to add bulk to polymer clay, or use it under a messy project (Mod Podge doesn't seem to stick to foil.) Use a piece of thick (professional quality or heavy duty) foil and lay it on a mousepad. Using a stylus, draw designs onto the foil to create embossed designs. You can use a drawing and trace over the lines, if you'd rather not work freehand.
  2. Chopstick- one is the loneliest number ever if it's a lone chopstick. Great for stirring thicker liquids, like paint or Mod Podge, even in taller jars. Also can be used as a stamp to create dots out of paint. These are also sturdy clay tools, great for shaping with. Worst case scenario, coat it in glitter, add ribbons, and make a magic wand.
  3. Salt- other than the obvious salt dough (1 cup salt, 2 cups flour, and 1 cup lukewarm water), salt can add an interesting effect to watercolors. Liberally wet down a piece of paper, slosh on watercolors (the cheap kid's ones are fine), and sprinkle on salt. The salt will suck up some of the color. Let it dry totally, and then brush off with a stiff dry paintbrush.
  4. Tupperware/ Plastic Containers- storage!! Store homemade Mod Podge (1/2 white glue and 1/2 hot water, stirred well. On a side note, I tend to make mine a little thicker, maybe 65% glue. Do NOT try to make this thinner than 50/50 mix), doodads and trinkets, and just about anything. these are airtight, and translucent so you can see whats inside. Also great for rinsing off paintbrushes or storing a small craft for on-the-go.
  5. Cans- the kind with the pull-off lid work best for crafting because they contain the least sharp edges. Clean well and give a quick bleach and water soak, then let dry. You can cover the outside with fabric, felt, or pretty paper and make pencil holders. Weigh them down with rocks inside and use as a centerpiece base. Poke a hole in the bottom, sponge on white and green paint, and make outdoor flower planters. The tuna or cat-food sized cans are great for paper clips (use E6000 to affix a few magnets inside the lip to keep stray clips in check). Obviously, eat the food inside first (Chef Boyardee for dinner tonight?)
  6. Glass Bottles or Jars- (resealable lid)- soak off labels, clean, sterilize, then use to hold 'in a jar' gifts . Hey, if other people bake, its a cool gift. Or fill with candies or homemade bath salts and add a pretty bow, as a gift for other culinary-challenged people. (NON resealable lid) fill wider-mouthed jars with candies and add small scoops for a candy buffet or party centerpiece. Use as candle holders. Get really fancy, and fill with a few inches of colored water and use as floating candle holders.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why Keep Everything? Here's A Few Reasons...

Flash back to 1990. I am 11 years old. New Kids On The Block are my favorite band. I learn to make "friendship bracelets" out of embroidery thread. I learn one knotting technique- to make straight lines or stripes of color.
Flash forward to a few years ago, when I pulled out my box, still stuffed full of embroidery thread, and decided to play around with knotting. I teach myself the V, scalloped stripe, framed V, diamond, and X and O.
Its always fun to rediscover and improve on a craft, and friendship bracelets are easy to make during long subway rides.
Hoarding rules!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dye-ing For A New Look

So I got a great deal on some plain white ribbon, but the more I look at it, the more I am faced with the reality that I need very little plain white ribbon for my crafts...
Then I had my 'a-ha!' moment. I can dye it as I need to for the colors I want.
Here are a few tips to home-dying fabric ribbon
  1. Make sure the ribbon is pre-washed to remove any sizing chemicals it is packaged with. I use dishsoap and hot water, and just hand clean it in the sink.
  2. Unless you want to also risk dyeing your hands and work area, wear gloves and set down newspaper
  3. I prefer to dye things in disposable or craft-use-only tupperware, so I don't have to worry about staining
  4. Make sure your ribbon is totally submerged in the dye. Stir it around with the back of a paintbrush.
  5. The longer you leave something in the dye, the darker the color it becomes.
Now, a few methods for dyeing ribbon
  • Tea Staining- soak two plain teabags in a cup of boiling water until the water cools. Strain the bags, and microwave the water until it boils again, then drop in the ribbon. *You can use fancy tea flavors like berry or green tea for different effects.
  • Coffee Dyeing- stir a heaping spoon of instant coffee into a cup of boiling water. You can add ribbon right away.
  • Kool-Aid Dyeing- *use the envelopes, NOT the jar or canister! Add one envelope of Kool-Aid to a cup of boiling water and stir, You can add ribbon immediately. Kool-Aid comes in just about every color- red, orange, yellow, blue, and purple. Yellow Kool-Aid requires two packets, as it it a very pale color. Green can be mixed with yellow and blue.
I don't make anything that would need washing, so I don't worry about dye fading in the washer. If you are going to make wearable crafts, I suggest investing in actual dye.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Double Duty From The Dollar Store

I am always amazed by the endless rows of stuff that can be acquired cheaply, but if I can't find a use- or two or three- for it, then it's just a wasted dollar. I don't like wasting anything if I can help it...
Here's a few items at the local Dollar Store that I am proud to say I have invested in...
  • Toothpicks- paint art on your fingernails using nail polish, apply small amounts of glue, or hold down small items while they dry
  • MakeUp Spnges- AKA Cosmetic Sponges- cut into smaller pieces, these make ink daubers, and are a good to get ink from an inkpad into tiny corners of paper. They can also be cut into stamps, and mounted on a scrap of wood or an old block.
  • Toothbrushes- the best cleaning tool out there to remove dry ink from red rubber stamps. Load with paint and use for spatter effects by running your finger over the brush (do this in a box or your yard- it will get messy)
  • Eyeshadow Applicators- use as chalking tools, or ink daubers.
  • 4x6 Photo Albums- store brass stencils, die cuts or any other small paper bits, turn into a mini album for a last-minute gift
  • Dryer Sheets- (unused) sweep across paper before stamping and using embossing powder to avoid static and stray bits of powder. Then use them in the dryer. Used, they can be stamped on or have ink rubbed on for homemade designer 'mulberry' paper. Put a small ball in the middle, gather all sides and tie with a string and you've got a Halloween ghost to decorate with.
  • Glass Ware- can be decorated using etching powder (available at most craft stores). Can be drawn on with a Sharpie and baked at 350 degrees for 30 minutes to 'cure' (handwashing recommended). Can store craft goodies, bath items, and 'gifts in a jar'
  • White Glue (any brand will work)- add 50% glue and 50% hot water to a tight-sealing jar and shake well to make Mod Podge, or decoupage glue. Add a few drops of thin acrylic paint and stir well, to make glossy 3D effects. Also the best glue for glitter I've ever found.

Monday, March 19, 2012

How to make the useless more useful- thrifty papercrafting 101

I have a lot of random, useless-seeming supplies. As a craft-hoarder, I had to find a use for them.
  • Foam Sheets- OK, STILL not sure why I bought these, except they were a huge pack on clearance. They have come in handy as dimensionals. I use adhesive to stick a bit of foam between layers to 'pop' them off the page. Much cheaper than 'pop dots', and I can cut any size I need- from teeny-tiny to 4x5 inches.
  • Charms/ Beads- Charms can be strung on ribbon, or added to a bow for a new look. Tiny seed beads work well in shaker boxes, and larger beads can be used in the center of a bow.
  • Baker's Twine- I loved the look, but not the price, of baker's twine marketed to papercrafters. So I headed over to the cake decorating aisle of my craft store, and found Wilton Baker's Twine. Sure, it was only in three colors- red, black, and yellow, but it was less than half the price. Use it to tie on embellishments, like beads, or even sew it into your paper projects.
  • Packaging- Any time I buy something craft-related, it usually comes with a bit of 'oaktag' or thick cardboard backing, and a plastic domed front. The backing, I use to thicken up my ATCs (Artist Trading Cards), bookmarks, and my Inchies. I have also used cereal boxes, but the packaging pieces are usually a better size to work with.
  • Old Books- There are two schools of thought. One the one hand, if a book is decent enough to be readable, I do not destroy it. But I did have four different dictionaries in my house, and one was a really lousy student version. I have since cut it apart, and use the definitions on my projects. If it was a hardcover, I probably would have hollowed out the pages inside and made an altered book.
  • Instant Coffee- I wet down some paper and 'watercolored' a light wash of coffee and water. Then, I sprinkled on a few granules while it was still wet. This coffee produced an awful cup to drink, but pretty paper to work with.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Can you spare a moment for a hero?

Heroes give so much.... their time, their knowledge.... sometimes, even their lives.
How do you thank someone for being a hero?
Operation Write Home has figured out a huge need for deployed heroes- handmade cards! There isn't always a nearby Hallmark in the desert, and the heroes want to write home. While deployed, these men and women are missing out on loved ones' birthdays and holidays. Sometimes, they just want to say 'hello'. A handmade card is a beautiful, personalized touch for a hero to send home.
However, Operation Write Home has a two-fold mission. They also collect 'Hero Mail', cards or letters in which you write a thank you note to a hero, and pages colored by children.
There are only a few very important guidelines when making cards for OWH.
  1. No glitter. Glitter gets on everything, and can be seen through night-vision goggles
  2. No violent, sexual, or otherwise inappropriate cards. Remember, these cards go overseas to nations with different views on drugs, alcohol, and appropriateness.
Basically, that's it.

Link to Operation Write Home
Link to free coloring pages for kids (or adults)
Link to warm your heart (card recipients)

The website has great tutorials and ideas for improving your card making skills. Great place for inspiration!

Parental guidance reccommended, not necessary

I love adult humor, and cursing, and all other things totally inappropriate for children to see.
But it really gets my goat when I realize that a good percentage of what kids are exposed to is far too mature for them. And while I'm not a parent, I understand how difficult it must be to keep these ridiculously adult situations out of your home.
I decided to make my blog family-friendly.
I am NOT suggesting anyone leave their kids alone at the computer. I AM saying I won't post anything I wouldn't want, say, a ten year old to view by himself.
IF, by any chance, I work on any Renaissance-ish art or decide to paint a big ol' cuss word, I will figure a way to edit it, or just not post it here.
I swear I will not swear.

Hoarders make the best crafters

If you craft, then you know what I mean.
Not hoarding like those TV shows, with a hundred cats and trash up to the ceiling. No refrigerator full of rotting food, no lawn full of truck parts.
I'm talking about craft-hoarding. Buying two of that pack of brads because they are on sale. Keeping supplies around from crafts you just never got the hang of. Purchasing a tool that never works the way you want it to, but you never throw it away.
Why? You might need it someday.
So, I made myself a promise. A vow. A sworn declaration.
I will not buy any more craft supplies. I will use what I have. I made an exception for adhesive, as I always run out, but I will not buy anything else.
It may not be easy, but it will force  me to destash.
And once I clear out some craft supplies, I will (of course) lift my self-imposed buying ban....
I hope this blog gives you some ideas to use up some of those supplies you've been hoarding. At the very least, it should inspire me to craft more.
Hoarding is best when there are enablers, after all.