Saturday, December 31, 2011

decorate ! ! ! celebrate ! ! !

Aaaaand this is where I let a little (more) of my nerd show.

Every year, for the past twelve Christmases, my husband and I have given each other tree ornaments as gifts. Usually, the ornament has something to do with some important event or inside joke from the preceding year; occasionally, they're just pretty.

This year, I wanted to make a little ornament representing a sci fi character that has been trotted out constantly for jokes for quite awhile now: a Dalek from BBC's Doctor Who.

(photo credit)

If you read the Wiki I've linked to above, you'll think a Dalek is a strange choice for a Christmas ornament. "Mutant cyborgs from outer space?" you'll ask. "Capable of feeling only hatred, and bent on genocide?" you'll query. Well, okay; it's admittedly weird. But, on the other hand, the way they roll around screaming "Exterminate!!! Exterminate!!!" lends itself to lots of everyday humor.

Like when we spotted these fire hydrants in Anaheim and Shawn immediately thought, "Saturate!!! Rehydrate!!!"


. . . Anywho, here are some photos of the little Christmas Dalek with the big ray gun.

Made of: a little bit of cardstock, felt, fluff, wire, glass-head pins, dimensional fabric paint, thread, and lots and lots patience.

(p.s. you can make these photos bigger by clicking on them . . . but you probably knew that!)

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

all - stars

I found a little pair of Chuck Taylor's at the thrift store which were just the right size, but not the right color. We don't really wear much pink around our house, so I made them into these sweet little day-and-night Chucks for my kiddo as a Christmas present:

These were in practically new condition, as lots of second-hand kids' things are. You can see how the inner soles look pristine.

Even the laces were still pretty new-looking.

Enter Tulip Soft Fabric Paint.

(photo credit)

They come in teensy little one-ounce bottles, which is plenty for little projects like this one, with enough leftover for a bunch more projects. I bought four colors (Yellow, Glacier White, Marine Blue, and Platinum Metallic) for a little over a dollar each; I had the turquoise color left from those baby onesies I painted awhile back. You could also use regular craft acrylic paints; they're colorfast, too, but can be a little stiff. These come out nice and flexible, which is great for stuff kids are going to wear.

First, I painted one shoe solidly Turquoise for the "Day" shoe. I let it dry for about an hour, then added some puffy white clouds with the Glacier White and a tiny little bird with the Marine Blue.

Next, I used the Yellow to turn the "All-Stars" logo into a little sun.

For "Night", I painted the other shoe in Marine Blue, with accents of the Turquoise for depth and the appearance of galaxies.

Using the Glacier White, Yellow, and Platinum paints (alone and in combination) I dotted in stars of varying sizes, and painted in some starbursts, dashed lines (resembling those on a star map), and a little moon near the logo.

My little dude looks pretty darn cute running around in them.

This is a really fun project that can turn out to be pretty time consuming, depending on the complexity of your design. On the other hand, if you were to start with a pair of shoes that was already some shade of blue, it would go faster.

You can also adapt this project for a ton of other designs, as this company does. How well they turn out will totally be dependent on your artistic ability, but a simple Day-and-Night design should be pretty easy to accomplish with decent results.

Total project cost here was under ten bucks, including the sneakers ($4) and paint ($4.50, with lots left over).

(p.s. you can make these photos bigger by clicking on them . . . but you probably knew that!)

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Monday, December 26, 2011

delusions of grandeur part two : skyrim birthday cake

My husband made a special request for a birthday cake based on the video game Skyrim this year (cue slow exhale). Talk about being in over my head.

Awhile back, I made a Fallout-themed cake, which got his hopes up. I, on the other hand, was pretty sure this was going to be a big fail. In the end, it was kind of a mixed bag.

To start, I know my dragon sculpting needs work. And, this was my first time covering a cake in fondant. But for a first go, I think this kinda turned out pretty well, really, and I discovered I really like the part of the process where I cover the cake in the nice, smooth, fondant. It's actually kind of relaxing, at least on little cakes like this one. My friend recently made a gigantic cello-shaped cake for her daughter's birthday, covered in fondant, and I can't imagine the fortitude necessary to get one big, smooth sheet like that. Though to hear her tell it, it's pretty simple!

Anyway, here are the photos!

I built up the hillside on the top of the cake using the cut-off bits of cake leftover from the cake leveling, stuck together with buttercream.

I used the cheap-and-easy-to-make marshmallow fondant found on to cover the cake. I don't know how it compares to working with regular fondant (having never worked with regular fondant), but I found it very workable, and really inexpensive by comparison. Highly recommended.

Most of the little decorations including the Viking helmet, bones, shield, and rocks, were made with gum paste. The dragon was sculpted from homemade modeling chocolate (which I found very hard to work with) and gum paste. All decorations are painted on with food color.

Finally, around the base of the cake, I piped in some grey-blue buttercream icing to look like boulders, and to disguise the fondant edge.

I'd love some feedback/hints/tips on this one. My kiddo's second birthday is in February, and I have a Zelda cake to put together for the party. I'm hoping to get some more practice in before then, so any advice is welcome!

(p.s. you can make these photos bigger by clicking on them . . . but you probably knew that!)

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

cupcake box baby shower gift

A few months back, I posted here about some little baby clothes I'd printed for my step-sister's baby shower. Because I sometimes like to make the presentation of special gifts look outstanding, I started shopping for ideas on how to package the gifts.

Cruising Pinterest, I found several pins about baby shower gift boxes available on Etsy (and other places) made to look like bakery boxes full of cupcakes. (Try here, here, and here for examples.) Since I already several little onesies printed and ready to go, I just needed to buy a few more things to pull together my own cupcake box, which makes a really lovely alternative to the ubiquitous diaper cake.

Here's how you can put one together, too!

Start with a window-topped treat box, 3 for $4.99 at Joann (buy them with a coupon, and you'll get 40% off).

Also pick up some king-size white baking cups. They come in a package of 24 and you'll pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 for them.

You can buy fancy baker's twine here too, but it's expensive. I had some left from a project a couple of years ago, so I just used that. Make your own using this tutorial, or buy a big cone here for about $10, to avoid feeling like you're overspending for string.

At Target, I picked up a three-pack of elastic headbands for babies for about $3. If you're building a cupcake box for a boy, you can use rubber bands or the same twine listed above. You'll also need four pairs of baby socks (or, if you're really trying to budget, four socks {two pairs} total, but baby socks can be found at Target or Old Navy for $1 a pair) and four onesies or baby t-shirts. My cupcakes were made using onesies.

To make: if you're printing your own onesies as I did, wait for them to dry and heat set them, of course, so you don't mess up your hard work. Fold in the sleeves, then fold each onesie into thirds, lengthwise.

Take a pair of socks (or a single sock, if you'd prefer) and place it at one end of the folded onesie or t-shirt. The toes of the socks will look a little like cherries in the center of your cupcakes, so keep this goal in mind as you roll the socks up inside the onesies. When rolled, make sure the onesie will fit inside one of your king-sized baking cups, then bind with one of your headbands or some baker's twine.

Repeat for all four onesies, then place each inside a baking cup. Place all four cupcakes into your assembled bakery box, then tie the box with baker's twine. Add a tag, and you're ready to go!

This one is packed and ready to ship inside a priority mail box, surrounded by crumpled construction paper.

Happily, you'll have enough bakery boxes, baking cups, and baker's twine leftover for a couple of more gifts, so if you find you suddenly have a baby boom among your friends (or at your office, like we had at mine!), you'll be set to put together a couple of more on short notice.

Of course, I have a couple of other tricks up my sleeve for ways to use these cute bakery boxes. Stay tuned!

(p.s. you can make these photos bigger by clicking on them . . . but you probably knew that!)

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Friday, December 16, 2011

gingerbread house

We built this cute little gingerbread house using a kit from Wilton. I think we might pick up a kit from Trader Joe's next year, as they're a few bucks less and a little more unusual-looking, but this one came out pretty cute, with the addition of a ton of chocolate chips. Babies are not awesome gingerbread builders, but they do make decent tasters!

(p.s. you can make these photos bigger by clicking on them . . . but you probably knew that!)

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

pajama pants from old pajama pants

My husband picked up a cute set of Nick and Nora flannel pajamas for me at Christmastime a few years ago, featuring flamingos and Airstream trailers in the snow. Loved them. I wore them even when it wasn't Christmas, even when it was early summer.

But, as happens with flannel, they wore out, wore through (in some places), and basically started looking kinda trashy. Considering that I wore something featuring both flamingos and trailers, you can imagine how bad I let these get before finally making that call.

With plenty of soft places left that remained hole-free, I thought these probably needed a second life as a pair of (much smaller) pajama pants for the bebe.

Using a pair of his existing pants as a pattern, I cut the shape of one leg from a part of the old pants. I cut the new leg on the old side seam, so that I'd have a little less sewing to do; the old leg's side seam became the new leg's side seam. I did the same thing for the second leg.

Here's a shot of the new pajama leg unfolded and spread out.

The next step was to fold it back over (this time with the patterned surfaces together), then stitch along the inside leg seam. That's the part that runs from the crotch to the cuff.

I used an overcast stitch on the first pass, then did a straight stitch to reinforce. I turned one leg right-side out, then tucked it into the other leg with edges matched up. This became the center seam, also overcast then straight stitched.

At last, I turned the entire pair of pants inside out, hemmed the cuffs, created a casing for the elastic, and finished them off, just in time for bed! The bebe loves them, and they're holding up well so far! Here's hoping for a nice second life for these pj's!

(p.s. you can make these photos bigger by clicking on them . . . but you probably knew that!)

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

" christmas in the woods " etsy treasury

Sharing the Etsy love with a woodsy Christmas treasury you can find right here!

(p.s. you can make these photos bigger by clicking on them . . . but you probably knew that!)

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Monday, December 5, 2011

honeybees for heifer international

Once again this year, I'm donating my entire commission from this December's sales of my Honeybees for Heifer International fabric collection (both the vintage and modern styles) to Heifer, a non-profit organization that gifts families around the world with livestock, beekeeping equipment, and trees. These gifts help farms become profitable and keep people out of poverty and starvation.

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These two images are two samples from the collection, the large modern and vintage worker bees. There are twenty coordinating fabrics in all, ten each in vintage and modern finishes.

To purchase fabric from this collection, you can visit my Honeybees for Heifer International collection page by clicking here. Thanks for helping me support a great organization!

(p.s. you can make these photos bigger by clicking on them . . . but you probably knew that!)

Monday, November 28, 2011

pioneers of american industrial design stamps

I'm very fond of this recent stamp release from the USPS, featuring beautiful examples of industrial design.

The works and designers featured in this stamp set proved that form and function could be perfectly married, and the stamp set itself has a nice, clean, modern design.

Other reasons to pick up a few sheets for your holiday cards: they're great for using after the holidays, too; they're "Forever" stamps, so they'll cover the first class cost of mailing a letter indefinitely (stock up!); and they speak to a vintage design aesthetic that's very current, making them a great choice for designers' business mailings.

* I'm not compensated for my reviews of various design products; I just like to call attention to things I think are beautiful.

Photo credit: USPS. Photo is used here for the purpose of review, and links back to the purchase page for this stamp set.

(p.s. you can make these photos bigger by clicking on them . . . but you probably knew that!)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

new chairs for thanksgiving dinner : under $25

Our beautiful dining room table was wedding gift from one of my sets of parents. It has now filled two too-small kitchen dining spaces with its gorgeous girth.

When planning to have the in-laws over for Thanksgiving dinner this year, our lack of comparably solid, beautiful chairs became more noticeable. Up until now, we've had a folding chair and four little Ikea Stefan chairs I bought on clearance three years ago. Cute, yes, and mostly serviceable, though as a salesperson pointed out, built to support the weight of your average Swede. A climbing toddler can topple one of those suckers without even trying (although he does try, and frequently).

I headed to the Habitat for Humanity Restore and the Goodwill (toddler in tow, for topple-testing!), and found two solid-wood-constructed, heavy-duty chairs. Both were half-price on different sale days, and they didn't match. Different upholstery, different wood finishes and different builds. My mission? To make them look a little more like a "set".

Before: Stained upholstery, battered finishes.

After: New upholstery, new finishes.

To replicate this project:

1) Remove extraneous padding (like the back pad on the first chair, which was held in place with staples and hot glue) and toss.

2) Turn your chairs over and remove the screws that hold the upholstered seats in place. Set aside the screws, and take the seat off of the chair

3) If the chairs have been previously re-covered, remove the excess layers of fabric and staples. Set aside the seats and the screws.

4) Stretch new fabric over the seats. Turn face down, fold fabric edge under to prevent fraying, and shoot a few staples along that edge of the new fabric, making sure the staples go through all layers of fabric and into the wooden seat bottom. Pull tightly, and tack down the opposing edge in the same manner.

5) Repeat for other two edges. At corners, some people use a "package fold" but I don't prefer the square-ish edges this leaves. Instead, I make about a dozen tiny folds and overlaps, sort of gathering the fabric with my fingers as I staple. Set seats aside.

6) Sand or de-gloss the chair frames outside, then paint with a spray-paint/primer in one, using even strokes and building up several light layers. These dry more quickly than a single, heavy layer, and also leave a nicer finish.

7) Let dry / cure / air-out for a couple of days. Then bring back inside and reassemble to the newly upholstered seat bottoms.

Ta-dum! New dinner chairs. The kiddo loves them, and so do I!

You can find the fabric here, courtesy of Spoonflower (more about that in a future post). It's meant to be a stuffed animal kit.

The spray finish is a color called oil-rubbed-bronze, a brownish black with a very subtle gleam of metal flake. It's a satin finish.

Any questions about my process? Leave them in the comments section below and I'll do my best to answer.

(p.s. you can make these photos bigger by clicking on them . . . but you probably knew that!)

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