A Simple Buttons and Love-Themed Craft Project

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I have promised myself that this year, I will spend even more time in the space in which I get so very much enjoyment and fulfillment in; my art studio. And so this past Sunday, that’s just what I did for myself!

In anticipating our home mantels decor, for the month of February, I wanted to create something love-themed, in celebration St. Valentine’s Day, of course.  I chose to do this simple project, using buttons. I have a certain kind of love-thing, for buttons!  Do you, too? [Read more…]

A Countdown Pillow

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There is nothing like using crafts as a coping skill! Sometimes, you need to. And that is just what the 3 littles and I did this summer. My oldest daughter, Alexis Grace, (17)(and the littles’ big sister), went away for 2 weeks!! (To a summer Catholic Collegiate program.)  Now, for some, 2 weeks may be no big deal. But for us? HUGE? Remember; for me, my kids are not away all day, most days, at school. My children are all homeschooled. I’m not even remotely used to this. We’re together most all of the time, except for extra-curricular kind of events. On the other hand, it’s not like my oldest has never been away. She has, numerous times. In fact, she’s away on a regular basis. 3-4 days at a time, with no contact, when she goes on retreats with her friends. But 2 weeks…. . And FAR away.

It was a good thing. MANY very good things about it, that are now gifts for a lifetime for Alexis. But one being, we all (she and us!) needed this trial run of her being away from home for an extended period of time. Because she’s a senior this year!  Which means she’ll likely be off to college next year!  So, we all had to give this separation-thing a temporary go.

This was the big-first, and well, needless to say, the kids and I…were struggling. I figured about a day in, that it would be fun to come up with a project the kids could make, that we could use to ‘count down’ the days until Alexis came home.  And frankly, I needed a busy-project!  The trio brainstormed, and came up with a few good ideas!  But ultimately they settled on one of them:
a countdown pillow.
Something that would serve it’s purpose for us, but end up being a memorable gift we could give her, when she came home.
And so that’s just what we made.

01_a-countdown-pillow
Now, I am no seamstress. In fact, umm, <gulp!>, I have yet to truly learn how to operate a sewing machine.
However, I do have my mother’s old one. And I do have a husband who knows how to use it!
(See? When I say [Read more…]

Tips and Ideas for Card Making

01_handmade-card-making
I thought I would share with you a little bit about making your own cards, today.  To be honest, I feel a little bit silly, because my sister is the real card-making whiz. And I’m, well….the one who most always forgets to even buy a card, and send it on time….to even those with birthdays in our families.  I’m flat-out awful about it. They’ll tell you.

But, last year I challenged myself to make sure I get a card to everyone, and on time, for at least a year from that point forward. I think I’ve managed so far! I’ve even made most of them, myself. Now that’s planning ahead. I’d be proud of myself, if it weren’t for all of the prior years I forget altogether.  I think if I patted myself on the back, someone might slap me. 😉

My sister is awesome at making a whole bunch of great cards at once. She has files of ready-made cards, made with love, to just grab last minute.  There is always something fitting for any occasion, for any one.  We love her cards. I save them all. Plus she usually writes a little something that makes me cry.

I have a different style. I make cards one at a time, and I make them specifically for whoever I need one for. I custom make something I think they’ll like. Or they they will anyway.
I have fun with it. Like a little art project.

I thought I’d share with you some of my tips, ideas and tools you might use, to make cards of your own.
02_card-making-supplies-tools Clockwise from the top left (in my studio): 
1. I have a basket of blank cards and envelopes, in a few different colors and textures, and in 2 different sizes.  Blank cards w/ envelopes can be bought in packages at craft stores, and they are very handy. It’s also an option to make your own cards, by folding and cutting to size card stock, in a variety of colors and textures. I do that sometimes as well.
2.  Another basket in my studio holds just some of the elements I have. Shown here are some specialty ribbons, colored strings, tags, and flat gems.  Seen in the back, as more ideas, are washi tape, and striped baker string. You can also use stickers, embossers, or die-cuts. I love working with elements on my cards, to add those special little touches.
3. I highly suggest a Fiskar trimmer. I just find them so quick and easy to work with, for cutting paper to size and trimming. I have a cutter in 2 sizes, and I use them super-regularly in crafting.
4. Sticky-tabs!!  It doesn’t matter what brand you get. But these little 2-sided tabs come on a roll in a box like this, and I use them as an adhesive when working with paper or photos. They are so convenient, mess and hassle-free. My kids love using them when doing their own crafts too, as evidenced by the little blue peel-offs I find here and there that I didn’t leave. 😉 

03_rubber-stamps Rubber stamps are very useful in card making!!  I have…a LOT. My sister used to be in the Stampin’ Up business. So I have bins of sets. You can get really creative with stamps like these, just stamping with different colored inks, or really getting into it with embossing powders.
I have struggled with the flatness of the stamp look though, when just working with ink.

So I tend to get coloring, because I love to color!
04_coloring-with-colored-pencils Colored pencils are so much fun to use, with rubber stamps.  By deciding which direction light might be hitting your subject (such as my octopus and sea horse above), and coloring lighter where light may be hitting more, and harder where the areas would be more in shadow, you can really take your flat stamped art to a more dimensional look.
05_belated-crab So this card was created for my Goddaughter, with a blank white card and envelope, rubber stamps, white card stock, colored pencils, some aqua textured cardstock, and washi tape. ‘Happy Belated Birthday’ was a stamp, and I free handed ‘Julia‘ and the word ‘Crabby‘ to match the same letter-style as the stamp. And just wrote the rest of the message in regular printing. So the little sea creatures were stamped on separate card stock, trimmed to a rectangle, and then mounted on slightly bigger aqua rectangles, to kind of frame it. Sticky tab this, to this, to this. Voila! 

The image of the card in the upper right is sitting on the envelope, which I stamped with the starfish. See it?  I addressed it right next to that star fish. I think it’s fun to pull out mail from the mailbox and see a decorated envelope. I always imagine it makes the mailmen/women smile too.

Part of the fun for me, of making cards, is trying to come up with something clever or witty to write inside. Trying is the key word there. No one else may think I’m very funny, but I promise you, I’m laughing and really enjoying my own jokes sometimes, making cards. 😉    I’ve always said, “Nobody thinks my jokes are funnier, than I do.” True story. I amuse myself more than anyone else.
06_flamingo-family-card This was for my mother-in-law/Grandma. That’s her on the front. 😉  Another rubber-stamped card (using the set seen near the beginning of this post). On this one, I stamped right on the card, except for the message inside and out, and colored. The pink polka-dot wash tap is along the side of the inside of the card only. But I trimmed the front/cover side of the card off to reveal that element, even when the card is closed.

I used the trio of pink flamingos stamp twice, so there was a family of 6. That would be us, who the card was from. We all signed the card next to ourselves. :) 
The envelop was also stamped and colored. (See left photo.) 

When Michael was talking to his mom on the phone, he asked her if she got her card. She had to think about it, and then said she wasn’t sure…she couldn’t remember. So…either it was forgettable, or it never got to her. But the thought was there, she got a call anyway (and us singing!), and I had fun making the card. For whoever got it. lol

07_elephants-card This one was for one of my teen nephews. I just wanted to keep it boyish.  The elephants were stamped. Although my sister-believed I illustrated them myself, because…..well, she knew I could.  But why? When I have the stamp? LOL.  I did color/’paint’ it though….with chalk!  That might have been a bit crazy. And time-consuming. But again, it was all fun, and specially made for someone I love. The dirt clouds around the elephants were specially fun, and the chalk was a suitable medium to work with, to create that. The ‘Happy Birthday’ was stamped, and I hand-matched the exclamation point, which I punctuated with a hand-hammered rivet. (More fun elements to work with!).  I ‘hung the tag, with his name hand-drawn on both sides, off of the rivet. The string was actually hammed in there, to stay.  
I gave the card a quick fixing spray when I was done.

08_hunter-card
This one was for another nephew, who is an avid, very serious, very good, hunter. I really planned this one in my head.
Now, you’d think with all of my paper stock, I’d have some kind of camouflage patter, or any kind, right? No. So I decided, to pick a background color, and just cut out those weird random shapes, in the other colors, and layer it together. I used glue this time.
His name I stamped, and that star is another fun rivet! 
The inside: card stock, tissue paper, washi tape, and hand writing. Again, I was too-amused with myself.  But I totally had to Google and research, what a ‘sight’ mark might look like. I’m probably not even using the right terminology. But hopefully he could tell I put some real love in it. Although, it was from all of us.

09_basketball-card1 My niece is very much into sports; basketball being one of her favorites. Can you believe I had basketball skin stock?  I did. So I cut a circle out of it that would fit on the front of her card. Loved that I had orange striped baker’s twine to work with too. And washi tape that complimented well enough too. I often use a piece as a seal on the envelope. (Well, I lick it too. For security-paranoid purposes.) I think it’s another nice touch.

I could not even believed I pulled off drawing the basketball lines and name with permanent markers. Her name is in the Wilson band letter style. 😉  (Had to tell you in case it wasn’t good enough to notice.  Ha haha.)  This is the little free-hand thing (the ball)I did that and I walked room to room, showing everyone in my house, and the kids totally ‘checked’ me about boasting. < Insert eye roll here. >
I shared about that on our blog’s Facebook Page, in case you missed it.

Hope the ball makes up for the lame joke inside. : [ . 
Next!

11_feminine-card Lastly, for today, a card I made for my sister. I have an eyelet edge punch, which I used all over this card, as well as on the edge of the envelope flap.
All hand drawn I think…copied from that stamp. The pretty decorative paper along the bottom of the inside of the card, was shown when closed too, by making the front of the card trimmed smaller, like before.

My sister and I share a birthday. Did you know that? We do. (I won’t say she’s the older one, this time. 😉  ) So on the inside, I said something like….
“If all of your birthday wishes come true,
Then all of my wishes will have come true, too.”

So…..there are just some of the cards I made during my self-challenge here. I did make a few others and mailed them out, forgetting to photograph them. And even some of these photos were just taken with my phone, because I hadn’t thought of making a blog post and sharing them with you all at the time. So, the photo quality varies, and I apologize about that.  But I do hope you enjoyed this big share, and I hope you feel inspired to make some custom, personalized cards for others as well.

You can do this card-making thing! 
Fold, stamp, color, sticky-tab, ….it’s all fun you need to get in on!

Save and share the card-making love!  PIN this on Pinterest and be sure you are following us there!
Thanks for coming to hang out with me today.
12_Tips-Ideas-Card-Making – Laura

Reversible Fall toThanksgiving Home Decor Blocks Craft Tutorial

 I’ve got one last Fall-themed project to share with you this season, before I move on.
You may remember I shared these happy Fall blocks in this post, in which I was giving you a little close-up tour of my Fall mantels. I mentioned that I had made these blocks, that they were more versatile than they appeared, and that I would share why when I got to that project post.

Well this is that post!

01_Fall-Reversible-Decor-Blocks-Tutorial Here are the blocks already shown to you.   They were created to look well worn, long loved, and a bit old.
Just how I like everything.  :)

And shown here, are the blocks backsides . . . .
13_Give-Thanks-Reversible-Decor-Blocks-Tutorial I made the block to transition from every day Fall, to a Thanksgiving-themed message for those weeks in November.
What do you think?  Nice surprise? Good idea?  I was thinking so!

They are really simple to make.  I just found making these blocks fun and relaxing.
I tend to get a little Zen, working in my studio anyway.
So if you think you’d like to make some, sometime, I’m going to show you just how I did it, right now.

02_bare-wooden-block I started out with 10 blocks, just like these.
Well, actually, I started out with 8 blocks just like these. Then 9. And finally 10. But that is a frustrating story I’ll tell you about later on.   But the project took 10 blocks, anyway.
These simple wooden blocks come in various sizes; these are the 2″ blocks.   I got them at A.C. Moore’s. They are not available at my local Michael’s, anyway.
They are smooth and finished-feeling on 4 sides, except for what I considered the tops and bottoms.

03_brightly-colored-painted-blocks I chose my favorite Fall hues of acrylic paint, and painted them all. They did take two coats.

04 Next I had Michael cut two inch letters out of vinyl, and weeded out the letters.

05 After covering that sheet with transfer tape, I cut each letter block to size.

06 Peeling off the back, I then applied them well to a face of each block, one at a time with a squeegee, and pulled off the transfer . 
It was important to make sure the rough surfaces were not used. The vinyl would work as a mask.

07 I had a pile of scraps that looked like I had been working really hard, so I photographed it, and left it for awhile. :)

08_white-paint-on-paintbrush White acrylic paint and flat brush, ready to go.

09 All painted in.  I think it required two coats.

10 Before the second coat dried all of the way, I carefully peeled off the mask.
Now while painting them was rather enjoyable for me, these next steps are the part I really love to do….
11 But I didn’t really photograph those steps. :/  Sorry!   It’s easy enough to tell you about though. 
I’m talking about sanding and aging the blocks.
To sand, I used 100 grit sand paper on a sanding block. I use the sanding block because it keeps my sanding surface flat and hard, for my uniform sanding.  Also, it’s a lot easier on my fingers, which get torn up very easily.  Where do I sand?  I like to hit the surface, to wear that a little. But I really go at the edges and corners, where they would normally wear the most.
But after sanding, we are left with clean, bare new wood. Not good, for antique blocks. Right?
So next I rub around some dark wax, with an old t-shirt rag.  I-love-this-stuff! It really does age the look of the paint, and just dirty things up just right.
You rub it on and essentially, rub it back off to. While working not as hard to get it off, where you want to leave more.
Make sense?  The stuff is messy, as you might guess from that rag up there. And it stinks to high Heaven. But, somehow I don’t mind it much, working with it. It’s like the smell of creativity, at work!

Here’s a closer look at the effects of my sanding and waxing . . . .
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And now, my blocks all on display . . . .
13_Give-Thanks-Reversible-Decor-Blocks-Tutorial Ta-DAAA!!!  I was so happy not to have to put my blocks away, to make room for some Thanksgiving decor.
I’m already pondering making more block sets for other holidays and seasons. In fact, actually, I already have a set for spring (in a very different finishing style and size) I made last year and never shared. I plan to come spring though.
But, back to the here and now.

14_Reversible-Decor-Blocks-Tutorial Of course, you can set up your blocks, and utilize them in any way you’d like.  Here is another arrangement I played with.

Because it’s the details I worked so hard for (in a fun/playing sort of way), that make these blocks look like maybe one of our grandmothers passed them down to us, I couldn’t stop photographing them . . . .
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16 Ok enough of that. Now, you can skip this little story-paragraph if you want, right down to after the next photo.
But I’d like to explain the story of the 10th block:  For weeks, I only had 8, and then 9, blocks. Because that’s all there was at the store!  In fact the first trip, I bought none, because there wasn’t enough to spell what I wanted!  I needed 10 to do this project. I inquired though, and the lady assured me that if they were low, more was coming in the next day. So I returned the next day, and there were still only 8!!  So I figured…I need to buy those, so they be sure to get more! (Because supposedly, it’s all electronic.) 
Next trip, the bin there was still empty. I was desperate!! So I plopped down on the floor and pulled out all of the other sized blocks onto the floor, hoping to find some 2″ers  in the wrong bin.
And I found ONE!!  ARRGGG!!  So I worked with the 9 I had. I got those all done, and had enough to make my HAPPY FALL.  But I’d need that last one to complete GIVE THANKS.  
Finally, a new shipment of them came in, and I got my last block, which I did start to finish, all by itself, just in time. It was the “A” in THANKS.

What to do with the other side? . . . .

17 I made an exclamation point!  To use from then on, with my HAPPY FALL(!).  Because if you all know me, you know it’s worthy of an exclamation point.  I do love Fall, that much!

If you love what I’ve done here, believe me when I say, (if you have a vinyl cutter of any kind), you can do this!  And if not, other crafters will love you for sharing the idea! 

So go ahead and PIN the image below on Pinterest!

Reversible-Decor-Blocks-Tutorial
That’s a wrap for projects for this season this year. ( I think. 😉  )   Time to start thinking about Christmas!
Thanks for making my day, and coming by!  Hope you take a moment to share your thoughts, and say hello!
~Laura

Fall Themed Candles Embedding Real Leaves

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Today, I’m going to show you one way to preserve those beautiful Fall leaves you found, and make something beautiful to add to your warm Autumn home decor. Candles! 

00_ We’re simply taking store-bought medium-pillar candles, and embedding the real leaves as a beautiful decorative element.
To do this, I’ll be using a separate wax medium.  The reason I am choosing to not just glue the leaves on, or seal them in with Modge Podge or something, is because those mediums are flammable.  I likely will be burning these candles. While I won’t burn them very low, I didn’t want to take the chance of having anything chemically-flammable as part of the candle, when it is easy enough to avoid that. Also, embedding the leaves within the sides of the candles will give the look I am trying to achieve.

All you’ll need for this project is some pillar candles of some sort, some plain melting wax (for candle making), your pressed leaves that you collected, and some pans. (A few other optional supplies will be mentioned along the way.)

01_pressing-fall-leaves The first step in working with real leaves, is to ‘press’ them.  This not only flattens them, but somewhat preserves their moisture for a bit, yet keeps their pliability to be able to work with them well.   I press them by placing my leaves between the pages of a newsprint pad of paper, and putting a small pile of magazines, or whatever for weight, on top.  A few days will do.


02_melting-candle-wax-for-dipping You’ll want to melt your wax over some kind of consistent heat.Making do with what I had, I cut some chunks off of my premium wax block, and put it in a roasting pan, over 2 burners on my electric stove on a very low heat. Possibly even the simmer setting. Start at the lowest and increase the heat as needed. Every stove is different, but generally speaking, you want the wax just liquid-y, but never to the point of bubbling. How much wax you melt depends on how many leaves you’ll be adhering, how many candles you are decorating, etc.  But regardless, you certainly want the wax deep enough to completely submerge a leaf.

  Once your wax is melted, you’ll want to have your pillar candles and leaves readily available to work with. Also, have a sheet of wax paper on a flat surface nearby, to be able to put your candle down as needed.

*This is a very important tip!
You need to keep your pillar candle itself somewhat warm to apply the dipped, hit-wax leaves successfully. The reason being is that lying your hot waxed leaf on the cold surface of the candle immediately sets the wax, and it does not apply well at all. 

But I have two great tips to choose from, for keeping your pillar candle warm:

1)  Have a heating pad on high on your nearby counter-top, with a sheet of waxed paper on it. You can roll the whole thing up with your pillar candle in it (in the waxed paper), or, you can simply lie the candle on it’s side, keeping warm on the side you’ll be applying to.

Or you can go with second option, which is what I ended up doing:
04_ 2) Simply lie the candle on the warm stove, beside the working burners to keep it warm. Obviously you don’t want your pillar candle to melt. But your burners should not be high enough to do that. This method worked well for me, as long as I did apply the just-dipped leaves to the warm area of the candle.

So here we go!
03_wax-dipping-leaves Dip your leaf in the hot melted wax, holding it completely submerging in the wax for a few moments. Keeping it submerged for a few moments (as opposed to dipping and retrieving) will really help the leaf get limp, which will be helpful in applying to the candle.

05_applying-real-leaves-to-candles (View images left to right.)
Then quickly but carefully lie and really ‘cling’ your whole leaf to the candle, and begin to rub down all over as you can.  I say as you can, because it is hot!  And yet you want to press it down as much as you can, before it starts to set. So gently press it down all over, without rubbing hard in any way, and then really just lay your hand down over it as soon as you can while it sets.

06_applying-real-leaves-to-candles_2 Continue adding leaves for your overall design. It is alright to overlap some pf the leaves as well.
Remember to warm the candle in between, as you’re dipping your next leaf.

Now if you find the wax has set in an area that the leaf is not stuck down well, here is a little trick to re-work it:
wax-fix Dip a fork into your hot melted wax, and drip it onto the area of your unsealed leaf that needs fixing.
Then press down again with your fingers.
The stems are optional to keep as is, cut shorter, or cut off at the base. I rather like them, and am leaving them for as long as they don’t break off on their own.

07_ Once all of the leaves are applied, you might consider your candles done. But I really wanted to further seal the leaves onto the my pillar candles, so that they may better hold up for a longer period of time, without the leaves coming off.   The layer of wax over your leaves on your candle at this point is very thin, and that leaves (no pun intended) your decorative surface very fragile and at risk of being damaged.  It’s also somewhat bumpy from all of the pressing on. So another sealing coat is a good idea, and it’s easy to do!
08_seal-elements-on-candle Just heat up more wax in a sauce pan at a reasonable depth, and dunk the whole candle!  Use a size appropriate pan for the size of your handles, and no wider than you need, or you’ll need to use way too much wax to bring the level up.
Now….you also want to keep in mind that the submerging of your candle is going to drastically rise the level of your very hot melted wax. So, be mindful of the amount you melt.  My goal was to melt enough to dunk the candle to just over the leaf tips, without overflowing the wax all over my stove top range. I barely made it…missing just the tips of the leaves.

*Dunk it only once, (holding it submerged for a moment or two like the leaves), as double-dipping may create such a layer of wax, that it’ll become too difficult to see the beautiful shapes and colors of your leaves.
Once lifting them up out of the pan, just carefully set them down on that sheet of waxed paper, until the whole candle cools and sets.

09_Fall-candles-real-leaves Now they are finished, and ready to add some Fall beauty to your home wherever you choose to display them.  You can enjoy them long after the leaves outdoors have dried up and crumbled away. 
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial too, and will consider having fun making some Fall candles with real leaves yourself.

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