Monday, June 19, 2017

More Homemade Campfire Starters

It's that time of the year again--time for me to make more DIY fire starters for the camping season. I set out everything I needed to make my old standbys: cotton round fire starters and egg carton lint fire starters. But this year I also am trying a new variety that's a total experiment--colored pencil shavings.

I used a foil pie plate on my burner (set to low) to melt down some old candles. I also bought a couple of pillar candles from the dollar store. Just pop the wick off of the bottom and put it in the pan to melt. Tea lights work really well too, just pop them out of the metal holders and take the wicks out. You could use higher quality wax or wax for making candles from the craft store, but the whole point of this for me is to make something very cheaply, and goodness knows I always seem to have old candles to get rid of.

I had some leftover cotton rounds in my candle stash, so I whipped up a few of these. I just used a set of tongs to dip the round quickly into the wax and then set them on parchment to cool. The best parts about the cotton rounds are that they are fast to make, don't take too much wax, and store easily in a small resealable bag. On the downside, they don't burn too terribly long, and if you dip them in too much wax, they can be hard to light.

My favorite DIY fire starters are made from dryer lint shoved into a cardboard egg carton and covered in wax. These work about as well as the store bought fire starters and cost about a dollar in wax to make (or free if you have some grungy old candles to melt). After shoving the lint in the egg carton, I just melted down one of those dollar store pillar candles and poured it over the top of the lint. You know you have enough wax with these if most of the lint is wetted down on top and you have some wax starting to seep through the bottoms of most of the egg compartments on the bottom. After I poured the pillar candle over the top, I added a bit of the leftover wax from the other meltings to wet down the top edges a bit more and then let it cool on the parchment.

This year's experiment is pencil shavings--or more specifically colored pencil shavings--in paper cups. If you follow the blog, you may know that I have gotten pretty into adult coloring over the last couple of years. This means that I go through lots of colored pencils. After throwing some of the shavings outs, it dawned on me that they are pretty much sawdust and wax--both of which are components to the store bought fire starters. So I've been collecting my shavings and waiting.

I decided on the paper cups because I had some laying around and because they were easier to store the shavings in than an egg carton. If these work well, I may try making them in an egg carton (since they are free, portable, burn well, etc...). So I pressed down the shavings a bit and poured melted wax over the top. I was pleased to see that the wax didn't seem to sit on top or make the shavings float--so I kept melting more wax and pouring it into the cups.

Then when the wax started to appear on the surface of the pencil shavings, I knew I had enough. I let the cups cool on the parchment with the other fire starters.

After they cooled, I snipped the tops of the cups about an inch apart and fanned them out like a flower. Hopefully, this will help make the starters easier to light and spread their chances of catching nearby kindling and branches on fire. I have no idea how they'll work, but since each one is basically a sawdust candle, I can't imagine that they'll be a bust. Stay tuned to the blog to find out if this year's experimental fire starter makes it into my regular DIY rotation. Happy camping!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sticker-Backed Alcohol Ink Glass Gem Magnets

Decorating glass gems with alcohol ink is one of my most popular projects on the blog. I've been fine-tuning my process and trying out a bunch of different variations. One of the biggest issues with using alcohol ink on glass gems is that you can't really see the colored ink, it gets a bit lost as you look through the gem at the colors. One way around this problem (or to at least diminish it) is to back the glass gem. I've tried paint, aluminum foil, and aluminum tape. All have worked, but the easiest was the aluminum tape. I punched circles out and placed them on the back of the gems like it donned on me as I was looking at some basic office supplies--3/4 inch color coding stickers--that the white back of stickers would be a great way to bring out the color in my glass gems. 

I started by laying out a craft mat and my alcohol inks, and I cut up a bunch of squares of felt for my applicator as I knew I'd want to change colors several times. I grabbed some regular glass gems/flat marbles  (like the kind sold in the floral section at craft stores--they are about 3/4 of an inch in diameter). I would have liked to use the larger gems as they make better jewelry, but the standard stickers were too small. I started out with some green/blue ink. As you can see on the applicator, there's only a very small amount of ink--just two drops. The more ink you use on these glass gems, the wetter the felt is and the longer you have to stamp/let it dry before you get the ink to start separating a bit and making patterns.

After the gems were colored in a base coat of the green/blue, I started adding colors to the gems. I'd drip one or two drops of color onto the clean side of the applicator and stamp until I'd get colors that I'd like. I ended up layering several colors to get it the way that I liked it. Some blue, some light green, some yellow, some purple, some pink--you get the idea. I just kept putting color on until I liked it.

When I was satisfied with the colors, I let them dry for a few minutes before applying my stickers. I used the blue and green stickers since they corresponded better to the colors on the gem.

The stickers fit some of the gems perfectly, but others that were more oval in shape had some overhang. I just stuck the sticker onto the gem and then carefully trimmed the excess with a scissors.

I was pretty pleased with how bright they looked after the white sticky backs of the stickers created a contrast against the inked colors.

To keep the stickers from peeling up at the edges and to seal the paper so that it wouldn't come off if it got wet, I went ahead and painted on a coat of mod podge with a foam brush.

Then I used some E6000 to carefully glue on some tiny neodymium magnets (Note: this kind of magnet is very strong, and these small ones can be deadly if swallowed. Do not let kids play with them.). Be careful when you're gluing them onto the backs of the gems not to let them get too close to each other (the ones on the top right were too close and pulled their magnets out of the glue and had to be re-glued).  Though the neo magnets can be a bit of a pain, they make fantastic fridge magnets. They hold papers up so much better than the standard craft magnets.

In the end, I was really happy with how the colors turned out when backed by the stickers. If you pick your largest gems out of the stash, the stickers should fit the backs pretty well too. I'd definitely do this again. Now I just have to find some stickers the right size for my larger gems.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Favorite Crafty YouTube Channels

I've been recovering from a nasty knock-down-drag-out of a cold virus this last week and a half or so, so the craft tutorials have crawled to a bit of a halt, but I'm on the mend (I hope). Hopefully, we'll have new craft tutorials up next week, but until then, I thought I'd share some of my favorite crafty YouTube channels.

HGTV Handmade: Yep the cable channel has a special crafting youtube channel which features regular contributors (many of whom have their own channels too, so it's a great place to start your crafty YouTube binge).

Karen Kavett: One of the regular posters from HGTV Handmade is Karen Kavett. She's also a graphic designer who's done a lot of work for the Vlogbrothers (the YouTube brotherly duo of Hank and John Green).

Sea Lemon: Is another crafter that has been featured on HGTV Handmade (but I'm not sure that she's a regular contributor anymore or not). At any rate, her channel is full of fun craft projects.

Make Your Mark (Mark Montano): And how could I forget Mark Montano (yeah that Mark Montano from the classic TLC renovation show While you Were Out). He's since published several craft books and has a great YouTube channel filled with projects.

Let me know what your favorite crafting channels are in the comments!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Monday, May 29, 2017

Collection of Mod Podge Projects

Over the years I've made many projects with Mod Podge decoupage glue. Check out the entire collection here: Mod Podge Collection.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Alcohol Ink Stamped Mirror

In January I bought a mirrored candle plate from Dollar Tree because I hadn't used alcohol ink on a mirror yet. I used bright colors and canned air and it didn't quite turn out the way I had hoped. I wiped the plate off several times with rubbing alcohol and restarted. After several months with color splotches, I cleaned it off again (some surfaces don't clean off easily after months--the less porous the better) and it came completely clean. After the initial rinse with rubbing alcohol and then with water, I wet down a paper towel with some rubbing alcohol for any spots that were stubborn and left it on the mirror to soak for a couple minutes and it wiped right off.

This time I had the idea that I wanted to create a sort of galaxy pattern. I would cut stars out of painters tape and sprinkle them across the plate. Then after stamping and a little spattering of rubbing alcohol, it would look like outer space. First I tried cutting the stars with a scissors...they looked more misshapen with every attempt. Then I had the brilliant idea of using a paper punch. It mangled the tape by itself, so I stuck it on some parchment paper--scratch that--it didn't stick at all (which shouldn't have been as surprising as it was since that's the whole point of parchment paper). Next, I tried wax paper (as seen above), which sort of worked. They would come out a bit ragged, but they punched through some of the time. Then I tried tinfoil. It punched out perfectly, but I couldn't get the darn tape stars off of the aluminum foil.

So I went back to the wax paper. I discovered that it cut much more cleanly if I did a blind punch (bottom down, punch lever up), so that's what I ended up doing to punch the rest of my little stars.

I laid out a little pattern of stars on my plate and rubbed the edges of the tape down as best as I could.

Next, I grabbed my alcohol ink applicator and some ink that I thought would create a night sky effect: pitch black, indigo, purple twilight, and silver.

I dripped all of the colors of ink except the silver onto the felt and stamped it onto the mirror. Immediately the tape stars peeled up. One came off entirely. The rest I was able to flatten out a bit. But I wasn't hopeful that they would create any kind of resist, but I carried on. After the first pass of color, it was really loose and watercolor-y. That wasn't the look I was going for, so I kept stamping.

After stamping a few times with the existing colors, it became more stippled, and I added the silver to the mix. I was really liking how the mirror reflected the ink (which is hard to see in the photos).

After I was fairly happy with the color mix, I dug out an eye dropper and dripped a bit of rubbing alcohol on the mirror. I used the technique where I emptied the eye dropper so there was just residual alcohol in the tube, then squeezed the end to blow any remaining alcohol onto the ink in tiny droplets. This method is really effective on white surfaces but was barely visible on the mirror. I stamped and dripped alcohol until I was happy with the way it looked.

I really liked the way the ink looked on the mirror at this point, but I knew the tape stars would require a miracle to work. I waited a minute for the ink to dry a bit and then peeled the tape stars off the mirror.

As you can see, or rather not see, the tape stars were barely visible. Too much ink bled underneath the tape, and they just looked like blurry mirror blobs. So I re-inked my felt to fill the weird blobs in a bit.

To fill in the voids, I had to mostly cover the mirror with ink, which means I lost almost all of the reflective quality, but I still think the blue/silver/black speckled look turned out really beautiful. I was pretty frustrated with this one while I was doing it since I wasted a good hour on the tape stars and figuring out what would work, and then it totally missed the mark, but I just kept going, and it still turned out pretty nice.

Remember if you're happy with your design and it's going to be handled or around any alcohol based liquids (including hairspray and perfume) be sure to seal your alcohol ink masterpieces with some mod podge or clear acrylic spray. Alcohol ink stays put pretty well on glass if you are just keeping it as a decorative piece on a shelf, but sealing it keeps the ink from smudging, smearing, or flaking off.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Alcohol Ink Dyed Silk Flowers Refresh

3 years ago I made a wreath with some cheap silk daisies (I think I bought them at Dollar Tree eons ago). After a summer out on the door, I noticed that the wreath was starting to fade a bit in the sun. I even posted an update to watch the changes. It lasted 2 more summers before it became so faded that the purple had turned almost all back to white, so it was a time for a refresh before I hung it on the door for this summer.

The green and the blue seemed to fade the least, but the wreath was definitely in need of an update all around.

I started with the most faded flower. I tore up some small pieces of parchment paper to protect the wreath itself and applied my alcohol ink along the edge of the felt applicator. My flowers were dyed with ink from the Summit View and Dockside Picnic sets by Ranger.

The flowers soak up quite a bit of ink as you stamp it on, so I was only able to cover about 1/3 of the flower with the ink from my first application. You can use a little rubbing alcohol or blending solution to help the ink go further on the flowers, but if you use too much, it gets a little blotchy in color. I tried to use just a couple drips of rubbing alcohol on my felt for the whole flower. I applied the ink to the edge so that I could get the ink up along the center of the flower. After a few repeated applications and stamping, I covered the whole flower.

When I was all done, I checked the edges of the petals (and on this flower, the second layer of petals) to make sure I had covered the whole flower and then moved on to the next one. I tore new pieces of parchment to catch the ink for each color so that the ink wouldn't mix. You may also need to wipe the edge of your applicator off with a paper towel or napkin soaked in rubbing alcohol to keep the colors from mixing.

I repeated the application of ink on all of the flowers until the wreath was completely refreshed. Now it's all bright and should last another few years on my front door. I expect that silk flowers dyed with alcohol ink that aren't in the steady sun would probably last a bit longer. Let me know what your experiences have been in the comments!