Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas Candy Platter for my Mother-in-Law

I met my husband in August of 2004, and have been going to his family's home for Christmas nearly every year since then.  As soon as we walk in the door, we inevitably find ourselves in the kitchen, where my Mother-in-Law gestures to a giant platter of homemade caramels, peanut clusters, and other goodies, and says "I made too much candy this year."  Every year for 14 Christmases she's said this, and yet every year she makes the same boatload of candy!  While she gives much of it away to family in town, there's always still a ton of it left when we arrive, and more shows up when her sisters drop off the candy THEY made to share.  After the 5th or 6th year that she said she'd made too much, I started teasing her that she *always* says that, and still always makes a ton of candy.  She just shrugs and says, "Well, yeah..."  So for this year I made a special Christmas candy platter just for her. 

The plate I started with is a plain white Corelle platter that I picked up at Macy's, about 12" wide x 10" tall.  I think the hardest part of the whole project may have been just finding a plain platter without designs, or bumps, or flourishes anywhere.  I had tried all over town, and even amazon, before bumping into this one while Christmas shopping for other people.  I used a dark red vinyl and a green glitter vinyl, and cut all the pieces on my Silhouette.  I used a tutorial on the Silhouette School Blog to do the lettering for a curved surface, but the ovals created in the software were a bit pointy, whereas my platter was more of a rounded rectangle, meaning that the text was too tightly curved to be applied exactly as cut.  I ended up marking the center points, then cutting & applying the words individually, just eyeballing it to keep it straight.  One word is slightly crooked, but all in all I'm thrilled with how cute it turned out.  I gave it to her on Christmas Eve, so she'd be able to have it out on Christmas day when the rest of the family was over. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Harry Potter Potions Ingredients

As I mentioned the other day, one of my projects for the Harry Potter Holiday Swap wasn't a Christmas ornament.  Emma doesn't decorate much for Christmas, she requested something for her Cabinet of Curiosities.  I remembered I had some glass bottles in my stash that were just begging to be turned into potion ingredient bottles.

The Runespoor bottle was clear originally.  It was dyed on the inside with alcohol inks. I was trying for a cool marbled effect that I saw in a tutorial, but it didn't work the way she said it would.  I like the overall effect it created anyways.   I had previously used ugly lumpy brown potato shaped freshwater pearls as doxy eggs in a long ago potions cabinet, and remembered that I had several strings of pearls that have holes wayyyyy too tiny to string onto anything I have in my stash.  At first I just added the white ones, but I wanted there to be more visual interest in the bottle, so I dug around till I found some royal blue, magenta, pink, and even silver pearls too.  I've decided that since no one really knows what Runespoor Eggs look like, that perhaps they are different colors depending on the age of the Runespoor that laid them, or the time of year or day they were collected.

The gillyweed was a bit of leaf trim that I just hit the edges of with a darker green marker to give it some added definition.  The text was cut out on my Silhouette Cameo, and the rest of the decorations came from my stash.  Some black tipped brown flowers, a wooden dragon charm that I colored with some Tim Holtz distress crayons, ragged black cheese cloth leftover from a Halloween wreath, number charms I had in my jewelry stash, a Swarovski crystal ring, twine, mermaid charm, skull bead, glass Hamsa charm, etc.  I love digging through all my really random bits and bobs to find things to decorate the bottles with, and hope to do some more in future.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Harry Potter Paper Bunting & Ornaments

Another year, another round of the Harry Potter Holiday Swap!  This year I had 3 partners, and created a wider mix of items than I have in previous years, including a banner, wooden ornaments, glitter ornaments, and potions bottles.  I'm going to post the holiday themed items here, and the potions bottles tomorrow.

My friend Edel requested some sort of banner or garland, so I created one out of book pages from an old copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  The 3 part design was bought from the Silhouette store online, and the paper pieces were all cut on my Silhouette, before being assembled with twine & sparkle yarn, as well as some large hole glass beads between each snowflake.  There are 20 snowflakes all together on the strand, and I included a few extra of the cut pages and backing, without the light blue snowflake on them.  Each snowflake & frame is about 4" across, and the whole thing is a few yards long. 

I knew I wanted to make an Amortentia ornament for Kira, but was nervous about doing a new technique and possibly messing up her ornament, so I did a practice Felix Felicias one first.  I created these from a tutorial online that utilized alcohol inks, which I happened to have on hand.  The words were cut out on my Silhouette Cameo, and the tops were decorated with a chain maile collar of rings, and charms in corresponding colors, with shamrocks and celtic knots for the liquid luck potion, and hearts for the Amortentia love potion.

The last set of ornaments almost didn't happen.  I bought the wooden blanks on clearance after Christmas last year at Joann's.  They are laser cut wood ornament that come flat, and have slots to slide them together to create the 3-D hearts.  Being a Harry Potter nut, the first thing I thought when I saw the stags standing above hearts was 'OMG, look at the Patronus ornaments!' 

So I picked them up for less than $1 each, and put them away in my wood crafting stash to await this year's holiday crafting.  ...And completely forgot about them.  I bumped into them by accident when I went to pull out popsicle sticks to use in a recent candle making adventure, and knew I had to put them together. 

They are colored with Tim Holtz distress crayons, which have the feel of oil pastels, but unlike pastels, they don't smear all over the place.  You can smudge them if you do so on purpose, but on their own they don't smudge.  I colored them lightly with the crayons, then used wet Q-tips to blend the crayons into a watercolor effect.  I actually made 4, but somehow only have pictures of 3.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Soy Wax Candle Extravaganza

Each summer or early autumn I get together with my friend Amber, to do a canning extravaganza, where we spend 2 days canning as many recipes as we can, to put away for Christmas gifts.  My friend is from Kentucky, and is a real life Kentucky Colonel, an honor much like a knighthood, which is bestowed on people each year, for their contributions to the state of KY, and the lives of the people of KY.  Amber received hers for her work bringing theatre to the south central part of the state.  While I was working on planning our recipes for this year's canning adventure, I just happened to bump into an ad for a 'gin & tonic' scented candle, which is clearly something I need in my life.  The seller was asking a fortune for a 16 ounce candle, so I did some digging on the internet to find a candle supply company who carried a Gin & Tonic fragrance oil.  When I did, I discovered that they also had a Kentucky Bourbon scent.  I checked with Amber, who was all for adding something new to our repertoire, then went ahead and ordered the fragrance oil, jars, and 20 pounds of soy wax! 

Half of the Kentucky Bourbon candles, as Amber took hers home.
We ran out of time during our canning marathon in early September, so we put off the candle making until last week.  This is just over HALF of the resulting candles!  I was very careful when I did my math, to figure out exactly how much fragrance oil would be needed for 20 lbs of wax, and exactly how many ounces of jar space we could fill with that.  We planned on a dozen 16 ounce candles with wooden wicks (that crackle like a fire place), and a dozen 10 ounce candles with traditional cotton wicks.  According to my calculations, we should have had just 4 ounces left over, to pour into a spare 4 ounce canning jar.  We actually ended up with enough wax for 8 extra candles, for a grand total of 32!

Half of the Gin & Tonic candles.
The wax, jars, wicks, and fragrance oils came from The Flaming Candle Company.  We used a kitchen scale to measure out our wax, and worked in batches, because the soy wax flakes take up a lot of space in the pan until they melt down to a more manageable volume.  I watched a few youtube tutorials before we started, but it wasn't much more difficult than 'carefully melt, stir, add oils & colorants, stir some more, and pour'.  The most difficult thing is keeping a careful eye on the temperature.  You want to melt the wax, and bring the temperature up to about 180-185 degrees, then add the colorants and fragrance oil, but then allow the mixture to cool to about 140 degrees before pouring it into the jars for the best adhesion.  This was true for the particular brand of wax we used, but if you try creating your own candles be sure to check the specifications for your wax, which may be different!  I created the labels from a template at, adding an old botanical drawing of a lime to the Gin & Tonic labels, and some wooden barrels to the KY Bourbon labels.

In case you're wondering what 20 lbs of wax looks like, this was the bag, just after opening it, before measuring any wax out!

Setting up the jars and wicks.  There were some wick holders for sale, that are used to keep the cotton wicks upright and centered in the jars, but this seemed like a silly expense.  While some were metal, others were just popsicle sticks with holes in them. Since I have plenty of popsicle sticks, and lots of tools around the house, we just popped holes in some ourselves, and they worked brilliantly.
Most of them, cooling on my back porch while we worked on the last batch.

While they cooled they looked kinda like monochromatic sand art, but wet.
This was such a simple craft, and much less stressful than our normal canning adventures.  I'm pretty sure it's going to become a staple in our holiday crafting from here on out, but even if Amber didn't want to do it again, I know I'm going to have to try my hand at making some in my favorite scent (McIntosh Apple), and maybe try making some soy wax tarts for my tart warmer.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Decorating My House with Holiday Greenery

My husband and I bought our first house a year and a half ago.  During our first Christmas in our home I focused on decorating the inside with a new tree, and other decor items.  This year I decided to work on the outside.  These are the results; wreath, flower pots on the porch, swags on the bannisters, and an arrangement in the pot on the mailbox.  My mom sent me the wreath, which lights up.  I simply made the bow to match the other items I'd made.

The tropical plants in the pots on the porch have finally died for the season, so I replaced them with branches of faux greenery and sprigs of berries to match the wreath.   Since silk stems don't have roots like real plants, and because it can get windy here, I started by putting some bricks of floral foam in the pots, then ran some wire across to keep it in place.  Then I filled the pots, 1 branch at a time, trying to keep them mirror images of one another.  Made some 6 loop bows and wired those onto the pots too.

I tried to find swags of garland to run around the entire porch railing, but couldn't find enough of any one matching set, so instead I picked up these two swags at Target, and added handmade bows to match.

Here's the whole porch all together.

Finally there's our mailbox.  Every one in the neighborhood is one of these brick postal fortresses.  Each homeowner seems to have done something different to theirs. Some plant flowers around them, some add light up house numbers, one is so covered in ivy you have to brush it aside to get the mail.  The previous owner of our house had a window box installed on the side of hers, and I try to keep it full of plants all year.  Since the mums I planted in September have died, I decided to fill it with greenery to match the porch.  I emptied the planter of dirt, and put in bricks of floral foam, and used wire to hold them in place.  Then I filled it with sprays of evergreen, pinecones, and berries, before adding the final bow.  The whole thing has hidden bits of wire keeping it in place against the winter wind.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Harry Potter Baby Quilts, Onesies & Hats

As I mentioned yesterday, my friend Abbeeroad has recently welcomed twins into her family, and I had a wonderful time crafting for them.  Since I was making two of everything, I admit that I took a bit of a shortcut on the quilts.  They aren't traditionally pieced quilts, but rather whole cloth printed to look like it has been pieced.  The fabrics are literally called "Potter Cheater Quilt", and came from kritterstitches on Spoonflower.  They feature the Deathly Hallows symbol, tiny cauldrons, brooms, owls, Sorting hats, and lots more.  She has it in a few colorways, but seems to have since removed the coral & yellow print from her shop. 

The backings and binding came from a local quilt shop called Quilting Squares, where the ladies were quite excited to help me pick some matches.  This is the first, in shades of purple and turquoise.  I made onesies and hats to match, so each little lady got her own set. 
My neighbor has a small business doing embroidered baby clothes on her embroidery machine, and she took on the task of making me custom quilt labels to match each quilt.  Of course, it's just making me want a new embroidery machine all the more...

And the second one in shades of coral, yellow, and turquoise.

Meanwhile, I wanted to make another set of onesies to go with them.  I used the classic Potter font, and set up the text in the Silhouette software, then cut them from glitter heat transfer vinyl.  I've played with several types of htv, and the glitter seems to adhere the best, and wear well over repeated washings and dryings.  The hats were each made by stash-busting yarn scraps.  I can't remember the pattern I used, or I'd link it. They're quite chunky, with the body of each being made of 2 strands of yarn held together, with a contrasting band of Lion Brand Homespun.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

All You Need is Love Onesies

I like making things for friends.  I like making things for babies.  And I really like making things for the babies of good friends.  These were made for the new babies of my friend Abbeeroad on Craftster, who just welcomed twin girls into the world.  I wanted to do something that would coordinate, but not depend on the other to be wearing the matching outfit.  So if one little lady spits up all over hers, her sister still looks stylin' in hers.  I found a retro font in my library, and set up the text in the Silhouette software, then cut them from glitter heat transfer vinyl. 

*Update 1/20/18: The girls wore these to the anniversary of the Women's March in NYC!  While they were bundled up against the cold, I love that their mom and I both know they were there. 

Corner Lot Wedding Quilt

I finished a new quilt!  And *just in time* for the wedding it was intended for.  I started it with 3 weeks to craft, and thought I'd have plenty of time, but each step took longer than anticipated.  Oh well, I love the result.  The pattern is called Corner Lot, and is available to buy on Craftsy, either just as the pattern, or for a kit in several color options.  I went with the kit option, with the "Modern Hand Drawn" fabrics by Lily & Loom.  It came with 2 layer cakes of 10" precut squares, a yard of binding, and 4 yards of backing.  While I LOVE the finished quilt, I wasn't impressed with the pattern writing.  The fabrics were good quality, but the backing fabric arrived stained.   :-[  Thankfully I was able to work around the staining.  The binding they sent was a stripe, and I improvised and cut it on the cross grain, so I could show the stripes to their best advantage.  If I had more time, I would have tried to do them on the bias, but time was of the essence.

Because some of the squares are white, and some are very pale pink & mint, I went with a white batting.  The only white that Joann's had in stock with a 1/16" thickness, so it's a fairly thin quilt, but being all cotton it should hold up to washing and drying on high heat. As I said above, I finished it just in the nick of time.  I actually had to leave TN for the wedding in NH with the binding sewn on the front, but not flipped over and stitched down on the back.  I did that part while staying at my parents house the day before the wedding.  I finished it Saturday morning, for a Saturday afternoon ceremony! 

I've since heard from the bride that when they got back to their apartment in Brooklyn, the heat was out, and it's only 64 degrees in there.  They've spent their 'honeymoon' as it is, snuggled under the new quilt.  Mission accomplished!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Dragon Egg Bag

I recently hosted another round of the Back to Hogwarts Swap on Craftster, and was so happy to swap with the lovely patty_o_furniture. She has been renovating her family movie room with an all Harry Potter theme, including murals of Hogwarts, and a kick-ass Honeyduke's candy cupboard, and has filled the room with awesome geeky handmade HP goodies, some made by her, and some made by the rest of the Craftster community.  I just happened to have a bunch of scale maile supplies in my jewelry stash that I bought last year to experiment with, so I dug through my yarn stash and found a good color match of yarn.  I finished it with some leather drawstrings, and handmade glass pony beads leftover from making some dreamcatchers.  The pattern came from toohotheaded on Etsy.  The yarn is Caron Simply Soft in garnet, and the scales are a pattern of dark red, light red, copper, gold, and black, and came from a combination of the Ring Lord and Fire Mountain Gems.  The pattern was easy to follow, and I would totally recommend it.  Hopefully it will fit in with all her HP swag in the movie room. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Giant Granny Square for the Welcome Blanket Project

Lately I've been feeling like the world is going off the rails.  With mass shootings, neo-Nazis marching in the streets, the threat of a possible nuclear war, and the very deep political divides in our country, it has been hard to find hope.  As social media brings us a constant stream of the worst news the world has to offer, it has been difficult not to feel powerless and alone.  So in a conscious effort to put some more twirled and goodness into the world, I decided to participate in the Welcome Blanket Project and create a Welcome Blanket as a gift for an immigrant family as they arrive in America.  In case you are unfamiliar with the project, here is an explanation from their own website:

The proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico is almost 2000 miles long. Imagine if the massive distance of this wall was re-conceptualized and re-contextualized not to divide, but to include. Instead of wall, a concrete line, to keep people out, what if lines of yarn became 3,500,640 yards of blankets to welcome people in?

A welcome blanket is traditionally created to lovingly mark the arrival of a new person into the world. In the Welcome Blanket project, each handmade blanket is a physical manifestation of this celebration of new refugees and other immigrants: “Welcome to the United States and your new life here! We are so glad you have arrived.”

Their mission of inclusivity, hope, and love in the face of racism and islamophobia truly touched my heart, and I couldn't think of a better way to pour some more twirled into the world than to make a special gift for a stranger whom I'll probably never meet.  So I dug through my yarn stash, grabbed a crochet hook, and started in on a thick, squishy, warm, cuddly blanket, and tried to work my love and my hope for a better life for the person who receives it, into each stitch.  And since this challenge is about sharing more love, I've also included that pattern/tutorial for making a giant granny square afghan of your own, either to donate to the Welcome Blanket Project, or for friends and family in your own lives.

Much like my Mrs. Weasley Burrow Afghan and Nebula Afghan, this afghan is made by holding 2 strands of bulky weight (Lion Brand Homespun) yarn together, and was crocheted with a 12mm hook.  This results in a very thick blanket, that works up quickly, but you can also use the same method with thinner yarn and a smaller hook.  It will simply take more rounds to get a big enough blanket.  The ombre effect was created by switching out 1 strand of yarn at a time, while leaving the other strand, so that the colors blend into one another.  It took 14.5 skeins of Homespun, 10.5 of which came from my stash.

Giant Granny Square Afghan

Suggested Yarn: Lion Brand Homespun
Hook: 12mm

Colors Used:
A. 2 skeins Opal (Bright Teal)
B. 1.5 skeins Waterfall (Light Blue)
C. 2.5 skeins Deco (Ivory)
D. 2 skeins Lagoon (Dark Teal-Green)
E. 1 skein Windsor (Grey Blue)
F. 1.5 skeins Edwardian (Grey)
G. 2 skeins Black
H. 2 skeins Tourmaline (Slate)

Create a slip knot.  With colors A & B held as one, chain 4; join with slip stitch in dream chain to form a ring.

[b]Round 1:[/b] Chain 3, 2 double crochet in ring, *chain 2, 3 double crochet in ring; repeat from * twice more, chain 2; join with slip stitch in top of beginning chain.

[b]Round 2:[/b] Slip stitch in next 2 double crochet, slip stitch in dream chain-2 space, chain 3, (2 double crochet, chain 2, 3 double crochet) in same chain-2 space, *chain 1, (3 double crochet, chain 2, 3 double crochet) in next chain-2 space; repeat from * twice more, chain 1; join with slip stitch in top of beginning chain. Slip stitch in next 2 double crochet.  Drop color A (Opal), and add in color C (Deco).

[b]Round 3:[/b] Slip stitch in chain-2 space, chain 3, (2 double crochet, chain 2, 3 double crochet) in same chain-2 space, *chain 1, 3 double crochet in next chain-1 space, chain 1, (3 double crochet, chain 2, 3 double crochet) in next chain-2 space; repeat from * twice more, 3 double crochet in next ch -1 space, chain 1; join with slip stitch in top of beginning chain. Slip stitch in next 2 double crochet. Drop color B (Waterfall), and add in color D (Lagoon).

[b]Round 4:[/b] Slip stitch in chain-2 space, chain 3, (2 double crochet, chain 2, 3 double crochet) in same chain-2 space, *(chain 1, 3 double crochet in next chain-1 space) across to next chain-2 space, chain 1, (3 double crochet, chain 2, 3 double crochet) in next chain -2 space; repeat from * twice more, (chain 1, 3 double crochet in next chain-1 space) across to dream chain-2 space, chain 1; join with slip stitch in top of beginning chain. Slip stitch in next 2 double crochet. Drop color C, and add in color E (Windsor).

[b]Round 5:[/b] Slip stitch in chain-2 space, chain 3, (2 double crochet, chain 2, 3 double crochet) in same chain-2 space, *(chain 1, 3 double crochet in next chain-1 space) across to next chain-2 space, chain 1, (3 double crochet, chain 2, 3 double crochet) in next chain -2 space; repeat from * twice more, (chain 1, 3 double crochet in next chain-1 space) across to dream chain-2 space, chain 1; join with slip stitch in top of beginning chain. Slip stitch in next 2 double crochet. Drop color D, and add in color F (Edwardian).

Repeat Round 5, following Color Sequence, with 1 more 3-double crochet group on each side every round until afghan measures 50 in. square, or your desired size. If desired, add a row of single crochet along the outside edge to give a finished look, placing a single crochet stitch in each double crochet and each chain 1 space, and 3 single crochet stitches in each corner.  Fasten off.  Weave in ends.

Color Sequence:
Row 1: Opal and Waterfall
Row 2: Opal and Waterfall
Row 3: Waterfall and Deco
Row 4: Deco and Lagoon 
Row 5: Lagoon and Windsor 
Row 6: Windsor and Edwardian
Row 7: Edwardian and Lagoon
Row 8: Lagoon and Black
Row 9: Lagoon and Tourmaline 
Row 10: Tourmaline and Deco
Row 11: Deco and Waterfall
Row 12: Waterfall and Opal
Row 13: Opal and Edwadian
Row 14: Edwardian and Lagoon
Row 15: Lagoon and Black
Row 16: Black and Tourmaline
Row 17: Tourmaline and Edwardian
Row 18: Tourmaline and Opal
Row 19: Tourmaline and Waterfall
Row 20: Waterfall and Deco
Row 21: Deco and Deco
Row 22: Deco (Finishing row of single crochet)

Naturally, as soon as I had the blanket laid out nice and straight to take a picture of, my dog came running in and plopped herself down on top of it, because all blankets on the planet belong to her.  The face she is making came right after being told to get off of mum's newest creation. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Gilmore Girls Charm Bracelet

Recently a favorite customer asked me to make her a Gilmore Girls inspired bracelet.  I've only ever caught a few episodes of the show, so she chose the charms herself, and we worked out a color scheme based on a few iconic images from the show, the Luke's sign, the Dragonfly Inn sign, and a deep sky blue from many of the title cards of the show.  I really like how this one came together color-wise, and she seems to be thrilled with it. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Prism Virus Shawl

I know I'm late to the party, but I finally got around to giving the virus shawl pattern a try.  I have always been afraid of working off a crochet chart rather than a written pattern, so  I started by printing off the chart, then pulling up a video on how to crochet it on Youtube. I used the video to help me learn to read the chart, and by the time the video was done, I was able to work solely off the chart with the repeating pattern.  It was a huge help, and I feel much more confident about trying to work solely from a chart in future. 

The shawl was made with 1.5-1.7 skeins of Lion Brand Shawl in a Ball yarn, in the colorway Prism.  It is labeled as a worsted weight yarn, but I found it very thin for worsted.  I used a 4.5mm hook.  It is hard to see in the pictures, but it has an electric blue metallic strand running through it. I bought the yarn months ago, specifically for this project, but had put it aside to finish some other projects that came up, including a pussyhat and a baby blanket, both made with Caron Simply Soft Party, which also has a metallic strand.  In working on those I became very frustrated, because the metallic strand frequently broke, and was finicky to work with.  When I finally got around to this shawl, I was afraid the metallic strand would behave the same way, but I was pleasantly surprised!  It behaved much better, and I had no breaks in it at all, over the course of the entire project.  I would highly recommend the yarn.

I think I might make another one, since this one was so much fun.  For reference, this last photo isn't distorted.  The shawl is laid across my king size bed, so you can see just how long it is.  I made it to cuddle up in while working in my studio, which can get cold, so I wanted it plenty big.  While the yarn is thin and the overall effect is lacy, it does provide some nice warmth, and can be bundled up and worn as a triangle scarf.  I wore it to the theatre with a thin sweater on a cold day, and it really helped keep me warm, while also looking dressy enough for the event.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Create More Paper Bunting

This was made for kittykill in a recent personal swap on Craftster.  Like my All Hallows Eve Banner, it was made solely from card stock, ribbon, markers & inks in my stash.  I was so excited to see that red and turquoise were some of her favorite colors, because it's one of my favorite combos. 

I cut out the pennants and letters with my Silhouette Cameo, the distressed them each with Tim Holtz distress ink pads, before using glue dots to attach the letters.  I strung them all onto a long ribbon, and left them loose, so that kittykill could adjust them closer together or further apart as needed when hanging it.  I also included a few extra pennants, in case she ever wants to add to it.