16 October 2013

Horse Chestnut Spiders



When I was little, one of my favorite things to do was create critters out of acorns and horse chestnuts. With help of an awl and some match sticks, we would bring all sorts of animals to life. Now that I have a child of my own, I want to pass these simple nature crafts on to her. Unfortunately I have a hard time finding horse chestnuts here in the US. Acorns a plenty, but chestnuts not so much.

Imagine my delight when I stumbled onto some chestnuts the other day when Lola and I were searching one of Milwaukee’s parks for tiny doors. Not only did we find two of the three doors hidden in Humboldt Park, we also found a plethora of nature’s craft goodies. Sycamore tree bark, beech tree nuts, acorns and acorn caps in every size imaginable, and of course, horse chestnuts.

To make horse chestnut spiders, you need just a few things:
  • horse chestnuts
  • pipe cleaners in the color of your choice
  • awl and/or hand drill
  • wire cutters and pliers
  • glue
  • beads for the eyes


Start by poking holes in the chestnut, four on each side. I used my awl for this but found that it was easier to use a small hand drill because my horse chestnuts had dried out and were quite hard. If I had made these spiders as soon as I found the chestnuts, it would have been easier.



Next up are the spider's legs. For one spider, you’ll need two pipe cleaners, one for each leg. Cut the pipe cleaner in four pieces using your wire cutters. Because pipe cleaner points are sharp, I always bend the tip back with my needle nose pliers.

Working on one side at a time, drop a little glue in each hole. I used Scotch Quick Dry Adhesive. It’s perfect for working with paper but glues chestnuts and pipe cleaners just as well. It dries clear, which I like.



Insert the legs in the holes and let dry. Once the glue is dry, bend the legs upwards from the body just a little, and then bend them in an angle about halfway down the leg. Glue on two little beads for eyes and you’re all set.



Lola and I created several spiders which we used in our #spookyspace that we made as part of Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores’ Celebrate the Season campaign. You can read all about that here. There is a 50% OFF coupon to use at Jo-Ann's this month, too!



I will be linking up my spiders at:
Friday's Nature Table at The Magic Onions
Pin Me Linky Party at Diana Rambles
Creative Friday at Natural Suburbia
The Humble Brag at One Project Closer
Happy Hour Projects

14 October 2013

Spooky Space



Lola and I were tickled orange when Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores asked us to participate in the Celebrate The Season Campaign by creating a #spookyspace for Halloween. Our original plan was to turn Lola’s woodlands bedroom into a spooky forest, but our stairwell is painted in such a lovely pumpkin orange, I couldn’t possibly pass that up as a back drop to my spooky space.



Since I could not use the tree in Lola’s room, my first order of business was to find a nicely sized dead tree. There happened to be one available on the roof deck, but any large branch would have done just as well. After cleaning the smaller branches up a bit, I brought it inside. I considered spray painting it, but rather liked the gray so I left it as it was.

Spooky spaces always have spider webs. I created one with 16 and 22 gauge wire. I started by cutting four 12” lengths of the heavier wire. To prevent poking anyone’s eyes out, and because I like the look, I curled the ends of the spokes before I weaved the thinner wire around them. To make it easier to work with, I cut the 22 gauge wire into roughly 3’ lengths. I needed about four of those.



Again, I thought about spray painting the spider web, but felt it looked perfect as it was. Some might consider this laziness, but I am all about aesthetics, honestly. After attaching the spider web to the branches with wire, I hung five cute little fleece crows, found at Jo-Ann, in our spooky tree, along with some cheese cloth ghosts from Halloweens past.



One of my favorite things to do, is make garlands with felt cut-outs. For this I use my trusted Cuttlebug® die cutting machine and Sizzix Bigz dies. I love these dies because they cut though fabric as though it were butter. The Cuttlebug® works with every brand die, so if you’re thinking about buying one, that is the one I would recommend.

I found some lovely suiting fabric in the remnant bin at Jo-Ann’s which I paired up with black wool felt. I affixed them to each other with Heat’n Bond Lite. It bonds really well while still allowing for sewing. By ironing the two fabrics together, it also takes care of any fraying edges. After creating my double layer, I cut the fabric into smaller pieces and ran them through the Cuttlebug®.



For this particular garland I used Tim Holtz’s tattered leaves die. From the pile of leaves I cut, I was able to sew two 6’ garlands. Nothing special, just line up the leaves and sew them together with a straight stitch, leaving about an inch of thread in between.

Once the garlands were finished, it was time to stage our #spookyspace. I found two beauty school heads at a thrift store a long time ago, and wrapped one in gauze. Though it’s not new, my Halloween Wreath was brought out as well since it is still one my all time favorite decorations. It looks really good against the metal door.



Lastly, I threw in a pumpkin or two, some rubber mice, a few horse chestnut spiders, and our spooky space was complete. I hope the neighbors like it, too.



If you’re feeling crafty and are looking for inspiration, take a look at Jo-Ann’s Celebrate The Season and Simply Spooktacular websites. What’s more, here is a 50% off coupon for you. Enjoy!

I was compensated by Jo-Ann for writing this post. However, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

25 September 2013

Creating A Forest – Part 1

When we moved to Milwaukee, I promised Lola a cool room. She deserved it. She had a very tiny one up north and we never got around to doing something fun with it. It was her turn now, we all felt. Especially after Ryan and I confiscated a large corner of her room to store our surplus of bins in lieu of an attic or a basement. (We are a bit strapped for storage here.)

She told me she wanted a jungle or a forest. And so one day she and I sat down together, and envisioned her forest. We decided we were going to build a tree on the brick wall and change out the leaves every season. She also wanted apples in her tree. The plan was to use craft paper and somehow attach that to the wall. But then I saw these in the alley behind our building:



Ten feet long cardboard tubes, perfect for building a tree. And for the first time in my life, I exchanged my trash for someone else’s. Armed with my extra long tube, I made it up two flights of stairs and enlisted my husband and his friend to cut the tube in half lengthwise.





After cleaning up the edges with some sandpaper, I cut a hole into the tree trunk with a jigsaw to accommodate future critters and/or elves, fairies, and possibly gnomes.

To attach the tree to the wall, I used small corner brackets that I fastened on the inside of the trunk, like so:



The only think I did not like about this solution was the sharp end of the screw sticking out. While this tree does not have to be perfect, and holes are okay, I don’t want it to be a hazard. So after I screwed the hole in the cardboard, I switched out the pointy screw for a blunter version.



Then it was only a matter of drilling holes in the wall and attaching my branches.



Not bad, huh? I would like a few more branches and stumps but I ran out of cardboard. Time to head back to the alley. Stay tuned for more forest construction.



I am linking my tree construction project up at:
Friday's Nature Table at The Magic Onions
Pin Me Linky Party at Diana Rambles
Creative Friday at Natural Suburbia
One Project Closer at The Humble Brag
Shine On Friday at Happy Go Lucky
Happy Hour Projects

12 August 2013

Summer of Jo-Ann: Ice Capades

This post is sponsored by Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores.

Walking into Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts the other day, I was struck by the fall and Halloween décor that dominated the store. I am still in summer mode. Truth be told, it feels like summer has just begun. Possibly because all we have been doing lately is packing and unpacking boxes. We are moving house, you see. My poor daughter. She was so looking forward to a summer of fun filled activities and crafts compliments of Jo-Ann. Unfortunately the craft room looks this:


Lola and I had poured over Jo-Ann’s summer catalog together and picked out a few fun crafts. We were going to sew an alligator, we even have the fat quarters in funky colors. But while there is light at the end of the tunnel, the sewing machine is still very much buried in stuff. I think I have too much of it. Stuff, I mean.

However, we had picked up a Toob of Penguins, some gray, white, and blue felt, batting, and Elmer’s spray adhesive as well. A lovely Antarctic diorama was also on our to-do list. All we needed was some sturdy cardboard to set it up. If there’s one thing that you’ll have a lot of when moving, it’s cardboard. Armed with a rough design, a ruler, and a box cutter, we set out to create our landscape.

We attached a little white tissue paper to our cardboard to cover up some of the brown. Then we added a layer of batting. I found some glitter snow fabric in my stash, but it was not enough to cover the entire scene so we put regular batting on the bottom, and saved the good stuff for the mountains and the rocks.

Once the cardboard was covered in batting, I attached gray craft felt to the back, and the bottom – I get a little carried away sometimes, and hot glued silver ribbon around the edges for that extra icy sparkle.

I used a hollowed out log, perfect for an ice cave, and gave it a felt roof. I cut water out of blue felt, and used various plastic containers to create rocks and a slide.

The rocks are loosely covered with white cardboard and glittery batting, and can be placed anywhere on the cardboard. I added a few real rocks and then it was time to invite the penguins in to play.

Behold our Antarctic diorama:

While I was fussing over penguin placement and pictures, three little ones were watching my every move, ready to jump in. When I was satisfied with the results, I turned it over to the munchkins to play with.

There are so many wonderful projects to make this summer, or later, for every age and every skill level. Just browse through Jo-Ann’s Cape Discovery catalog and see for yourself.

25 May 2013

Stars And Checkers

It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the United States and that calls for a little red, white, and blue. But rather than stars and stripes, I went for stars and checkers instead. It looks very festive, I think.

I fused gingham cotton in blue and red onto navy blue and red wool felt, and cut out stars in different sizes. With a small hole punch I made two holes in my stars and strung them on a length of red and white baker’s twine.







Have a lovely Memorial Day weekend, everyone! Enjoy the extra day off. I think I'll go out and do some garage-saling.



I am linking my starts and checkers garland up at:
The Humble Brag Party at One Project Closer
Friday's Nature Table at The Magic Onions
Creative Friday at Natural Suburbia
Pin Me Linky Party at Diana Rambles

22 April 2013

Pastel Hearts

A customer requested my rainbow heart garland for her mother’s wedding which she is planning. She wondered if I could make it in pastel colors. Why, of course! I love how it turned out.




Even better: I was able to go outside for a quick photo shoot without having to put on a snowsuit. Not that I would call it spring yet. Much too cold still. But I did see the first of my bulbs come up. Finally evidence of spring.

07 April 2013

Fabric Flower Pots



My husband suggested we make flower pots out of fabric not too long ago. To be honest, I was a little skeptical at first but I have to admit I was wrong. The first pot we made turned out awesome. You’ll have to take my word for it because sadly, there are no pictures and the pot in question was a gift. We used different patterned blue fabric scraps and a piece of matching vinyl as a liner. An idea was born, begging for a repeat.

To give the pots a little more body, I wanted to use a fabric that is a little heavier than the quilting cotton we used on our prototype, such as an upholstery fabric. JoAnn’s carries the new HGTV line of home décor fabrics, which has some beautiful prints. Now I am more of a summer colors girl for flower pots, and I love the combination of hot pink and bright orange. The Urban Blossoms and Checkered Past in Berry fit the bill perfectly.

I have to stop here for a minute and tell you that JoAnn’s and HGTV sent me generous samples of the new HGTV home décor fabric line to play with. But I was genuinely thrilled to see which prints had been sent my way. I mean, look at those pots, how could I not be? It is gorgeous fabric.



I used a simple pattern for a lined bucket to make my pots. Out of each print I cut a 19.5” by 10.5” rectangle and a 6.25” circle. Because I was making flower pots I used Pellon Vinyl Fuse on the liner fabric to make it somewhat waterproof and protect it from the dirt. Great stuff, easy to work with. It makes the fabric very stiff but I had no difficulty at all sewing through it.



First you make a tube by sewing the short sides of the rectangle together with the right sides facing. Iron open the seam. A word of advice: use the protective paper backing from the vinyl fuse when ironing the seam of the fabric fused with vinyl. Use it not only on top of the fabric, but also on the inside. Your tube will otherwise melt together. Trust me on this one.



Then you pin the bottom to the tube you just made and sew it in place. Go slow.







Do not turn the inner layer inside out. Repeat these steps with the outer layer and turn that one with the right side facing out.



Place the outer layer inside the inner layer. Line up the tops and pin in place. Sew together, leaving about a 4” opening.





Pull the fabric through the opening and turn the bucket inside out. Push the inner layer into the outer layer and topstitch along the top edge to close the opening. If you like, you can fold over the inside a little, or a lot.



That’s all there is to it. Lovely and vibrantly colored flower pots. Of course you don’t have to put a plant in them, you can use them to hold whatever you want.





If you too would  like to try the new HGTV home décor fabric line, there is a 10% off coupon valid through May 4. (And if you can wait a little bit longer, the HGTV line is available at 50% off starting April 14.) Enjoy!

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