Monday, December 29, 2014

New Year's Inspiration Jar

I like the hopeful feeling I get when I start something new. Although I haven't been to school in years, I still get an anything-is-possible, back-to-school feeling each September. I even like Mondays because they give me a chance to make a new start each week. When it comes to fresh starts, New Year's is the biggest day of the year. I try not to ruin it by making a bunch of resolutions that I know I won't keep. Instead, I like to think of ways I can be a better person (ok, and maybe exercise more).

I am a collector of quotes, prayers, and poems that I find inspiring, and I think I've finally found a way to make them part of my daily life. I printed 52 of these sentiments from my computer, cut them out, folded them, and put them in a jar. My plan is to pull one out each Monday and use it for guidance that week. There are some scripture verses in the mix, but also Irish proverbs, Beatles lyrics, and quotes from Confucius and Francis of Assisi. I originally planned to make this a quote-a-day project, but I quickly realized that 365 is a lot of quotes. If your own quote collection is shy of 52, you can visit these websites for inspiration: Brainy QuoteQuote GardenGoodreads.

As craft projects go, my New Year Inspiration Jar is pretty basic, but I did dress it up a bit so it doesn't get lost on my shelves by February. I made a label by cutting leaf shapes from three different neutral papers and layering them. I attached a metal eyelet to each end and tied the label to the jar with twine. I was going to write "Quote of the Week" on the label, but I decided to use a line from the Rule of St. Benedict instead: "Always we begin again." A good way to start off the New Year, don't you think?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Stamped Christmas Gift Tags

My favorite rubber stamps represent images from nature--like the gorgeous snowflake stamp from PSX that inspired these holiday gift tags. And since heat-embossing is pretty much my favorite rubber-stamping technique, I used metallic embossing powder to show off the stamp's details and give the project a rich look.

Like so many of my projects, this one uses craft materials I have on hand--card stock, snowflake-print decorative paper, ribbon, tulle, beads, and other trims. Each design starts with a tag cut from white card stock. I glued a piece of decorative paper to the front; on the back I stamped small snowflakes (with another stamp from PSX) and "To" and "From" with stamps from Serendipity Stamps. 

Now comes the fun part. I stamped a large snowflake over the decorative paper with an embossing pad, sprinkled it with embossing powder, and then shook away the excess. To make the embossing powder work its magic, I applied a heat tool to the powder until it melted and turned shiny. If you're new to heat-embossing, follow the manufacturer's directions carefully and remember that the heat tool gets really hot. When the embossing powder is cool, which only takes a minute, it's time to put the finishing touches on the tag.

I added an eyelet to the top of each tag and then chose embellishments that complemented the decorative paper I had used. For the pretty tags shown here I used purple and pink satin ribbon, pastel blue tulle, faux crystal beads, and paillettes. If you prefer a more traditional palette, trim your tag with red and green ribbon and tiny jingle bells.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

My Poinsettia Cross-Stitch in Craft Ideas Magazine

My Poinsettia Cross-Stitch Picture was featured in the Holiday issue of Craft Ideas. It's a great magazine that features all kinds of crafts--jewelry, painting, paper crafts, crochet, knitting, crafts for kids, and, of course, cross-stitch. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Crocheted Icicle Garland

Aside from early adventures with crayons and construction paper, crochet was the first craft I learned. I think I was seven when my grandmother patiently guided me through a pot holder made from gray Aunt Lydia's Rug Yarn. This sparkly crocheted garland is even easier to make than a pot holder--and, I think, a lot prettier. If you can chain stitch and count, you have all the skills you need.

You can find plastic "crystal" teardrop beads like the ones shown here at a craft store. I used purple embroidery floss and a size 10 steel crochet hook, but you can use crochet thread and a hook of your choice. Just make sure the point of the hook fits through the hole in the beads. 

To make the garland, chain 50 stitches and add a bead: push the point of the hook through the bead's hole, wrap the crochet thread around the hook, and then pull it back through the hole and through the stitch on the hook. Chain 30 and add another bead. That's all there is to it. Keep chain-stitching and adding beads until the garland is the length you want (or, like me, you run out of beads). End the garland with 50 chain stitches. Hang your finished "icicle" garland on your Christmas tree or drape it around a mirror or window.

Tip: To keep the garland from tangling, wrap it around a cardboard tube for storage. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Embroidered Pine Balsam Sachet

Embroidered Pine Sachet

I don't know much about aromatherapy, but I do know that the scent of pine makes me feel cozy and calm. I've been making pine balsam sachets for Christmas gifts and decided to make this little one for myself. It's really small--just 3" by 3¾"--but it smells like a big pine forest.

The first step in making the sachet is the embroidery. You can follow the chart below as a guide and choose the shades of green floss you like. I used 18-count antique white Aida and two strands of DMC embroidery floss in Dark Fern Green (520), Fern Green (522), and Light Blue Green (3813). The design is worked in straight stitches, and I think the trees look best if you work the trunks first and then add the branches. To layer the trees as they are in the picture, work the tall trees first, the small trees second, and the medium trees last. When the embroidery is finished, trim the fabric, leaving five rows of Aida around the design.

Pine Forest Sachet Chart     ©2014 Kathleen Berlew
Now it's time to make the pillow. Cut two rectangles of felt and use sewing thread or a single strand of floss to sew the embroidery piece to the center of one of them. Use the Aida grid as a guide and stitch two rows in from the outer edge. Be sure to sew through the Aida threads and not just the holes so the fabric doesn't unravel when you create the fringe.

And that's the next step. When the embroidery is stitched securely to the felt, gently pull away the outer row of Aida threads on all four sides. This creates a pretty fringed border around the design.

Assembling the sachet is the easiest part of the project. Pin the two felt pieces together, wrong sides facing, and sew them together. I used blanket stitch, but running stitch will work too. Leave an opening at the bottom, fill the sachet with pine balsam, and stitch the opening closed.

That's it! Your little pine balsam sachet is finished. I think I'm going to keep mine on my nightstand to inspire sweet wintertime dreams.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Tiny Tree Pins

I made a forest of these tiny felt tree pins last Christmas. They're simple, fast, and cute--my favorite kind of craft. And, at just about two inches tall, they're a great project for using up scraps of felt.

To make each tree, cut two triangles from the felt color of your choice. I made the pins shown here in a mod palette of bright pink and neon green, but I've also made them in traditional green and red. Decorate one triangle with buttons, beads, sequins, and simple embroidery. Be sure to leave a narrow border around the embellishments so you'll have enough room to stitch the tree pieces together.

Cut a triangle slightly smaller than the felt triangles from polyester batting. For the trunk, cut a small scrap in a color that contrasts with the tree. Stitch a pin backing onto the back piece of the tree before sewing the pieces together. Sandwich the batting triangle between the felt triangles and tuck the trunk between the felt pieces at the base of the tree. Use matching or coordinating embroidery floss and a running stitch to sew the front and back of the tree together, stitching through the trunk piece so it stays in place.

Be warned: these little trees are addictive. If you're like me, you'll want to try all kinds of color and embellishment combinations. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Napkin Ties

Thanksgiving is just a few days away, but I figured I had time for a last-minute craft. These simple napkin ties are made from materials most crafters have on hand--ribbon, beads, and embroidery floss. If you don't have alphabet beads, a quick trip to the craft store is worth the effort. The little black-and-white beads really give the napkin ties a personal touch. You can use them to add a warm greeting or spell out each guest's name.

Basic supplies: beads, ribbons, embroidery floss.
There really are no specific directions for this project. I just chose ribbons in autumn colors from my never-ending ribbon stash and paired them with coordinating beads. For the "Welcome" tie, I stitched the beads directly to the ribbon. For the "Grace" and "Give Thanks" napkin ties, I threaded the beads onto pieces of embroidery floss and then stitched the floss to the ribbon. I used wood and red plastic beads to accent the ribbons, but you can use whatever supplies you have. And remember, the ties don't all have to match!  

When it's time to set the table, there's no need to fold napkins so they look formal and fancy. Just roll them up and wrap a beaded napkin tie around each one.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Herb-Print Cards

Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to make a batch of thank you cards. I'll be harvesting sage and thyme from my garden for Thanksgiving recipes soon (they're still thriving here in Pennsylvania), but I picked some early for this project. I love the look of these herbs as much as I like their taste, so I decided to use sage and thyme leaves to make prints.

Fresh-picked thyme and sage.
For the sage card, I pinched several well-shaped sage leaves from the stem and pressed them with a paper towel to make sure they were dry. I then placed each leaf wrong-side-down on an ink pad (the undersides of the leaves really show off the veined pattern). To avoid making a mess of my hands and work area, I placed a piece of clean paper over the leaf and rolled over it with a rubber brayer. I then positioned the leaf, ink side down, on a piece of card stock and covered it with another piece of clean paper. To transfer the leaf print, I rolled over the paper with the brayer a few times, being careful not to let the leaf shift. When I lifted the sage leaf away from the paper, I found it had made a perfect leaf print on the paper. I added other leaves to the design following the same process.

Place sage leaves wrong-side-down on the ink pad.
Finished leaf prints.

Thyme leaves are too tiny to print individually, so I decided to use whole stems. I trimmed small sprigs of thyme to fit my piece of card stock and then used a brayer to coat the stem and leaves with ink. Using the same process I did for the sage card, I applied thyme prints to a piece of card stock. 

When the ink on the designs was dry, I used a fine-point marker to write "Thank You" on some of the cards, and then mounted the printed papers on small cards. I like the way the leaf prints came out so much, I may have to use the technique on other projects . . . maybe this year's Christmas cards?

In the garden: sage . . . 
and thyme.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Orange Tiles Cross-Stitch Pillow

I'm one of those people who can't resist a clever color name. That's why our living room is Celtic Sage and the bedroom is Hydrangea instead of generic green and beige. The same goes for embroidery floss colors. When I designed this cross-stitch pattern, I was inspired by Spanish tiles, and I had a general color scheme in mind. But when it came time to choose the exact floss colors, the names made the process easy. Turquoise, orange spice, olive, tangerine . . . they just sound exotic, don't they? (I also included navy blue, which isn't exactly romantic, but at least conjures images of the sea.)

The design is repetitious and relatively simple, but it does require a bit of concentration. I guess that's what I like about cross-stitching; it helps me relax and makes me think at the same time. The finished pillow shown in the photo is about 4¾" square; it's worked with two strands of DMC® embroidery floss on 18-count white Aida. If you use 14-count Aida, the design will be 6" square; 11-count Aida will give you a 7¾"-square design. Click here to download and print a copy of the chart.

Assembling the pillow is the easiest part of the project. Trim the finish embroidery, leaving about a 1" margin all around. For the backing, cut a same-size square of fabric (mine is shimmery orange), and then pin the pieces together with right sights facing. Sewing up the edges is easy if you use the lines on the Aida as a guide. Leave an opening and turn the pillow right side out. Fill it with polyester fiberfill and hand-stitch the opening closed.

So what can you do with such a small pillow? Show it off on a shelf, use it as a fancy pincushion, or fill it with cedar shavings to make an exotic sachet.

Orange Tiles Cross-Stitch Pillow Chart   ©2014 Kathleen Berlew
Color Key (DMC Floss)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Felt Squares Purse

Sometimes I just want a small purse to carry my cell phone and keys instead of hauling around a big handbag. I made this little clutch (it's about 4½" square) from scraps of olive green, gold, orange, and sky blue felt. To make a similar bag, follow the directions below, substituting felt shades to create your own color scheme.

Start with a 4½"-by-12" piece of green felt. Cut small squares and rectangles from orange, gold, blue, and green felt and arrange them in a layered pattern along one short edge of the green felt strip. (This will be the flap of the purse.) When you like the way the arrangement looks, sew the pieces in place with gold or green thread and blanket stitch.

Place the green strip facedown and place a 4½" square of gold felt on the wrong side of the decorated edge of the green. Extend the gold piece about ¼" beyond the short edge of the green piece. (From the front, the gold will peek below the edge of the green flap.) Using matching green thread and blanket stitch, sew the gold piece to the green piece. Next, fold the plain edge of the green felt up about 4½" from the plain edge and sew the sides together with blanket stitch.

To make a fastening for the bag, sew a loop of cord or thread (I crocheted a small piece of orange embroidery floss) to the wrong side of the flap. Sew a small coordinating button to the front of the bag so it matches up with the button loop.

If you feel your blanket stitch isn't up to par (mine's still not as even as I'd like), running stitch or backstitch will work fine and look just as pretty.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mini Monsters

If you made the Miniature Haunted House from last week's blog, it's probably looking pretty empty. I made these little Halloween characters from wooden beads, paint, and paper to give the place a little life. I'm providing basic directions for each monster, but you can pretty much use any materials you have on hand.

Dracula: Paint a round bead and a square bead white and then glue them together when the paint is dry. Use permanent markers or paint and a fine-tip brush to create the vampire's jacket details, facial features, and famous hairline. Cut a bat-wing cape from black paper and glue it onto Dracula's back.

Frankenstein's Monster: Paint a large round bead black for the monster's body and a square bead green for the head. Glue the pieces together when the paint is dry and glue a square of black card stock to the base for the feet. Add hair, a mouth, eyes, and a scar to the monster's face with paint and markers.

Ghost: Paint two round beads--one large, one small--white and let them dry. Cut a circle from a coffee filter and glue it to the large bead, then glue the small bead on top. Draw eyes and mouth (bedsheet-style ghosts don't usually have noses) and glue on a white paper base to keep him from tipping over.

Pumpkins: These pumpkins are more cute than spooky, but you can add more menacing features if you like. For each, paint a round, ridged bead orange and add eyes with white and black paint. For the stem, glue a piece of green twist-tie into the center of the bead and wind it into a spiral. Glue the finished pumpkin on a circle of card stock so it doesn't roll away.

Witch: Since witches come in all shapes and sizes, you can use any beads you like for this character. Paint the body black, the head green, and then glue the pieces together. Add paper shoes with curled-up toes and painted facial features. Top the head with embroidery floss hair and a pointed black paper hat.

Mummy: My Mummy is on the small side, but I think he's still pretty creepy looking. Choose two beads--one for the body, one for the head--in any size or style you have and paint them white. Glue them together and use a black marker to draw a shadowy face and layers of bandages. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Miniature Haunted House

My collection of boxes provided creative inspiration for this tabletop haunted house. I used a cereal box and an assortment of cardboard jewelry boxes as the construction materials for a creepy four-story mansion right out of a vintage horror movie. I had fun making it myself, but it would be a great Halloween project for kids too. 

Making the framework for the house was the trickiest part of this project. I started with a cereal box, cut away the top flaps and the back panel, and then used the scrap pieces of cardboard and a stapler to create the roof. It took several coats of acrylic paint--black on the outside, metallic silver on the inside--to completely cover the printed images on the box. I glued black and gray paper shingles to the top of the roof and sealed them with a coat of Mod Podge.®

Bottom floors

While the box dried between coats, I decorated the house's tiny rooms with paper cutouts, markers and paint pens. I furnished the hall with an ominous portrait and ticking grandfather clock--necessary elements of haunted house decor. Test tubes and a menacing machine fill the laboratory (every respectable haunted house has one). I decorated the dining room with a glittery chandelier and dramatic furniture. In the sitting room three creepy silhouettes watch over an overstuffed sofa. I created a stark kitchen, a deceptively cozy bedroom, an attic study, and a storage room to complete the house's layout.

Top floors
When the rooms were furnished and dried, a fastened them to the inside of the cereal box frame with heavy-duty double-stick tape. To keep the haunted house from tipping over, I mounted it on a base of corrugated cardboard dappled with black and silver paint.

Black and gray paper "shingles" cover the roof.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mad Scientist Bookmarks

Part of my annual October ritual is watching as many classic sci-fi movies as I can before Halloween. My favorites involve creatures produced through science run amok--Them!, The Fly, The Killer Shrews--you get the idea. In the spirit of misguided scientific experimentation, I created these mad scientist bookmarks. You can make them as favors for a children's Halloween party, or--if you're a sci-fi fan like me--use them to mark your place in your copy of The Day of the Triffids.

To make the microscope slide bookmarks, I used scissors and hole punches to create germs and squiggly creatures from colored paper. I arranged the pieces on a strip of clear adhesive-backed paper and added eyes--white punched-paper circles dotted with black-ink pupils. If you want to give your bookmark a name tag like I did, cut a small square of white vellum, write a name on it with permanent marker, and place it at the top of the "slide." Seal the bookmark with another layer of adhesive-backed paper, punch a hole in the top, and add a knotted cord or yarn.

Although they are not scientifically accurate, the round bookmarks are supposed to look like petri dishes (remember bio class?) filled with microscopic creatures. I used a circle of white vellum for the base of each design and arranged paper germs, glitter, and snippets of ribbon, thread, and feathers on top. When I liked the way the arrangement looked, I added a circle of adhesive-backed paper to hold all the pieces in place. If you have no need for petri dish bookmarks, use them as coasters at your Halloween party instead.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Halloween Treat Boxes

You never know when a box is going to come in handy. That's why I've become a hoarder of boxes--corrugated shipping boxes, shoe boxes, shirt boxes, etc. I made these tiny Halloween treat boxes from white jewelry boxes and odds and ends from my craft supply stash.

For the larger box, I used a classic Halloween palette of black, yellow, orange, and neon green. I painted the bottom black on the outside, green on the inside, and the top yellow on the outside, orange on the inside. The box top is decorated with orange and green paper (I used a small spool to stamp the black paint rings) and a big yellow button. I used a circle paper punch to make the polka dots, which I glued inside the box and along the top's edges. A few coats of Mod Podge® sealed the paper trims and gave the box a nice shine. I think my favorite part of this box is its legs. To make them, I just glued a pony bead and a striped square bead to the bottom of the box at each corner. 

The smaller box is even easier to make. I left the top white and decorated it with purple and black paper. Next, I glued tiny wiggle eyes in pairs to the black paper. They're supposed to look slightly spooky, but they're pretty silly. Strips of purple and green paper with pinked edges trim the sides of the box top. To make the feet, I glued clear glass pebbles to the bottom.

The boxes make cute decorations, and they can hold a special treat (fancy candy, Halloween confetti, a gift card) for a favorite trick-or-treater.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Halloween Paper Chain

Paper chains were a go-to DIY Christmas decoration when I was in elementary school. With scissors and a bit of paste I could transform sheets of construction paper into festive garlands. This Halloween paper chain is a grown-up version of the red-and-green garlands I used to make. You can use purchased Halloween papers, but I made my own with rubber stamps, ink, pinking shears, and a hole punch.

Start by stamping images with black ink on white, gray, and orange card stock. The stamps I used are from All Night Media® (ornamental swirls), Rubber Stampede™ (trees), Hero Arts® (manuscript), and Penny Black® (scroll). I also used an artist's eraser to make the wide stripes and a pencil-top eraser for the dots. When you're happy with your stamping, cut the paper into 1 1/8"-by-8" strips with straight scissors or pinking shears. To add more dimension, punch holes in some of the strips and layer narrow stamped strips over solid black strips.

To assemble the chain, shape one strip into a ring and staple the ends together. Add links to the chain one by one, alternating colors and patterns. Hang the chain on your Halloween tree (if you have one) or a mantel. You can also arrange the chain in a bowl or basket to make a Halloween centerpiece.