snowy days...

it just seems appropriate that i started making this snow day hat when it looks like this outside:
we've been 'snowed in' for the past 2 days [as happens when 8 inches of snow falls in north carolina] so i'm trying to use the time to my crafty advantage. i love snow, it makes everything look so dreamy! however, i definitely prefer to sit and look at it from inside, sipping my very creamy coffee and stitching under a cozy blanket. preferably while wearing the largest socks i own.

as for the hat, i'm thinking i'll try lining it with a little bit of pink fleece, and it seems that a pom pom maker must soon find its way to my craft stash [how have i lived without one?].
as soon as we can leave the house, that is.

:::edited to add:::
here is an adorable ruffled fleece version if you're in the mood for some simple sewing while the winter weather is here!


pottery barn balls with the create studio girls!

this week i had a lovely time joining up with the sarah from create studio and the craft club girls! my sweet sister-in-law asked me to come co-teach a craft for their montly meet up that she was hosting. after much deliberation and tutorial-swapping, we decided on pottery barn-inspired decorative balls as our project, thanks to the v & co. tutorial.

we started with some clearance "snowball" styrofoam balls in two sizes, some twine, some faux flower petals, some spray paint, some fabric strips, some spray paint, and an army of glue guns. this is what we ended up with:
probably my favorite thing about this craft was that everyone was thinking about all the different ways the balls could be decorated... one idea led to another as we sat around the table chatting, every once in awhile someone would say 'you know what else you could do on these?' i love that about a craft- when it's enjoyable in the moment, and also opens the little doors of inspiration in your mind.
i think all of us had a moment of thinking the balls would never be done [especially those of us that started off, optimistically, with the larger size!] but our group had a warm, cozy feel as we each concentrated on our work. there's something so nice to me about women working together- it felt like a quilting bee! just a tip- coffee and brownies help if you start feeling a little woozy from all the wrapping.

the original idea was twine-wrapped balls, with the option of spray painting them after they were wrapped. i love the all-natural look of the un-spray-painted... makes me think of the beach! and they're so neutral, you could pair them with a shell-covered ball for a summer beachy look, or with pine cones and grapevine balls for fall. it takes a lot of wrapping and a bit of time [especially if your glue gun dies in revolt over the cheap glue sticks you've... erm... i've been stuffing in it!] but looks totally great when it's done!
then we tried it with some faux flower petals, which turned out completely beautiful and wedding-y. i'm picturing these hanging from the backs of chairs or in the trees or even in little piles as centerpieces at a wedding reception. of course, it helped that my sis picked these gorgeous, soft, creamy colors!
sarah brought some fabric to try out some ripped and twisted strips around the balls. it seemed to go quite a bit faster and turned out very cute! i'd love to try these in springtime colors, maybe on those egg-shaped styrofoam balls at easter?
she also had a great idea with the scrap felt i brought. i thought we could do it in little circles for a snowball effect, but she scrunched them up into a beautiful ruffled ball!
so are you inspired to make balls now but not sure what to do with them after you do? pop them in a wide bowl on your table, a birdcage or trifle on your shelf, in an apothecary jar, put some ribbon around them and hang them on your doorknob or cabinet pulls, or even get a little crazy and make a topiary out of them!
my twine ball [completed despite the glue gun travesty] went straight into my little birdcage on the shelf and is waiting for some friends to join it! thanks again to sarah, my sis, and the create studio girls!


the anthropologized star ornament.

some of my on-the-cheap ideas recently have been coming from the gorgeous pages of the anthropologie catalog. back in december i was wandering their website looking for a stocking, and came across this little ornament that i immediately thought would be so easy to make!
i don't remember how much the original price was, but i know for sure i made it cheaper. all it took was two papier mache star ornament blanks, some scraps of felt, and a glue gun!

i almost made it in my favorite green felt, but decided for it to show up against a christmas tree, that green wouldn't be quite the best. so i switched to cream since i had some scraps from another project, and it turned out very warm and wintery and snowball-ish:
i opted not to line each little circle in glitter, but you could do that to make it even more like the original. [martha stewart glass glitter is really lovely!] these are so fun and easy to do! they'd be a great craft with kids. if you could find a really large star, it would make a great tree-topper [especially glittered!]

here's the photo tutorial!
and done! sit back and admire your handiwork!
of course, the christmas tree has long since been packed up and back into the basement, so this little guy is hanging out on the eiffel tower on our mantle for now. i love that it feels so wintery rather than christmas-specific, so it can be kept out a little longer.
if you're high on glue gun fumes now, and feeling the love for little felt circles, you could always make a warm snuggly little winter tree with the same method to go with your star!


we love free!

last week i went to a thrift shop of sorts provided by the seminary that my husband and i are students at called the share shop. people donate all sorts of household items and clothing, like you would to goodwill, and then they are free to the students! we have been so thankful for this generosity, and have found some really great stuff for our family [including a potty chair and a tiny pair of pink crocs for our baby girl!]. i went again last night, and seeing as how several of our coffee cups look like this:
i thought maybe my husband needed something a little more manly to drink his coffee out of in the mornings. imagine my glee when i found these:
totally manly, woodsy starbucks coffee mugs... for free!

i really love coffee mugs [especially big ones] because, well, i really love coffee. also, several of my favorites in my little collection, including that pink one, were given to me by my mom and remind me of her. i saw this picture of a bunch of coffee cups from a coffee shop in boone, nc [up to the mountains from here] and thought, is it bad that i totally want to do this to the ceiling in my house?
i also brought home a ginormous cork board and lamp shade ready to be crafted upon for my craft room and K's nursery, respectively.
it's a little beat up, but nothing a little crafty love and attention can't fix! i have some cork tiles that i'm thinking might work to recover the little tear in the cork, and i'll probably paint the frame and cover the cork in fabric! we've moved some of our furniture around between the basement and our living room, so my craft area is a work in progress again- but i'm super excited to have a cork board this big to cover a large area of unfinished wall with some color and organization! check out sarah at create studio- she's got some great cork board and inspiration board ideas. i'm already acting on my new year's ambitions. yay!

my biggest 'score' of all, the one i was most excited about, came to me as i was leaving the share shop. right out front there is a dumpster and there was an abandoned treasure sitting there just waiting for me to come adopt it! so, i went dumpster diving and came out with this beauty:
[ok, really it was just leaning up against the dumpster and i added it to my loot. but dumpster diving makes for a much better story.]

the last one of these i got, i paid about $30 bucks for at our local flea market. and this one was free! i stuffed it in the trunk of my car, looking over my shoulder to make sure the person who threw it away didn't suddenly decide they wanted to keep it after all, seeing as how old beat-up windows are SO COOL. definitely a great example of one person's trash is a crafter's treasure! [ps- i made mine into a display for my craft shows, but there are lots of fun things you can do with old windows!]

i can't wait to get started on these and craft them up a bit!


first foray into felting!

i have been so excited to finish this project and write about it! felting seems to contradict everything your mother ever taught you about laundry and what evil may befall you if you accidentally put that wool sweater in the washer... but i've been totally intrigued by felting [technically called fulling] for a nice long while now. the only thing is, it seems sad to "ruin" something you've spent the time knitting or crocheting by essentially scrubbing and shrinking it, and i've never found any 100% wool sweaters at goodwill or someplace cheap that were pretty enough to bring home, much less take the time to purposefully shrink, cut apart, and make into something else like a handbag.

enter a random middle-of-the-magazine card from an issue of crochet today, usually an annoyance when they fall out when you're flipping through, featuring an adorable little round ornament felted enough to make a solid surface that you could embroider a snowflake on- perfect! and oh the things you could embroider onto them! i couldn't find anything like it on their website [they're a little stingy with their patterns, anyway] and couldn't get my scanner to work, so i did the old photo-of-a-photo trick [i want to try making those baskets below it too!]
so on a yarn buying spree a few cold days ago, i started with this:
a yarn proclaiming to be "ideal for knit, crochet, and felted projects." a promise of success right on the label, how can you beat that?

a few things my google searches uncovered about felting your yarn items or a thrifted sweater:
  • the yarn has to be as close to 100% wool as possible to work
  • felting happens from agitation [like inside your washer] and very hot water
  • felting will shrink the item slightly smaller or quite a bit smaller than your original item [the closer to 100% wool it is, the more it will probably shrink]
i'd been stalking this pattern for crocheted mini-hearts, trying to figure out what i would use them for [when has that ever stopped me]. i figured they were a painless little project i could test out my felting process upon with little to no tragic loss of effort put into crocheting the little things in the first place. so i crocheted one, which turned out even more mini than i remembered:
the next obstacle... how to felt them. a search for tutorials turned up somewhat disappointing, except for maybe this one more related to felting with wool roving. i remembered some diy tv show i'd seen somewhere where the girl knit a hat, tossed it in a plain old ziplock bag with a little squirt of dish soap, scrubbed the life out of it, and out popped a completely solid wool felt hat!

well, i could do that.

so i took my tiny red heart and i put it in my tiny ziplock bag with my few tiny dots of joy dish soap, and gently squeezed it until it was saturated with the the hottest water i could stand to touch like this:
then i rubbed it between my palms like i was trying to start a fire with it until it looked like this:
and it worked! i took it out, rinsed it, squeezed out the excess water, reshaped it back into its little heart shape, and let it dry.
but now what to do with them. make a ton, put them in little envelopes and mail them to people on valentine's day? surely not everybody will think a hand-crocheted and hand-felted almost-microscopically-mini one-inch heart is as cool as i do. so, note to self: file away the idea for a potential valentine's day heart garland.

but! back to the original ornament idea. i started with my flat circle, 10 rows of single crochet that [after i winged it] turned out about 5 inches in diameter:
fueled by the success of my tiny-felted-heart mission, i put the circle right in the baggie and attacked it with gusto. 10 minutes of scrubbing later, i pulled it out and went old-school on it:
20 minutes after that [trying not to think about how many clean dishes i should have to show for my 30 minutes total of maniacal scrubbing] i decided that in the future, i would crochet the circle to only about 3 inches in diameter, and try tossing it in the washer to felt it. but, the great thing is that felting is one of those no-fail crafts where you can't really hurt it or over-do it. yay! here's an extreme close-up of the felted and non-felted textures:
when it didn't shrink as much felted as i thought it would, i decided it was more coaster-sized than ornament-sized, and made a new little circle with 6 rows of crochet instead of 10 [about a 3 inch diameter circle]. i felted it in the baggie, and embroidered my little snowflake on it in white perle cotton [love!] with a big fat darning needle:
then i looped a little bit of my favorite sheer ornament ribbon in cream through for hanging and hot glued a little circle of cream eco felt on the back to hide the back of the stitches... this was actually nice because it gave it a little more heft too, and kept it flat instead of bendy.
ta da! love love love! the tree of course has long since been put away so it's hanging on my little wire eiffel tower on our mantel for these photos.
i see an army of these in my future... i also want to try crocheting a snowflake, felting it, and either stringing some together as a garland or for hanging in the windows. so many great ideas for christmas/winter next year! i may stick with the red & white snowflake theme for one more year!


on the cheap: teeny tiny little stampers.

how to carve a stamp.

or alternatively: how to destroy a perfectly good eraser (as my hubby says).

i've done a little bit of rubber stamp carving in the past, but nothing compared to some of the super inspiring things i've seen online recently! the flickr: carve your stamps pool is pure inspiration, and full of cuteness! i even compiled a list of a few of my favorites quite awhile ago, but when i saw these little snowflakes via gennine's art blog [pretty much her whole set is phenomenal], i knew i had to pull the little erasers back out! and of course, since i have a thing for teeny tiny little items en mass, i knew i couldn't stop with just one.

step 1: materials
i use pentel hi.polymer smooth white erasers- they're soft and easy to carve, and cheap [$1.50 for 3 at walmart/target!] each eraser will make 3 of the little 1" round stamps i'm making here. also a sharpie to draw your designs, and a carving tool. i use a little cheap set meant for wood, walnut hollow 6 piece set, but am dreaming of a speedball linoleum carver [a bit more expensive but still not too bad price-wise, and provides much more control over your design!] you also need some extra wine corks and possibly an x-acto knife.

step 2:
trace something the size you want your finished stamp to be [i used a wine cork]. three wine corks will fit on each eraser. gently slice the circles apart with your x-acto or one of the flat carving tools.

step 3:
carve around your circle, keeping the carving tool right along the line you have drawn. the only trick to doing this well is trial and error- aka the reason it's good to start out with the cheap erasers!

step 4:
draw your design on your nice, smoothed out circle with sharpie. then take the sharp corner of your carving tool and trace back over only the lines you have drawn. don't go too deep or too fast! go slowly and carefully since a slip of the hand can mean a painful cut to your finger or messing up your design.

step 5:
once your circle is defined, continue chipping away the sides and flattening out the bottom so that the extra eraser is trimmed off around your circle. [shown right to left in the photo.] you want the bottom to be mostly flat so that it can be glued onto your wine cork. i usually fully flatten it out after i've carved the design because it's easier to hold onto as you're carving before you've trimmed off the extra!

step 6:
glue the 'flattened' stamp onto a wine cork so that you have a 'handle' for your stamping success. i used my favorite, rusty trusty e6000.

step 7:
test out your stamp to make sure the design is just how you want it. you can very gently and carefully make some changes if one of your lines isn't the smoothest, or that little corner needs to be rounded out a little more, etc. so fun!

step 8:
and done! repeat and make tons of cheap, fun little stampers. find something fun to put the whole collection in [such as an emptied out and painted altoids tin!] and add to your stash of awesome stamps. maybe even make a set with a theme as a gift for a crafty friend?
but what can i make with my little stampers?

pretty much anything you can stamp! make your own stickers, decorate some post-it notes, stamp some fridge magnets, or stamp your own christmas or valentine cards:
you may even want to carve your own personalized address stamp, or a banana stamp [why not?]. if you're having a hard time picturing what the actual carving part looks like, here's an awesome video of gennine in action [amazing!] and, if on the other hand, you love the look but think i must be a delusional psycho to sit and carve things out of erasers [haha] here is a fantastic etsy shop called cupcake tree where you can buy them pre-done! most of them are around $10 or less.

here are some other stamps i've carved in the past. the bigger one was done with a speedball speedy carve block, which is pink and more like the texture of a classic pink school eraser [a little harder than the white ones]. michael's also carries both of the speedball products shown here, which is great because i love using my 40% off coupons from the paper!

[this one was my original logo for my etsy shop. i used this thing on everything, which is why it's crumbling apart a little bit! in the future i'll probably use the speedball block for something like this- it seems a little more long-lasting for a stamp that will be used a whole lot].


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