Places to Go/Things to Do

Craft Book Challenge Week 43: Last–Minute Halloween Manicure

Happy Halloween!

While my husband was finetuning his spider drop for this evening's festivities, I thought I should put some effort into my appearance. He drops the spider, and I lure them in with the candy.

According to Frightfully Fun Halloween Crafts & Cooking, you can paint your nails with acrylic paint as long as you seal the paint with clear nail polish. While I don’t have creepy nail polish colors, I do have enough craft paint to cover the house inside and out.

How to Give Yourself an Ocular Manicure

1. With a small flat craft paint brush, paint a layer of white acrylic paint onto each finger nail. The first nail should be dry by the time you reach the last nail.

2. With a small liner brush, paint a circle of sage green in the middle of each white nail.


3. Dip the hard end of one brush (the end opposite the bristles) into black acrylic paint and stamp the end into the middle of each green circle.

4. Every eye needs a gleam. Paint a small dot of white just off center of the pupil using the small liner brush.

5. Acrylic paint is water–based and will wash off unless you seal it. Using the clear nail polish, paint at least two coats over the dried acrylic paint. Let the first clear coat dry before adding the second coat.

I’ve been able to wash my hands without losing my paint job, so I suspect my nails will last at least through the evening.

I might even have time to make some Spider Web Dip from the book. It matches my nails.



Craft Book Challenge Week 42: Crafting Books and Casting On

Have you ever wondered what to do with your old, shiny accounting textbooks? How about faux them into vintage books.

My week has been full of glue and paint doing just that to a stack of textbooks, and I’m still not done. Their eventual home will be as a nightstand for my husband. Then I have to do the same to another stack for me.

old textbooks in process


Cast On Bind Off
In between gluing and painting and gluing and painting some more, I played with Cast On, Bind Off.

It is amazing how many ways you can get the yarn on and off your knitting needles.

My favorite new methods are the I–cord cast on and I–cord cast off. It’s like magic the way the yarn orients itself perpendicular to the body of the piece.

I also made my first attempt at intarsia or bobbin knitting using the initials of our kids’ fencing club. I need a bit more practice getting my stitches not to wonk, but I’m still pleased with the result.

I-cord cast on and off

And look, only ten weeks left in my Craft Book Challenge year. Of course, that means that Christmas is only 9 weeks away!

Back to crafting those books.
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Coloring Book Collage

Collage by Number @ Suzy Cucumber

I adore the works of the masters. Alas, I choose not to wield a paintbrush with their skill. I have better things to do than devote my life to mixing the perfect crimson. Plus, someone has to cook around here or there’d be fast food wrappers piled to the ceiling.

Collage is the answer! I copied a page from my Color Your Own Great Flower Painting coloring book onto cardstock and grabbed a glue stick and the stack of magazines I’ve been too busy to read.

Collect the colors by ripping pages from magazines.

I chose to recreate Jan Van Kessel’s A Vase of Flowers, which is found NO WHERE on the Internet for reference. Jan painted many flowers in many vases, but I could not find this particular painting.


I followed the reference photo in the coloring book as best I could with some magnification and a color reference map. I like texture and variation in my colors, so I usually look for magazine pages that match the overall hue. I collect all the colors I think I may need beforehand as my palette. It’s no fun looking for more green with sticky, gluey fingers.

Collage the background first. 
I start with the background and rip the pieces to fit. I glue the pieces down one at a time with a glue stick, tweezers, and toothpick. I add elements from back to front.

  The work in progress. 

Seal the paper bits with a layer of Mod Podge in matte.
When I’m satisfied all my flowers and leaves are covered, I seal the whole piece with a layer of matte Mod Podge. It’s the same idea as sealing a puzzle you’ve completed. You don’t want any pieces popping up when you run it through the printer.

Yes, my poor printer gets abused again.

But, what if I don’t like a color choice I’ve made? A wash with thinned acrylic paint after sealing with Mod Podge will tone down any color errors. I didn’t like the light gray tone across the top, so I washed the area with black paint and repodged it.

Vase of Flowers before
Vase of Flowers after

My inkjet printer is learning to say “No” to my schemes, so I had to fool it into reading the dark background as white with a line of masking tape across the top of the collage. I then overprinted the original coloring book page on top of the collage work.

Click to see the large version.

I think the coloring book lines minimize the “I–copied–a–serious–piece–of–artwork” vibe. My art school daughter liked it, so I trimmed it to 8x10 and framed it for her dorm room. She said her Design professors would be impressed. The whole process took about 16 hours, so I hope they’d be!

The final artwork framed and on the wall.

The whole process is like collaging by number except you get to choose the colors, which opens a whole can of art worms.

Do you have a coloring book picture in mind to collage now?

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The Itsy Knitsy Spider Meets the Mummy

 The itsy knitsy spider minding her own business
The Itsy Knitsy Spider went up the waterspout.
 Ew. Ghoul.

Down came the ghoul and creeped the spider out.

Dude, check out my bling.

The spider lady turned her back and showed her deadly crest.

Was it something I said?

And the ghoul turned white, shrieked in fright, and instantly left.

Meanwhile, the Mummy watched in horror.

The knit mummy box is horrified by his relation's behavior.

His first cousin is the Ghoul. How embarrassing.

The knit mummy box offers the spider some candy brains to apologize.

All projects inspired by A New Look at Knitting, my craft book from Week 40.

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Craft Book Challenge Week 41: Coloring WAY outside the lines

I was going to play with beads this week until I got one of those hare–brained–I–will–not–leave–you–alone–until–you–indulge–me ideas.

Chaos to ensue.

Color Your Own Great Flower Paintings


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Knit Ghoul Box

sc ghoul box
He lurks, hidden deep in the shadows. Waiting. Once a year, the magic of All Hallow’s Eve releases him from his dark chains. When one waits all year for freedom, one does not waste a moment in repentance.


How to Knit a Box Without Using a Pattern

sc ghoul box schematic
A box is basically a hollow cube.  Each side is a perfect square. You’ll need six sides (four around and two for top and bottom) to complete the cube. Explode out a cube and you can see how the sides fit together.
(This technique is found in this week’s craft book.)

I ripped up a sheet for my fabric strips, so I’m not sure how much total fabric the box requires. Each strip is torn 1–in. wide.

Cast on as many stitches as you want onto size 13 (9mm) knitting needles. I cast on 10 stitches.

Knit each row until you have produced a square. Use the bow tie join method to add fabric as you need extra yardage. When the ruler is across the room, you can determine whether you’ve knit a square by folding up one corner to the opposite corner across the diagonal. If you can match corners and the sides line up, you have a square.

sc bow tie join

Now that you have knit a square, cast on the same number of stitches you began with. In my case, I cast on 10 more stitches. Knit across the new stitches and old stitches and cast on an additional number of the original stitch count. You should have triple the original number of stitches on your needle. I now had 30 stitches. (10 new st. + 10 original st. + 10 new st.)

Continue knitting across until you have added the same number of rows needed to make the original square. Cast off one side arm. Always keep the original middle stitches. Knit across and cast off the other extra side arm. You should be back to the original cast on stitch count.

You’ve just produced the front, bottom, and two sides of the box.

The final step is to knit the back and lid of the box. Knit double the rows necessary to produce a square piece. You are adding two squares stacked. Bind off when you have reached the height needed for two squares.

sc ghoul box 2

Slip stitch the two side arm squares to the front and back squares along the edges. (Make a box sample out of graph paper if it’s driving you crazy.) Slip stitching gives the floppy fabric some firmness.

You can add character by sewing button eyes just under the lid and tying scraggly yarn hair all around the top of the box. Or make the box with Christmas fabric and pop in a gift. It’s all good.

sc ghoul box open

Now, where’s the candy? My ghoul needs to eat!
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Craft Book Challenge Week 40: Playing with the Needles

As I wander the thrifts, I keep an eye out for vintage craft books. I ignore anything from the ‘80s, but anything older is fair game. I found a new look at Knitting in small–town Oklahoma at a Salvation Army. If you ignore the dreadful ‘70s vest and other truly unknown objects on the cover, you sometimes can find some nuggets of wisdom that other “proper” knitting books won’t tell you.

a new look at knitting

The book embraces experimental knitting. I did my first two–color knitting using a weaving method I had never seen in any other book. Stranding had always seemed daunting. With weaving, you catch the unused yarn behind the stitches as you’re knitting.


Despite some of the truly groovy designs, the book is more of a technique workbook than a pattern gallery. I plan to play and try out some “unauthorized” techniques just to see what will happen.


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Bat infestation! for Halloween

sc go batty

papapishu_bat_2Bats. Thanks to Bram Stoker, these helpful little mammals are forever connected to Halloween. So, let’s go with it. Sorry, bats, you are rather creepy looking.

Trompe l’oeil paintings fool the eye into thinking a flat object is three–dimensional. You can take a simple bat drawing and add shading/highlights to produce a swarm of bats across your front door. Just in time for Halloween.

Grab a bat from an open source clip art site like, which is where I found the little bat. Open the file in your graphics program and size it to about 8 in. across. Your monitor screen now doubles as a light board. Tape thin paper to the monitor and trace the bat’s outline. Use a soft felt–tip marker so you do not damage your screen. Also rough in the dark areas with the marker. This drawing will be your master (muwahahaha).

sc draw 1
sc progression

Make a copy of the master drawing. The copy is your working drawing. Neatly cut out the bat. The outside is now your stencil, and the inside is your painting guide.

Stencil the bat outline onto thick tag board with black craft paint thinned with acrylic blender. The blender helps the paint flow smoothly from the stencil brush. I used an old shirt box for the base. Cereal boxes work as well. Be careful not to tear the edges of the stencil as you paint.

sc stencil sc stencil 2

Rub the back of the cutout bat drawing with white chalk to create a transfer. Flip the drawing right–side up and fit it onto the bat stencil, matching the edges. Tape down the bat and trace all the dark outlines with a pen or pencil.

sc trace

Remove the bat drawing to begin your painting. The chalk outlines may be fuzzy, but rubbing them lightly with your hand should remove the excess chalk without removing the guidelines.

You’ll be painting in the light areas. Use the drawing you traced as your guide. Mix the black craft paint with enough white craft paint to make a mid–gray tone. Mix the gray paint half and half with the acrylic blender. You want the gray glaze to blend into the black without harsh edges.

sc paint

Follow the guidelines you traced in chalk to build up lighter areas. Remember, the bat will not be seen from 6 in. away. Squint your eyes occasionally or step back to gauge your success. Estimate your light source. If the light source is coming from the top, objects on top will be lighter.

sc finished

When dry, cut out the bat. Trace and paint a few hanging bats to add to the infestation.

sc upside down

Place a few pieces of foam tape on the back of the finished paintings and add them to your decor. When the kiddies run away screaming, you can keep all the candy for yourself.

sc bat on door

Trick–or–treat for the eyes!


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Linked @
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