Sunday, December 29, 2013

An art journal is what you make it

I’ve never been able to keep a daily diary. It’s too much pressure to keep up with a daily soul-pouring. And then when I miss a day? Oh, the guilt.

Instead, I keep travel journals, health notebooks, craft journals, sermon notes, and notebooks of knowledge. These books are a much better reflection of who I am.

Travel Journals

Craft Journals

I can see where I’ve been, what interested me, and what problems I was trying to solve. I even occasionally throw in a traditional diary entry.

I thought I needed to start an official art journal in 2014, but I’ve been art journaling all along. Turns out an art journal is whatever you want it to be. The only obstacle to starting an art journal is starting.

So, instead of choosing a new endeavor (which isn’t so new to me after all), I’m going to choose to start.

2014 is the year to Start.

What do I want to do with this year? Make more art and craft. Renovate my kitchen. Rip out carpet, plant a wildflower garden, and not worry about artificial deadlines. I guess it’s time to start a new notebook.

What do you want to start in 2014?

Thanks for 2013,


Monday, December 23, 2013

Make an 80–Page Sketchbook for 50 Cents

Instead of wrapping gifts, I did what I always do this time of year: I started a new project.

I couldn’t help myself. I had already planned to make my daughter a sketchbook using a 40–page sketch pad from Dollar Tree. $1 for a 9x12 sketchbook ! If you cut the pages in half, you get two sketchbooks. That’s 50 cents per sketchbook if you use junk you already have to make the cover.


This is one of those projects where I had a vague idea of what the finished project would be. Otherwise, I just tried stuff.

For the sketchbook cover, I wove together cardstock cut into half–inch strips. Just like in first–grade art class. The strips are offcuts that my daughter got for free from the local printer for an art installation. I glued the strips on the ends to secure each row.


My daughter hauls her sketchbooks everywhere, so I figured I needed to protect the woven ends from wear. I folded one of the half–inch strips in half the long way and glued it down over all four sides of the weaving after I trimmed the edges flush. It was like paper bias tape.


I used a fast–drying paper glue. No patience here.


I thought about doing a fancy stitch booklet, and then I came to my senses and chose a simple pamphlet stitch. Mere days before Christmas is no time to get fancy.

I cut each piece of paper in half along the long edge and then folded the block in half to make a signature of 80 pages total (40 folded in half). I’ll make another sketchbook with the second pile of paper.


I scored the woven cardstock at three points to make a trifold sketchbook. I then poked holes in the paper and sewed the signature block to the cover using silk embroidery ribbon. You use what you have when it’s late.


You can see the silk ribbon below on the spine. It fades from red to hot pink.


The pages were so thick that I had to trim all the pages flush.


I mulled a few closure ideas (hook and loop tape, snaps, etc…) before I simply sewed on a mother–of–pearl button on one side and waxed cord on the other side.


I finished the cover with a light coat of MicroGlaze rubbed into the paper. The glaze made the cardstock red richer and should waterproof the paper.

I finished the sketchbook in one day and watched several episodes of Grimm besides. I enjoyed every minute of the making.

This sketchbook is for my daughter. I have a pile of turquoise paper strips that I can turn into a 50–cent sketchbook for me too. But after Christmas. I started a t–shirt quilt last weekend too. You can’t deny the craftiness.

Are you frantically crafting too?



Saturday, December 14, 2013

Capturing History in the Letters

Last week, before the cold front hit, my husband took me down to Sixth Street in Amarillo for a photography date. Sixth Street is part of old Route 66, and the shops cater to antique hunters, hipsters, and bikers. It’s really a fun area in which to spend an afternoon.


We didn’t have time to poke into any antique shops, but we did stop for cafĂ© au lait (for me) and Earl Grey iced tea (for him) at the 806 Coffee Shop after I wandered the street looking for my letters. Letters on the old signage, that is. The older and grungier the better.



The “A” comes from The Nat. It’s antique store now, but it began as an open–air swimming pool in 1922 before evolving into a ballroom, which hosted the likes of Duke Ellington and the Dorsey Brothers.

I found the “I” on the Golden Light Cafe. The owner claims it is “the oldest restaurant in Amarillo and perhaps the oldest restaurant continuously operating in the same location anywhere on old Route 66.”


I cropped my letters tightly, removed unsightly poles and wires with the Photoshop cloning tool, and placed the letters on a 20x16–in. grid. Why 20x16? Because I knew I could print a poster in that size and find a poster frame locally.

My chosen letters: AMARILLO.

letters from Sixth Street Final JPG

The result is an art piece I’m going to give my mother–in–law for Christmas. I used a handwriting true–type font to add “Letters from Sixth Street” along the bottom.


The 20x16 print cost about $12 using the photo kiosk at Wal–Mart. The frame is from Joann’s.

I like the result so much that I’m going to get another print made for me and my husband to hang in our stairwell.

I’d like to go to my kids’ universities and find letters that spell out their names. It’d make a great graduation present.

I had great fun re–exploring one of Amarillo’s treasures. I could have also gone down to the Cadillac Ranch and found letters in the graffitied cars, wandered Polk Street, hit the Big Texan for the 72–oz steak, or walked the grounds of Amarillo College. Hubby and I may need to make another date with our camera.

Anyway, from start to finish, this project took about three days. Plenty of time to get out your camera and capture the highlights of your town before Christmas.



Thursday, December 5, 2013

Quick and Crafty Kid Gift: Dye Playsilks with Food Coloring

This Christmas, I’m giving my nieces and nephew princess dresses.

SC Princess

Superhero capes.

SC Cape

Ponds with fish…

SC Fish in the pond

and fire?!?

SC Fire dog

Actually, I made them play silks. They’re large squares of silk dyed in bright colors that help kids use their imaginations. They’re so quick and easy to dye with paste food coloring and unsweetened drink mix (like Kool–Aid). Silk takes up color with the assistance of acid. A few glugs of vinegar in a hot dye bath of food coloring does the trick. Unsweetened Kool-Aid comes with its own acid in the form of citric acid. Even egg dye and vinegar works to permanently color silk.

No need to relegate the pots to craft use only after dyeing because everything but the silk is edible. I simply simmered some water in a large pot, stirred in enough food coloring to make a strong color, added a glug or two of vinegar, and threw in the wet silk. When the silk color was dark enough, I pulled out the silk and rinsed, rinsed, rinsed out the excess dye. Scientific, no?

My results:

Blue food coloring is great. I’ve had trouble with purple food coloring breaking toward blue, but I understand grape drink mix stays true. I dyed my square blue and then overdyed it pink to get a good purple. Red food coloring came out a sickly rose, so I used four packets of fruit punch to get the orangey red. Pink food coloring is awesome. It’s a perfect pink. I had to add a lot of yellow to the green food coloring because it came out more turquoise the first attempt. The yellow food coloring set better when I nuked the wet scarf in the microwave for a minute. Lemon–lime drink mix did not set even with added vinegar.

I gave the box of silks to the kids at Thanksgiving because we aren’t spending Christmas together. They became princesses, pirates, and superheroes within minutes. Suzy was happy to pass on the silks to the kids.


It’s not too late to keep on crafting! I still have a few projects in progress.



Monday, November 11, 2013

Art meets Craft or How to Improve a Cheap Gift

Art school daughter had an assignment to redesign existing packaging. She found a gift pack of rubs for $5.


She designed a new logo and concept for the package. Each bottle was like a bullet of flavor to her. (That there is marketing talk.)

She found a handy woodworker who built her a simple box out of scrap wood (for free). She printed her new logo onto an iron–on T–shirt transfer sheet and ironed it on to the box so it would look old and gnarly.


When you slide back the cardboard matchbook cover (made with shirt gift boxes), you find a five shot cartridge (3D printed) of BBQ rubs nestled in a bed of straw (thinly shredded manila paper).


You can see the simple construction of the wooden box and the matchbox slide cover.


The BBQ rub holder looks like a five–shot barrel. She 3D printed each piece, but I thought toilet paper rolls might stand in too. Craft paint and Rub ’N Buff provide the metallic shine.


Since each bottle was unlabeled, she used glass etching cream and vinyl letters to identify each spice. She had to guess at ingredients, so we expect she mislabeled at least two of the bottles. The girl does not cook.


Especially when gift–giving, it’s important to list the ingredients. She just copied the back of the original box, arted it up, and ironed it on to the wooden box.


The result is a high–end box of BBQ rubs made special with a stash of mom’s craft supplies. Her cost to redo the packaging was essentially zero.

Another art student friend repackaged granola in a repurposed glass jar with a beautiful graphic label. She covered the lid with fabric and wrapped it in raffia. You can find beautiful labels from sources such as The Graphics Fairy, Vintage Printable, and Digital Two for Tuesday. Or design your own label using clip art and a graphics program.

Last year, I designed a vanity label for grocery store BBQ rubs using my dog Bob. You don’t have to be an art student to get good results.


Apparently we like our BBQ here in Texas! It makes a great gift, too.

Can you think of other items that could do with a packaging makeover for the gift–giving season? Share in the comments and let’s get to making art and presents.



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Crafting for the Holidays or “You made that, didn’t you?”

I have a deep, dark secret. I used to make gifts and put fake craft show price tags on them for certain family members. Those gifts ALWAYS were appreciated more than when I owned up to my craftiness. There’s nothing worse than being asked, “You made that, didn’t you?”

As a crafter, I love to make stuff for other people. I’ve learned, however, that not everyone appreciates handmade. You are picturing your anti–handmade friends and family now, aren’t you.

These lovely friends and family look at handmade items as cheap or disappointing. Usually these folks are not crafters and have no concept of the time required to create. They don’t understand the time you’ve devoted to them. And to add insult to injury, they love to go to craft shows and plonk down money for someone else’s handmade to give to you. Hurt feelings all around. Have you been there?

The truth is, handmade just doesn’t fit everyone.

I’m not bitter, really. I’ve just learned who I can give handmade gifts to and who I shouldn’t. I concentrate my crafty energy on those folks. I’ll happily shop for the other camp.

So who are the people who appreciate handmade gifts?

1. Parents/Grandparents.

Remember that misshapen lumpy pinch pot you made in second grade and gave to your mom? I still have the one my daughter made. My son’s oddly painted ceramic heart is hanging on my kitchen wall. Even if you’re 40, your parents like to get things you’ve made them.

2. Crafty Friends.

Crafty friends KNOW what crafting is. They’ll admire your skill. They’ll know and appreciate the time and materials you put into gifts for them. If you don’t make something for them, give them crafting supplies.

3. Your Kids.

The older they are, the smaller the project you should make. You can’t surpass the Wow! factor of the latest gadget with a handknit. They won’t appreciate the handknit until you’re gone.

4. Babies/Toddlers

Tiny kids don’t covet gadgets yet. Take advantage of this age. They’ll be wanting an Ipod soon enough.


I’m putting together a list of ideas for crafty gift giving that just might convert non–crafters into enthusiastic handmade converts. If you have any ideas for popular handmade gifts, please leave them in the comments. Or, if you have any horror stories of handmade gift giving gone wrong, please share them in the comments too. We all have jerks stories.



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How to Transform a Straight Border into a Curved Border

How to transform a straight border into a curved border

I love the look of painted plates, but I don’t have the time or energy to actually paint them myself. Why should I when I can pick up a pack of rub–ons? But, what do you do when the rub–on borders are straight, and your plate is round?


See the pumpkin border below? The border is not really continuous. Only a few of the pumpkins overlap. The rest just touch.


I just snipped the motifs into groups of two or three pumpkins. (This works for sticker borders too.)


Then I rubbed the pumpkins onto the plate, rotating the motifs slightly as I worked my way around. I eyeballed it. It’s not necessary to be perfect.


I filled in with a single motif here or there. When I got near to closing the circle, I preplanned which motifs I needed to fill the space.

Halloween Decorative Plate

Twenty minutes later, my Dollar Tree white plate was ready for the mantel.

Halloween is one of our favorite holidays. We have a reputation to uphold. Come on by if you’re in the area. ☺



Monday, October 28, 2013

Microwave Toffee Popcorn Balls (in 30 minutes or less)

We love popcorn balls, but I despise the candy thermometer. It’s intimidating. One second too long and you’ve moved irreparably from soft ball stage to hard crack.

I let the microwave handle my molten sugar.

Toffee Popcorn Balls

I use a deliciously easy microwave toffee recipe from (The original recipe is great for gifts.) Instead of spreading the sugar mix over pecans, I spread it over 6 cups of popped popcorn, which is roughly the equivalent of one bag of microwave popcorn.

Microwave Toffee Popcorn Balls

Here’s the recipe:

6 cups of popped popcorn
1 stick butter or margarine (I use butter because it is delicious) or 1/2 cup
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt

Rub the stick of butter around the top of a microwave–safe bowl and then drop in all the ingredients except the popcorn. DO NOT STIR. Let the microwave mix the toffee for you.

Microwave on high for 7–8 minutes. The butter mixture should be a light tan. Microwave on high for an additional minute at a time if needed. Watch the mixture like a hawk. Sugar burns quickly.

Microwave Popcorn balls

Pour the molten sugar over your popcorn and use a rubber spatula to spread the sugar mixture evenly. Don’t worry about rushing through this step. The sugar holds its heat. You need the sugary popcorn to cool about 5 minutes before you plunge your hands into the bowl.

CAUTION: The toffee is still molten and is hot! Wait about 5 minutes before forming the popcorn balls.

Toffee Popcorn Balls

After about 5 minutes, use your hands to grab about 1 cup of toffee popcorn and form it into ball. The butter in the toffee prevents the sugar from sticking to your skin. You should get 6–7 popcorn balls from one batch of toffee. Place the popcorn balls on waxed paper or the shiny side of freezer paper to continue cooling.

Toffee Popcorn Balls

If you waited too long and the popcorn is too cool to form, just enjoy your batch of toffee popcorn and try again.

I made two batches that disappeared within one day. They were pronounced to be evil, which is appropriate for Halloween week.

Toffee Popcorn Balls

If you want to give them as gifts, cut a square of waxed paper, wrap, and twist the ends.




Monday, October 21, 2013

When the facts change, I change my mind.

Thrift stores are where good intentions go to die.

I send mine away.


And I pick up someone else’s.


It’s all good.

You pick up any good intentions lately?



Friday, October 18, 2013

DIY Teaching Skeleton

Who says Halloween can’t be educational?

This is one of those blast–from–the–past posts. Years ago, I was a homeschooling mom, and I generally made my own curriculum. We happened to be studying anatomy for our junior high science right around Halloween so I figured the best way to learn the bones of the body was to make a full–size skeleton and have the kids label the bones.





My daughter is now a senior in college and can still remember where most of the bones are.

I found a clip art skeleton (can’t remember where) and just freehanded the image onto poster board, darkening the lines with black marker. The kids cut out the pieces and then labeled the bones based on an anatomy coloring book we have. We cold laminated the pieces and fitted them together with brads to make our skelly poseable.

To make your own teaching skeleton, find a clip art skeleton. Here are a few I found that could work:

skeleton-9490skeleton_smiling   skeleton_black_white_line_art_coloring_book_colouring-555px

If you’re not comfortable winging it with a marker, you can enlarge the image using a graphics program. When you print it out, it probably will be pixelated from the enlarging, but you can trace over the jaggy lines with a black marker to smooth out the lines. Or, you can print out a large skeleton, tape him up to a window, and use banner paper to trace a smooth line. However you get the printout, glue the skeleton to poster board and then cut out the bones at each major joint (basically every place where you want him to be jointed). Use plain old office brads as his joints. Skelly is ready to be labeled and posed in his most spooky (or funny) Halloween pose. You can laminate him for future bone refresher courses, AKA  Halloween.

My 6–year–old nephew helped me put out the Halloween decorations this year. He had fun trying to find his own bones. He told his mom where his scapula was when she came to pick him up.

See, Halloween IS educational. Now I just have to resist the candy stash I’ve amassed.



Still feeling crafty? Make skelly some bat friends with your leftover poster board.