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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Birthday Card and Earrings

Friday night was my most recent night that I once again stayed up way too late doing something new and fun. I've made greeting cards before, but I made a birthday card that was very different than any I'd done before. It was fun to do and I love the way it turned out.

This idea started when I was Christmas shopping. I have more than one teenage girl to shop for who is artsy and/or craftsy. I saw a book at JoAnn's that I liked and I considered it as a gift to give to one of these girls. I ended up finding other things to give as gifts, but I kept this book in the back of my mind for myself.

Klutz bookHave you seen the Klutz books? They are for kids (mostly) and there are all sorts of titles. We bought quite a few when my son was younger - Cat's Cradle string games, juggling, cooking...And there are all kinds of arts and crafts books, too. When I was shopping for my pink marabou recently, I had a JoAnn's 50% off coupon and decided to buy the book I saw before Christmas. I love it! Although perfect for tweens and teens, I don't think you could ever be too old for this book. It's all about designing fashions out of paper. It comes with three pages of stencils for skirts, tops, dresses, and accessories. You trace the stencils on any of the 20 pieces of paper that come with the book, both solids and prints. But there are different colors and prints on each side of the sheet of paper and each side has a minimum of two, and sometimes three different prints or colors on the sheet, so there are many combinations of colors and prints to pick from. There are also ribbons, rhinestones, sequins, and beads to use in embellishing your clothing and accessories. Also a little bottle of glue and 20 little hangers. There are many pages of great ideas and examples with very clear directions and suggestions. They tell you how to combine different skirts with different tops to make an endless combinations of outfits. What sold me on this book was the page that showed examples of using the cute clothes you make to decorate greeting cards and gift bags. I had to try it!

My birthday card - click to enlargeSo I stayed up way too late on Friday designing my first dress! I played with many combinations of paper, found just the right ribbon for the waist (from my own stash), chose my shoes and purse, cut them out, glued them together and added appropriate rhinestones. Oh, yes, and decorated my hanger. (They show some hanger decorating ideas, too.)

I finally went to bed and finished my card on Saturday morning by stamping "Happy Birthday" and embossing in silver and then putting the card together. All ready to mail for my friend's birthday.

Onyx earrings - click to enlargeThese are the earrings I made on Saturday - with my new handmade ear wires, of course - as part of her gift. She also gets a marabou wreath.

Donated earrings - click to enlargeMy son's 18U summer baseball team did a fundraiser this morning - an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast at Applebee's. The boys took orders, bussed tables, etc. and there were more people there than I ever imagined. Along with the breakfast, we had a silent auction. Since people were in the restaurant at different times, you turned in your bid and at the end, they compared all bids and gave the item to the highest bidder. You never knew what other people were bidding. I donated some jewelry to the auction. In the afternoon, I got a call from the moms who were determining the winning bidders. They told me the two top bidders on a pair of my earrings had equal bids. They asked if I'd be willing to donate a second pair of earrings like the first. Luckily, I take pictures of all my jewelry, so I knew exactly how I had made the first pair of earrings. So the second pair of earrings I made today was another pair for the auction. I have a pair of earrings listed on Etsy for $10 which are like the auction earrings. The two top bidders each bid $20 for my earrings, so I'm pleased to help make some money for the team. The moms didn't have the bids in front of them for my other jewelry (two other earring pairs and a necklace), but they told me they'd let me know what the high bids were. I'm anxious to hear!

After making my birthday card, I'm anxious to make time to make a bunch more to have on hand. And I can use scrapbook paper and even digital scrapbook paper to get an even larger assortment of paper "fabric" to use. If you like scrapbooking, card making or any crafts that work with paper, I'd highly recommend this book to you!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Matting and Framing Prints

Have you ever used a mat cutter? It's really pretty easy. I bought a mat cutter a few years ago and even my first attempt turned out well.

A couple weeks ago, when I was framing my prints I got for Christmas (see this post), I also matted and framed the items I referred to in my Christmas to do list (numbers 13 and 14 in this post).

mat cutter - click to enlargeHere is the mat cutter I bought. It has two pieces - a part that holds the mat you're cutting along with a straight edge to line it up squarely (at the top of the photo), and a separate blade. The metal bar that holds down the mat has a hole in each end that slips over the little peg shown at the bottom to keep the bar in place. (Click on photo to see a larger view.) To the left of the cutter in this photo is a scrap piece of mat board to put under the mat you are cutting. This even came in the box with my cutter.

mat cutter blade - click to enlargeYou can't really tell from this photo, but the blade is at an angle in this holder so that the cut mat will be beveled. The blade can be retracted so it is not always protruding from the blade holder. And the round silver place for your thumb helps you hold the blade properly when you are cutting so the blade does not retract.

wedding picture to be matted - click to enlargeThis was my project. A very old wedding picture of my in-laws. It was not in a frame when my husband found it after my mother-in-law passed away, so the corners were starting to curl. There was a back layer of paper taped to it with old scotch tape-looking stuff that was brittle and easily peeled away. But the middle part, the photo itself, was in good shape. Covering the not-so-good outer edges with mat board would end up looking just fine.

I bought a 16X20 frame and two colors of mat board for this project. I had to cut the mat board down to size since it comes in larger sheets, so I cut each into a 16X20 size that would fit inside the frame.

lines for cutting marked on back - click to enlargeFirst I determined the size of the inner mat opening. For this picture, I decided to have the mat cover the edges of the picture. In some cases, depending on the color of mat and what you are framing, you might want to leave some of the white showing around the picture to add an additional white border around your print or photo. I decided not to do that for this picture. I measured the size of the picture itself and determined the mat opening size by subtracting a half inch from both the length and width so that the mat would overlap the picture by a quarter inch all around. Then I calculated the difference between the size of the mat opening and the size of the mat board. I split this difference in half (for both the length and the width) and that was how much mat board would be left showing around the picture. (Another way is to say I centered the hole to be cut out on the mat board.) I drew in pencil on the back of the mat where the cuts needed to be made.

mat board in cutter - click to enlargeNow I was ready to cut! I put the board under the metal bar, being careful to line up the top edge against the straight edge at the top. Not sure if all cutters work this same way, but for mine, because of the angle of the blade in the holder, it's important to make sure I line up the "hole" that will be cut out on the right side of the cut and the outer edge that remains on the left side of the cut.

starting to cut - click to enlargeNext, make sure the blade is retracted. Place the blade holder against the metal bar. See the little line in the middle of the blade holder? Line it up with the bottom pencil mark to insure your cut will begin at the right spot. Put pressure on the bar with your left hand so the mat cannot move. Put your thumb into the round silver spot and press down so that the blade extends. Now you are ready to cut! (I guess you'd just reverse these directions if you are left handed, but I haven't given that a ton of thought.)

top end of the cut - click to enlargeIt's important to keep pressure with your thumb so the blade will remain fully extended as you cut. Just push away from you, sliding the edge of the blade holder along the metal bar. Be careful at the end to stop when that line on the blade holder is lined up with the top line so you'll stop at the right place. Now retract the blade and the first cut is complete. Do this three more times, rotating the mat board 90 degrees each time, and you've cut the opening in your mat!

finished double mat - click to enlargeI wanted a double mat so next I cut my bluish colored mat, the outer mat. Same process as before, but the opening is one half inch wider and higher than the previous mat opening so that one quarter inch of the inner mat will show all around.

Here is my finished double mat. (The aqua color matches the shades in the wedding picture much better in real life than it looks like in my photo. I'm VERY pleased with how the colors turned out!) I stuck the two mats together with double stick non-acid tape that I use for my scrapbooking and attached the photo in the same way to the back of the double mat. (Note: I later started erasing the pencil marks I made on the back of the mat because when I put the aqua mat on top of the lighter mat, some of the pencil rubbed off on the lighter mat. Fortunately it was on a part that would not show.)

finished matted and framed wedding picture - click to enlargeAnd here is my finished matted and framed wedding picture! We haven't decided exactly where it will hang yet, but it's all ready to go!

We bought these next two prints at a benefit auction. I felt kind of sorry for them because they didn't have many bids and I knew we needed some things to put on the walls of our recently finished basement rec room. I liked both of these because they are pictures of places in Kansas City. (I live in a suburb of Kansas City.)

matted and framed print - click to enlargeThis first print is a picture of an historic home in the area, the John Wornall home. This one already had a double mat. This is an example of leaving a white border showing inside the mat. Then it had the rusty-pink and white mats. I think I'll hang this in the basement guest bath, which has darker grayish-blue walls, so I added a blue mat. This is also a 16X20 frame.

matted and framed Plaza print - click to enlargeThis next print is of the Country Club Plaza (also known as just the Plaza), supposedly the first shopping center in the country. It's an outdoor shopping area, several square blocks, with Spanish architecture. (Check out the Christmas lights here if you're ever in Kansas City between Thanksgiving and early January - they're fabulous!) This was just the print itself, so I did another double mat, this time in a peachy shade and turquoise. And another 16X20 frame.

I bought my mat board for these last two prints at Hobby Lobby. They have a pretty nice selection of colors. Mat board comes in large pieces - 32 X 40 inches - so you will need to cut it down to the size you need. But it is only $5.99 at Hobby Lobby and is often on sale for 50% off. They also have a pretty nice selection of pre-cut mats in basic colors which will fit the standard size frames. JoAnn's has a handful of pre-cut mats and will order mat board for you but they only carry a very few colors of small pieces. And Michael's, who sold me half sheets of mat board quite some time ago when I bought my wedding mats, told me recently they only sold whole sheets and it was much more expensive than Hobby Lobby's.

With the cost of framing as high as it is, it is much less expensive to do it yourself if you have something that can fit in one of the standard size frames. Cutting mats is very easy and pretty foolproof if you measure carefully before you cut. I was kind of nervous about it when I cut my first mat, but now I spend much more time measuring than doing the cutting itself. It's fun to look at a framed print and know that you did the matting yourself. Give it a try!

Monday, January 26, 2009

New Light Box and New Jewelry Photos

I've actually heard some people say they don't know what they'd do if they were to retire. Me...that would NEVER be a problem! I have more projects than I know what to do with! If I could retire from my full-time job I'd have tons of time for so many other things.

I decided that in 2009 I will improve the quality of the photos in my Etsy shop, PrizedPossessions. Some of my photos are not too bad, but others definitely need some help. I have been using a light box made by lining a cardboard box with white poster board and shining a light into it. That was OK, but plenty of room for improvement. Then I found two tutorials on Strobist.com (first one and second one) that showed how to make a very simple light box and how to use it. I found these tutorials on Timothy Adams' wonderful blog and decided this would be my project yesterday.

I did exactly what the first tutorial talked about. Took a box, cut rectangular holes in three sides and totally removed the fourth side. Then I taped white tissue paper over the three holes. Done with the box! Here are some photos.

Light box with black tile Light box with white poster board

Closeup of white poster board in light boxThe second tutorial talks about taking your photos on a black granite tile. I didn't have too good luck with that yet. I had trouble getting my inexpensive digital camera to focus. But the first photo shows what my setup looks like with the black tile in the box. The second photo shows a piece of white poster board in the box. (The hammer is just to hold it down!) I had much better luck with the poster board than the tile. The third photo is a closeup of the second.

When using the black tile, I experimented with leaning a black piece of cardboard against the back of the box and a white one. With both the tile and the poster board, I tried various combinations of having a side light off and on (depending on my subject, sometimes the light washed it out too much) and covering and uncovering my top piece of tissue paper with a piece of cardboard (my room has overhead flourescent lights and sometimes that was too much light coming in). I found that it really doesn't take too much light to light up the inside of the box. Oh, yes, I should say I take my photos with my camera flash turned off.

Here are some examples of my new photos. Like I said, plenty of room for improvement, but considering I've only been playing a little bit Sunday and Monday, I think I'm heading in the right direction. What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments.

Aqua Floral Bell EarringsSwarovski Rose Heart Pendant
Turquoise Leafy EarringsLike I said, I had a harder time with the black tile. I took many more photos on the black tile than on the white poster board, and these were the only ones I would dare show here. Most of them were badly out of focus. Gotta work on that!

Blue Agate EarringsPretty in Pink Earrings

Bracelet 4 to Honor MarilynPastel Posies Bracelet

I like the detail in the pink bracelet, but I have to lighten that one up some. I'm pretty pleased with the other ones. Guess now I have no excuse not to improve my photos on Etsy!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pink Marabou Valentine Wreaths

Today's project was making three Valentine's Day wreaths using pink marabou. I used three different kinds of marabou and ended up with two heart-shaped and one round wreath.

Styrofoam heart-shaped wreath formI started with a 12-inch heart-shaped styrofoam wreath form that I got at JoAnn's.

MarabouThese are the two types of marabou I got at JoAnn's. They both come in 6-foot lengths. They don't come in a package, just hang from hooks on the store racks on a little card. The first time I looked for it at JoAnn's, I didn't find it, but they keep it with the craft items, such as the kids' craft kits and supplies. The type on the left is wide and feathery. The one on the right is wispier and finer. The third type I bought is in the photo below. Similar to the one on the right, but a little finer. It comes wrapped around a little card and, again, is sold in 6-foot lengths.

Starting a wreathMarabou is feathers attached to a string base. Each length had knots in each end. To start, I cut off the extra string, but kept the knot at the end of the length of marabou. I used 20-gauge craft wire, cut pieces about 1.5 inches long and bent them into long U-shaped picks. I tacked down the marabou ends with these wire pieces. I started with24-gauge wire, but found that it was not quite firm enough and was difficult to insert into the styrofoam.

Then I just started wrapping around the wreath form. I tacked down each end of a marabou length, as well as at the points of the heart, top and bottom. I used two tacks, one on each side of the pointy part, to keep the marabou where I wanted it. I tried to put the marabou ends on the back side of the wreath, but if it didn't work out that way, then I hid the ends under the neighboring piece of marabou. It fills out so much that the ends are not noticeable.

Pink Marabou Valentine Wreath

This first wreath is made with my Michael's marabou. I used three 6-foot lengths to cover this wreath. When I wrapped around the form, each wrap was about an inch, or maybe a little less, away from the neighboring piece. Because this marabou was a little narrower, the heart shape is very well defined after it is wrapped. I just started wrapping, fairly tightly, and adjusted the distance between wraps so that I couldn't see the styrofoam.

Pink Marabou Valentine Wreath

This second wreath is made with my JoAnn marabou. The string base is a little wider than the Michael's and the marabou is fuller and wider. I didn't need to space the wraps as closely together on this one. The wraps were maybe an inch or so apart. I used a little less than 2.5 lengths for this one. Notice how, because the marabou is wider, the heart shape is not as well defined on top as the previous wreath with narrower marabou.

For these first two wreaths, I attached a little glass heart shaped ornament (from Michael's) with wire inside the wreath at the point. I made a little wire loop for the ornament to hang from, adjusted how long I wanted it to hang (so it would be totally seen and not covered by marabou), then used another wire pick to attach to the wreath. I also made a wire loop and attached to the back of the wreath for hanging. I probably should have planned how I was going to hang this before I started wrapping, but this is so lightweight, that the method I came up with will hold the wreath just fine.

Pink Marabou Valentine Wreath

Originally, I was going to use this last marabou on the heart shaped wreaths, but it is so wide that when I tried wrapping to see what it would look like, you couldn't even tell it was a heart. So I went with a 12-inch round wreath form. I used two 6-foot lengths for this wreath, with the wraps about 1.25 - 1.5 inches apart. The little glass heart was rather small for this larger wreath, so I found some larger glitter-covered hearts and used one of them for this wreath. I made a wire hook like the ones I used on my vintage ornament wreaths (see photo in this post), but I put it on after the wreath was wrapped. Would have been easier before all those feathers were in the way!

This wreath is going to be mine. As much as I love my vintage ornament wreath (see next to last photo in this post), I took it down today and replaced it with my new marabou one. The other two heart shaped wreaths will be gifts.

TIPS: If you want to make one of these, here are a couple things to keep in mind.

  1. Even when I changed to 20-gauge wire, sometimes it was still difficult to insert into the styrofoam. I found that if I held the wire with my pliers, not far above the styrofoam, then pushed in using the pliers, it was easier. I'd grab the wire not too far from the wreath form, push it in, grab again and push a little farther, repeating 2 or 3 times until the wire was firmly holding down the marabou. At the end, it was easier to push all the way down with my finger or the side of the pliers.

  2. The knots in the end of the marabou were all those slip knot kind, with one loop and an end and if you pull the end, it comes undone. At the very end of my projects, I realized that if I untied this original knot then just put in an overhand knot, it was much smaller than what had originally been there. A larger knot on the backside of the wreath was not a problem, but it would have been nicer when I had to hide knots on the front of the wreath had I discovered this way of getting smaller knots.

  3. As you work with the marabou, it tends to fluff up and look a little fuller. The Michael's marabou that had been wound on a card didn't look like much when it first came off the card, but as you work with it, it will definitely look better.

Give one of these a try. It really didn't take long to make. It's a pretty easy way to get something that turns out so cute! And if you make one, leave a comment with a link to a photo. I'd love to see your wreath!

Monday, January 19, 2009

My First Ear Wires and New Earrings

I decided toward the end of last year that I wanted to learn to make ear wires. I had been looking at online tutorials and decided that this was something I could do and wanted to do. My Christmas list included some things I would need and I got those gifts for Christmas: larger pegs for my Wig Jig, a hammer and bench block. With the busy-ness of the holidays and all my other projects, I just gave this a try a couple days ago. I started with the only 20 gauge wire I had, some inexpensive craft wire. My first practice ear wire turned out well, so I was ready to make real ones! Yesterday, I bought some sterling silver 20 gauge half hard wire at my local bead store and I was ready to go. After printing several online tutorials, the one I followed was this one provided by Wig Jig.

I started by making a loop on the end of the wire with my round nose pliers.

I set up my jig with a half inch peg and a regular size peg next to each other and placed my loop over the small peg as shown in the photo.

I wrapped the wire around the large peg. I used the small peg as a guide for where to snip the wire so I would make sure I used the same length of wire for each ear wire.

This photo shows how the wire springs open a little bit so the size of the circle is a little larger than the size of the peg used.

This is the cup bur I got for Christmas. It's used to file the end of the wire to make it smooth. The tool is rough inside and files down the sharp edges. Just insert the end of the wire into the cup and twirl the tool around on the end of the wire. I've read that many other types of files work just as well.

I used my pliers to make a little bend at the end of the wire. And here's what my ear wire looked like. (This is my sterling silver ear wire. When I photographed it against this background, it didn't look very silver. Not a great photo for color, but it shows you the shape.)

If the wires did not lay flat, I found it was easiest to bend them back into shape with my fingers. Then the last step was to lightly hammer the ear wire using my rubber hammer and bench block. This step not only helped make the ear wire lie in one plane, but the hammering hardens and strengthens the wire.

Here is my first batch of ten completed ear wires! I may never buy ear wires again!

I decided to get adventurous after my easy success with my first batch of wires. I set up my jig with a 1/4 inch peg and two small pegs as shown at the left.

And I made this pair of ear wires.

I couldn't stand having these great ear wires just sitting there, so it was time to make some earrings. I have accumulated quite a collection of these cute flower shaped beads - I just love them! So I made four pairs of earrings, shown below. I hardly ever make earrings for myself, but the pink ones and the turquoise ones are mine! (I'm wearing the pink ones right now as I blog.) The others will be listed in my Etsy shop soon.

Click for more info

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New Breast Cancer Awareness Jewelry

New Breast Cancer Awareness EarringsI have finally created some new Breast Cancer Awareness Jewelry to replace what I had sold. Last year, I decided to make bracelets and earrings in honor of my friend Marilyn, who passed away a couple years ago after her breast cancer spread to other parts of her body. She underwent chemo for breast cancer, did very well for maybe a couple years or so, but then the cancer came back and spread to her liver. She was a wonderful person and a good friend so I decided to name this line of jewelry in her honor.

New Breast Cancer Awareness BraceletFor every bracelet I sell, I will donate $10 to Susan G. Komen. For every pair of earrings I sell, I will donate $5. So far I have donated $60, which I am very thrilled about. I am looking forward to increasing that amount in 2009. Won't you help?

New Breast Cancer Awareness BraceletI will be listing one of my bracelets in my Etsy shop, PrizedPossessions, tonight, and the other bracelet and earrings tomorrow. I'll add links to Etsy once I get them all listed.

If you have requests for other styles of pink jewelry in honor of or in memory of a special person, please let me know and I would be very happy to work with you in designing what you have in mind. I'm anxious to see how quickly I can raise my donation amount to $100! Please help me make it soon!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Valentine's Giveaway

Swarovski Rose Heart Pendant
I had fun doing my first giveaway for gift certificates to Prized Possessions, my Etsy jewelry shop, so I've decided to do another giveaway for Valentine's Day. This time, I will be giving away a Rose Swarovski heart shaped pendant like this one from my Etsy shop.

This doesn't happen every year, but when I have the time and plan it in advance, I like to do something special for my friends for Valentine's Day. A few years, I made handmade cards to send to my friends. This year, since I've recently discovered digital scrapbooking and am having such fun with it, I think I'll design a card using digital elements. I'll probably print them and mail them, just because I'd rather get snail mail than the email that sometimes seems to overwhelm me. If I mail cards in time, I know people will see them by Valentine's Day. People don't always have time to check their home email every day, so they might not see an e-card when I would want them to see it.

By now you're probably saying, "What's this got to do with a giveaway?" Well, to enter, all you have to do is share a comment telling everyone what you like to do for your friends on Valentine's Day. I thought it would be a good way to get some new ideas of ways to show friends they are special.

Here are the things you need to know about this giveaway.

1. Contest starts at the time of this post and ends at noon central time on Sunday February 8th, 2009. The winner will be notified on Sunday evening.

2. Leave a comment at the end of this post with an idea of what you can do to show your friends they are special to you on Valentine's Day.

3. Everyone submitting a comment will be entered in a random drawing to be held the afternoon of February 8, 2009.

4. PLEASE make sure when you leave your comment you include your email address, the URL of your blog that has your contact information or some way that you can be reached if you are the winner. I had more than one person enter my last giveaway that left no contact information.

5. I want to put this pendant in the mail to the winner so they will receive it by Valentine's Day, if at all possible. When I contact the winner, I will ask for your mailing address. If I have not received a response from the winner by 6 PM central time Tuesday February 10, I will hold another random drawing for a different winner.

Good luck to everyone who enters! And thanks for sharing your Valentine's Day ideas! Everyone likes to feel special, especially on Valentine's Day. I hope you get some ideas of some different things to do for your friends this year!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Christmas Gifts on the Walls

Not too long ago, I posted some photos of things I got for Christmas that were on my Etsy wish list. (See previous post.) Here's an update. My mat from Michael's was cut to the wrong size. They had to reorder it, but the good news is that reorders only take a couple days to turn around. (Are they used to dealing with reorders?) Anyway, it did come when promised and looked great! I framed my print and was ready to put all my gifts on my craft room walls.

Floral print on wall
A few days ago, my husband hung my gifts on my walls for me. (I don't like to do that unless it involves only one simple nail. I won't ever be blamed for messing up walls with this approach!) I put the floral print on my far wall, over my shelving. You can't see the true colors of the double mat very well in the photo, but the seafoam green inner mat looks terrific with the darker outer mat. (See HammelmanArt Etsy shop for more beautiful prints by Linda HammelmCloseup of floral printan.)
Golden print on wall

My framed golden is over my rocking chair. He's so cute - I just love him! (From Ron Krajewski's dogartstudio Etsy shop.)

Closeup of Golden print
Closeup of clock
And my non-Etsy craft room gift was this clock I found online and added to my Christmas wish list. I really needed a clock in my room, even though sometimes it's better not to be reminded that it is well after midnight when I don't want to stop working on my current project!

New clock on wallWhen I made my last two vintage ornament wreaths, I gave one as a Christmas gift and still had one left. I had in mind someone to give it to next year. I hung it on my wall and decided I needed to keep one for myself. Since I have more ornaments for more wreaths, I don't know if I will keep this one or another one, but I definitely have to have one of these wreaths for my wall.

Debbie Mumm Christmas quilt - click for larger view One other item we hung before Christmas is this Debbie Mumm quilt that I made several years ago. I never had a good place to hang it, but now it's hanging above my sewing machine. I bought a couple Debbie Mumm pattern books that have four of these quilts, one for each season. The winter quilt is the only one I made. My goal is to make the remaining three. I want to have Spring completed by March 1st. (Not that I've started it or anything...)

My room is coming along, as far as wall decor, but I still have a few more things in mind for it. What good is a craft room if you can't make crafts to go in it?!!