What do you do with the broken bits in life? Sometimes you can make them into something beautiful.
In Jamaica, I found so many broken bits of shells. Not much in the way of intact seashells make it onto the beach in Montego Bay, but, being a bit of a scavenger, I had an idea. Why not fashion these bits of shell, many with a ready-made hole, into a necklace? A year or two ago I did just that!
Of course, when I returned to Jamaica in March of this year, I gathered even more. I will update when I decide what I make next.
Cee has the topic SMALL for her Fun Foto Challenge. I thought these bits and pieces fit right in.
Over many Christmas seasons, I created several of these small trees with my mother. In fact, the first trees we created were from an idea she had seen and mentioned to me as something we could do together. Precious memories. Thanks Mom, I miss you.
To create the trees, you will need:
Wet Floral Foam, moistened as per directions on package
A knife, or as I used, an old credit card
A waterproof container, heavier and smaller than the foam works best. If the container is larger than the wet foam you will need to anchor it in with some type of waterproof tape.
Evergreen cuttings, holly, other greens still alive outdoors. Cut a larger amount than you think you will need cut into 3 – 4 – 5 inch pieces, too much is better than running outdoors in the middle of the project to cut more. The list of greens I used: pine, myrtle, holly, ivy, butterfly bush, unknown evergreens, ground pine, and nandina.
Optional: dried flowers, beads, glitter, etc.
I used dried flowers with mine, strands of green beads, and small twigs lightly touched with glitter glue.
This is a throwback post, and also a craft that’s been around for countless years. Since the time of paper and scissors, adults and children alike have been cutting paper snowflakes for windows and gift packages.
I cut over a hundred every year for my windows. I’ve included a how-to video with this post, but I have tweaked my snowflakes over the years, and want to share a new tip or two.
The most important tip I want to share is to cut many different sized snowflakes. The snowflakes on my windows look more interesting if they are not uniform in size. I use squares of computer paper cut into a variety of sizes, four inches to eight, and everything in between. As long as you have a square and do the folding correctly, your snowflakes will be a success.
As always, the best way to store paper snowflakes is inside a book until you are ready to use them. Here is a true story and a tip too. Write down what book you place them in and where that book is kept. I lost dozens and dozens of finished snowflakes a year or two ago. I found them months later in the “safe” place I had stashed them.
To finish off the snowflakes, press them between sheets of wax paper with an old iron you reserve for crafts, or to preserve your iron and board, encase them in several layers of newspaper and press them in wax paper. When you pull the wax paper away, your snowflakes will have a protective layer of wax to keep off the condensation winter windows often form.
As I related in Cladonia cristatella Part I, I searched for British Soldiers in hopes of creating a gift for my friend Sherry. I planned to encase the British Soldiers I collected, along with pressed Queen Anne’s Lace, in resin.
Instead of the two-step pour and mix variety, I chose the softer, one-step product. I purchased Blue Moon Studio charm molds, UV resin, and a small UV light from a local craft store. The products were expensive, but I was lucky and found them on sale.
The directions in the package were simple. When followed, they yielded perfect results. The resin, as indicated, dried in two minutes under the UV light. One plus was the ‘on’ button on the UV light; when pushed the light stayed lit for only a minute. This helped me avoid over-drying the resin.
The charms popped right out of their molds. Beautiful! I couldn’t believe I crafted something so tiny.
I gave the charms a bit more time in UV light and placed them in natural sunlight for a few hours. One final thought on finishing the charms. After I placed jump rings in the hole created by the mold, I strung the charms on a polyester necklace.
The polyester retained wrinkles from the packaging. I dampened the strand and hung it on the clothesline with a large weight. This straightened the necklace out in a few hours.
My tips after using Blue Moon Resin Products:
When I first tried to pour the resin from the bottle into the molds, I could not get the product to flow.
Why didn’t I remember most liquid in bottles come with an inner seal? After a bit of frustration, unnecessary squeezing, and muttering to myself, I took the cap off, felt sheepish when I saw the seal, peeled it away, and of course, no problem at all afterwards.
I did wipe the interior of the molds with a bit of rubbing alcohol before using them.
Tweezers are a definite must for placing the Cladonia and Queen Anne’s Lace in the poured resin.
I would never use the resin indoors as it dries under the UV light. Even on the porch, the smell in the air became noxious. Next time, I will be aware of the strong odor beforehand and move away.
I wish I remembered to thoroughly examine the poured resin before curing. After drying, I discovered a few trapped air bubbles. The directions state you can pop air bubbles with a straight pin before curing. When cured, they are a permanent part of your project. I plan to have a magnifying glass at the ready when I create my next project, and of course a sharp pin at the ready to pop those bubbles.
Shiny metallic paint and glitter prompt me to create Christmastime art. This year I came upon a paint by FolkArt called Color Shift. I’ve been pleased with FolkArt paints in the past and Color Shift did not disappoint me.
The area above my Christmas village needed some color. A quick Christmas painting was my intent. I painted the background bluish-black to depict a nighttime sky. After the background was complete, I realized the composition needed something to break up the darkness by accentuating the outer edges. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time fiddling around with a complicated border. Hmmm, what to do?
Stenciling, or printing with an object seemed a good idea for a quick border. Outdoors on my lawn lay exactly what I needed, fallen leaves from my Bald Cypress tree. I also gathered a few ‘holey’ oak leaves while walking around the neighborhood. More on that later.
The Color Shift paint worked perfectly. Fluid enough to fill in the lettering without clumping, yet thick enough to dip my Bald Cypress leaves into for printing. (The paint looks a bit faded in this photograph, but it is only intense sunlight beaming across my work area.)
I needed a randomness of mind when I painted the stars. This is an artistic area I struggle with when painting. I find I quickly become uniform in design when painting a large amount of subjects such as stars or dots. The oak leaves came to my rescue and forced me to leave left brain logic behind and create with the bold randomness of the right side of my brain. I used the holes of the leaves to paint the stars. The pattern on the leaves, created by hungry bugs, quickly depicted the scatter of stars I wanted in the background. I’ve used this technique in the past and once again I found success using leaves as a stencil.
I also indulged the child within me and glittered the trees, top to bottom, with glittery balls and stars. The glitter, very fine in texture and easy to use, was found in the local dollar store in gorgeous colors. So much fun. This project was easy and under twenty dollars. The Color Shift paint was a bit pricey, but any other metallic paint could be used in its place.
At this time of year many farm markets are closing down until Spring. After the pumpkin and Christmas tree season is over, large gourds are on sale for next to nothing in our area. Recently, I bought two large goose neck gourds, and one apple gourd, for $1.00 each.
I already have two bird houses created with gourds hanging in my garden. If you look closely, you can see the swirl of twigs inside, brilliantly constructed by small birds.
I’m not sure if the babies made it to maturity. There are small chipmunk/squirrel bites around the entrance. We also had a wily black snake in that area of the garden this year. While I was happy to have the small rodent population kept in check, I once caught the four/five foot long snake hanging out in the pine trees. From that vantage point it would have been possible to get into the gourd bird houses. I will have to come up with a solution to the snake and chewing problem before the birds begin building nests again. (I’ll make sure to update with any results I find.)
I use bath puffs to hang the gourds for drying. When you cut the inner tie the puff opens up into a long tube.
Knot one end of the tube. Place your hand over the stem as you slide the gourd into the tube or the sharp edge will create holes. Knot the other end of the tube and hang your gourd on a hook outdoors. It will become moldy on the outside in a few weeks, and begin drying on the inside. This is normal.
Dried gourds are a natural and inexpensive material for creating crafts of all kinds. If you find a good sale give bird house-making a try.
The first rose to bloom in my 2021 garden was ‘Blue Lagoon.’ This beautiful rose is one of my oldest bushes, and is so large, I have to trim it to keep it off the back wall of the house. It is very disease resistant, and best of all, the flowers are sweetly fragrant.
The fragrance makes it a perfect choice to add to my Grain Alcohol Springtime blend. Last year, I wrote of using Vodka to extract the fragrant floral oils from flowers. I had a bit of success, however, the immediate results of using the higher proof Grain Alcohol has been truly exciting. Unfortunately, the color of the petals is also extracted. At this time, because of the mix of many colors, the Grain Alcohol is a muddy brown, but the scent, oh my, the scent is sublime.
I only use flowers that are edible, or that I have researched as non-poisonous. There are some beautiful fragrant flowers that I don’t use. Lily of the Valley is an example of a fragrance I like, but the plant is toxic, and isn’t something I want to take a chance with in my extraction. Skin can absorb the oils in the extraction so anything that is edible seems to be a safer choice.
The pink of the petals will disappear in two days. The fragrance in the flower will transfer in the same amount of time. I’m eagerly awaiting the blossoming of honeysuckle in our area. I will work on this jar until the end of May and then begin a ‘Summer’ jar of fragrant flowers.
This week my grandsons and I created stained glass Easter eggs from waxed paper and crayons. The process mustinvolve the participation of an adult.
To start, I tore away the crayon paper and chopped them into bits with a large knife, much as if I was chopping nuts. The crayons chop easily, but also fly about a bit. Children can create their own crayon bits by tearing away the paper and sharpening the crayon into fragments. This method takes quite a bit of time. Since I planned on creating three dozen eggs it was easier for me to prepare in advance.
Egg cartons are the perfect container for the chips.
I used a cookie cutter as a pattern, several egg patterns can be found at this link: Egg Patterns. Our eggs are about six inches in length. This was an easy size to handle and large enough to display the colors and patterns.
In retrospect, I wish I had traced with something other than a marker, but can’t think of what might withstand the heat of the iron and still show up for cutting. The process causing a bit of steaming and light smoke to fill the room. It’s a good idea to have some sort of ventilation when you begin (kitchen fan or a slightly open window) If anyone has a good idea for tracing please let me know via the comment sections below and I will edit the post to include your ideas. Thanks!
The boys scattered chips of crayon into the pattern with small measuring spoons. It’s best to limit each eggs choice of color to three, any more than that and you get a muddy look.
An adult needs to complete the next step. Fold over the waxed paper or cover with another sheet. If you are using a good iron cover with newspaper. Since I used a craft iron that is specifically used for messy crafts, I ironed directly on the waxed paper so I could see the progression of the melting. Here’s a step by step look at the bits melting into the finished design.
At this point lay the egg aside to completely dry. This only takes a minute or two. When it is cool and the wax hardened, cut the egg out with scissors.
I hang my eggs by using glue stick on the back and placing them directly on the windows. The glue dries clear, and upon removal is easy to wipe away with a wet washcloth before cleaning your windows with Windex.
We found using a large amount of chips equaled a vibrant, colorful egg. To create a more pastel appearance, such as the last egg featured below, use less chips.
Here a few samples of our Easter eggs. I hope you will give this beautiful craft a try.
Dollar Tree still has dozens of hair ties. You can also substitute rubber bands. I can sew, but with everything I am doing in the garden I’d rather not. This is a great tip for making a stand-in mask during the Covid-19 crisis. You can use a bandana or fabric if you have a stash on hand. Even a shirt, cut into a square, a sheet, or a pillowcase…any type of covering is better than nothing…and remember…wash after just one use to get rid of germs.
The weather has warmed up. The birds are beginning to nest. It’s time to create a few birdhouses out of the gourds I’ve been drying throughout the winter.
I bought two large varieties in late Autumn, and grew the small one myself. They hung from my porch rafters through the colder months and grew some interesting molds on their surfaces. After brushing them with a light bleach solution, and leaving them in the sun for a few hours, I began my crafting.
I cut a small hole with a craft knife, pushing it in carefully at tiny intervals. Removing the seeds was easier than I had anticipated. I used a paint paddle, swished inside a few times, and all the seeds and fluff fell out. Two holes at the top were easy to drill for the hanging wire. I also drilled several small holes in the bottoms to allow any collected rain to drain out. To stop larger birds and squirrels from raiding the nests, I used my glue gun and glued a border of pennies around the opening. I like the way the copper sets off the color of the gourds.
I placed one birdhouse on a tripod of sticks near my back window, two are hanging on thin twigs. I am hoping the close proximity of the house, and the thinness of the twigs will keep squirrels from tampering with the houses. I’ll update later in the season.
I’ve been enjoying my roses and decided to dry several this week to keep for projects. Pinterest has many dried rose ideas: wreaths, wall-hangings, napkin rings, potpourri, are just a few of the many crafts. I’m hoping to try out a few ‘pins’ in the cooler months when I am longing for fresh flowers.
I’ve been using my dehydrator to dry the roses. The dehydrator has five trays stacked above a heating unit. I space the roses out on the trays so that they have plenty of air flow. The lowest setting works great and doesn’t seem to cause much browning.
One trick I’ve learned is to also dry a few rosebuds and leaves for a natural look when arranging.
I switch the trays around bottom to top, and so on, every twenty minutes. This gives all the levels a chance to dry in the higher heat of the bottom.
When the flowers seem dry, but before they begin to brown on the edges, I put them on a metal tray and lay it on the floor of my car with closed windows. I tent newspaper over the top if the sun is shining through the windows.
The last step is to give the roses a few weeks of open-air storage. To do this I cut away the bottom of brown paper shopping bags, pinch the corners so they stay open, and lay the flowers inside. I place these bags on a mesh drying rack hanging in a closet and keep the doors shut for darkness. I am going to purchase some floral fixative at a hobby/craft store to keep the petals secure in a few weeks. (I think hairspray works too.) When winter days and nights get long it will be fun to pull out these flowers and get creative.
I also dry many herbs in the same way. On the rack with the roses is catnip. dried chive blossoms, and lemon balm.
Since one of my goals for the blog is to be honest when a project fails me I must tell you about the crash of my tin can contraption. The cans are still in perfect condition, but the wire hanging apparatus has crashed. It held up great…through rain, strong wind, but it could not hold up to me grabbing it in mid-fall to save myself from hitting the ground. I did end up on the ground, the tin can hanger hit the ground too. Happily, I am fine, and the cans are all fine. Only one plant was jostled out of it’s can and it was easily replanted. The wire apparatus broke into several pieces. I could have fixed it, but anticipating another disaster, hung my colorful cans on the fenceposts surrounding my garden. I really like them here! We can see them from the back window and my husband also said he thought they looked good around the garden. Live and learn! Don’t try to save yourself when you fall by grabbing something even remotely rickety.
While I was near the garden with my camera I thought it a good time to update my winter-sown lettuce progress. It’s growing so fast I’m going to have to start filling bags to give away. It’s delicious and tastes great mixed with organic romaine hearts from the grocer.
PS: If you’re wondering how I fell the truth is I have no idea. One minute I was picking flowers from the cans to press, the next I was on my way down.
I’m grateful for the requests I’ve had for a part three of this project to show how the tin can rack was put together. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I kept my eyes open for wiry baskets for weeks when I visited thrift stores. I found a set in the local Goodwill for $3.99.
I used a Shepherd’s hook for my hanging apparatus and placed it near the corner of the porch where I intended to display the cans. This was a providential choice explained later in the post.
Painting the cans was easy. Rain also created a ‘happy accident’ while they dried.’
“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” Bob Ross
The moisture, on paint not yet set, rippled the finish, and gave the cans a crackled appearance without the purchase of an expensive crackle medium.
Leather strips, purchased long ago in a large bag of scraps, were the best choice for hanging the cans. I threaded them through the side holes and knotted the ends. Leather is durable and withstands tearing on the sharp edges of the can as they pass through.
My hardest problem to solve was how to hang the cans on the rack. Threading the leather strips around the weave of the baskets was an option, but if a plant dies, I want to be able to remove the can, re-pot with another, and attach to the rack again. S-hooks would work, but are expensive; I searched for an alternative. I found this in a 12-pack of wire shower hooks. These were inexpensive, easy to use, and matched well when sprayed with a coat of matte black spray paint. I needed 2 packs of these.
A few baskets seemed wobbly at their junctures, so I strengthened them with long plastic strip ties and cut the extra length away once attached.
I ran into a problem once I had the cans planted; the weight of all eighteen was too heavy for the Shepherd’s hook and the structure began to lean forward. NO! An oversized eye screw was needed to stabilize the contraption. This is where my location proved providential. I attached the eye screw into the wooden porch railing and secured the Shepherd’s hook with two plastic strip ties.
Out of necessity I will check each plant daily. The growing area is small and will dry out quickly. Updates will be posted later in the season. This strange tower of wire baskets and cans is certainly worthy of being entered into Kammie’s Oddball Challenge.
After the holes are punched in the tin cans it’s time to begin painting with acrylic paint. There will be residue from glue on the can, this can be removed with a heat gun and rag. I didn’t bother since I knew the cans would only be used for one season.
It took three coats of paint to get the look I wanted. Even before I had finished painting all the cans in pastel rainbow shades, rust had begun to work its way through the first layers. No bother…it adds a bit of shabby chic to the look of the project. I was very careful of the sharp edges inside the cans, but even being aware didn’t stop me from getting three small cuts on my fingers from the razor-sharp edges. I should have put a piece of masking tape over the holes in the sides as this is where I cut myself every time while painting.
The look of the cans is even better than I had hoped. The rack I wired together from thrift store inbox trays is perfect and holds eighteen cans. Stringing leather strips through the side holes gives me a strong hanger for the weight of the cans. I’m happy with my project and pleased it gives me more room to grow flowers specifically designated for flower pressing.
I make a lot of spaghetti sauce to use and freeze. Each time I stir up a batch of sauce I clean and store the 29-ounce cans the crushed tomatoes come in. Ofttimes, when I upcycle the cans in projects I will need to add holes of some kind to them.
The easiest way I have found to do this is to fill the can with water and freeze it first. This gives me a solid mass to punch into, but is also easily removed. (Melted in this case.) The one drawback is the flat bottom of the can becomes curved by the pressure of the freezing water, lowering the level of the water several centimeters. The bottom is easily flattened back out with a hammer.
I am making a flower rack out of upcycled cans and some wire baskets I found at the local thrift store. I will need to punch at least four drainage holes in the bottom of each can, and also two side holes for a leather hanging strap.
A common Philips screwdriver is perfect for punching the holes.
The bottom of the can is easy to puncture, the sides a little trickier because the round can is inclined to roll. I find grass the easiest grounding surface. Punching holes into the can with the screwdriver assures the sharp edges stay inside the can.
When I’m finished with the hole-punching I turn the cans upside down and let the ice melt and drain. Part II of my project will be posted tomorrow.
December’s Scrub Pine Christmas tree is still a resident plant in my home. Replanted in a bigger pot and placed in a sunny area, the pine, which was bristly and dried out when I first transplanted it is thriving in its improved conditions. The needles are not so sharp to the touch, and there is new growth on many of the tips.
The Christmas Tree Pine is now a Valentine’s Day Tree. I didn’t buy a thing to dress it up. Double-sided paper cut into heart shapes, hole-punched, and hung with Christmas ornament hooks were a perfect match for the tree’s sparse appearance.
The color combination is pink with touches of orange/coral, a perfect combination for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge. Look closely and you can see I’ve used old beads and pearls as ornaments, cut away from necklaces I no longer wear. I hung these by threading them onto Christmas tree hooks. I’ve found these hooks have many uses in house and garden when I need a small piece of wire.
Five years ago I blogged these instructions for paper stars. I’m sharing the steps again because I’m amazed at how durable the stars have been in storage over the years. I will use these stars again on trees or the mantel. The stronger your paper the better your stars will hold up.
I had so much fun making paper stars at Christmastime. The stars can be used for any holiday…New Year’s, The Fourth of July, Easter, etc. They also could be created to hang from an indoor porch or ceiling for permanent decorations. Crafted out of glow in the dark paper, they would be a terrific non-electric night light for a child’s room.
I’ve included a link to the blog where I found perfect directions for this project. Paper Star Directions.
My paper stars were created out of pages from an old out of date Atlas. I love the colors and shadings of the maps, and also thought it appropriate that stars commemorating Christ Jesus’ birth included countries from all over the world. I also used pages from favorite childhood classic books to create smaller stars for my tiny Christmas tree.
Since these pages did not have any color to them, I gently watercolored them with pastel versions of primary colors.
I’ll give a quick description of the steps I followed to make the stars, but the directions are condensed. For isntructions with more detail visit the link I provided at the beginning of the post.
To start I cut the maps into four inch squares. For the smaller book page stars I cut two inch squares. Because the Atlas pages were heavier, smaller stars and squares would not have been easy to fold and glue.
The next step involves folding four times, twice on the diagonal, twice straight across the middle. Along the middle line on each side, snip a cut about 3/4 of an inch for the 4 inch star. For the smaller star you will make a smaller snip. Trial and error is the best way to judge how long to make the snip.
At this point you are going to turn the paper over on itself and glue the edge of the star point together. Hot glue made it quick and easy for me, but I have tough fingertips and am not too bothered by the heat. You want to use a glue that will grab hold quickly so you don’t have to hold the star tip too long.
Glue four points from each square, then glue another square into four points. After gluing the middle of the star will have a raised dimension. Glue two of these stars together, string a piece of clear thread through the top, knot and hang.
Here is my star created from a page of one of my favorite books, Anne of Green Gables. I also used Mod-Podge on these and my atlas stars to add a coating of glittery crystal.
I use books I find at local thrift stores and yard sales for projects such as these. You could also photocopy pages of books you love, or copy old letters and photographs with a scanner or photocopier to use. Photographic stars would be great for a party with the person of honor’s image on stars hanging from the ceiling or light fixture. Have fun making your stars. I had a great time making mine. They are easy and inexpensive and are sure to please.
I’m posting an update on the caterpillars I saved from the hard freeze. The beginning of their story and first update can be found at the links below: The Big Save One Week Update
I was surprised when the smaller and weaker of the two caterpillars was the first to complete his metamorphosis into a chrysalis. He didn’t attach himself to any of the twigs or plants, but instead transformed on the soil. Today I noticed the larger caterpillar, who has been very still for days, had spun a web and seems to be beginning his metamorphosis too.
Can you see the thin thread of web anchoring the caterpillar in place? I’m leaving a place holder below for a photo of the second chrysalis, probably complete by tomorrow morning. Check back for the posted photo.
I removed the photo place holder I originally posted. The caterpillar is very still, yet has not formed a chrysalis. As the days pass I am losing hope that he will begin metamorphosis. Something seems to have gone awry.
Once again, I’m reblogging a terrific seasonal project. I used the same technique a few year’s later to create a Valentine’s Day heart with my grand-daughters. The project and shape can be adapted to any holiday.
This beautiful Christmas tree was easy and inexpensive to create. All three of my grandsons loved putting it together. The only supplies we needed were bought at the dollar store. We purchased one piece of black foamboard and two packets of glittery stars. We had freezer paper on hand for the template, but old newspaper would work just as well.
First we scattered the stickers and took a good look at them. We noticed the stars could be used as they were, or to double the amount we had to use, the insides could be punched out and used as separate stickers. Whoo-Hoo…fun…let’s begin!
Before the boys were ready to start I cut a piece of freezer paper into a tree shape by folding it in half and cutting away half a tree. When opened, the sides matched and when placed on the foamboard waxy side down, the paper clung to the surface just a bit. To help keep the freezer paper from shifting we weighted the corners down with what was handy…salt and pepper shakers. The littlest grandson thought the salt was part of the project and promptly salted the foamboard.
All three of the boys ages 2 1/2 through 8 years enjoyed the project. It was completed within fifteen minutes and was instantly gorgeous and bright. The only problem we had was some of the paper backing on the stickers stuck a bit for the younger boys.
When the tree was complete and we had oooh’d and aaah’d over how beautiful it was, I used my glue gun to place a string for hanging about a third of the way down from the top. The foamboard is very light and will hang on even the smallest nail.
The Christmas Tree That Ran Away was a favorite album of my sister and me. Why do I mention this song? Because the words and tune ring through my head whenever I decorate a scrub pine and turn it into a sweet Christmas tree. Here’s the Youtube song, if it sounds dated, it is; the album is from the 1960’s.
I had forgotten how cute a scrub pine can be when decorated with simple ornaments. This one is loaded down with some turned-wood decorations I found for pennies at a thrift store. Planted in a pot and placed on the kitchen table, it reminds me that things that are ‘found’ are sometimes what become favorites during the Christmas season.
We dug this little scrub pine up along the railroad tracks. Plants that grow in the rocks that border the track are by necessity resilient. Most foliage succumbs to the lack of dirt and good soil, which is what the railroad wants…encroaching plants and trees would be a hindrance to the train’s smooth travel. When Christmas is over I’ll find an out of the way spot amid the ivy where a fir tree that can grow in rocky soil will survive.