Oct 25

wax tart skull

I got these silicone ice cube molds at the dollar store that are shaped like skulls. I thought of several projects you could make with them, and have posted tutorials for a bunch of them over at Dollar Store Crafts. I didn’t realize just how fun a one dollar mold could be! I still have four or five ideas I haven’t had time to make yet.

Recycled Wax Tarts are my most recent project (photo at top of post). Wax tarts are scented wax you can use in a potpourri warmer. I made them from recycled wax off of a cheese – yes, yes you can do that!

Molded Papier-Mache: this technique was new to me, and made for fun teeny tiny Day of the Dead calavera decorations.

Molded Sugar Skulls: a fun twist on traditional sugar skulls, and you can eat them! Serve them with coffee or tea.

Melt & Pour Soap on a Rope: cheap ‘n easy soapmaking project using the dollar store skull mold.

A few other silicone mold crafts:

Oct 4

Make a Peg Family

by Heather Mann, Dollar Store Crafts

I wanted to make peg people for SO long before I made these ones — I had the pegs in my stash for at least two years!  My kids love playing with these little peg versions of our family members – and I think they’re so cute, I want to make a set of them to keep all to myself.

You can use old-fashioned wooden clothespins (find them in the craft or laundry section at your local dollar store), or buy peg doll blanks from your local craft store or on Etsy. . There are different shapes and sizes for males and females, adults, children, toddlers, and babies. I just used the male shape because that’s all my craft store had. If you want more selection, definitely go the Etsy route.

Don’t worry if your drawing/painting skills aren’t as refined as you wish they were. Your children can recognize family members with just the barest suggestion of reality.

You Need:

  • A blank peg doll for each family member
  • Acrylic craft paint
  • Fine paintbrushes (at least one super fine brush is helpful)
  • Clear acrylic spray sealant
  • (optional) Primer

To Make:

1. Prime: If desired, paint pegs with primer before you begin. Allow to dry.

2. Sketch: If you want, while you are waiting for your primer to dry, you can sketch out ideas for how you will dress your people. I decided to paint clothes that we wear regularly. My sons were really excited when they saw little peg versions of themselves wearing clothes they recognized. You can sketch features lightly with pencil on the pegs.

3. Paint skin: Paint the heads and necks with skin colored paint. (Tip: It can be tricky to mix up a good skin color, so you might want to buy a bottle of paint that most closely resembles your skin color. Or not, if you don’t care!)

4. Paint clothing: Paint bottom half of dolls (pants, shorts, skirts, etc.). Allow to dry, then paint shirts. To get a t-shirt collar look, paint all the way up to where the neck narrows. Allow to dry.

5. Paint hair. Paint hair base color and then allow to dry. Add highlights, parts, curls, etc. if desired.

6. Paint eyes: paint white dots for eyes. Allow to dry, then using the appropriate eye color, dot a teeny bit of paint on the white dots to make irises. When that is dry, dot an even smaller black dot in the middle of the iris. When the eyes are completely dry, add a white highlight dot (the smallest one yet) near the top of the irises.

7. Add detail: Now you can add detail to the clothing, hair, and faces. I added an upside-down ‘V’ on the front for pant legs in white, sleeves and arms on the sides of the body, and glasses on the people who wear them. I also painted a tractor on one boy-peg’s shirt, and jammies for the other boy-peg’s shirt. Oh, and don’t forget the mouths!

Don’t worry, if it doesn’t come out the way you want, you can always re-paint it!

8. Seal it: When you’re happy with your peg, spray it with clear acrylic sealer to keep the paint from rubbing off (as it inevitably will when kids play with it). You might want to skip this step if your kids are still young enough to put things in their mouths. Oh, and these are small enough that they could be choking hazards for those kids, too, so better just keep them away from the really-littles.

Alternately: Instead of paint, you can use fine-tipped markers to draw on your pegs. This is a great option for kids, since it’s not quite as messy as paint.

Additional Resources:

Heather Mann is the mom of three boys under 4, and is the founder of DollarStoreCrafts.com, a daily blog about crafting on the cheap, and CraftFail.com, a community blog devoted to sharing our own crafting blunders.

Sep 7

Make Edible Sugar Skulls -written instructions at Dollar Store Crafts.

My son and I made these molded sugar skulls yesterday with a silicone ice cube mold that I got at the dollar store. It was very simple, and my 4 year-old had fun molding and unmolding sugar. After we were done, we just baked them for 10 minutes at 200° F, and they hardened.

I think they’d be a lot of fun to take to work and set next to the coffee maker on Halloween/Day of the Dead. But, I don’t go to work, so I’ll just settle for serving them to my sons next time they have a tea party.

Jul 26


Last week I told you about my Kickstarter.com project: Printing CROQ 12. I have to raise $2000 by August 20. I’m happy to report that so far, we’ve raised 37%! We still need help, though. There’s still $1253 to raise!

Pledge $5, Get an Issue = Just like Pre-Ordering!

I carefully crafted my prize list to tempt potential backers to get out their wallets and help! The best and easiest, I think, is to pledge $5. If you do, you get an issue of CROQ plus a free downloadable PDF Mini CROQ. You don’t even have to pay additional shipping! So basically, if you pledge now, it’s equivalent to pre-ordering the issue.

Pledge $10: Get both the PDF & the issue, plus international shipping if you are outside the USA, plus a mention (and a link) right here on the blog!

Pledge $25: Handmade vegan lip balm! I spent months developing my vegan lip balm formula. Did you know I used to be the #3 seller on Etsy back when I used to sell it? And this isn’t your run-of-the-mill boring flavored vegan lip balm (no peppermint here!). It could be flavored like pumpkin latte, candy corn, or even red velvet cake! Plus, all the above (PDF, Zine, mention on the blog).

Pledge $40: Up your pledge to $40 and I’ll let you vote on what flavor of lip balm I make! Plus, all the above (PDF, Zine, mention on the blog, vegan lip balm).

Pledge $50: Get all 11 back issues of CROQ. Plus, all the above (PDF, Zine, mention on the blog, vegan lip balm, vote for lip balm flavor).

Pledge $75: Get a Bag o’ Craft Fun: a pack of random crafty bits you can use to make your crafty masterpieces. I’ll scour my secret sources to bring you such goodies as beads, buttons, vintage jewelry and parts, ric rack, other notions, and who knows what else! Plus, all the above (PDF, Zine, mention on the blog, vegan lip balm, vote for lip balm flavor, 11 back issues of CROQ).

Pledge $100: Get 2 months of advertising on this site here (125×125 button ad). Plus, all the above (PDF, Zine, mention on the blog, vegan lip balm, vote for lip balm flavor, 11 back issues of CROQ, Bag o’ Craft Fun).

Pledge $200: We’ll donate 50 copies of CROQ 12 to libraries and zine libraries in your name. Plus, all the above (PDF, Zine, mention on the blog, vegan lip balm, vote for lip balm flavor, 11 back issues of CROQ, Bag o’ Craft Fun, 2 months of blog advertising).

Pledge $300 — Zinester’s Delight: Only one lucky pledger can claim this prize: an electric stapling machine. It will help you immensely if you have high-volume stapling to do! Plus, all the above (PDF, Zine, mention on the blog, vegan lip balm, vote for lip balm flavor, 11 back issues of CROQ, Bag o’ Craft Fun, 2 months of blog advertising, Donate 50 Copies to libraries).

And, the biggest, most awesome prize:

Pledge $500: And I will make you a custom crafted item tailored to your tastes and needs! I’ll send you a questionnaire and then personally make you something. Could be a backpack, bike bag, handbag, laptop case, custom altered t-shirt or hoodie, stuffed animal, themed sock moneky, jewelry, or something for your kid, pet, or significant other. Plus, all the above, except the stapling machine (PDF, Zine, mention on the blog, vegan lip balm, vote for lip balm flavor, 11 back issues of CROQ, Bag o’ Craft Fun, 2 months of blog advertising, Donate 50 Copies to libraries).

So what are you waiting for? You can at least pledge $5 and reserve your copy of CROQ 12 (with free shipping!)

Yes, I want to help print CROQ #12 and support indie publishing!

Jul 6

I recently made some cloth diapers. If you have explored making cloth diapers yourself, you know that the subject is deep and wide with tons of opinions and “I’m right” ways to do things and “don’t do THAT” advice. It took me weeks of research to even figure out HOW to make a cloth diaper because the info out there is so confusing. I find this whole scenario rather ridiculous because when I was a baby, my mom used a padded flat diaper that she folded to fit me, changing the fold to fit me as I grew. The cloth diapering scene is a crazy confusopoly, and when I’m confused and overwhelmed, I just can’t buy into any specific radical philosophy. I finally decided to jump in and try a free pattern and discover my own radical philosophy.

—-Read the rest of this post, including the tutorial for how to make cloth diaper inserts – over at DollarStoreMom.com.—

 

Jun 2

Make quick felt doily coasters:

I used pre-cut felt doilies and craft foam to make these bright and funky coasters!

You need:

  • felt doily (found at dollar store in packs of 6)
  • craft foam
  • craft glue
  • scissors

Do this:

  1. Glue the felt doily to a sheet of craft foam with craft glue.
  2. Carefully trim away craft foam.
  3. Pour yourself a nice, hot beverage and enjoy!

And here are some links to great projects I have found in the past week! Quick, go check them out before it’s too late!

Apr 1

This was our wheatgrass on about day 4. We tried planting it in several different containers: an owl ceramic container (no drainage hole), a bamboo utensil cup (also no drainage hole), a large green terracotta planter, several small terracotta planters, and a dollar store metal cake pan.

My favorite is the cake pan because it’s visually high-impact! A tray of grass is just cool! The roots end up taking a bit of space at the top, so if you go this route, you should DEFINITELY leave about an inch of clear space (no soil) in the pan when you plant to avoid showing off the roots.

The pan is an awesome spring/Easter centerpiece (I even saw a tray of wheatgrass as set dressing in a Pottery Barn photo).

Now I just need to figure out what I can do with my wheatgrass (beside just looking at it!)

About Growing Wheatgrass:

Mar 29

A few years ago, we dyed eggs with some natural materials we had around the house: onion skins, berries, turmeric, and spinach. We tried two different methods for dyeing:

1. Boiling the natural materials in water, and then soaking the hard-boiled eggs in the liquid

and

2. Wrapping the eggs in the natural materials with cheesecloth and boiling them.

Boiled berries

Boiled red onion skins

Boiled turmeric (with spinach? I don’t remember what’s up with the green flecks)

All the eggs steeping in the already-boiled dye baths. It’s suggested that you let them steep for an hour or more (overnight in the fridge is probably good).

Wrapping an egg in red onion skins and cheesecloth.

All wrapped up.

Wrapping an egg in spinach leaves.

Wrapped up.

Wrapping an egg with berries in cheesecloth.

Uhhh, this one looks kinda scary all wrapped up.

Eggs in the pan.

Eggs heating up in water.

Eggs after boiling for about 12-15 minutes. We probably should have used a separate pan for each type of egg.

Unwrapping the eggs was suspenseful. I love unpredictable crafting!

The boiled eggs looked kind of tie dyed. The onion skin egg was the boldest: looks like a rusty slate! The other two were pale purplish. The berries definitely permeated the spinach egg!

The soaked eggs were only soaked for an hour or so, and probably would have done better overnight. The “dye” was delicate and probably would have rubbed off with too much handling.

I was kind of disappointed when we first pulled everything out, but once we had them all in a bowl together, they looked pretty!

Natural Egg Dyeing Resources:

Other Egg & Dyeing Resources:

Mar 21

We’re doing a Lightbox-Along in March, and this month, I’m also providing some photo tips. Previously on CROQ (read in the “LOST” narrator voice!):


(photo by Amy at the Red Chair Blog)

And now, let’s talk about what happens when you don’t have a good photo of your own to use in your blog. This can happen if you are just writing an article with no particular project associated with it, or maybe if you forgot to take photos when you were doing your project. There are some common courtesies you should follow when using other people’s photos.

On Dollar Store Crafts, I often link to other people’s craft projects. I usually post one of their photos along with a short synopsis of the project and a prominent link to the original project. Here are some rules I abide by when using other people’s photos.


(photo by Alexa Westerfield, Swell Designer)

1. Don’t hotlink

Hotlinking is when you point to another site as the source for your image. It’s not nice to leech other people’s resources for your blog. Download the photo from the host site and then upload it to your site to include it in your post, but before you do:

2. Check for photo rules

Blog owners often have rules regarding using their photos somewhere on their blog (usually on the front page). Some will say things like “feel free to use a photo if you use a link back to the original post” or maybe “please don’t use my photos without permission.” You need to follow any rules set out by the photo’s owner.


Check to see if the photo is available for general use. At flickr, you will see photo rules in the column on the lower right side of the photo. If you see “Some rights reserved” you can probably use the photo on your blog without contacting the owner before you post it. You should still let them know you are using it and leave a link to the post where you’re using it, but I’ll talk about that in a minute. If you want to use it on materials that you’ll be selling, you definitely need to get firm permission before using the photo.


(photo by Nikki at Salty Pineapple)

3. Ask for permission

When in doubt, ask for permission before you use a photo. Photographers will almost never refuse your kind request to use their photo on your blog!

4. Leave a comment

Even if the photographer doesn’t require you to contact them before you use their photo, you should leave a comment. It’s probably the only payment they’ll receive, so leaving a nice comment is the least you can do! Information you should include in your comment: where you used it (with a permalink to the post where it’s used), and a nice compliment is optional, but friendly!


(photo from Cover a Composition Book Tutorial by Sister Diane at Craftypod)


5. Give credit and a link

Give credit to the original photographer (by name, if possible) with a link to the original place where you found the photo. Bonus points for also linking to the photographer’s blog (if you found it on flickr, for instance). Link love is always appreciated. You can put your credit below the photo (even in a smaller font is fine), or at the end of the post.

6. Don’t post ALL their photos

If you use another person’s images, restrain yourself. Choose one (or two) to illustrate your point, and refer the reader to the photographer’s site if you want them to see more. If you want to stretch the images into more, crop your favorite details from the same photo and use the detail photos in multiple places in your post. I guess what I’m saying is, don’t just copy someone else’s work for your blog. That’s boring and lazy.


(Still Life: Vintage Enamelware Kettle by Wendy at Momsational)

Additional Resources:

FIND IMAGES:

  • Flickr is a community photo-sharing site. My favorite trick is to do an advanced search of my contacts’ photos for the photo subject I need. That way, I spread the love to people I already know, if possible.
  • Stock.xchng is a free stock photo site where you can download photos for use in print or on the web. If you use one of these photos, it’s nice to leave a comment with a link to your blog, since these photographers are providing their images for free. (I have even sent print samples to photographers when I used their photos in graphic design projects, just because it’s so fun to see your work in print.)
  • DeviantART: you can often find good illustrations or photos to accompany your posts here. Remember to check for permissions to make sure it’s okay to use an image before you use it.
  • Find free vector illustrations at Vecteezy.
Mar 16

You’ve learned my photography rules to live by, but here are some technical things you should know when using photography in blogging. Today I’m focusing on things to do when using your own photos on your blog. Check back for my next post, 6 Ways to Use Other People’s Photos.

1. Resize your photo before you upload it to your blog

Ginormous photos increase loading time for your blog, and aren’t usually necessary. Sure, your blog automatically displays a photo at the right size, but it still has to load a huge photo onto the person’s computer to show it to them. This is death for dial-uppers, and even impacts the performance of your blog for the rest of your readers.

  • If you don’t have any photo-editing software, see my additional resources at the end of this post for alternatives.
  • You can analyze the loading speed of your site for free at the Web Page Analyzer
  • If you want to provide large photos so your readers can enjoy your amazing photography, consider linking to the large version of your photo (stored on flickr, maybe?)
  • Photo size varies according to your blog, but you usually don’t want your photo to be larger than 600 pixels wide or tall. I usually go 400.
  • Pixel size is the absolute measurement… don’t worry about dpi (300dpi or 72dpi, etc). Just look at the pixel size.

2. Lead with your best photo

In case you haven’t noticed, there are a LOT of good blogs out there. You only have a short amount of time to capture your readers’ attention, so lead with a strong image. Before you even type a word, post the best photo associated with your project.


3. Crop in on your object

Part of a strong photo is cropping. You don’t necessarily have to show the whole item, but you definitely need to get the reader intrigued. Eliminate the background as much as possible and get close to your subject. But not too close!

4. If you do get close, use your macro setting

The macro setting on your camera is used for taking very close-up photos. If you aren’t familiar with the macro setting, t’s usually denoted on cameras by a little flower symbol. It can be useful for getting very close detail shots, but be sure your item is in focus in the viewfinder when using the macro setting.

5. Choose the good photos, and leave the rest behind

Some blogs are known for using ten-hundred photos of the same item from a slightly different angle, over and over and over (by the way, I totally don’t have anyone in mind. I have just visited these blogs periodically!). It might fool people into thinking you are a better photographer if you have sixteen photos of your brooch from above, but probably not. You’re better off choosing the best photo (or two) of the item and eliminating the rest. Of course,

6. Tutorial process photos are good

If your post is a tutorial, a few photos that help illuminate the process are helpful. If the photo just confuses things, though, don’t use it. I often stage a process photo to help show what’s going on (for instance, inserting an open pair of scissors near the place where I’m cutting to help the photo say “cut here, like this.”) Again, don’t use an excessive number of process photos if they aren’t necessary.

7. Even a bad photo is better than no photo

Even if you don’t get any great photos of the project, or the process, anything is (almost always) better than nothing. Photos help people see what you’re talking about. If you don’t include a photo, the reader will be stuck interpreting what you mean by “blue elephant pillow” and that can be nearly anything. Blogging is about making a connection, and a photo helps connect the reader to you and your project.

8. If you don’t have a photo, find another photo

Use your phone to take a picture (in good light), or look somewhere else for a good photo. I’ll give you my tips for using other people’s photos next time!

Additional Resources:

FREE PHOTO EDITING: Can’t afford Photoshop?

  • I use XnView for viewing, sorting, and basic cropping and editing of my photos. It’s free and you can download it here. It’s good enough for most jobs!
  • SumoPaint is an online photo editor with similarities to Photoshop (but you can just use it on the internet w/out downloading anything). It takes a minute to load.
  • Hornil StylePix is a free downloadable photo editor similar to an older version of Photoshop.
  • A lot of people swear by GIMP, which is also similar to Photoshop, but I have never been able to connect with it on a personal level!

Other:

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