Mar 22

Paint Chip Setting
Karen over at Sew Many Ways has come up with nine great napkin and place setting ideas. My favorite is pictured above. The best part of that one? The supplies are free! And you can customize the colors to match your party theme! Check out her other napkin and place setting ideas, such as using an empty Capri Sun, a hose clamp or even an eyeglass case! [Tool Time Tuesday…Napkin and Place Setting Ideas]

Oct 31

Wreath Hanger

Jamielyn at Make and Takes has come up with yet another great project. She has created a simple and easy-to make DIY Wreath Hanger for $3! Now you don’t have an excuse not to create and hang cute wreaths for every occasion. Jamielyn saw one in Pottery barn last year for $80! Crazy huh?! [How to Make a Simple DIY Wreath Hanger]

Project estimate:

  • Wooden Base (circle or square), around $1
  • Finial Topper (found from HD), under $1
  • Large wooden Dowel (I cut mine down to 20 in), $1
  • Wire hanger, on hand
  • Wire cutter, on hand
  • Spray paint, on hand
  • E-6000, on hand

Total cost: $3.00

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 25

I hate to get rid of even the smallest fabric scraps. I just KNOW there has to be something fun to do with them. Do you have a lot of fabric scraps too? How about making some easy crazy quilt blocks? They’re great for quick and easy projects like coasters or placemats, or put a few squares together and try a more ambitious project like a tote bag or a quilt.

The basic process for making these is sewing scraps to a piece of stabilizer like interfacing, muslin, or light paper. I’ll get into the process of how to make the blocks in a minute, but first let’s talk materials.

Materials:

  • Stabilizer
  • Fabric scraps

Stabilizer choices: You have two basic genres to choose from for a stabilizer. Either fabric-type stabilizer (muslin, other scrap fabric, or light interfacing), or paper-type stabilizer (tracing paper or plain newsprint from a pad). If you choose the fabric-type stabilizer, you can just sew and go. If you use the paper-type stabilizer, you have to remove the stabilizer after you’re done sewing. I recommend these lighter papers if you are going the paper route, because removing anything heavier than this is ANNOYING! For my quilt, I used good-quality printer paper (that had already been printed on one side and was supposed to be thrown away), and then it took FOREVER to remove it all from my quilt.

There is also such a thing as tear away paper specifically for quilting, and there’s also a kind of paper that dissolves when you wash it in the washing machine. Personally, since I don’t think you should invest a lot of money in a project like this (i.e. a STASHBUSTING project), I’d recommend using whatever you have on hand, with the fabric-type stabilizers being at the top of my list. If you can avoid the paper, I recommend avoiding it.

Another cool thrifty option is to use old used fabric softener sheets for stabilizer. You just have to do a LOT of laundry. The drawbacks to these are that they are a lot smaller than a piece of paper, so you’ll need even more blocks if you’re making a big project. I used dryer sheets for the coasters shown above; they were a perfect size for that particular project.

Scrap choices: Don’t try to match fabrics up, just use whatever scraps you have. The amazing thing about a crazy quilt is how once it’s all sewn together, it looks like the pink and orange actually go with the turquoise and brown. If you don’t have that many scraps, ask someone who sews if they have any leftovers (your grandma, mom), or just buy some remnants (leftover ends of fabric bolts at a fabric store — usually marked down from 25-75%), or recycle some old clothing.

Other tips:

  • Each square will probably take you about 8-15 minutes, so it takes awhile to make a whole quilt. If you do it, put on Arrested Development and sew while you watch.
  • Even though this quilt takes awhile to complete, it’s actually not that tedious. It’s kind of fun to sew wacky fabric scraps together into something. And the fact that you are sewing without major planning does something for your creativity.
  • If you don’t have time or patience for a quilt, four blocks would make a spiffy pillow or tote bag! Or, put three blocks together to make a purse with a flap. You’re creative, you’ll think of something.

Now, on to the instructions:

To make a block:

Step ONE: Prepare your stabilizer. Square it up if it isn’t already. We all know how to make an 8.5×11″ piece of paper into an 8.5×8.5 square, right?

Step 2: Put a piece of fabric face up on the corner, across the diagonal folded line. Make sure the fabric hangs over the edges of the corner.

Step 3: Put another strip of fabric face down on top of the first piece of fabric. If you are using paper as a stabilizer, set your sewing machine stitch to fairly small (this will perforate the paper to make it easier to remove later).

Step 4: Sew the two pieces together along the edge.

Step 5: Open the fabric so both pieces are facing up, and finger-press to flatten them.

Step 6: Repeat this process with other scraps of fabric, until you have covered the whole diagonal of the paper.

Step 7: Put a long strip of fabric face down on the edge of the diagonal section. Sew across.

Step 8: Finger press and repeat this process for both sides, until the whole square is covered with fabric. Make sure there is no part of the paper showing!

Okay, now the square looks funky, right? Not really like a square exactly, anymore. And you may have sewed your rows kind of off center (like I did on this one). It doesn’t matter! This is a crazy quilt block.

Step 9: Iron, iron, iron.

Step 10: Turn over and trim excess fabric.

Step 11: Admire your new cool square! And repeat!

For the Quilt:

To make a quilt, sew these squares into rows. Then sew the rows together. (Try to match up the seams between each square with the seams of the squares next to them)

I chose to sew these together so that the diagonal is alternating like this: /\/\/\, but you can lay it out so it does this: ////// or \\\\\\ or just let it do whatever it wants to do.

If you lay it out alternating, like I did, your quilt will have a cool diamond pattern-y thing going on.

The quilt pictured here isn’t actually big enough for even a twin bed, but I made 56 squares — phew! I’m just going to sew some strips of plain fabric around it until it is big enough to do something with.

To complete the quilt, you will need to cut out batting in the same size, and also a quilt back (you can use an old sheet). You can either do some kind of binding around the edges (wide bias tape?), or do what I do and cut the quilt back larger than the front and fold it over the edges and sew around it, or you can make a quilt top, quilt bottom (facing the top), batting sandwich and sew around the whole thing leaving a decent-sized hole somewhere so you can turn it inside out and then finish the hole.

To “quilt” you can just use yarn or embroidery thread to make ties (google this for more info), or quilt any other way you know how or want to try.

Let me know if you have any questions!

For more thriftastic projects, check out my blog, Dollar Store Crafts.

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:

Mar 13

We are halfway into our March Lightbox-along, and I wanted to provide you with some photography tips, just for fun.

I know you don’t come here for my amazing photography skills (and I am often more interested in sharing good ideas than great photos), but I do know a couple helpful things about blog photography. You don’t have to have an expensive camera, especially if you pay attention to some of the details.

Here are the photography rules I live by:

  • Avoid the flash. The hard shadows that a flash creates are usually never flattering.
  • Instead, use natural light. Indirect sunlight from a window is usually great for craft photos. (But once you get a lightbox, you won’t have to worry about good light!)
  • Add light if necessary. If you’re shooting a quick photo at night, increase your chances of a decent photo by adding light. Bring your object to a lamp, or bring the lamp to the object. You can also add light (which will help your camera take a clearer photo) by adding light-colored surfaces like placing your object on a white sheet or near a white wall.
  • Make sure you focus the camera on your subject. It seems like a given, but a lot of blogs feature blurry photos. (I know sometimes it’s hard to get a clear photo if you don’t have natural light, or if you are just shooting quick process photos while you craft, or if you use an inferior camera like the one on your phone, but you can always take time to focus the camera.)
  • Use an unobstructed background. Avoid background clutter. A lot of times, I put things on a clean table or floor and shoot them from above.
  • Get close. You usually don’t need to show the background, so step closer and fill your camera window with your object.
  • Staging helps a photo. If you can show your object in use (preferably with attractive props), it can make for a more compelling photo.
  • Shoot a few different angles. Take at least three different photos from three different places, including “odd” angles. You never know what might make your object look its best.
  • Take more than one photo. In this age of mostly-digital images, there isn’t a reason to skimp on exposures. Take a safety photo or twelve just in case. Your camera’s viewfinder usually doesn’t tell the whole story. What might look crisp on a one-inch screen can easily look blurry at a regular blog size.

I have a lot of other tips for using photography in your blog that I’ll post next week.

Additional resources:

  • Photography tips and more photography tips by great craft blogger and photographer Sonja at Craft-Werk
  • A few photo tips by Disney at Ruffles and Stuff, who takes excellent craft and fashion photos for her amazing craft tutorials
  • How to Photograph Your Baby, a book by Nick Kelsh. Don’t let the “baby” part of the title scare you. This book has a lot of great basic info for beginning photographers, and will drastically increase the quality of your photos. Also, it’s a nice spiral-bound book with lots of big pictures and easy to read text. Definitely more friendly than scarily technical. (Sidenote: there’s also a book called How to Photograph Your Life which might have more info on object photography, but I haven’t read it, so I’m not sure. I do like Kelsh’s books, though, and it has five stars on Amazon.)
  • 133 Photos Lit By a Single Candle on Gizmodo. Just for fun, see the amazing results some photographers were able to get by lighting with one single candle.
  • Photojojo has a lot of fun photo tips and activities
  • Inspirational photo craft blog: Leethal
  • Inspirational photo crafter: Jek-a-go-go
  • Inspirational crafty photo mom: Katherine Marie Photography (she also has a great article on 10 tips for photographing newborns)

Other posts in this series (coming soon):


*all these photos are by me :)
Dec 15

mittens2

Have some felted sweaters on hand? Make some quick & cozy mittens. You can find wool sweaters at the thrift store (just make sure the tag says it is mostly or 100% animal fiber such as wool, alpaca or cashmere). Need to know more about the process of felting? Check out this post by Diane Gilleland at Craft Stylish about felting your sweaters.

Project Materials:

  • Felted sweater
  • Scissors
  • Sewing stuff (sewing machine & thread)
  • Paper and pen

mittens-07

To Make Mitten Template:

Trace your hand (or your child’s hand) on a piece of paper.

Add a seam allowance line about 1/2 inch around the outside of your traced area.

Place template on sweater and cut out two pieces for each hand.

mittens-08

Place pieces right sides together and sew around the edge. Be sure to reinforce the seam at the cuff of the mitten by backing your stitch up a bit.

Clip any excessive extra fabric (pay attention to the area near the thumb), and turn mitten right side out. Try on mitten to see if it works. If you need to, you can turn it back inside-out and adjust.

Smile because that was so simple and quick!

mittens

Visit me at Dollar Store Crafts for more great holiday ideas and tutorials!

Mar 25

ties16

Use thrifted silk ties wrapped around eggs to dye them with beautiful and stunning patterns! Project from Martha.

Project Materials:

  • Raw eggs
  • Silk ties, blouses, or boxers
  • Cheesecloth, old nylon stockings, or old cloth to cover silk-wrapped eggs
  • Yarn, string, or another method for closing the wrap around the eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons of vinegar

Lots of photos, so click for more:
Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 24

My son loves to cook (for real, and pretend), and I am so drawn to all those adorable mini kitchens that are way out of my price range (not to mention out of my storage capacity). We were playing with his toy pots and pans the other day when I saw an errant plastic storage bin (the ones that are about the size of a shoebox). I turned it over and pretended it was a range, and then thought, a-ha! here’s a good solution to our lack of play kitchen!

The best part? When you’re done play-cooking, you can turn the range over and store all your play dishes inside!

Project Materials:

  • Plastic storage bin
  • Construction paper
  • Glue
  • Double-sided tape

To make:

  1. Cut out one piece of construction paper the size of the bottom of your plastic bin. I used black.
  2. Cut out two spirals for the range-coils on the stove. I used red. (To cut spiral: Cut a circle, then cut a spiral into it. When you get to the center of the spiral, turn around and cut a bit off of one side of the spiral all the way back out to the edge of the circle.)
  3. Glue spirals onto base piece of paper.
  4. Attach paper to inside bottom of bin with double-sided tape.

Alternate ideas:

  • Draw the range-coil shapes onto the paper instead of gluing separate paper spirals.
  • Glue the paper to the bottom of the bin instead of double-stick taping.

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