Outdoor Slipcovers

Outdoor Slipcover
This is one of those awesome Summer projects I’ve been talking about forever. And it was so massive to put together all the different photos and videos and instructions that it sat on my harddrive for my whole year of sickness. Today is the day it gets it’s due.

Outdoor Furniture
In this house I have the most amazing backyard. Totally landscaped by the owner, huge and with all kinds of levels to it, whatever patio furniture I had before was just swallowed up as soon as we put it out there. And if you’ve ever shopped for patio furniture, you know it is ridiculously expensive. Like, you might as well put the real stuff out there, expensive. Which meant that I had to get pretty creative to make this space usable and not just pretty.

Outdoor CouchI found this couch on the side of the road, cushions destroyed by a dog, waiting for the garbage man. So I snatched it up. I figured that even if I couldn’t do what I envisioned, I wasn’t out anything, so I’d give it a try. The results are so amazing I couldn’t have imagined it. When we had a wedding at our house this summer this little spot was the most popular place in the whole yard. You had to fight for a spot.

Outdoor ArmchairThis chair I got at our local thrift store when they were having a 50% off sale, which means I got this chair for $5. With such low stakes, I couldn’t go too far wrong. The only expense to this project was the outdoor fabric, which I got at an end of season discount from Joann’s. So hey, maybe my lack of timeliness could work in your favor. Snatch up the fabric today and even if you’re skidding into fall you’ll be all set to give this project a go.

The tutorial really works best once you see it in action, so I didn’t even try and get action shots. Just watch me do my work in the video.

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4th of July Cowbell Banner

Cowbell Banner I’m sneaking this project in under the wire for a little holiday festivity. Ever since the pennant banner took over the internet, I’ve developed a real love for banners as party decorations. It’s so fun to have something besides table top stuff to really bring the party over the top. But I’m also sick to death of pennant banners, so I’m always looking for a way to reinvigorate things. I realized the answer as soon as I found these colorful bells: More Cowbell.

Supplies You will need:
Holiday colored cowbells (If you can’t find holiday cowbells in your craft store, a little spray paint will do the job.)

Glitter Glue or dimensional paint

Rope in a coordinating color

Step 1 Use your glitter glue and dimensional paint to fancy up your bells. I stuck with the holiday theme of stripes, but kept things simple with dots instead of stars. Sticking with the metallic colors, I think dots are enough to make my point.

Step 2 Cut a piece of rope long enough for the space you’re decorating. I cut about eight inches per bell so that I’d have room for knots and plenty of space to keep the bells from hitting each other. I wanted the bells to clang, but not drive anyone away. After you attach the first bell you’ll need to drag the whole rest of the rope through each bell in order to tie it, so it works best if you make several shorter banners instead of one super long one.

Bell Banner I’ve been saving this project since last summer when I originally made it for Darice, and thanks to Atti’s surgery I nearly missed the holiday again! Lucky for all of us this project is so quick you can make it the day of the celebration. You could even put the supplies out and let the kids decorate while they’re getting antsy for fireworks. And make an unholy racket while they play. You might want to keep your “More Cowbell” jokes to yourself, though. Kids just don’t get it.

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Fun Foam Flowers and Chicken Wire Napkin Rings

Fun Foam Flowers
I have more farm birthday stuff to show you, but I had to take a break before Easter comes and tramples right over me. Farm birthday goodies are coming, but for today I had to share this little project with all of you preparing for a big Easter meal and looking for a quick and cheap way to dress up your table. If you can work a glue gun you can make this in a matter of minutes, and for less than a dollar each flower.

I originally intended these flowers to go on top of napkin rings, but I made them WAY too big. Which ended up working out great because the napkin rings looked better unadorned and these flowers let me have a seasonally dressed up table in a house that needs to be kitty and wheelchair friendly. I can’t have china out on the table all week long if I want to keep it, but if these end up on the floor (and they have) then no harm done. Just a quick brush to get the cat hair off and back up to the table for a little spot of loveliness.

Step 1
Out of Fun Foam, you’ll need to cut your pieces. One large piece of foam is enough for one of my big style flowers. You’ll need one circle piece roughly 1 1/2″ in diameter, and then you’ll need four sets of petals in different sizes. I freehand cut one of the large petals (it’s about 3 inches across) and I specifically did not aim for uniformity or a pattern because nature is random. It looks better messy. You’ll need a little tab at the bottom to give you space for glue, so the finished petal looks a bit like a fat teardrop. Once you get the petal the way you want it, cut out five more. Then take one of those petals and trim about a 1/4 inch from around it. Cut five more just like that. Trim off another 1/4 inch, cut five more that size. Trim one more time and cut until you have five petals in the smallest size. Five petals in four different sizes, plus the circle for the center.

Step 2
Use a heat gun to warm up each piece of foam. The heat gun gets wicked hot, so I used a little needle tool I had on hand to keep the petal where I wanted it without burning myself. A pencil will work, or anything that keeps your hands out of the way. As the foam heats up it will naturally begin to curl in on itself. You don’t need much curl, particularly on the bigger petals, you just want to add a little dimension. Heat up each petal.

For the center piece, heat up the circle until it begins to be pliable. Then fold it into quarters and heat it up again. Hold it in that folded up position until it cools and you’ll have a little bud shape.

Step 3
On a piece of parchment paper, spread a pool of hot glue. The parchment paper is a fantastic non-stick surface to work on and this will let you stick the petals down into the glue when the first layer doesn’t have something to stick down on top of.

Step 4
Arrange three large petals in a triangle shape, and then add the last two to make the star shape by gluing those last two petals on top of the others.

Step 5
Add the next few layers by putting hot glue onto the tabs on the bottom of each petal, offsetting the petals as you apply them. You don’t want them to line up with the petals below them, you want that organic random look. If you aim to have that seam where the petals overlap in one layer land right in the middle of the petal in the next layer, you’ll get great fluffy volume too.

Step 6
Spread some hot glue on the curved bottom of the center bud piece and tuck that right down into the middle.

Step 7
If you’re unhappy with the shape of any of your petals, you can bring the heat gun back out. Heat up any offending petals and use your fingers to hold them in the shape you want until they cool down.

Napkin Ring Step 1
So my original vision for this project didn’t work out, but that doesn’t bother me any. Instead of one project, I get two. And these wire napkin rings are even simpler than the flowers.

Cut a piece of decorator chicken wire to 6″ x 3″.

Napkin Ring Step 2
Bend it around and use the wires you cut to wrap it together.

Fake Flowers
Since I had a bunch of dye out to dye some Easter eggs, I decided to take the largest petals and dunk them, just to see what happened. I ended up with just the faintest hint of color on the outermost petals, which I think adds to the look so much. Flowers often take on a touch of color on the outermost edge and it helped to make it look a little less pretend.

Flower Centerpiece
I’m not typically a big Tablescape person, but I’m starting to see the appeal. In the week since I finished these projects my dining room table has actually stayed clean. No leftover meal messes, no homework piles, just a bright spot of Easter loveliness. I might give this Tablescape thing a try more often.

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DIY Photo Rig

DIY Photo Rig

Blogging is so completely different from when I started out. To keep going after ten years you gotta find ways to keep it fresh, and for me, that’s been through my Youtube channel. I just had a reason to link to one of my early videos and I’m amazed at how bad it looks. There’s a real learning curve to even film making as basic as a Youtube video, and since I’ve started I think I’ve gotten way way better.

My latest advancement is a tool to give me another angle to shoot from. I do all of my filming and editing completely on my own – Bear is occasionally around to push the record button – and it just hasn’t been possible for me to get too up close for my tutorials. I need about four more hands to film and craft at the same time.

I looked into all kinds of film equipment, but I couldn’t find anything that would suit my small scale purposes. I really didn’t need a crane. So after a lot of thought, I came up with a simple and dirt cheap way to get those overhead shots that make such a difference in showing how to make something. All you need is PVC pipe and a way to cut it.

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DIY Dyed Poetry Pants

Resist Dye Poetry Pants
I have been so blocked. I have so many projects all made up and photographed and videoed and ready to share, but I sit down just to type up instructions – the simplest part of the whole thing – and it feels overwhelming. I’ve gotten so much better health wise, but there’s a lot of trauma of the last year to heal from and all my words seem to be on the other side of that wound. So what better time than now to bring out the poem and project that always gives me strength.

I found this poem, For Strong Women by Marge Piercy, and I wept when I read it. It got right to the heart of my whole life experience. I am a strong woman, and I’m proud of my strength, but so many people react to me as if I never need help, never get weary, never pay a price. To those people I always shake my head and ask, “Have you read my blog?” I don’t know if it’s possible to talk more about the cost of everything I do and yet so many people only see what they want to see. They put people like me in a special “strong” category so that they can have some comfort that maybe our troubles won’t befall them. I get really mad at this because when I do need help and ask for it, people don’t hear. Or when I am just killing it they dismiss it as some innate character trait instead of giving me credit for what I’m slogging through every day. Each of us wants to be seen as a whole person and this poem dug into my heart at how it expressed that true strength comes from proceeding DESPITE the fear, not without it.

So I took this poem that meant so much to me, and I wrote it on my pants so that every time I wore them this message would walk with me.

Step 1
The poem is quite a long one, so I picked out a few stanzas that I wanted to use. Then I got a pair of white pants and wrote the poem write on them with Elmer’s blue gel glue. My pals at RIT dye informed me that this is the best glue to use for a resist project, and they would know.

Step 2
Let the glue dry completely, then flip the pants over and keep writing on the other side. If you really hate your handwriting you could use stencils or stamps, but boy would that take forever. Plus, I think the messier your handwriting the cooler this project would look.

Step 3
When the glue is totally dry, dunk the pants in a cool dye bath. You don’t want to use a stovetop dye method for this one or the glue will just melt away. Let it get a couple shades darker than you ultimately want it, and then wash and dry in the machine as normal. For the first time through the washing machine, wash it all by itself. There will be some dye that comes out in the wash the first few times, and you want to spare the rest of your clothes from picking that up. Some colors wear better than others, but I’ve found that this Pearl Gray color I used is really good and fixed. I just toss these pants in with all the rest of my laundry now and don’t give a thought to any dye transfer.

Poetry Pants
Every time I leave the house in these I get compliments. It might be because they look so cool, but I think it’s also because when I wear them I can’t help but strut. The message they carry is my own little secret boost to get through the day. I swear, they’re better than caffeine.


For strong women

by Marge Piercy

A strong woman is a woman who is straining.
A strong woman is a woman standing
on tip toe and lifting a barbell
while trying to sing Boris Godunov.
A strong woman is a woman at work
cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,
and while she shovels, she talks about
how she doesn’t mind crying, it opens
the ducts of her eyes, and throwing up
develops the stomach muscles, and
she goes on shoveling with tears in her nose.

A strong woman is a woman in whose head
a voice is repeating, I told you so,
ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,
ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,
why aren’t you feminine, why aren’t
you soft, why aren’t you quiet,why
aren’t you dead?

A strong woman is a woman determined
to do something others are determined
not to be done. She is pushing up on the bottom
of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise
a manhole cover with her head, she is trying
to butt her way though a steel wall.
Her head hurts. People waiting for the hole
to be made say, hurry,you’re so strong.

A strong woman is a woman bleeding
inside. A strong woman is a woman making
herself strong every morning while her teeth
loosen and her back throbs. Every baby,
a tooth, midwives used to say,and now
every battle a scar. A strong woman
is a mass of scar tissue that aches
when it rains and wounds that bleed
when you bump them and memories that get up
in the night and pace in boots to and fro.

A strong woman is a woman who craves love
like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
A strong woman is a woman who loves
strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
sucking her young. Strength is not in her,but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.

What comforts her is other’s loving
her equally for the strength and for the weakness
from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
Lightning stuns. In rain,the clouds disperse.
Only water of connection remains,
flowing through us. Strong is what we make together,
a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.

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Herbal Caramel Chocolates

Herbal Caramel Chocolates
When I was a kid we used to make those microwave wilton chocolate candies for everything. We’d pull out the box full of molds my mom had stuffed in a back cabinet from the week she decided she was going to take up chocolate making, we’d rescue some ancient chocolates from another pantry, and we’d laboriously paint with melted “chocolate” to make little gobs of something that tasted like wax. All the fun was in the making, but now that I’m older and snobbier about my chocolate, I want to make something that is worth the trouble. I’ve been intimidated by chocolate but there’s really no need. It’s way easier than I believed. You just need a thermometer.

For my filling I wanted to make an herbed caramel. Some of my favorite Chocolate Artisans (that’s what they call themselves) make caramels infused with rosemary and lavender and brandy and a whole bunch of other not sweet concoctions. So far, the weirder they are the more I like them, so I had to try my hand at my own version.

To add a flavor to the caramel there are a few different ways you could go. You could just chop up bits of whatever and toss it in and you’ll get a crunchy texture, or you could infuse it by melting the butter and then soaking the flavor item in the butter until it took on the flavor, or you can just go straight to adding a few drops of flavored oils – making sure they’re food grade of course. I tried a few options and I found the oil almost fool proof, while the other ways took more finesse than I seem to possess.

Caramel Filling
4 T butter flavored as desired
1/2 C half and half
1 C brown sugar

Over a gentle heat let this all melt together, whisking frequently. Don’t let the sugar burn or the milkfats cook. When it gets to be the consistency of a good caramel sauce, take it off the heat and let it cool.

Meanwhile, prepare your chocolate. If you just melt it and mold it it will taste fine, but if you want that beautiful shiny coating the fine chocolates have you want to take the time to temper your chocolate. This just refers to a heating process that creates the most preferable texture, and has to do with how molecules line up. It’s a simple three step process.
1.)In a bowl that sits over a pot of water, you melt the chocolate until it’s about 115 to 120 degrees.

2.) While stirring, add unmelted chocolate pieces until it cools down to around 81 to 83 degrees. Remove any chocolate pieces that remain unmelted.

3.) Return the bowl to the heat and bring it slowly back up to the working temperature – 86 – 89 degrees.

When your chocolate is tempered pour it into the molds. After much watching of youtube videos, I found that the paintbrushes I used to use as a kid are for suckers. The better way to get a coating on the molds is to fill it up completely, then flip the mold over and let it drain onto a rack or back into a bowl. You’ll get a beautiful thin even coat. Let that set up thoroughly.

The caramel needs to be cool enough to not melt through the chocolate and warm enough to pour. Room temperature is ideal. Fill the molds up, but resist the urge to overfill it. Top with more chocolate and use a metal spatula to scrape off any excess and leave the clean edge.

I was not super clean when I was making mine, I went through a whole lot of trial and error to get the caramel flavorings down and I just had no more patience for doing things the right way that day. But I still found the experience pretty empowering. Chocolate making isn’t that hard, you guys! If you passed seventh grade chemistry, you can totally make beautiful shiny chocolates.

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Apple Peanut Butter Bars

Peanut Butter Apple Bars
With only a few days before Christmas, it’s time to abandon plans for elaborate home made gifts for everyone from your mother to the mailman and go to the fastest gift of all – food. A plate full of sweet treats is part of what makes the holiday so much fun, so if you haven’t knitted a scarf for your neighbor or crafted an elaborate picture frame for your hairstylist, a plate of cookies is the way to go.

I came up with this recipe based on one of our favorite evening snacks – a fresh apple cut into pieces and dunked into peanut butter. I’d take those two flavors together even over peanut butter and chocolate, but you rarely see them together. So I had to fix that. If you don’t have any apple butter available or don’t feel like making any, you can sub in your favorite jams.

Apple Peanut Butter Bars

1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C butter
1 C peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 C flour

1 C apple butter

Cream together the sugars, butter, and peanut butter. Add the egg and vanilla and mix together, then add the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Set aside about 1/4 of the dough.

Butter and flour a casserole dish, then press the remaining dough into the bottom until it’s covered evenly. Poke a fork into the dough all over to give the steam somewhere to escape to so the dough doesn’t puff up. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Spread the apple butter over the cookie layer. If your apple butter is thinner than jam you might want to cook it on the stovetop for a while to thicken it up so the bottom cookie layer doesn’t get too soggy.

Take the reserved dough and crumble it over the top of the apple butter layer.

Bake at 350 for another 15 minutes. Let cool and cut into squares.

Apple Peanut Butter Bars
I made these for Bear’s work party and when I pulled the first batch out of the oven I was debating whether or not I should make more or if one would be enough. I brought a piece over to Bear and Atti and the tore it apart like cookie monster. I ended up making two more batches, so you might want to plan ahead.

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Modern Paper Christmas Tree

Modern Paper Christmas Tree
During Christmas I break all my usual design tastes. Throughout the year I like uncluttered, clean lines, minimalism, and midcentury modern. At Christmas I love it all. There’s no such thing as too much, no style unrepresented, I want every surface festooned with holiday cheer. So when I can make those two styles converge, just imagine the heaven I create for myself. Using some foam core, glue, and scrapbook paper I can make a Christmas tree that would be perfectly at home in Don Draper’s Manhattan loft.

Step 1
To make a tree the same size as mine, you’ll need three pieces of foam core posterboard. Cut each piece in half along the longest edge, and then mark the center line of each new piece with a pencil.

Step 2
Use an exacto knife to cut through the first layer of the foamcore along your pencil line, but don’t cut through that bottom layer. You just want to create a score line where the piece can bend, not cut the piece in half.

Step 3
Now you need to cut your foamcore into the shape for your branches. Line a ruler up with the center pencil mark at the top, and the outer corner of the bottom. Cut that line on both sides to create a triangle.

You’ll also need to cut the bottom edges so that when each piece is bent to make the branches it will still stand up correctly. You need the outside corners to be right angles, so you can measure that with a protractor and line that angle up with the center point. Then cut along the line you’ve created and repeat for the other side. If you have a self-healing mat used for quilting you don’t even need the protractor. You just line the outside edge up with one of the grid lines and then cut a straight line to the center point.

Step 4
To get the foamcore to bend you need to make some room, which means cutting away some of the foam. This will be the inside so you don’t have to be neat about it. I just tilted by knife to an angle and cut away the foam on either side of the scored center line, being careful not to cut through the front of the foamcore.

Step 5
I made six branches for my design, and once they’re folded in half it’s time to assemble. I lined each piece up to it’s neighbor, keeping them at an angle so they’d fan out instead of having each side stick together. Run a bunch of hot glue down the joint of each piece.

Step 6
To connect the two end pieces together, bend them around to meet and form your cone, then run glue down the joint as best you can from the inside. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to keep things in place.

Step 7
The hard work is done, now it’s just a matter of decorating. You could use any method you can dream up for this, but I wanted to bust out my glitter cardstock and my die cut machine and give this a paper tiling treatment. You just need to pick a basic shape – really, any shape will do – and cut a metric ton of pieces. I would recommend using a shape a little larger than the one I used because I was tiling for days, but the results are pretty great. If you don’t have a die cut machine just use a punch and some elbow grease.

Step 8
To cover up the outer edges of the branches, just bend your paper pieces over the tip.

Step 9
To cover up your center joints, bend your paper pieces in the middle and glue right over the top of it.

Step 10
Whatever shape you use to tile your tree with, it’s won’t be small enough to cover the top of your tree in a way that looks good. So we’re going to cover the top with a little cone. Start by cutting a circle out of coordinating paper, then cut a slit across to the center point. Wrap it around the top and cut off all but about a 1/2″ of the overlapping paper.

Step 11
Bend the cone so that it fits around the branches, then glue it in place.

Step 12
I’m never one to pass up glitter, particularly at Christmas, so I finished by dumping glue all over the tree to add a little white glitter to make it look snowkissed.

Foam Core Christmas Tree
I just love the sharp angles and clean lines of this tree. It brings my love of midcentury design together with my love of everything dripping in glitter to create the perfect Christmas decoration for me. Now I’m toying with the idea of making one even bigger.

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Reload Cereal Bowl

Reload Cereal Bowl
I have been getting way too big a kick out of myself lately. This is just one of a few projects lately that have me cracking up at my punny self. Geddit? Geddit? Once you get to the bottom of the bowl, you have to reload! I’m such a mom. That is total mom humor, but I can’t stop giggling at myself. Still, even if your gift list isn’t full of people who share my sense of humor, I think anyone who spends time on the internet, any tech person, any teenage gamer with a bottomless stomach, would get at least a grin out of this cereal bowl.

Supplies
Supplies are simple. You just need a clear glass bowl – I got mine at the dollar store – glass paint, a printout of the reload symbol sized to fit your bowl, and some tape to hold it all in place.

Step 1
Tape the image on the inside of the bowl, with the printing facing the bottom of the bowl. For this image it doesn’t really matter, but if you were using this technique with words you’d definitely want to reverse it before printing. You have to paint it backwards so that when it’s viewed right side up through the glass it’s the right way across.

Step 2
Use glass paint to trace the image on the bottom of the bowl, using several coats as needed to get the opaque coverage you need.

Step 3
When the black paint is dry, paint the entire back of the bowl gold, using several coats again to get solid coverage.

Step 4
Finish it off with a protective clear coat to really protect that paint job from being scratched off, and let it dry thoroughly.

Reload Bowl
Teenagers and dudes are so hard to shop for, but they’re even harder to make for. That was the whole inspiration behind this project, to come up with something homemade suitable for dudes. But every time I do that I end up making something really cool that would work for a huge swath of people. I think there’s a lesson there, but I’m too focused on what has to get done before Christmas to find it.

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Leather Strip Bracelet

Leather Bracelet
My whole family has just gotten over the flu, and today Atti got back from school with a fever for the second time in two weeks. So if I hadn’t gone in to Christmas wanting to keep things simple, Christmas has certainly become that way. But this bracelet is easy enough to make even from a sick bed. If you can pull yourself off the bathroom floor long enough to make it to the craft store, you can make this bracelet.

Supplies
You will need:
Leather strips – I got mine in a giant bag in the leather good aisle at my craft store. You could always cut your own, too.
Ribbon Crimps – This is a special jewelry clasp with teeth. Sometimes they’re called Ribbon Ends.
2 jump rings
1 larger jump ring
2 tassels – mine are leather tassels from Darice.

Step 1
The leather strips I bought were really thick and stiff, so the first thing I did was soak them in water overnight to make them more pliable. Then I picked out the strips I wanted to use and fed one end of them into one of the Ribbon Crimps. Use a pair of pliers to squish the teeth into the leather.

Step 2
Put each tassel onto one of the jump rings.

Step 3
Then put each jump ring onto the larger jump ring, and that jump ring onto the end of the clasp.

Step 4
Wrap the leather around your wrist twice to measure the length, then trim and attach the other end of the Ribbon Crimp.

Leather Strip Bracelet
I’m kind of obsessed with this bracelet. I think it’s so fashion forward. I love how, by decorating the clasp, you take the annoying propensity of the clasp to fall forward and make it work for you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a feverish boy to snuggle.

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