Crafting | Newspaper flowers

So I was supposed to be packing and shopping and generally getting ready for vacation today.

paper crafting

Instead I made newspaper flowers.

paper crafting
Why? Because newspaper flowers don’t make themselves, people.paper crafting

Plus, I had this little tray full of silver baubles sitting on my coffee table, and every time I walked past it, I would think, “This little tray would look so much better with a few newspaper flowers on it.”

So I finally broke down and made some.

paper crafting

For the big flowers, I grabbed a few random circular things from around the house and traced around them.
paper crafting
 Then I cut out the circles and cut slits into them, to make petals.
curling paper
I curled the edges of the petals by wrapping them around the end of a paint brush.
paper crafting
 Then I stacked the circles, from largest to smallest, gluing each layer down in the center as I went.
paper crafting
 To give the flowers some shape, I pressed down with the end of a paintbrush while gluing.
paper crafting
I topped off each flower with an old earring.
paper crafting
Then I fluffed and bent the petals to give the flowers more dimension and spattered some paint on them, just because.
paper crafting
To make the little button flowers, I punched out some newspaper circles …
paper crafting
… and glued the circles together into five-petal flowers.
paper crafting
Then I sewed a button on in the middle of each one.
paper crafting
Probably not the best use of my time the week before I leave on vacation.

But they make me happy.

Valentine’s Day | Wisconsin bulletin board

Valentine's Day
Meet my new state-of-the-heart bulletin board.

Valentine's Day craft

This is what it looked like when I bought it (at a thrift store, of course). It had a nice beefy frame that was painted in a neutral cream color — and the paint was chipping in spots, so there was a little bit of mint green showing through here and there. I loved the chunky, chippy old frame. The orange cork, not so much.

painting a cork board with chalk paint
To de-orangify the cork, I broke out some leftover cream chalk paint (Americana Decor Chalky Finish/Lace). It took two coats to cover.

Valentine's Day craft

I didn’t want my lovely new/old bulletin board to get overwhelmed with notes and photos and general clutter, so I decided I’d put a neat, orderly collage on the top half of it. To make the collage, I picked up three packages of different sized heart cutouts.

The pink and red were not working for me, so I painted the hearts black.

I found a map of Wisconsin online that I sized to fit the width of the bulletin board and printed out.

Valentine's Day bulletin board
I lined up the tiled pieces of the map, taped them together and then cut around the perimeter.

Valentine's Day bulletin board
Next I lightly traced all the way around the border with a pencil.

crafting with hearts
Then I started filling inside the map with my hearts.

crafting with hearts
I started at the bottom and worked from the outside in.

Valentine's Day bulletin board

I tried to keep the outside row of hearts as close to the border as I could. I also tried to keep the pattern random, alternating the sizes of the hearts and the direction they were facing as much as possible.

Valentine's Day bulletin board
When I had all the pieces roughly where I wanted them to go, I adhered them to the board. The formerly red glitter hearts I stuck down with rubber cement. The others were peel-and-stick.

Valentine's Day craft
The last thing I did was erase the pencil line. (I started erasing it before I adhered the hearts, but every time I tried blowing the eraser residue away I would inadvertently blow unattached hearts all over. So eventually I wised up and realized I would be better off to stick everything down first.)

Valentine's Day craft
Here’s the bulletin board propped up on my desk. I can still tack notes and things to the bottom half of the board, but the top is all nice and neat.


Valentine’s Day | Hearts on a string decoration

Valentine’s Day decorations are generally not my thing. Most of the mass-produced ones out there are way too saccharine sweet and frilly for me.
Valentine's Day craft project
So this year, I decided I’d make my own Valentine’s Day decor: something with a vintage industrial vibe that I wouldn’t mind actually hanging in my house.
Valentine's Day craft
I started with these little aluminum pans that I found at a thrift store. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do with them when I bought them — but I knew it wasn’t going to involve baking.
Pretty much every craft project I do lately begins with a coat of black chalk paint, so that’s where I started with this one, too.
Then I cut a few hearts out of an old newspaper to layer over the black background.
And, as luck would have it, I had the letters I needed to spell out the word “LOVE” in the stash of random letters and numbers that I have hoarded over the years.
I wasn’t thrilled with the bright colors, so the letters got a coat of black chalk paint, too.
Then I put some silver craft paint over top, slapdash style, letting the black peek through for a tarnished metal effect.
Valentine's Day craft
I drilled holes in the top and bottom of each pan …
drilling a hole in a metal pan
… just big enough to pull a piece of twine through.
Valentine's Day craft
I grunged up the newspaper hearts with some watered down paint and old coffee grounds…
Valentine's Day craft
… and I Mod Podged the newspaper onto the bottom on the pans.Valentine's Day decoration

To tie the hearts all together, I threaded pieces of jute twine through the holes.
string of hearts
I had a few beads on hand that I added here and there. (I wish I would have had more.)

string of hearts

The last step was to glue the letters on over the newspaper.
string of metal hearts
(The letters have magnets in them, but the pans are aluminum, and unfortunately magnets don’t stick to aluminum; hence the need for glue.)

Valentine's day craft project

Here’s the completed string o’ hearts. Love it.

Stenciling | A (fictitious college) shirt

For reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, my son decided he wanted a Wisconsin State University shirt for Christmas this year … which posed a bit of a problem because, as those of you who live in this neck of the Midwestern woods know, there is no such school as Wisconsin State.

fabric painted shirt
Apparently there is, or was at some time, a movement afoot to rename UW-Milwaukee Wisconsin State. I don’t think it’s gained much traction, but my son, a UW-Milwaukee student, is still holding out hope.

freezer paper stencil
Anyhoo, since I couldn’t go to the college bookstore and buy a Wisconsin State shirt, I had to make a stencil and create my own. I started by trimming a piece of freezer paper to 8 1/2 by 14 inches, then feeding it through my computer printer and printing the words “Wisconsin State” (in Rockingham Condensed) on the flat/non-shiny side.

stenciling a shirt
I weeded out all the letters with an Xacto knife.

stenciling on fabric
I saved the inside of the O and the A, but the rest of the letters were waste.

stenciling on fabric
(It’s times like this when I wish I had one of those fancy die cutting machines … )

stenciling on fabric
Once I had the letters trimmed, I positioned the stencil.

stenciling a shirt
Then I ironed it onto the shirt.

stenciling a shirt
The shiny side of the freezer paper adhered to the fabric.

textile medium and acrylic craft paint
I made my own fabric paint out of one part of textile medium and two parts of acrylic craft paint.

fabric paiint
Then I pounced the paint on with a stencil brush.

fabric paint
I tried not to go too heavy with the paint because the thicker the paint, the more likely it is to crack.

fabric paint
Plus, I wanted the shirt to have a vintage look, to hint at Wisconsin State’s long and storied history …

freezer paper stencil
Once I had the letters all painted, I peeled up the stencil.

freezer paper stencil

Then I just had to flip the shirt inside out and iron it to heatset the paint.

Thanksgiving | Turkey assemblage

turkey robot

I’ve been a little obsessed with “turkey robots” lately. Some people call them “turkey assemblages.” Or “upcycled turkeys.” Or “steampunk turkeys.” Whatever you call them, they’re out there, and I love them.

steam punk turkeys
I’ve been storing images of some of my favorites on Pinterest and keeping my eye out for parts to make my own.

upcycled turkey
 A few weeks ago, I found an old vegetable steamer in a thrift store.

upcycled turkey
I bought it, knowing that the flaps on the basket would make perfect turkey feathers.

turkey assemblage
I also bought this thing. I’m not sure what it is. Maybe a tea strainer? But when I looked at it, I saw a turkey head.

turkey assemblage

After I got my turkey parts home, I disassembled the steamer and soaked the pieces in vinegar for a few minutes to remove the lime scale.

turkey craft
The bright, shiny aluminum wasn’t working for me, so I slapped a quick coat of brown acrylic craft paint on everything.

Rub 'n Buff on metal
Then I smeared Spanish copper Rub ‘n Buff over the paint. (Rub ‘n Buff doesn’t adhere very well to shiny metal; hence the basecoat.)

making a turkey from upcycled parts
 When the Rub ‘n Buff dried, I buffed the pieces with a soft cloth and started assembling the turkey.

picture hangers
For the feet, I found one of these picture hangers in the hardware stash in my basement. (And then I had to go down to the hardware store to buy a second one.)

picture hangers

They got a basecoat of brown acrylic craft paint, topped with Spanish copper Rub ‘n Buff, too.

making a turkey assemblage
The beak was made from an old earring. I just snipped the end of it off.

Thanksgiving craft

I found a couple of washers for the eyes.

turkey assemblage

I put a bolt through the hole on the bottom of the turkey’s head and stacked six nuts on it to act as spacers.

turkey craft project

The head was screwed into a hole in the center of the body.

turkey robot

Here’s what the head looks like from the front.

Thanksgiving craft And here’s how it’s attached in the back


After I had the head attached, I hung the feet off the rim of the turkey’s body.

making a turkey from salvaged parts

Then I glued on his facial features.

metal turkey

Here he is all done.

turkey assemblage

Halloween | ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ sign

Something Wicked This Way Comes
With Halloween closing in, I decided to get in the spirit and make a double-double-toil-and-trouble sign.
empty frame
Here’s what I started with: a thrift store frame I had bought a few years back, thinking it was the perfect size (11 1/2 inches by 36 inches) for a subway sign.
cutting a plywood sign blank
I needed a sign blank, so I stole a piece of plywood from my husband’s stash and then sweet talked him into cutting it on his tablesaw for me.
Halloween subway art
Once I had the plywood trimmed to fit, I painted it with some black chalk paint I had on hand.
 Double Double Toil and Trouble
Then I drew up the sign in InDesign. The serif font is Copperplate, and the sans serif ones are all some version of Arial. The smiling skull and crossbones is a (really big) Wingding.
subway sign
After I had my design, I printed it out, tiling it onto five pages. (My printer added the vertical stripes on its own. Spooky.)
Double Double Toil and Trouble
I lined all the pages up, overlapping the words that spilled from one page onto the next.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Then I trimmed off the bottom edge of each page and Scotch taped the pieces together.
making a Halloween sign
In order to transfer the design, I rubbed chalk over the back of the paper.
hand-painted sign
Then I flipped the page back over, centered it over my sign blank and traced around the letters.
Halloween subway sign
When I had the letters all traced, I held my breath and started peeling the paper away to see if the design transferred.
Halloween subway sign
It worked.
hand-painted sign
Except for a couple lines that I missed while tracing, the design transferred perfectly.
Hand-painted sign

Here’s the full sign blank (left) with the chalk outlines and the original printer version.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Once I had my outlines, I just painted inside the lines with some white acrylic paint.
Halloween art
I tried working from the outside in, so I wouldn’t smear the chalk lines while I was painting.
Double Double Toil and Trouble

To make the dots, I loaded paint onto the rounded end of a paintbush and pressed at somewhat regular intervals.

hand-painted sign

After I had all the letters painted, I wiped off the remaining chalk with a damp rag and then put on a second coat of white paint.

painted sign

Then I popped the sign blank into the frame and voila …

painted sign

… a custom-made hand-painted Halloween sign.

Double Double Toil and Trouble

Here’s the sign mixed in with a bunch of other fall-ish things on my porch.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Makeover | Painting a penny farthing

Mackinac Island
When we visited Mackinac Island, bikes were everywhere — and I’m not just talking about on the streets (where no cars are allowed).

A lot of the shops sell bicycle art and crafts and T-shirts.

Ryba's Fudge Shops
This old-timey penny farthing decoration was in the front window of Ryba’s Fudge Shop.

All the bike art reminded me of a penny farthing wall hanging I bought at a garage sale a couple years ago when I was compiling stuff for a gallery wall. I had over-collected for the gallery wall, and the penny farthing didn’t make the cut. I hung onto it anyway, thinking I might use it somewhere else sometime.

painting with chalk paint
The mottled metal finish always seemed a little sad and tired to me, and the fun, bright-colored bikes and bike art on the island made me think my penny farthing needed an update.

painting with chalk paint
I started by basecoating the whole thing with black chalk paint.

Annie Sloan chalk paint Antibes Green
Then I pulled out the remains of some Annie Sloan chalk paint in Antibes Green that I had stored in my basement.

chalk paint
I decided to paint the body of the bike in the green and leave the wheels black.

chalk paint
It took a couple coats to cover.

makeover with chalk paint
I liked the piece 1,000 percent better once it was green.

makeover with chalk paint
I thought I might like it even better if I added an accent color.

penny farthing wall art makeover
So I dug some Spanish Copper Rub ‘n’ Buff out of my craft supplies.

penny farthing wall art makeover
The Rub ‘n’ Buff goes on flat.

After it dries, you buff it with a soft cloth and it shines like metal.
penny farthing wall decor
I loved the coppery color accents.

chalk paint makeover
They’re subtle, but they definitely add a little dimension.

chalk paint makeover
Here’s the whole penny farthing, all painted.

chalk paint makeover
Once I was done buffing and touching up the paint, I hung it up on my basement door.

chalk art makeover

It didn’t come from Mackinac Island, but every time I walk past it, that’s what I think of.


Crafting | A stenciled Santa

I love stenciling. It takes time and patience but absolutely no special skills. Anybody can do it. And you can make almost anything. Say, for instance, you wanted a dish towel with a retro black-and-white Santa image printed on it. You probably wouldn’t find one in a store, but you could stencil one.

vintage Santa graphic
You’d just have to download an image you liked from The Graphics Fairy.

vintage Santa graphic

And if you didn’t like that the finger on his left hand was pointing at nothing, you could redraw that hand to have a mitten on it.

vintage Santa graphic on parchment paper

Then you’d want to print out the image on computer paper and trace it onto parchment paper. (Or if you were smart, you would cut the parchment paper down to size and feed that into your printer so the image printed directly onto the parchment paper.)

parchment paper stencil

The hardest part of the whole project would be figuring out what to cut away from the image (the parts that you wanted to paint black) and what to keep (the parts that you wanted to remain white).

cut out parchment paper stencil

You’d have to cut the silhouette out with a sharp craft knife.

parchment paper stencil

Then you’d want to go back in and carefully cut away all of the inside pieces. (All of the pieces on the left side above are waste. The pieces on the right side are the stencil.)

iron stencil onto flour sack dishtowel

You’d have to iron your stencil onto a towel. (Parchment paper will stick to fabric when it’s ironed.)

textile medium and acrylic paint

You’d want to mix a little textile medium in with some acrylic paint to prevent the paint from cracking after it dries.

pounce paint onto stencil

You’d want to pounce the paint onto your stencil.

peel stencil off fabric

Then you’d get to the fun/nerve-racking part: peeling away the stencil to reveal the final image.

remove stencil

If you did it right, you would end up with nice crisp lines of black paint on all the edges.

vintage Santa stenciled on dish towel

And Santa would be smiling at you.

Then you’d want to run a hot iron over the back of the towel to heat set the paint, and you’d be done.

black and white Santa on dishtowel

Crafting | Turkey shadow box

turkey and nuts in shadow box
Here’s a Thanksgiving shadow box I (somewhat accidentally) put together the other day.

turkey cookie cutter
It started with this plastic turkey-shaped cookie cutter that I found. It looked so sad and orange, I decided I’d give it a 10-minute makeover by wrapping jute twine around it.

turkey cookie cutter

After 10 minutes of searching for — and not finding — my roll of twine, I moved on to plan B: wrapping it in string. Then after 10 minutes of attempting to wrap an orange cookie cutter in white string — and seeing lots of orange plastic peeking out in between the strands, I moved on to plan C: spray painting the cookie cutter white first.

turkey cookie cutter

Thirty minutes into my 10-minute makeover, I discovered wrapping a cookie cutter with string is not as easy as it sounds …

turkey cookie cutter

… at least not if your cookie cutter has lots of wonky indents and corners. If you use too much string on those spots, you get a weird bulge in the silhouette. If you don’t use enough string, there are obvious gaps in the coverage. And unfortunately, the more I handled the cutter, the more the white spray paint wore off.

turkey cookie cutter covered in string

When I finally had the whole cutter wrapped in string, I touched up the orange spots that were peeking through with off-white craft paint.

shadow box backer board

At this point, I decided I had invested so much time in the cookie cutter that I should showcase it in a shadow box. But my shadow box had been used many times before, and this is what the backer board of it looked like. All the pin holes and glue spots needed to be covered up.

old dictionary

I pulled out an, old falling-apart dictionary, and thought maybe I could use a couple pages from it to cover the mess. I looked on the “turkey” page and the “Thanksgiving” page, hoping to find a definition with a picture, but I struck out. So I started flipping through, looking for a good random page to use …

old dictionary page
… and look what I found in the F’s.

turkey shadow box

I rubber cemented the pages to the backer board and popped it into place.

turkey shadow box

Here’s the full shadow box. It has a hinged cover, so it’s really easy to work with.

turkey shadow box

I positioned my turkey so the picture of the turkey was inside him. But the shadow box looked a little empty.

old suitcase

I knew I had some great fall filler inside an old battered, tattered mini suitcase.

nuts and acorns

I picked out the nuts I wanted to use…

turkey shadow box
… and filled in the open space around the turkey with them.

turkey shadow box

Then I put the cover on the shadow box and stood it upright. The nuts were packed around the cookie cutter tightly enough to hold it in place.

My 10-minute craft ended up taking a little more than 10 minutes, but I’m happy with how it turned out.

Halloween | Making a Joker costume

finished Joker costume
A couple years ago my son found himself in need of a purple suit. And not just any purple suit. He needed a purple suit with a long coat, in the style made famous by his favorite villain/Bruce Wayne’s arch nemesis. After searching high and low and finding no purple suits of any kind to be had, we put our heads together and decided if one couldn’t be bought, one would have to be made.
grey suit before painting

I am not a good enough seamstress that I could sew a purple suit from scratch, but I told my son if he bought one standard-issue grey suit plus one standard-issue grey suit jacket from Goodwill, I would attempt to paint them purple and piece them together into Joker-appropriate style.

The two suit jackets he bought (sorry, only one pictured here) were the same size and roughly the same color and style. The main difference was that one of the jackets had flaps on the front pockets.

grey suit pants before painting

(Word of warning: These are photos from my pre-blogging days — which means they were taken on my old point-and-shoot with only the camera flash as lighting.)

I bought two big bottles of purple craft paint (and used both) and one bottle of textile medium.

purple paint with textile medium

I mixed the craft paint and textile medium in a 2-to-1 ratio. The textile medium prevents the paint from cracking after it dries.

painting a suit purple

I had to really saturate the fabric in order to get the paint to cover the grey suit. To keep the paint from seeping through the fabric, I put a scrap piece of white foam board inside it.

Joker Halloween costume

I did the same with the pants.

painting a suit purple

The foam board was too wide to slide inside the pant legs, so I flattened an empty saltines box and used that to block the paint from bleeding through there.

Joker Halloween costume

I painted one section at a time, sliding the foam core/saltines box along as I went.

sewing Joker costume

Once I had everything painted, I cut the jacket with the pocket flaps off above the armpits and threw out the top portion. The bottom portion I positioned along the bottom of the other jacket to fashion into a long coat.

sewing Joker Halloween costume

When I had the jackets lined up, I put a row of pins in to hold everything in place.

sewing Joker coat

Then I stitched the two jackets together. (I went back and touched up the paint later.)

painting the vest

For the vest, I started with another Goodwill find.

green paint and textile medium

I didn’t have the right shade of green on hand, so I mixed a little white paint in with the green I had to lighten it up, and then added the textile medium, just like I did with the purple.

painting Joker vest green

Again, I had to really saturate the fabric to get good paint coverage, so I put the white foam board in between the front and back of the vest to prevent seepage.

Joker vest Halloween costume

I painted right over the buttons.

Joker Halloween costume
Once I had everything painted, my son tried the coat and vest on to make sure it all fit and he could move in it. He said the fabric was a little stiff, but not bad. (No, the jeans and the red lumberjack shirt are not part of the ensemble.)
finished Joker costume

Here’s the finished look, right before my son headed out to Freak Fest in Madison. (He even dyed his hair green, which is a little hard to see in the dim lighting of the parking garage where this photo was apparently taken.)