Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Embossing Bliss!


There is no joy in my heart like the joy of embossing. I never grow tired of setting the heat gun to the powder and watching it melt into a glorious foil or wet-paint-like finish. It amazes me every time. Geeky, I know- but if you remember the first time you saw that powder run, you know just what I'm talking about. It makes me want to emboss my entire living space, my closet of clothes, my furniture, my friends...

This holiday season I will once again observe my tradition of sending New Year cards rather than Christmas cards. At some point I realized that I liked sending cards out after the new year. I like starting the year off by reaching out to friends and family. I like the idea of sending a card to someone after all the holiday madness has died down and it's just cold, lonely January. Really, how often do you just get a card or letter in the mail these days? It's a dying art, letter writing.

So this year I am not sending handmade cards, but I did want to personalize them. I did this by embossing the fronts of the envelopes in gold, red, and robin's egg blue. I'm also going to make some stationary for my grandmother.

If you don't know how to emboss, it's easy!! Here's what you'll need and how it works:

You'll need:
*Embossing ink pad
*Embossing powder
*Rubber stamps
*Heat gun
*Paper or other surface to emboss

How it works:

1) To start, cover your rubber stamp with embossing ink. For larger stamps, make sure you have a raised embossing ink pad so that you can cover the entire stamp with the ink.

2) Stamp the image onto your paper or surface to be embossed. The ink is clear but slightly tacky, so you should see an impression of your image.

3) Sprinkle enough embossing powder over the stamped image to cover it sufficiently. Make sure the image is well coated with powder, then lightly tap off the excess powder onto a piece of scrap paper. (Use this scrap paper to funnel the remaining powder back into the container for future use.)

4) Carefully wipe or lightly blow any excess powder away from the image, paying close attention to the details.

5) Once the image appears exactly as you want it, get ready to heat set! Turn on your heat gun and hold it carefully over your image (start at about 6-8 inches away). You will see the surface of the powder start to "melt" into a smoother texture. Move the heat slowly around the image until all of the powder is evenly melted. Do not hold too close or too long as this can cause scorch marks.

6) Set embossing aside to cool for at least one minute or until cool to the touch.

So easy and so impressive!!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cookie Candy Canes (aka Polka Gris Pinnar)


The first time I made these I made them from scratch, but the store-bought cookies dough works well, too. Since I was kind of making the idea up and didn't really have a recipe, I learned that the more candy cane you use-the better! Actually, the more candy cane you use, the longer it may take to bake the cookies since the candy melts into a liquid. But it's well worth it!

1 package sugar cookie dough
1 box candy canes (8-12)
*1-2 tablespoons butter* *optional

Soften the butter and the cookie dough.
Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper or no-stick spray.
Crush the candy canes to a fine powder, leaving plenty of small course pieces for looks. This can be done in a coffee grinder, with a mortar and pestle, or by placing them in a ziplock bag and crushing them with a hammer or other blunt object.

Add the candy canes (and butter) to the dough and mix throughout.
Bake on the lower side of the package directions (i.e. 8-10 minutes if package says to bake 10-12 minutes).
Take out of oven when puffy and white and let cool until cookies centers sink to a flatter appearance.

Roll each cookie up like you would a cinnamon roll, folding one edge slightly over onto the cookie and then continuing to roll in that direction until you have a "straw".
If cookies are still very soft, place back in oven for the additional 1-2 minutes, but don't overbake them. The chewy texture is what makes these so special.
Remove, let cool, and enjoy your extra chewy cookie candy canes!

Soap-pourri (harhar)


*Put a bar of homemade soap in a small organza bag (drawstring bag of fine, breathable, mesh-like material).

*Fill the bag with dried herbs and zest (i.e. cinnamon sticks, cloves, orange zest, anise star, lavender, chamomile, etc.).

*This makes a nicer presentation of the soap; and when the recipient takes the soap out to use, they can leave the pretty little bag of herbs on the countertop as a potpourri.

Rubber Stamp Inquiry

Combing over the selection of rubber stamps at the local craft stores always inspires ideas. But the last time I was there I saw some stamps that baffled me. When I think of buying a rubber stamp, I'm thinking of how versatile it is; How many times can I use it, and on how many different projects?

Who buys the oversized cartoon stamp that says,"I'm smiling because you're my sister. I'm laughing because there's nothing you can do about it." It would seem the creator/purchaser of the stamp is planning on sending his/her sister the same birthday card every year for the rest of her life. Or maybe he/she is planning to taunt her on a daily basis, crazily stamping the same image and phrase on every surface in the house- windows, walls, plates, toilet-until the sister is driven mad. That, or he/she has an endless supply of sisters. Creepy.

I don't know. I just can't see buying a pricey stamp that doesn't have reusability appeal.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Screen Printing tips



The time it takes to burn a screen with a photo flood light bulb is about 6 minutes at a distance of 18 inches. Closer/longer can cause over-burning- a mistake from which there is no salvation. The emulsion should rinse easily off of the screen. Using the soft side of a sponge for detailed areas can be helpful, but if you find you're using the scrubby side and having to put your back into it, chances are you've over-burned your screen.


When taping the borders of your frame, try taping on the inside where you'll use the paint. It keeps paint from sneaking into the cracks, which can make cleanup a lot messier and more time consuming.

Normally I use clear packing tape to tape of unwanted portions of the screen, but after being stuck with duct tape the last time i had some realizations. Duct tape is good for re-use. During my last session I was able to peel and re-stick several times, which saved both time and tape. Once packing tape is wet and pulled off the screen, you pretty much have to toss it and tape anew. The only thing to be careful of is that duct tape is so sticky off the roll it could potentially tear some emulsion and/or screen. A couple of swipes across an arm, palm, or even shirt will lessen the stickiness just enough. It's still sticky enough to tape- and re-tape!


After rinsing one color of paint from your screen, allow enough time for the screen to dry completely before moving on to the next color or design. Even a tiny bit of dampness can cause running and loss of detail when pressing the paint through- especially if you're already working with a thinner paint. Working with two screens help relieve the "watched pot" syndrome while waiting for a screen to dry. While one is drying you can be working with the other one and vice-versa.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Homemade Christmas

Let this be a reminder that deciding to have "a homemade Christmas" requires time- lots of time.

Let this furthermore be a reminder that the idea of having "a homemade Christmas" for the purpose of saving money is something of a farce. Buying supplies can get pricey.

And then there's the pressure. Let this be a reminder that if one is hoping to enjoy the magic of the season, one must:
a) allow plenty of time for the purchasing, creating, messing up, and remaking of homemade gifts,
b) not decide to try out a lot of new crafting ideas hoping for the perfect result on the first try, and
c) maybe not try to do completely different crafts for everyone on one's list, but rather decide that everyone that year should receive the same type of craft, or at least one of two to three pre-chosen crafts.

My projects this year included:
Soap and potpourri making
Screen printing
Sewing and stuffing herbal sleep pillows
Re-covering the inside of a knitting basket
and Baking

This was decidedly too much. Luckily the soap had to be done early and I've made it before, but as for the rest... Well, I've never even used a sewing machine. My husband ended up making the herbal sleep pillows the night before and doing a much better job than I could have. Screen printing also got left to the night before, and had I not anticipated failure and made an extra screen, I would have been S.O.L. Baking was pushed back to the moment the dessert table was being set and knitting was cancelled altogether. Re-covering the basket was completely out of my league. I ended up ripping out everything I'd done, taking it to my mom, allowing her to do 99% of what got done, and still presenting a work in progress to my sister for Christmas.

She didn't mind. Her homemade Christmas was going the same way. The present she was making for me got ditched after a mod-podge substitution gone horribly wrong. The box of make-your-own-candles she bought sat in her room collecting dust. I helped her screen print a number of shirts the night before the gift exchange, and during her down time she was painting bird houses- something she was forced to enlist the help of my dad to get finished. She stayed up until six in the morning, pressing flowers into picture frames and who knows what else.

My dad had long since wrapped all of his store bought gifts and put them under the tree and was happily relaxing and enjoying some Christmas cheer.

As for my mom's homemade Christmas, well, all the gifts I saw were store bought. The pot holders we were all supposed to get as gifts didn't even make an appearance at the gift opening celebration. But then, she had started that knitting basket re-covering project of mine, and that particular project has really put her in the lead to be fair.

To sum up, I'd just like to remind myself that Christmas is still not about the gifts. This year I was trying to get that point across to myself, but it ended up sounding more like, "Christmas is about making gifts, not buying them- but if you don't have time/money/can't/don't want to make them, then you should waste even more time and money running around looking for meaningless store bought gifts to impress them, then return half of that when you realize what you've spent and stay up all night the night before trying to make last minute presents that you should have made weeks ago."

Possible solutions for next year include:
Starting earlier
Drawing one person's name to give a gift to
Not giving gifts

I have a whole 364 days to think about it.