Thursday, January 31, 2013

Craft Room Organization - Ribbons

I am a very lucky gal, because I have my very own craft room.  (At this point my daughter would chime in that WE have a craft room.  It's the FAMILY'S craft room.  That's nice and all, but we all know that the craft room is my domain.) 

I love my craft room so much.  It's so nice to have a space that can get messy and have paint drips and beads and sequins and glitter eddying around on the floor.  I find that it really helps me to be more creative when I don't have to worry about being neat.  With that said, however, I do think it's important to be organized, because it's no fun to waste time searching for things or worse, buying duplicates of something because you can't find it when you need it.  Waste is unacceptable to me.  So I'm always on the lookout for ways to organize my craft supplies for optimal usage.  Here are some of my craft room organization solutions specifically for ribbons.

I have a bajillion spools of ribbon - satin ribbon, chiffon ribbon, curling ribbon, you name it.  I store all fabric ribbon on spools in wooden clementine boxes.  The boxes are sturdy and basically free and happen to fit perfectly 4 across and 2 high on one of my shelves.  Each box is assigned to hold a different color family.  Spools are nestled together in the boxes and then stacked 2-high on a shelf.  It's a simple solution that has worked really well for me.  One day I will paint the boxes or label them to make it easy to see what color family is in what box.  Maybe I will paste paint swatches to the front...

For curling ribbon, I decided to keep that near my gift wrap holder.  (A tall laundry basket was perfect to hold those rolls of paper upright.  I keep the paper from unrolling by slitting empty toilet paper rolls and cupping them around the roll.)  I found a clever solution on Pinterest - but I can't find the original post that I got the idea from.  Basically, you thread the curling ribbon spools onto a pants hanger.  Simple, right?  So easy to load the spools and you can see at a glance what colors you have - I clearly have too much yellow.  You don't even need to unload the spools to use - just pull out what you need and snip.

So this is all great for spools of ribbon, but what about ribbon scraps or bits of ribbon that come with wrapped around things you might buy, like pajama sets or a new blanket, or even ribbon that you harvest from things like gift bag handles?  (Yes, I keep all of that stuff.  Don't judge me.)  I have two approaches for those situations.  For longish bits of ribbon, I reuse those clear plastic circles that they sell scarves on in stores.  I just double the ribbon over the rings and hang them on a 3-hook towel rack that I found on clearance at Joann's a few years ago.  Voila!  The ribbon is out in plain sight as a reminder of what I have, is not taking up any storage space (love vertical storage!), AND does double duty as colorful craft room decor, AND does triple duty sometimes when my kids dance and spin and wave the ribbon rings around like little May Day sprites. 

Bits that aren't long enough to hang get rolled up and secured with straight pins and grouped in empty glass jars.  The jars go on  shelf with hooks that I bought from Hobby Lobby (with a coupon!) and painted.  More ribbon rings go on the hooks.

And because you can sort of see my Laundry Room quilted door hanging in one of the pictures, I'll conclude with a pic of the whole thing.  My mommy made it for me and I LOVE it and I love showing off her skills.  She is mega-talented.  Thanks, mom!  It's so cheery, it almost makes me want to do laundry.  Almost.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Girl Scout Sweets Table

I volunteered to do the snacks for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop as they bridged from Brownies to Juniors.  I supplemented some of my own ideas with some Pinterest finds and was very pleased with the results!  One thing that I really need to improve on is photos.  I didn't get one picture of the assembled table - boo!  I hope that you find the text helpful anyway and I promise to try to do better with pictures.

I invested in a great folding table at my daughter’s last birthday.  It was a Craigslist find for $25 and it was worth every penny.  The legs fold up and the table folds in half AND it has a carrying handle, so it’s perfect for setting up on the go.  It fits right in the trunk of my sedan.  Rather than relying on the picnic tables at the park, I used my folding table and it was a good thing that I did.  It was a very hot, sunny day and all the picnic tables were getting full sun.  My chocolate-y treats would have melted away!  Instead, I was able to set up under a nice big tree and take advantage of the shade.

I put a lot of thought into how I was going to set up my treats in advance, even going so far as to draw a diagram.  It really helped me to understand what I needed in terms of serving pieces and supplies.  This proved to be very helpful since the event was not at my home and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get anything else after I reached the park.

The table was covered with a large white plastic tablecloth and topped with iridescent green cellophane tissue paper.  (I could have used fabric, but I knew that after the ceremony was done I would be tired and would just want to wrap up the trash and go.  It worked out really well.)  I scattered glass gems in different shades of green plus green and white starlight mints all over the table for fun / visual interest / added weight to fight the breeze.  I also came prepared with tape, which I used to attach the table coverings to the table legs - also a good idea because of the breeze.  All of these items came from the Dollar Store - $5!

I went with green and rainbow colors (green is the color of the Junior vests and rainbows are on the bridging patch) and tried to work in scouting references wherever possible.  Here’s what I made:

Water bottles with custom labels:  I did it myself to save money using a great tutorial that I found here – DIY Water Bottle Labels.  I found mini water bottles at Big Lots for $2.50 a case.

S’Mores Snack Mix:  So easy and yummy and scout-y.  Golden Grahams cereal mixed with jumbo chocolate chips and mini marshmallows.  Served this in a wooden salad bowl and provided a plastic scoop and tiny white Dixie cups to hold it.

Thin Mint Truffles:  I confess that I cheated here since we didn’t actually have any Thin Mints left from last year’s cookie sale and wouldn’t see any new boxes until November.  So I used Keebler Grasshopper cookies.  Don’t tell!  The recipe is basically Oreo Balls or Oreo Truffles, but made with mint cookies instead.  1 box cookies, 1 brick cream cheese, green candy melts.  Pulse cookies in food processor until you have crumbs.  Mix in softened cream cheese.  Pop in fridge to chill a bit or it will be difficult to roll the balls.  Melt your candy melts (I use a mug) and thin with Crisco if needed.  Roll cookie-cream cheese mixture into small balls and dip into candy melts.  Place on wax paper-covered plate and sprinkle with white sprinkles.  Place in fridge until candy melts are hardened.  To serve, I went fancy and put them in gold mini-muffin cups grouped on a platter.

S’Mores on a Stick:  Melt some chocolate, dip a lollipop stick in about a ¼”, stick into a marshmallow, dip the marshmallow into the chocolate, roll in graham cracker crumbs.  Once hardened, bag the marshmallow in a clear cello bag and tie.  I was very proud of how I served these.  I bought 2 small tin buckets at a thrift shop and 2 styrofoam balls at the Dollar Store.  The night before, I used a spare lollipop stick and punched enough holes on the top of each ball to hold the S’Mores sticks.  On the day, I put the balls in the tins, put the sticks in the balls, and covered the balls with green and white starlight mints, also from the Dollar Store.  I saved both the tins and the balls to use again.

Chocolate-covered pretzel sticks:  This was more of a filler / height-adder.  I used green and white sprinkles for these and served wrapped in cello bags and standing up in more tin buckets.

Green apples:  I placed a single apple on each platform of a many-armed cupcake holder.  Again, I did it for filler/height, but was pleasantly surprised that many of the girls did eat an apple.
For a “favor” of sorts, I found boxes of movie-sized Junior Mints at Wal-Mart, which I gussied up with kraft and scrapbook paper personalized labels and my floral punch.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Thrift Store Tea Party

This was a tea party that I threw for my daughter’s 5th birthday party.  As with most things I do, my mother helped immensely with the planning and decor – thanks, Mom!  We heavily utilized thrift store finds with this party to keep costs down and impact high.

We really wanted the little girls to feel grown up, so we scoured thrift stores for real china cups, saucers, and teapots.  Some of the cups got broken in transit from mom’s house to mine, so I super glued them back together and turned them into little vases for the centerpieces on the tea tables.  Filled with colorful silk flowers, you couldn’t tell that they had ever been broken.  And they were just the right size to not overwhelm the tiny tables.

Table covers were thrift store lace curtain panels over thrift store sheets.  We gathered and swagged them to make it easier for the girls to get in and out of the tables.  I found some lovely embroidered fabric napkins (which I have used several times since for nice dinners and other parties) that we rolled up and tied with ribbon to add some extra fancy to the tables.

In lieu of tea, each teapot was filled with pink lemonade.  The girls enjoyed serving themselves and having a separate teapot on each table was a big hit and very practical - I didn't have to go around refilling 12 tiny cups!  It felt a little excessive at the time to invest in china for a one-time event, but I have to say that I’ve been surprised at how much additional use they’ve gotten over the years.  I’ve enjoyed them for holidays, special dinners, and a shabby chic bridal shower for a coworker.  I also have plans to use them for a Girl Scout event to earn the manners and etiquette badge.  Not to mention that I’ve offered them out to friends and family for THEIR little ones to have a tea party. 

For food, we made finger sandwiches cut into fun shapes with sturdy metal cookie cutters, petit fours made from frozen pound cake squares glazed and topped with purchased sugar flowers, and cupcakes topped with marshmallow flowers.  The marshmallow flowers were so easy and so high-impact.  Just cut marshmallows in quarters, pinch and pull the ends of the pieces to reshape into petals, and arrange around a candy center (jellybeans here) to form a flower on top of a frosted cupcake.  You could also dip the cut side in colored sugar if you want AND you can even make your own colored sugar for very little money and trouble.  Pour some sugar into a snack-size Ziploc bag, dab in some gel food coloring (I’ve never tried anything but gel), zip the bag and squeeze the sugar to mix in the color.  Adjust with more color if needed.  Voila - free sanding sugar.

I tried to include my son in the festivities as well.  He looked quite handsome in his top hat and vest.  Vest from the thrift store, top hat from Oriental Trading company.  The hats came in a pack of 12, so I offered the rest to a friend for her daughter's magic party.  She cleverly used top hats as receptacles for chips and other snacks.

For games, my mother found a carriage-shaped plastic teapot at a thrift store and painted it in party colors.  It was the perfect receptacle for a game of Toss the Teabag.  I made the large teabags by filling organza favor bags with dried kidney beans and stapling them closed with a ribbon and tag – the tags were personalized with the guest’s names.  We also played musical chairs and Pass the Teapot.  To eliminate hurt feelings, when the girls were tagged “out” in games, that was their turn to pick some fancy jewelry or to select their favor bags.  I highly recommend that if you want a no-crying-kids-zone at your parties.  Favors were Dollar Store purses stuffed with candy necklaces and rings.

We also had a teapot pull-string pinata – one of my best Oriental Trading finds ever – and stations where the girls could make their own fancy necklaces using pony beads and boondoggle (or gimp depending on what part of the country you hail from).  I wanted to have the girls decorate their own hats, but we just couldn’t come up with a safe and effective adhesive that they could use (glue gun burns / toxic fumes and 5 year olds don’t mix).  My mom ended up decorating thrift and Dollar Store hats in advance and the girls were able to pick their favorite.  Worked out fine and no medical emergencies - yay!

We had also spent several months stocking up on fun jewelry, fancy gloves, and thrift store dresses.  The girls loved getting all dressed up.  And I have to say that lilac bushes in bloom are the absolute best backdrop ever.  This was at our old house and boy, do I ever miss those bushes.  They always bloomed for my daughter’s birthday.  It was like magic.

I wish that I had a close-up picture of the hat garland my mother made.  She found a bag of doll-sized straw hats at a thrift store, decorated them with ribbons and flowers, mounted them on a long ribbon, and used that to adorn the archway into the yard.  I love them so much.  I save them and put them out with my Easter decorations every year.

This sort of thing is my favorite part of party planning - finding something ho-hum or unexpected and turning it into something that's just-right.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cake Fails and Triumphs

I love to bake and I love fancy party cakes, but I'm sort of "freewheeling" about it.  I've never had any formal training or classes, although I have TRIED to take the local Wilton classes.  (They always seem to get cancelled on me.)  So I've found my own way and it works for me.

Let your cakes cool exposed to the air:  I was always under the impression that if I left my cakes uncovered while cooling that they would dry out.  Not so!  I always bake my cakes at least a day in advance and leave them out for at least 12 hours uncovered to cool.  If you cover them, condensed steam will make the exterior too moist and your layers and frosting will be slip-slidin' away.  Leaving them uncovered also seems to let the cake itself settle and strengthen.  It is less likely to crumble and break.

Level your cakes:  There is a nifty tool you can buy at the craft store (use a coupon!) that yields perfectly level layers every time.  Buy it and use it!  Irregular layers, domed or concave tops, and the like will yield lumpy, misshapen cakes prone to falling apart.  Wilton Ultimate Cake Leveler

Don't overextend yourself:  All cake really needs to be is yummy.  You don't have to make something elaborate for it to work.  And almost any idea can be distilled into a simpler version - just be creative.  Check out the Backyardigans cake below for more on this.

Do a test run if at all possible:  This may be hard for us thrifty people, but it is a very, very good idea.  The last thing you want is to end up with no cake on the day of your event because you ran into a logistical problem.  It may not be feasible in all situations, but I definitely recommend demo'ing what you can.  Some of my fails below...

Lego Cupcakes Fail
This was a demo fail, thank goodness.  I decided to make cupcakes from scratch and tried new cupcake recipes - the yellow one was delicious and beautiful just out of the oven but upon cooling, the size reduced considerably.  Who wants to eat a cupcake 1/2" high?  The chocolate recipe had an inexplicable fishy aftertaste.  Fish cupcakes?  Yuck.  I also tried a cooked frosting recipe.  I followed the directions to the letter, but it never whipped up and ended up being a gloppy glaze instead.  And my chocolate Lego toppers, while the idea was cute, it looked ridiculous in reality, given the dimished size of the cupcakes and the flat frosting.  So glad I didn't have to serve these to people...

Castle Cake Fail
I went wrong here by not fully cooling and leveling the cakes.  After assembly, the turrets immediately started to collapse and my poor castle looked like it was sacked by the Huns.  My husband suggested that we try to buttress the turrets by threading wooden kebab skewers through the cake.  Because everyone loves a cake full of splinters!  Yum!  There was no demo cake in this instance, so picture me frantically calling bakeries the day of the party looking for ANYTHING to replace it.  Don't let this be you!

Between you and me, in retrospect, I wasn't that sad that it fell apart.  It was a supremely ugly cake.  I don't know what I was thinking.  Those jellybeans - ugh!  If you look closely at the front on your left, you will see a kebab hole.  Fancy!  Again, a dmo would have shown me that these colors and embellishments weren't going to work.

I am proud to say that I have learned from my mistakes and here are some of my triumphs.  Disclaimer - these are MY triumphs, which will likely seem underwhelming to a good baker.  This is because as you see from my fails, my personal bar is set very low.  After several baking debacles, my family is super proud of anything I make that remains intact and doesn't taste like fish or is otherwise inedible.  I don't have time to go into my other fails - the cookies that accidentally tasted like peanut butter and black licorice or the slug cookies.  (As in, they were so bad that no creature that walks, flies, or crawls would eat them - not even slugs.  Literally.  They were passed up by seagulls, feral cats, and slugs - all came, sniffed, and left.  Can slugs even smell?)

Backyardigans Cake Triumph!
I was envisioning a 5 layer cake with each one representing a different Backyardigan.  I wisely realized that 1)  this was too much cake for our little shindig and 2) no way could I pull that off.  This is what I came up with instead.  I printed the characters on card stock, cut them out, mounted on popsicle sticks, and popped them on top of the cake.  It cost no money (unlike if I had special ordered cake toppers - which by the way I find are generally off-putting when you look closely at them) and was cute and festive!

Rose Cake Triumph!
This was for a Paris in Pearls party for my 9-year-old.  I wanted an Eiffel Tower cake, but knew that was out of my wheelhouse, so I opted to reflect the theme in a different way - with a fancy rose cake.  I was planning to buy one from a local baker, but couldn't justify the $60 price tag.  Yes, $60.  They are out of their minds.  So I tried to make it myself (did a demo 1st) and it was a showstopper.  There are many tutorials out there on this cake.  Here's the one I like:  Rose Cake Tutorial
It really is that easy.  And the impact is very high.  Two things I did learn.  When I did the demo, I used a Crisco frosting and switched to a butter frosting for the real cake for better flavor.  I should have stuck with Crisco.  It was less sickly sweet and the roses were bigger and more beautiful.  You'll note that I added edible pearls to the roses.  They turned out bee-yoo-tee-full!!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Yarn Wreaths

I have to confess that I am obsessed with yarn wreaths.  I love them.  So much.  The colors, the texture, the endless possibilities...  love love love.  There are tons of tutorials out there with great step by step instructions with pictures and stuff.  I like this one:  BHG Yarn Christmas Wreath

Here are some of my tips and tricks...

Wreath type:  I really like to use straw wreaths.  The size is just right and allows for a large surface area for embellishment.  The price is good, too.  I always buy them with a coupon, so I generally pay about $2.  The key when using a straw wreath is to LEAVE THE PLASTIC WRAP ON THE WREATH.  Do not, repeat, do not take it off or your house will have straw bits everywhere.  This is not fun.

Yarn type:  I like to do a base wrap with cheap yarn and go over top with a more expensive type.  For the owl wreath below, my base wrap was a skein of gray on clearance ($0.25!).  I used it to cover the wreath in full.  I then went over the wreath again with a more expensive fluffy, multicolor yarn.  I didn't need much of the fluffy yarn as a result, so it's good way to use up scraps as well.

Process:  It couldn't be more simple.  Just wrap your base yarn one time around the wreath form and tie it tightly.  Then just wrap, wrap, wrap until the wreath is fully covered.  When you've reached that point, tie the end of yarn to the wreath and tuck the little tail under the wrap.  I usually work on these while watching TV.

Embellish:  Go crazy here.  The felt roses pictured in the linked BHG tutorial are great and I love to use them (I don't use the template - just eyeball it and cut a spiral).  Don't be afraid to add other things as well.  The owl above is a Christmas tree ornament purchased in the after Christmas sales for $1.  The pink wreath below also features a Christmas ornament.  You could use anything.  Broken jewelry, fabric rosettes, cupcake wrapper flowers, those holiday foam thingies I always seem to see in the $1 section at target...
And incidentally, in some of these pictures you may notice that the wreaths aren't on a door.  I keep my wreaths on "display" all year in my laundry and craft rooms.  They do double duty that way - they brighten up the space and don't take up valuable real estate in my storage area.  Yay for functional, vertical storage!.  Get a couple Command Hooks and you're good to go.

Family Rules

There are many versions of the "Family Rules" sign out there - this is mine!  I love it in spite of it's flaws and thought I'd share it and some of my learnings.

I used a canvas that I all ready had laying around - not sure about the size, but I DO know it was too small.  I had way more rules than space.  If I ever do it again, I will get a sheet of plywood cut long and narrow.

I painted the whole canvas in advance, which was overkill - I could have just painted the edges and would have been fine.

Using a set of punch out letters and my Cricut, I cut out letters to form my rules.  I really wanted each font to be different.  In retrospect, it probably would have been smarter to use fewer fonts and focus more on making sure that they were readable.  I also should have done more planning ahead to match up fonts and background paper - some of the combos are not bold enough and the words are hard to read.

Using glossy mod podge (if I do it again, I will use matte instead - they aren't kidding when they say glossy is glossy), I liberally applied a layer to the top of the canvas with a foam brush.  Working quickly, I added my 1st layer of paper and then mod podged over it.  Still quickly, I applied my letters and then carefully mod podged again.  You have to be careful not to apply the pdoge too vigorously or you will shift your letters and could also tear your background paper depending on the thickness of your paper.  I repeated this process down the canvas, being sure to overlap the background papers.

You will notice that the paper will start to bubble up in places.  I didn't worry about it because in my experience, that always happens with mod podge and the paper will settle on it's own as it dries.  This was a mistake.  I was operating from experience mod podging hard surfaces.  Canvas is flexible and responds to mod podge differently.  You can't necessarily trust the bubbles to go away.  Most of them did, but some did not - you can see them in the pinkish paper (which also happened to be the lightest-weight paper I used).  If I do it again, I will use something firm as the backing and I will avoid lightweight paper.

But again, I like it even with the flaws.  It's nice to have a personal piece of art work and it's perfect to occupy that spot when it's not otherwise in use for some sort of holiday decor.  Basically, the month of January.

In case you were wondering, here are the rules that I used:
  • Be thankful
  • Forgive and forget
  • Be honest and keep your promises
  • Be each other's best friend and biggest fan
  • Family first always
  • Use your manners
  • Always do your best

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Shabby Chic Pink and Green Baby Shower Candy Buffet

I describe myself as an all-purpose craft geek and I really do like to dabble in a little bit of everything.  In addition to "traditional" crafting where you have a final product that you've made and can now maybe wear or decorate with, I enjoy applying my creative energies to parties as well.  Over the next few posts, I'll highlight some of the parties that I've done over the years for my loved ones.  I think I'll start with this baby shower for my best friend.  I wasn't able to be as involved in the planning as I would have liked, since I live 300 miles away from my BFF - sniffle, sniffle, but I was tasked with sourcing and assembling the candy buffet.  And it was super fun.  And expensive.  But mostly fun.

BFF wanted a shabby-chic shower with soft pinks and greens, so I immediately set out to find candies in those shades.  Pink was easy.  Green was... less easy.  I ended up finding candy in all sorts of places - from Target to Walmart to Ollies (which is a rough-and-tumble discount store) to the Dollar Tree to local amazing grocery store Wegmans.  My biggest challenge, other than finding green candy, was balancing the need for large amounts of candy to make a nice, full display, with balancing the budget.  Candy buffets can get real expensive real quick.  Here were some of my strategies to keep costs down and impact up.

Don't limit yourself to just candy:  I wanted lots of height on my table and one of the 1st purchases was a 2-ft tall vase on clearance at A.C. Moore.  Once I realized how many M&M's it would take to fill that vase, however, I was a little discouraged.  But then I found pink marshmallows at Walmart - score!  At $1 a bag, they were a steal and it only took me about 6 bags to fill the vase.  Big impact, lots of height, little $$.  And they were a very popular item with the kids attending the shower.  I also filled in on the cheap with cookies.  Pink wafer cookies and pink and white frosted animal crackers gave big bang for the buck.  Don't hesitate to venture beyond the candy aisle.

Get off your high horse:  I'll admit it - I'm kind of snooty about eating food from the Dollar Store.  I just don't like to do it.  But I will say that I had some of my best finds there.  Pretty green butter mints and marshmallow twists in soft pink and green.  They looked great, tasted good, and didn't break the bank.  Don't be afraid to go outside your comfort zone a little bit.

Keep an eye out everywhere you go:  So I went to the Dollar Store looking for containers and scoops and ended up finding some of my prettiest and most unexpected candies.  This was  a great lesson for me and thereafter, I made it a point to look for candy at every store I entered.

 It's OK if everyone doesn't get one of everything:  This was hard for me - my inner 2-year-old wanted everything to be fair and so that meant that all 70 guests should get to have a big swirly lollipop if they wanted one.  But guess what?  This is not economically sound.  Buy a handful of the big-ticket items, assemble the buffet, and wash your hands of it.  Only 3 people get a lollipop.  So what.

Don't be snobby about your choices:  I really like chocolate and I really couldn't care less about any other kind of candy.  But this buffet isn't about me and just because I don't like lollipops doesn't mean that they shouldn't make an appearance.  So don't let your preferences hold you back!  I had plenty of chocolate, but  I also had dum-dums, jolly ranchers, and watermelon sours and they were all eaten.  Your pass-up is someone else's favorite, I guarantee it.

 It's OK if another color slips in there:  I was kind of obsessed with only having pink and green, but for certain candies, other colors came as part of the deal.  The pink and green non-pareils also had yellow in the mix.  Did I want to handle them and pull out all the yellow ones - um, I kind of did want to, but I stopped myself because Ewww!  That would be gross and obsessive, so I refrained.  And you know what?  I think  the display was prettier with a little yellow mixed in.  Ditto with the swirly lollipops.  The closest I could get was pink, green, and lavender - and it totally worked.  I DID however sequester all the blue Hershey Kisses.  And I DID eat them all on the sly.  All in the name of color-coordination of course.

It's OK if you can't afford to make it perfect:  I know that there are some amazing, perfect parties out there.  That's not really what I do.  I live in the real world and have a budget, which means that I have finite resources.  This means that I have to make trade-offs.  I tend to err on the side of taste, as in it has to taste good.  So that means that more money goes to the food and there's less left over for containers and table coverings.  To that end, I had to compromise and use things that I all ready had, like glass casserole dishes, or things that were cheap, like plastic tablecloths.  I couldn't afford linens long enough to reach the floor, so I used dollar store plastic tablecloths on the bottom and put a short length of clearance fabric over the top.  Had I covered the whole table in fabric, I would have spent $20.  Using my low-brow method, It cost me $5.  And it did the job.  So don't beat yourself up because your stuff isn't perfect.  I don't think that most people are thinking, "Ugh, is that a plastic tablecloth?"  They are most likely thinking, "CANDY" and are focused on trying to get to the swirly lollipops before they are gone.

It came together really well and was a lot of fun to work on.  I look forward to doing another one some day!

And some bonus pics for you - I can't take credit for this part, but the other girls working on the shower had the idea to decorate the ceiling with individually hand-decorated Chinese paper umbrellas.  It was so pretty and creative.  Kudos, G., A., S., and L.!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Stenciled Boy Valentine Shirt

Ah, my very first blog post.  Where to start?  I love crafting and spend most of my free time coming up with new things to try.  They don't always work out the way I'd planned, but I can almost always make it work.  In fact, one of our two family mottos is "Make it happen" (but you must state it in a pseudo-highfalutin manner) and I strive to always do that.  Our other motto is "It still works", which we use to justify not replacing malfunctioning electronic equipment, but that's besides the point.

Today, I'd like to share a shirt that I made for my 4-year-old son for last Valentine's Day.  It's hard to find boy Valentine shirts in stores, so I came up with my own.  I don't have step-by-step pics, but the process was fairly simple.

Wash and dry a white cotton t-shirt.
Lay flat and put a piece of cardboard inside to prevent paint from seeping through to the back.
Create a stencil for the word "throb" using the Classic font on the Cricut.  I did a 1-inch size letter.
Use a craft punch to make a heart-shaped stencil in a size consistent with the font.
Lightly apply glue stick to the stencils and press onto the shirt.
Working quickly, dab red fabric paint over the stencil with a slant-tip foam brush (you might think a flat brush is better - I find the slant brush gives more precision).  I used a slightly glittery red paint and it was fab.  Don't over-do the volume of paint, because it WILL seep under the stencil and your letters will be blurry/unreadable and your will have to start over or paint on random designs to cover up your boo-boo.  Also be careful to not paint beyond the edges of the stencil - which sounds obvious, but it happens.
Once letters are well-filled, blot with a clean paper towel.  Eyeball and fill in anything you missed.
Remove stencils by pulling straight up with one hand and holding down the shirt with the other.
If any paper bits are left behind, try to remove with a pair of tweezers.  Don't fret if you can't get them all.  Once the paint sets (72 hours or whatever your directions say on the bottle), you can wash the shirt and the bits will come off in the wash.
Your options here are endless - there are tons of puns and plays-on-words to work with.  You can use any combo of shirt and paint colors.  I've used this same technique countless times since then for a sorts of events (Field Day team shirts, Easter, Thanksgiving, birthdays, fundraisers...).  I also sometimes, depending on the complexity of the design, will use freezer paper, which has the advantage of being self-adhesive (after ironing-on).  It pulls off really nicely when you are done and doesn't require any shenanigans with the tweezers and paper bits.  Also, because it's bonded to the shirt, there is less trouble with paint seeping under the stencils.  But it is harder to come by than cardstock, so I use it sparingly.  In terms of paint, any craft store will have a fair selection of fabric paints (use coupons!), but if you look carefully, can you also find a medium that you can add to regular acrylic paint and turn that paint into fabric paint, which is great becasue it really expands the color selection for you.  I found mine far away from the fabric paint aisle, mixed in with the chalkboard and glow-in-the-dark special paints in the acrylic paint aisle.