Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Creative Mess!

So...tomorrow is the last day of 2014, and per usual, it's the time of year when I start to look back at what I've accomplished and what I haven't.  I also make a list of what I hope to accomplish next year.  Yes, I pat myself on the back a little, because let's be honest, mom's don't usually get a lot of praise for  all the stuff we do every day.  I also do this to give myself a little boost of encouragement so I can tackle next year's challenges; kinda like psyching myself up for a big race. (Metaphorically speaking of course, cause I don't run, and I mean never).  This year, my evaluation is not helping though.  I'm looking back and seeing more things I didn't do than I actually did.  For example, I didn't spend very much time in my craft room creating, which is how I'd really like to spend the majority of my time.  When I did create stuff, I didn't blog about it, which is my other favorite thing to do.  I actually had a few friends say, "Hey!  You haven't posted anything in awhile.  Are you still alive?  What's going on?"

In truth, my lack of blogging is mostly due to the fact that my craft room spent 90% of the year looking like this:

Not even kidding.  How can anything creative happen in a space like that?  What's worse, I noticed a disturbing trend.  I start a lot of things.  I start a lot of things all at once.  I start them with a passion, but the passion fades or fizzles out entirely or I move on to the next something that seems more alluring at the time.  I've got no stamina. 

On the bright side, I guess this means I'd be good at sprinting.  If I were a runner.  Which I am not.  And I'd be terrible, horrible, awful, no good, very bad at long distances.  And really, who cares about the sprinters?  No one puts a 500 meter dash sticker on their car.  It's the marathoners who get all the glory.  So, how do I keep my interest and passion going long enough to finish?  Is that possible?  How do I finish WELL?

Supposedly, new habits take 21 days to form.  In theory, science tells us that twenty-one days of consistently doing a new thing will change it into a habit.  I can't say this really works on my kids.  I've been telling them to leave their shoes by the door every day for the past 6 to 11 years, and I still find multiple pairs of shoes in random places throughout the house quite regularly.  However, for the sake of my future creative self, I'm choosing to believe wholeheartedly in the possibility that change can and will happen.  I can start one project at a time and actually finish it before moving on to another.  I can form new habits that will keep my room tidy and organized so some real creative work can actually happen in that space.  But I need a little direction and encouragement to keep me going.

Enter in Kathi Lipp's new book, "Clutter Free: Quick and Easy Steps to Simplifying Your Space."  Oh yes!  This book was created specifically for people like me.  Kathi also launched a new 21 Day Clutter Free Challenge.  Even better.  So I'm jumping in with both feet and posting my progress here (and on Facebook) in the hopes that it will keep me honest and keep me moving forward towards the finish line.  If you find me stalled on the side of the road, please give me a swift kick in the rear or dump some cold water on my head to get me up and moving again. 

New year, new plan.  If anyone else shares my dream of a de-cluttered house, garage, or work space, you can participate in Kathi's 21 Day Clutter Free Challenge, by signing up here.
I am happy to say that my messy craft room now looks like this:
One of the biggest problems of having a messy craft room, was the amount of time it took to find the supplies and tools I needed, before I could even start on a project. Kathi pointed out how much time is wasted searching for lost stuff. Being clutter-free allows me to be more productive. When I manage my stuff more effectively, I can manage my time more efficiently. Now that I have cleared the clutter, I spend far less time searching for supplies, which frees up more time for me to do the crafts I love. In addition, the space is much more inviting. I just love relaxing and creating in my beautiful, clutter-free room.  #ClutterFree
Thank you Kathi Lipp!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"Be You, Bravely" Key Chains, MOPS

Here's a tutorial for making key chains that coordinate with this year's MOPS theme, "Be You, Bravely."  These ended up being about $1 per key chain, since I purchased the beads when they were on sale and used my 40% off coupons wisely.  I made several different variations, but the ones with the feathers were my favorite :)

The directions will be slightly different depending on which kind you want to make, but they all use Shrinky Dinks. 

1. The first step is to create a file you can print onto the Shrinky Dink plastic.  You could use Microsoft Word, or an image editing software, or even the program that came with your printer to print multiple copies of the image onto each page.  I used Microsoft Publisher so I could print 20 logos per page with enough spacing around them to cut with a Paper Punch into perfect circles, squares, or scalloped circles.  It took a bit of time and trial and error to get them to work.

2. Print them onto the Shrinky Dink plastic.  You have to use the Ruff N Ready Frosted kind or the ink will never set and it will just smear right off.  I tried bringing them to an office supply store to reproduce for me, and the plastic got caught in the printer.  The problem with most commercial printers is they use heat.  Shrinky Dinks shrink with heat, so they get warp and get stuck the minute heat is applied.  They are also slippery, so its tricky to feed them through.  It may take a little time and patience to get them to work, so be sure to allow yourself ample time for this step.

3. Color them, if desired.  I used a Neon Green Sharpie and a Turquoise Blue Sharpie to add a little color to the feathers.  My 9 year old son enjoyed helping me.

4. Punch them out.  I used a 2 1/2 inch circle punch (from Stampin' Up!) to punch out each one.  They will shrink down to  about the size of a quarter.  Also, don't forget to use an 1/8 inch hole puncher to create a hole near the top of each one so you can attach them to the key chain.  If you don't have a large circle punch, you can use a paper trimmer to simply cut them into squares.  I recommend you cut them at least 2"x2" so they don't shrink down too small to see the logo.  The scalloped circle punch below shrunk down to about the size of a dime!

5. Follow the directions included with the Shrinky Dinks to bake them.  It helps if you use a pan that is totally flat with some parchment paper or brown paper bag on it for easy transfer.  When you take them out, lay another sheet of paper over the top and put something flat and heavy on the top so they won't warp.  Don't use paper towels...the texture of the paper towels will leave an imprint of the texture into the Shrinky Dink.  Same with wrinkled paper.  Your final product will end up with creases in them.  My kids loved watching them shrink.  It was like magic.

6. Next, assemble the key chains.  You could skip the beads and just use a jump ring to attach the circles to the key chain ring.  If you decide to go this route, make sure you use extra large jump rings (15 mm or greater).  If you've never worked with a jump ring, be sure you open it by twisting, not prying it apart.  Here's a blog that explains the right and wrong way to use jump rings: http://jewelrytutorialhq.com/jump-rings-right-way/

If you want to create beaded key chains, you'll need an eye pin with a loop on one end, one large bead of choice, and two size E seed beads.  Those are the larger seed beads.  Put them on in the order shown in the photo below.  Then you'll have to use a needlenose or round pliers to create another loop on the other end of the eye pin and wrap the extra wire around the eye pin to secure the beads.  If you've never done this before, here's a tutorial I found on YouTube that shows you how to do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5JoW6w0e_o  Attach a jump ring to both ends.  Then attach one jump ring to the key chain ring and the other end to the Shrinky Dink circle. 

If you want to do the feathered key chains, you'll have to buy Tube Crimper Beads and use a special crimping tool to attach the tube crimper to the stem end of the feather.  Here's another tutorial for using crimp tubes, (but instead of chain use the feather:) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9kEcciXxmY 
I found the pack of feathers and the tube crimp beads at Hobby Lobby.  I also used a little glue inside the crimp tube to make sure the feather was secure.  I made a bead charm using a flat ended eye pin and an extra large jump ring to attach all three items onto the key chain loop.   

That's all there is to it.  If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments section.  Thanks!!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Feathered Centerpieces for the new MOPS theme, "Be You, Bravely"

I made these centerpieces for our MOPS Spark! Leadership Convention.  I think they coordinate nicely with the new MOPS theme, "Be You, Bravely" and would make pretty table decorations. They are very easy to assemble and most of the supplies can be found at Michaels or Hobby Lobby. 

Start with a clear glass vase.  I found this one at Hobby Lobby for $9.99.  Occasionally they put all their glassware on sale, which is great if you need a bunch of them.  I chose this specific vase because it's not too tall and has a slight indentation at the neck, which makes it ideal for adding ribbons, raffia, or string to dress it up. 

The first step is to create a little paper "nest" with some shredded craft paper.  You can find natural, premade basket filler in the gift wrapping sections of most craft stores.  However, I made my own using my stash of brown paper bags and a paper shredder.  Be sure to use plain bags with nothing printed on them.  Cut them into rectangles that will easily feed into your shredder.  Grab a handful and add it to the bottom of your vase.

Next, add string or raffia to the neck and tie on a rustic-looking key.  Last fall I was fortunate enough to find these large decorative keys on sale at Michaels for only 69 cents and I bought one of each style.  My little collection wasn't enough for ten centerpieces though, so I went out in search of more keys.  I had a little trouble finding them at a reasonable price.  Hobby Lobby had a pack of 6 or 7 keys, with words such as "Memories" on them, in the scrapbooking section for around $10.  I also found some in the jewelry section of Michaels, but they were between $4 and $8 per key.  Yikes!!  You may have better luck finding them online.  
I thought about adding a tag with the word "Courage" on it to represent the Courage Keys, which will be given out to every registered MOPS member this year.  Maybe if I have more time I'll add that later...

Next, fill the vase up with some crumpled paper.  This helps hide the stems of the feathers and makes the vases look full.  It also adds more texture and dimension.  I wanted to incorporate the idea of being brave enough to share our stories with each other, so I tore these pages out of books.  Yes, I know...book lover's everywhere are cringing right now.  I admit, it was really hard for me to destroy a perfectly good book.  It's not like I'm burning it though, just repurposing it.  Besides, one book was sufficient.  If it makes you feel better, use a book that is already damaged.  I sent my husband on an errand to find one that was Christian based, because it would be pretty embarrassing if someone found a swear word or something overly provocative peeking through the glass.  Our library routinely gets rid of overstock by putting books on sale for 50 cents to a dollar per book.  Loosely crumple the pages and stuff them around the perimeter of the vase, leaving a little space in the middle for your feathers.   

Add your feathers.  I'm not gonna to lie.  The feathers were pretty pricey.  The turquoise blue ostrich feathers were $3.99 each!  The peacock feathers were $1.99 each and the pheasant clusters were $2.99 I think.  One feather didn't quite do it.  It looked awfully lonely and sparse.  This grouping seemed to be the right mix, plus I absolutely adore the combination of brown and turquoise.  I used some string to tie the stems together.  This helps them stand up a little straighter, makes for a tighter cluster, and will make it quicker to disassemble again for easy storage. 
You may be able to cut costs by finding a local supplier for the feathers or buying them bulk online.  You could also use fewer feathers and just add more flowers.  However, our MOPS group has used so many fake flowers for centerpieces over the past few years that I just wanted to go in a different direction. 

The final step is a burlap flower.  Yes, *gasp* it's another fake flower.  I went with a burlap one though, which is not the typical go-to flower and it adds some rustic charm.  When I saw these at Hobby Lobby, I fell in love with them.  They had several different kinds of burlap flowers, so it was hard to choose just one.  There are tons of tutorials out there for making these yourself, and I was very tempted to give it a try.  However, I was pressed for time.  I still had to make 70 key chains too, so I opted to buy the burlap flowers instead.  They were $2.49 per flower. 
And voila...you're done!  The total cost is between $14 and $24, depending on how shopper-savvy you are.  You can save a lot by using 40% off coupons and waiting until specific items go on sale.  

We used teal green or turquoise blue plastic table cloths with a square of burlap cloth under the vases.  It would also be pretty layered with another cream-colored placemat, (as pictured).  Since the ostrich feathers come in a wide variety of colors, you could use a different colored feather, along with a matching table cloth, to distinguish the tables from one another. 
If you find a good source for any of the supplies I mentioned, feel free to share it by commenting below.  I hope this inspires you to create something beautiful today!