Pumpkin Carving

I’ve made many jack-o-lanterns out of real pumpkins.  This time I tried out carving a fake one, thinking it would be just the same.  It is in some ways, but the material in fake pumpkins is harder than real ones.  Cutting the hard, hollow pumpkin is more akin to carving wood. The consistency is a blend of foam and smooth plastic.  I had thought it was going to be more like the squishiness of stress balls.

Exacto knives are not going to cut it (har har). You can slice the surface with small scalpel blades, but for actual cutting, you will need a very sturdy box cutter or wood carving knife.  I found it very hard to shape the cuts, they wanted to go in straight lines.  Small cuts  were also very difficult due to the tools I had.  I did have small saws from a pumpkin carving kit, but they only work after a piece has been cut out.

Find a good stencil, there are thousands online to choose from, and tape the stencil on your pumpkin. Use a pin to punch holes along your design lines, then take off the stencil.  The pinpricks will be faint, and hardly noticeable if you decide to slightly change the lines.

The pumpkin left something like sawdust on everything.  To clean out the inside of your work, you could use canned air.

When your work is done, toss in a fake candle (real candles are a bad idea). While this was fun, I think I want to go back to real pumpkins, and not just because I love roasted pumpkin seeds.

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June 27, 2017

Figurine shelf

Let me just start by saying that this didn’t work.  In the night, it came down with a crash. Do not make this.

It started out with a few empty barcode rolls. I didn’t want to get rid of them, because they were significant to me.  Why?  Because every finished roll of barcodes mean that I had personally catalogued a thousand books.  I had a stack of them, trophies of war.  But what on earth was I to do with them?  Bracelets?

I do find myself in this position often.  I’ve kept something with the idea of doing something creative with it “someday”.  Bottle caps, large boxes, shower curtain rings… sometimes it pays off, like when I made catapults with bottle cap launchers.  Other times… well.  I had some great books I was going to make book crafts with, then we had a flood in our basement and they were damaged.  Then an idea came to me.  I collect plastic figurines.  I could display them in a unique way if I hung the empty rolls on the wall, and I could decoupage the book pages onto the rings to put them together!

This project was a lesson in learning from failure, and a test of my sense of humor.  While I am describing how to do it, it didn’t work. It would be much easier and more practical to just go buy a shelf!

I didn’t have enough rings just from the barcode rolls.  I tried slicing paper towel rolls.  They are very flimsy.  I happened to have several huge poster rolls (I admit I am photo-hoarding, let it be). Slicing these was much more difficult than I imagined.  Using a hack-saw took hours and the resulting rings were not very even or neat.  I tried out a jig-saw, which was better, but wouldn’t fit my larger tube.

Then I taped the rings together.  Next, I made strips of book pages and applied them with Mod Podge.  This took many hours and occupied my dining table for two weeks.  I used a “Where’s Waldo” book (the previous owner had enthusiastically circled Waldo in every picture, and I had planned to do something artsy with it, but when it got wet the pages stuck together and ripped when pried apart.). The paper is very sturdy and helped me to bond the rings together, but was awkward to work with.  I also used a reader’s digest condensed book, which was mid-weight, and an old fairytale book that was tissue thin and very easy to work with.  When I finally finished, the project doesn’t look very polished, glossy Mod Podge would have looked better. But, it is unique, I can say that!

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“I said ‘allo!’ but that’s close enough.”

So now that I finally gave my gift to my friend, I can show it off!  Here’s the worm from Labyrinth.  I made it with felt and doll eyes.  I didn’t have a pattern and didn’t think to create one to share, I apologize.  I used three colors, beige, red and blue.  The hardest part was trying to make a fluffy fringe.  This was regular sheet felt, and if you tug on it too hard it just pulls right off.  Teasing it with a needle works better.

If you look up felt sewing you will discover there are actually three crafts.  One craft sews together felt cloth to make objects like I did here, one craft takes raw wool and jabs it with a needle to create objects (I’m going to look into that more) and the last one knits with wool and then shrinks the objects down by “felting” them in the wash.

 

Here are a couple other things I made:

I painted wooden teapot ornaments, using white paint and markers.  I used sharpie markers for everything but the tie-dye one, where I used washable markers and then watered them down to run into each other.

I made comfort bunnies for two friends who are ill.  I used this pattern from Jo So and So.

 

 

Right now I’m knitting  a cowl to give to someone as part of a library lobby day.  I’m working on the second draft of a mystery novel, trying to straighten out the sequence of events and researching hurricanes.

“Cor!  If she kept on going that way, she’d have gone straight to the castle!”

Goal setting

  1. By the end of March I will finish my second draft of my novel.

Flipping through my notebooks I find goals like these plastered everywhere.  Goals are not dreams or wishes, they are targets for action plans. If you’ve read any literature at all on the subject, you know that writing down goals makes it more likely you will succeed, and that goals should follow the “S.M.A.R.T.” strategy- Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and on a Timeline.  The other commonly described goal is the stretch goal, which is described as a goal that seems out of reach but isn’t completely impossible.

“Yeah, yeah yeah, Jane,” you say.  “Goals.  I had goals, but I didn’t achieve them, life got in the way.”

Ok, go look at those goals now.  Evaluate them.

Ask yourself a few questions.
  • Did you make any progress toward your goal?
  • Did you encourage or reward yourself for taking action on this goal?
  • Was this goal given to you from the outside world?
  • Are you still the same person who wanted these goals?
  • What will happen if you let go of this goal?  Any negative consequences?
  • Do you want to make a whole-hearted commitment to trying again?
  • Do you want to make a different goal instead?
  • What tripped you up the most in trying to achieve the goal- scheduling, motivation, fear, other people, unfortunate events?
  • Is there anything you can change to make this goal easier?
  • Did you break it down into smaller chunks?

Ok, now make some new goals.  Here are the rules- the goals must be something you are willing to commit to, that you have reasonable amount of time to complete, that don’t involve other people giving you approval or permission, and that will give you satisfaction and enjoyment in working towards them (not just achieving them).

Now, think about how to achieve those goals.  What are the obstacles- do you have solutions to overcome them, a “plan b” when things go wrong?  What are you going to do to encourage yourself?  How can you get support from loved ones?  Do you have the tools and space you need to start?

Share your goals with people you trust to encourage you.  Get to it!

December 26, 2016

I can’t show everything I’ve made yet, since I’m giving some gifts at New Years, but I thought I’d do a quick post about some of the things I made recently.

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Shawl

I knitted this shawl from the pattern “Escape” on Ravelry.  I didn’t realize that the pattern had an increase, and I kept wondering why it seemed to take longer and longer to finish a row. (Oh!)  It wasn’t as lacy looking as I thought it would be, as I used fluffy yarn.  For lace work it is better to use thin yarn.

Pie

I made pecan pie and need to remember that the recipe in my Family Fun cookbook is tasty but doesn’t give long enough cooking  time and the pie is very runny/soupy (really good as an ice cream topping!)

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Bath Bombs

My son loves bath bombs, but since one alone can cost between 3-6 dollars, we decided to make our own.  The hardest ingredient to get is citric acid, we had to order that online.  Plain epsom salts are sometimes kept behind the pharmacy counter, if that is the ingredient you are searching for. If you are sensitive to essential oils, choose what you use wisely.  We used peppermint extract and it was fine.  We got the recipe from DIY Projects for Teens, but my 7 year old was able to follow along and assemble them easily, thanks to the clear instructions.  We considered giving them as gifts, but he wanted them all! It was pretty easy, so I will probably make more.  The one that looks like a stick of butter was made from a bit of packaging from one of his toys.  The trick is compressing the mixture enough for it to hold its shape, so anything that can close will work better (like a plastic  egg or a snap-together ball ornament.)

 

This week I need to finish a lot of projects before our annual friends get-together on New Years!  I’ve got quite a list!  What are you working on?

October 30, 2016

img_7236Here’s my latest finished project, a knit hat.  I was going to link to the pattern, then realized it was from a magazine, Knit Today.  The magazine just ceased production this June, and I feel guilty now, because it is hard to maintain a knitting magazine when you can search Ravelry for thousands of free patterns, find still more on blogs like mine, and then have a pattern without paying a cent.  The problem with losing another source for designers to get paid is obvious- another place lost that vetted its projects.  Of the thousands of patterns out there,  how do I know which ones have major mistakes? I am relying on other hobbyists testing and commenting when something goes wrong.

So the pattern is Lace Beanie, page 43 of Knit Today May 2106 issue.

https://www.facebook.com/KnitToday/app/208195102528120/

 

 

Sewing a Katara Costume

I created a costume without using a pattern.  This is akin to driving without a map in a foreign country, or performing a musical after seeing a movie.

It’s always best to have something to go by.  Either a pattern or a piece of clothing that you know fits your subject.  Since this was unique, I used measurements instead.  My original idea was that the dress would be slipped on over her head, but it became clear that img_6624it would be extremely difficult to do that.  So I went to plan “B” and made it a wrap-around dress with two overlapping panels, attaching at the waist with snaps.  I finished off the edges with a strip of white fabric.

The panel sides had a simple rolled  hem, and at the bottom I appliquéd a white piece ( A simple rectangle in the back, a wave in the front).img_6623img_6626

The next difficulty was I had made the shoulders too tight.  This is a problem I keep running into when improvising or changing patterns- sleeves and pant inseams need to be bigger than basic measurements to ensure motion and comfort.  IMG_6687If possible, find a pattern for the sleeves, even if it is for a completely different shirt, it will help you see how it is supposed to fit in.  I eventually used a sleeve pattern from a dress.

I 3-D printed her necklace (but you can purchase one from crafters). I made her arm-bands using this tutorial.  She wore leggings and a tank top underneath, and sandals.

We went to Dragoncon!  I had so many costumes I wanted to make, but I’m glad I at least finished this one.  My daughter wore it to the Aquarium night and pretended to water-bend.  .  She was so happy!

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August 14, 2016

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A-Mazing  Mazes

Mazes are good for a STEAM program because they teach spacial relations and problem solving while being fun.

For our maker lab, which this time had a large amount of seven-year-olds, I kept it simple.  We made marble mazes, then used the Sphero with a drawing attachment to make our own trails.IMG_6034

Marble mazes use straws.  I only had regular drinking straws, but I recommend that you use thicker shake straws.  You can get a bag of marbles from the dollar store (from their floral section!).  The other materials are sheets of paper, tape and small boxes.  Gift boxes or shoe boxes would work, but boxes for holding paper are just right.   IMG_6044Have the children plot our their maze with a pencil.  Talk to them about making enough space for a marble to roll through.  They then tape the straws down to the paper, trimming when necessary.  Put the paper in the box, add a marble, and test!

The Sphero part of the program requires more prep.  For older kids, they can have a complete program in itself coding the robot to navigate around a maze that fills the room.  It also works as a remote-control device using the iPad app.  Don’t have a Sphero?  In this class, an RC car would have worked as well.

sphero carriageI found a file for a carriage for the Sphero on Thingiverse, and printed it out on the library’s 3-D printer.  Then I covered a table in paper, taped pool noodles to the edges, and there was our contained environment.

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My plan was to draw a maze with a marker, then have the kids use the robot with the drawing attachment to try to navigate.  However, control of the sphero by this crowd was not that delicate.  It went wildly around the paper like a drunken gerbil ball.  sphero in drawing carriage

This was only an hour program.  If I was doing a day program or a series, I think making a life-sized maze from boxes would have been a lot of fun.

 

Sew a Sock Monkey Hat

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One of the challenges on the G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. list this year was: “Make a sock monkey hat from orphaned socks.  So I rounded up a pile of likely victims and started sewing.  This…interesting hat was the result.  I used the sock ends for ears, opened up two socks for the front and back, and used a larger sock end with a extra triangle of fabric for the top.  I added the face using a piece of purple sock with another white sock and a part of a red sock for the lips.  I used embroidery floss for the nose and scraps for the eyes.

I’m not sure I could convince anyone to wear this.

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July 23, 2016

IMG_6095Book Spine Letter Holder

(Before anyone gets upset about ruining books, this was made from a Reader’s Digest condensed book, by definition not a first edition, rejected by most book sales, unwanted and unloved.  ***Documentary voiceover*** “The  Librarians of the Northeastern region use every part of a book..”)

Supplies needed:
  • Book spine
  • Ribbon
  • Stapler
  • Sheets of felt
  • Needle and thread
  • Scissors
  • Strong glue- I used Elmer’s Extreme School Glue, Tacky glue would also work. ( Or a glue gun, if you are coordinated enough not to burn yourself every time you use one.)

If you haven’t removed the inside of the book yet, it is pretty straightforward, just use an Exacto Knife to slice it out .

Make a loop of ribbon.  This will be how your piece will be hung up on the wall.  Staple the 2 ends of the loop to the inside corner of the book.  Make a second loop and staple to the other corner.

IMG_2322Measure your felt against your book, and cut a piece that is the length and width of the inside of the book when it is laid flat.  Then cut two rectangles that are the width of the spine of the book and the length of one side.

Find the center of the long side of the large rectangle and sew the short side of the small rectangle to it.  Repeat on the other side.  IMG_2324Now is a slightly tricky part- if you try to put the pocket together now, it will look like the sides are too short!  Don’t worry, just line up the two tops, leaving a little pinch of fabric in the corner. Sew all seams, making the same pinch in each corner.

 

IMG_2325Turn the project inside out.  Then apply glue to the inside spine and press the felt pocket down onto the glue.  Apply glue to each side, and press the felt into place, making sure to cover up the staples on your ribbon loops.  IMG_2328Hold the felt in place with paper clips until the glue dries.

 

Now you have a nice receptacle for outgoing mail for your office or home!

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