Tag Archives: crafts

And That’s Why You Should Always Wipe Your Feet

16 Oct

Every October I try to add a new homemade Halloween decoration to my collection.  Last year it was my calavera.  The year before I made my Halloween countdown calendar.  This year, I have not just one, but two awesome projects to share with you.  The first one came to me on August 10th.  I know because I hurriedly entered into the notes section of my phone. The note reads, in its entirety, “Get Ikea mat and fake arm or leg to make Halloween door mat.”  This left me with some room for creativity.

I started with the door mat and some painter’s tape and a cat (the last part is not necessary or even advised).
I tried to take the easy way out and buy stencils, but a) I didn’t really like any of them and b) the ones I did buy were too large.  So I took to the internet (dafont.com specifically) and downloaded a likely font.  You could use any one you like, but I’d suggest sticking to their stencil section.  They’re generally a lot of straight lines (easy to cut out) and have “bridges” that keep the letters together.  You don’t want to cut out the center of an O and have to line it up later.  It’s better to have a section connecting the center to your paper.  I used XXII Army.


Although I printed my words onto regular paper, I then glued it to this adventure paper.  It’s a paper usually used for maps, but is great for stencils because it stands up to a few uses.  I wanted my stencil to survive its first application in case it didn’t turn out like I wanted.

After I cut my words out of the adventure paper, I arranged them how I wanted them on my mat.


I covered anything that wasn’t going to be spray painted with painter’s tape.

And then I sprayed.



So now it was a nice normal door mat.  “Please Wipe Your Feet” is a perfectly reasonable request right?  Unless maybe you lost one from a psycho killer…


For the Halloween flourish, I glued a leg I bought at the Halloween store across the street and replaced “feet” with something more appropriate by painting over it with blood acrylic paint.

What do you think?  And by the way… the next project is the wreath.  It glows in the dark!



The Case of the Missing Pinterest Link

26 Sep

The other day, I was complaining how whenever I see something cool on tumblr it almost never has a link to the original source.  It drives me absolutely nuts that there could be a great tutorial out there that I can’t access because someone else didn’t see fit to post their inspiration.

Today, I had an epiphany.

See, I’m also a librarian and I figured I should know better than most how to track down lost information.  I took a class on Google searching awhile back.  They shared all kinds of cool tricks that I knew I’d rarely use, but there was one that I thought was particularly spiffy and I realized I could use it in just this type of situation.

Say you’re on Pinterest and you see this:

Peek-A-Boo Pumpkins found via http://pinterest.com/susan766/boo/

Cute, right?  But when you click on the picture, you see something like this:

(You actually get directed to another website for this particular pin and that site doesn’t have a working link to the tutorial, but the gray screen is a common occurrence as well.)

Boo!  How are you ever going to find out how to do this project which you are so desperately obsessed with making tonight?

Google-fu, that’s how.

Google has a cool feature that allows you to search for images by dragging a picture into the Google Images search box.  Simply open the image in one window and Google Images in the other.  Drag the image into the search box.  Google comes up with images that match yours, making it simple to find the source of the image. You can read Google’s own instructions here.

Often, as is the case on Pinterest,  the picture you want to drag will actually be a link and the technique won’t work.  If that’s the case, you have to right-click the picture and choose “View Image” before dragging it to the Google Images search box.

Now, it’s easy to find the instructions for the Peek-A-Boo Pumpkins at HGTV’s website… Be sure to scroll down below the first set of results and image results.  The first set is best guesses on links with similar keywords.  The images are visually similar images (which is fun to play around with).  The third set is links to pages that include matching images and that’s what you want.

Easy enough, right?  If you have any questions, let me know.  Happy Googling!

~ April

Happy Spring!

8 Apr

Winter passed us by this year and barely gave Yosemite so much as a glance. I’ve been wonderfully distracted for the past few weeks, in part because this spring has been blissfully unlike our last spring. It was a little startling, having grown up in Ohio and experiencing spring in places like New Hampshire and Illinois, to have actual spring weather on the first day of spring.


I’m going to spend this weekend hanging out with the poppies and the redbud trees. Have a happy Easter if you celebrate it, and a happy spring if you don’t!


P.S. Congrats to Amber and Kevin for winning the Hobbit Birthday Giveaway! Amber, I know where you live. Kevin, I will contact you to mail your prize!

Crafters Anonymous

18 Jan

My name is Robin and I have an addiction….

While there were many things that contributed to the utter lack of blogging before the holidays, two of my craft projects were major time-sucks. I loved them and I wanted to write about them, but they were gifts for people who read the blog and had to be kept top-secret.

The clandestine projects were two Yosemite inspired wall hangings using the same fusible web applique technique that I used for the Witchy Wall Hanging.   I’m insanely proud of how they turned out.

Photo by Jason Clancy

When I first came here I was completely overwhelmed by all the scenery. Much of it went by so quickly that I couldn’t really take it in. The first sight I really remember is this awe inspiring viewpoint of Yosemite Falls, and when I decided to make a wall hanging for my parents I knew right away that it had to be of this.

In addition to edging the fused pieces with a satin stitch, I machine embroidered extra detail to mimic the vertical cracks that Yosemite rock climbers know so well.  While it added some needed embellishment, it was tedious work, and the thought of messing up terrified me.   I learned the hard way that one disadvantage of using fusible web for applique is that if you have to rip out any stitches on the finished piece the webbing leaves big unsightly holes in the fabric. The quilting I kept to bare minimum, just around the edge of the falls, skyline, and border to add a little bit of contrast.

Photo by Jason Clancy

I went crazy with hand painted fabrics on both of these projects. I found a few printed fabrics with convincing rock and forest textures, (like the brown border fabric that looks exactly like the bark of a Ponderosa Pine,) but the variegated look of the hand painted fabrics was stunning. I particularly like the way the dark brown fabric in the upper left hand corner looks like rockfall scars. (We call that the Forbidden Wall, because rockfall is so frequent that we aren’t supposed to stop there when we hike the trail beneath it.) The striped fabric also mimics very well the streaks of water and lichen that color  the cliff faces.

Photo by Derek Ferguson

I was so happy with the first wall hanging that I decided to make a second one for my friend Meg, who’s exploits include climbing the Snake Dike route on Half Dome during a full moon. This was a going away present for her since she’s headed off to Colorado to “CLIMB ALL THE THINGS!!!

I tried to use the texture of the fabrics to their greatest advantage and only used a tiny bit of thread painting on the left half of the face of Half Dome. I quilted it with a silver lamé thread to give the impression of moonlight.  Apparently “stars” and “silver seed beads” are forever associated in my head because I made the stars with the same beads I used for the night sky pendants.  I am particularly proud of the bias tape border with mitered corners. I’ve been trying to perfect this technique for a long time and I think I finally nailed it.

So yes, I may have a bit of a wall hanging problem. I have plans for three more and I have no desire to quit. Brace yourself.


Día de los Muertos (with a necklace tutorial)

3 Nov

Although Halloween is over, there’s still a little bit of the Halloween spirit held over into November for Día de los Muertos.  At work, we celebrate this day by bringing in pictures of our loved ones, writing their names on cards and having a small memorial service.  I never celebrated the day outside of Spanish class before moving to California and I’ve developed quite an appreciation for it.  It feels so nourishing to gather as a community to remember those we’ve lost.  So often, we go about our day-to-day lives, sometimes remembering and missing the dead, but it’s normally a very solitary experience.  When we get together and publicly remember them, it creates such a bond in that shared experience.  It takes the stigma away from having to be “strong.”  It allows us to comfort and be comforted.


People bring in favorite foods and flowers to decorate the altar.

Afterwards, some people will point out their loved ones and share stories over pan mexicano and chocolate.

Inspired by the holiday, I put together a really simple necklace last night.  I used a lotería card, but I’ve followed the same process before using maps.  You could use anything at all. The whole project takes about 5 minutes, not including drying time.

Lotería card (or any other image)
Plastic microscope coverslips (or other semirigid plastic shape)
Mod Podge
A jewelry awl
Large jump ring
Exacto knife


Place your slide over the are you’re going to cut out. Trace around it and cut it out.


Using your jewelry awl, poke a hole at one of the corners of the slide. I very gently rotate mine until it just goes through and makes a hole large enough for a jump ring. If you go through too far, you might crack the plastic. I have tested this theory.


Mod Podge over your image and place the slide over it. If the paste is thick in parts, that’s okay. It ends up giving it a lightly textured look, which I think is slick.

Using an Exacto knife, cut around the perimeter of the slide, making sure the edges of the image are completely flush with the slide.

Turn the slide over and Mod Podge the back of the image and the sides of the pendant.

Let dry.

Once your pendant is dry, use the awl to put a hole in the cardboard as well. I go through both sides for an even circle.


Put a jump ring through the hole and attach to a necklace. Voila! Almost instant DIY pendant necklace.  ¡Disfrútalo!

~ April

Countdown to Halloween: Activity Cards

17 Oct

A year has passed since I made my Halloween countdown calendar and you would have thought that some time in the last 365 days I would have made an awesome replacement for the grow-your-own werewolf that hops from pocket to pocket, but then you would be wrong.  In fact, I lost said werewolf for a bit and he was replaced by a koala holding an Australian flag.  Very Halloweeny, those koalas.

I wasn’t losing any sleep over it, but then I saw a cute idea on Pinterest, where all cute ideas these days reside.  The blog All Things Simple presented the idea of substituting candy for activity cards in your Advent calendars so you could have a fun activity every day leading up to Christmas.  In the tradition of Jack Skellington, I decided to co-opt this Christmas tradition and give it a Halloween makeover.

Below you’ll find a pdf with cards of Halloween activities to put into your Halloween countdown calendar.  If you don’t have a countdown calendar, you can just put them in a jar, or better yet, one of these.  There are more activities than days so you can take out your least favorites.

Countdown to Halloween Activities

If you have a Halloween tradition that you would add to this list, I’d love to hear it.

~ April

Countdown to Halloween: Halloween Countdown Calendar

13 Oct

What day is it today?

Mr. Lupescu will tell us!

Good job Mr. Lupescu!

Last year I tackled a pretty monumental sewing project (for me), my Halloween countdown calendar.

Halloween Countdown
Notice the dead plants… I think it adds to the atmosphere.

I saw the hearse pattern forever ago and knew immediately I needed to make something with it (I was thinking a skirt), but when the idea to make a calendar reanimated itself in my brain I knew it was perfect.

I searched EVERYWHERE for a good countdown calendar tutorial. I figured I could even use Advent calendars – the fabric would just be a little different. I ended up basing mine off of this one over at The Art of Darkness.  I liked the idea of sewing all the pockets in a row.  It reduced the amount of error I could make in measuring and I need all the help in the world with that.  I knew I wanted a header and a snazzier day 31, though so I played around a LOT with graph paper.  I hate math and I found myself calculating and recalculating how much room I had to fiddle with.

Eventually, I ended up with this as the header:

Rich Man, Poor Man
“One and all will here and stay,
Come and dance the Macabray.”

No I’m not a terrible speller.  The quote is from “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman. At first I wanted a quote from the catacombs in Paris, but decided this was much more light-hearted and in tune with the fabric.

I chose a font I liked from dafont (Rock Show Whiplash) and printed it onto the fabric.  Some people have asked how I did that, so here’s a quick explanation.

*Cut your fabric to 8 1/2 x 11 (or the size of whatever printer paper you’re using).
*Cut a piece of freezer paper to the same size and iron it to your fabric.
*Use a glue stick to glue the freezer paper to a regular sheet of paper.
*Make sure all the little strings are clipped and neat – don’t want them snagging important printer bits!
*Print your image on it like it was a regular sheet of paper.

And that’s about it.  After it was done, I cut it into the shape of a gravestone, ironed some fusible web to the back and attached it to the main piece.  I went around the outside with an applique stitch, but I constantly changed the length of the stitches to give it a more unfinished look.

The wings on the bottom were made exactly the same way.

Man, the amount of  cat hair already collected on that thing is really scary.

The numbers were made with regular iron-on printer sheets and the same font.  They were actually the most painful part of the whole project!  I cut some of the hearses, coffins and spiderwebs from the excess fabric, attached fusible web and ironed them to the pockets.

All in all, I’m really pleased with the way it turned out.  I meant to make a cool little guy to go in the pockets (a ghost would be perfect for the theme), but for now it’s just Mr. Lupescu.

~ April

Countdown to Halloween: Witchy Wall Hanging

7 Oct


I have always loved the look of applique quilts but I was intimidated by how hard applique was supposed to be.  Then, years ago, my aunt taught me a method for applique that uses fusible web.  Now with the help of a little Heat n’ Bond I feel like the queen of applique.

I designed this pattern for a Halloween wall hanging but the same shapes could easily be cut out of paper for scrapbooking or a kids craft.

PDF Applique Pattern


  • 1/4 yard 45 inch-wide fabric for the border  (I just barely had enough fabric with a quarter of a yard, if you are using a directional pattern, or you just don’t want to sweat too much while cutting out the border pieces I would recommend 1/3 of a yard.)
  • 1/3 yard 45 inch-wide fabric for the background squares.
  • 3/8 yard 45 inch-wide fabric for the backing
  • 3/8 yard batting
  • You will only need a tiny bit of the other fabrics so I recommend raiding your stash (or your friend’s stash) for scraps.  This is also a great project for charm packs or quilters candies.  If not, you can purchase 1/8 of a yard of whatever colors you choose.  Wash and press all  your fabrics before cutting.
  • 1/2 yard lightweight fusible web/ iron-on adhesive
  • Variety of threads, buttons, and accessories for embellishments
  • (optional) 80 inches of piping, or 1/8 yard 45 inch wide fabric and 80 inches of cotton cord to make your own piping.  There is a great piping tutorial here.
  • (optional) 100 inches bias tape for the binding


I’ve included measurements for making both mitered and straight borders.

Mitered border.  There is a great tutorial for sewing a mitered border here.

2  35 inch x 3 inch pieces  (side borders)

2  16 inch x 3 inch pieces  (top borders)

2  9 inch x 2 inch pieces   (spacers)

Straight, aka, butted border.  There is a tutorial for sewing a straight border here.

2  34 inch x 3 inch pieces  (side border)

2  9 inch x 3 inch pieces (top borders)

2  9 inch x 2 inch pieces (spacers)

Also cut:

Background squares:
3  9 inch x 9 inch squares

Backing fabric
1   33 1/2 inch x 15 1/2 inch square

1   33 1/2 inch x 15 1/2 inch square


1. Fuse the adhesive web onto  your fabric.  Cut out a piece of your adhesive web that is slightly larger than the pattern piece you are using.  Place it adhesive side down onto the wrong side of the fabric.  Put your iron on a low heat, no steam setting and press down on the paper side of the web for a few seconds.  Try not to get the adhesive onto the iron or it will make a sticky mess.  If this does happen you can wipe it off with a cotton rag, just be sure not to burn yourself.


2. Trace and cut out the pattern onto the paper backing of the web.  Cut out the pattern pieces and place them face down onto the paper and trace.  Use a sharp pair of scissors to cut out the piece.  Once you’ve cut out the pattern pieces you can peel off the paper backing.


3. Place your pattern pieces and fuse them onto the background fabric.  Fuse the pieces that are going to be underneath other elements first.  (The legs of the cauldron, the brim of the hat, the stem of the pumpkin.  The pattern pieces are numbered to help you with this.)  To fuse the pieces make sure the paper backing on the web has been peeled off, and place them adhesive side down onto the fabric.  Press with the iron, still on low heat.  Try to avoid dragging the iron across the fabric as this could cause the pieces to shift.


4. Piece together your finished squares using a 3/8 inch seam allowance.

If you choose to add piping around the border there is a fabulous tutorial here.

Tutorial for mitered border

Tutorial for straight border

Tutorial for finishing with bias tape binding

If you would like further clarification on the applique technique there is a great tutorial here.


5. Embellish away!  The details are the fun part of this quilt so go crazy.  I prefer to finish the applique by satin stitching around the raw edges, but you could also do the same thing with puffy paint.  Add flair with buttons, yo-yos, embroidery, quilting, rick-rack, beads, couching….the sky is the limit.

6. Ask your friends what they think of your creation, you know they’ll be impressed!



Countdown to Halloween: Halloween on Etsy

5 Oct

My roommate likes to say that Target is the place that paychecks go to die.  Mine have definitely suffered some life-threatening injuries there, but if I had to choose one battle royale arena for my hard earned cash it would be Etsy.  Combine unique handmade creations with Halloween and you have a failproof income drain.

Here are some of my favorite Halloween finds on Etsy this year.

Day of the Dead shoes from Em & Sprout

Zombie Horde Table Luminary by Mink’s Paperie

Halloween Bat Mug by Mr. Teacup

Spooky Houses Halloween Necklace by SMAfactory

Under a Halloween Moon Tree of Life Pendant by Phoenix Fire Designs

Scary Skull Air Plant Garden by EarthSeaWarrior

Werewolf Halloween Soap by Lippincott Soap Co

You Staked My Heart Lovers 2-piece Necklace Set by Corso Studio


Countdown to Halloween: Calaveras

3 Oct

Last year, one of my coworkers brought in a really cool decorated skull for Dia de los Muertos.  I took a picture of it so I could promptly go out and make one for myself.


Unfortunately, she shared it so late in the season, I couldn’t find a single skull.  Yeah, I have gothy first world problems.

This year, I decided to start early and sure enough, Michaels carries the exact skull she used.  They don’t seem to sell them online, but check your local store or search “Styrofoam skulls” on Google Shopping for a decent collection.  They run about $6.

I searched online for sugar skull and calavera patterns for inspiration, then sketched the design in pencil.


I used regular acrylic paints, along with some novelty paints.  I bought clear glitter and glow-in-the-dark because they can layer over any color.  It’s a better deal than buying a pre-colored glitter paint.


I think outlining elements of the design in black helps a lot in making her fit the Dia de los Muertos style.  You could probably use a Sharpie, but the black paint worked fine for me.  Her teeth are glow-in-the-dark and the design on her forehead has a glow in the dark cross painted over it.  I’m going to run over those areas with another coat, since they’re pretty faint now.

For her head piece, I used E600 craft glue to attach the pieces to each other, but just used a part of the stem on the orange flower and stuck it directly into her head.  I glued the feather piece down so it didn’t stick up weird.  We’re going to put a few of these skulls on our altar for the Dia de los Muertos celebration at work.

You could try this in other styles.  A tattoo-inspired, Native American or Halstatt skull would be interesting.  I’m planning to make her a novio before the season’s out.

I’d love to see your creations!  Any other ideas for painted Halloween decor?

~ April


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