Glass Blowing at Orbix

Three girlfriends and I drove up to Fort Payne, Alabama to visit Orbix Hot Glass gallery and do glass blowing. We took the ornament class, so my friends will be using theirs in their decorations, and I have mine in a Nambe bowl (the silver makes the glass look even better) in the dining room. I actually already have a couple of these glass orbs from Cal Breed when he used to display and sell them at Kentuck, so these are a great addition.

We had some time to shop in the gallery before we started:

Orbix Hot Glass: Glass Ornament Blowing Class//

Orbix Hot Glass: Glass Ornament Blowing Class//

Orbix Hot Glass: Glass Ornament Blowing Class//

Orbix Hot Glass: Glass Ornament Blowing Class//

Orbix Hot Glass: Glass Ornament Blowing Class//

Orbix Hot Glass: Glass Ornament Blowing Class//

Orbix Hot Glass: Glass Ornament Blowing Class//

Orbix Hot Glass: Glass Ornament Blowing Class

Orbix Hot Glass: Glass Ornament Blowing Class//

Orbix Hot Glass: Glass Ornament Blowing Class//

This board shows what the different glass colors will look like

Orbix Hot Glass: Glass Ornament Blowing Class//

Orbix Hot Glass: Glass Ornament Blowing Class//

While other objects have the participants actually going up to the furnaces and doing more of the process, for this class, we were doing the super-easy part. Here, Cal has taken the hot glass and is rolling it to pick up colors

Once he puts it back in the fire and has the initial form right, he sits and forms it while instructing us on how much air to force through the pipe — this is my first orb
Orbix Hot Glass: Glass Ornament Blowing Class//

Next he releases it from the pipe and puts on a dab more glass so as to make a circle curl so it can hang. Next, it goes into a warmer to anneal, then it can be shipped the next day.

This is one of the orbs I helped make — it is two color mixes: Maria mix, and lagoon
Glass Orbs made at Orbix Hot Glass//

We had an unwrapping party at my friend Jill’s new home
Glass Orbs made at Orbix Hot Glass//

We were all so very happy with how they turned out
Glass Orbs made at Orbix Hot Glass//

We really enjoyed making these; I’d love to go back and do the paperweight class and have a more hands-on experience, too! Love.

Easy Felt Balls

I’ve tried to make felt balls before but I really didn’t like the process – gather felt, roll into ball, dip into hot and sudsy water *over and over* until the shape holds and is hard – which for me, at a little over 10 minutes/ball, wasn’t really fun. Last week, I heard from a friend that there’s a super-simple way to do them, it takes no time at all, and they come out needing only a tiny bit of neatening.

…here’s how:

Wool for felting (sometimes called wool roving or wool tops)
Pair of pantyhose you don’t mind giving up for this process
Felting needle, for the final neatening
Washing Machine, Dryer (dryer is optional)

(above:) gather your felting wool, and gently tear off very small amounts of felt. If it’s very important to you that all the balls be the exact same size, you can use a kitchen scale to make certain with their weight. Since this was my first time using this method and I was just making these for fun, I did somewhat different sizes, but they’ll still look pretty in a little bowl (or maybe I’ll let Tchotchke, our cat, have a couple to play with).

(above:) I took a little felt and laid it out right-left and the next layer up-down to help start the basic felting process. I picked up the felt in one hand, and rolled it around from palm to palm just to make a simple circle shape.

(above:) here’s the very basic circle shape I made with the felt.

(above:) I took one leg of the pantyhose and made a knot at the toe. I placed the first ball down to the knot, and made a tight knot just above it.

(above:) Here’s my first group – I made eight balls. Now, take the pantyhose and put them in the washing machine with a little detergent. Just program the washer for a quick wash (30 minutes or so) using hot water and the fastest spin. Once my set came out of the washer, I put them in the dryer for about ten minutes.

(above:) Here they are, just out of the dryer. Take scissors and cut the knots to release each of the felt balls.

(above:)Here’s my felting needle (I tried to do a close-up shot to show the little ‘barbs’ at the bottom of a felting needle – these barbs are what catches the fibers and causes them to mesh, or felt). My friend was right – the felt balls were completely felted when I cut them out of the pantyhose, and they just needed a little touchup with a felting needle to make them completely, perfectly round.

Here’s the first one! This method was great – so easy. Next time, I’m going to do even more of them per batch, and try making a couple of necklaces (just poke a hole through the ball before it’s completely hardened to make space to string it through).

There’s also a nice tutorial from Martha Stewart Kids on how to make felt balls here.

Making Chalkware from Chocolate Moulds

In March, when I bought one of Penny McAllister’s paper mache pieces (which I’m still in love with) I started looking on the internet at how things like that are made. Many people use chocolate moulds (or chocolate molds) to base their design on, by pressing the paper mache mixture into the sides of a mold. When I did a search on eBay for a chocolate mold I could play around with, I saw that some people were selling chalkware that was made that way – that you could take plaster of paris, pour it into a chocolate mold, and a few minutes later you would have a 3-d model of whatever shape it was.

I bought these three chocolate molds from some very nice people in Belgium, and received this little chicken family in less than a week!
Making Chalkware

First, I’ll start with what I used:
chocolate mold(s)
plaster of paris (and water to mix it in)
disposable cup or little bucket to mix the plaster of paris in
a chopstick or something else to stir it with
newspaper to help stabilize the upside-down molds
clips to help hold the mold shut
cups (or anything) to help hold the mold upside-down
paint (I used the cheapy folkart paint at Michael’s)
foam brush for the paint
pearlescent paint

I found these cups that were about the right size for the molds (the purple ones were presents!):
Making Chalkware

Next, I put the clips all around the closed mold so there hopefully wouldn’t be any leaks. My plaster of paris box said to just briefly run some water inside each mold to make it easier to get the finished piece out of the mold, so I did that:
Making Chalkware

I stuffed paper underneath and around each of the molds in the cups so they would be steady and even when the plaster of paris was poured in.  Then I just mixed the plaster of paris. It really does set in 20-30 minutes, so have everything ready to go.

I just poured the plaster into each mold right up to the top (if it goes over, it’s not bad – you can just pull it off the outside later). Pour it a little at a time and try to pop or avoid any bubbles. The important thing here is to make sure it’s even:
Making Chalkware

After an hour, they were all ready to come out of the molds. Here’s the first one out – the little chick-a-dee:
Making Chalkware

They were all really easy to pop out.

Now you can either take sandpaper and sand down the mold line, or do like I did and just make them even. For this time, I decided I liked them looking a little more ‘industrial’.

Before painting, at least 24 hours needs to go by after unmolding to make sure the pieces are completely dry.

I just super-watered-down some of the folkart paint, and applied one color to each of the chickies:
Making Chalkware

Once the first coat of paint was dry, I applied some pearlescent paint. They look really different now, stalking Krispy Kreme:
Making Chalkware

Making Giant Paper Pom-Poms

The latest issue of Martha Stewart Weddings has a feature on making tissue/crepe paper flowers. One of the things they show is how to make giant pom-poms with the paper (they also showed them, but didn’t mention them, this week on the daytime Martha show when they did a segment about making paper bouquets and favors).

All that’s needed to do this project is craft/tissue/crepe paper (the magazine said to use 20″x30″ paper, but mine was 20″x20″ and it worked perfectly), some white cloth-covered floral wire (magazine said to use 24 ga, mine was 32 ga, either or in between is fine), some clear string to hang the pom-poms with, and good sharp paper scissors.

First, I stacked eight sheets of paper. Try to get the paper even on all sides.
Making Giant Paper Pom-Poms

Next, make accordian pleats. You don’t have to measure, just make a pleat every one or two inches.
Making Giant Paper Pom-Poms

Cut an 18″ or so length of floral wire and fold it in half. Put the wire in the center of the pleated paper, and twist the ends of the wire to make it nice and tight:
Making Giant Paper Pom-Poms

Now cut each of the ends of the paper. You can make them pointy or rounded, or whatever you like:
Making Giant Paper Pom-Poms

Now, begin ‘unfolding’ each layer of the paper. Pick up the first sheet (be careful, because it can tear if you pull too hard), separating along all the pleats, and pull it more or less straight up:
Making Giant Paper Pom-Poms

Do the other side the same way. Then keep unfolding. Remember that you want this to make a circle, so if you used eight sheets, around the fourth sheet remember that you will want it just a little above the equator of the circle and the fifth sheet will be a little bit below, and so on:
Making Giant Paper Pom-Poms

It’s easy just to turn the whole thing over very gently to do the other half of the sheets:
Making Giant Paper Pom-Poms

Here it is, all done! Something I didn’t expect was that I thought the floral wire looked a little like a flower’s stamen – so I didn’t cut them down too much.
Making Giant Paper Pom-Poms

Just take some clear string and wrap around the floral wire at the top of the pom-pom. I twisted the floral wire around the clear string just to make sure it had a good strong hold.

I hung this one on my front porch – see how pretty?
Giant Paper Pom-Pom

I made a three more of these pom-poms – another the same size, and two more that were smaller – just cut the paper that you start with into a smaller-size square. I also used more than eight sheets of paper on the smaller ones so they are super-full and pretty. These will be great for our next get-together. I’ll just say, “look for the pom-poms!”

Do you see the gourd birdhouse next to the pom-pom above? A mommy birdie is making a nest inside it right now. Every year, we are lucky enough to get birds to make their homes on our porch and in our crepe myrtle. I *love* seeing them bring things to make their nest with, and then later to see them feeding their babies. Sooooo sweet.

Welcome Mat Design

Oooooh…I am *so* ready for Spring! We’ve made a list of tasks to do around the house – I always like to get into the ‘Spring Cleaning’ thing really big. Av’s been doing some painting, and I took a bit of a break from organizing closets and that sort of thing to design my own Spring-y welcome mat. Here’s how it went:

I bought one welcome mat with no design on the top. My other materials were:
Spray paint primer in white
Spray paint in pink
Spray paint in lime green (of course, use whatever colors you like best)
Painter’s masking tape
Newspaper to put underneath rug and protect the grass from getting painted (this is an outside project)

First, I just laid newspaper out on the lawn for the mat to sit on top of:

Welcome Mat

Then, I sprayed the white primer all over the mat:

Welcome Mat

Once the primer was dry (about two hours in the sunshine), I took the painter’s masking tape and made stripes for my first color. I didn’t want them to be all the same size, so I taped off different widths:

Welcome Mat

I sprayed my first color – pink:

Welcome Mat

Once that was dry (another couple of hours), I lifted the tape – it looked really nice already!

Welcome Mat

Once that tape had been removed, I taped off the mat for my second color – the green. I did it so that between every green and pink stripe, there would be a stripe of white. In other words, I covered all of the existing pink stripes I had *plus* a little. This made sure there was a stripe of white between the two colors, so it would look neat in the end:

Welcome Mat

Then, I just sprayed the whole thing with the green paint:

Welcome Mat

After a couple of hours, I lifted the last of the tape, and here it is!

Welcome Mat

I think it looks really, really nice. I may try to make a couple of others as little presents – maybe get a little fancier with more colors, or stencil initials or words on the mats. I *really* like the way it turned out!

Felt Ice Cream Cone

Since I had all my materials out to make figures out of felt, I decided to try to make an ice cream cone (not sure why!). Anyway, I think it turned out really cute.

Tan felt for the ice cream cone
Colors of felt in sheets for your ice cream colors (I used minty green and pink)
Embroidery floss in a beige or white color, plus embroidery needle
Cottony stuffing
Rotary cutter, self-healing mat
Bowls for circle template

I took a sheet of the tan felt and just rolled it from one edge to the other to make a cone shape. Sewed up the edge and along the top (I just tucked inside all the extra material – that comes in handy later):


Then, cut out two circles for each ice cream scoop – one will make the scoop, and the other will make a little ruffle under each scoop:

Do a running stitch around the border of one of the circles, then start pulling to close it up, but put in plenty of the cottony stuffing to make it poofy:

Then just sew it up:

Next, take the other circle of the same-color felt, and use the scissors to make a scalloped edge, and sew it to the bottom of the sewed-up scoop:

Here’s how it looks from above now:

Now, untuck the extra material from the cone, and push some of the stuffing down in it, up to almost the very top:

Once that is done, push all that extra material back down into the inside of the cone, and it will be this extra material that you use to fasten the first scoop to the cone.

Then, just make as many other scoops as you like, and sew them to the top of the one below it.

I didn’t have a good way to stand this up at first, but my cruet worked perfectly!

I think this works really neat – maybe even with a little felt cherry on top!

Felt Hamentaschen

Since Purim comes this week, I made a couple of felt hamentaschen.

Materials (for two hamentaschen):
One sheet dough-colored felt
One sheet jam-colored felt (I used a nice blue/purple)
Tan embroidery floss, needle
Fabric glue
Cottony stuffing
Self-healing mat
Rotary cutter
Round shapes (I used bowls) to be a circle template

Take the sheet of tan/dough-colored felt, and cut two circles from it. I just used a bowl as a template to use with my rotary cutter:

Here they are, all cut out:

Next, I cut a square of my jam-colored felt to fit inside the circle. I glued it on three sides to the tan felt:

Once the glue had dried, I put some of the cottony stuffing inside, then started folding it up to make the triangle shape. I made a fold, then took my embroidery thread and needle and sewed up each of the corners:

Almost done:

Next, I just used a tiny dab of glue to make everything nice and snug on the three corners:
Felt Hamantaschen Craft//

I could have left it as-is, but I decided to make this one into a refrigerator magnet – just hot-glued a magnet to the back, and voila!

Happy Purim!

Felt Birthday Cake for Sherri

Today is really special – it’s Sherri’s birthday!

I was trying to think of what she might like (got Robin’s input, too), and I was thinking, well – you know, everybody likes to have a birthday cake that’s just a little different. I decided to try to do something really special and make a birthday cake out of felt to commemorate Sherri’s special day!

1 yard pink felt (there will be some left over)
3 sheets 8-1/2″x11″ white felt
2/ea embroidery floss in white, pink, and hot pink
embroidery needles
rotary cutter and self-healing mat
ruler or clear measurement guide
cottony stuffing

To make this particular birthday cake, there are six main pieces to cut out. Two are the top and bottom round pieces, one is the long side that wraps around the cake, giving it height; one is the part that has the name hand-stitched; and the other is a decorative circle to set-off the embroidered name piece. The last is the felt that’s used to make the decorative ‘icing’.

I cut out all my shapes first – I took a supper plate and cut out two circles from pink felt to make the top and bottom round of the cake. Then I cut out the side of the cake (this wound up being about 1/3 the height of what you see here), and took a bread plate (to use to cut around as the 2nd biggest circle) and a cereal bowl (to use to cut around as the smallest circle – the one that’s embroidered on).

I cut out 2″-wide strips from white felt to cut the icing circles out of. The icing circles turn out to look like the icing that’s piped along the edge of a cake – this is sooo easy too… Just take two circles that you’ve cut out – these are a little bigger than a quarter – fold the two circles together like a taco, then sew the folded edge together:

Works perfectly! I made plenty of these to go around the edge of the top of the cake:

Then, I just sewed all the icing to the edge of the top of the cake:

Next, I took the smallest circle (the one that I cut out using a cereal bowl as the guide) and hand-stitched Sherri’s name. After that was done (it’s not ultra-perfect, but not bad!), I stitched that circle to the 2nd largest circle. After that, I used white embroidery floss to stitch to the top of the cake. See how it’s all just a little off-center? It makes it look just a little more interesting than if it were all just piled perfectly in the middle:

Next, I sewed the long piece that serves to give the cake height. What I do is just cut this length longer than I know it needs to be, then I cut it down to make it right once it’s all sewed together at the top….it’s so much easier than stressing over exact measurements. Here it is, sewed it to the top of the cake, and sewed the seam also. Getting close – I sewed 3/4 of the bottom circle on – that’s to leave room for me to put the stuffing in:

Here it is, all done! My needlework can use some help (the icing circles – where they meet up with the cake top – is pretty rough but it’s not…distracting) but overall, I’m really happy with it – and most importantly, I hope it makes Sherri happy on her birthday!

Knitted Necklace

I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with a couple of the yarns I bought at The Knit Shop in Montgomery – the Berocco in Quest, color 5813 (dark copper), and Trendsetter Yarns in Joy, color 1329 (which has nice bronze and turqoise ‘flags’ as the detail).

Although my knitting skills really aren’t up to making anything even moderately hard, I thought I might try to make a necklace. Here are the results.

I cast on 12 stitches.
I knit the next row.
On the third row, I bound off one stitch from each end.
On the next row, I knit all stitches.
From then on, I continued binding off one stitch from each end, and knitting all on the following row until I was left with two stitches. This gives a nice tapered look:

Knitted Necklace

Then I cut the yarn and wove the ends from the top & bottom into the work.

Next, I took some brown woven jewelry cord, wrapped the Trendsetter Joy around it a few times, and then ran those strings together through the two stitches that had been left on the knitting needle. I cut the strings to the length I wanted the necklace to be (which is about 28″ – I thought it would be the perfect length to wear with a long-sleeve, button-down shirt – a little longer than I usually wear necklaces, but I was going for something a little different this time):

Knitted Necklace

Once that was done, I very loosely wrapped the Berocco Quest around the other two strands so it had just a little more volume. Then, I just added the crimps, jump rings, and lobster clasp, and it looks really nice, I think:

Knitted Necklace

Decorating For Mardi Gras

Yay! It’s time to decorate for Mardi Gras! The first thing I started with was making a Mardi Gras feather wreath for the front door:

I took a large wire wreath-form (there weren’t any styrofoam ones at Hobby Lobby this big), two mardi gras feather boas, some floral wrapping tape, and some clear string to make it. Scissors too.

First, I wrapped the wire form with green floral tape. This is the tape that has adhesive ‘activated’ when you tug on it just a bit. I wanted to use this to make a solid color underneath the boas – it took all of about five or six minutes (and less than one roll of tape) to get this all wrapped up.

The first boa goes around and around the wreath form. I used clear jewelry string to secure it to the form, and when I got to the end of the first boa, I tied that end to the form, and tied the start of the next boa to the form *and* the end of the first boa to make sure it was really secure. Once the wreath was complete, I cut off most of the white string that wasn’t used to make sure it wouldn’t show.

Next, I hung it on the door and added beads. I added one huge string and lots of regular-size beads in purple, green, and gold. I like the way it turned out! The beads that are hanging off the sides of the wreath remind me of all the beads that get stuck on light fixtures and oak trees…
Mardi Gras Feather Wreath