Tuesday Tutorials – Shrinky Dink Buttons

Do you remember making Shrinky-Dinks when you were a kid?  I sure do, and it’s still just as much fun now as it was then.

In case you aren’t familiar with shrink plastic, it’s a nifty plastic that comes in a sheet which shrinks when you heat it into a small hard plastic piece.

I originally found this tutorial on SWP, and wanted to share it.  Definitely a fun but grown-up way to play with Shrinky-Dinks again!

Shrink Plastic Buttons

Use shrink plastic to make clothing buttons

1. The buttons. The buttons are cut from shrink paper. Make sure you use frosted, not clear! Clear works, but it won’t look like the buttons on this post. To cut the button shape, use a Fiskars Squeeze Circle punch – size large. To get the center holes, use a standard where to punch holes to make your own buttonssingle hole, hole punch. To keep each button the same, punch a large circle out on some paper, fold it in half, punch a smaller hole in place where the diagram (left) shows. Unfold it, and use it a template to get the sewing holes in exactly the same place every time.

2. The Pens. If you’re going to do this right.. use ZIG Millennium Pens, they were the best. Using this brand means you can wash your buttons and the ink won’t run or fade, whereas all of the other brands did (most of the time, the ink didn’t run completely off, but faded a lot).

3. The Template. You can download the template shown in the second photo with room to draw your own here. (This template fits the Fiskars Squeeze Circle punch – size large. You can use scissors, but you will notice the imperfections if you want the circle to be perfect.)

Okay.. lets get started!

Trace you design onto the frosted side of the shrink plastic paper

Tracing tips: You can use either colored pencils or permanent pens. At this initial stage it’s really important to keep the buttons clean from smudges.  When you shrink the buttons the colors will intensify. Any smudges (even the ones you can’t see), will become very evident.

Words must be written backwards in order to be readable. This is because the text is on the rough underside of the button, and once flipped to face the smooth side, the image will be reversed. An easy way to do this is to write your text onto the frosted side of some scrap shrink paper, flip it over, and then trace it as you see it onto your button.

Before and after.. shrinking the shrink plastic button

Shrinking the buttons: To shrink the buttons, you can use an oven or a heat gun (the kind used for embellishing). I would recommend using an oven as it’s the easiest way to start. While you’re creating your buttons, pre-heat your oven to 350F. When your buttons are ready, place the button on a baking sheet and then into the oven. Close the door and in seconds you will be able to see the buttons shrink before your eyes!!! (It never gets dull!)

After the buttons have twisted and twirled, and are LYING FLAT, it’s time to take them out.

Note: If the shrinking is taking too long, you may need to turn your oven up.

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10 Awesome Reasons to Buy Handmade

I believe a key part of growing any business in the handmade community is not only about gaining the support of fellow handmade artists, but convincing regular consumers that buying handmade is a smart, viable choice for their hard-earned dollars.

If you search for ‘reasons to buy handmade’ in your favorite search engine, you get a LOT of results.  On one hand, that’s a good thing.  It means people are talking and thinking and posting about why the world should buy more handmade goods.  Being a handmade artist myself, I fully support this.  But I found that many of the reasons were the same, and if I was just a regular consumer (not a member of the handmade community already), I’m not sure I’d be very convinced that handmade shopping is the easiest way to go.

Yes, I said the easiest way to go.  Certainly handmade is the better way, and I’m not sure many people can argue with that. Look at all the ways it’s better:

1. You support local artisans, and therefore their local economy and community.  Supporting local business has a huge list of benefits all to itself, far too many to list here, but it’s a good thing, trust me.

2. You get high-quality items that are built to last, not all the stuff that has the “How cheap can I produce this?” mentality.  It’ll probably fall apart in a year or two, but handmade items have longevity.  Artisans have pride in their work, and want it to last.  Even the materials are hand-picked by an individual, and what big manufacturing company can say that?

3. Your gifts are the best on the block.  Cool, trendy, unique, and usually one-of-a kind, you can find some really awesome handmade stuff that’ll make everyone ask “Where can I get one?”

4. Customization!  Since each and every item is made by hand, and you are usually talking directly to the person making it, you can tweak the color or size of something you are interested in, or even get a fully commissioned custom order done.  This avoids you having the excuse of “it was all the store had left.”  Want a cool case for your new gadget, but maybe you have some weird size the store doesn’t offer?  Get is custom made to your exact dimensions!  Doggie sweaters from the store never quite fit your beloved pooch?  Customization to the rescue!  The possibilities are endless really.

5. You’re helping the environment.  It’s always a nice feeling to ‘go green’ isn’t it?  Handmade items aren’t made in a waste-producing factory and shipped halfway around the world using fuel and energy.  Buying handmade (especially really locally) can greatly reduce your carbon footprint on the world.

6. You gain a unique connection with an artisan.  You can be in direct contact with the person who made the item with their own hands.  For some reason this is just really cool.  I mean, think about how awesome it’d be to meet your favorite clothing designer, artist, author, or chef.  It’s kinda like that feeling, but on a much smaller and more intimate scale.

7. Let’s not forget the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you helped support someone very directly.  For example, when you purchase something from my shop, you just helped put food on the table for another meal (and I thank you deeply for that).  You don’t have to pay the shop’s cashier and the various levels of management and the supplier and the designer and the manufacturer, because just one person is all those things!

See, that’s at least 7 really strong reasons why buying handmade is better.   But let’s be honest, when the holiday rush hits, a lot of buyers may not be looking for better as much as they are looking for easy.  The holidays can really sneak up on us, and we all just want to have the gift shopping DONE and the gifts wrapped with plenty of time to bake those cookies and relax a little bit before running to 100 different holiday parties and dinner.   So today I offer you reasons why buying handmade can be the easiest holiday shopping choice you make:

1. Avoid crowded stores.  How annoying is it to maneuver yourself (and your cart, and possibly kids) through packed store aisles only to fight with someone for the last thing on the shelf then wait in a line for hours with a cart full of stuff and realize you still need to get something for your mother-in-law or coworker or neighbor?  Talk about stressful.  Buy handmade items at local craft fairs, markets, and boutiques, or shop online to avoid people altogether.

2. Get it gift wrapped.   This may not apply to all handmade goods, but a large number of sellers do offer a gift wrapping service (sometimes even free). Even if it’s not free, the few dollars it costs you may be well worth it, especially if you can’t find the gift wrap you bought last year so you have to go out to another crowded store to buy more, then find a free afternoon to clear space on the crowded dining room table for all the wrapping paper, tape, scissors, gift bags, tissue paper, and gifts.  Save time and energy!

3. Get it all done at once. Find a large craft show in your area and get all that holiday shopping done at once.  Craft shows usually offer a much wider range of goods than your typical store, so you don’t need to run to a bunch of different places to get everything you need.  This is even easier if you shop online.  Online marketplaces have goods from thousands of handmade artists all over the country, and from around the world, so you’ll have no excuse not to find that perfect gift for everyone on your list.

What can be easier? And if you start to protest that maybe you are more into the high-tech gadget-y stuff, no problem, but you’ll probably need a case to protect that new expensive item, so consider a handmade one before you run to the store.  And if you object that handmade is so expensive, then I refer you back to the reasons why handmade is better.  You have to pay for quality my friends, and be smart shoppers.

I encourage each and every one of you to buy more handmade this year and every year, not just for the holidays but for all special occasions, or maybe just because you want a new throw pillow for the couch or a beautiful new necklace for yourself.  The sky is the limit!

Need help finding handmade gifts?  Besides looking at my shop 🙂 you can check out the artisans featured here on Homegrown Joy every Friday for ideas, or visit online marketplaces like Etsy or Artfire. Happy shopping!

Not Exactly What I Was Going For (Partial Crafty Fail)

This week I embarked on a new adventure in knitting–making a cozy for my Kindle! I love to take my reading with me, but am always afraid of scuffing up my Kindle by sticking it in my purse or bag.  I seriously don’t know why I didn’t think of this earlier.  On Friday, I thought my progress was coming along nicely…

 

Really just getting started

 

Well, since I wasn’t really following a pattern (how hard could it be to knit a rectangle that closes at the top?), it did not turn out quite like I had hoped.  FAR too big for a Kindle, one of my stripes only matched up on one side, and the top….one side was taller than the other!  At first I thought, total crafty fail!

 

Aw, sad

Ok, so here’s a better, less dramatic shot. Notice the small stripe doesn’t match up on the side.

 

But I was pretty determined not to let my hard work go to waste, I did spend two days on this thing after all.  New plan–use it for real books instead!  When I’m not using my Kindle I do still love to pick up a real book, but I hate when my edges get bent and worn, especially with paperback books.  This little number fits the pretty thick book I’m just starting called A Clash of Kings, the second book in The Game of Thrones series.  (Side note, if you haven’t started reading these, you are really missing out.)

 

Nice and cozy

 

So, I’m calling this only a partial crafty fail.  It may not have turned out to be what I originally intended, but experimenting and mistakes are all part of the creative process.  I did like how the stripe pattern turned out, and am incorporating it in a dog coat I’m currently working on.  I also gained a great book cover that will fit even my fattest books and stretches to cover taller ones too.    For now, I’m off to find new inspiration and a new pattern for the elusive Kindle cozy I’m searching for.

 

Just the right size!

What about you?  What crafty failures have you used for inspiration?  Or had to re-purpose for something else?  Let me know, I’m interested to hear!

 

Tuesday Tutorials – Useful Origami Boxes

Ever just need a little box to hold something?  Odds and ends like paper clips, thumbtacks, pencils, loose change, and whatever else is floating around? Origami to the rescue!

These useful little boxes can be made in a variety of sizes to hold whatever you need.  With colorful or interesting paper you can use them to give gifts or hold candy for the holidays.

I’ve included a tutorial for a square box below (which I use for coins and paper clips and other office supplies), but if you want to make a rectangle one to hold stuff like pencils and pens, there is a great tutorial with printable instructions here.

Easy Origami Square Box

I also created a shortened printable version if you want to take the instructions with you.  Enjoy!

Step 1: Fold a Blintz Base. This is done by folding the square on both diagonals and then opening the square back up and folding each point to the center.

easy-origami-box-step-1

 

Step 2: Open up the paper.

easy-origami-box-step-2

 

Step 3: Fold in the 4 corners as indicated below.

easy-origami-box-step-3

easy-origami-box-step-3

easy-origami-box-step-3

 

 

 

Step 4: We’re going to fold the 4 corners in once again.

easy-origami-box-step-4

 

easy-origami-box-step-4

easy-origami-box-step-4

 

 

 

Step 5: FLIP paper over.

easy-origami-box-step-5

 

Step 6: Rotate paper slightly so that you see a square. Now fold both the top and bottom halves to the center. Crease well and unfold.

easy-origami-box-step-6

 

easy-origami-box-step-6

 

easy-origami-box-step-6

easy-origami-box-step-6

 

 

 

 

Step 7: Fold both the right and left sides to meet in the center.

easy-origami-box-step-7

 

easy-origami-box-step-7

 

 

Step 8: Now bring the top flap over from the right to the left.

easy-origami-box-step-8

easy-origami-box-step-8

easy-origami-box-step-8

 

 

 

Step 9: Fold the top and bottom right corners on the diagonal as shown below.

easy-origami-box-step-9

easy-origami-box-step-9

 

 

Step 10: Now bring both flaps over from the left to the right.

easy-origami-box-step-10

easy-origami-box-step-10

 

easy-origami-box-step-10

 

easy-origami-box-step-10

 

 

 

 

Step 11: Fold in the top and bottom left corners on the diagonal as shown below.

easy-origami-box-step-11

 

easy-origami-box-step-11

 

 

Step 12: Now bring only the top flap over from the right to the left.

easy-origami-box-step-12

easy-origami-box-step-12

 

 

Step 13: Here comes the fun part….shaping our origami box! Pry open the paper with your fingers.

easy-origami-box-step-13

 

easy-origami-box-step-13

 

easy-origami-box-step-13

 

 

 

Straighten the sides and like magic, you have your easy origami box!

easy-origami-box

 

easy-origami-box

 

 

You can find this and other fun origami patterns at origami-instructions.com.

A Work In Progress

The new project:

I decided I want to learn to make more hat designs, so I searched the internet and found this beautiful false cable pattern for a hat. Unfortunately I don’t have circular needles, so I’m improvising.  I also ran across various patterns for drawstring hats that can double as neck warmers.  Ingenious idea! I loved the look so I’m taking an adventure in creating my own drawstring hat in this pattern without circular needles.  So far it’s slow, but I think if I focus it’ll turn out beautifully–and be the first project I didn’t follow a specific pattern for the whole item!

 
Eventually I’ll work my way up to real cables, and maybe even invest in more needles, but for now I’m being creative and making do, and I don’t mind that at all.

Always Be Improving

Alas, it has been almost 2 months since I re-opened my Etsy shop, and with only 1 online sale to date I started looking closely at my items this past week.  I believe that complaining in this business gets you no where, you have to continually be improving, learning, and growing if you want to build a successful business.  So it was time to take a hard look at what I was showing to the world.

Some of my items I admit were not my best work, but I felt they had great potential.  So this week I’ve been focusing on improving what I have (in addition to adding new items) and spending less time online, which I found I had been doing way too often.  After all, I can network and promote like crazy, but none of that matters if I don’t have quality products to showcase once someone reaches my shop. To quote Naomi from IttyBiz, “You have to make something GOOD.” Blunt but true advice.
Remember the pom-pom I made during Tuesday’s Tutorial?  I decide to make 5 more of them, along with 4 dark country blue ones and added them to a very plain neutral scarf I had hanging out in my shop.  I think pom-poms just add a lot of fun to anything–it’s something special about the scarf, and they aren’t super bright and childish, but a darker color palette so it’s still acceptable for a woman to wear.  Not a HUGE change, but I’m hoping it’s enough to pique someone’s interest.  Personally, I’m infinitely happier with the item now than I was before.

Before

After

Pom Pom Detail

I also took hours to rip apart a rainbow blanket I knit together and re-purposed the super soft yarn into a scarf.  I love scarves for some reason so I tend to gravitate towards them more than anything else, but the blanket itself I wasn’t 100% happy with, similar to the scarf.  It was fine, but not great, and the yarn just didn’t seem to want to be a blanket.  It stretched weird and hung strangely.  It feels and looks so much better as a scarf!  It’s now something I am proud to offer and would wear myself!

Before

After

Moral of the story: Always be improving!  And although I applied it to my craft, think of ways to keep improving your life, your health, and yourself to live in happier days.  Read a book, learn a new skill, sign up for a class, go for a long walk, volunteer, donate the stuff that clutters up our lives anyway.  You’ll feel better and be better for it.
Go forth with the spirit of learning, improving, and being better today!

Tuesday Tutorials – Pom Poms

Tuesday Tutorials are quick how-to posts on anything from How to Make a Pom-Pom to tips on How to Make Great Homemade Bread to How to Save Seeds for Next Year’s Garden and everything in between!  Have a tutorial idea or something you’d like to see here? Contact me (through any venue, I check them all everyday) or leave a comment here with your thoughts.  Enjoy learning something new today!

How To Make a Yarn Pom-Pom

Maybe you’re new to knitting, or a seasoned knitter looking for a new way to add flair to your pieces, or maybe you don’t knit at all and just want to embellish your life with the cheery playfulness that are pom-poms.  No matter how skilled you are, you can make your own pom-poms in a matter of minutes, and you DO NOT need to spend money on those fancy pom-pom makers at the craft store.  With some scissors, cardboard, and something circular to trace, you can create your own pom-pom maker to use over and over again.

Gather supplies

  • You’ll need cardboard, scissors, a tapestry needle (or other long sharp sewing needle), and something circular to trace.  For this example I’m making small pom-poms (about 1.5 inches in diameter) and used a standard 1 oz shot glass.

Cut out Template

  • Trace the bigger rim of your glass onto the cardboard to form 2 circles.   Cut out each circle with the scissors.  Draw a small inside ring on these 2 larger circles.  For this size I used the end of a glue stick.  You don’t need to be an exact size here, just use the picture below as a guide.  It is important that you have it close to center.  Cut out the inside circles, giving you an open doughnut shape.
  • Trace the smaller end of your glass onto the cardboard to form 2 circles.  Cut these out and insert the needle through the center of both.  These are used later in the process.

    Pom Pom Maker Kit

Make the Pom-Pom

  • Cut a small piece of yarn and lay it on one of the larger open circles, like this:
  • Then lay the other larger open circle on top.  You’ll want to hold these together tightly so the yarn does not slip out.
  • Start wrapping the rest of your yarn around the cardboard.  I start in the center and work my way to one end, then double back, do the other side, and finally end in the middle.  This ensures an even distribution of the yarn throughout the pom-pom.  The more times the yarn is wrapped, the thicker and more dense your pom-pom will be.  You may want to experiment with this depending on the type of yarn you’re using.

  • Tie the two ends of your center string in a simple slipknot and pull as tight as you can.  If you wrapped your yarn tightly around the cardboard, the center yarn may not move much with you pull to tighten it.  That’s OK! Just make sure the knot stays in place.

  • Take your scissors and insert them between the two pieces of cardboard.  Then cut the wrapped yarn, working your way around the circle. Then it should look like this:

  • Pull the slipknot tight again, and carefully slip out the cardboard template.  Pull again until the yarn is as tight as you can get it (you don’t want you pom-pom falling to pieces!), and tie it with another knot for good measure.

Trimming

  • Now we need to trim the pom-pom for that polished and round look we all want.  Take the two smaller we cut out earlier and sandwich the pom-pom between them.  Then insert the needle through the center of the whole thing (for stability).

  • Take your scissors and trim the edges of the pom-pom around the cardboard circle.  I recommend you do this over a trash can or have a vacuum ready.  My roommate in college would make pom-poms all the time and our carpet looked like a mutli-colored snowstorm happened in our room.

Remove the cardboard, fluff your pom-pom, and you’re ready to tie it to anything you want!

The template can be used over and over, and you create different sizes to fit all sorts of different projects.  I even added some to my red fingerless gloves to get them ready for Christmas!  Have fun making these little fluffy balls to your heart’s content.  After the template is complete, it really only takes me about 5 minutes or less to make one.  You can even add them to gift wrap as a unique alternative to a regular bow.  How cute would that be?
I hope this has be a learning experience!  If you have an comments, questions, or ideas for future tutorials, please leave your comment below.  Thank you!

Great way to show your holiday spirit!