Alcohol Ink Coasters

I love alcohol ink. I’m new at this art, so still in the experimental stages of my learning process, but I’m finding it to be a truly creative experience since you don’t plan out what you’re going to make—you just play around with it and whatever materializes is what you get.
I like painting on plain ceramic tiles since there’s just a small area to fill, and attaching felt on the underside turns them into great coasters.
First, I made my own alcohol ink, which is a fraction of the cost of store-bought inks. There are lots of blogs with instructions—here’s a link to a blog that explains the process clearly:
I decided to make my sister-in-law four coasters for her birthday, so I got my materials together and played around with my alcohol inks over a Saturday afternoon. You can see pictures below of my results.
I have some of my inks in little spray bottles, and others in bottles with droppers. For the background in all four coasters, I began by spraying some black ink, and then some brown ink.
Then, to make each coaster a little different, I chose a two or three different colours to drip onto each background. At some points, I used a straw to spread out some colours, or I tilted the coaster so colours could run into each other. As I said earlier, it’s all a bit of an experiment, but very interesting and lots of fun to work on.
Once the ink on all four coasters was dry, I sprayed them with a clear sealant to add lasting protection.
All tied up with a bow and ready for gifting!


Care for a cat nap?

A winter Sunday…
It’s a great day to hang out with your friends.

Or perhaps just curl up and have a nice, long cat nap.

Whatever you choose to do… Hurray for Sundays!


Need an easy way to transfer a design onto tracing paper when you don’t have a light table?

Here’s a fast and easy way to transfer any design onto tracing paper: it’s as easy as using your laptop computer screen (or even your iPad). I do own a compact little light table, but if I’m in a hurry, I just use my laptop screen. Here’s how:

1. Pull up the picture you want to trace on your screen, and enlarge it to the size you need.
2. Use masking tape to secure a sheet of tracing paper to your screen.
3. Use a pencil to trace the image onto the tracing paper.
4. Voila! You can turn any design into a template that you can use with applique, painting, or any other arts & crafts projects.
I used this cute image of three elves to refashion a plain white turtleneck top into a “Christmas Eve shirt.”
I simply used the pattern I traced as a template for cutting out small pieces of felt and fabric. Then I stitched everything into place on one large, sparkly piece of fabric. Then I used a basic blanket stitch to sew the entire piece onto the front of my turtleneck top.

So, what can you make with a big bag of buttons?

The last time I was out shopping, a bag of blue and green buttons caught my eye (most normal people would be excited about buying new shoes or bags—for me, it’s a bag of buttons for $1.25).
I bought it, thinking right away that the buttons would be perfect for embellishing a t-shirt in some capacity. The mix of blues and greens made me think of the sea, which made me think next of sea life. When I got home, I dug a plain white t-shirt out of my stash, peered at for a few moments until a picture of a button mosaic in the form of a big fish popped into my mind. Little did I know that this would be the only easy part of this project.

As I usually do, I made up the process as I went along, so bear with me.

(Note: I am a very impatient person, which makes it quite astounding that someone with my personality would even remotely enjoy doing artsy craftsy things. If anything takes too long or is too fiddly, I get super annoyed and start trying to take shortcuts and, I’ll tell you, I was almost constantly annoyed with this project. But I’m glad I stuck it out because (a) it was a great learning experience, and (b) the end result is really pretty cool!

1. Using a pencil, I lightly drew a rough outline of a fish on the front of the t-shirt.

2. Dumping my bag of buttons on my desk, I laid out the buttons on the t-shirt within the pencil sketch so that the different button sizes and colours were fairly evenly distributed, then I took a photo of my layout.

3. Next, I cleared all the buttons off the t-shirt and grabbed my can of temporary spray fabric adhesive. I sprayed the adhesive carefully within the fish pencil sketch. At this point, I had to move quickly before it dried, so looking at the photo I’d taken, I attempted to lay the buttons out on top of the fabric adhesive in approximately the same pattern as the photo. It worked. Everything stuck nicely into place. But then, the next part was more frantic—I had to sew each button down into place, since the fabric adhesive was only temporary. Why do I do these things to myself?

4. Grabbing some blue thread and a sewing needle, I laid the t-shirt out on my lap, rolled the bottom up so I could more easily get my hand in between the front and back layers, and began to sew down each and every button. What a helluva job!!! There was a lot of cursing going on!!! (…and bloodstains on the inside of the t-shirt where I kept sticking my fingers with the damn needle.)

5. Once the buttons were all sewn into place, I looked at it and thought, “Ok. I’ve got a big blue and green fish on my white t-shirt. What can I do to make it a little more exciting?” Sequins would work. I dug some green and blue sequins out of my sewing cupboard and began to sew them here and there, in between the buttons, along with using them to embellish the tail fin. So far, so good. So, what next?

6. I’m always up for a bit of whimsy in my crafts, so I thought a saying of some kind embroidered around the fish would add some interest. So I looked online and discovered a cute saying that reminded me of certain politicians and celebrities: “If the fish hadn’t opened its mouth… it wouldn’t have been caught.”
Loved it.

7. Using some lettering stencils, I wrote the saying out onto tissue paper in the size of lettering that I wanted. Next, I laid the tissue paper out in a way where the words would fall into the right spacing around the fish. Next, I thought to myself, “Ok. How do I transfer the lettering from the tissue paper onto the t-shirt?” When I craft, I have a habit of leaping into things feet first without doing any advance planning. I kind of let things flow as I go along, which we all know isn’t the smartest way to work on a project. But guess what? It always seems to pan out for me in the end. And I’m a firm believer in learning from your mistakes, which is a probably a good thing since I’m continuously learning from mistakes. J

8. Anyway, I had the idea to poke a fineliner pen through the tissue paper around each letter so that dots would outline the letters onto the t-shirt. It worked, and that’s how I transferred the lettering onto the t-shirt. I only did it that way because I knew I’d be embroidering over the dots, so they’d eventually be hidden.

9. Next, I dug out some blue and green embroidery floss and just did straight stitching from dot to dot around each letter. After finishing the outlining, I made lots of little straight stitches inside each letter to fill them in more solidly. Of course, as will happen to someone who neglects to plan ahead, I realized I wasn’t happy with where I’d placed the words “opened its mouth” (originally under the tail fin). Remember what I said earlier about learning from my mistakes?? It just didn’t look right.
I absolutely did not have any desire to pick out all of that stitching and after fuming for a day or so, I decided to try just covering it up with a piece of fabric. I found a nice piece of fabric in my stash with sparkly speckles on it that looked like it could have been bubbles in water. By the seat of my pants, I cut it out and stitched it down on top of the wording that I wanted to cover up. Then I found a silver fish charm to sew on top of it so it would look like there was another little fish swimming through the bubbly water. It ended up working out ok, as you can see in the picture.

10. Then, I used my pencil to just haphazardly write “opened its mouth” in the open space above the tail fin. I was getting sick of this project by now, and couldn’t be bothered to use the stencil and do it properly. That’s me in a nutshell. Impatient as all hell.

11. Last, I wanted to add one more bit of whimsy to my embellishment, so I invaded my husband’s workshop when he was out somewhere, digging through his old tackle box until I discovered an appropriate fishing lure that I could incorporate into my design. I used one of his pliers to break off the barbed end, then stitched it on in the area of the fish’s mouth, using my glue gun to affix the curved end to one of the “mouth” buttons.

12. Phew. I was finally done with this project. But I was also really happy with it! This summer, I will wear it with pride! (Now, how I’m going to wash it is another story. I supposed I’ll be stuck hand-washing it. Ugh.)

P.S. Later, I found a green googly eye in my other button stash and decided to glue-gun it to the collage, as you’ll see in the last photo.

And finally…

The moral of this story: Next time you see a bag of buttons in the store, keep walking! 🙂

It’s the cat’s house… we just pay the mortgage!

I saw this saying somewhere (it’s not far from the truth—most days, our ragdoll cat, Otis, likes to think that he owns our house and us too!:) and knew I had to incorporate it into a craft project.

I decided to make a wall sign for our front porch from a flat piece of log shaving that I had picked up at the logging display at last year’s Markham Fall Fair. I left the wood plain and untreated.

Next, I used sticks collected from a walk in the York Region forest to make an outline of a house—then glue-gunned them into place on the wood.

Once that was finished, I dug into my bag of wooden letters that I’d purchased at the Dollar Store, and used my glue gun to set them into place in a whimsically crooked style.

Last but not least—I wanted to make a replica of Otis. I had bought a coconut a while back and squirreled away some of the broken shell pieces for a future project. It just turned out that one piece was well-shaped for the cat’s face, and the brown tone worked perfectly for part of his colouring. I had two more small pieces that made perfect ears. I painted the face and eyes to match Otis’s colouring, and glued down plastic thread for whiskers. Then I glue-gunned my “coconut” cat into place inside the house frame.

Everything just seemed to fall into place, as often happens when I get an idea for a project.

I’m always collecting interesting objects and storing them away in my craft cupboard until I get an idea that will put them to good use. When you’re addicted to craftiness, you never know when a pinecone or stone or an unusual bit of wood will come in handy!


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