Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Be-YOU-tiful Wall Hanging

So I was surfing around in Pinterest the other day (*smile...okay, that's a fun past-time that does just that...passes time! WOW. You all know what I'm saying.), that's when I found a sign that just said "Be-YOU-tiful", linked to an old blogger's site. I loved the idea--that being YOU is beautiful. So I decided to combine that with another cute sign I'd also come across and make a bright and happy wall hanging. I apologize I'm not doing any type of Easter post--I feel like that should be obligatory, but I honestly haven't made anything Easter-y yet!  Shame on me, I know. ;)  What with all my cool crafting stuff.  Hopefully later this week.  Anyways, here's what I came up with.  It's really easy, and I honestly fell in love with the simple finished product.  I ended up auctioning it off with another project at church service or good's auction (raising money for a non-profit helping terminally ill children), but I want to make myself one now to hang in my bathroom.  I hope you like it too!  Here's how to make it.

First, you'll need the following:

8x10'' canvas
acrylic craft paint
wide tape
spray adhesive
one rhinestone
vinyl (for the lettering--we have a variety of colors for Cricut and Silhouette on our website)
transfer tape (for lettering)
chalk ink (for flowers)
and flower cut outs (from either the Silhouette, Cricut, or a punch. I used a punch for the daisy's, and the Silhouette for the deep purple "different" flower)

Supplies and "designing" process.
First, I mixed a bright orange and a lemon yellow color to get the color I had in mind, and that you see below.  Then I measured a border around my canvas and used some clear packing tape (I didn't have any blue electrical tape, and this worked fine) to cover the edge, about an inch border around the whole thing to create the white outside border.  Then, with the tape adhereed, I painted the center with my orange color and let it dry. (Obviously, remove the tape once the paint has dried...unless you like tape on your wall art. ;) )


Hint: Now one trick that I have picked up for sizing letters or shapes and things that I'll be using for my projects, especially if they are going to be on a flat surface, is to create almost a mock-up of my design in Silhouette Studio, filling it in with the colors I'll be using and measuring it out to as close to the correct size as I can get. Though I am obviously using different mediums (i.e., not just using paper or things from the Silhouette) this allows me to see how I'll really like different color combinations, to get the sizing of my lettering down without having to test it as much, and to just play around with my design until I get it to what I want, without having to waste any of my real materials.  Just a nice hint.

Once I got what I wanted, I cut my letters, used some transfer tape, my Silhouette scraper, and placed the letters where I wanted them.

Try using Silhouette Studio to play around with your entire design and color scheme, even if you are only using your Silhouette for a small part of it, such as the actual lettering.  An easy design tool, without wasting materials.

I used a flower punch I own, as well as a hole punch, to make the daisies   You could also pick a flower from one of your Cricut cartidges or from your Silhouette library or online store.  For my "different'/"you" deep purple flower (inspired by a sweater I was wearing that day--woo hoo for clothes inspiration) I found a 3D flower in my Silhouette library. I can't find it anymore in their online store for you, but they still have a wide variety that you can use. To make the petals of this darker flower stand out, I used some dark charcoal chalk ink around the edges.  Then I adhered a rhinestone to the center for some extra "pop."  Finally, I just used spray adhesive on the backs of all the flowers to adhere them to the canvas.  I don't think regular glue works very well, or lasts very long on canvas--at least with what I've tried.  I didn't want to use hot-glue, since these were just paper flowers.

And there you have it, your simple but Be-YOU-tiful new wall hanging.  I hope you remember how beautiful YOU are!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Just for Fun-- Candied Popcorn Bags

It's a little late for St. Patty's Day posts, but I did decide I'd share a tasty recipe that I tried out this last week for candied popcorn, aka, Jello Popcorn. Thanks to Our Best Bites for such an easy, and surprisingly tasty treat!

recipe by ourbestbites.com
8 cups popped popcorn
1/4 C butter (that’s half a stick)
3 T light corn syrup (honey is a good substitute)
1/2 C sugar
1 3.5oz box jello, any flavor (not the sugar free kind)
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a jelly roll pan with foil or parchment. If using foil, spray lightly with non-stick spray and set aside. Place popcorn in an extra large mixing bowl.
Place butter and syrup in a sauce pan on medium heat. Stir until butter is melted. Add sugar and Jello and stir to combine.
Increase heat and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat so it just simmers. Continue simmering for 5 minutes.
After the sugar mixture simmers for 5 minutes, immediately pour over popcorn in bowl. Be careful, it’s super hot!! Mix right away and keep stirring so everything gets well coated. Spread mixture onto prepared pan and spread out evenly.
Pop in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and let cool to room temp. Then break into pieces and enjoy! You can certainly eat this un-baked as well and it’s just soft and gooey, but definitely bake it if you’re going to pack it up for giving, or serve it as party food so it will be light and crunchy.
If you are nice enough to want to share, put some in a treat bag, cut out a cute tag or two from Tags, Bags, Boxes and More 2 on your Cricut, and you have yourself a lovely "hello friend" gift worth sharing. 

Happy...treatings. ;)

"Simple Cards" and "Creative Cards", by Cricut

A few posts back I promised to show you a few more cards from the "Simple Cards" cartridge for Cricut. That, along with a few friends' birthdays and such, led me to this post.  (Plus, we just lowered our price for both this and our "Creative Cards" cartridge, so...take us up on it!)

This cartridge is just what it says: Simple. The hardest part it picking which color paper you want to use.  Truly, you generally just have to pick your base card color, and your "accent" color paper.  You glue one piece to another, and you have a cute card.  Watch and be amazed. ;0) Beyond that, they are also good to use as bases that you can easily spruce up with a few fun embellishments that you might have on hand.


Add a few embellishments if you want to add a bit more pizzaz to the base card, or leave it just as it is!  I received compliments on both embellished and un-embellished cards. For the "Happy Birthday To You" card, I used my Silhouette Rhinestone Setter with some of their heat adhesive rhinestones.  It's easy to use, and just needs a few batteries. The cartridge also has a feature to make appropriate envelopes for each card type.

You can see how easy these are to assemble, just by looking at them.  But that doesn't take away from how cute they are. Simplify. ;)

Note: For these cards, I found that the dial size corresponded with the size of the folded edge of the card.  So for my vertical cards, it was from the top to bottom.  For my horizontal cards, it was the measurement of the card from left to right.  This was true also for the Creative Cards cartridge.  Keep your dial size on the same setting for a full card and any of the embellishment pieces with it (such as for my Hello card, or my "Creative Card" below), with "real dial size" off to cut appropriately sized envelopes and card pieces.

The "Creative Cards" cartridge also makes easy to assemble cards, with just a few more steps. Because these cards often have a few more pieces, it's important to keep the dial size the same for one full card so that the pieces all fit.  I find the cards on this cartridge particularly adorable, and I don't have to think or design them myself. Below is an example of a "Creative Card" I made using this cartridge.

Cut out all the pieces using different papers
The cartridge insert comes with easy picture instructions for how to make each and every card offered, so that was easy enough.  You can look at their digital handbook online to see.

 I am really a fan of the window cards on this cartridge, such as this card.  Overall, I think these are useful cartridges to have on hand.  Especially when my creativity is hiding somewhere back there in my brain and I am in want of a cute card but unable to dream one up myself.  I still have to force my perfectionist self to chose which paper to use...but at that half the battle is a bit easier when the main design is already made for me. :)  So give yourself some more leisure time...try out Simple and Creative Cards, by Cricut. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chalkboard Vinyl Door Hanger

I'm glad you came. :)
Chalkboard vinyl. Chalkboard vinyl?! How great is that?  Thank you, Cricut and Silhouette, for such a wonderful little invention.  Now I have vinyl that I can write on and that erases.  Brilliant. :)

For my first attempt at using this product, I tried to think of something practical and useful that I could make that I would want for writing different messages on. I decided a chalkboard vinyl sign/door hanger would be just the thing.  I could use it for a variety of things, and just erase and add whatever message I needed that was pertinent for that activity.  This would be great for hosting get togethers, having the sign say "Come Right In!", for sending people around to the gate for backyard parties or even wedding receptions, for letting neighborhood kids know if your kids are free to play or not, or to let visitors know to please knock when there is a baby sleeping in the house.  

So here's what I used for this project (items that we have on our website are put in italics, just in case you are in want of any of them):

Small board or Door Hanger (Got mine for 3.99, plus a 40% off coupon at Hobby Lobby--doable, right?)
Chalkboard Vinyl
Colored Vinyl (for flourish)
Red Craft Paint
Hot Glue-gun
Chalk or chalk marker (at most craft stores--more on the markers later)

And then all your regular useful stuff:

Silhouette Hook
Silhouette Scrapper
Transfer Tape or Paper
And of course, your Silhouette or Cricut Machine ;)

After painting my board and hot-gluing my ribbon to the back of it, I measured and cut out a simple rectangle on my chalkboard vinyl and adhered it to the inside of my board using my scrapper to get out any air bubbles.  I've seen intricate designs with this vinyl as well (from fun swirly magnets to write on, to cute doily-shaped menu planners, to name a few) but for the shape of this board I stuck with your basic, pre-schooler recognized shape of...the rectangle. :)  

I knew that I wanted a design/flourish for the top of the board, and at first was thinking of a fun 3D flower, or some cute design with buttons and ribbons and all that jazz.  But then I got to thinking about how often I'd be using a wet paper towel to wipe off the chalk when I'd change messages.  I decided a paper or otherwise water-disliking embellishment wouldn't be wise to overlap my chalkboard with.  I didn't want the hassel of having to carefully wipe around something, or that would collect my chalk residue, such as ribbons.  Thus, I just picked a colorful vinyl I had on hand for a quick added flourish, knowing I could wipe right over it as well anytime I was changing messages. 

Note: I always remind readers to first test their images on a regular sheet of paper so you can be sure it is just the right size, shape, etc. before cutting it with your vinyl or other specialty media. You can test to be sure you like the shape (etc.) with a simple sheet of paper, and then make any necessary changes without having wasted any of your vinyl or more expensive materials.

After testing the size of your shape by cutting it with a regular sheet of paper, use your Silhouette hook, scrapper, and transfer tape to help you prepare, transfer, and adhere your vinyl just where and how you want it. 
After that, it was just a matter of testing out some different sayings to see how easily the chalkboard marker erased off the chalkboard vinyl!  I read that the markers are a little less easy to smudge, so are good if you want to keep your message up for awhile (such as labeling craft jars, which you may later fill with something else, etc.).  You just use a wet paper towel to wipe it off.  Others suggest using regular chalk for things like menu planners or other things that you want to erase and write on daily or frequently.

With just one quick wipe, it looks like this.
With one more wipe from the dry part of the towel, it's completely gone!
I love it!  And I know I'll use it.  And okay, one more fun idea for how to use chalkboard vinyl, just because I love the idea but don't yet have anywhere to do it (*smile): 

Bonus Idea: Make large "talking"quote bubbles (like the kind that you see in the comics, etc.) and put them on the wall in your child's room or playroom.  Anytime your child says something funny, write the quote up in the quote bubble and take a picture of your kid standing next to it (like the quote bubble is coming from their mouth).  Keep the saying up until another fun anecdote comes tumbling innocently out of their adorably hilarious mouth, then erase and write up the new one!  I am picturing a little set of two or three of these bubbles, of varying size and height, grouped in one area of the wall next to a closet or something, or maybe next to hung pictures of your child.  Now I just need some kids... :) 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Brighten a Day: 3D Flowers and Simple Cards

Using your Cricut and Silhouette to help brighten someone's day is easy, fun, and shows them you were willing to do something a little extra special for them. Not to mention, it is cheaper than buying real flowers--and these last. :) This project used both my Cricut and my Silhouette, though you can likely find something similar for both machines.

All you need is some cute paper, a few brads, a hook tool if you have one, some pipe cleaner, your Silhouette for the 3D flowers, and our new Cricut cartridge "Simple Cards" for this...well, simple card. :0)  (I'll be making more of these cards and showing you some of them in posts to come. They are pretty cute and really easy! Make a bunch at once and have them at your ready for when you want to just grab one and go; although, these are so simple it only takes less than a minute to make each one.) My close friend, the recipient of these items--meant to help cheer her after a rough week--loved them all and now has them decorating her room.  The flowers are cute decorations for a craft room. Try keeping them in a small jar. 

For the card:  Really, there is almost nothing to say. :)  It's so easy.  Just pick which style card you want, two colors of paper (one for the main portion, the other for the background color), and send them through your machine.  It's as simple as gluing the two pieces together.  The Cricut does the rest.  The end. :)

For the flowers:  I picked three different 3D flowers from my Silhouette library, and then ungrouped each of them so that I could rearrange their pieces to make them all fit on one sheet of paper. Can I just say, my Silhouette is awesome?  Look at how perfectly it cut those thin little petals.  For items like the more intricate chrysanthemum flower I made, your Silhouette or Cricut spatula will come in really handy.  It helped keep the petals from falling back onto the sticky mat and allowed me to sort of squeeze my way under them without tearing any of them.  Very helpful.   

Once I finished layering each of the flowers, I noticed my paper choice made them look a little bland/they didn't stand out from eachother, so I did a little chalking around the edges and then re-layered.  Note:   I did not use any glue in this project.  Once I layered the flowers I just used whatever brad I had to hold them together.  The brads spikes also helped to hold on the green pipe-cleaner that I used on stems for two of the three flowers.  I just bent some of the pipe cleaner up top and used the spikes to hold it down.  It worked perfectly!  For one flower, I found an old plastic straw that I had on-hand, and thought that might make a fun stem as well.  I stuck the brad ends right into the straw and was pleased with the fun result, which happened to stay in place wonderfully.

Hint:  One trick is to use your hook as a means of piercing through the paper where you'd like your brad to go through.  I found my hook to be much sharper and precise than the brad spikes, which tended to just bend as I attempted to push them through so many layers of paper. Using my hook took seconds, and worked like a charm.   

         In the end, I had a beautiful set of flowers, a cute card, and a means of showing love to a friend in hopes of brightening their day.  What a great thing. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

DIY Silhouette Print and Cut Designs, and fun Laundry Room Project

Ever wonder how to make your own print and cut images on your Silhouette? Or how to take shapes offline and make them something you can cut?  That is one of the tools and functions that really sets Silhouette apart, allowing you make just about any cut image that you can find.  Recently, my sister came across some signs that she wanted to hang in her laundry room.  Rather than buy them for $10 a piece, she decided to call upon the power of the Silhouette.  Here is a quick tutorial on how to make your own print and cut images, in the form of a cheap and cute project to make to hang in your laundry room.  Just call it my spring gift to those of you still learning (like me!).  (And if you don't yet own a Silhouette, I'd really recommend getting one.  Check out our site for a great deal on this awesome machine.) If this is all old-hat to you, just hang that old-hat up in your laundry room and scroll on for a cute idea of what you can hang next to it. ;)  

First, find the image(s) you want (obviously) and save them to your computer if they aren't already.  It's best if they just have a white background, which isn't as hard to find if you search online. For example, all the images I use in this post and on my last post (Magnet Paper, Who Knew?) were found online with just white backgrounds. For these I just searched "Vintage Laundry Images". However, in order to get the picture "cut-away" from the white background and prepared so that it will cut out exactly around your image (and not just cut out a square around the white background) you'll need keep reading... ;)

Second, open your image in Silhouette Studio, and then open the "Trace" window, to the right of the screen. Click on "Select Trace Area" at the top, and then drag your mouse to draw a square around the full image you want to use.  It will then highlight portions of the image.  You'll then want to uncheck the "High Pass Filter" box in the Trace window, and then increase your threshold until most of your image is covered up by the yellow high-light.  I usually increase my threshold until about 97% to keep edges smoother.  I have included pictures below at each of these stages so that you can see the difference.

After just selecting the trace area.
After unchecking the "High Pass Filter" box.
After increasing my threshold.
Now the full outline of my image is highlighted clearly so I can detach what I'd like from the white background.
As I learn more about each of these items, I'll be sure to share them with you on future projects. :)

Third, after you have the yellow highlight over the part of the image you want cut out, click on "Trace and Detach."  Then drag your picture away from all that white background mess!  At this point I usually paste my new white-background-free image onto a new file/page so as to not have to deal with any of that background mess. You now have your own nice print image!  Now onto cutting.

Fourth, open the "cut" window (by clicking on the icon that looks like a pair of scissors cutting a long a stitch, up to the top of your screen).   Click on your image and then click the "cut" option under Cut Style.  This should create a red line around the outer edge of your image, which means this is where the machine is going to cut.  So far, I haven't figured out how to have it select areas inside an image, such as the portion underneath the handle of my iron image.  Instead, I had to use the knife function and create my own lines to cut out for some images, or used an exacto knife once the main image had been print and cut. For pictures or more info about this, see my previous post.  

Fifth, be sure you click on the box "Show Registration Marks" in the registration marks window.  This is crucial, as it positions the Silhouette perfectly and lets it know where to start its cuts so that it cuts out perfectly around your image.  Be sure your Silhouette is located in a place with good lighting, as the Silhouette uses an optic sensor to find these registration marks on your printed sheet.  Also, be sure to select 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper so that the registration marks are in the correct place for your sheet of paper, and so that you can be sure there is no overlap in your image and the registration marks.  (This is assuming your printer only prints to that size paper.)  

Sixth, send your image/page to the printer.  Once it's printed, send it to your Silhouette and follow the instructions.  (Click "Detect Registration Marks Automatically.")  

Turn on "Show Reg Marks". Use the knife to cut out inner portions of your image that you want cut.  Be sure your paper setting is the correct size, and the image doesn't overlap the registration marks in any way. Print and Cut!
You now have your own print and cut image, ready for the using!  Be sure to save your file, as less-craft-savvy friends may ask you to make them their very own!  Another reason to put off laundry for another hour?  ;)  We'll see.


(Note:  My printer was running out of ink when I made this--shameful, I know--so i chalked the edges of the letters and images using chalk-ink and then regular scrapbooking chalk.  This is a great technique for making letter's and images "pop" a little more, especially when they are light colors or on a busy paper, such as what we chose in this project.  It's a great scrapbooking accessory that's also great for making letters or images look antiqued.)