Springtime in Paris

April 14, 2015

Thought I’d share a project I worked on for a couple of weeks this past month. Michael’s craft store had a contest called Springtime in Paris, in which you could win just that – a trip to Paris in the springtime! The categories were jewelry, papercraft, art, baking and floral arrangement. After weeks of nail-biting and hoping and nervous excitement on the part of many, many contestants (there were over 11,000!), they just announced the grand prize winner last evening, and it was this beautiful watercolor painting:


Such lovely, soft Spring-like colors!

The contest was open for an entire month, so I spent a few days deciding what to make. At first I thought perhaps a pretty music box? Naw, too “ordinary.” Okay, what about a decorated suitcase?  My husband pointed out there are already decorated suitcases in the store! (He had a good point.) Then it occurred to me – what about a sketch book? The contest was sponsored by Canson, who make sketch paper, among many other things, so it seemed like a good fit, and I knew I had the technical skills to put a book together. Further, I could make it a sketch-slash-travel book designed specifically for a trip to Paris in the springtime. Perfect!

I started with 8″ square black covers from 7 Gypsies and used a simple, inexpensive crackle technique and French Vanilla paint for the background. (Of course it was FRENCH vanilla!) On this I layered wonderful images from The Graphics Fairy, including a beautiful Parisian lady (the photo features the trademark of a photography studio in Paris), a map of France, a French greeting card, which I sewed onto manila cardstock, and French sheet music for a piece called “Sending Flowers.”

just book

The flourish and crown piece are laser-cut wood that I painted and crackled. I added lace, dyed cheesecloth, crumpled tissue paper, gold ribbon and beads for the binding, and a button that I painted with alcohol ink to match the beads. Dyed seam binding threaded through the back cover is wrapped around the button to act as a closure. This was the first time I ever tried a beaded binding, and I just love the look! (Honestly, it’s bad enough I have a problem with hoarding paper, lace, flowers and ribbons – I now foresee a serious bead addiction in my future!)

Of course, I knew a simple journal wouldn’t be unique/original enough to compete against all the sure-to-be-amazing entries in a national contest, so I decided to add something special: pop-ups! I’d never tried them before, but have always loved them, ever since I was a child and had this book:

pop up riddles

I found instructions for making a simple pop-up by attaching tabs to a page and to a flat image, and used this method to attach six Eiffel Tower die cuts to a folded piece of pink harlequin patterned cardstock. I then added colorful cherry blossom patterned paper to the edges and adhered the piece into the book.

eiffel popup

I remembered from my high school French classes that “printemps” means “springtime,” but had to Google the exact phrase “springtime in Paris.” The letters are die cuts by Sizzix in a font called “Endless Love,” cut from magenta cardstock.

But somehow even this wasn’t enough! I had recently read that there are over 50 carousels in Paris, and Michaels’ gorgeous video promoting the contest even had a carousel in it. Amazingly, I was able to find a pattern for creating a pop-up carousel! I decided to create it from burnished gold specialty paper instead of plain cardstock, as I love the idea of a golden carousel. This part took quite a long time, as each of the many pieces used in its creation had to be intricately cut with an Exacto blade. The engineering necessary to put it together and adhere it exactly at the right spot so that it would fold neatly into the book was its own challenge!  But I am so glad I tackled this, because the finished book is such a treasure. Maybe I’ll start saving up to go to Paris on my own so I can actually use it! :)

carousel popup

Lil’ Houses

April 12, 2015

Most of my artistic endeavors have been what I call “dry” ones. I like to use beautiful images and enhance them with pretty embellishments (flowers, ribbon, lace, glitter and the like) and the messiest I usually get is alcohol ink on my fingers from dyeing seam binding.

Lately I’ve been wanting to try “wet” mixed-media techniques with acrylics, watercolors, gel sticks, you name it, and learn to draw my own images instead of depending on existing ones. I turned to the internet for inspiration, and a few weeks ago on YouTube I found this lovely lady named Kelly Donovan, who loves to share her mixed-media expertise. She is all about using what you have, which makes the process do-able for those who would otherwise not be able to afford the higher-end art supplies. Kelly is great fun to watch and listen to (I especially love it when she breaks into song!) and I find her refreshingly “real” and very accessible (plus, I love her accent, which reminds me of my stepmom’s!).

A couple of weeks ago, Kelly did a series on whimsical mixed-media houses, and I just fell in love with the idea. I finally found time to sit down in my studio and pull out a couple of small canvases (I believe these are 5×7) that I got on sale at Michael’s awhile back. I like the flat canvases because, unlike paper, they won’t wrinkle when you wet them, and unlike stretched canvases, the center won’t sag when you press down with a stamp or stencil.

I pretty much followed Kelly’s method for creating these, adding a few extra touches along the way and incorporating some techniques I learned from my friend, Terri, who has taken some mixed-media classes and is a fabulous teacher in her own right!

Both houses are made from a piece of tissue I got in a package sometime last year that I fell in love with and have been saving to use in a project. (Later I’ll share what I’m making with the rest of the tissue.) The roofs are embossed scrapbook paper that I painted and then rubbed with more paint to highlight the embossing. The balloons are a textured handmade paper, which I made by tracing the cap on a jar of embossing powder and the clouds were made with a white Sharpie oil paint pen and a dab of grey acrylic paint. I drew the flowers with a plain pencil and then used watercolor crayons to add the bright colors.

I worked on both canvases at the same time so they’d coordinate in color and style.

house canvas left

house canvas right

I hadn’t thought ahead about making the paths “meet” in the middle, so I messed that up a little, but if you put them far enough apart, it works.

house canvases

They won’t win any prizes, but they were SO MUCH FUN to make and I think I’m off to a great start in this whole “working wet” kind of thing! Always look forward to seeing what Kelly is working on from day to day, and hopefully I’ll find the time to follow along with her next endeavor.

Compendium of Curiosities Challenge #25

April 10, 2015

Whew – it’s been awhile since I’ve entered one of Linda’s fun Compendium of Curiosities challenges; been so busy with other projects and, ya know, life gets in the way sometimes even if all we really want to do is sit down and create! Every two weeks, a new challenge is issued as we work our way through Tim Holtz’s Compendium of Curiosities III book. Anyone can join in at any time!

The challenge this time is sponsored by the Inspiration Emporium, who always generously offer a $50 gift certificate, which is so amazing! I love shopping with them and they have a BUNCH of Tim Holtz stuff, so check ’em out!

We are using Tim’s Frameworks dies in our creations for Challenge #25 and what fun this turned out to be. I had to visit the Curiosity Crew and really study their work to get some ideas as I was fresh out of ’em at first! It’s always so interesting to see how several different artists use a specific method or material. I had an idea when I started that turned out completely different at the end!

Here are the materials I used for coloring:

steampunk necklace materials

See those little hexagons at the bottom? I used the Honeycomb die, which looks like this:

frameworks die

The hexagons are the leftover pieces that pop out of the frame. I decided to make mine look metallic, so I adhered metal tape onto black cardstock and ran it through the Sizzix machine. Ohhh, shiny silver! It looked really cool, but I wanted some color. I used the alcohol inks to dye all the little hexagons that popped out as well as the frame. Then I dabbed the frame with Antiqued Bronze Distress Paint to give it an aged look. Still didn’t know what I was going to do with it, and then I got to thinking, why not play around with the shape a little? I started cutting away some of the frame and ended up with a curvy shape that reminded me of a necklace. BOOM! A NECKLACE!

So I was off and running. I glued the frame to a piece of grungeboard to make it sturdy, then popped the colored hexagons into the spaces and added the Rusty Hinge Distress Glitter to each to tone down the metallic shine. I adhered a Tim Holtz Trinket Pin to each edge of the frame with E6000 glue in order to attach a chain. It looked all right at that point, but something was missing. Then I thought, why not make it Steampunk? I happened to have gears in two different designs that would fit in the hexagons exactly. That was just what it needed!

steampunk necklace closeup

I colored a Tim Holtz wings charm with the Antiqued Bronze Distress Paint and rubbed on some permanent black ink to age it, then adhered that to the bottom of the frame, which really jazzed it up. I then added a metal corner brad and a Tim Holtz tiny paperclip below the wings so I could hang a jump ring to add a Steampunk gear charm I had in my stash. I used the Marvy Metallics and more Distress Stickles to color the charm to match the necklace.

steampunk necklace 3

The little wings on the Trinket Pins are brads that started out bright gold; I also colored them with the Distress Paint and now they match perfectly.

steampunk necklace 1

I had totally planned to make a paper project when I started. I am not a jewelry maker by any means (despite that I made earrings for one of the earlier Compendium challenges!) and I almost never wear jewelry myself. But I’ve really been into Steampunk themes lately and the necklace almost seemed to make itself!

steampunk necklace 2

Won’t you join us at the Compendium Challenges? It’s so much fun and you can hop in at any time! I’m so glad I was able to participate in the Frameworks challenge; it was a blast!

Wacky Cats

March 9, 2015

So awhile back,  I posted this tutorial on how to make your cat into a Dia De Las Muertos character by transferring a photo and then painting over it. I recently came across one of my “Gatos” paintings and decided it would be cool on the cover of a sketchbook.

dia sketchbook 1

I started with black book covers by 7 Gypsies, bound in some Canson sketch paper and then added my original painting to the cover, adding lots of colorful embellishments. Most of the flowers are from a pack I bought to use in my cruise journal a couple years ago; I love the bright, crazy colors. I didn’t use glitter this time (amazingly!), but the sparkly rhinestones more than make up for it, I think.

dia sketchbook 2

Speaking of cat paintings…

For the most part, I’ve always relied on existing images as the basis for my artwork. I’ve made a lot of backgrounds and embellished like crazy, but when it comes to the main image, very few have been original to me. Lately I’ve wanted to try making my own images. Painting over a photo is a good start, but I want to move towards “original” stuff. While I am very poor at drawing, I can do basic shapes and don’t mind too much erasing and re-drawing.

So I’ve spent the last couple of weeks haunting blogs and YouTube and working my way up to trying something original. The tutorials helped me decide on a method; basically to make a background and draw the image separately to glue on later. Great way to not mess up a great background if the focal point is “pre-approved.” :)

I decided my first attempt would be a cat, since it’s not difficult to draw a cat’s face and the more “whimsical” I made it, the less I’d have to depend on actual drawing skills!

The background was simple; a few scraps of different papers (book text, sheet music, scrapbook paper) glued down onto mat board with decoupage medium, painted, and then some stenciling and stamping added when that was dry. I drew the cat’s face on white cardstock, cut it into quarters and painted each quarter separately, then glued them back together on the background. Then embellished like crazy, adding a stamped crown, a dress and sun border cut from scrapbook paper, and a few stick-on pearls and rhinestones. Final touch was some doodling and writing with a black Pitt pen.

wacky cat

It’s not the most exciting piece, but I think it’s fine for my first effort at something original. I may mount this on a black background to make it pop a little more. The colors on the background got a little muddied (my bad for being too impatient to let each layer dry!), so I’ll work on that next time, and maybe I’ll plan a little better and pick out what I’m going to use ahead of time instead of using whatever was close at hand on my messy table!

Compendium Challenge #21

February 13, 2015

I can’t believe there have been 21 challenges already! Linda Ledbetter’s doing a great job putting these challenges together, and the Curiosity Crew always makes such pretty examples of each technique from Tim Holtz’s Compendium of Curiosities III.So much inspiration! You can join in any time; and why wouldn’t you when there are prizes to be won! This time the sponsor is The Inspiration Emporium, and coincidentally, I am getting ready to place an order. It’s so much fun shopping there; if you’re a Tim Holtz fan, they’ve got just about everything you’d ever want!

This time we are turning to page 55 and learning a technique using Rock Candy Distress Glitter. I can’t tell you exactly what we did, but it was fun and easy and of course, sparkly! (I always love sparkly.)

My take on this was as a background and I used this particular image, stamped a few times onto a tag which had been colored with Distress Ink:

valentine vine stamp

This is a close-up; the whole stamp is about 5″ long. I’m showing you the stamp because there’s no way you can tell what this image is in the final product! But it does make a great sparkly background.

Like 99% of everyone else, I’m thinking of Valentine’s Day this week, so I went with that theme.

valentine tag closeup

Hopefully this closeup shows the sparkle at least a little bit. Rock Candy Distress Glitter is very chunky! I sprinkled a bit of “regular” glitter on as well to make sure all the areas were well covered. The round stickers are by Bo Bunny.

Using a Tim Holtz die, I made a pretty pink rosette to compliment the pretty fluttery lady.

valentine tag rosette

I punched the center from red glitter paper and added Stickles to the rosette edges.  A bit of lace, ruffly trim and a sheer ribbon for the top, and this tag is ready for its Valentine debut!

valentine tag

A Fun Use for Scraps

February 13, 2015

Not long ago I ran across a wreath on Pinterest that had been made by winding seemingly random scraps of fabric, ribbon, trims and fibers around a Styrofoam wreath form. It was adorable! I printed a photo and left it on my studio table, and it’s been simmering on the back burner for about a month. A few days ago, I was sorting through my fabric scraps and came across a little pile of flannel pieces left over from making this and a similar rag quilt:

i heart muffins front

The second quilt, which is queen-sized, is currently on the bed in our guest room. It’s very similar to this one, except the hearts are solid pink and I used four additional flannel designs (also, there’s no name on it). It struck me that a “scrappy” wreath made mostly with these fabrics would be a perfect addition to the guest room.

I started with a straw wreath, as I had picked up three of them very inexpensively at a thrift store recently. I don’t imagine I’ll buy any more wreaths of the straw variety, as they are quite messy, but the price was right! I wrapped the wreath with scraps of flannel in various widths, then covered the edges of each pieces with lace, trims, ribbons and fibers from my stash.

It took awhile to think of a suitable focal point for the wreath; finally I decided to create three stuffed hearts sewn with raw, frayed edges like those on the quilt.

flannel wreath large heart

The hearts didn’t look quite right, no matter how I placed them, and I was starting to get frustrated. Then I thought, why not add flowers to them? Instantly they looked better.

flannel wreath medium heart

They got even better when I added leaves and then a ribbon bow to each. I thought it would be too much even as I was gluing it all on, but it turned out “too much” was just what it needed!

flannel wreath small heart

I took these photos of it hanging on our front door so I could take advantage of the great sunshine we’re having today, but ultimately this will hang in our guest room, perfectly complimenting the bedspread.

flannel wreath 1

I had so much fun making this! It took almost three hours and more than a dozen hot glue sticks, but I enjoyed every minute of the process (and only burned myself twice!). About 15 years ago, I got bitten by the wreath-making bug and made a bunch for a craft fair. I don’t know why I stopped making them; they are so versatile and almost anything goes! (Apparently I forgot to vaccinate for the wreath-making bug, because now I think it’s coming back!)

flannel wreath 2


Compendium Challenge #20

January 31, 2015

Once again I find myself getting a project done at the last minute! We’re having a blast at Linda Ledbetter’s fun and fancy blog for challenges based on Tim Holtz’s newest book, Compendium of Curiosities III. This time the sponsor is The Funkie Junkie Boutique, and what a great place to get all your newest artistic accouterments!

We have turned to page 40 in our Compendiums and learned some useful additions to the watercolor technique. I love Tim’s version of watercoloring and don’t do it nearly often enough. It was fun to pick out a stamp that would look great being colored in this fashion, and I quickly settled on one of the many mermaid stamps I have owned for many years. Unfortunately I can’t remember who makes this stamp (and forgot to write it down when I first bought it, as I usually do), but I just love her; she’s such a pretty lady of the sea!

mermaid tag 3

I used the technique as described in the book, adding some of my own special touches. When it came time for the spritzing, I masked off the mermaid’s face and most of her body, as I didn’t want any speckles there. After tearing the watercolor paper around her, I decided she was a good size for a tag, so I made the background on a tag with my favorite Tim Holtz background technique: cover it with various shades of Distress Ink and then spritz with water. I just love the look!

mermaid tag 2

I departed from my usual “everything is lined up and centered and straight” approach this time; which was so much fun! The paper had curled up a little from the water, so I left it that way and just glued the center down. The lace, flowers, mulberry paper and crepe paper were added in the same way; a little off-kilter and not quite firmly glued down. I need a lot more practice before I can do this kind of thing with skill, but I’ve always loved that “thrown-together without a care” look that some talented artists can achieve. (Of course, we all know it takes a very long time to make something look like it took a minute!)

mermaid tag 1

As usual, the final touches had to be Stickles. (I have all the new colors on their way to me as we speak! I’m a Stickles hoarder/junkie/collector!) I mixed Persimmon Stickles with Ranger Glossy Accents to embellish the floral lace, and made a couple of flourishes with True Blue covered with Diamond to tone down the color a little.

There are plenty of challenges left to go and loads of inspiration from the Curiosity Crew! You have two entire weeks to finish each challenge, so won’t you join us?

Sewing Journal, Part Two (or possibly Part One)

January 16, 2015

Little did I know when I made a sewing journal for the Compendium of Curiosities challenge, that my comment about Challenge #13 being “lucky” was prophetic! For, as it turned out, I won the random drawing in that challenge for a $50 gift card to Inspiration Emporium, whereupon I immediately purchased a whole bunch of Tim Holtz fabric. It’s still waiting in my fabric stash to be made into an amazing rag quilt.

I made a sewing journal (here) because I knew I’d need another one soon. I was quickly filling up a blank book I’d found at the thrift store with photos, stories and fabric swatches and knew I’d need to expand into a second volume (at the very least). Last evening I decorated the cover and now my first journal is complete!

As with the first journal cover, which is going to be the second journal (yes, I’m confused), I used a photo of a pretty lady at her vintage sewing machine and added the word “SEW.” These puffy vinyl stickers started out glittery white; I used alcohol inks to help them match the rest of the embellishments.

1st sewing journal 3

I left part of the background of the original book cover showing; it depicted an ancient Greek scene of two lovers (pretty people in togas!) with metallic silver swirls around the edges. I liked the edges and so left them bare. Along with the image of the lady at her sewing machine, I added stamped pink tissue paper, wide gingham ribbon, satiny ribbon yarn, lace, a beautiful silk flower, some Stickles swirls and a paper butterfly that I colored with chalk.

1st sewing journal 4

I had trouble getting good pictures; it’s been overcast and rainy the past two days, so the photos came out a little “gloomy.” But you can still get an idea of the design, even if the colors are a bit muted.

1st sewing journal 1

I love how “fat” this book is. The inside pages are heavy cardstock folded over double with slits in each corner to accommodate photos. I had a great time filling it up with journaling and pictures of my rag quilts and rag bags and can’t wait to get started on the first one I made (which will be the second one)!

1st sewing journal 2

Another Rag Bag!

January 10, 2015

A couple of months ago, I found a fabulous deal on batik fabric charm squares on Ebay: two dollars each for packs of 32! Early this morning I was cutting fabric for a flannel rag quilt shaped like the American flag for Dude (finally got all those darned stripes cut!) and ran across the batik squares again. I’d been wanting to make another “rag bag” and those squares were calling my name pretty loudly. (They were actually shouting; it was crazy! I had to shut them up somehow.)

This project takes 38 five-inch squares (but only 19 “pretty” ones if you want to use different fabric for the lining) and is so easy to make; you can see a very good three-part video tutorial here.

The best part of this project wasn’t the low cost, but how quickly it went together! I started at 6:00 and had a finished bag by 8:15, and that included all the snipping! Although after I was finished, I did take another half hour to add a big, pretty button and a closure as an afterthought. I got a large embossed metal and shell button at Mood Fabrics when I visited my dad in New Jersey a few years ago and he took us to NYC. As a big Project Runway fan, of course I HAD to go to Mood Fabrics! (I spent 8 bucks on the button, but it’s so cool! And yes, I did get to meet Swatch.)

Anyway, here’s the front of the bag. It’s not the greatest picture as I took it at about 9:30 and the sun was still pretty low and making odd shadows:

batik tote front

The finished size is about 12″ long, 8″ tall and 4″ wide. Here’s the back:

batik tote back

One can never have too many bags, am I right? And so much fun when you can make your own.

Normally, after snipping the seams, you throw a rag bag (or quilt) into the washer to fray the edges. I did a little “cheating” on this one by fraying the edges with a stiff wire brush I bought at a rubber stamp store a few years ago. The intended purpose of the brush is to fray the edges of paper and cardstock for a vintage look, but it frays fabric quite nicely! (Also, you have to be careful where you put your silly hands while doing this, because it is more than happy to fray your fingers as well!)

Mine looks like this, except the handle is purple. It’s a great tool to have around!


Now that Christmas is over, I can share two rag quilt throws I made a couple of months ago that were for gifts. The first was for my dad, a long-time hot-air balloonist. I used plaid homespun in light blue plus cotton fabrics with steampunk images, balloon images and sky/compass images. I had to dye the steampunk fabric, as it had a bright white background that didn’t fit in with the vintage look.

hot air 3

My dad reports that his cat, Yoda, loves to sleep under it! I name all my rag quilts, and this one is called “New Direction” (because of the compass design on the long strips).

hot air 1

Just ignore Dude’s lil’ legs sticking out from underneath!

The second throw was made from a “random” jelly roll I bought from an Ebay seller who makes them herself along with some floral fabrics I got at Joann’s to coordinate. I call this one “Flower Power.”

brown floral closeup

The yellowish fabric with the wavy stripe was from a “destash” lot I bought from an Etsy seller. I hadn’t originally intended to use it, but I didn’t have enough fabric to make it long enough otherwise, so I’m glad I had it on hand.

brown floral front

Rag quilts are so much fun to sew, and make great, unique gifts for people who live where it’s super cold!


January 5, 2015

So it’s already time for Challenge #19 over at the Compendium of Curiosities III challenge at Linda Ledbetter’s, where there is always a ton of fun and inspiration! There’s plenty of time to jump in and join us. Need motivation? Besides all that inspiration, there are great prizes to be won; this time the sponsor is the Inspiration Emporium, and I can tell you from personal experience that shopping there is amazing; they have just about everything Tim Holtz-related and they ship quickly, too!

For Challenge #19, we are turning to page 66 in our Tim-nals (HA!) – aka, the third volume of the Compendium of Curiosities – and learning the Frayed Fabric technique.

I will admit at the outset that I stole ideas from two of the “Curiosity Crew” this time; using a Burlap Panel for my background, as did Susan Mostek, and adding some swipes of Distress Ink (in my case, Tea Dye) to the fabric itself, just like Yvonne Blair. Thanks so much for the inspiration, gals!

Awhile back, I had printed some pretty images of little flower fairy girls onto fabric for a project, and used all but a few. I decided to use one of these as my main image so that I wouldn’t have to use any paper in this fabric project.  (I did end up using mulberry paper in the background, though!

frayed fabric 4

I had some black & white gingham fabric in my stash from when I made sachets a couple years ago; they were already cut into squares for sachets, so I had to get a little creative with those. And of course, I had to have a flower! I put it together from three different sets of petals and rubbed them with Old Paper and Tea Dye Distress Inks to make them look old.

frayed fabric 3I used the beautiful butterfly fabric and sewed a few straight parallel lines, a big “X” and a fancy zig-zag around the edges. (Super fun!) Layered on the gingham (also frayed) and the fabric image, which I sewed down on each corner, then added two colors of mulberry paper, a bit of lace and some Tim Holtz Tissue Tape. The final touch was a Tim Holtz ornate plate rubbed with a bit of cream-colored acrylic paint; I used the same paint along the edges of the burlap canvas, along with more Tea Dye ink.

frayed fabric 1

I think I could get addicted to these burlap panels! They are so much fun to decorate and such a great background for so many looks. Can’t wait to see how everyone interprets the Frayed Fabric challenge!


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