Six Tips to Improve Your Coloring

By Joanna Campbell Slan

Although it seems like a fad, coloring was first prescribed by Carl Jung as part of his therapeutic regime for adults.¬†For years now, therapists have suggested using coloring books as a way for adults to self-sooth. One theory is that the smell of the crayons reminds us of happier times and our childhood. It’s also likely that the repetitive motion of our hands as we fill in spaces is soothing. Or maybe it’s simply that creativity is a basic human need. (I like that theory; it makes sense to me.)

Whatever.

Today coloring books for grown-ups are hot, hot, hot.

I love to color; I always have loved coloring, even since I was a kid. My preference is using color pencils.

Here are six of my best tips for improving your colored pencil skills.

  1. Choose the right surface. I like glass under my paper. Self-healing craft mats tend to be too lumpy. The smoother the surface, the better your final product.
  2. Buy the best crayons or pencils that you can afford. Cheaper pencils have less pigment, making it harder to “lay down” the colors.
  3. Use a craft knife or a sharpener and an emery board to sharpen the point of your pencil. Sharpen your pencils as soon as the point goes dull. If you get in this habit, your pencil will always be ready for you and you’ll waste less of the pencil when you sharpen it.
  4. Erase your mistakes with kneaded rubber erasers. Yes, they really are different from ordinary erasers, and worth the price.
  5. Blending colors is an art. You can blend them by overlapping or changing the strokes, by using a white pencil over your strokes, by using a tortillion (a paper stub) or a blending pencil, and/or by using nail polish remover. To do the latter, dip a cotton swab into the remover and lightly touch it to the pencil marks. The results are amazing!
  6. Take the time to learn a little about colored pencil techniques. A little education will help you get the best final product.

Do you like to color? Which do you prefer: crayons or pencils? Comment here or at Killer Hobbies and I’ll choose one lucky commenter who’ll win a set of colored pencils. It’s a lovely set that I bought from Staples. (I got one for myself, too.) I’ll announce the winner this coming Friday.

An A -ma-ZINNing Afternoon with Alice Zinn

By Joanna Campbell
Slan

At first blush, Alice Zinn’s home looks like all the other
houses in her neighborhood. The building is pleasant, on a pretty corner lot in
a small city in Florida. However, when she opens the door and permits you
entrance, you feel like you’ve fallen down a rabbit hole into an enchanted
universe where fairytales and wishes come to life in miniature.

Because she knew I was interested in her workspace, Alice
took me on a quick tour of her shop before we had the lunch she so kindly
prepared. The converted garage is packed with supplies, as you might imagine,
but most importantly, everything is labeled. Alice can put her hands on things
quickly. I stood there and turned a tight circle at the stacks of plastic
storage tubs that lined the walls and towered over my head. Her computer is at
a right angle to the desk where she works, and therefore, perfectly situated
for convenience. Although she enjoys working from the comfort of a big cushy
office chair, because her work space is so large, she also makes use of a backless
stool on rollers so she can scoot along the corridor in her warehouse of
supplies.

When you meet Alice, you are immediately struck by her active,
seeking mind. Her breadth of knowledge about the world in general is amazing.
Her process is one of problem-solving. The pneumatic stool is an example. Its
height is easily adjustable, and there’s a tray on the bottom so the stool can
actually be used to transport items. Really, it’s perfect. I found myself
coveting this handy seat. Alice laughed and said, “Stop by Harbor Freight.
It’s on your way home.” I did and bought one for myself, a bargain at $26.

Walking from the workroom into the house, I paused to gawk
at the shelving over the top of the doorsills. Alice set cove molding a ninety-five
degree angle, turning the wood slats into narrow shelves. On these she’s
displayed miniature chairs in all sorts of furniture styles. There’s also a cabinet
full of gifts, including a china collie given to Alice by her grandmother.
Alice was eight at the time and suffering from chickenpox. Young Alice was
bothered by the fact that the dog didn’t have fur, which made the piece more
like a statue than a miniature pet. Many years later, when Alice decided to
make miniature animals for a living, she set herself the task of making them
furry, because no one else was doing so at the time.

We passed Alice’s bathroom, and oh, my! A person could get
lost in there. She’s packed the place with tiny scenes, including a shadowbox
of Teddy Bears, which houses another childhood favorite of hers. There’s also a
small nautical scene on the back of the toilet. “Guests go to the restroom
and take forever,” said Alice. “They get so involved with the
minis.”

As I wandered around Alice’s home, it was delightful to
pause and admire all the minis, including one particular castle, a showcase for
Alice’s sense of humor. The piece is called “Fear of Flying.” It
depicts a wizard teaching a young dragon to spread his wings.

“Dis-embarking”  *  Photo courtesy of Alice Zinn.
Nearby is a large Japanese house with a most unusual
provenance. It was built post-WWII by a Japanese architect who wanted
Westerners to see what a typical Japanese home was like. Alice’s iconic Noah’s
Ark scene

Part 4–The Conclusion of Kiki Lowenstein and the Penny Pincher

By Joanna Campbell Slan
Editor’s Note: In Parts 1, 2, and 3,
Kiki Lowenstein, owner of Time in a Bottle, has been teaching a two-session
class called “The Double-Dip.” This week, her customers brought in one of their
favorite dessert recipes to use in an 8- by 8-inch cookbook album. There’s a
bit of friction in the group because Iona Lippman and Lisa Ferguson both claim
to make an outstanding red velvet cake

Taking Care of Yourself This Holiday Season

So often we take care of everything and everyone but ourselves during the holidays. I know, because I’m a poster child for trying to do too much. Right now, I’ve got a miserable cold, and I suspect it’s from getting too little sleep and working too many hours.

The question seems eternal: “How do we care for ourselves, especially during the holiday season?”

One way is to listen to our needs, to make time for us. For those of us who work at home–especially those of us who are writers–it can be especially tempting to work around the clock and on weekends. That seems like a great way to get ahead, but eventually we pay the price in loss of enthusiasm, or burnout.

Making time for yourself pays dividends because it keeps you healthy in mind, body, and spirit. I find that crafting for others not only results in gifts that I like to give, but it also allows me a sliver of meditation space, time for myself.

With that in mind, I’m offering a FREE gift with the purchase of my new book, Handmade, Holiday, Homicide. The gift includes instructions, patterns, and images for thirteen crafty projects. Some are appropriate to do with children; some aren’t. All are thrifty and don’t require special equipment.

Here’s the list:

* A trio of Christmas Carolers
* An Icosahedron Ornament
* Crocheted Necklace
* A Snowman Luminaria
* A Spa Basket

Scented bath crystals are relaxing and help you sleep at night.

* Fantasy Jars
* A Turtle Trinket Keeper
* Gingerbread Men
* A Quilted Glasses Case
* A Scrapbook Album in a Folder
* A Dollhouse in a 3-Ring Binder
* Mini Book Earrings
* A Book Garden

Included with the FREE gift are six yummy recipes!

But hurry…these are only available if you purchase your copy of Handmade, Holiday, Homicide on or before December 15, 2014 (the release date).

Grab your copy today:  http://www.amazon.com/Handmade-Holiday-Homicide-Lowenstein-Scrap-N-Craft-ebook/dp/B00PA26YL2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417791560&sr=8-1&keywords=Handmade+Holiday+Homicide

Excerpt from Handmade, Holiday, Homicide

Book #10 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series

 
by Joanna Campbell Slan
 
 
 

 
People think that being pregnant is
all about your growing belly, but the truth is, it also messes with your head.
It’s like for every inch my waistband expands, I lose ten points of my IQ.
Maybe it’s because I don’t get much sleep anymore. My skin itches, the baby
pokes me with his feet, and the indigestion causes a burning in my throat.
Don’t even get me started on the hormones. Whatever the scientific reason for
my brain fog, I’m just not as sharp as usual.

My fianc

How to Make a Hummingbird Feeder — Miniature Tutorial (1:12 scale)

I love using things that would normally hit the trash can. This project reminds me to look at familiar objects with fresh insight. For years I’ve tossed away the lids to the McDonald’s beverages. I was amazed when I looked carefully and noticed the raised icons. I can’t wait to see what I can do next with the other emblems!

SUPPLIES:

Red nail polish or acrylic paint
Yellow nail polish or acrylic paint
Red paper
Length of green floral wire (six inches)
Scissors
A needle or something to poke a small hole with
Circle punch (preferably the same diameter as the straw
Tacky Quick Drying glue
Clear drinking straw
The plastic lid from McDonald’s cold beverage
Either–cardstock or air-dry clay

METHOD:

1. Locate the icon on the beverage that looks like a flower. Press air-dry class (such as DAS) into the icon and let dry. (Alternative: Cut out the flower. Glue it to cardstock. Cut out around it again.)

In the eleven o’clock position on the lid, you can see the flower icon.

 

2. When the icon is dry, paint it bright red. Add yellow dots to the flowers. (Tip: Use the end of a toothpick to make the dots perfect.)

3. Cut a length of the straw, about 1 inch long or so.

4. Cut a thin strip of red paper, about 3/8″ wide and an inch long. Glue it around the top of your length of plastic straw. Let dry.

5. Put out a circle from the red paper with your circle punch. (Alternative: Trace the end of a straw on red paper. Cut out the traced circle.)

6. Put a tiny hole in the middle of the red circle. Enlarge it until the green floral wire will fit inside. Bend the floral wire into an upside down letter “L”. Poke the shortest end into the hole in the red circle. Glue it to the red circle. You now have the cap of the lid and the wire stand.

7. Attach the red circle (cap of the lid and wire stand) to the top of the straw so that it meets the red strip of paper. Glue together. Coat with red nail polish.

8. Glue the flower to the bottom.

How to Make a Miniature Rustic Bench

My sister has this wonderful rustic chair outside her house. It was made with twigs (okay…BIG twigs), and I love it. Right now, rustic/twig furniture is all the small rage. This pattern will work for a real miniature setting (1:12 scale) or for a fairy garden.

This was also inspired by the wonderful tutorial by Lesley Shepherd. I urge you to check it out before you start this project. http://miniatures.about.com/od/miniatureprojects/ss/arustictble.htm

SUPPLIES:

Bendable twigs (I got mine from an Australian pine tree) in a variety of sizes (six, eight, and ten inches?)
Twigs of all sizes
Pine needles, dried (ditto that Australian pine) (or craft grasses or floral wire)
Cardstock (old cereal boxes are great)
Clothespins or clips
Wood glue or Elmers glue
Tacky glue (quick drying)
Waxed paper
Pencil
Black marker (a Sharpie)
Craft knife
Glass jar (2″ across the lid. I used a 3 oz. jar of capers. Probably a glass Coke bottle would work, too.)
A pot to boil water in (I keep an old pot for crafting. Don’t use it to eat out of later!)
Balsa wood, cut to 3″ by 1 1/2″ by 3/8″ (This will be the seat of your bench)
Floral wires (Three or four. The plain uncolored type is best.T
Brown and black paint or markers
Hedge clippers or sturdy scissors
Tongs

METHOD:

1. Choose four small twigs to be legs for your bench. These should be roughly the same size. Set these aside. Tip: If they aren’t the same length, use the hedge clippers or scissors on them. You can also sand them down to the right length. Mine are about 1 3/4″ long.

2. Bend your longer twigs so that one end touches the left and one touches the right of your piece of balsa wood. The twigs should NOT break but it might not want to bend to this shape easily. That’s okay. We’re going to help it along.

3. “Drill’ holes on the left and right to hold the ends of the twig. I used the tip of my X-acto knife and turn it around and around to “drill” the holes.

2. Fill your pot with water and start it boiling. Take it off the stove and put your twigs in the water. After about a five minute soak, use your tongs to retrieve them. Bend them around the jar. Clip the two ends of each twig together with clothespins and let them sit for an hour or so.

3. Use your piece of balsa as a pattern and trace it onto the cereal box. Cut out the rectangle. Draw an X in the middle of the rectangle, to delineate four triangles. Number the triangles 1, 2, 3, and 4. Cut them out. Using the balsa as a pattern, mark the holes with your Sharpie. Punch out holes in the cardstock to match where you have the holes in the balsa.

Learn From My Mistake or LFMM (because I make a lot of mistakes!): You’ll notice that I marked the triangles on the plain, unprinted side of the cereal box–and then I covered those markings with pine needles. DUH! Mark the printed side of the box, not the plain side. (In other words, do the opposite of what I’m showing you above.) You’ll use the plain, brown, unprinted side to glue your pine needles on!)


LFMM Draw an arrow showing you which way to point your pine needles. They should all point in, towards the center of your seat. This arrow will go on the plain side of the box, as I’ve shown you below. If you don’t do this, you can get confused. Your pattern won’t come out right.

4. Using the wood glue, start gluing pine needles onto the triangles. Keep the needles straight and next to each other as you go. They will hang over the edge of your pattern. No biggie!


LFMM (Remember that acronym! I’ll use it a lot!) Don’t spread the glue all over the triangle. Instead, make a stripe of glue about a quarter of an inch wide. Work one stripe at a time. This will give you more control.


LFMM Cut the pine needles into shorter pieces, about two inches long. They naturally have a curve. By cutting them, you don’t have to deal with the curve.

LFMM To corral these little suckers, and to get them to line up neatly, use the tip of your X-acto knife or a plastic credit card.

5. Wrap the triangles in a piece of waxed paper. make a sandwich of them. Put something flat on them to help them dry properly. Alternatively, you could use two pieces of heavy plastic (like from a take out container) and pinch it together with clothes pins to help the triangles to dry flat. You might also want to add a little more glue to the top of the triangles. But not too much or the glue will show a lot.

6. Neatly trim the excess pine needles. Use your scissors.

7. If the bent wood is dry enough, you can unclip it. (You’ll be amazed at the wonderful bend you’ll get!) Size one piece to be the primary bent back for your bench. Test it and put it in the holes. Trim it with the hedge clippers or scissors if necessary. Insert into the holes, add glue, and use a bit of masking tape to hold them in place until they dry.

8. Using paint or markers, color your floral wire brown-black. Let it dry.

9. Reassemble the four triangles that make up the seat for your bench. (You’re going to be so happy about those numbers on the back. They’ll really help!) Adjust holes for the bent twig back of the bench. If you are happy with how it looks, glue the triangles onto the bench seat, the balsa wood. Trim around the seat with longer pieces of pine needles. See the photo below? I used a bit of masking tape to keep the longer pine needles down as they dried on the trim.

LFMM Lesley Shepherd used longer “pine needles” (she bought craft grasses) and first set down an X in the middle of her seat. Then she added the triangles. This made the whole thing look more finished.

10. Add another bent twig back. This one will be larger than the first. Glue the ends of it next to the ends of the first bent twig back.

LFMM You might want to make a tiny notch in the bench seat for the new twig back. It’ll help keep the twig stable.

11. Wrap wire between the two bent twig backs.

12. Add spindles made of more twigs to the back.

13. At this point, you’re basically done. You can add “arms” by trimming another bent twig and gluing to to one of the backs and to the seat. You can also add spindles between the legs, wrapping them with wire, if so desired.

Don’t forget to admire your work. What a clever, clever crafter you are!

If you have any questions, just put them in the comments section below or email me at JCSlan@JoannaSlan.com

Miniature Basket Tutorial

This is a fun project that keeps another bit of plastic out of the landfill. Here are two finished versions of this project.

SUPPLIES:

Empty and clean plastic coffee creamer container
Quilling strip (or strip of paper cut 3/8 inch wide)
Duct tape (optional)
Masking tape (cut into half inch pieces)
Scissors
Punch (optional)
Paper to match or contrast with your quilling strip
Beads (optional)

METHOD:

1. Cut the rim off the creamer container.

2. Carefully cut the container into spokes. (Tip: Follow the indentations.) (Note: You could use a permanent marker and color the base of your basket–the creamer container–at this point.)

3. Tape down the quilling strip.

4. Begin to weave it over and under. (Tip: If you have an even number of spokes, skip two at the start of each round. That gives you a nice alternating woven pattern.)

5. Use bits of masking tape to hold down each new quilling strip row. Otherwise the qulling strip will side up, up and away!

6. When you are as high as you want to go, tape down the end of the quilling strip.

7. Stick a piece of duct tape to a cutting mat or a glass surface. Cut it into a thinner strip. (Tip: Use a craft knife and a cork-backed ruler for this.)

8. Peel off the duct tape and wrap it around your basket. Alternatively, glue a quilling strip around the top of the  basket.

9. Decorate your basket with punched shapes and beads.

Ta-dah! Aren’t you smart? (I know YOU are!)

Excerpt from TEAR DOWN & DIE

Chapter
1
Early
September…
St. Louis, MO
Sometimes you need
to go backwards to move forwards. Especially when you doubt yourself and don’t
know what to do next. All my packing was done. Boxes that would go into storage
formed an untidy wall around me.
“Where
you moving to?” asked one of the men from the van lines, as he flicked the
butt of a Camel cigarette onto my lawn. Except it wasn’t my lawn. Not anymore.
So why worry?
“I
haven’t decided yet.”
That
pretty much summed up my life. I was at a crossroads, a spot on the map between
emptiness and confusion