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.

Sweethearts–A Miniature Shop for Lovers

Around Valentine’s Day I felt absolutely compelled to create a miniature shop of all things heart-shaped. But I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. Here’s what I wound up with…

The shell of the shop was a paper mache “hatbox.” I cut out the front door, covered it in black and white Contact paper, trimmed it with black Duck Tape, and added a patio. I also bought a cheap Styrofoam heart wreath and took it apart to put the hearts on the top of the box lid. A line of pink quilling tape runs under the edge of the lid.

The topiary bushes are Styrofoam hearts that I painted and covered with sawdust that I collected from the floor of my local Home Depot. (I actually walked in with a whisk broom and dustpan and cleaned up. No one minded!) The gold urns are party favors from the Dollar Tree. They originally were trophy cups, but I took off the handles and painted them. The sign was part of a Valentine’s Day card I gave David and promptly took back from him.

The lights are the most expensive portion of this display. A bar of LED lights was inserted in the lid. I also had a strand of tiny lights that I put around the heart display shelves in the back. The white border around the top of the wall is actually the plastic strapping tape from a box with reams of paper. The flexibility was great, although it was hard to get the acrylic paint to stick. I added the hearts because of that flaking paint–and came to like them.

The joy of a miniature shop is in its clutter. I love having too much for the eye to take in. Here you see the shelf unit that was once a box of chocolates, the table and chairs, and the side walls. The shelves of the shelf unit are actually pieces from the original box of chocolates.

A close up of the shelves. Let’s work our way from the bottom up. On the bottom are linens made from a paper napkin and lace trim. A box of chocolate from a printie. A tiny Oriental book, tied with black string, from the Bas Bleu catalog. Two large heart bookends. On the next shelf is a container of Ferrer Roche chocolates made from the plastic bubble of a gum package and real wrappers. A perfume bottle. A rack of Valentine postcards, a poster, a candle, a container of real bath salts, an envelope filled with love letters. On the top shelf is a flower arrangement from dried blossoms from an RL (Real Life) arrangement in a small plastic piece I found on the beach, and an assortment of chocolate boxes from printies and from paper Valentine’s Day plates. The tiny box on the right is a printie. On the left bottom is a floral arrangement in a basket with a piece of blue plastic I found on the beach. The red mesh is from a bag of oranges. I made the flowers in this arrangement.

To the right of the shelves is a pink birdhouse with a faux license plate roof. A clock made from dressmaker pins stuck into a shaped piece of wood with hands from plastic toothpicks. An original Zentangle piece of art on canvas I bought from Walmart in the crafts section. The red wax candle in cellophane came from a real candle. The cup with succulents was a purchase from a miniaturist named Betinha Murta (http://betinhamurtaminiatures.blogspot.com/) who taught me to make the roses to the left of the cup with cold porcelain. The signs (love) are “tin” from old Coke cans.

One other cold porcelain rose is in this bouquet. I made the chairs, of which this is one. The tie on the bouquet is a re-used twist tie that had a pretty metallic plastic coating.

Here we are looking to the left. I made the tiny black table. The white shelf unit is plastic that washed up on the beach. I think it must have held batteries? The Valentine’s Day card holder is topped by a piece of metal I found on the ground that’s had a tiny picture of a rose and micro beads added. The big red heart is a rock. The small pink heart on the stand was a bead on a bookmark by my friend and author Krista Davis. The small pink books with the black dress are from a sticky note set from my friend and author Penny Warner. The mirror with hearts is a mirror with punched out hearts stuck around it. I really, really love the picture of the tree with red hearts for leaves. The plates are paper.

Here’s a close up of that black table. The candy dish is made from plastic marked “6” in the recycling code. Any plastic that’s 6 can be shrunk. So I used a rubber stamp to stamp a design, cut the plastic into a heart-shape and applied heat to shrink it. The white vase to the right of it and behind it (the candy dish) is a bit of junk found on the beach.

Here is a close-up of that white shelf unit. I couldn’t believe that I’d found something exactly to scale for this project and it was there on the sand! All I did was clean and paint it with a fresh coat of white! The books I made, and the tiny picnic basket to the right on the bottom shelf is a printie, assembled of course. The tiny tissue “box” is a bead with a heart I painted on it. I also made the tiny clock the LOVE sign, the boxes of perfume, the boxes and the hearts stuck into the floral bouquet are from the hangers for Christmas ornaments, shaped, soldered onto a metal stem, and covered with plastic.

I printed out the plates, shaped them, cut them, painted the edges gold, and covered them with clear nail polish. The napkins are bits of paper napkins tied with gold thread. The forks are pieces of metal from the tops of wine bottles. I doubled the metal and glued it together before cutting and shaping it. The cake stand is the plunger from a syringe cut to 1/4″ tall and topped with a button before being painted white.

I’m very proud of the skirt on the table. I soaked the fabric in glue/water before draping it over the table form. I love the way the fabric drapes!

So what did I buy?  The initial paper mache box, the scrapbook paper for the walls, the “tile” for the floor, the lights, the pink saucer and succulents, the tiny dog statue, the cake–and the rest are all raw materials I put together. Most of the expense, where there is any, came from printies, paint, and glue. The purchased finished items probably cost me less than $25 or $30.

I still have a tiny bit of work to do, but mainly, it’s finished! What do you think?

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!)

How to Create a Literary Vase

A beautiful fall vase!

I was in St. Louis last week, visiting the Carondolet Branch Library for their Author Breakfast event. On the tables were lovely vases, created by Sarah Zolezzi. As a gift for us authors, we were allowed to take one home. But I walked off and forgot mine! ARGH! At least I took this photo.

Sarah asked library volunteers to bring in their old vases. Here’s what I imagine she did next:

* Wash, clean, and dry the vases thoroughly.
* Rip the pages from old, unloved books.
* Cut the pages into strips of various sizes. (You could also tear them.)
* Dip the pages in a bath of tea or coffee. (Just pour old, leftover tea or coffee into a shallow container and dip the pages in.)
* Allow the pages to dry. (This gives them a uniform “old” coloration.)
* Use Mod Podge to adhere them to the vase.

Isn’t this clever? I love it!

How to Make Paper Beads, Part II

Now that you have a plethora of long, skinny triangles, it’s time to make your beads. For the next step, you’ll need:

1.  A lot of wooden toothpicks or skewers. They have to be ROUND, not squarish. These will be used as spindles. You’ll wrap your paper beads around the toothpicks to shape them.

2. A block of Styrofoam. As you finish your beads, you will stick the toothpicks into the Styrofoam so that they can rest and cure.

3. Glue. I like Aileen’s Tacky Glue. Whatever you choose should dry clear, dry fast, and grip quickly. I’ve tried glue sticks, but they are too mess. I like to use a coffee stirrer or a toothpick to dip into my glue and use as an applicator.

4. Sealer. Some people use clear nail polish. I prefer Diamond Glaze. I like to apply it with a brush.

Next, I’m going to show you my super-secret, super-duper, extra-special technique tip for making beads. You won’t read this anywhere else.

 
1. Put the large end of the triangle in your mouth and get it moist. Not wet! This will cause your paper to lightly grip the toothpick.
 
 
2. Wrap the triangle around the toothpick. Remember: The big end starts on the toothpick. Try to keep your triangle centered as you wrap it. If it gets off centered nudge it with your fingernail.
 
 
 
3. Dab a bit of glue to the tippy end of the triangle and smoosh it down to glue it to the bulk of the triangle that is now rolled onto your toothpick. You should have a slightly ovoid shape, bigger in the middle and tapered on each end.
 

 
 
4. Stab your toothpick into your Styrofoam block. Admire your garden of beads. Paint the beads with the Diamond Glaze and let them dry. You might want to do two thin coats.
 
 
Now we let them dry!
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How to Create Inchies — and What to Do With Them When You're Done!

In my newest Kiki Lowenstein short story, she runs short of craft supplies and ideas. But Kiki never fails her customers, so she came up with a wonderful “make and take” project–inchies!

Inchies are one inch by one inch pieces of original art. Typically they are collage art, but that’s not always the case. What’s so wonderful about inchies? Making them will…

  • Stretch your creative muscle,
  • Use up odd scraps of paper, 
  • Encourage you to try new color combinations
  • Supply you with an endless source of cool embellishments!

 

Kiki
Lowenstein’s Inchies

 

This
is such a fun project because you literally cannot do it wrong! Best of all,
it’s a thrifty way to use up those small bits of paper that you hate to toss.
When you’re done, there are tons of cool products that can be used in a variety
of places on your cards or scrapbook pages. You can even trade inchies with
your friends. And yet another benefit…inchies force you out of your crafting
comfort zone. Think of them as an exercise to strengthen your creativity
muscle.

 

 

Supplies:

 

Thin
cardstock

Directions for Making a Shell Mirror


Start with a mirror, of course, but don’t do as I did. I bought a mirror in a frame with a beveled edge. That meant an uneven surface for gluing shells. Buy a flat frame. Glue on the shells. Yes, it’s that easy. Here are a few tips. (Learn from my mistakes!)

1. Sort your shells in advance. I rinse mine with tap water and set them on paper towels to dry. Then I sort them into plastic baggies with ziplock tops. Having them sorted makes it much easier to find what you need. Sort by size, type and color if possible. Sorting by size is particularly helpful!

2. Boil any coiled shells, especially whelks and spirals that might have small critters in them. I try never to take a shell with an occupant, but it can happen. If you don’t boil these ASAP, you will have a huge stinky mess. Trust me on this! You can pick out flesh with tweezers or a straight pin.

3. Include broken shells, large and small shells. Oddly enough, broken shells work very well because you can cover up the missing area, and their unusual shape makes them perfect for nestling against your big shells. Small shells are particularly desirable for snuggling into empty spots.

4. Play with location, putting down your large or most spectacular shells first BEFORE you start gluing things down. I set down an initial layer of shells and built on it.

5. Ventilate your work area. After I finished, I had a colossal headache. I didn’t realize how the fumes were building up.

6. Ignore the “Oh, crud” moment that occurs when you think, “This isn’t going to look right.” It will. I had that moment, but I kept working, even slipping bits of shells under the larger pieces.

7. Let your work dry thoroughly. Otherwise, the pieces can slide.

The glue I used was Quick Grip. I bought two tubes at Ace Hardware and used both tubes. It cleans up with acetone (nail polish remover). It dries clear. It was good and bad. Because it doesn’t completely “set” for 24 hours, I could move things around. It did get stringy, which was bad. I definitely used too much, but I decided to paint my shells with clear nail polish so the extra glue was less noticeable.

Cost: The mirror cost $10 at Walmart, the two tubes of glue came to $8, and the nail polish was about $5. So the total cost of the shell mirror was $23. Pretty nifty when you consider you can’t touch a smaller sized, similar mirror for less than $60.

Here’s another photo. This one is before I cleaned off the excess glue, but it gives you a better look at the shells.

No Money, No Time–No Problem! Last Minute Gifts

Here are three thrifty and simple last minute gift ideas.
1. A Holiday Recipe Book— I used a cute holiday card from the $1 section of Michaels for this. I added the words “Recipes for a” to the front of the card. I slipped the card into a one quart sized plastic ziplock bag. I trimmed the back of the back and taped it shut (envelope style) with a sticker on the reverse side. I punched holes in the left side of the card. I added pages of cardstock with holes punched in them. Slice through 2 plastic curtain rings (Buy them in packages at Walmart. They are really cheap!) with a craft knife. Slip the card and pages onto the ring.
2. Candy Jar– I saved this jelly jar from the recycling bin. I glued a ribbon around the top and tied on a sprig of ivy (silk plant from Michaels) and a sprig of berries (same source). Isn’t it cute?
3. Personalized Gift Tags–If you are like me, you give gifts to the same people every year. Why not take a few minutes to make beautiful personalized gift tags? Or make a set for someone special?