Saturday, September 27, 2014

Creepy Crawly Shrinky Dinks

While putting together the third installment of skull hemp jewelry, I realized I can improve upon it.  That means finding time to take new tutorial pictures, in the meantime here's a quickie about Shrinky Dinks. 

This is another craft I have to thank Girl Scouts for, specifically one our leaders that organized a Craft-A-Palooza last spring.  Not only did girls in our membership area get to do awesome crafts, but it also served as a drive for the Personal Essentials Pantry.  My daughter and I had to leave early for a prior engagement, but this beautiful sugar skull at the Shrinky Dink table caught my attention on the way out.

I may have missed Shrinky Dinks at Craft-A-Palooza, but I've been having fun on my own.

You will need:

clear Shrinky Dink or other shrinking plastic
permanent markers
artwork to trace (optional)
spray acrylic clear coat
glossy acrylic paint

If you want to turn these into charms or pendants you will also need:

1/8 inch hole punch**
jump rings

For monsters:

3mm & 4mm googly eyes
E6000 glue

*I snagged a pair of scissors similar to these Lexan curved ones from my husband after his RC car phase, and I love them for cutting plastic. He is never getting them back.

** After baking the hole size is large enough to accommodate up to an 18 gauge jump ring. 

Whether you print out an image or draw it freehand, keep in mind the image will shrink down to less than half it's original size. 

Then follow the instructions on the package.  Tape an image underneath the plastic and trace over it. Any line art will work, although I think the simpler the better. Make sure the ink is dry, flip it over and color it in. 

Bake at 325 degrees, on a piece of brown grocery bag on a baking tray or sheet and watch the magic happen.  It's important to know that the plastic will curl up as it shrinks.  This can look a little alarming, but most of the time it isn't and it will flatten out. Let it bake for 30 more seconds and take it out. 

Sometimes bad things happen to good Shrinky Dinks for no reason.  In my experience if it curls up to the point where two sides actually touch, it is not going to uncurl without some intervention.  I have had success gently nudging the piece apart while still in the oven with a couple of forks.  It would probably be safer to attempt this outside of the oven, but I like to live dangerously. 

After baking it is recommend that you cover them and light press to flatten them, I will second that. 

Also note that they don't always shrink uniformly, so don't expect perfection.

I read a lot of different methods for protecting them.  I sprayed them lightly with an acrylic coat to set the ink, one side at a time. I noticed some of the greens feathered out, it's really noticeable on the frog.  I might have used a Sharpie Brush marker for those, but I can't remember.  Then I painted them
with two coats of gloss acrylic varnish.  Only time will tell how well they hold up. 

After the paint dries you can add jump rings or glue on googly eyes.

Besides Sharpies, I used a metallic set of Infinity markers from Target  and I was really happy with the quality.  I also picked up a black Sakura Pigma Micron pen for doing some of the detailed outline work and I liked that better than my ultra fine point Sharpie. For bolder lines I still like my fine point Sharpie.  

Here are the images I used: - if you search for animals alphabetically, then click on the animal, all coloring pages associated with it will be listed on the right hand side.  That's where I found the raven, squid and tarantula. - The owl and frog. - The creepy hand. - Sugar Skull - Little Monsters

I also want to make some with Trash Packs, and Aliens

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Skull Hemp Jewelry Series: Round 2 – Vertical Larks Head Knot

I've been using the larks head knot since I was kid, and had no clue how wonderful this little bugger is until recently. Then I saw this and had one of those moments complete with cartoon light bulb over my head, it may have been accompanied by a slight ting noise. That was it and I was off on a journey which included reintroducing the word macramé into my vocabulary without being confined to thoughts of plant holders from my childhood. 

For this bracelet you have to know four knots, the larks head, the vertical larks head, the square knot and the wrapped knot clasp. Even though I'm calling this hemp jewelry, cotton or jute cord will work just as well. 

This bracelet starts in the middle. Every hemp style jewelry tutorial I’ve ever seen starts at one end and works down to the other. That drives me crazy because if I’m trying to center a focal point, I’ll find I made the first half either too long or too short. Also because each knot is dependent on the previous one, if I decide to make a design change I have to start all over. The only caveat I’ve found starting from the middle is having to mind that you keep your work centered on the holding cords when pulling the knots tight. Using a clipboard to hold things in place once the first few knots are done takes care of this issue.

You will need:

2 – 14 inch holding cords (shown in yellow)
2- 44 inch 10 lb. cords (shown in brown)
2 – 44 inch 20 lb. cords (shown in blue)
1 skull bead
2-8 4mm round beads (optional)
bead reamer (optional)
Craft glue
E6000 glue
Small sharp scissors
Big eye needle

First apply a thin coat of craft glue to the ends of the 44 inch cords, this keeps them from fraying and helps when stringing beads.

Use the center of one of the blue cords to create a larks head knot in the middle of one of the yellow holding cords.

Make a vertical larks head knot right beside it. Repeat these two steps with the remaining blue and yellow cords and set aside. 

At about the center of one of the brown cord make a larks head knot beside the two blue ones.

Then with the same brown cords make another vertical larks head knot beside it, but this time we want the end to point in the other direction.

Start by going under the yellow cord
...then over...

...then under again...
...and then pull it through.

Repeat these steps for the other brown cord on the other side.

Arrange the two holding cords so the blue cord ends are facing each other.

Thread both the brown cords through the skull bead.

Create vertical larks head knots with the brown cords on the outside of the blue knots on the bottom yellow cord mirroring the top cord.

Place another vertical larks head knot with each end of the blue cords next to the brown knots on the same side.

On the outside place a vertical larks head knot with the end of each brown cord.

Now you can start to cross the blue cords still using the vertical larks head, but on the opposite side. At any time after this point you can add beads. If the bead hole is a little tight, you can widen it using a bead reamer.  I've also had a lot of success with just trimming the cord end at a steep angle and stiffening it with a little more glue. 

Add another set of knots with the brown cords on the outside.  Then cross the blue cords again, this time pulling them just a little closer. Then repeat with the brown, cross the blues and pull them just a little closer than last time, so you get that curve around the skull.

Keep alternating brown cords on the outside and crossing blue cords on the inside.

Once you get close to the desired length follow the last brown larks head knots with a series of square knots using the brown cord.


Use the big eyed needle to pull the brown ends back through the square knots you just made.


When the brown cord is almost all the way through, add a little E600 to the cord still sticking out and then finish pulling it all the way through. Also add a little E600 where the ends come out. Once dried you can trim off the ends of the brown cord.
Knot the remaining strands together on either end 3-4 inches out. Cross the ends and secure them with the wrapped knot clasp.

Then tada! You have a creepy cool skull bracelet.
Stay tuned for Skull Hemp Jewelry Series: Round 3 - La Calavera Catrina Pendant

Monday, September 15, 2014

Skull Hemp Jewelry Series: Round 1 - The Square Knot

I have a few original projects coming up that I’ve been playing with this summer, but to start out, I’d like to talk about the basic square knot. It’s an easy knot to teach the kids and fashionable enough for adults.  For all of these I have used the same the skull pony beads that I’ve used on my dream catchers.  For the one above I used a synthetic cord because it was thicker than any of the black hemp I had and I like how the thicker cord frames the beads. 

Once you have the square knot down you can change things up with the switch knot.  This is also a great knot for making a sliding clasp. 

Here is the switch knot with eyelash yarn just for fun. I used hemp for the holding cords, the yarn is really slippery and doesn't hold a tight knot, but I think it looks cool nonetheless.  I think eyeball beads with eyelash yarn would be awesome. 

Real easy project idea for the wee little ones: Beads on knotted strands of ribbon.  This one just has a few skull and glow-in-the-dark beads, but it was a big hit with the 4-6 year old crowd.   

One thing that bugs me, even though I really like the look of these necklaces is the skulls lay sideways. One way to fix this is to make a bracelet instead and always keep your wrist perpendicular to your line of sight. Another way would be for me to put on my big girl pants and get over it, which I'm completely capable of doing as long as I'm wearing the necklaces, instead of looking at them. 

Last spring I picked up some nicer quality skull beads and I didn’t want them to have to face the world cockeyed, but I wanted to still use natural fibers and knots.  And that is how I ended up spending my summer with the vertical larks head knot.