Saturday, May 12, 2018

From The Depths of the Deep Blue Sea

It's about time I finished this bottle, which I started back at the last craft party.  The contents were done, but I didn't like the lid.  I could've just painted it black and called it a day, but I had a vision and sometimes those bastards are persnickety.


I found a nice simple template for the boat at MollyMooCrafts.   I made mine on a much smaller scale of course. Actually I made two, slightly different sizes, because I wasn't sure what I wanted. When cutting out the pieces, instead of cutting all the way around, I left tabs sticking out here and there to aid in the assembly process.  After all the pieces where glued in place and dried, I set the boats on top of the lid and there they sat.  For a really long time.  A really, really long time, in a slightly mocking manner.

See, being made out of printer paper they were too thin and flimsy to just paint. And the thought of reinforcing their teeny tiny little hulls with paper mache seemed torturous. So they sat.  That is until The Great Nerf War of 2018. 

An epic battle some say, even though the only casualty was a living room wall.  Since I had to get everything out to patch a hole, I decided to also tackle the Father Vs Son WWF Match dent and the Ninja Sneak Attack dings.  The thing is, I live with animals, but as a result I've become a bit of a drywall repair goddess.  So there's that.

When it comes to drywall stuff and paint, I never work out of the original containers, I always just take out a little more than I think I'll.  So after everything had been repaired, I had a little bit of this and a little bit of that leftover.  I felt bad about just tossing it, so I mixed it all together.  It was maybe (didn't measure) 3 parts all-in-one primer paint, which is really thick and creamy, to which I had added some sand texture, 1 part joint compound and just a smidge of fiber reinforced compound.  Well it was all consolidated in one container now, but what to do with it? And there were those two little boats staring at me.

Well it turns out this stuff was perfect for little boats. 6 thin coats, inside and out and my little boats are nice and sturdy, with a uniform thickness I wouldn't have been able to achieve with papier mache.  On a few passes I scraped the side of the brush against the top edge of the boats to make a thick ridge.


The fabric draped over the lid and used for the sail came from my daughter's old mermaid costume.  Sometimes it pays to know someone who's been through a princess phase.  I've been using pieces of her worn to death costumes for years.  They have layers of different textured fabrics that have come in handy more than once.  This piece is some kind of synthetic satiny material. For the sail I distressed it by setting a toothpick on fire, blowing it out and using the glowing embers to burn tiny holes in it.  I started out using an open flame on the pieces hanging over the lid but that was too hard to control, stuff burns like crazy. Which leads me to realize how lucky we were that her "Princess, Sponge Bob, Jellyfish, Snake & Worm Party"*, full of princess garbed little girls, didn't play out like a scene from The Towering Inferno.

*That's the kind of stuff you end up with when you ask five year olds what they want to do for their birthday.

Continuing on, the mast is a toothpick with a few small beads on top, and is set into a small grommet.  The "water" is glue, fabric and tissue paper.  There's a little bit of cheesecloth down the sides.

If I were to do this again I would start with the lid and then add the contents.  As it was I had to cover the jar in painters tape, and keep it upright so as not to jostle the stuff inside.  I was too scared to take the lid of and work on it separately.  Things have grown in there since last year.  I can only imagine the aroma that would ensue from opening that jar. I do love the murky effect.  Yes for once that's not just crappy photography on my part, that haziness has been organically grown.  There's even an interesting line of rusty colored growth.

I rather like the idea of my pirate, decomposing next to his treasure, looking up from the murky depths of the ocean floor, contemplating whether or not it was worth it.



Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Altered Ornament


After the holiday season I bought a big package of shatterproof ornaments on clearance.  This is the first of them to succumb to my devious whims.  During my journey down the rabbit hole of altered bottles, I also saw quite a few ornaments using similar techniques.


Lace and fake flowers seem to be popular along with a mix of found objects. I decided to not get too crazy and limited myself to some small flowers I partially dismantled, buttons, PVA glue mixed with spackle and tatting. I started with a layer of watered down glue and tissue paper and let that dry to get a nice base surface to work on.  Throughout this project I used a banana holder to hang the ornament while drying.  


What's tatting you might ask, well it's lace made by knotting thread. I don't remember how it came to be on my radar. But once I saw it, I decided I was going to learn to do it and then create the most awesome skull design ever. No skulls yet, but I finally have the basics down.

I highly recommend TattedTreasures.com to get started if you have any interest. Also the Tatted Treasures channel on youtube. Very easy instruction to follow and I love the fact that she did a video for Lefties.  It really hurt my brain trying to learn how to flip stitches left-handed while watching right-handed videos.


I've been trying out snowflake patterns. All the ones pictured are variations of the same pattern. White is a good beginning color because it's easy to see the knots and snowflakes are generally easy patterns to follow. I had given one of my better ones to my mother-in-law and when she found out I bought a bunch of cheap ornaments to play with, she inquired if I was going to glue my snowflakes to them. The ones I've made are too big for the ornaments, but it did get the wheels turning.


I attempted to modify a pattern into a design that would wrap around an ornament. Besides my alterations, which didn't really work, I was very distracted that day and made numerous mistakes. I was a little peeved with myself for dorking it up. But then I thought maybe it doesn't have to be perfect. So I glued it on an ornament anyway, covered up the mistakes with flowers and buttons and built up some areas with spackle-glue. I think it turned out alright and now I know what to do with my other tatted practice pieces.


I added some swirly texture with my fingers in the spackle-glue. I think I'll have to play with this technique more in the future.


It was hard to tell how it was going to turn out until I did a base coat. Before that it just looked like a big mess and I thought maybe I was wasting even more time on a doomed project. I painted half of it at a time because I was holding the other half, so I could really push the paint into all the nooks and crannies. There were a lot of little nooks and crannies. It took four tries before I couldn't see a speck of white no matter which I turned it.



Here's a few more shots of the finished project.  My daughter said it would have looked pretty if I hadn't used such dark gloomy colors.  I used a matte black for the base, sponged on gunmetal gray, then dry brushed on silver and added a touch of pearl white for accent.  It is rather dark and gloomy, but dark and gloomy makes me happy.  




I think the bottom looks like a cabbage.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Polymer Skull Cane Version 2.3


Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away I was messing about with skull polymer canes even though I didn't know the first thing about polymer canes.  If you truly are interested in making a skull cane, I'd advise you to read through my first post.  First, so you don't make any of those mistakes, but also that post covers a lot more information that I won't be repeating here. This time around I righted some of those previous wrongs, unfortunately I found new ways to muck things up.  So here is more advice on what not to do.


It started out simple enough with a disk of white clay. 
That's about 15mm thick, 6cm in diameter.  


Laying the design on the clay I used a pin to poke an outline.


I cut out the design.  The reason behind cutting it across the middle was to make it easy to remove the white and add the black, like I saw done in this Hello Kitty cane video. Also it worked well for me last time. Since than I've come across this skull video, which is pretty nice by the way and doesn't end up wonky like mine.  I like the way she uses a round cutter to remove the eye area.  Now I would need to create a custom cutter to remove the eyes in one piece, but I think making multiple cuts using a small circular cutter along the inside of the dotted line would produce a similar result.


I used my template again to size the black clay for the eyes.


If this was a movie, this would be the freeze frame with the voice-over explaining why it is from this pivotal moment that everything from this point forward goes wrong. 

Somehow the white area between the eyes became very small.  You can see where I added a strip of white to compensate.  That might have been all right had I taken the time to really blend it in.  I should have also taken the time to shape the teeth better.  See how the bottoms curve up? That's only going to get worse. And while I commend myself for remembering to use a matching clay between the teeth, I should have made the wedges thinner.


Here I've added slices of a different cane to create a boarder around the skull.  The biggest problem here is those individual segments are going to move differently against the skull while reducing.  


Here with past and present mistakes side by side you can really see what I'm talking about. [For reference the starting canes on the left are approximately 6cm wide, while the finished beads on the right are about 2cm.]  The cane below I wrapped a mostly continuous band of clay around the skull before adding slices of decorative boarder and the outer edge of the skull stayed fairly smooth.  Whereas above I didn't and the skull is all jagged.  When you reduce a cane the clay is going to push into any available space.  I knew that, and I still didn't comprehend how the end product would be affected. Hopefully I've learned my lesson this time.  




The cane I used for the purple and blue outer layer was based on this "Static" cane on Craftster.org.  I learned a few things the hard way with that too.

My first mistake was buying hard clay. The Blue Bottle Tree has an excellent article on buying clay.  I gave it a little test squeeze in the store and convinced myself that it wasn't "that" hard, mostly because I just wanted to get my clay, get home and get started on this project.  I would've been time ahead if I had just tried another store for softer clay. 

No matter how hard I worked it, it wasn't getting the consistency I wanted.  I didn't have any clay softener, so I thought if I used translucent clay instead of white to make my skinner blend that would help which is sort of, but not exactly, following advice again from The Blue Bottle Tree.  That did make the clay more workable and I was able to make the cane, but it didn't move as well as the softer colors when I reduced the cane.  Beads and Beading mentions using clays that are the same consistency and temperature, along with other useful tips for making canes. Many of which I have demonstrated what happens if you don't follow them. You're welcome.

Also after baking there are little pits and cracks in the static cane area. I've never had that happen before, so I suspect the dry purple clay. They are really teeny tiny and not all that noticeable.  The problem is they are scattered all the way through so no amount of sanding with get rid of all of them and that interfered with buffing the beads to a high gloss sheen.

On the subject of skinner blends, they are often done with the help of a pasta machine.  If you're like me and not invested enough to get a pasta machine you can use a simple roller, it just takes more effort. This is a helpful video about making a skinner blend by hand.

Even though my static cane didn't turn out exactly like the original, I think it looked quite lovely around my skull before I reduce the skull cane.  After reducing you can see in the very first picture of this post the beads look really dark, almost black or midnight blue.  Below you can see how sanding and buffing brings out the colors.  That is in the right light, close up. From a distance they still look pretty dark. In fact in that first picture one bead has been sanded and buffed, can you tell which one?Also see how my skull got all twisty.  I keep seeing people roll their canes and think that I can do that.  Well I can't and the minute I roll it, it gets things all twisty and I need to just stop doing that and only squeeze it.  [See my first cane post if this doesn't make any sense.]

If I had a soft purple and used a plain white clay instead of translucent, I think they would have been a bit lighter, but still not like the original post I saw.  I have since learned that not all skinner blends are equal.  This is a very helpful video showing skinner blend comparisons. I made mine similar to the first example in the video, when I believe the last example would have given me more of the result I wanted.


There is one thing that I did this time around that I am very happy with. I made some complimentary beads using the same colors.  Some of them I covered with thin slices of the cane ends.  I also layered thick slices of my purple static cane and the butt ends of the skull cane and tried some Mokume Gane techniques.  I think it's a good way to use up the distorted ends of the canes. 

The only ones that are sanded and buffed are the top three large beads in the very last picture.  It doesn't show well in the pictures, but the colors of the buffed beads are very vibrant and crisp, while the rest are dull and cloudy looking.




Well that's it for mistakes this go around.  I hope you learned as much as I did without all the pain and agony.  Just the pain and agony of trudging through this long post, but hey you made it to the end you should give yourself a cookie!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Creepy Crawly Adorned Bottles



This is another experimentation into altered bottles.  For these the common component is plastic creepy crawlies.

Both started out with a layer of  mod podged tissue paper.  The paper makes for a nice surface for everything else to cling to.  Then it was just a matter of gluing stuff on and painting them.

Last year while I was putting away Halloween stuff I thought the spiders made a nice design laying side by side. A normal human being would probably just have glued the spiders on by eyeballing it.  I'm am sure that would work just fine. I can be a little particular.  That's why I measured the circumference of the bottle and used graph paper to evenly lay out the spiders.  I pinned cheesecloth over the graph paper and glued the spiders to their proper places.  I let it set for a minute or two. Long enough for the spiders to stay in place, but short enough that I could pull the graph paper off.  Ignore the concentric circles they're for another project.


Gluing the spiders on the cheesecloth worked pretty well.  Once the glue had dried I applied Mod Podge on the bottle and wrapped the spider cheesecloth around it.  I still had to touch up a few legs with glue, but it was much easier with the spiders already in place.  Because the spider bodies were flat they pulled up a little in the rear, so I added a little layer of tissue paper to cover up the gap.  This also gave a little texture to the smooth plastic.  I probably could have used a heat gun to curve the bodies to the jar, but I didn't trust myself not to melt the legs.  After painting I added the rhinestones.




Next up is this centipede jar.  I really fail at photographing metallics, so you'll just have to imagine rich copper tones, champagne gold, antique bronze and just a hint of metallic green.  Beside plastic centipedes, I used cord, rhinestone mesh and lentils as embellishments.  



Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Nightmare Before Christmas Stuff


Shopping is one of my least favorite things to do, but managed to dragged myself to the nearest Walgreens last night.  I remembered Spooky Vegan's post, referring to Spooky Little Halloween's post about TNBC merchandise at Walgreens. There was still quite a bit of stuff left, now 50% off.  I exercised restraint and only bought this oversized mug and this Jack Skellington.  My daughter asked if he is like an Elf on the Shelf, which he sort of looks like with his knees in his chest.  Jack on the Shelf would certainly be more fun and less creepy.  Fully extended he is a little over 2 feet tall.



I would've bought the Jack Snowman, but just
about every time he spun around he tipped over. 



This Jack looks adorable, I would've like him as just a plush. The sound was horrible, and all that bouncy didn't really go with the music and really would the Pumpkin King ever bounce like that anyway? 


There were also a lot of dog toys, which I thought was an odd niche to market to. Not that I wasn't tempted even though I don't have a dog. Although even if I did I would still get the toys for me and not let any dogs chew them.  

Anyway, lots of good stuff from wreaths & trees to snow globes & nutcrackers.  If you have a Walgreens nearby, you should give it a look. 

While I'm at it, I might as well totally brag, I got Jack Skellington pj's for xmas.  

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Krampus Bread


Last Krampus recipe, I swear.  Alright last one from me, but you really should check out this one from Krampus himself, on how to make the traditional family recipe for Krampus Ham

I didn't follow this recipe for Sourdough Krampus , but it's where I got the idea.  It's probably a very good recipe, but it intimidated me, there were ice cubes involved. Instead I decided to see if I could get similar results with the only dough recipe I ever use for everything. Seriously, everything. For other things to do with this dough check out my Zombie Guts.  I think it worked out well considering I was in a bit of a hurry. Next time I will take a little more time shaping my Krampus.  I should have stretched the dough to make them longer.  They look more like cute pudgy baby Krampus.

I dabbed the tops of my little Krampus with melted butter and gently rubbed their chubby little faces in cinnamon and sugar.  Because he's sugar and spice and everything nice. That is how that goes right? But you could sprinkle him with garlic salt and parmesan or just leave him plain.  If you are doing savory, I think adding a little sundried tomato pesto to the dough would give him some nice color.  The little bit of cinnamon and sugar on top wasn't quite enough flavor so I also made some Krampus dipping sauce.

Krampus Bread



Dough:
1 cup water
3 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons dry milk powder
3 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter at room temp
2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Coating:
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup fine white sugar
1 tablespoons ground cinnamon  (more or less to personal taste)

Preheat oven to 425F.  Lightly oil baking sheet.

Place water, flour, powdered milk, sugar, salt, butter and yeast into bread machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer. Set to Dough cycle, and start the machine. Dough will be 1/2 pound.

When the bread machine has finished the Dough cycle, take the dough out. Knead for 1 minute by hand. Place in an oiled bowl, and turn a few times to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise for 15 minutes in a warm place. (An easy way to check if the dough has finished rising is to poke it with your figure, if the dent stays it's good to go.)

Mix the cinnamon and sugar together and pour onto a plate.  Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces.  The sourdough recipe has nice pictures on how to shape your Krampus.  Basically pull the dough into a rectangle shape and cut it down the middle of both ends.  One end is the two legs, the other end you twist and curl into horns. 

Lightly pat melted butter over the top of the Krampus.  You might find he's a little more cooperative with being shaped in his buttered form.  Then lay him butter side down onto the cinnamon and sugar.  Flip him back over and placed him on the baking sheet.  Decorate him as you see fit.  I used two whole cloves for eyes. The kids were disappointed that they kind of looked like mini chocolate chips, but weren't.

Once they are decorated, horns properly twisted and whatnot, toss them in the oven and bake for 8 minutes.  If you used cloves, you'll probably have to push them down a bit after baking and also warn everyone that they are indeed cloves and not chocolate chips.  And then explain why you didn't use chocolate chips.





Krampus Dipping Sauce:

1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar mixture
1 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

I really don't ever use a recipe. You probably have some cinnamon and sugar and some butter left over from dipping the bread.  If you don't have approximately a tablespoon left, melt a little more.  Add a teaspoon or so of the cinnamon and sugar for some extra flavor.

Gradually add the powdered sugar a tablespoon at a time until you end up with a thick paste.  Exact measurements of butter and sugar don't matter as long as you keep adding sugar until it's a thick paste. 

Add the vanilla and stir until smooth. Smooth out any lumps with the back of your spoon. Add 1 tablespoon of milk and again stir until smooth.  Slowly add more milk a little at a time until it's thin enough to dip the Krampus bread in. Alternatively, you could just drizzle it over the Krampus, but I figured he would just look like a deformed cinnamon roll if I did that.

If you refrigerate it or you just like it warm, you can microwave it for a few seconds.  It doesn't take much, 10 seconds should do it, even less if you are just doing a small portion.  Stir and it should be a syrup like consistency.  We used about a tablespoon per Krampus.  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Krampus Cupcakes


This really started out as a nefarious plot to use up some of the zucchini in my freezer. I've heard, in polite conversation, about beets being used to make red velvet cake. These conversations were pure conjecture seeing as how not one person in any of these discussions had actually used beets in this manner.  I also learned during these chats that not everyone can taste the vile nastiness of red coloring. Although obviously there are enough of us that we sit around chatting about alternative ways to dye foods. 

Always ready to take one for the team, I thought I'd give beet coloring a try.  Lemon Blueberry Zucchini cake was one of the most popular things I made this summer and I envisioned adding beets to the recipe would result in a lovely bloody hue, with the blueberries nestled in all that red like round little blood clots.  That's not quite how things worked out.  For those who have always wondered, but never tried, I offer you my experience on using beets in cake. 

For those of you interested in making Lemon Blueberry Zucchini cake, I recommend zesting the lemon before juicing.  Only make half the frosting, trust me it's plenty and add a half teaspoon of the zest to it.  Toss the rest of the zest into the cake batter.  


I added a half cup of finely grated raw beet to the batter and it looked quite lovely.  Not so much after baking, but still a reddish hue and I do like the way the beets on the surface look like the beginnings of a zombie infection.   Oh, but inside it was filled with disappointment.  Where did all the lovely color go?  Also the cake tasted different.  Not bad exactly, not like beets, just different.  The kids didn't seem to care.  I wrote this off as a failure and didn't even bother to frost it and they still ate it.  They are teenagers though, so there's that.


On a positive note, a peeled beet is a vision of beauty.  


And I have this baggie in my freezer, which hopefully
will catch someone by surprise one of these days.  



In an effort to find out where I went wrong I did actual research on coloring cakes with beets.  I read cooking them first helps to set the color, as does adding some acidity.  This recipe at wellnessandequality.com has all the right ingredients vinegar, buttermilk, natural cocoa, pureed cooked beets and lemon juice which should all produce as much color as possible.  You can see the tops are reddish, but the inside is still disappointing.  I don't know if I did something wrong, if it's the recipe or everyone just photoshops their cake pictures and it's all lies.  

As far as the recipe goes it produced a moist tasty cupcake with a mild cocoa flavor that married well with the cream cheese frosting. The only thing I would do differently is to either use less batter or larger cupcake liners.  I knew when I was filling them it was too much batter and you can see how my cupcake tops flattened out.  I found a way to cheat is to use Texas or Jumbo sized cupcake liner.  They'll fit in regular pan, and the sides are taller so it doesn't matter if you have a little too much batter.  


On to making the Krampus horns, which lets be honest, could transform any cupcake into a Krampus cake.  I used the Sculptable Frosting recipe from sewcando.com. It is overwhelmingly sweet, being mostly powdered sugar, but it doesn't taste nasty like fondant. 

Of course if you like the taste of fondant you can use that.  In fact if you use fondant which is a bit sturdier you can follow my unicorn horn tutorial for a slightly different look. Which is what I did when I made a fondant unicorn

I used half the sculptable frosting recipe and it was still way more than I needed for a dozen cupcakes.  It probably would have been perfect for 24 cupcakes.  I started with about a tablespoon and divided that into two cones.  I laid them side by side and curled the tips. 



Trim the bottoms off so they are even and make little indents on top.  I used the dull side of a paring knife.  Brush with a dark colored edible dust.  I used a mix of copper and black.  The dust will stick everywhere it touches the frosting, so use sparingly otherwise it will coat instead of highlight.  Let them dry before moving.  I think these were stiff in under an hour.  


In hindsight substituting some of the powdered sugar with cocoa probably would have made a nice horn shade.  Visually there wasn't much of a contrast between the frosting and horns.  As I said before I really like the cream cheese frosting with this cupcake, but maybe a different cupcake with chocolate frosting and the white horns would look nice too.