Category Archives: Crafts

A Gator Pen by a Gator for a Gator

by Skip.

My brother and I are both University of Florida graduates and big Florida Gator fans. So when I was watching Zac Higgins’s You Tube channel a couple of weeks ago and saw the results of his casting a piece of alligator jaw bone in an orange and blue resin, I knew I had to have one of those blanks.  This was a one-off casting so I had to move fast.  As luck would have it, I was able to purchase both blanks. [PS: Zac is a Gator fan also!]

resin/bone gator pen blank jenny skip
gator resin/bone pen blank

These were awesome blanks.  You could even see the teeth sockets in the jaw bone fragments!!  I had never turned resin blanks so this was going to be a challenge, especially since the resin casting contained bone, so it would be a hybrid material.

I decided to use a Sienna blank from Craft Supplies USA since it required a ¾ inch square blank and only had one tube. 

gator pen jennyskip
gator pen

I measured the tube and marked the blank to cut off a section about 1/16 inch longer than the brass tube.  I studied the blank before doing this to select what I thought would be the best section to accentuate the bone fragments. 

gator jawbone teeth socket pen jenny skip
part of the teeth sockets showing
gator pen barrel jennyskip
another view of the pen barrel

I put on a respirator (Zac suggested using a good respirator when working with the bone) and cut the blank on the band saw. I then drilled the blank on the drill press, glued in the brass tube with thick CA glue, and using a disk sander, cleaned off both ends of the blank down to the brass tube.

Using the proper bushings on my pen mandrel, I mounted up the blank for turning on the lathe. I understood from watching several You Tube turners, that a negative rake scraper was the best tool for turning acrylic blanks.  I had equipped one of my Easy Wood carbide finishing tools with a new negative rake cutters and used this to turn the blank. It was the perfect choice for a tool.  Cut beautifully and left an extremely fine finish.

Sierra pen kit gator bone blank jenny skip
the turned pen blank lined up perfectly with the hardware from the Sierra kit

I sanded and polished the blank and then assembled the pen.  It was a perfect match for the pen.  There was a blue section of the turned piece that didn’t have much character so I lined up the clip with that. 

pen clip gator pen jennyskip
I tried to put the pen clip over a part of the blank that wasn’t as drop-dead gorgeous as the rest of it

So, off to the post office with the pen. I know my brother will like it! A gator pen made by a Gator for a true Gator fan!

Orange and blue gator pen jennyskip
Glad to be a Gator! Go Orange and Blue!

Now a disclaimer: no University of Florida Gator students were harmed or had root canals to make these blanks!

Not sure where Zac got the gator jaw bones but it would be easy to get these in Florida, where we have alligator farms that raise alligators for their meat. Fried alligator bites are available in many restaurants. 

 

The Crafting of the Green

Ah, the blessings and the bane of learning a new craft technique!

I’m talking about making iron-on appliqué embellishments with a cutting machine, and attaching them to fabric.

These projects are to celebrate the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

tote bag jenny skip
tote bag
back of bag jenny skip
back of tote bag

This is the bag pattern from a previous post, when I made a Valentine’s Day [sort of] tote bag, using the pattern from Sew News. The main difference, besides the theme of the holiday embellishments, is the fabric of the bag. For the previous project, I used a cotton canvas remnant. But when I went to Joann Fabric to buy some more of it, I couldn’t find it in the store. I could have substituted duck cloth or twill or denim, for a similar, but not the same weight and feel. This fabric looked and felt very similar to cotton canvas, while it was on the shelf in the Utility Fabrics section of Joann’s. But it was cheaper and was 100% polyester. And once made into a bag, the fabric had a few noticeable differences.

Difference #1: it seems to be more wrinkle-prone than cotton canvas.

Difference #2: you have to use a different method to adhere iron-on appliqués to it, than you would with cotton. Cricut Easy-Press 2 Interactive Reference Guide recommends that you use their brand Iron-on Protective Sheet when applying the iron-on embellishment. I had never seen or heard of it, so I didn’t have one of those, but I did have a Teflon sheet that I sometimes use for applying Wonder Under. So I used that. Also, the temperature needs to be a little lower than cotton. Yup, I can vaguely recall using an iron on certain man-made fabrics and literally melting the fabric into a sticky goo.

Here are some finished, decorated, shirts for celebrating St Patrick’s Day.


St Pat tote bag jenny skip
St Pat’s tote bag

Put them in the bag and go!

Now that Valentine’s Day is Over

I apologize in advance to all of you who hate Valentine’s Day. I used to hate it, too.

Now, I just hate the fact that I want to make a special project to commemorate the holiday, and it doesn’t turn out right.

This year, I wanted to make the giant tote bag I saw in the current issue of SewNews magazine, that is decorated all over with shiny foil iron-on lip decals you can make on your cutting machine.

This would have been the first iron-on project I made with the cutting machine, if it had turned out right. First strike against me was that the free download from the magazine’s web extras files, was a .pdf and my cutting machine didn’t like that file extension. I tried to save it as a something else file, and it wouldn’t. Oh well, not too big a deal, I found a bunch of other free pairs of lips images that seemingly would work as well. I unrolled the roll of foil iron-on film and discovered that there isn’t all that much product rolled up in that cardboard tube, it’s mostly cardboard! Who knew? Then, for strike two, I loaded the film into the machine, it said liner side up, cut out the decals, and then realized the liner side was actually the opposite side of what the machine cut. Now, to salvage those 6 pairs of lips I directed the machine to cut out, I will have to manually cut them out from the other side using an X-acto knife. Then we’ll see how much trouble I can get into, before it’s three strikes and I’m out.

Meanwhile, we had a nice dinner with some great friends.

Table set


Honey-baked ham for an entree

We continued the festivities into the weekend, when we splashed out for breakfast at our local favorite early morning eating place. Check out their romantic breakfast specials:

Valentine’s Day Weekend specials at 43rd St. Deli

Who said the way to a man’s heart (or person’s heart) is through his (her) stomach? Just add imagination, some laughs, friendly people, and a little salt and pepper, and you’ve got an awesome holiday.

Eventually, the bag was finished:

finished bag


Improv Quilting

The impetus for this post came from a magazine I subscribe to, Sew News The current issue has an article entitled “Piece Out” on page 40 about improvisational piecing. I love this for several reasons: 1) I don’t like to waste fabric, 2) I like free-form designs, and 3) I want to feel like I’m getting my money’s worth from subscribing to publications.

Very early in my artistic history, I felt pressure to conform to other people’s ideas of what art should look like. In elementary school art class, we were told to stick little torn pieces of tissue paper on a piece of card stock with paste to make (the teacher hoped) a colorful mosaic-like picture. When I was finished with the assignment, my picture had blobs of white and maroon tissue paper. Everyone else’s had various combinations of the primary colors. The teacher said I must not have listened to the directions. Probably so. I was embarrassed. But at the time, I was really into arranging those white and maroon pieces of tissue paper on a page.

Anyway, the Sew News article shows 2 improvisational quilting projects: a zipper pouch and a pillow. In both, the maker had sewn together strips of fabric, then accented the white or light-colored pieces with sashiki-style rows of hand-stitching in a complementary color of thread. They looked super cool and fun to make. And, I had one lone little pillow form lying around that was just begging to be covered.

So here is my take on improvisational quilting:

Improvisational pieced pillow

First, I sewed together some leftover strips of fabric, ironing the seam allowances on the wrong side toward the darker strip as I pieced. I decided to put a machine-embroidery motif on the front. This one is from Urban Threads Letter Perfect Alphabet.

The opening in the back of the pillow is envelope style, so I added batting and backing to two sections of the pieced fabric, right side of backing fabric facing the right side of the pieced fabric with the batting under it. I sewed the envelope edges together, then turned and pressed them.

I decided that this pillow might benefit from having pink piping around the edges. For sewing on Wright’s piping, I like to use a piping foot.

clear piping foot

I sewed the piping around the edge of the front piece, clipped the corners a little bit, then pinned the two envelope pieces on to the front, the longer one in front of the shorter one, with both right sides facing the right side of the front panel, to sew around the edge again, right where the stitching was from sewing the piping on. I just stitched over it from the other side, leaving an opening for turning inside-out. Once turned, I hand-stitched the opening closed very close to the piping.

stitching the opening closed

Another interesting thing to make out of leftover pieces of fabric is a yo-yo. I added a couple of different sizes of yo-yo’s for embellishment, even a heart-shaped one in honor of Valentine’s Day next week. The little gizmos for making yo-yo’s consist of a plastic plate tightly fitting inside a tray. You can find various sizes and shapes from tiny to Jumbo, and in flower, heart, and clover shapes. They are made by Clover, and each kit costs about $5-$10 apiece.

Here’s what the back looks like:

For some odd reason, I could NOT edit these last few iPhone photos to get them to come out rotated once to the right!

Hope you have fun crafting for your Valentines!

Making a Board Game Console with a Digital Flavor

by Skip

My son approached me with a project: build a frame to fit over a flat screen TV with a plexiglass cover. The TV and frame would sit flat on a table. Okay…but why?
His answer: to play board games
I responded: so how does that work?
His answer: you connect a computer to the TV with an HDMI cable and view an image of a game board. Then you move your pieces around on the plexiglass cover.
My response: why not use the board that comes with the game?
His response: some games are completely digital and don’t have boards.
My response: so why not just play the game on the monitor?
His response: because with this method you can use customized game pieces that are scaled to show the difference in size between a scrawny little hobbit and a 20 foot tall orc. And you can hold the pieces in your hand. The game board can also have animations like a flowing river. It’s just a lot cooler than playing a straight up digital or board game!!
My response: Got you!!

So let’s talk about specifics. How big is the TV? Where do its cords come out? How is it vented for cooling? What is the distance from the screen to the plexiglass?


We got the TV out on a table and determined that if we used 2×4 lumber and made a frame 24 1/4-inch by 39 1/4-inch, that would fit over the TV. We would add 1/2″ thick plywood brackets at each corner with felt pads( to protect the table it sat on). The brackets would elevate the frame 1/2-inch off the table providing a 1/2-inch vent around the perimeter. We sanded the frame up to 220 grit sandpaper after filling some of the imperfections in the 2×4’s with wood putty made up using the sawdust from the sanding and Titebond II glue.  We painted the frame with a primer, two coats of black acrylic paint and topped it off with a clear coat of acrylic.

My son picked up a large sheet of 1/4-inch thick plexiglass from a big box store along with a plastic cutting knife.

The width of the plexiglass was perfect, but it was too long. Using a straight edge, we scored the plexiglass along a line to give us the 39-inch length we needed. It was recommended to score over the same line 7 times, but we went with 10 scores. We put a board under the plexiglass at the scored line and cleanly snapped off the extra length.


We drilled a 1/8-inch hole at each corner of the plexiglass, set the plexiglass on the frame where we wanted it, and using the holes in the plexiglass, drilled a pilot hole in the wood at each corner. Using some wood screws and fender washers we attached the plexiglass to the frame.

Close-up of plexiglass attached to frame at corner

My son attached some felt pads to the back of the TV to elevate it off the table for better ventilation and to bring it closer to the plexiglass. If this works, we are done. Later we may elevate the plexiglass off the frame with spacers at each corner and the middle of each side to provide for better ventilation.

felt pads attached to frame


I was concerned that all this plexiglass would be a static magnet for dust. My wife suggested that my son wipe down the plexiglass with anti-static dryer sheets and she retired to the sewing room (her woman cave) were she knocked out a large muslin bag with a draw-string closure to store the frame in.

muslin storage bag

In retrospect, you have to weigh the pros and cons: a really cool computerized playing surface weighing several pounds and costing several hundred dollars versus a 12-inch by 16-inch cardboard box weighing less than a pound and costing $70 for a pro edition. Cool wins!

your move!

10 cards from the January 2019 SSS Kit

I’m not one of those demonstrator bloggers with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, who shows how to make the best use of the monthly Simon Says Stamp kit.

I’m just an obscure follower of the card-making craft, who wants to do a little bit of show and tell. Some of these, I pretty much followed the blogs of other cardmakers.  But only because they were so unbelievably adorable! Hope you don’t judge me too harshly!

  1. The one with the pom-pom streamers.  The sentiment was cut out of one of the 6 x 6 card stock papers included in the kit, and positioned on top of a coordinating paper, with pom-poms threaded on 3 double strands of the thread in the kit. fullsizeoutput_42fa

2. The gift tag–a couple of pieces of the coordinating card stocks put together, to be attached with a ribbon.fullsizeoutput_42fc.jpeg

3. The snowflake kisses sentiment one. Happy thoughts (not often thought of by people who live where it never snows)…fullsizeoutput_42fd.jpeg

4. The hot chocolate one. Not the most elegant, but faintly reminiscent of chocolate.fullsizeoutput_42fe.jpeg

5. The one with the snowmenfullsizeoutput_42ff.jpeg

6. The snowflake is winter’s butterfly one. Butterfly didn’t come with the kit, but I had one lone blue one in the stash.fullsizeoutput_4300.jpeg

7. The “ease into Valentine’s” card. I guess, for people in the cold climates, wintertime after Christmas is over, is very distinct and separate from wintertime before and during Christmas. Hence, maybe even polar opposites? North vs south poles? Santa vs penguins?fullsizeoutput_4301.jpeg

8. The twirling skater one. This one I did almost exactly as the demo in Clips-n-Cuts blog except I used a navy blue card base as the background. I’ve never made a twirling motif such as this before, and I thought it was the coolest! The skater die was included in the kit.fullsizeoutput_4302

9. Another penguin Valentine card. The coordinating blues and plaids, are so fresh.fullsizeoutput_4303.jpeg

10. The snow-covered blossom one. So this little floral sprig fell off of a spray I bought from Hobby Lobby in an attempt to brighten up the place after the Christmas stuff went down. I glued some white pom-poms onto the blossoms to imitate snow piling up on them. fullsizeoutput_4304.jpeg

So anyway, that’s 10 cards from me.

Everywhere a Sign

Remember this?

Yeah, that’s my sign from last month.

Skip wanted me to just do a makeover on this sign, or have some element that can be added and removed, to make the sign suitable for other times of the year.

Like one of those all-purpose calendars with a theme or motif rather than months and days.

Turns out, those holographic vinyl letters were very easy to pick off. And the boards themselves took quite readily to a new coat of milk paint and sanding and clear-lacquer spraying.

And the vinyl lettering took not much effort.


Now a Valentine’s Day sign.

I’m thinking of re-doing it with the font a little bigger. But as is, it sort of implies that love is more humble than a flamboyant flourish, just a simple statement that you might have to pay more attention to, to find it. Anyway, it’s been fun to experiment with!

First Grandmother I Met

Crafting in the 21st Century is an eclectic sort of venture: we’ve documented mostly arts and crafts and practical projects, but writing is also a craft. We end up giving many of our posts a “family history” tag anyway, because they build up stories about who we are and what we like to do, and maybe why. One of the founding purposes of creating the blog is to record the stories of our life and times. For us, “creating 19th century crafts using 21st century technology” was supposed to be one of our tag lines, although we’ve strayed a lot!

With that intro, I want to opt into Amy Johnson Crow’s #52 ancestor challenge for 2019, and plan to steal a little bit of space from this craft blog to write about our gene pool.

Ethel H C.jpeg

If you’d like to sign up for the challenge, you’ll be sent a prompt once a week over the coming year, to jump start your work at this venture. Who knows what dimension will be added to your life, as you draw on the memories of your ancestors? They don’t want to be forgotten. The first prompt for this year is…”first.” So this is my grandmother, the first grandmother I ever met. She was born at the beginning of the 20th century, in the first week of January, in a log cabin in Germany Valley, Pendleton County, West Virginia.

The family moved to Oklahoma with her Uncle Baxter, who had bought a farm, when my grandmother was four years old. All the kids had to work hard. Her mother succumbed in the flu epidemic around 1918. Her dad became depressed, sold the farm equipment, and moved the family back to West Virginia where they stayed at the hotel in town, owned by other family members.

Ethel 16.jpeg

She wrote in her memoir: “Then our Dad became very unhappy with our situation and took us back to Oklahoma…again in June 1921…We were there one day when Dad killed himself by shooting himself in the head with a shot gun. I remember seeing him at the funeral and his head was so swollen it was twice the size it should have been. Grandpa sent a telegram to the aunts in W. Va….So they started dividing us up among the relatives—Martha went to Aunt Lola, Anne stayed with Grandma, Alice and Pete got married in St. Louis, Mo. on June 17, 1921 on our way back. Hattie went to Aunt Sallie, Bill to the hotel and Aunt Meade, and I went with Aunt Lillie and Uncle Baxter and Harry was already there. So we were scattered all over creation and another phase of our lives starts from there.”

First Gran took the train to Washington, DC, when she got a little older and became a nurse. She liked to sew, quilt, do all sorts of needlework, paint (by number mostly), garden, cook, and keep the house spotless.

 

My True Love gave to me…

“And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” [Matthew 8:20]

Speaking of places in which to lay your head, this project is finally done:

Santa reverse redwork embroidery head rest

I looked in the fabric stash, and of course I had a suitable remnant just the ideal size to make two of these for our recliners in the TV room. Bright red, already quilted cotton and a green plaid little piece of cotton with a coordinating red stripe. Instead of trying to machine embroider the quilted fabric, I decided to stitch the Santa motif onto a thin piece of red fabric I found, that had slits all over it from something. Maybe it was involved in a knife fight? Or someone at the fabric store opened a box of bolts with a razor blade and slashed it? Or the fabric has been in the stash so long it just shredded from age?

The design is called “redwork embroidery” because it’s traditionally red thread on white background

It is a pretty close color match to the quilted cotton, so I just appliquéd it on with a satin stitch. And, I was able to use the mirroring function on the Viking to make two opposite-facing images of the Santa motif, which I bought from Embroidery Library.

Sealing the thread ends with Fray Block

I cut the plaid fabric into 5-inch-wide strips, sewed all the pieces into one long strip, then folded the strip in half and pressed it. The idea was to make it like bias binding, except I didn’t cut it on the bias, but rather, the straight grain. I knew better: bias would have been ideal, but I’m too lazy to want to try to cut fabric at the perfect 45 degree angle. Too many opportunities for it to get screwed up, and I’m done when it comes to dealing with more holiday stress! Then I folded each loooooong end of the binding strip under about 1/2″ and pressed them under.

Ironing the binding

Next step, after binding, was sewing on some Velcro strips to attach the headrests to the backs of the chairs. The sticky-back strip will go on the chairs.

Meanwhile, although it’s chilly outside, gorgeous flowers are blooming in the yard.

pink camellias

Feeling very thankful for this time, this season, this holiday! What is it like in your winter wonderland? What is making you happy?