Friday, 22 March 2013

New Craft: Freezer Paper Stenciling

I finally had a chance to take some time out of my busy schedule to try something new (to me): freezer paper stenciling! I know this isn't new in general -- the technique has been out there for a while -- but I've never tried it. It turns out it's actually quite easy!

For those of you who've never heard of it, it's like making your own screen printed shirts or bags, but without the complicated and pricey supplies and equipment. You're limited only by your own imagination, and maybe the difficulty of your image (really detailed pictures might be tough to do; you'll understand more when I go through the step-by-step).

So when you've got a strong ethnic background and identity like I do (and Paula, too, in fact!), it's fun to find items that let you show your pride. For us, it's anything Finnish! And unfortunately, Finnish items aren't always easily found. So I thought I'd make something for my wee-est munchkin. She loves her Paappa (Grandpa) more than anything, so I decided to make her an "I love Paappa" shirt.

Measuring stencil against shirt.
 To do something like this you'll need:
  • Freezer Paper (normally used to wrap around food for the freezer. It has a waxy, shiny side and a smooth, matte side. It's found on rolls right beside the wax paper, parchment paper and aluminum foil in your local grocery or department store)
  • a stencil idea or pre-made stencil
  • your garment, or fabric for a bag or whatever you plan to make
  • X-acto knife
  • printer
  • iron
  • fabric paint (I used Tulip Soft Matte paint in Grape, and Fashion Fabric Paint in Sapphire Pearl, Bright Green Shiny and Sapphire Sparkle)
  • one or more foam brushes
So the first thing you do is decide on your stencil. Because mine was just text, I made it up using Microsoft Word. But you can use Photoshop or some other design program to create your own, purchase one pre-made, or even use Jack o' Lantern Hallowe'en pumpkin stencils. Now you need to transfer your image to the freezer paper, and you can do this a couple of ways:
You can print directly on the matte side of the freezer paper; or
You can print onto regular paper and trace your image from the regular paper onto the freezer paper.

I chose to attempt to print directly on the freezer paper. I'd seen this on other blogs and it had been done successfully, so I thought, what the heck? I cut a piece of freezer paper into 8 1/2" x 11" size so it would fit in the printer, and I put it in the manual feed tray, ensuring that the printing would happen on the matte side of the paper. This is important. Don't forget this point.

Printing directly on the paper worked okay, except that the paper jammed in the printer right near the end of the print job. Thankfully, my image wasn't affected, and neither was the printer. I think next time I do this, though, I may just print on to normal paper and either trace the design or use the X-acto knife to cut through both layers.

Carefully cutting out the image.
Anyway. Next, you take your handy-dandy X-acto knife and verrrrrrry carefully cut out your stencil. This is where I could see major problems if you have an intricate or detailed image, but YMMV (your mileage may vary). You need to be patient for this part and not rush. You don't want any tears or mis-cuts in the stencil where the paint might leak into places it doesn't belong. Slow and steady wins this race.

Oh, and make sure you're cutting on top of something made to withstand cutting, like a self-healing mat or cutting board. You know, so you don't mark up your furniture. (And no, I didn't do anything like that!)
Little bits! Don't lose 'em!

Don't forget little bits like the insides of your letters (my As and Ps!) Make sure you don't accidentally throw those away. You'll need them later!

Stencil ironed on to shirt.
 Next, you heat up your iron so that it's hot, but dry -- NO steam here! Position your stencil where you want it on the item and gently press. Move the iron around carefully for a few seconds and check your stencil. It should be firmly attached. Be extra careful where you have corners or other spots that you want firmly in place. Don't forget to put your little cut-out pieces where you need them, too. The insides from the As and Ps were finickity because they were so small, so they're not exactly perfectly centered. Oh, well. The 2.5-year-old isn't going to care.

Once you're positive your stencil is securely in place, you can start the fun stuff -- the painting!

I put dollops of paint on a paper plate for easy cleanup, and also because you're not going to be using the paint straight from the bottle.
Using your foam brush(es), dab the paint onto the stencil. I recommend going inward from the edges to avoid the possibility of getting any paint under your stencil and wrecking your image. I used two coats of paint. After this, you let the paint dry. Thoroughly. Trust me, this isn't a place where you want to rush things too quickly.
Waiting for paint to dry is SOOO hard! :P
Once you know your image is completely dry, carefully peel the paper off. You'll initially think it's stuck for good, but I promise you -- peel slowly and gently and it'll come right off. If you're having trouble with the little pieces, a pair of tweezers helps a lot (just don't accidentally poke a hole in your fabric!). Some bloggers suggest using a pressing cloth and a hot iron to set the paint, but I've also read other bloggers who don't bother with this step. I didn't bother with it. The only suggestion would be to make sure your garment is washed inside-out to help the image last as long as possible.

All done! Looks cute, too! :)
And -- tadaa! The finished shirt turned out pretty cool! My only complaint is the the Fashion Fabric Paint was kind of old, so it didn't work as well as I would have liked (any bets on when those letters will start peeling off? 'Cause I'm positive they will, before long...). The matte paint looked the most like a real silkscreen or store-bought shirt, so I'll definitely use more of that in future.

While I had the fabric paint out, I drew some designs on a few pairs of Little Miss' socks that didn't have non-slip stickies on the soles. I'm not sure how well they actually work, because she was still slipping around on our laminate floors while wearing the first pair. Ah, well.

New technique challenge? A success!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Homemade Chai Tea for Me!

I've got to admit it... I"m a "give or take" kind of cook!  "That recipe calls for 1/2 cup brown sugar - give or take a bit."  My husband HATES it!  He loves the results, but hates the fact that he can't EXACTLY reproduce a recipe because I make them up and put in amounts that are "give or take" quantities.

But, I digress... onto my new favorite drink!  Chai Tea!  More specifically homemade Chai Tea!  My good friend Julie introduced this to me and it was love at first sip!  I'm not much of a coffee drinker and frankly tea that's not herbal is just not for me!  But Chai Tea is my new love!  If you've had Chai Tea at your local coffee shop, this is nothing like it.  It's better!!!!  The flavours just *POP*!  (Yes, I must use this many exclamation points when describing the flavour!)

A fabulous recipe can be found at "A Wooden Nest".  But I thought I might write out a simple one here, along with my added notes.

The simple recipe:

Spiced Chai Concentrate

4 1/2 cups water
Boil the following:
1 stick cinnamon
3-inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped
7 whole cardamom pods
2 whole star anise pods
10 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon orange zest
10 bags of black tea
Add in after straining:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey1 tablespoon vanilla

Simply, just boil the water.  Remove from the heat and add in the spices and the black tea bags.   (I usually twist tie the bags together by their strings, then twist them onto the pot handle).  Steep for 15 minutes.

My friend Julie gave me the great idea to use a HUGE Mason Jar.  The jar hold over 6 cups (way more than the concentrate makes), so here's where the "give or take" comes in.
**See, I eventually come around and make the point!**
I usually add a little extra of the ingredients that I like from the spice mix, just to compensate for the extra water that I put in to bring it to fill the mason jar.  Sometimes it's a little extra anise or cardemom, sometimes a little more orange zest. I don't add any extra black tea bags, but if they are your favorite, go for it!

Once you pour everything into the Mason Jar, let it cool for an hour or so.  Then, when it's done, just screw the lid on and pop it into your fridge!  To serve, put equal parts concentrate and milk - then heat in the microwave.  I like to make mine latte style with a little extra sugar. So I usually whip up a little extra milk with my frother (hand blender works too) after it's been heated separately.  It's amazing!  I just have to remember to only drink 1 per afternoon, or I'll be up forever with that caffeine!

Hope you enjoy this little drink as much as I do.  Now I can't wait till summer and serve this over ice!!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Happy Birthday To Paula!

It's a little late in coming, but my co-hostess with the mostess celebrated a milestone last week. I thought I'd whip something up for her that I'd been seeing all over teh Interweebz -- a lollipop bouquet!

40 Sucks AND blows! Get it?? Heh.
These are really quite easy and fun to make. You simply need a container of some sort, some floral foam, your lollipops, some sort of medallion or tag, and any decorations you might wish to add.

Cut a piece of foam to fit the inside of your container. Start poking lollipop sticks into the foam -- as artfully as possible, mind -- until you reach your required number. I used a wooden BBQ skewer to hold my little sign. (It's attached to the stick with glue dots.) For a little bit extra, I tied some matching ribbon around the skewer.

Now here I'd like to take a moment to point out that, unless one is Le Martha, one generally can't be good at everything.

I am not good at graphic design. There, I admitted it out loud. If I could have gotten Paula the design queen to make her own sign, I would have. But that's okay. She knows I had only good intentions in mind.

I will also admit to you that I completely lucked out with the colour-co-ordination of this project. I didn't realize the lollipop wrappers would match the design on the flowerpot. (Hey, I could have fibbed and told you all I planned it that way, but that ain't how I roll.)

And finally, the card says "sucks AND blows" because I used suckers with bubble gum inside. Pretty darned clever of me, dontchathink?

On that note, stay tuned, because more neat posts are coming your way!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Cover Me

Hey there, everybody!

So today's post is one for the beginning sewer (or do you guys prefer 'sewist'? Frankly, I don't really care...), and it's super easy. You only need to be able to sew straight lines. Duvet covers are a fabulous way to change up the decor of your bedroom on a regular basis--or, if you like to sleep European-style (no flat sheet), they're a regular bedding staple.

The problem is duvet covers can be really, really expensive. So I've got a great, easy way to keep costs down and upcycle at the same time (if you want)!

The first thing you want to do is buy (or repurpose) two flat sheets in the size of your bed. For my purposes, I'm using Twins. I made two duvet covers, one using brand-new sheets, the second using thrifted ones.

Wash your sheets and iron (if you like. I'm a rebel that way.).

Two purty thrifted sheets.
Then take your two sheets and put them right sides together, matching top and bottom edges (they usually have distinctive edges; the tops are wider for decorative purposes).

Sew from one long edge up across the top and down the second long edge. Choose whatever seam allowance you like, close to 1/4" is probably best. I used the existing hemmed edges and sewed right next to them.

As for the bottom edge, or the part you leave open, you can finish it a number of different ways. You can sew short sections on either side closed, leaving approximately a two-foot gap in the center (which is what I did), or you can leave the entire bottom open and hand-sew large snaps along the edge, every 8-10" or so, or you can use handy-dandy snap tape. Snap tape is a long ribbon that already has snaps attached to it and you simply stitch it in place wherever you want it.

I chose to finish my cover by just leaving a gap (IKEA's covers are like this, or ones from other European countries, too) at the bottom. It's the least labour-intensive method. Hey, Mama didn't raise no fool.

You can also customize by sewing short pieces of ribbon inside in the corners to tie to your comforter/duvet to keep it from moving around too much, if that bothers you. I've never worried about that, and I don't find the duvet to shift at all.

Oopsies. Edges no matchy-matchy. :P
The only other thing I wanted to mention was the hazard of upcycling thrifted sheets.

What? You're asking, How can thrifted sheets be hazardous?

Well, the hazard comes from using two randomly chosen sheets...that end up not being exactly the same size. Oops. Oh, well. I just sewed across and trimmed away the excess fabric (with pinking shears to ensure minimal fraying. Everything is hidden inside, after all.).

On the plus side to using recycled sheets, you get two different looks for the price of one, as it were. I can decide whether or not I want to put the floral side up, or the cutesy hearts-and-flowers side up.

Finally, flip that sucker right-side-out and shove your duvet inside. Sadly, I have no helpful instructions on how to get it in there with a minimum of foul language and without ending up sweaty, but I'm sure you smart folks can figure out the way that works best for you!

All done! Pretty and practical!
So there you go! I don't have a shot of them in action, so you'll have to take my word for it that these two are the finished products.

Enjoy your new bedding! Just don't get irritated with me when you find yourself making a bunch of them -- because they are that easy. (If you're at the thrift store and you see matching pillowcases, grab them, too! That's an extra, added bonus!)

Catch you on the flip side!