Category Archives: Crafting

Things I’ve made and am now sharing. Maybe I’m having issues and need some advice.

Stranger Things Wall

Sean here again, with another Halloween related project.  Better late than never…

One of our good friends has a big Halloween party every year, and unfortunately they couldn’t have the party at their house this year for of a variety of reasons.  We offered to instead have their party at our place, and of course we would need to do some decorating for a big party.  Since we’re all fans of the show Stranger Things, I decided that recreating “the wall” that Will uses to communicate from the Upside Down would be a fun decoration for the party, in addition to being a fun exercise. We’re really happy with the way that it turned out and since I’ve had a few people ask for details, here’s a quick run through of how I accomplished it.

Here’s what it looks like in action… you’ll see that we included a bunch of memes and things to make people laugh.  The program is fully customizable, and pretty easy to use once it’s set up.

Here’s what you would need to do it yourself:

  • a good supply of WS2812 RGB LED lights (at least 26, of course, but you may need more unless you solder for a living). Here’s a set of 30 on Amazon though as an alternative you could also get Neopixels through Adafruit.
  • An Arduino (I used an Arduino Uno starter kit from Adafruit). Adafruit Link
  •  100′ spool of green wire (I used 16 gauge, now I would recommend 18 or 20 gauge).  Here’s some 18 gauge on Amazon
  • A string of Christmas lights with screw-off C9 bulb covers (we bought a string at Walmart).
  • 26 water bottle caps (hope you’re thirsty!)
  • Arduino Software (for programming the Arduino). Software Link
  • Soldering supplies (a good soldering iron, solder, wire cutters, cleanup stuff, etc).
  • A hot glue gun and a handful of glue sticks.

I recommend having extra LEDs on hand because the soldering pads on them are tiny, and unless you’re much better at soldering than I am, you’re going to have some mistakes.  I broke the soldering pad on three different LEDs while making this strand of 26 lights, so it was good that I had a few extras on hand.  There are six different pads that have to be soldered on each LED, two for power and one for signal, both in and out.

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There are loads of tutorials on how to use these LEDs on the Internet, I highly recommend checking out the information that is available in the Adafruit NeoPixel Uberguide.  I wouldn’t have been able to do this without that guide.

Setting up the Arduino is simple.

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See?  Nothing to it.

Okay, a little bit of explanation might help.  The Arduino starter kit also comes with a Proto Shield for rapid circuit prototyping , and also includes a cute little breadboard.  I followed Adafruit’s instructions on setting up the prototyping board, plugged it into the Arduino Uno, and then set up a quick circuit following the instructions in the NeoPixel Uberguide mentioned earlier.  Essentially, we have power coming from the +5v pin via the orange wire, ground coming from a ground pin via the blue wire, and the #6 pin is connected to the breadboard with a 100ohm resistor (to help protect the first pixel in the strand, this should have been a 470ohm, but it’s what I had on hand).  The strand of lights would then connect to the breadboard using the three wires that extend out of the bottom of the picture.  Orange “+”, Blue “-“, Yellow “signal”.  There were some other things that I set up while testing, but this was ultimately what was used.

Having the Arduino starter kit was a huge help, because it came with extra resistors, switches, LEDs, etc that were handy to play around with while I was learning how to make this work.

Now, on to the process of building things…

There are three different “runs” of Christmas lights, one for each row on the wall.  On each of these runs I used 20″ lengths of wire at the ends, and between each light there are roughly 10″ lengths of wire.

I started with three 20″ pieces of green wire, soldered those to the input pads on the first LED, then three 10″ pieces of green wire on the output pads of the LED.  I would continue with roughly 10″ lengths between each LED until the end of each “run”, where I would use a 20″ length again.  After soldering the wires on the input side I would test the LED by plugging the leads into my Arduino which was loaded with the Strandtest sketch that comes with the Arduino software.  If the light tested good, I would move on to the next step and solder the output wires, then test again.  After I had the inputs and outputs of one light finished, I would move on to the next light and solder the input wires on the next light, then test again.  If that step tested good I would then build the enclosure around the first light.

The enclosure for each LED required a modified water bottle cap…

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…and a modified C9 bulb from a sacrificial string of Christmas lights.

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The water bottle cap was cut up a bit using a pair of side cutters, and the C9 bulb had a channel cut out of it using my trusty Dremel, to allow room for the wires once it was put together.  I would very gently press the LED into the bottle cap, squirt some hot glue in around each wire, then press the C9 bulb into place and run glue around the outside edge.

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After letting that cool down, I would then plug everything back in and test again.  If everything still worked at that point, I was satisfied that it would be pretty sturdy.  Once the hot glue set up there was nothing I would be able to do to get them back apart, so I was really careful about testing at each and every step.

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So far so good.

After the lights were all buttoned up I gave the wires a bit of a twist, so that they would look like old Christmas lights.

The letters are from the Cinnabar Brush font, and were cut out of black construction paper using our Silhouette, and then glued to the wall using a bit of rubber cement.

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The code that runs everything was put together using some examples that I found online, and is probably more complicated than it could have been.  My main prerequisite was that I wanted the lights to look like an old strand of Christmas lights.  Even though each pixel was capable of being any color, I wanted A to always be red, B to always be yellow, and so on.  This required that I manually enter the colors for the different functions that would run each portion of the show.  I also wanted to make it easy to program individual phrases into the show, so I made a single function for each letter, that would be used to spell out each phrase.  I made a couple of functions to do fun things like chase the lights from beginning to end, end to beginning, and a couple of different flashing and wipe functions.  All of these are called from the main loop() during the show.

If you’re looking at the code, you might notice that the numbering associated with each letter looks weird.  Each pixel is called using a number between 0 and 25, and the order of the letters in the strand do not directly correspond with A=1, B=2,etc.  That is because my strand actually starts at the letter Z (pixel 0) because I powered it from that end, and then at the letter R (pixel 8) the wire connects to letter I (pixel 9) and then counts up to the letter Q (pixel 17) before hopping over to the letter H (pixel 18) and moving back down the alphabet to the letter A (pixel 25).  It makes a bit more sense when you’re playing with it, just remember that if you reuse my code, the lights have to be wired the same as mine in the photos and video.

The code used for our show is available for download here.

To finish up the look, I hung up a bunch of normal Christmas lights all over the living room, and left it running during the party.

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With that, Anna can have the blog back now. :)

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Upcycled Denim Roads

I have some of the most darling little nephews. One of them happened to turn two recently. I stumbled across this project shortly after he was born and I’ve been anxiously waiting for him to get old enough to actually play with them.

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Missy from How Does She shared a tutorial on how to make roads from old denim jeans.

Thankfully, we’ve been on a cleaning spree and I had a handful of my husband’s jeans available to be chopped into road sized pieces. A quick trip to Wal-mart provided a roll of kitchen drawer liner. I had mod podge and yellow paint on hand.

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To begin, I created pattern pieces for the 4 shapes I wanted to make.

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Using the patterns, I traced and cut out road pieces from 2 pairs of jeans and the kitchen drawer liner. Making certain that I had the same pieces cut from both materials.

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To join the jeans and liner, I spread mod podge on the liner and carefully placed the denim pieces over the liner.

 

For added durability, I zigzag stitched around the outside of each road piece. The original tutorial used hot glue to secure the edges. I couldn’t find my glue gun or I would have tried that method too.

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Finally, I painted yellow lines down the center of each piece.

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Of course, I couldn’t send it off without testing it.

 

 

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Framing Photo Wall

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When we bought our house 3 years ago, we knew we wanted to turn one wall into a photo wall. We quickly decided to use our long hallway wall. And that’s the only portion of the project we’ve done quickly!

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When planning our wedding, we came across a chair decoration in a wedding DIY project from Hobby Lobby (sadly, I don’t have a link to that image). We took a 5×7 frame, a painted book page, and a couple of chair sashes to create the chair decorations. Thankfully, Candi, our wedding photographer took a photo, because I never had the opportunity.

Since we now had 120 frames that were exactly the same size, we had a start for our photo wall. Except that the frames were the wrong colour. As was the wall. I finally took time to paint our front room and hallway over spring break. My husband started painting the frames. He tried several options before settling on spray painting with an air compressor.

To make sure all of the frames would fit on the wall, my husband created a grid on the wall beginning with the nest. He also devised a contraption to make certain the hangers were placed in the exact same place on each frame.

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We have now framed and hung about half of the photos and are quite pleased with the results. For the most part, these are all photos we have taken. We will eventually have a few taken by others, but are making sure we have permission from the photographers.

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T.S.N.E.M – Honeymoon Edition

We just arrived home from our honeymoon. As in we haven’t even unpacked yet. I’m relaxing after our arduous 36 hour span of driving. And I just couldn’t wait to share the projects we did on our honeymoon (There will be more posts, don’t worry).

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We stayed at Massanutten Resort in Virginia. Everything we tried out at the resort was wonderful. We were both delighted to discover the art/craft classes. We were most excited to find a stained glass class and waited anxiously all week to attend the class.

Our first class was 3-D Decorative Window Frame. We were given a frame with glass and told to choose a design to fill in on the glass. There were designs provided, but were given the option to come up with your own design as well. Which we did. Then you choose from a selection of shells, rocks, and beads how to fill in your design on the glass.

Since we are avid garden failures, we also decided to join the Garden Miniature Figures class. We were mostly sold when we discovered painting a dragon was an option! Following brief instructions, everyone in the class was given free rein (with a supervising eye) to select paint and brushes or sponges to complete their selected figure.

Our last class was Stained Glass. We were probably most excited about this class since it’s been our intention to learn this art form. This was probably the most structured class we attended (and also not kid friendly; hot tools are included). You walked in and choose which project you wanted to complete from a group of prepackaged options. We were then walked through each step of creating a small stained glass piece. This is a project I can’t wait to work on more at home now that I know the steps.

I am counting these as my TSNEM projects for the months I missed. I have another project that I should (fingers crossed) be sharing with you Wednesday for my June TSNEM project.

I will also have a couple more posts about our further adventures during our honeymoon.

TSNEM means Try Something New Every Month.

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Magical Water Bottle

Sometimes, I have a difficult time choosing a gift for my friends and family. I want the gift to feel special and thoughtful. I know I could give a gift card, but that feels impersonal.

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This particular gift managed to combine my friend’s love of Harry Potter and her determination to be healthier. A person like that needs a magical water bottle.

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The hardest part of this search was finding an appropriate bottle. Her daily goal is to drink a gallon of water, so I needed a container that held a gallon of water. I also wanted it to be good quality and lightweight. With daily use, it was going to get bumped around. Water itself is heavy, I didn’t want the bottle to be a hindrance.

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I finally stumbled across the perfect bottle on Amazon. It looks like a miniature version of the water cooler jugs. And it has a handle.

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To make it magical, I used my Silhouette and some permanent vinyl. I love my Silhouette and really do believe it is magical. It has made many projects so much easier. I had the permanent vinyl hanging around from back when Pick Your Plum still sold craft supplies.

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I made the design using a Harry Potter font I found online. For those that don’t know, Aguamenti is the spell to fill a container with water.

 

After cutting, I used transfer paper to help get the placement just right on the bottle. Transfer paper is a life saver when it comes to positioning vinyl. Transfer paper is essentially a giant sticker to help you position stickers. My version has a one inch grid that helps keep the design straight. After weeding your design, you place the transfer paper over the design. You then pull the backing of your vinyl off, leaving the sticky part exposed but still in the correct position. Using the grid to keep things straight, stick everything into its final place. Slowly peel back the transfer paper leaving the vinyl in place.

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Paper Flower Wreath

For our wedding nearly 2 years ago, I created many, many things. This includes the flowers for the bouquets and boutonnieres. We also created a flower covered stand to place one of our cakes on to make it higher than the other cakes.

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Photo Credit: Holden Memories

Since the stand wasn’t of any use for me after the wedding, I decided to reuse the paper flowers to make a wreath. I had picked up the styrofoam wreath not long after the wedding. The ribbon was left over from making my bouquets.

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I started by removing the flowers from the stand and straightening the wires. I then trimmed the wires so they wouldn’t poke all the way through the foam.

I then stuck the flowers into the styrofoam wreath using the 12, 6, 9, 3 pattern. I then filled in between the flowers.

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To finish the wreath, I wrapped the ivory ribbon around the exposed styrofoam. As I wrapped the ribbon, I pulled up the flowers and re-stabbed them through the ribbon.

The wreath is now hanging on our mantle with a few of our other wedding mementos.

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KRUSNING Watercolor – T.S.N.E.M.

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This lampshade signifies the completion of the lighting for my creating room. I’ll be sharing the complete project next week. I shared my first lampshade project here.

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Photo from IKEA

I’ve had this IKEA 17-inch KRUSNING floating around my room for nearly a year just waiting for me to decorate it. I knew I wanted to paint it with watercolors. I just hadn’t taken the time to buy paints.

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Before painting, disassemble the lampshade. The plastic ring in the middle snaps apart. You may need a tiny flat-head screwdriver to help pop open the clips. This way, you don’t need to worry about getting paint on the wrong paper.

I received an artist kit at Christmastime and it contained a selection of watercolor pans. I realise they probably aren’t the best quality, but they suited my purpose. In the event I start properly painting with watercolors, I’ll invest in paint and brushes.

I did a little research and talked with my school’s art teacher about how to go about creating a wash over the entire paper. I tried a couple methods. For my first attempt, I first painted the paper with just water, then brushed on the paint. I think because of the way I mixed the paint and water, it ended up being way too thin. I gave the paper a few minutes to dry before finishing the red wash.

 

For the following papers, I watered my paint and started painting. I think by the time I got to the third or fourth paper, I was finally mixing just right. This is a medium that requires patience and testing.

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Once the papers are dry, you can finish the project. My papers were dry in about 30 minutes, though I gave them about an hour to dry. Stack the papers in the order you want them. I put mine in rainbow order (Roy G Biv – minus the indigo). I stacked them paint side up since it would be hanging from the ceiling. If I do another lampshade, I’ll probably paint both sides of the bottom to papers since both sides show. Snap the plastic center back in. I don’t think it matters which way it goes.  Attach the clear plastic guard and hang the shade.

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I had fun trying watercolor for the first time this month. I wouldn’t mind playing with watercolors again. I’m happy to say I’ve now tried 3 new crafts this year. You can check out the T.S.N.E.M challenge as Swoodson Says and join in next month.

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I’m also still holding strong with my resolution to use supplies on hand. I’m enjoying the feeling of accomplishment that shows up when I finish an in progress project. The room is looking a little messy, but I’m currently blaming that on frequent use rather than just dropping items to deal with later.

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I’ll see you next month for T.S.N.E.M. April’s challenge is edible crafts. I bake all the time, so I’m going to have to think way outside the box for this one!

 

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For the Birds

I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of birds. They tend to like to poop on my head. Though if they were to start delivering my mail, I may change my mind. And my dislike isn’t going to stop me from feeding birds at zoos.

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I bring up birds because because the DIY Challenge from Adventures in Making is Birds of a Feather. I went through a vast spectrum of ideas before settling on a variation of an idea I didn’t get to try last month.

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I dug out my origami book and a few pieces of paper. I started by practicing with a 4 x 4-inch piece of paper to make sure I knew the steps. After a few practices, I settled on using a 1..5 inch square to make the crane.

I used scrapbooking paper to make the birds since I have a rather large supply of scrapbook paper. This helps with sticking to my resolution of using supplies I have on hand.

I painted on a coat of Mod Podge to give a little water proofing.

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To turn the cranes into beads, I took a silver head pin and seed beads. The seed beads were to provide a larger  area in case the holes in the paper stretches any.

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I used some 8mm pearl beads and jump rings to dangle the paper cranes.

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Yeti for my Yeti

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I am not cool. Simple things make me laugh. Like really dumb jokes. Like this one:

Q: Why don’t you ever see elephants hiding in trees?
A: They’re very good at it.

I laughed for like five minutes about this joke. I love the jokes on the bazooka gum.

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I received a Yeti for my birthday last year.  Before I was allowed to open the present with the cup. I opened a gift that contained a stuffed Yeti. Because I asked for a Yeti. Apparently I needed to be more specific.

I intended to personalise it immediately, but was at a loss for which design to use. I’m not a fan of monograms. I also considered a collage of all my hobbies, but that would have been a lot of work.

During Christmas break, I was watching Rudolph (because I watch all the Christmas movies) and had the best idea ever. My Yeti needed its own Yeti!

Of course, it took me another month to actually commence with the project. My first hurdle, was finding the right Yeti. I spent hours looking through images. I needed a simple version that would translate well into a single colour. I finally found an image that only needed a little editing to be just right.

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Conveniently, I have a stash of vinyl from the early days of pickyourplum.com. This stash includes permanent outdoor vinyl in white.

Of course, I have my trusty Silhouette to do the cutting for me. I highly recommend using gridded transfer paper to make sure your design is placed straight.

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Now I get to giggle about my Yeti Yeti every day. I love it! I told you I wasn’t cool.

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T.S.N.E.M. February – Shhh…

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While I was living overseas, my sister sent me a mug. I used this mug daily. It travelled to work with me (it’s not a travel mug). It has by now seen better days. The handle is long gone and I have to be careful of the side I use. I refuse to toss it.

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It still gets occasional use and was the inspiration behind this month’s project. The TSNEM project for the month was a tactile craft such as candle or soap making. Or to make something with clay. None of the ideas I found sparked an interest.

I have however been testing out some mixed media art projects, so I decided to complete an idea for this month’s project.

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I must confess to trying to combine 2 challenges into one with this project. Adventures in Making announced their DIY Craft Challenge is back this year and I want to participate. My goal is to complete 2 separate projects, but that just didn’t happen this month.

Since the DIY challenge was Stitches & Threads, I decided to try out paper embroidery. Which is essentially stitching on paper.

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I started by wrapping chipboard with fabric leftover from a dress I made. I used tacky glue. The size of my piece is 6 inches by 6 inches.

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Since we are talking about reading here, I used my Silhouette to cut out a silhouette of a stack of books. I don’t recall where I found the silhouette of books. the file was on my computer. Probably from another unfinished project idea. My original thought was to use dark brown vinyl, but came across scraps of the pleather we used for my Halloween costume and decided it would replicate an old book feel a little better. The Silhouette didn’t cut all the way through the thicker fabric, but it scored it deep enough for me to then quickly trim out the design.

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For the paper stitching, I used a design from Flamingo Toes. She has a Shhhh… I’m reading pattern available. My plan was to use the Silhouette to cut a book page into a decorative shape. I quickly discovered that old book pages are not quite sturdy enough.  I traced a rough shape and then hand cut the paper.

For the stitching, I traced the lettering onto the page. Then using a pin, I pricked holes along the tracing. I’m going to need a little practice getting the holes the same distance apart. Since this paper was fairly thin, I was very careful while stitching not to pull the thread too roughly so I didn’t pull out stitches. I did pull a few from when I places the holes too close together. I was able to just make the stitch longer to fix the stitch.

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For finishing touches, I added a couple buttons to the corners of the paper. I had planned to stitch around the edge of the page, but I kept pulling out the stitches. I trimmed off the little bit I had stitched and left it as is.

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To complete the project, I plan on matting and framing it to hang somewhere in my house.

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