Tag Archives: craft

Book Ends

This is a cool project alert! So clever and creative– not to mention really neat looking. I saw this in the lonby of the Marriott in downtown Milwaukee and was immediately lured to it, practically pushing aside hungover wedding party guests and moms yelling at their kids to get to it. From afar it looks like different sized blocks (which also would have been cool).

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But it’s not. It’s dissected books! And what a great way to make art out of something broken or ruined (because we wouldn’t use nice, new, books, right?!). But think of those books warped by water damage, or whose binds have broken or that are simply falling apart, (please avoid using valuable antique-y books…that would be a shame!) or westerns from the eighties that you have no earthy use for.

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I did not get close enough to see how this was attached but I can just envision that there is a strong circular rod in the middle and all you would have to do is drill a hole in your slice of book and stick it on the ring– so some power tools requires between a power saw and a drill. There may also be some glue involved. I wonder if this will work with a hanger!?

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If anyone out there has tried a similar project, please share! I may give it a go myself. I can imagine this might even be cool with magazine and catalogues. Stay tuned.

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Mini Mouse

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Above is the beady little face only a cat can love–especially when stuffed with catnip! These little guys are a bit labor intensive for the small package, but just wait until your cat goes bonkers over them. You’ll be so proud of yourself.

What you’ll need: fabric, twine or yarn for the tail, stuffing, and catnip. I hand stitched these but there is no reason you can’t use the machine for the first few steps, especially if you plan on making many of them.

This project is perfect for an old t-shirt. If you’ve been into making t-shirt yarn lately and have a bunch of sleeves and chests left over without any idea of what to do with them, here is a great use because these mice use up small snippets of fabric. And the t-shirt is nice because it is stretchy and you can make fat little mice.

Start off by cutting two half circles for the body and two small circles for the ears.
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Place the two pieces together. If your fabric has a good side and a bad side, put both bad sides together. Decide which end will be the “head” and cut a slit until about half way down. I only showed one side in the photo above, but you really should cut them together so they are even.

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I’m sorry, I skipped like three steps in the next photo. It’s just that you get really involved in the “production” of them and forget to take pictures. But the next photo reflects what the mouse looks like after attaching the ears and sewing on the tail.

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I will try and explain as well as possible, though. Take one of your little ears (circle) and roll it like a waffle cone so it’s a little wider on top. Take the rolled ear and stick the end through the slit and fold back the half circle so that you are holding the ear inside the fabric. At this point you should see only a small end of your rolled eat and have a seam to sew up along that slit you previously cut into the half circle. Now you have to do the same thing on the other side so that they mirror each other. When you are done with both ears, you will have two semi-circles again, but this time with ears in the middle-ish. Stick them together so the ears are inside.

Next we attach the tail by having one end of the tail stick out the back end. If there is a good end and a bad end to your tail, have the bad end stick out the back. It will be inside when you flip the mouse inside out.

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It may help to roll up the tail so you can keep it all inside if you have a particularly long tail. Starting with your tail end, start stitching along the outer half circle to close up the two sides. Stop at ears. Then sew along the straight bottom edge to close up the seam.

You are now ready to flip it inside out and should have all of your seams closed up except for “face” area.

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At this point, you have to decide whether you want to put whiskers and eyes on the little mouse. Trust me, the cat will play with it regardless, so you really can skip it… But they are so much cuter with the little details.

Now is the time to add eyes and whiskers if you want them. I used regular thread, but if you have something a little thicker, sewing some eyes on the thing will be sooo much easier. The eyes are self-explanatory. Stitch a circle with the thread.

The whiskers, those required more creativity… And explanation. We are essentially going to make one stitch– on the inside. Thread your string but don’t tie it off. Starting on outside of mouse, you want to pull thread through create a small stitch inside and pull back out. Leave the thread long for the moment. About one half inch from one end, tie a knot (enough to not pull through). Now pull through from other end until the knot stops the thread (yay, one whisker has emerged!). As for the other whisker, you now need to tie a knot on the other side of the stitch to keep whisker from pulling through. See the second photo below to understand how the stitch is on the inside and the first photo to see how the knot on the outside keeps it from pulling through.

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Now all of our hard work is done and we can stuff the little rodents. I used poly-fiber stuffing as well as catnip to make them nice and fat. Just shove it in there.

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When the mouse is as full as you want it, stitch up the face. Just pay attention to where the eyes and whiskers are so they line up.

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Final step: find a cat.

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Twelve Posts of Christmas– Sticky Business

I am writing this post with a dream and an idea. Though it can still go horribly wrong. But I was called to sit on jury duty this week, and I have some time to kill because I can’t leave this room–possible for an entire week. So I am drafting this post without actually knowing if this project will work. But it’s so simple it has to work, right? I mean, I only need sticks and hot glue. What can go wrong?

So this is what I am going to try and do today when I get home from jury duty: I am going to make star ornaments out of twigs. I am going to brave the bitter cold and go outside and forage some smallish branches and twigs. I will curse the cold and the fact that I was too lazy to do this in the fall when the damn twigs were not covered in snow and it wasn’t nine degrees outside.

In a feat of self-delusion, I will think that making a star is easy. I mean, I’ve been making them since I was, like, five years old.  I will intend to do many, but will probably cobble together just one, which I will then spray paint gold to hide all the defects.  And add glitter. Lots of glitter. 

How did this turn out?

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Not too bad. If you don’t look at it too closely, that is. Hot glue is kind of blobby. 20131219-212600.jpg

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I was, indeed, annoyed that I waited to do this project when everything was covered with snow.  I though about collecting the twigs many times this fall as we were pruning branches. But I didn’t.  So instead, I rushed outside to the unburned burn pile, snapped some small branches and twigs with the leaves still attached and ran back inside.  My pile was kind of puny.  
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The pile of sticks and leaves eventually became a pile of sticks of varying sizes and lengths. I kept even really short pieces knowing I was going to try and fill in the star. It started out a little uncertainly. I have to admit I really dislike working with hot glue. It’s hard to control, leaves “strings” behind and dries milky.  Getting all 10 joints glued together, without gluing the towel underneath, was challenging.  As I held up the star triumphantly after the last joint, it was really wonky.  The joints were not stable and I  thought I had to scrap the hot glue because it wasn’t working. I went in search of wood glue. Bad idea! Do you understand how long you would have to hold pieces together to get them to stay?  So back to the hot glue.  It’s the only way to do this project in a reasonable time frame.  It just turned out I had to be more patient. 

I think I can get better at this and plan to make more. After I let myself be patient, and actually waited for the glue to dry, I realized that I could use less glue. Because of drying time, though, making one star can still take a while. an assembly line type of system would work, though for making two or three at once.  I thought my mound of sticks would yield more than one star. But adding the “filler” in was a bit addictive so I kept using up my sticks.

In the end, despite my setbacks, I think it turned out nicely and my next one will be even better. I may not even have to paint them gold and cover them with glitter! I haven’t decided yet. They look rather nice in the nude.

Boo-man Group

Just in time for Halloween! This is an easy project that requires just two materials: acrylic paint and a dried bottle gourd. Admittedly, finding a dried gourd can be tricky. I came across a cheap stash at a local nursery. They were $3 each for the dried, unscrubbed ones. The scrubbed ones were $5 each, and, looking back, I maybe should have paid the extra $2 because cleaning these suckers is hard work.

If you keep your eye out for them, I am sure you can find a cheap, local source. However, if you think these are so cute you want to go out and do them now, I seem to recall seeing them at Hobby Lobby or Michaels. Or, if you want practically free gourds and want to plan this project for next year, you can grow them!

On that note, before I get into the project, let’s talk about the gourds. Some people don’t actually realize that these are plants. The dried gourd you plan to craft with was recently growing on a vine somewhere, similar to pumpkins and cucumbers. They are just a particular kind of squash or melon.

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According to Wikipedia, this plant was one of the first cultivated plants in the world, grown not primarily for food, but for use as a water container.” It can be also be eaten. While ancient cultures have used this amazing plant for functional and necessary purposes, we are not so noble. We are going to make cute, fun little ghosts.

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Dried Gourd Turorial

Step 1) Prepare your dried gourd. This means scrubbing the dickens out of it if it still has the flaky black bits on it. 20131007-222118.jpg Incidentally, this is mold…I recommend that you wear gloves and maybe a mask. And if you are having your kids help, do the scrubbing for them. Though, quite honestly, I have never had an issue. Since you are painting the gourds, they don’t have to be pristine. Just make sure you get the flakiness off so your paint does not peel.
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Step 2) Once gourd is flake-free and dry, you can paint it. Go ahead, be generous. I used white acrylic paint and had to do many, many layers before I was satisfied, but the stuff dries quickly so it’s not a big deal. Why not get creative and add some metallic or glitter paint. There is also no reason you can use a color other than white. However, I went traditional Ghostbusters on this and used black and white. I have done the project before with a foam brush and a paint brush. Both work well.

Step 3) Draw in your eyes and mouth. I used black acrylic paint, but you can get creative with this. I also rimmed the stem with black and added a little detail to the back for fun. When you are happy, give it a spray of glossy sealer.
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If you search far and wide for bottle gourds and only find apple gourds, do not despair, here are some Halloween/ Fall ideas with apple gourds.

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A crafting Quickie!

This project is so quick and easy you’ll want to start decorating everything. It’s really addictive! I started with a set of three dingy votive holders that held remnants of wax and soot. Cleaning them out was surprisingly easy. I just scrubbed under hot water with dish soap for a bit. And voila!

20130916-193151.jpg You get a nice clean surface to start off with. This is important because even though you’ll be putting a covering on the outside, glass happens to be see-through. Other than the votive (or other glass container), you need tissue paper, a brush and glue (yep, regular old elmer’s school glue is fine–and super cheap right about now). You don’t need to buy modge podge or make it from flour and stuff. Just get plain, white school glue.

So here is the easy tutorial. It practically writes itself.

1) Grab your soon-to-be-fabulous-but-currently-plain-and-boring glass container. Grab your glue and put it in a small, shallow bowl. I added a few drops of water to make it a bit easier to spread.
2) Measure your tissue paper to cover the surface. You can spend a lot of time actually measuring the paper, but this is too much effort! You can always fix it later (as long as it’s too big. If it’s too small, you are screwed).
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3) Spread a layer of glue onto the glass and start to apply the tissue. Caution: do not manipulate the tissue paper too much, it will tear! And it’s tricky to patch up because it is pretty obvious where you’ve doubled up. 20130916-193207.jpg
4) After you’ve applied your layer of tissue, apply another layer of glue to the outside. Be generous. You are sealing it in.
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5) Let dry for many hours. In the end, it looks like a cool frosted design. Here is the final product. a href=”https://lifeimproveddotorg.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/20130916-200604.jpg”>20130916-200604.jpg
And what’s really great about this is if you get sick of it, you can just let it soak in water and start all over again. This project is perfect for changing seasonal home decor or decorating for special occasions.

Mobiles

For many years, my go-to baby gift was a set of totally over-priced (but thoroughly adorable) baby socks and a crinkly, rattle-type thing. Recently, though, I wanted to make more personal gifts. And I was on this scrap fabric kick so I wanted a project that I could make with scraps. I bought plain baby onesies double-sided fusing to make cute designs.
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See, totally cute, right?! Except…the onesies seemed kind of a short-lived gift, especially when baby goo squirted out the back of a diaper–the sad fate of the chubby penguins above. I always had making a baby mobile at the back of my mind, but the project seemed too ambitious. However, a few weeks ago, my very special friends announced they were pregnant. (Aside: all my friends are special, but these friends got pregnant at the right time…when I had already experimented with the fusible webbing for a while–and after the baby goo incident.)

So, I committed to making a mobile for their baby. I had plenty of time…more than seven months, so I could take my time. I searched the Internet, craft, and hardware stores for the right piece. Specifically, I was looking for a four-way connector to cross two sticks or wires. I didn’t want to purchase the whole thing, I wanted to salvage materials from home or nature and use scraps to make the decorative pieces. Unfortunately, nothing existed for mere craft mortals. I have no idea if there is some secret resource out there for all things connectors, but I did not come across it. For a crazy second, I considered buying a kit and just using what pieces I needed. But that was wasteful and all I really needed was the thing on which to hang all my craftiness.

I abandoned the idea of ever finding a connector piece, or even for making a cross–at least for this mobile. My next choice was going with a circle. Heck. I could make a circle.

“From what?” you ask. Well, the most obvious option was using a hanger. You know, one of those annoying wire ones from the dry cleaners. My husband laughed at me. He figured that using the hanger would make the project look like a grade school project. I accepted the challenge.

With tin snips, I cut off both sides just where the hanger started to swoop up. I then entwined the two ends together and once the connection was secure, I pushed and pulled the hanger into a circle. Granted, it was not a pretty circle and no matter how hard I tried, I could not get the ends I had cut to not poke out dangerously. I eventually got the circle look more like a circle, but no matter how much I tried, I could not get the pokey ends to not stick out. Since I knew I would be covering the hanger, I was not too worried about it.

I then cut many, many strips of a plain cotton fabric that the week before lined the interior of my throw pillows. My plan was to wind the fabric around until I could no longer feel the pointy tips. I think it ended up being about three layers. I distressed the edges for that shabby baby effect. I used glue to make the fabric stick.

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At this point, I decided to make the hanging implement. I used tulle because I had a lot of it. I took four long pieces of tulle and wound and knotted them at four opposite points on the circle.

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NOTE: I later decided to hang a little owl from the center…and had to go back and fix things. So, if you want to hang a critter from the middle, it would be easier if your hung an extra length of tulle or your ribbon of choice from the center now.

Take all the lengths and gather them about one foot above the circle. I tied a knot. Don’t bother trying to tie a bow because it will be impossible to get all the lengths to me the same. Since I was using tulle, I knew I could get a big poofy puff at the end.

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To do that, I folded back all the ends and tied them with a piece of twine. I then cut off the ends that were beneath the twine and covered the twine with a thick piece of tulle, which was glued down.

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Now that my structure was in shape, it was time for the fun (and time consuming) part of making my little owls. Clearly, any little bug or animal design would work. I went with owls. And I wanted to make them two sided and poofy, with feet and ears sandwiched in the middle. This was just the way my little owls developed.

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Above are pictures of the materials for constructing my owls. The fronts were made up of a big circle for the body, a smaller oval for the belly, two pointy ovals for wings, and a triangle piece for a nose. (See the photos below). The back had a big circle for the body, and a tail. In addition to these pieces, I used a polyester batting for stuffing, double-sides fusible webbing, tulle for hanging the owls and the mobile, and fabric paint for the eyes. You can use regular glue, too, but the fusible stuff dries a lot more quickly.

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I fashioned some ears and feet.

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My owls were constructed by taking one of the circles and sticking on the pieces on the front and then taking the other circle and sticking the little tail on the back. At this point, the front and back are not attached. If you have ears and feet, you can now attach them to one of the sides, on the inside.

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Since I wanted to make these owls poofy, at some point I needed to stuff these little guys. At first I tried to stuff them like little dumplings, i.e. stick a clump of stuffing in the center of my owl and sandwich it in, but that made it tricky to add enough stuffing. After a different methods, I found that what worked best was to fuse the edges a portion at a time, until I had a gap (usually between the ears) to shove stuffing into. This made for lil’ fat owls. I could then finish with my tulle ribbon between the ears. I stuffed the ends of the tulle into the gap between the ears and fused them to seal the tulle inside. By leaving this step for last, I could wrap the ribbon around the circle hanger and not have to worry about tying it on.

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Then repeat several more times until you have enough little fellows to be happy with your mobile. I did nine owls of varying sizes, fabric combos and styles.

The final touch was to add eyes. I decided to use fabric paint for the eyes mostly because the idea of cutting out all those little circles made my head spin. The fabric paint was a lot easier.

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And now it’s ready to lull a baby to sleep.

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Fabric Coasters

These are fun and surprisingly sturdy. I made some for Christmas last year for each of my family and I am pretty sure they loved them. The trick to getting nice, thick coasters is using thick fabric, like upholstery fabric and a thick double-sides fusing like this awesome product, Bosal Craf-Tex. This particular product actually makes coaster sized, pre-cut, packages, but the store I was at only had the placemat packages, which actually turned out to be far more economical. This product is washable and very malleable. These are the materials I used, plus an iron, which I forgot to include and the sewing machine, which was in the other room.
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Also, I didn’t mention needle and thread or glue to finish gap.

Here is my tutorial.

1) Decide how many coasters you want to make. Multiply this number by two and cut out that number of fabric squares. I have a square tool that I purchased a while ago that is 4 1/2″. This tool also makes it easy to draw where I want to sew, leaving a 1/2″ seam. My fusible interfacing should be the same size as my inner square. Cut out one fusible interfacing for each coaster. The fusible interfacing ends up being around 3 1/2″, though you may need to trim it up later. You really don’t need fancy tools.  I bought that plastic square thing because I was making A LOT of these for Christmas.  If you don’t have one or want one, the solution is simple: make a square template of 4-5 inches from cardboard.  then, using 1/2 inch seams as a default, make another square template one inch smaller around than your first template.

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2) Coordinate your squares by choosing a front and back to each coaster and then flip each fabric so that the good sides are facing in towards each other and the bad sides are out.

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3) Sew around three edges completely.
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4) on the fourth edge, sew from the outer edge in on both sides leaving about a one inch gap. Remember to double back on edges and on each side on the gap so that the fabric doesn’t come apart as you turn over or stuff with your fusible interface.
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5) Trim edges, EXCEPT the edge with the gap. Leave that untrimmed to make stitching it up a little easier.

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6) Turn coaster pretty side out and use some thing fine-tipped (but not too sharp) to poke out nice crisp corners.  Turning the coasters right-side out is actually the most frustrating part of this project. Sometimes the gap I have left is just big enough for my finger, but I have worked the most stubborn fabrics through impossible small openings.  Be patient and don’t ruin all your hard work by tearing it apart.
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7) Once you are  satisfied that your corners are poked out, you are ready to stuff.  Now …  you are probably wondering how to get your three inch+ square into a one inch gap. Just roll up the fusible interfacing and stick it in. Manipulate it to lay flat inside.
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8) Once in position, with everything tucked inside, get your iron out and set to medium. Fold in the edges in the gap so that they sandwich the fusible interfacing, that way you get a crisp edge. I ironed directly on the outer fabric for several seconds on each side.
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9) Almost done! Stitch up the gap. Use your favorite stitch, or even glue and clamp together.

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10) Then, put to use right away or find a ribbon to tie up your fun little stack of coasters to give as a gift.

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The Fabric Flower

The styles and looks of flowers is only limited by your imagination and the materials at hand. It is not limited by talent or skills. These are easy to make, and no matter what you find on the internet, you will soon see that your fabric flowers will look unique. Here is one example using strips of scraps: the rose.

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In this first example, I used some of the smallest of my scraps, those measuring about an inch, but at least three inches in length. I like to sew these together because glue would be too messy with this style, but, seriously, no actual sewing skills required! While you could just go round and round and sew your rows of strips to themselves, I like to use a sturdy fabric as a “base.” This is so I have more control of the “petals” and the shape. It also adds re-inforcement and makes applying the pins and clips easier. It doesn’t matter what this base fabric looks like, you shouldn’t be able to see it at the end with this style flower.

So here is a step by step:

1) Gather your scraps! Any scrap at least one inch wide and three inches long. If you have wider strips, you can create fuller roses.

2) Begin sewing the ends together to form a strip. The longer the strip, the bigger the flower you will create. Also, if you feel your strip is wide enough, you can fold the strip in half and sew along the open bottom to create a long tube.

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3) Cut out a circle of sturdy fabric for your base

4) Begin by creating the center. As you make more and more of these…because I promise you will get addicted…you will develop your own style for the center. And don’t worry, if you create a gap you don’t love, you can always stick something sparkly in there to fill it in. I like to stick my fabric flat on the base, just south of the center and affix with a couple of stitches, then I fold the strip over and start the first petals over the fabric that has been stitched down so there is no gap.

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5) Go round and round. Create “ruffles” by pleating.

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6) When your flower has reached its desired size, stop winding and make sure everything is secure. Then cut out another circle of sturdy, coordinating fabric. This circle should be at least a quarter inch bigger than the base circle. I usually like to sew my pin and clip attachment separately to this circle before applying to the flower. I have seen many people simply glue these on. What ever works for you. Take your new circle and glue it on! I like to apply glue to the everything but the outer quarter inch of my finishing circle. That way I can stitch around the outside. I like to stick around the outside because many times the bottom isn’t completely flat, and stitching helps it hold together better. Plus sometimes you want to manipulate a petal here or there and stitching allows you to do that.

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First… admit you have a problem.

My dear, beautiful sister was always so proud of herself for getting such fabulous deals on after-holiday items, decorations and wrappings.  Perhaps the best example was Christmas.  Every year, she would buy her wrapping papers, tissues, foils, boxes, bags, decorations on super sale after the season and put them away for the next year.  She got such fabulous savings!

When she moved from Illinois to Arizona three years ago she brought out from under the house FIVE bins of Christmas stuff, much of it never opened. Together, with hands held, and tears in our eyes, we acknowledged she had a sickness.  If you buy things and never use them, it’s no deal at all, no matter how cheap it was.

Now, I will admit, I took a lot of it…she couldn’t take it with her and we weren’t going to throw it away…it was all free for me.  But, I have to be honest,  it will be years before I actually go through it all.  Especially since I have made a vow to never buy wrapping paper and gift bags again.  Once you make a conscientious effort to save tissue, gift bags, cellophane, bows, ribbon, fillers, foils, and boxes, it adds up very fast.  People may look at you strangely at a baby shower when you are folding all the tissue into manageable folds, but you’ll be glad you did. (Baby showers are gold mines for tissue paper, by the way).  There are so many uses for tissue paper.  You can shred it and use it for easter baskets, shipping delicate products, and gift baskets. You can even wrap presents with it. You can use if for decor on gifts of plain bags, such as making tissue flowers, bows, or taking some watered down glue and decoupage-ing.

At Christmas time, I collect the ribbon and tissue and bags that people otherwise throw away. And they throw so much away! Everyone so far has rolled their eyes at the idea of shredding and composting the wrapping paper, but I hope to put that into effect soon.  I also collect small boxes and ribbons like the ones that come with all those yummy office gifts. Even if it’s too small to actually use to wrap, ribbons are great for crafting.

Occasionally my husband also has a good idea. Sometime ago he collected a handful of flight maps that the local flight school was getting rid of.  They have now become his signature wrapping and everyone remarks on how clever it is.  Repurposing things like maps, comics, your kid’s coloring book pages, instructions, newspaper, magazine pages, and tissue as wrapping paper is a great and FREE idea. Don’t forget to shred and compost after wards (I know…I haven’t gotten around to that yet, but I WILL.)