Make paper Halloween monsters

Happy Halloween! Doesn't your desk need a paper monster in a Halloween costume? You'd rather make these than get any work done, wouldn't you? Scout Creative has designed printable templates you can download for free.
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Generate plaid backgrounds

If you're mad about plaid, you might enjoy PlaidMaker, an online tool that lets you design your own tartan. Pixels mimic threads, and you can create subtle patterns at a tiny scale, or bold prints in wild colors. Start from scratch or check out the gallery of user-generated plaids and modify any you like. Then download a .png file that will tile seamlessly. Use it for website backgrounds or wallpapers. Or, once you've got it tiled across a screen, you could take a screenshot and use it for your Facebook cover image.
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Print your own Halloween mask

Need a last-minute, do-it-yourself Halloween costume? Freelance illustrator Sarah Clark has created free masks you can download, print, and assemble. There are three designs to choose from with one more coming soon. Get them here at Cut & Fold Costumes. (Access to the files requires setting up a free account at Scribd, the document sharing site.)

Have a fun weekend, everyone!
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Free, printable 2013 owl calendar

My Owl Barn's third annual owl calendar is ready! Customize a calendar with illustrations from artists around the globe, including Ellen Giggenbach, above. Choose from over 40 images, assigning one to each month. Then download the high res PDF and print. The images would make nice gift tags, too, if printed at small sizes. Make a calendar here.

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Books for people who like to make stuff

Chronicle Books keeps churning out fun titles, including a couple more DIY volumes they sent over. Stencil Style 101 is stencil master Ed Roth's latest book full of ideas for customizing clothes and accessories.

The first half of the book is comprised of project tutorials with very detailed instructions, and the second half contains 25 pre-cut, reusable plastic stencils. Detach the pages along the perforation, use them, easily wipe off any paint residue, and tuck them back inside the handy pocket.

Designs include patterns like houndstooth, animal prints, checkerboard, and argyle, plus lots of objects: feathers, a rotary phone, birds, ropes, chains, a bowtie, pocket protector(!) and more.

Along with classic stenciling projects using paint, see how to use the stencils for embroidery, knitting, and appliques.

Check out that amazing quilted jacket!

I wonder what's the most interesting substrate Ed has ever used a stencil on. A police car? A hamster? I'm going to ask him.

[Okay, I'm back. Ed reports that it's a banana. I was close.]

You can get Stencil Style 101 right here at Amazon.

People who have always dreamed of making party decorations like you see on Pinterest might like Pretty Paper Parties by Vana Chupp. You know what I'm talking about. Those photos of lovely buffet tables pushed against a wall, draped with bunting, and stacked with glass jars of perfectly coordinating candies and flawless cupcakes sporting paper flags. The ones that make you wonder A) Who does that? and B) What does the rest of the room look like, because you suspect that was just for a photo shoot and the rest of the house looks like a hurricane hit it?

This book can't help you with the housekeeping and doesn't come with glass apothecary jars, but it will make it easier to pull off the garlands and cupcake toppers.

It includes templates for tracing and cutting out simple shapes (think hearts, stars, scalloped chain links, and photobooth props to glue on sticks: glasses, bowties, and the ubiquitous mustache). The real value is in the 40 sheets of coordinating patterned paper, though. Each sheet is printed on both sides with contrasting designs. If you used it all, you'd have a super festive event.

Find Pretty Paper Parties right here at Amazon.

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Free, hand-lettered signage font: Barata

Barata Display is a typeface inspired by the lettering on signs used by street vendors in Latin countries. The beta version is available for free for Macs from Estudio Arellano Type Foundry and can be used on personal and commercial projects. Get it here!
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How to add clasps to friendship bracelets

I used embroidery floss samples this weekend to make a few friendship bracelets. For the first time, I might add. When I was a kid, shoe pins were all the rage instead of bracelets at my school. I've never made a knotted bracelet before, but since little girls can do it, it would be embarrassing if I couldn't figure it out, right?

Purl Soho's tutorial and taught me everything I needed to know. Check out the gallery here for some amazing work. That site has 23,000 patterns. Holy smokes!

I wanted my bracelets to be easily put on and taken off without having to tie them in the traditional way. None of this "leave it on until it falls off" business. That's probably friendship bracelet blasphemy, but so be it.

I like a more polished finish instead of ratty dangling threads. I went to my local hobby store and got some jewelry clasps which are easy to add.

For wider bracelets (10+ strings), a wide crimp connector can work well. A narrower fold-over crimp-head clasp can also do the job. If your clasp doesn't have an attached jump ring, you might need a couple of those, too. And finally, a lobster clasp or a spring-ring clasp will hook the whole deal together.

To use the wider clamp version, cut the loose threads off both ends of the bracelet.

Add a little glue to hold the threads together at the end and work it in with your fingers. I used Aleene's Tacky Glue. After the glue dries for 5 minutes or so, push the end of the bracelet inside the clamp. Then press the metal closed with a pliers. The clamp has tiny teeth that dig into the thread so it won't come apart.

Use a couple jump rings if needed and add the clasp of your choice.

Or, try a fold-over crimp clasp. Cut the loose threads off your bracelet, leaving about a quarter inch. Roll some glue around with your fingers until the loose threads are twisted together. When the glue is dry, trim off any excess length and insert the end into the clasp. With a pliers, fold over one flap of the clasp, then fold the other on top of it and squeeze. Add the closure of your choice.

You can get these jewelry findings at bead stores or all over in the supplies section.

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New embroidery floss from Sublime Stitching

Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching sent over samples of her brand new, debut line of embroidery floss. She's pretty excited. Or in her words, "giddy and thrilled and dancing around hugging herself" because this project was a year in the making.

Choose from nine different sets of floss, each with a unique, carefully selected color palette that tells a story. No need to struggle to pick colors that look good together for a project, because Jenny already did it for us.

Each paper band has a tiny message on it, just for fun.

The floss colors won't run, bleed or fade when washed. Need some? Purchase packs here for $6 each.

Free pattern alert! You can also download a complimentary mustache embroidery pattern. Or browse all the stitching patterns and supplies on the website, including tote bag kits like this mountain design, my fave.

I'm not an embroiderer, unless it's to a story I'm telling, but I feel some friendship bracelets coming on...

Update: Yup, sure enough.

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Printable Halloween paper dolls

I don't have kids, but this is too cute not to share. Download free, printable cone-shaped paper dolls with interchangeable Halloween costumes from Mr. Printables. You'll need the girl bodies from here, and the Halloween costumes from here. You can also make all the dress-up outfits below. Adorable.

I think my niece would really get into these. If you know some little girls, maybe they'd like to play with cone girls, too! Rumor has it cone boys are coming soon.
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Make glow-in-the-dark Halloween art

I tried out some Glow-in-the-Dark Mod Podge for this Halloween DIY project. In daylight, prints look normal. In the dark, they glow! At least for a little while. The Mod Podge coating on these needs charging up in light. I was a bit disappointed to see that the glow fades in five minutes or so. But hey, it's a fun five minutes.

And I must confess that the photo above is fake. Sorry! It's like I've turned my blog into the National Enquirer. My auto-focusing camera refused to snap pictures at such low light, so I carefully Photoshopped a simulation. I considered adding an alien monkey boy to the image, but opted for realism. The glowing areas on the prints might look slightly more brush-strokey in real life, but this is pretty accurate.

If you want to try making your own glowing prints, you'll need white cardstock, a brush, Glow-in-the-Dark Mod Podge, and a printer or black Sharpie.

Brush a piece of light-weight cardstock with 5 or 6 coats of Mod Podge, letting each coat dry in between. The paper ends up glossy and sort of leathery feeling. It still looks white, but you can see brush strokes if you hold it in the light at the right angle.

Then print out black-and-white images on the treated paper. The areas covered by black toner won't glow since the Mod Podge is masked.

I used the vampire bat and spider from Clip Art Etc., a great resource for vintage clipart.

You could also try a black Sharpie, or glue on black paper cutouts. Or brush a canvas with Mod Podge and then paint a black design on top.
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Cool, free designery iPhone backgrounds

Artists and illustrators have generously shared tons of free backgrounds for iPads and iPhones. Some of my faves are the sweater wallpaper at Mr. Handsomeface, graphic animal backgrounds from Wee Society (with instructions for making them into DIY Halloween costumes for kids!), and this lady by Simone Massoni. Browse through the other beautiful, bountiful options at Poolga, too, including new, free wallpapers for the iPhone 5.
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Explore the globe with Worldcam

Worldcam is a fun new website that loads Instagram photos from locations you specify. Find out what's happening right now, anywhere people are sharing their images. Test it! Take a peek at Chicago's Millennium Park, New York's Mood Fabrics (of Project Runway fame), and the Taj Mahal. Or type in your city and the name of your local coffee shop to see if anything is going on.
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How to make an infinity scarf the lazy way

Scarves are everywhere, which makes me want to resist them since everyone is doing it. But they're so comfy and nice and make you feel like you're wearing a cozy blanket. If you close your eyes, you can pretend you're still in your bed. Plus you can wear old jeans and a worn out t-shirt, and as soon as you add a scarf, your surprised friends will tell you how nice you look. At least that's what happens to me.

So I went to buy couple more at the mall, but was not impressed with $20+ price tags. Instead I found seller FABULACE on Etsy and bought a couple pieces of knit jersey for about $3 a yard. The piece I cut up for this scarf was 1 1/2 yards long by 60" wide, so that's enough to make two scarves!

There are a million infinity scarf tutorials on the internet, but the ones I saw all involve hand sewing where the loop joins together. That's for lovely people who are patient and care about doing a really nice job. This thing will get all wadded up around my neck, so I'm thinking no one will see that I sort of cheated and did not care about doing a really nice job.

I cut a rectangle of fabric 22" wide by 1 1/2 yards long.

I folded it in half lengthwise with the right sides together. I sewed along the open edge to create a long tube.

Then I turned the tube right side out.

To join the open ends together to form a continuous loop, on one end I turned the raw edges to the inside about 1/2". I stuffed the other end of the scarf inside the opening and pinned them together, then sewed along the pinned edge.

Keep the seam behind your neck or hidden under a loop of fabric, and nobody will be the wiser.
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Stitched Halloween wall decorations

Hey, while we're on the subject of cross stitch, have you seen the stitched Halloween wall art at Decor Hacks? Find the tutorial right here.
(Via Curbly.)

In other news, I just attempted to fold this origami spider. The video tutorial is good... except I used regular printer paper which is too thick. Use origami paper, or there will be too much bulk to deal with and the spider's rear will stick straight up in the air. My spider now lives in my trash can where he will be joined by other garbage and hauled off to the recycler. Origami fail.
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Free cross stitch font Costura

Here's a fun download: a cross stitch-style typeface by Simon Wiesmayr. Costura is free for personal and commercial use and comes in light, demibold, and bold weights. Get it here from Font Squirrel.
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Free sewing patterns and tutorials

If you've got fabric yardage crawling out from under your bed waiting to trip innocent passers by, it might be time to use some up. (Possibly that's just me.) These DIY bag and clothing projects might put some of that surplus to good use!
Backpack at Hart & Sew
Backgammon skirt by Ellen Luckett Baker at I'm Feelin' Crafty
Half apron with jumbo pockets from Sew 4 Home
Little Grey Dress at Un Petit Design (plus FAQ here)
Reversible tote bag at You Can Do That Dot Me, based on this tutorial
Little Betty Bag from The Mother Huddle
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Custom box template generator

Blog reader Maarten sent over this useful link: an online box template maker. Choose the box design or envelope you want, then type in your own dimensions. A PDF template will be generated for you. Download the file and print it out on decorative paper or use it as a dieline for a project. (The PDF is editable in Illustrator, too.)

Next time you've got a small gift to wrap, it's easy to make a custom-sized box for it!

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More metallic foil exploits, with free printables

I experimented some more with the laser toner reactive foil I got from Decal Pro FX. I ironed the foil onto black laser prints on colored cardstock to make these bookmarks and cards.

See this post for a more detailed how-to. I did everything the same way, except this time I used Decal Pro's carrier board as my ironing surface. I think this worked slightly better than chipboard since it's very smooth and doesn't warp when heated.

I reused the little flowers I'd drawn and scanned for the printable business card project here.

I like the foil best on dark paper, since the metal contrasts nicely when it gleams. Plus dark paper hides any tiny specks of toner that aren't covered by foil. Laser printing on the black cardstock worked well, though the flowers looked a little blotchy and strange (above). But the foil still adhered well.

I guess I'm easily amused, but peeling it off is totally thrilling.

This time I tried a two-color design. I printed out just the parts that would get the first color, then ironed silver foil on.

Then I ran the foiled paper through the printer again, printing just the leafy stems this time. I ironed gold foil onto those. Foil won't stick to itself, so no gold got into the silver. The smooth, mirror-like surface of the silver foil did get a teensy bit duller or more textured on its journey through the printer, but that's barely noticeable.

If you'd like the files I used, feel free to download:
Printable bookmark PDF
Printable birthday card PDF (This file is three pages. Print only the page you need at 100%: first color page, second color page, or the entire design.)

Purchase individual foils or a sampler pack right here.
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