Build little pigs from paper

Pigs! These wee papertoys made me smile. Download the templates from Toxic Paper Factory and assemble your own.
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Triple-zip pouches you can sew

My mom (known as Grandma G in the comments around here) sent over photos of pouches she made using the Triple-Zip Pouch tutorial from A Quilter's Table. Has anyone else tried it out? Looks like fun! I asked Mum if she had any comments or notes on the tutorial.

She said:
"I don't have a lot to say about this tutorial. Simply put, these pouches were FUN to make! I loved how each layer was added on, step by step, and suddenly you turn it right side out, and it becomes the pouch! With THREE (easily installed) zippers! I think the design was brilliant, and the tutorial was clear-cut and easy to follow. You have to pay close attention to the details and follow them exactly, but once you get the hang of it, it goes together quickly!

I eliminated the fusible fleece, since the fabric was home dec weight, and it worked out just fine, except that it made the upper corners a bit more bulky and harder to turn out, but IMO that's no big deal.

I also love that the tutorial is available in a PDF file, so I could download it to my iPad and work from there!

Thanks, Debbie, for a great tutorial! I'm off to make another pouch!"

Mum used a lot of exclamation points there, so that means she liked it. I'm embarrassed to say I had to think long and hard what "IMO" might mean. She's cool. IMO.
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DIY cards with copper foil

Recently I ordered some laser toner reactive foil. It's metallic foil that will adhere to the toner on laser prints when it's heated and pressed. Or maybe it's not truly foil. I showed this experiment to my packaging-engineer husband who told me it was probably "metalized film" and blah blah blah "metal vapor deposition" blah blah, but "don't quote me on that." No problem; I didn't understand a word he said anyhow.

For best results, you're supposed to print a black and white laser image, then run the print and the foil through a hot laminator. But I don't have a laminator. The Designer Co-op suggested it's possible to use a household iron— an irresistibly tantalizing thought.

So I printed some designs I made, then practiced ironing on the foil. After some dismal early results, I gradually got the hang of it. I managed to produce one absolutely perfect transfer, and several towards the end were acceptable too, with only a couple small specks where the foil didn't adhere. I'm pretending these are vintage seals with an intentionally distressed look. It's a style choice. (Designers are taught in school to rationalize everything.)

Here's part of my trash pile:

The process that worked best:

I laser printed my designs in black onto cardstock using my home printer.

I laid a piece of corrugated cardboard on my dining table, and then a smooth piece of chipboard on top of that. Don't use an ironing board; it's too squishy. You'll need a hard surface like a table or floor, especially one that you would be very sad to ruin. It adds to the excitement.

I placed the laser print on top of the chipboard, printed side up, then covered the printed area with a piece of foil cut slightly larger than the design. The shiny side faces up.

After experimenting, the best setting for my iron was #2 for nylon. A really hot iron will cause the foil to shrivel up like a piece of peeled sunburn. See that chunk on the right in the picture above? Bad. No color will stick to the paper. Make sure the iron's steam is turned off, too.

Starting at one edge, move the iron steadily across the foil at a moderately slow speed, pressing really hard. Make just one pass.

Then peel the foil sheet off. Hopefully the metal has stuck to the print nicely.

I'd added some vertical lines as a background in the design above, but decided I liked the seal better by itself.

Here's a transfer that's not too bad. You can see just a few black specks where the foil didn't stick. Click to view images larger.

I used metallic copper foil available from Decal Pro FX— one of the individual flat packs at the bottom of the page. An 8"x15' piece of foil is $8.95.

If you don't have design software, no worries. Even simple text printed in an interesting typeface would look cool in foil. It's lots of fun!

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Download and print vintage camera posters

Vintage DIY wall art
Catherine at Design Editor experimented with making oversized black-and-white prints for cheap. She photographed a couple of her vintage cameras, then made 24"x36" engineering prints of them for three bucks at Staples. The best part: you can download her camera images for free and get your own printed up. Cool DIY wall art for your home or office!
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Using polycrylic coating on origami

I've been wondering what kind of protective coating to use on origami, paper jewelry, or other paper projects—something that would make the finished model sturdier, more water-resistant, and maybe a little bit shiny.

I've tried applying a couple coats of Krylon Satin Finish spray, but it didn't seem to have much effect. (Good if you just want to preserve the finish and texture of your paper and protect it a bit from dust, though.) I've also tried clear nail polish, but it didn't create the coating I was looking for.

This was my latest experiment: Minwax Polycrylic, purchased at Home Depot. I got the semi-gloss after standing in the aisle paralyzed, trying to decide whether I wanted a glossy or satin finish. So I aimed for the middle.

I tested the stuff on these origami sakura blossoms I folded from 2" squares of plain computer paper. Get a tutorial for the flowers here! After glueing the petals together, I also glued the loose flaps down to make them extra secure.

Then I painted them with lots of coats of polycrylic, letting the layers dry for an hour or two between coats. I think I applied six. The first coat will cause the folds to relax a little, so be attentive and make sure you reshape the flower a bit if needed before the coating dries. It was helpful to stick them on skewers to dry.

The polycrylic built up a nice, shiny coating and dried crystal clear with no brush strokes at all. The flowers are slightly flexible, but really tough, as if they were laminated with clear plastic or packing tape. Mission accomplished!

I hot-glued magnets to the back and stuck them on my file cabinet.

For other coating and glaze ideas, see the helpful tips from readers in the comments on this post!
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Printable poison labels for Halloween

Since we're on the topic of sticking labels on stuff, check out the printable poison labels Cathe Holden made for Country Living. Download them here in all their sinisterness! Sinistry. Sinistration.
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Glue jam and beer labels to glass with milk

I learned something new: milk doubles as glue. Use it for jam; use it for beer! It's easy and cheap, and dries nearly clear! (Sorry; after I typed the first sentence I couldn't stop myself.)

A few days ago, a commenter asked about a good method for affixing DIY printed labels to jelly jars. Andy Biggs, mastermind behind the Beer and Jam Labelizers, mentioned he uses milk to glue labels to his bottles of homebrewed beer. What?!? After a bit of internet research, I learned this is a common method in the homebrew beer community. Labels need to stick on securely, but be removed easily so the bottles can be reused.

Must. Test. This.

A preliminary note: don't try this with inkjet-printed labels! The ink will bleed and run if it gets wet. Stick to (har har) laser-printed labels, either color or black and white.

Use whole milk or 2% to wet the back of the label. Then just stick it to clean glass.

(I've read that skim milk doesn't work well, but haven't tried it. It's probably similar to using just water: the label clings while wet but falls off when dry.)

When the milk has dried, the label is stuck on firmly. See? It tears when you try to pull it off. But when you run it under water and get the paper wet, it peels off easily with no residue left behind.

If you need glue that's even stronger, try a recipe using gelatin.

I read about similar concoctions in several online forums, then tested and modified a recipe.

Homemade glue ingredients:
2 tablespoons water
1 packet unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons milk

Put the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Wait about 5 minutes. Then microwave the milk to nearly boiling and add it to the gelatin. Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. This recipe yields 1/4 cup of glue.

The glue will look like this. Brush it onto the backs of labels while it's still warm and liquid. When it cools to room temperature, it becomes a solid gel. You can heat it for 15 seconds or so to liquify it again. Or you can eat it if you're hungry.

As you might imagine, the milk will spoil eventually, so the glue mixture will only last a couple days.

The milk-gelatin glue bonds paper to glass even more strongly than milk alone. It requires longer soaking in water and a little more rubbing to get the label off, but again, it comes off cleanly. No need for solvents to remove any sticky, gummy residue.

These tricks would work well for sticking posters to windows or mirrors, too.
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Free font: Bigmouth

Bigmouth, a "font experiment" by Timo Kuilder, is a free download available here at Behance. (When you get there, click the word "download" above the image.) It's a character set with limited punctuation, but could be cool when used at large sizes in headlines or titles.
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Make origami mini paper books

Some things are worth making, even if you can't quite figure out what they're good for. I've folded origami books from a single sheet of paper before, but this version, created from several pieces of paper, is easier. And I daresay, even cuter! I followed the instructions at Paper Kawaii.

The finished mini books are 1.5" square when made from 6" x 3" pieces of paper (one decorative sheet for the cover and seven plain sheets for the interior.) I used plain computer paper for the inside, and sheets from the Traditional Prints pack by Tuttle Publishing for the covers. The patterns are printed on coated paper (unlike more typical uncoated origami paper) and reversed on the back side of each sheet.

Total adorableness. I'm planning to mail them to my little niece.
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Find your Stylescope home design personality

Need to kill some time? Take the HomeGoods Stylescope quiz. You'll get a diagnosis, some tips, and a photo you can download and use as your Facebook timeline cover.

I ended up Urban Funk. Because I have "undeniable funk and soul. She's at home in a place where industrial meets comfort, where over-the-top meets laid-back chill, and where retro art meets graphic simplicity. And she does all this in a way that feels totally effortless... How does Urban Funk entertain? Use slate tiles as charger plates."

What the heck is a charger plate? Kidding. I know what one is. I just don't know a single person who uses them. But all in all, I like this result.
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Lucky Skins review: my iPad gets outfitted

Something happy came in the mail yesterday: an iPad skin from Lucky Skins. They sell decals for phones, tablets, laptops, and mp3 players, and kindly offered to send over the design of my choosing. My choosing had a tough time since there are lots of patterns to pick from, but I opted for Confection.

The skin is essentially a big vinyl sticker, and applying it was simple. I lined it up at the top—you can lift it up again to reposition if you don't press it down firmly—and the air bubbles smoothed out easily as I worked my way down. I even managed to take a one-handed photo while doing it.

My big concern was whether this thing (printed on 3M Controltac™) will come off again if I get tired of it. It's stuck on quite firmly, but peeling up a corner as a test seemed to work okay. I'm guessing the vinyl will stretch a bit as you peel it off, since you have to tug fairly hard to remove it from the back of the iPad. So it's probably not reusable.

The set also comes with a skin for the front of the device, so I threw that on, too. It's a little crazy to look at, but fun. Like my iPad is having a party. This sticker peels off easily from the glass if you want to remove it.

The corner radius isn't a perfect fit on my antique, first generation iPad, though that was the skin size. But it's quite close.

You can even go nuts and download matching wallpapers for most of the device skins on the website. Choose your device, select a design, and help yourself!

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Free, printable gift tags

Presentation is half the battle, so if anybody is interested in making yesterday's hoop earrings to give as presents, here's a little tag you can print out. Punch a couple of tiny holes and you'll look like a professional.

These are multi-purpose, so you could also punch the corner and tie them to something. Download the printable PDF right here.

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Easy DIY beaded hoop earrings

My practical self tends to buy only silver earrings since they match everything. But it would be good to add some color, so I made a few beaded hoops to add to the mix. These only cost a couple bucks, so you could do a rainbow array.

Find seed beads and plain wire hoops at a craft store or on Etsy. These hoops were $1.50 a pair at a local hobby shop, but you can probably find them even cheaper.

To make the earrings, thread beads onto the hoop. I found it fastest to cup the beads in my palm and pick them up with the wire hoop, the same way you'd stab peas with a fork.

Then with a pliers, bend about 1/4" of the end of the wire back at a 90 degree angle. (Don't make the angle any sharper, or it will be too difficult to feed the corner through your earlobe.) Hook the bent end through the "loop" end of the earring to close it.

It might be fun to have a ladies jewelry party some night (with cocktails, if you really want to test your hand-eye coordination). Buy hoops in bulk, get a rainbow array of seed beads, and invite everyone to make zillions of pairs for themselves or to give as gifts.

Download a printable tag for these right here for gift giving.

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Printable bookplates from Helen Dardik

Illustrator Helen Dardik has created another batch of free, printable bookplates in her signature style. Grab these quirky critters right here on her blog.
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New website for The Needle Shop

This has been a fun week, work-wise—I finalized logos and business cards for a few different clients, plus two websites that I designed went live. There's nothing as satisfying as finishing things.

One of the finished things is a revamped website for The Needle Shop, Chicago's DIY sewing school and fabric store in Bucktown. While mulling over the initial design concepts, store owner Rachel Epperson had the brilliant idea of commissioning Ward Nipper to produce some custom illustrations for the site. (Ward often draws elegant, bare-chested ladies like these, but since The Needle Shop is in the business of selling fabric, we agreed it would be counterproductive and a tad too racy to start a shirtless trend.)

My favorite thing on the site? This ottoman. It's my Frond print. So meta: I sketched out that design, digitized it, had it printed on fabric, which was made into an ottoman, which was digitally photographed, sketched by Ward, then digitized again, colored, and ultimately uploaded to the internet. Next, maybe I will make a drawing of my computer monitor displaying this post, then scan that and email it back to Rachel.

Zak Hardage, coder extraordinaire, programmed the new Needle Shop site in Shopify, and Rachel spent a zillion hours loading it up with delicious fabrics, books and patterns for us. Enjoy!
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DIY origami-style necklace

Here's an origami jewelry experiment that's useful if you're broke, or if your eyeballs enjoy looking at folded paper. (Speaking of crafts for the fiscally challenged, Amy Sedaris' book Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People is hilarious. But I digress.)

This pleated paper necklace is made with paper, glue, and inexpensive jewelry parts. I bought this length of chain for $1 and the lobster clasp for 45 cents at a local hobby store. Jump rings were a penny each, or available in a package like this. Attach the clasp to the chain using the rings and a pliers. You could also find a necklace at a thrift store or use an old chain you already have, cutting it at the center to create two loose ends. Set it aside until the paper pendant is ready.

Cut an odd number of squares of paper, any size you like. Mine were 1.5" square, and I cut 7 of them.

Accordian-fold each square. (I fold the square in half, then fold each panel in half again until the panels are too small to continue folding.) Fold the accordian in half and secure the adjacent panels with glue to create a fan shape.

Glue the fans together, alternating them right-side up and upside-down.

I added a coat of clear Krylon acrylic spray as a sealer, which seemed to have no visible effect. Maybe a coat of Hard Coat Mod Podge or clear nail polish would be a good experiment?

Attach chains to each end of the paper structure. Sandwich the chain inside the outermost accordion fold, add a dot of hot glue and press the flap shut.

Of course I had to try an orange necklace, but if it reminds you of deer hunting or construction zones, white or metallic paper would be nice. Or try making one out of stiffened fabric.

For other paper jewelry projects, see here and here.
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