You can find me on Momster today with a roundup of free fronts.
I've looked at a lot of craft books over the years. If a book contains at least six projects I want to make, I'll generally buy it. But then there are the few craft books that are so lovely to look at, so inspired, that it takes a while before I'm even willing to put them away in a bookcase. That's how I felt when I received The Homemade Home for Children by Sania Pell. (CICO Books, $24.95. www.cicobooks.com)
The book is packed with 50 innovative ideas that cost little to make but are stylish enough for the most discerning of parents (and children). There are projects for the nursery as well as bedroom decor for the older set, projects for children to use in play, fashion accessories to make, outdoor projects, and one of my favorites, stylish storage ideas. The styling and photography are gorgeous and the projects are accessible, with clear, concise directions.
If you have children or need ideas for unique gifts, this is definitely a book to add to your library. And for more of Sania Pell's unique perspective, you can purchase her first book, The Homemade Home. She also has a beautiful blog, At Home.
© CICO Books
© CICO Books
Clay Butterfly Garland
© CICO Books
© CICO Books
Artist's Palette Chalkboards
When I was brainstorming for my column in the May issue of Family Circle, I decided I wanted to make sunprints out of vintage botanical clip art using Inkodye, a sun sensitive dye that comes in a variety of colors, not just the traditional Cobalt blue. I started by printing out this vintage engraving of a poppy from The Graphics Fairy, placing it under a pane of glass, then tracing over it with a black, fine-tipped artist marker. I coated a piece of white cotton fabric with a thin layer of the Inkodye, then placed the glass face down over the coated fabric and exposed it in the sun. The image shown above was the result of that experiment.
I knew immediately that it wouldn't be right for the magazine, but I knew just as quickly that it was perfect for me. I love the faded, mottled look (which occurs due to the condensation that builds up between the glass and the dye coated fabric as it sits in the sun), the uneven printing. It works for me. My next experiment will be with black Inkodye. I'm hoping for a mottled image that feels like a chalk drawing on a dusty chalkboard. (See update on this experiment.)
After this semi-failed experiment, however, I still had a column to do and I knew I wanted to do something revolving around botanical prints. I also liked the tracing on glass. I found it easy to do (lacking any and all ability to draw) and interesting to look at. But the black was too harsh for what I had in mind. I definitely had my heart set on white.
I picked up a couple of oil-based Sharpie paint pens (Fine and Extra-Fine tipped) at my local Michaels and tried again. Success! The pens were great to work with, capable of the finest detail, opaque and quick-drying. The result of that technique was a cleaner, sharper look - the opposite of my sunprinted image. Still, two paths that I'd like to explore further.
But what do you think? Which technique do you like the best?
I used this tutorial as a basis for my sun printing experiment. It recommends using dry erase markers, which is fine if you can find them with really fine tips. Otherwise, use fine tipped art pens (available at artist supply and craft stores) that are used for technical drawings and illustrations. Just make sure they're water and smear-resistant when dry.
For more information and examples of the botanicals created with the Sharpie paint pens, see Momster.
I've added another piece of affordable photography to my collection and I'm just as happy as can be with it, so I thought I'd share it with you. No, it's not a pretty washed pastel version of a nest with eggs in it, but that's not the kind of photograpy I live with anyway. I's beautifully printed and nuanced and makes me happy whenever I look at it. It's also living very comfortably with the rest of my collection.
The photographer is Lucy Snowe and you can find this photograph, French Country Empty Nest in her shop on Etsy (available in two sizes). She has lots of other nature photographs as well, both in black & white and color.
I'm a little obsessed with coffee filters after making my flower baskets and carrots, so I spent some time looking for other coffee filter crafts. My search kept leading me back to Aunt Peaches, who I daresay might be the queen of coffee filters.
Filters aside, Aunt Peaches is irreverant and fun and not at all afraid of color (like I am), so I greatly enjoyed the different perspective and thought I should share her blog with you, in case you're not familiar with it. I learned how to preserve blown eggs with ModPodge on the outside and the inside of the egg, figured out exactly what to do with the vintage costume jewelry I have hanging around once I saw spangled slippers made with tile adhesive, and suffered serious pangs of envy when I saw the most amazing coffee filter roses EVER (pictured above), along with a tutorial for coloring them with acrylic paint.
I think you'll enjoy her, so go visit. She definitely inspired me!
When someone once asked my son what I did for a living, his response was that I made pretty things and mailed them to other people. That's just about right, so during holidays I try very hard to make things for his Kindergarten class. His look of pride when I arrive with gifts makes it all worthwhile.
This year I was tossing around the idea of making crepe paper flower baskets, modeling them on versions found in one of my vintage craft books. However, I was so smitten with the coffee filter flower bowls featured in Martha Stewart Living that I decided to alter my approach for a faster, easier, less expensive version. But those frilly flowers just weren't going to cut it for the boys in the class. My son and I settled on carrots and I was still able to make them with coffee filters, which visually pulls everything together.
As fussy as these projects look, they came together very quickly. I dyed all of the coffee filters in stacks, which was a breeze. The greatest time commitment was the overnight drying time (which could be shortened by creating smaller stacks of filters). Once you get the hang of it, each basket or carrot takes about 10 minutes to make, so definitely a doable project, even for a large class.
Fortunately, they meet my son's rather exacting standards, which is all that counts. I caught him trying to sneak a carrot in his backpack, so I know we have a winner.
Junior size basket coffee filters (4-6 cup size)
Food safe food coloring (I used McCormick Neon, Regular, and Fall (orange))
Large rectangular baking pan or wire racks
Floral stems (for basket handle)
Glue dots (optional)
Quick-setting gel glue (Beacon 3-in-1 Glue)
For the leaves: Put a stack of filters in the dye (as they absorb the dye, they will completely flatten out). Let them sit for a minute or two, then remove them from the dye. Let the excess drip off and then put them aside to dry on a paper towel lined baking tray or on a wire rack set over paper towels.
For the flowers: Working in stacks, dip the edges of the filters into the dye, letting it work its way up as high as you'd like, but not saturating the bottom. Remove the stack from the dye, let the excess drip off, then put them aside to dry face down, keeping the shape of the filter intact.
2. Stack 5 dry filters together (2 of one color for the middle, 3 of another color for the outer petals), then fold in half. Make a slit in the middle of the half, then cut those two portions in half again. Finally, cut slits along the folded edge. Round the cut edges to make petal shapes.
3. Cut a floral stem in half, then bend it to form a "U" shape. Attach it to the sides of the nut cup using glue dots or another strong glue.
4. Take the top coffee filter and push it into the nut cup, arranging the petals as desired.
5. Put a little glue on the bottom of the nut cup and around the top edge on the outside. Attach the second coffee filter around the outside of the nut cup. These two layers will cover it.
6. Run a line of glue around the bottom and the outer bottom edge of the petal covered nut cup and attach the third coffee filter, cupping it up a bit so it connects with the glued edge. Attach the fourth and fifth filters by gluing them onto the bottom of the cup.
7. Fold a green filter in half, cut a leaf shape, then glue it to the bottom of the flower basket.
#6 size white Cone Filters
Junior size basket coffee filters (4-6 cup size)
Food safe food coloring (I used McCormick Neon green, and Fall orange)
Shallow dish (9-inch square dish is perfect)
Large rectangular baking pan or wire racks
Quick-setting gel glue (Beacon 3-in-1 Glue)
Pinking shears (optional)
1. Create a dye bath for the carrots and one for the leaves.
Carrots: Lay a stack of #6 cone filters flat in the orange dye bath and let them soak for a few minutes. Remove the stack, let the excess drip off, and set aside to dry on a wire rack set over paper towels or in a paper towel lined baking sheet.
Leaves: Dip the fluted edges of a stack of basket filters into the green dye and let the dye travel up around the edges of the filter. Let the excess dye drip off, then put the stack aside to dry face down, so that it stands up and retains its fluted shape.
2. Make a cone shape from the dry orange filter and secure with a line of glue along the seam. Fill the cone with candy, blocking the bottom hole with a piece of candy (chocolate eggs are perfect). Fill 2/3 of the way up.
3. Pinch the edges of the orange filter together to create a carrot shape. Take the green filter and gather it into a point at the bottom. Snip off the bottom tip with scissors or pinking shears.
4. Run a little glue along the outside the orange carrot top; place the green filter over the orange "stem" and squeeze shut.
Urban Comfort made it onto Babble's Top 50 list again this year, which is exciting news! But I share this with you because I'm in good company, with 49 other wonderful blogs, some of which you may not be familiar with. Definitely take some time to check them out.
In the meantime, I'm busy crafting, trying to earn my place on the list! If I don't make it back here tomorrow, have a great weekend! I'll be back next week, hopefully with some fun projects to share.
Easter's almost here and I haven't done one thing to prepare (that's what happens when you've already dyed Easter eggs in January). But I still have time and this is what's inspiring me this year:
I love the freshness and brightness of this table, the way the touches of nature elevate the more whimsical elements. Pretty! (BHG)
Love! I'd keep this in my home throughout the spring. (Roy Joy)
Why not forego the Easter baskets and give your guests Washi decorated matchboxes instead? (Martha Stewart Weddings)
Baskets made from lunchbags - simple, easy, and pretty. (Martha Stewart)
Washi tape cocktail stirrers (Martha Stewart Weddings)
A crepe paper flower garland - whimsical and ethereal (Oh Happy Day)
Coffee filter flower bowls - irresistable, easy, and inexpensive to make. (Martha Stewart)
I've used washi tape on eggs before, but these eggs inspire me to break it out again - the polka dots, especially! (Lovely Indeed)
Without a doubt, this is the cocktail I'd serve at my brunch or Easter luncheon. The Gran Gala Fizz is a cocktail that my husband created for Gran Gala and it may very well be my favorite drink of all time!
It suddenly got quiet around here - again. Sometimes I get busy with my job and its deadlines, but lately I've been in a more introspective mood, stepping back from the day-to-day as much as possible, slowing down enough that I can hear myself.
I've learned that creative recharging isn't just about taking time out because you've run out of ideas (I've got plenty of those clanking around in my head), but sometimes about prioritizing, defining what you really want to create, which path you'd like to take. For me, puzzling out those answers is about retreating to a quieter place.
At any rate, I was home alone, organizing (which is required for me when I'm in retreat), and I ran across this little wide + macro lens that I'd purchased for my cell phone camera. The accompanying directions were mostly in Japanese (and the English translation didn't make much sense to me), but it seemed easy enough to use. The wide angle lens worked exactly as I expected. But when I screwed off the macro lens and tried to use it in the same way, I noticed that everything became distorted. At first I tried to figure out what I was doing wrong, but then I decided to just play with it the way it was.
Long story short, for less than the price of a movie ticket, I had several hours of creative fun. Some of the photos didn't quite work enlarged - I learned that high contrast objects were best, as well as strong shapes and patterns. But I'm going to continue experimenting. I still don't know if the problem is with the lens itself or user error, but I had a lot more fun making mistakes than I would have just shooting in standard fashion - a fitting end to my self-imposed refueling.
Visit me on Momster today for tips on using Rit Dye for eggs, along with a dozen color formulas. You can also find an additional 14 formulas in this year's Easter egg story in Family Circle (in the April issue of the magazine or online, at Family Circle.com).
UPDATE: The Momster link doesn't appear to be working at the moment. See below for color recipes:
Easter egg projects using Rit dyed eggs (from Family Circle):
(On a personal note - a big thank you to my friend Korey for helping me blow out more than 300 eggs! I owe you.)
I was working on classic Easter egg designs for Family Circle this year when I hit a stumbling block with one of the ideas I was supposed to execute. I'm glad I did because it led me in a new direction that was really fun for me and incredibly easy to do. I started with patterned hosiery, wrapping squares of it around eggs, then securing it with a rubber band in the back and dipping it into a dye bath. I was surprised at how clearly the intricate designs showed up on the eggs, even when they were done in pastel shades. So I went back and tried some other items. I used pieces of patterned lace fabric and tulle, hosiery in different patterns, and cheesecloth. All of them worked well and were equally easy to use. So if you're looking for eggs that look intricate but are really simple to do, this is the technique for you.
Here's how to do it:
Dye bath in preferred colors
1. Cut squares of fabric approximately 5-6 inches. If you're using pantyhose, cut a 5-inch tube. (You can either cut along the seam of the tube to create a square or keep it as a tube.)
2. Place a boiled egg in the middle of the fabric square or tube and gather tightly, securing the excess fabric with a rubber band, at the back or bottom of the egg.
3. Holding the excess fabric as a handle, dip the egg into the dye bath until the desired color is reached.
4. Remove the egg from the dye bath and blot dry with paper towels. When the egg is dry, snip the rubber band open with the scissors and gently remove the fabric. Blot dry again, if necessary.
1. If you want to reuse your fabric pieces, rinse them out while the dye is wet and blot dry.
2. Blotting your eggs dry with paper towels helps with consistent coloring as it prevents the dye from pooling in certain spots. It also gives you cleaner, more detailed designs.
3. Look for any kind of open weave fabric to create your designs. Also, play with the orientation of the fabric, placing some designs horizontally, some vertical, and some diagonally.
Jessica Simpson hosiery (lots of patterns available, sometimes multiple patterns in the same pair of pantyhose)
Lace fabrics and tulle were purchased from Jo-Ann Fabrics
Cheesecloth can often be found in groceries and kitchen supply sections of stores.
Last spring I had lunch at Coquette in New Orleans, a lunch that ended with the nicest combination of goat cheese, fresh strawberries, tuiles, and wild lavender honey. I've been thinking about it ever since, and finally decided to make it for myself. I know it's early for most everyone else, but our local strawberry season ends next month, so I indulge while I can.
I used this recipe from Tartelette, with only a few minor tweaks to accommodate the sweetness of the honey. Making the mousse was a breeze and the tart shell wasn't complicated either, though you do have to allow time for the dough to chill, so make that ahead of time. If you're really short on time, you can whip up the goat cheese mousse in minutes and serve it with the berries and honey, alongside crisp cookies.
As an aside, thank you to everyone who has been voting in the Circle of Moms contest. I'm in the top 5 today, with a week left. If you're so inclined, you can vote every 24 hours until the contest is over.
Have a great weekend!
Goat Cheese Tarts
For the pate sablee:
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Goat Cheese Mousse:
6 ounces heavy cream, cold
4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
Juice and zest of half a lemon (almost 1 tsp. zest and a little over a teaspoon of juice)
2 cups fresh strawberries
Wild lavender honey (I found mine at Whole Foods)
Prepare the pate sablee:
Place almonds and 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, ground nuts, and salt on medium speed until well-combined. Slowly add remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, and flour, and mix well. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract and mix until incorporated. Shape the dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
Place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll it out to about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out four 6-inch rounds and fit them into 4-inch tartlet rings, patting the dough together with your fingertips if the dough breaks while you're transferring it to the pans.
Prick the dough with a fork and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Place a piece of parchment paper inside the tart shells, fill with beans or pie weights. Bake the shells for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly golden. Let cool completely on wire racks and remove the pie weights.
Prepare the Goat Cheese Mousse:
In the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream to medium stiff peaks and reserve it in the refrigerator.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the goat cheese and sugar. Add the lemon zest and juice and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
Carefully fold the reserved whipped cream into the goat cheese mixture with a rubber spatula, folding until the mixture is smooth. Spoon it into the cooled shells (or pipe it into the tarts with a pastry bag).
Drizzle the tart with honey and serve with fresh berries.
It's that time of year, that moment when I look around my house and realize I'm desperately in need of green. That desire won't be satisfied for a few weeks, but in the meantime, I've gathered some visual greenery - just in case you have the same needs I have.
As promised, more photo textures to use with Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. I should get more serious about this, however. New Orleans is the perfect place to capture texture, color, and patina of all kinds. I'll keep my eyes open! In the meantime, I hope you find something fun to do with these.
Click on the images for full size versions:
I've been taking photographs of various textures for some time now, knowing that one day I wanted to be able to use them in Photoshop. But with all things technical I get a bit of a mental block, and it just felt like one of those things I'd learn one day, whenever I might find myself with a lot of time on my hands.
But as luck would have it, I happened to be in the company of the lovely Miss B. of Besotted Brand last weekend and she's a Photoshop whiz who also happens to enjoy teaching (check out her online photo classes, Souvenir Foto School). In the space of less than an hour I learned how to create my own Photoshop brush, make a png (an element that you can use as an overlay, like a strip of tape or a paper clip), and use textures in photographs. It turns out that none of those things are very difficult, which of course makes me feel silly for taking so long to dive in.
To test myself, I sat down yesterday and worked with a few of the moody textures I posted in the fall. I used a photograph of a pecan branch with a simple background and tried it out with various textures (see the bottom of this post for a tutorial link). It was just as easy as I remembered and a lot of fun to play with.
Using Texture #3 (Overlay mode with 45% opacity)
Using Texture #5 (Soft Light mode with 100% opacity)
Using Texture #8 (Overlay mode with 100% opacity)
Pecans with Texture #9 (Screen mode with 39% opacity)
I didn't do any further editing with these photos - I just wanted you to see what could be achieved simply by swapping textures and adjusting the blending modes and opacity (by the way, the title image was used with Texture #6 - Overlay mode with 100% opacity).
If you want to learn how to do this yourself, I found a good tutorial for you from Digital Photography School. It will walk you through the process, step by simple step, and it can be used for all versions of Photoshop, as well as Elements.
Tomorrow, I'll post some additional textures for you to use. But there's an abundance of free textures already floating around (check Flickr) if you're looking for something in particular. And I promise you - If I can do this, so can you!
I love paper flowers, perhaps as much as I love the real thing. It's possible to get so close to the realism of a natural flower, but I appreciate the intrinsic whimsy as well. They just make me happy.
I've got a flower project that I've been thinking about for Easter, so I've started gathering up inspiration. And what inspiration there is! I found so many beautiful examples that anyone can make, and most of them require little more than paper, a template or paper punch, and glue. Don't be intimidated, especially if your first flower takes a little while to make. It gets easier as you go and faster as you get used to the process - and it's absolutely worth it in the end!
DIY with Tutorials:
One day, I want an entire wall of these giant flowers in my workspace (in red!). I feel like they'd make me happier than happy. (from Ruche for Design Sponge)
Transform paper flowers into floral party hats (or perhaps an updated version of an Easter bonnet?) from Oh Happy Day
These structured flowers are made from 1-inch circles made with a paper punch (from Cotton and Brass for The Wedding Chicks)
Less realistic than some examples, but no less charming. Scalloped edge scissors and crepe paper streamers make up this ruffly flower from It's in the Details.
Here's my tutorial for crepe paper daffodils from a guest blog post I did for To Be Charmed.
From The Green Vase (See lots of other beautiful examples on the site as well.)
Iceland Poppies via Emmaline Bride (a kit you can order)
Whimsy from Thuss+Farrell
I knew before I went to California that I was suffering from creative depletion. It happens sometimes when you work alone, when you're creative-for-hire, when the nuts and bolts of running a small business take as much time as the creative work itself, when the only creative stimulus you're getting seems to come from your computer. It's generally temporary, but when you're in it, it feels like you'll never be inspired again. And when that's your business, it's scary.
I went to California not expecting much, just hoping to enjoy time with friends. What I came home with were new skills and practical information, and some fresh creative energy. Lesson learned. I don't just need to be around people when I'm in a rut, I need to be around women who are passionate and excited and geeky in the same ways I am - and I need to learn something new, even if it's something small. (Thank you, ladies!)
I was also able to spend a day exploring Petaluma and Sebastopol's antique malls and shops, which is one of my favorite things to do. That gave me a jumpstart as well. It helps that there was an abundance of all the things I've been loving in the past couple of years - display pieces, labware, vintage industrial, typography, and lots and lots of natural history artifacts - with price tags that felt reasonable, instead of the prices I was seeing when those goods were in short supply.
Next year, I may be sick of natural history and not need quite so much of it in my home. But right now, it's really working for me!
Original botanical and bug prints are still pretty expensive, but I believe in the DIY approach using free clip art from sites like Vintage Printable. You can download them and have them printed professionally for a fraction of the cost, or if you have a large scale printer (like some of the Epson photo printers), you can do it at home. (Paige Morse via Design Sponge)
Title Image via Indie Fixx ("Special Collections Natural History" group on Flickr).
I just found out that Urban Comfort has been nominated to the Top 25 Creative Mom Blogs 2012 on Circle of Moms (which amazes me because it means someone out there reads this blog, a miracle in and of itself!). There are currently 86 blogs that have been nominated and you can vote for your favorite once a day until March 15 by clicking through this link or through the badge at the right of this page. If you enjoy Urban Comfort, I hope you'll show your support by voting - and I thank you in advance!
When I started this blog, I did it because I needed a creative place to express myself as an individual. It has been that place for me and so much more! I've met some amazing people along the way (in person, even!), stretched my abilities, and created more challenges for myself in the future. It's my hope that this blog will continue to evolve, as I do. Watching my readership grow over the last year has been incredibly gratifying and I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate it!
Have a great weekend! I'll be in Northern California, spending time with a few of the amazing women bloggers and friends I've been lucky enough to meet along the way. I'm looking forward to rest and inspiration! I'll see you back here soon.