Fairy Wands

If I am asked to help someone out with a DIY project, I come alive. Known as “Crafty Jen”, I don’t want to disappoint. This goes for friends, family, and just about anyone in need. Actually, most of my efforts are focused on my own home and my husband and kids. Either I research a décor item online or someone makes a suggestion, and all I have to do is follow through. What fun! Anything goes in the craft world. There is no end to materials and methods. I use or give away my products—they are not for sale. Those of you in the crafting community know of what I write. With my new blog, I want to give a shout out to creative souls out there looking for new ideas and ways to pass the time with great pleasure. I have the makings of a real business. Most of us in the craft world have a room or garage full of stuff: colored papers, glue, paints and brushes, foam board, ribbons and cast off fabric scraps, pieces of metal, beads and sequins, and all sorts of found objects that will soon populate my projects. Recently, I acquired a nice collection of wooden dowels that were about to go bye-bye at the local lumber yard. Yes, I frequent local businesses for old and new wares. It didn’t take me a long time to come up with a way to use them. After watching my daughter run around the house in her favorite princess dress, I got the inspiration to make some fairy wands for her and her friends. They love to dress up and these would be the perfect counterpart to their fantasy play date activities. I had enough dowels to make five and probably enough litter for two dozen. Ha! I just used what I needed and kept the rest on the shelf for another day. First, I measured them all up and then went to my husband who cut them on his band saw in the shed - this part is never interesting to me, but he loves to read blogs like https://www.woodworknation.com/best-table-saw-reviews/ about his hobby all the time. The dowels made perfect wand holders and, of course, the top had to be a big shiny star. Some pink foil wrapped around a cut-out piece of foam core was the base for a layer of silver glitter. One of my favorite tools in the entire craft world is a glue gun. The stuff stays where you want it without running. I let my daughter tie a piece of light blue ribbon around the dowel, at the top where it meets the star. She changed each wand for her friends, using a different color scheme, but following my construction example. I have bred a budding crafter in the making. After all, she was the one who suggested painting the dowels in different colors for added flair. The kids loved them and took them home to show mom. A few days later, I got a few requests. This was not my intention, but I couldn’t think of another way to use the dowels. Surely something will come to me down the road. Meanwhile, the neighborhood is full of rollicking fairies waving their wands about with glee.

Crafting with the Kids

I love doing projects with my kids. They are eight and six, which are great ages to do crafting! Sometimes we’ll go out on walks and find things to use in our projects, but we do have quite the craft cabinet here at our house. When you have little kids, you never know when a rainy day or boredom is going to strike, and it’s best to be prepared. I think so, anyway, and so far I haven’t been wrong. Just as my husband! When you’re crafting with children, there are a few things to know, a few things that are good to have, and a few things that you’ll need to accept. I’ll let you know what they are here in this post, and if you have any other tips leave them in the comments so we can all benefit!   From my years crafting with kids, I’ve learned: you have to choose something that is not just on the child’s skill level (although that is important, as it will keep boredom and frustration down) but you need to take your child’s interests into consideration as well. Take your child down an art supply aisle or a craft store and let them pick something they’re excited about – maybe it will be model cars, puzzles, paint by numbers, or a sewing project.   My friends often ask me what’s good to have on hand. Lots of big box stores and craft shops have little kids and projects in their discount bins or for very little cost. I recommend having a few on hand at all times, especially school breaks or during the winter. Construction and plain white paper are also must haves, along with glue and scissors (remember to get kid friendly safety scissors for the little ones!). Pipe cleaners, pom poms, and wiggly eyes are also great. Markers, crayons, and different kinds of paint are also must haves for your craft kit – if your kids are “enthusiastic” artists, get the water-based kind and save yourself some cleanup. Stickers are great to have on hand, too! If this all sounds expensive, I won’t lie: it can be. I have found that stocking up during back-to-school sales helps. My kids and I also like going outside and finding materials to use for crafts – for example: rocks, shells, leaves, or sticks. Another great place to find materials is your own recycling bin! Milk cartons, paper towel rolls, boxes, and aluminum foil can be used for a variety of things. Use your imagination!   Finally, there’s some things that you have to expect: the first is that crafts can be messy! Save those annoying circulars that come in the mail and use them to cover any surfaces you don’t want getting messy. Not even washable items will come off of everything all the time so smocks and old clothing are great to keep on hand. Second: things might not come out like you envision in your head or see on Pinterest. Your job is to facilitate (by using the hot glue gun, cutting materials for smaller kids, mixing paints, setup and cleanup, etc depending on your child’s age and ability) – if your child wants to put the snowman’s arm in the center of its face, let your kid do it. It’s their project, not yours (if you want a perfect one, make it yourself, alongside your kid). You’ll appreciate all those crazy crafts as they get older. And another tip: glitter gets everywhere. Try using glitter glue or glittery stickers instead. Better yet, don’t let glitter into your house at all (as an aside, when projects with glitter come home from kindergarten, I laminate it to keep the glitter where it belongs). One last thing: have fun!

Celebrating a Victory

I live in a family neighborhood; and given that I, too, have kids, I am all about children—my own or my friends’. As a diehard crafter, I focus a lot of my work on things they can use or display. If possible, I love to have them join in the fun of doing it yourself to produce something attractive and useful. When others get involved, you quickly expand your range and repertoire. It keeps me motivated and on the hunt for materials with which to fashion and fabricate all kinds of odds and ends. One of the more unusual is a shadowbox that I made for a friend’s son, whose basketball team recently won their league championship. His mother wanted to commemorate the event with a special gift and turned to me as the resource for the DIY project. She didn’t want an ordinary box of no consequence, but a nicely finished piece that would contain some basketball memorabilia including a basketball hoop like this - https://www.ballersguide.net/best-portable-basketball-hoop-reviews/. She gave me the exact measurements and showed me where it would ultimately go. Since it was to be the focal point of one empty wall in her son’s room, I decided to go all out on quality. If I had to take hours and hours, so be it. I was ready, willing, and able. I decided that wood would be sturdier than foam board, and while a bit rustic, it offered the look I wanted for a child. It would resemble the old shadowboxes I used to see displaying artwork and personal treasures at the town museum. Making a wood box is more of a woodworker’s job than a craftsperson, but I have a saw, a bench screw and a vise, so it was within my reach. I got help from a friend to make the grooves for the glass front so it could slide open. I thought about, but rejected, the idea of pull-open doors. With a bit of careful labor, the shadowbox was ready to stain and mount. My friend gathered some items and mementos from her son’s room so we could place them strategically and fit them all in by using some small platforms made from wood scraps. The stain had a nice medium gloss finish that matched the shutters and headboard of his room. It was truly a décor enhancement. The boy could change out the contents of the box anytime, but at least he would have some inkling of how the final item should look. I truly hope it is the kind of project that he will treasure all his life and perhaps keep beyond into adulthood. Who doesn’t remember those exciting basketball days of one’s youth? A shadowbox can make memories live forever. Doing something like this is the inspirational side of crafting and goes well beyond decorations for a party. I crossed the bridge from craft to art with the shadowbox. It will remain a one-of-a-kind project when I look back at my work.

Great Crafts, Great Friend, Great Time!

Not all my friends or family members share my love of crafts, but when someone shows interest, I go all out to expose them to the wonderful world of handmade projects. A crafting show is a great way to share one’s passion and show off the extent of creativity possible with a few simple materials and tools. There can be a fine line between personal crafts and professional-grade art, but I don’t care to make the distinction. Nor does the craft show. Some of the wares were simply amazing in terms of scale and workmanship. My friend tagged along but become more and more drawn to the process as we surveyed the booths and made our way down the long aisles. There was only one downer about the entire experience. My friend, who can’t kick the habit, insisted on smoking in the car. She said she would have a nicotine fit if she had to wait two hours to get home. I agreed, but regretted it later when I smelled the car interior later that night. Yikes! The upholstery and carpeting simply reeked. It was a day of great crafts, great friends, and a great time; but the consequence was deadly. What was I to do? I didn’t want to wait until the next day to take the car to the carwash and pay $15 or more. I think airing out the vehicle was a smart move, but there was a lingering odor some hours after. It was getting late and the corner store was closed so I couldn’t pick up a bottle of Febreze spray. I didn’t have any scented candles either. I had to get creative. As a crafter, I was used to thinking on the spot. I would make an air freshener from things in the kitchen. I finally found something to help after reading https://www.nomoresmokesmell.net. It reminded me that I had a bottle of lemon-scented essential oil which would be perfect for this job. Ages ago, I bought some at a craft fair to perk up my workroom after it started to smell like mold. (We had a lot of rain this year!). I mixed the tiniest bit of the oil with some alcohol to dilute it. I pulled a eucalyptus leaf off the tree behind the house and tossed it in a plastic spray bottle that I use with water when I am ironing. I didn’t think a few chemicals would hurt it, or the fabric on the seats of my car. I gave the mixture a name—lemon delight, hoping the title would motivate it to perform to its optimum level. Cigarette smoke is tough as you can smell it for days on clothing, furniture, or hair. This had to work long enough for me to drive the car in the morning without gagging for air. It worked fine, and after I told a friend, she went into all kinds of ecstasy about it and started to search the Internet for recipes. You can use any ground up plants instead of eucalyptus leaves, or vodka instead of alcohol. Vanilla extract is a nice scent or peppermint. Whatever you have on hand. I opened up a whole new world for her.

Our Favorite Holiday Crafts

Every holiday, the kids and I will make something to decorate the house. I know that one day they will be bigger and won’t think making thumbprint Christmas trees are fun anymore so I plan to cherish these things for as long as I can. After each holiday is over, I carefully pack whatever we made away in a plastic storage bin, and I take it out again the next year to use. It is always a treat to see how far they’ve come and their new abilities!   One of my daughter’s favorite holidays is Halloween. She loves decorating pumpkins. Since we can’t keep the pumpkins we pick at a patch for years to come, every year I purchase a craft pumpkin for her to help me carve or to decorate. Craft pumpkins are great – they look just like the real thing, but they carve much more easily and with a lot less mess! Some years she decorates with her favorite stickers, some years she will use paints or markers, other times she will come up with a design and help me to recreate it on the pumpkin. We have quite the little craft pumpkin patch now!   My son, on the other hand, loves to eat. Thanksgiving is his favorite. Every year, we make two Thanksgiving crafts that he loves. The first one we use as napkin holders. First, we take a walk and look for leaves. Then we cut toilet paper tubes in half and decorate them like turkeys, using the leaves as tail feathers. Then we slide a napkin through the tube end, and tada – turkey napkins! The ones from years prior are helpful if we end up with extra guests, and can act as a centerpiece or place cards. The other project we do as a family. We draw a tree and cut out leaves. Then each person writes on a leaf all the things that they are most thankful for. I pin the trees to our dining room curtains, so we can reread them every year as we share the big meal.   I think my husband’s favorite holiday is Easter. I know he loves decorating eggs with the kids. They have such a great time sitting around the table, pretending to fight over who gets what color and the best stickers. Over the years, I have learned two dozen eggs is just the right amount to prepare. It certainly helps that hardboiled eggs are a favorite snack of my husband’s. Although the eggs aren’t something I can keep, I take a photo of the end result every year. I’ve tried getting him fake eggs instead but what can I say, the man is a traditionalist!   Personally, though, Christmas is my favorite holiday. The kids make me ornaments almost every year at school. They’ve made all kinds of things: pipe cleaner candy canes, gingerbread men made from actual gingerbread, glittery ornaments with their handprints on them. And lots of things with popsicle sticks! I love them all! I date them (if they aren’t already) and take extra care to pack them away safely. Maybe one day when the kids have moved out and decorate trees of their own, I will let them have some of the ornaments they’ve made me over the years. Hopefully that is a long way off, because I can’t think about parting with them – the kids OR the ornaments! Do you have a favorite craft that you do each year? What is it?

Preserving Memories

My crafting club got together last night to plan our next big group craft. We wanted to do something on memory keeping, but everyone had differing opinions on the best way to do so. There’s a method for every skill level, budget, and available time, so there was a lot to discuss. We finally decided on scrapbooking, because it seemed easiest with a group.   Memory keeping is really important. Lots of people take pictures, and that’s a great way to keep memories alive. But once you take the photos, what do you do with them? Most people don’t do much with them. The photos stay on a memory card or in the cloud. Maybe we look at them every once in a while but maybe not. That’s too bad, because there are so many ways you can enjoy those pictures! Here are a couple of our favorites to get your ideas going.   Sure, pictures in a frame are great. But a photo album is a simple way to preserve all the great photographs you took. You can print them out at home, at local stores, or from an online service. There are all different kinds of photo albums out there – from the fancy to the budget-friendly. You can use plastic sleeve pages or those old school archive sticky pages. There are plenty of places online where you can create your own photo book (or have one designed for you) printed and mailed to you. Whatever you choose, it will be worth it! You can make a book that spans generations or just a special trip you don’t want to forget.   Other people like journaling. That can be a great option as well. Some go simple, just jotting down a sentence or two about their day, in a special notebook or a calendar. You might print pictures and include them, use colored ink, or maybe add a little keepsake of the day. There’s plenty of stickers and layouts to help you brighten up your journal, no matter which way you go about it.   Another popular choice is scrapbooking. Again, this is something that can be really complicated – just walk down the scrapbooking aisle at nearly any store and you’ll see what I mean. There are different kits, books, papers, tapes, stickers, printers, embellishments, the list goes on and on. You can go as simple or as in-depth as you want, don’t let those rows and rows of shelves filled with products intimidate you! Some plain paper, your photos and keepsakes, along with some adhesive, is pretty much all you need. Your imagination can take it from there! If you don’t have the patience (or budget) for that, there are digital scrapbooking apps and programs that are a lot of fun to use.   Personally, I think it just comes down to what works for you. How do you preserve the things you never want to forget? Let me know in the comments!

Unique Baby Gifts

The only thing more adorable than babies are baby gifts! I’ve been to a bunch of baby showers, and there is nothing like the oohing and aahing that goes on! Maybe it is the fact that babies are so cute, or maybe it is because regular items are even more adorable when they’re tiny! While personally I think it is always best to get items off the registry so the parents can get the items that they want and need, I do think there’s nothing wrong with adding a personal touch to your gift!   Something parents don’t always think to ask for but always appreciate is a handprint kit. There’s all kinds of kits out there but you can assemble your own, too! If the parents are huge sports fan, get them something that goes with the team or sport – a baseball or soccer ball, for example. You can find a plastic display case at sports memorabilia stores, and washable ink at most craft places. Tada – baby’s first autograph! If mom or dad are big on yardwork or gardening, you can find special plaster mixes to make a handprint lawn paving stone.   Another thing parents rarely get enough of is picture frames. There will be lots of cute pictures of their new little darling, and who thinks to run out and get a bunch of frames? You can find something cute online or in a store. You can also get a simple clear plastic frame. Anything that matches their home décor or the nursey will work great. You can embellish the frame by painting, using decoupage techniques, washi tape, or even scrapbook stickers. A simple handmade touch will make a very simple and useful gift into an item parents would be proud to hang on their wall.   Even if you’re buying something big, like nursery furniture, it is easy to make it special. For a dresser, you can do something like add contact paper in a cute pattern to the inside of the drawers, or you can switch out the knobs to something more fun. If you’re good at sewing, knitting, or crochet, you can make anything from a fitted crib sheet to booties to clothing or a jacket to include with your furniture purchase. It’s really up to you and what you want to contribute!   A good baby gift is practical and cute. Everybody knows that babies need diapers but who wants to unwrap a huge box of them? That’s why diaper cakes came about – Diapers are so much cuter in cake form. So even if you aren’t great with crafts or have many creative ideas, you can always find a special way to present or wrap your gifts.   There are so many cute ideas online. Think about the parent-to-be and the things they are interested in. Or check out the rest of their wishlist to get ideas on their décor and nursery theme. From there, it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with an idea you can be proud of and the parents will cherish.

I Love Craft Shows!

As a crafter, there’s one thing that I am guilty of – buying too many crafting supplies and crafting-related items. The rest of my family tolerates it – partly because they love me (including my big, crafty heart) but also because they know whenever they have a presentation, or a project, or a few hours to fill, the craft closet is there for them to raid and make use of! That closet has saved many a rainy day from falling into complete boredom and given that “extra something” to some of my husband’s presentations.

I am such a regular at the craft and hobby stores near me that the majority of the staff knows my name. Sometimes the employees will even put aside new scrapbooking supplies or children’s kits for me because they know I’ll be looking for it anyway. And I love going to these stores, I really do.

But another great place to find crafts, get craft items, and be the first to see what’s new is by attending craft shows. It’s a bunch of artisans, craft lovers, and suppliers all under one roof! Amazing, I know! You can explore all kinds of crafts and new products as well as meet new people who are just as enthusiastic about crafts as you (and I) are. There are shows for every type of fan – from Christmas crafts to jewellery to gardening. There are even wine and craft shows! How great is that?

Artists can showcase their talents, and you can purchase amazing, one-of-a-kind items for your friends and family. Or better yet, yourself or your home. I have found some great things at craft shows and it always feels good to support local talent. I also like picking their brains about techniques and supplies, too.

And, because there are so many talented crafters as well as crafting fans at craft shows, guess who else is there? Vendors. Sometimes they’ll unveil new products or do fun giveaways. Sometimes they’ll even pass out swag bags! I have gotten some great things at craft fairs from vendors: tools, tote bags, materials, exclusive tshirts, and samples. You know how sometimes a new product comes out and people have already reviewed it? Guess how they often get their hands on those items? CRAFT FAIRS! True story!

If you’re a great crafter and are interested in making it more than just a hobby, you can even be a vendor at one! It’s a great way to show off your talents and make some money off of doing something that you love. Most craft fairs will have vendor pricing and information on their website, so it might be worth checking out if you’re interested. If you are a vendor, let me know in the comments and which shows you will be attending so I can stop by and say hello!