Fakin’ It

I’ve been to some of those houses where the whole place gets decorated for the season. You know, the ones where the hand towels get replaced with ones that have snowflakes on them, the soaps and candles waft peppermint everywhere and you can’t avoid the reindeer cushions. If I’m describing your house, then what are you doing reading my crap blog? Go be awesome somewhere else.

I DO decorate for the holidays, but I don’t have the storage space or the money (or the inclination, really) to have separate household accents for each season.

But the other day I was staring at two paper snowflakes I had cut out for a project that didn’t end up happening. I had tossed them on the tray on our coffee table and they’d gotten tangled in the leaves of my jade plant terrarium. I was staring at them while I absent-mindedly picked part of a label off my water glass. The label piece had gotten stuck to the glass when I put an empty jar in the dishwasher.

EUREKA? Paper. Water. Glass. Adhesion.

So I wet the snowflakes and applied them directly to the glass itself, making myself a little snowy vase. It’s not a permanent thing. Once it’s dry you can nudge it off. But it sticks if you don’t disturb it. Tissue paper works even better.

I can see myself wetting tissue paper with LongJohn in future years and creating a winter snowscape on our front window …


Moving Tips: Packing Your Delicate Items

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I am ever-so-slowly building a wall of boxes in our living room.  In fact, I’d say that would be the most important moving tip I have for you, my dear readers, and that is to start early.  You may think you can pack up your entire house in the course of the week right before you move, and maybe you can, but you won’t be happy while you do it, and you’re probably going to make mistakes.  If you take your time and approach packing systematically, then you are less likely to end up with broken or lost items when you reach your final destination.

Careful planning comes into play especially when packing your more fragile items.  I recommend that you get your fragile items squared away at the beginning of your packing endeavour.  When you start packing, you’ll want to work on all the stuff you use less often, and I can guarantee that I will not be using my crystal stemware or vase collection at any time in the next eight weeks.  Getting the really delicate stuff out of the way first is also a good way to protect these items while you rummage through and shift around your other possessions in preparation for moving. Also, if you can dedicate a wall or a low-traffic corner of a room to initial box storage, you won’t find yourself dodging the things while packing other stuff away.

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So.  Get on with it, Ali.  For my credentials here, I’ll have you know I used to work for a domestic and international shipping company (which no longer exists but you’ve probably heard of it), and I have never had anything break that I have packed myself.  Like, never.  I was really good at my job.

First of all, give all your stuff a wash or a wipe. I’m always amazed at how dusty something can get when it’s been shut away in a cupboard for a while.

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I think that’s a plaster chunk in the closest glass. Don’t want to imagine what it is if it isn’t.

I find the best way to shine up glass and crystal is to pour a cup of white vinegar into your soapy water. Works brilliantly.

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Newsprint here is your best friend.  I’m not a huge fan of purchasing brand new packing materials, but in this case, your best bet is to get a giant bundle of blank newsprint in which to pack your glassware and ceramics.  Using old newspapers is all well and good, and you can do that if you wish, but I find that the biodegradable inks they use on newspapers in Canada tend to come off on pretty much everything, and the last thing I want to be doing when I move into my new place is scrub black smudges off all my crystal.  So blank it is.  And these bundles are super cheap.  Definitely worth getting one or two.

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You’ll want to make sure that the boxes you use for your breakables are among your sturdiest.  If you can squish the box with your hand, imagine what that will be like when it’s on the bottom with a bunch of other heavy boxes of books on top.  Bad idea.  If you can find a double-walled box, then all the better.  Boxes from liquor stores are also handy in these situations, because they have those handy cardboard separators inside to keep things from banging into each other.

Box Wall 1

When wrapping up your items, remember, this ain’t no Christmas gift.  Be messy with your wrapping job.  The more wrinkles in the paper, the more space between this item and something else.  Feel free to wrap something up and then wrap it all over again, just to give it an extra cushion.

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When wrapping plates, you’ll probably end up with one side of the plate being cushioned with a lot of extra paper, and the other side having relatively little (for me that’s generally the bottom of the plate).  That’s fine — just make sure that you then put the more vulnerable side of the plate up against the more cushioned side of another plate.

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The vulnerable side.

Another important note about packing plates: pack the plates in the box on their sides, not stacked one on top of the other.  Why?  Because if there is a shock to the box (say, someone drops it a little more roughly than intended), then there will be less pressure to the edge of a plate with only its own weight to bear than one on the bottom of a box with fourteen others nestled on top of it.  IF you get a breakage with plates on their sides, then it will be restricted likely to chips one or two plates, and not smashes to the whole box, which is more likely if you stack them on top of each other.

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For stemware, you have to be really careful.  If you have those cardboard separators or a special stemware box, that’s fantastic.  All our stemware is different sizes and shapes so I prefer to pack them each individually.  And if I can, I like to ease them snugly into my vases, for added protection.

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When wrapping stemware, concentrate a goodly amount of your paper at the stem, which is the most fragile part.

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You can see the little extra ring of stiffer paper around the bottom of this glass.

Once you’ve got it wrapped, slide it into another container — vase, jar, doesn’t matter.  You want a snug fit, but don’t force it: remember that if you have trouble getting it into wherever you’re stuffing it, it will be even more difficult to get it out, and you don’t want to break it after having already safely moved it.

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Padding is extra important, obviously.  I have used a fleece blanket in the bottom of my box.  When putting your vases and larger/heavy fragile items into your boxes, think a little about the physics of the things first.  Is your vase heavier on the top than on the bottom?  Maybe you should put it in the box upside down, then.  With fragile stuff, it’s also a good idea to put them in the box as they would be stored in your house, on the pressure points upon which they were constructed to sit.  This means that your vases should be put in the box either upright or upside-down (in the case of those gravity-defying ones), and not sideways or on an angle.

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Don’t be afraid to use crumpled newsprint or other padding between your items so they don’t clink into each other.  Remember these lovely coffee-filter peonies?  Turns out they crush up nicely into little buffers between my big-ticket items.  That was Mrs. Nice’s idea.

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With breakables, you don’t want them butting right against the lid of the box.  This is not to say you’re not packing your box to the fullest, but you’re using padding instead.  So leave a bit of space between the tops of your items and the lid of the box, and fill that instead with lots of crumpled newsprint (packed tight) or another blanket.  Once the box is sealed, you can do the same “shake test” you did with your non-fragile items, and you should be good to go.  Remember, if you hear things moving around in the box, you’ll need to add some extra stuffing.  You don’t want those precious breakables shaking, rattling, and rolling around all the way down the highway, do you?

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Leave an inch or two of space at the top.
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Fill that space with something soft and solid.

One of the most important things to remember here, in the end, is that the stuff you’re packing is just stuff, after all.  Sure, it may have sentimental value, but it’s just a thing.  If it breaks, it’s not the end of the world.  If it’s worth fixing, it can be fixed.  If it’s not, then that’s one less item cluttering up your life.  If you’re really worried about your great-grandmother’s wedding crystal and you don’t trust yourself to do it right, then pay the extra bucks to get a professional to do it for you, and make sure it’s insured.  Just keep in mind when I say extra bucks I mean EXTRA.  When I was doing this for a living about a dozen years ago, packing a china service for four would run you about $300.  Is it worth it?  That’s up to you!

The things we do for love: Learning to Silk Screen at Home

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Beware: this is a very long post!

Because I love my husband and because I support his weird video game addiction (I did make him a cake after all), I agreed to make up some t-shirts for an upcoming tournament in my hometown of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, in May.

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Screen printing in a studio is awesome and you can do all sorts of fun stuff.  And fortunately nowadays (unlike when my mother was an arts student), the materials you use won’t kill you.  Which means you can do this stuff at home, too!


First you need a design.  For our first attempts, we decided to work with something simple: a giant squid for myself.  Because I love giant squid.

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After several attempts, I had something I liked.  I didn’t notice, however, that I’d put an extra tentacle on the thing.

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But after photoshopping it looked pretty good.  Pick something simple with high contrast.

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Then copy it onto a transparency — this way you won’t have to cut it out.  If you have a strongly black and white design you could just print it out in black on white paper and cut it out.

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Now, the first time we tried this it didn’t work (I will show you that later), because the transparency printings weren’t as opaque as they should have been.

Having learned from that, we printed our images in triplicate, and lined them up.  You can see in the photos below how the opacity increases with each layer.

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After carefully lining them up, tape them together with a bit of clear tape.

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And now for your screen.  We ended up buying a kit from Urchin downtown to get us started, but we also made a few of our own screens.

Screen Printing 1

This is the Speedball screen that came with the kit.  This is the squeegee side, where you will burn your image and spread your ink.

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Here is the print side, which will be going flush against your fabric.

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To make your own screen, you need frames and screening.  Here I have some sheer polyester that I picked up from Value Village.  It’s denser than, say, pantyhose, which means that the details will come out much more finely, but it’s also hole-y enough that you can squeegee paint through it, which is kind of key.

Screen Printing 3

And I have these picture frames, also from Value Village.  Take out the glass and the picture and everything and you can staple your fabric onto your frame using a staple gun.

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Pull it relatively tight — not so much that it buckles or tears around the staples, but tight enough that there are no wrinkles and you could run a squeegee up and down it with no worries.

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Give your finished screen a scrub with warm water and a bit of dish soap and leave it to dry.

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Use tape to line around the outside of the frame on the screen so paint won’t go all over everything and make a mess.  I used hockey tape because it’s pretty waterproof and sticks well to fabric, but I’m sure there’s some specific tape you should really be using.

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Do it again on the inside of the frame as well.

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Oh yeah, and you need a squeegee.  If you don’t have one, you can get away with using a piece of stiff cardboard.  Who came up with the word SQUEEGEE anyway?  It’s fantastic.

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Okay so we’re almost set here.  Do you have photoemulsion?  You should get some — it’s kind of key.  It’s a weird greenish stuff that will turn hard and waterproof under UV light.  I got the Speedball stuff that comes with the kit.  Make sure you follow the instructions on the back, as they’re all different.  Normally it comes in two parts: the dark green Diazo sensitizer, which comes in a wee bottle and you add water to it:

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And the blue photo emulsion base, to which you add the Diazo sensitizer.  Once this is mixed, you can keep it in your fridge for several months.  So you see here that it is green, indicating its mixedness.

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Spread the emulsion carefully and in a thin, even layer all over your screen, on the FRONT side, and the back side.  Use the squeegee to get a nice thin layer all over.  The first time we did it we spread it on too thick and as it dried it dripped.  Gross.

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Quickly place the emulsified frame in a completely dark room.  Lay it horizontally to dry for a few hours.  Don’t let any light touch it.  A nice big closet or a well-sealed box is a good place.  Ideally you should set the screen bottom side down while you dry (not what is shown in this picture, because we did it wrong the first time), so you will need to prop the screen up so the wet side doesn’t touch your closet.

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When you’re ready to burn the image onto your screen, you have to work quickly.  Some people like to expose their images inside, under high-wattage light bulbs, but we did ours on the cheap and exposed them outside on a sunny day.  Worked like a charm.

You’ll need your image (cut out from opaque paper or printed on transparency) and a sheet of glass that will fit inside the confines of your screen.  And a dark towel or thick piece of dark fabric for wrapping your frame in while in transport.

In the dark (we shut the curtains to our bedroom and I stood almost IN the closet while the Pie held the door mostly shut), lay your image on the inside of your frame (on the squeegee side, and orient it the way you want it to look when it’s printed (as in, you don’t need to mirror this).  Lay the sheet of glass on top so the image is fully covered and flattened down.

Now wrap the frame up in your dark towel so that the print side of the screen is resting on the towel, face down, and the rest is wrapped up around it.  Take it out in the sun and lay it in a flat, sunny spot.  Unwrap the towel so that the frame is resting completely on the dark surface (you want it flush so that there’s no chance of any reflection hitting the photo emulsion on the bottom and exposing it by accident).  You can see that the dried photo emulsion starts out green.

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And then in a few minutes turns a nice bluish.  We left ours out for about ten minutes.  Then you need to wrap it back up in the towel like a burrito and take it back inside.

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Now you need a source of high pressure warm water, like a sink sprayer or a shower head, and a nylon scrubbing brush (like a dish brush).

Working quickly, remove the wrapping, glass, and image from your frame and put it under the spray.  Use the scrub brush on the parts where your image is to get the unexposed photo emulsion off.  Scrub both sides vigorously until it comes clean.

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If you exposed it correctly, the contrast between the blue exposed photo emulsion and the stuff you hid under your image will be quite good and the unexposed stuff will come right off. If you didn’t have an opaque enough image, then the contrast will not be good and the photo emulsion will not come off, and will in fact continue to expose as you work.

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You can see this failed attempt only had a few spots that were truly opaque and so that was all that came off.

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But this one worked pretty well, save for a bit around one tentacle that didn’t expose properly.  But I can live with that.

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After you’ve gotten all the unexposed photo emulsion off, let the screen dry in the sun for a bit (this will also cure the remaining photo emulsion).

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And here’s one that the Pie did for his video games.  He is using drawing fluid to fill in some pinholes in his exposed screen.

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Make sure that you’ve washed and dried any fabric you are planning to print on first, to get rid of sizing and make sure that it has shrunk all it’s going to shrink.  I picked up this handful of t-shirts at Old Navy and Michaels for cheap.

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Protect your work surface and wear an apron — fabric ink is permanent, after all.  If you’re printing clothing, put a piece of cardboard inside the t-shirt so that if ink comes through the fabric it won’t stain the other side.

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Lay out your shirt flat and place the screen where you want it to go.  For our initial test we used a piece of scrap cotton.  Pour a line of ink on one side of the screen, on top of the emulsion.

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Hold your squeegee at a 45° angle and using even pressure, pull the ink across the surface of your screen.  It helps if you have another pair of hands holding down the screen frame while you do this.  Do a second pass in the other direction.  Experiment with the pressure you put on and the number of passes you do until you are satisfied with how the ink looks on your fabric.

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Ease the frame off the fabric on an angle (so that one side is still touching the surface if you need to put it back down) and set the fabric to dry.

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On our second pass I tried a blend of two different colours.

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I tried to repaint the missing tentacle. It didn’t go well.

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My two shirts, one in greenish-gray and the other in silver.

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The silver wasn’t as opaque as I’d like it, but it’s still nice.

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And the Pie’s two shirts.

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When we did the yellow one we forgot to re-fill the pinholes and you can see they came out onto the fabric.

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When the paint is fully dry (give it an hour or two), place your shirt on an ironing board and, with a sheet of paper between your design and the iron (no steam!), run the iron on hot over the design for a few minutes.  This will “fix” the image and protect it from frequent washings.

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Modeling.  Sorry for the selfies.

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Silver on blue …









Gray on orange …









Unless you want to use those screens again, you’ll need to get the photo emulsion off as soon as possible.  I used the ScreenClean stuff that came with my kit, but you can also use 1 cup of washing soda dissolved in a gallon of warm water.

Use a paint brush to apply the cleaner to both sides of the screen and scrub briskly with a nylon brush.

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Apply the cleaner again with the paintbrush to both sides and leave it to sit for about 5 minutes.

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Run under a forceful stream of hot water and scrub again until all the emulsion and cleaner has washed away.

Wow, that was a lot to take in.  I hope it was easy enough to follow.  If not, please let me know!


Here are some of the links to the other sites I checked out to learn how do this stuff:

How to Screen Print! Silkscreening at home – The Art of Doing Stuff

Screen Printing: Cheap, Dirty, and at Home Instructables

Top Ten Worst Screen Printing Mistakes Adventures in DIY Screen Printing

DIY Screen Printing – I Love to Create

Cheap screenprinting tutorial – Craftgrrl

How to Silk Screen Posters and Shirts – No Media Kings

Wee Clay Pot City

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When I saw these wee things over at Say Yes to Hoboken I knew immediately who I had to make them for (but I’m not telling you: it’s a surprise).  Perfect for small plants, especially succulents, I could see these forming a little town on someone’s coffee table.

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I decided to make my own template for my wee town, so that I could get some variety in the buildings I created.  Just make sure, when you are creating your pattern, that you account for the width of the base and the thickness of your sculpting medium.  It’s all about the math, b’ys.

Wee Clay Pots

For this little jobbie you need some Sculpey, a cutting tool (I used a paring knife), a smoothing tool (I used some old manicure tools), and something for rolling out the clay (I used an empty Screech bottle).  You will also need a glass dish for baking your clay, and a work surface that doesn’t stain easily.  Raw Sculpey is pretty toxic, so it’s best to work on waxed paper, parchment, or a silicone mat that you can easily wash.


It’s a simple thing to do, but it takes some time.  First you need to condition your Sculpey by squishing it a bunch with your hands.  Then you roll it out, and cut out your shapes.


When you press them together, make a little snake out of extra clay and use it to seal the edges — you want the wee pot to be water tight after all.


Wee Clay Pots

My first go-round, I made my templates too big and so my little houses weren’t really all that little. You can see in the photo below how it sagged under its own weight.  Fortunate thing about Sculpey is you can just squish it all up and start again, which I did.  My new templates work on a 2″ square, and so I can make about four structures out of one pound of clay.


I wanted a bit of variety to my city, so with the white Sculpy I made two regular houses, one house with a slanty roof, and a factory.

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Do you see how I raised the floor of the factory on the inside so that the plant would still come out the top?  I know: clever me.

Wee Clay Pots

And the basic house:

Wee Clay Pots

With the terra cotta coloured Sculpey I made a mansion (or row housing), a city hall and a church.  The church is just the small house with a cross instead of a chimney (which baked a bit wonky), and the city hall is just a big house with a circle cut out of the taller roof to signify a town clock.

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Use a smoothing tool to smooth out the edges on the outside, too, and the bottom.


The next part is easy.  You preheat your oven to 275°F and pop your little structures into your glass dish (I lined mine with parchment, just because I find if the clay is right on the glass surface it tends to cook with a glossy flat edge that doesn’t jibe with the rest of the piece).  Bake for 15 minutes per every 1/4″ thickness of Sculpey.  You don’t want to overbake, but as some of my pieces were obviously thicker or thinner than that (yes, we’ve already gone over how much I suck at Sculpey), I go for a round 20 minutes and that seems to work out just fine.

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Haul those out of the oven and don’t touch them until they’re cool.  Sculpey is designed to shrink less than 2% while baking so you shouldn’t have much trouble with your watertight seal, but you should check anyway.  If it’s not sealed, just add a touch more Sculpey to the hole and bake it for a few minutes.

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I didn’t have enough Sculpey left to make a whole other building, so I made this little round pot.

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And then a wee man.  He’s a magician (hence the top hat and cape) and he’s sitting staring at this wee box, thinking.  So I call it Thinking, Outside the Box.  I gave him to the Pie.

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And there you have it.  I don’t have any succulents on hand, so you’ll have to imagine them in these shots.  But it’s a cute little town, no?

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Crystal Cascade

Crystal Cascade

My niece vacillates between wanting to be President of the United States and wanting to be a princess. She can probably be both. She’s a smart kid. A smart kid who likes things that are pretty and sparkly.

So once I can figure out how to package this properly, I’m sending it off to her for Christmas.

You’ll remember that I experimented with cutting rings when I learned how to use my glass-cutting kit a while back.  Of course, I broke way more rings than I succeeded in creating, but finally I managed to make enough to have this work out the way I wanted it. I have some rings from a ginger jar, a salsa jar, some beer bottles and two wine bottles.

Crystal Cascade

My first step was to gather my gear together: the rings, some sturdy fishing line, a pair of scissors, a strong stick, a towel, and a bowl of warm water and vinegar.

Crystal Cascade

The water and vinegar help to remove any residue on the glass from my cutting process.  Gets rid of fingerprints, too.

Crystal Cascade

So now I have arranged the rings in the order in which I want them.

Crystal Cascade

And I used the scissors to score some lines on the stick, to hold the fishing line in place and keep it from sliding off under the weight of the glass.  I will put a dab of glue on each knot afterwards just to be on the safe side.

Crystal Cascade

Now to tie everything together.  I used reef knots, to ensure everything was super tight.

Crystal Cascade

Then I attached it to the stick and looped some more fishing line on the top to use as a hanger.

Crystal Cascade

The full deal, though the light could be better.

Crystal Cascade

A cascade of pretty colours!

Crystal Cascade

Frosty Lights

Frosty Lights

We never decorate this early for Christmas.  We’re more of the put-it-up-a-week-before-Christmas-and-take-it-down-New-Year’s-Day kind of people.  In fact, because the Pie and I always travel home to Ottawa for the holidays, we don’t decorate at our house in St. John’s at all.

But there is snow on the forecast tomorrow, and we decided we wanted to enjoy a little bit of the holiday spirit while we were still home.  Just a little bit, of course.

I was practicing my glass cutting technique and I had three jars with no tops.  What was I to do with them?

Frosty Lights

I like lights.  Why not make little hurricane lamps out of them, but without the prospective fire hazard of sticking a candle inside?  Yes.

I also remembered an idea that Karen over at The Art of Doing Stuff had, and worked from there.  If you don’t read her blog, you should.  She’s hilarious.  I discovered her site when she stole one of my photographs in the middle of the night.  Sneaky lady.

So here’s the plan.  I have these jars, and I have these LEDs that I can stuff in the jars.  You get the picture?  Good, because we’re not done yet.

Frosty Lights

I wanted these jars to look frosted, like someone had frozen three jar-shaped ice cubes and left them melting on my mantle.  So it’s time to haul out the etching cream.

You can get a full how-to on etching glass from a previous post here, but I’m going to remind you again to observe all the safety rules and wear the proper equipment: goggles, mask, and gloves.

Frosty Lights

And because my sink is ceramic, I needed a plastic bucket full of baking soda in which to rinse my glass, to neutralize the acid.

Frosty Lights

I used a different cream this time than I had before, because when I needed it Lee Valley had temporarily stopped selling it.  So this stuff looked like peanut butter with salt crystals in it, and it smelled much stronger than the other stuff I was using.  But it had the same results.  I didn’t want an even coating of frost, so I only applied a thin layer of cream and I only did one application.  I was hoping that some spots would remain un-etched, and that my brush strokes would show through.  And I was right!  That doesn’t happen very often.

Frosty Lights

So here are the jars after frosting and rinsing.  You can see that they look really like someone has just steamed them up on the inside.

Frosty Lights

Stuff some lights in them, however, and they go from steamy to frosty.

Frosty Lights

Up close, you can see my brush strokes in evidence.

Frosty Lights

Lined up on the mantle, with other things seasonal, it’s quite cozy.

Frosty Lights

Practical Alcoholism: Cutting Glass Bottles

Cutting Glass

This was actually a project that Cait came up with as a guest post eons ago.  Obviously, she took too long to do it, I got impatient, and now I’m going to go ahead and do it myself.  Because that’s what I do.  I do it myself.  It’s kind of the point of this here blog.

The City of St. John’s has just this past year instituted a city-wide curbside recycling program.  Yes, we are about twenty years behind the times on this one, but we’re making progress.  What the city does not recycle, however, is glass.  I’m not entirely sure I understand why, but that’s the way it is.  We previously employed a private recycling plant that would take absolutely everything, including glass, but they of course disappeared once recycling became free.  As a result we’ve now started tailoring our grocery shopping to buying items that come in cans and plastic containers, rather than glass.  But some of that stuff sticks around.  I re-use glass jars as much as I can, especially when it comes to the contents of my spice cabinet.  Even so, we still have a lot of glass that goes in the garbage.  And let me tell you, for a girl who has spent the last 25 years of her life recycling, it feels some weird, b’y, to chuck glass in the trash.

Light Box Tests

So how can we re-use it some more?  You can only deal with so many spare bottles and jars lying around.  Their function is practical but limited.  So let’s create some other sorts of vessels from these things by learning to cut glass.

I purchased Ephrem’s Deluxe Bottle Cutting Kit from Artistry In Glass, based in London, Ontario, for you Canadian shoppers.

Cutting Glass

This kit has been around, pretty much unaltered, since the seventies.  In fact I don’t think they’ve ever bothered to change the photographs in the little projects book that comes with it.  But why mess with something that works so well, right?

Cutting Glass

You need some glass for this project.  Anything that is round, really, with smooth sides will work for you.  Bottles, jars.  You name it.  The reason I bought the “deluxe” kit as opposed to the regular kit is because it comes with an adapter so you can work on the curved parts of bottle necks and stuff, instead of just the straight sides. But I haven’t gotten to that skill level yet.

In any case, you’ll need to clean and dry your glass thoroughly first.  This means soaking off the labels and rinsing the containers out well.  If you can’t get some of the glue off the glass, try peanut butter.  It works really well, I promise.

Cutting Glass

So now I’m all set.  With my little kit at the ready, I wanted to make sure I did this right.

I watched the video about how to do it the way the cutting kit company tells you to in the instructions, with a candle and an ice cube.

And then I watched another video about a slightly easier and more efficient way to do it with boiling and cold water.  I will show you both.

This is the result of my first attempt to cut beer bottles.  As you can see, it’s not perfect, but it’s not bad, either.  I needed more practice.  You are not going to succeed at this on your first try either, so make sure you have lots of practice glass around before you start getting into the stuff you actually want to use.

Cutting Glass

Beer bottles are the best to practice on, because generally beer is cheaper than the more expensive wines that come in the nice bottles.  Plus you can get several tries in if you buy a six-pack.  The other bonus of practicing on beer bottles is beer glass is thinner and more prone to shattering (unlike jars of preserves, beer is cold-canned, and the bottles are not designed for temperature shock).  So because the bottles break easier, you have to be more careful in your practice.

Light Box Tests

Scoring the Glass:

So this is how you do it.

The kit has all sorts of knobs and screws that you need to adjust first so the cutter is perpendicular to the cutting surface.  This is important. Follow the directions and diagrams in the kit carefully.

Cutting Glass

Now, exerting firm, even pressure (you don’t have to press very hard either) and without stopping, roll the bottle or jar under your hands.  You will hear the cutter making horrible gravelly noises as you do this.  It is scoring the glass.  Keep going all the way around, until you hear a distinct click.  This is you hitting your original score mark.  Now you can stop.  Don’t score over the same spot twice.

Cutting Glass

If you don’t hit your original score mark, then you’ve messed up that particular cut.  I do this often.  I guess the pressure from my hands is uneven or something so the cutter and the bottle don’t stay where they are supposed to.  This is where the practice comes in. Also make sure all your screws are tightened all the way so stuff doesn’t shift.

Once you’ve got your cut, you can start shocking the glass.  We want to do this slowly and evenly.

Water Shocking Method:

I put a towel in the bottom of my sink, just to provide a bit of a cushion should some glass happen to drop. It will also catch the hundreds of tiny flakes of glass that fall off your bottles, so make sure to wash it thoroughly afterwards.

Cutting Glass

I have one jug of water in the fridge, the other boiling away on the stove.

Starting with boiling water, slowly pour a small stream over your score mark.  Turn the bottle so you get all sides of it.  Keep going until you can feel the bottle warm in your hands.

Cutting Glass

Now, pour on the cold water in the same way.  You’ll start to hear some cracking — that’s the glass breaking along its score line.

Cutting Glass

Keep going, alternating boiling and cold water.  There will be more cracking.  Don’t try to force the two parts of your bottle apart.  If they’re going to come apart they will do so on their own.  Just keep alternating your water and it will eventually happen.

You can see here how I etched lines in parallel rings on this jar.

Cutting Glass

And then this is how it fell apart.

Cutting Glass

They didn’t fall apart completely evenly, but as I was only seeing if cutting multiple lines at once was even possible (as the book and the ‘net both tell you to do them one at a time), I wasn’t paying that much attention to my scoring.

Cutting Glass

Fire and Ice Method:

Cutting Glass

For argument’s sake, I also did the candle method as espoused by the kit itself.

Cutting Glass

Carefully hold the bottle just above a candle flame, so the flame nearly touches your score mark.  Rotate the bottle slowly to evenly heat all the way around.

Cutting Glass

When the bottle is heated, take an ice cube to the score lines and rub it all the way around.

Cutting Glass

You will find that you have to do more repetitions for this method, but it’s slightly more accurate.  Because the bottle is more gently treated your cuts will open straighter more times than not.

Cutting Glass

Of course, if you’re cutting rings, like I was here, the fire and ice method is very slow, as you have to do each ring individually.  The water shock method is much better for cutting rings, but I would use the fire and ice method for the lips of drinking glasses and the like, where a completely straight edge is important.

Cutting Glass


When you have finally achieved an edge on glass that you like, you will need to grind down the edges, because this is broken glass — it’s super sharp.

The kit comes with this silicon carbide powder, which you can pour on a sheet of glass that you don’t need to use for anything else, add a drop of water, and rub away until all the sharp edges on the glass are gone.

Cutting Glass

It’s a little messy though.  I prefer emery cloth, which is basically fine sandpaper, just the silicon carbide powder is glued to a sheet of paper.  You can still add a few drops of water to it (this keeps the glass dust down), and grind away!

Cutting Glass

Make sure to get the inside edges as well as the outside edge.

Cutting Glass

You can always dip a small piece of paper in water and sand down the inside by hand.

Cutting Glass

So my first successful efforts of today produced this lovely wee glass.

Cutting Glass

Which I filled with juice.  And which I plan to later etch and give to someone.

Cutting Glass

And these rings, which I will be making into another gift for someone else.  They’re not perfect, but they’re not bad.

Cutting Glass

Stay tuned for some gift ideas and things you can do with your upcycled cut-glass projects!

Cutting Glass

Etching Glass

This project was probably one of the most enjoyable that we did this past Christmas.  Hazardous, yes, because you are dealing with a caustic liquid and its attendant dangers, but fun nonetheless.  This is NOT a project you can do with children.  You need to work in a well-ventilated area and you need to wear rubber or latex gloves as well as safety goggles while you are doing it.For etching glass I used Armour Etch, a glass etching cream that I picked up from Lee Valley.  You can get it at Michael’s as well, if you are prepared to pay about three times the price for it.  It’s good stuff.  Keep in mind it does not work on plastic and most Pyrex.

First, however, you need to create your stencils.  I printed out some images from the internet and then traced them onto clear vinyl masking (also from Lee Valley).The tracing and cutting out is really the hard part in all of this.Next, carefully peel the backing form the mask and apply it firmly to your clean and dry glass.  Make sure there are no bubbles or gaps.You can also use masking tape to outline certain areas.Next, very (very) carefully paint on the etching cream in a thick layer in the area you wish to be etched.  If you accidentally get cream anywhere else than you intended, it will leave a permanent mark.The instructions say to leave the cream on for 5 to 10 minutes, but I found it worked better if I left it on for 20.  In some cases you may also find that a second application is in order.When your time is up, rinse the glass object thoroughly in warm water.  I found the cream came off best if I brushed it with the paint brush.  As a side note, do not rinse off the etching cream in an enamel sink — only rinse in a metal or plastic sink or you will find yourself without an enamel sink …Peel off your masking and throw it away.  You may have to rinse the glass again if there was any cream caught in the crevices of the stencil.  Dry the glass thoroughly and you’re all done.  This is a jar for my brother-in-law Rusty to keep his keys and phone in so he doesn’t lose them.  If you don’t recognize it, that’s the Rebel Alliance insignia from Star Wars.I also used the cream on a vase for my sister-in-law Meg:Some cups and saucers for the Mtree Duo:An AT-AT jar for my brother Ando (in keeping with the Star Wars theme):And a coffee jar for the ever-caffeinated Cait, among other things:This was so much fun the Pie and I agreed we would try to think of new glass objects to give people for Christmas next year.  You can pick up glass items from pretty much anywhere for relatively little: IKEA (where I got the jars), Winners/Home Sense (where Rusty’s and Meg’s vases came from), and let’s not forget second-hand shops (Mtree duo’s cups and saucers came from there).  Get creative!


Painting Glass and Ceramics

Adding a personal design to glass and ceramics is very easy and something fun you can do with creative kids. You can pick up plain glass and ceramic housewares secondhand, and I find some good stuff in the clearance section of places such as Home Sense and Winners.

I used the Vitrea 160 and Porcelain 150 pens that I picked up from Michaels.

To make your designs, you can freehand with the pens, or use masking tape to contain your ink.You can also use transparent adhesive masking (from Lee Valley) to create a stencil as well.Peel the mask away carefully.  This is easiest to do when the design is still wet.Once the design has dried you can use a razor blade or craft knife to carefully scrape away any ink that has bled through the masking.If you’re not happy with your design, you can always use a scrubby sponge to scrape it off and begin again.  Leave your final design to cure for 24 hours, then bake your glass or ceramics in the oven according to the instructions on the ink.That’s all there is to it.  Have fun!

Pantry Sanity

I am a highly organized person.  My mother?  Not so much.  Adventurous and willing to try something new, yes.  But organized?  I think not.  Some day I will show you her studio.  It’s truly frightening.

While my parents were away I ransacked their cupboards in an attempt to make sense of the chaos that reigned within.  I’d like to share with you three simple tips that will make negotiating your own spice cupboards or pantries a little bit easier.

#1: Bags are Bad

As I have said, my mother is always willing to try new things, and as a result I’m pretty sure she owns every spice imaginable.  Some of them she keeps just for the jar they came in.

The problem is that all these bags (and boxes) clutter up your space.  You push them aside when looking for something else and the next thing you know, they have been shoved to the back of the cupboard, upside-down, and have emptied their contents into the crevices of the shelf.

The simple solution to this is to put all your stuff in jars.  Think of it as recycling.  That pasta sauce jar you just emptied would be handy holding your collection of pinto beans, yes?  My mother has a vast collection of vintage glass jars, as well, so it was worth it to put them to good use.

I prefer glass jars for the obvious reason that the contents are always visible, but also because glass cleans easily and doesn’t absorb odors.  This means that when you transfer the contents of one half-empty jar into a smaller jar so you can use the bigger one for something else, all you will need is a quick rinse and you’re set.


As I mentioned before, my mother likes to try new things, and we have a myriad of spices in the cupboard.  You can trust me on this: you may think you’ll be able to identify something later on by smell and taste and colour alone, but you’ll be wrong.  You’ll be very wrong.  Remember that spices lose their potency over time and more than once I have mistakenly added ground oregano when I meant to add corriander.  It does happen.   So make sure you clearly label all your little jars.

Mystery items are never fun.

Glass jars also lend themselves very well to my labeling technique.  Instead of using adhesive labels that peel and which eventually need to be soaked off when the jar is empty, I write on the glass itself with a permanent marker.  I don’t have to worry about peeling or tearing or fading, and when I’m ready to re-purpose the jar for another spice, a quick rub with the scrubby side of the sponge and it’s gone.

#3: Arrange with Purpose

When it comes to your cupboards, you have to accept the fact that your Martha Stewart prowess in kitchen aesthetics does not apply to what goes on behind closed cupboard doors.  While it may seem like a good idea to organize your things alphabetically, or even by colour (I’m looking at you Cait), this will not do you any good when you are cooking for twelve people and you can’t find the yeast.  Most of us just don’t have the space to be THAT organized.

Organize your items by usage.  This means that the stuff you use most often should be in front, even if it’s the biggest item.  Things you use all the time can even be kept on the counter, ready to go (see our Salt and Pepper Dish).  The stuff you don’t use as often can be shoved to the back — but not to fret: if it’s nicely labeled in a clear glass jar you will be able to find it any time!

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