Mini Glitter Tree

Glitter Tree

I saw a giant silver version of this on Curbly last week and thought that in our house, where we haven’t taken any Christmas stuff out (because we’ll just have to pack it all up again immediately), it could brighten up the place a wee bit – at least until I give it to someone else.

Glitter Tree

The whole project takes about an hour from start to finish, and that includes harvesting the sticks, so if there are any members of your household you’d like out of your hair for a while – child or adult – give them this task and tell them to have at ‘er. A warning, though, that this is a GLITTER project, so you might have a mess on your hands afterwards. I managed to keep most of mine contained, but that depends on your manual dexterity and how you store your glitter. So BEWARE.

Glitter Tree

Go out and grab yourself some relatively straight sticks, and cut them in decreasing size to form an elongated triangle when laid out (you know, like a Christmas tree).

Glitter Tree

Then grab a paintbrush and some glue and paint the end of your stick with some glue. Not a whole lot – just enough to adhere to glitter, and we all know it doesn’t take much to get glitter to stick to something.

Glitter Tree

Then take your glitter (mine is in a wee jar) and either sprinkle it over the gluey stick or dip your stick into the glitter. I found it tidier to dip the stick in but you can do as you wish.

Glitter Tree

Do the same to all the other sticks. The original version had the tips painted silver with silver glitter but I decided to forego the paint altogether and pick as many colours of glitter as I owned.

Glitter Tree

Make sure to get both sides done and then let them sit for a while to dry – if you didn’t go overboard on the glue then it won’t take long.

Glitter Tree

While that’s going on seal your glitter carefully up where it came from. That stuff should be a controlled substance.

Glitter Tree

Now find yourself a decent length of wire. I have this stuff that I pulled out of an old downed telephone pole many years back. It’s copper wire with various colours of wrapping. I picked gray as a neutral.

Glitter Tree

The wire should, doubled, be probably twice the length of your little tree diagram from top to bottom.

Glitter Tree

Take the bottom stick and fold the wire in half around the centre of it. Twist the wire several times to hold it in place, and keep twisting to create about 0.5 to 1cm of space between the first stick and the second one.

Glitter Tree

Twist on the second stick in the same way, twisting again to leave some space.

Glitter Tree

Keep going with all your sticks, leaving spaces in between.

Glitter Tree

When you’re done, you should have a large amount of wire coming off the top of the tree. You can use this to create a loop for hanging or whatever you like. I left mine long so the people I was giving it to would have room to work with. Twist and turn your sticks to make the “tree” more three-dimensional, and hang it somewhere pretty!

Glitter Tree

Glitter *may* be involved.

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I saw this little bit of neat a while back and I’ve always wanted to recreate it for someone special. But of course by recreate I mean do it in a completely different way. Nevertheless.

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What you need for this, however you decide to do it, is an artist’s canvas, some paint, some electric or battery-powered lights (LEDs are safer), a knife for cutting, a brush for painting, and some glue for, well, gluing. In this particular project, there was also glitter involved.

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First, check and make sure your lights are working. Yes? Good.

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Now, paint your canvas however you like. I was going to do mine a nice metallic, but then I thought better of it and went with a soft matte gray instead. Because I didn’t want to distract from the glitter.

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As for your design, well, that’s up to you. The original idea was just sort of abstract, like fireworks. But you could do constellations (like someone’s Zodiac sign), or something more Lite-Brite-y. Or a marquee. Whatever you want. For mine, I decided on a dandelion, where each seed of my favourite flower (and I’m not ashamed to admit that I love that plucky weed) corresponded to a light.

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Here’s a quick sketch I did once I figured out my idea, just for proof of concept.

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I lightly marked out the design on the painted canvas with a pencil. I had to make sure that the design was big enough to accommodate the size of the lights I had purchased.

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Then I discovered that the ugly deflectors on my Dollarama lights weren’t glued on and I could pull them off, meaning I was just left with the pretty little diode!

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Then I cut out holes big enough for the lights to poke through.

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I basically just needed to poke a hole with the Xacto and twist it a bit. While I was doing this the Pie started trying to make me mess up, which I did, on the very last hole. Then he started giggling and saying he shouldn’t tease me when I have a knife in my hand. How well he knows me by now.

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Then I poked through the lights. Make sure to test them and see how they look! Of course my camera plus low light equals blurry photo, but you get the idea.

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Then, if you want, you can secure them in place with a bit of hot glue around the back, but I’ll do that later. I don’t want the lights to get all glittered up.

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Now, for the front, I had to fill in the rest of my design. With glitter. I used regular school glue to fill in the parts of the dandelion seeds and stalk.

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Then dusted them with appropriately-coloured glitter.

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Then let it dry.

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You can dust away loose glitter with a soft fluffy brush and some compressed air. I did most of this outside.

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And sealed up my glitter again. Yes, I have a jar full of jars of glitter. That stuff is dangerous.

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The seeds took forever because I did the little actual seed part first.

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By the time I was done with all the white fluffy bits I was so done with glitter in general.

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Here it is after I went at it with compressed air for a bit. It seems to work best on the superfine metallic powder.

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It looks pretty good just on its own.

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Then I added back in the lights and secured each with a drop of hot glue. This is where I discovered that if you don’t use glue sticks for a while they yellow. Fortunately you can’t see this on the front.

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I also secured all the loose wires and the battery casings. It doesn’t look pretty but you can’t see it so who cares?

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I like it. I like that it looks neat during the day, with the contrast in gray and glitter, and then when you turn it on at night the light sparkles off everything but the background (except for the few stray bits of glitter embedded in the canvas). I also like how the seeds kind of look like dragonflies. NEAT!

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Lite Brite Dandelions 47

Kintsugi – Hacked

WARNING: This is a long post. With an unsatisfactory ending. Sorry.

Have you ever heard of kintsugi/kintsukuroi?  If you Google it, you will probably see this picture:

From Sangbleu.com

And if you click on that picture you’ll get all sorts of lovely information about what exactly the process is.  Because I know your attention span is shorter than that (I mean, you’re here, right?), I’ll give you the skinny.  Basically, this method of pottery repair is based on the idea that something can become more beautiful for having been broken, and, rather than throw away a broken vessel, we can make it more beautiful by putting in the effort to fix it.  And to fix it in a beautiful way.

The problem is that doing it the real, traditional way is going to take a bit more actual effort than I really want to put in.  Not to mention that the real process involves many toxic substances, and many of these substances are not allowed to be imported into Canada.  So I couldn’t even do the real way if I wanted to.  If you want to see someone go through the real process, read the Kintsugi Blog.  The fact that the last post was in April 2013 should tell you something.

And I could buy some fancy schmancy repair kit from some other country, but I’d probably run into the same import issue and they’re expensive, if you include shipping and the fact that the Canadian dollar is tanking at the moment.  I don’t like things that are expensive, because I don’t have any money.  This is why my main hobby is talking to the internet.

I’ve seen a few attempts, like this one, to “hack” the method and do it more cheaply and easily.  But they kind of suck.  I can definitely do better than that.

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Here’s the thing, though: so far, I haven’t quite managed to get it right — yet.  But now I’m obsessed with it.  So I figured I’d let you guys know how I was doing with it, and maybe some of you have some ideas about how I can make it better.  Sound good?  Okay good.

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Materials:

What I wanted to achieve with my kintsugi is a fixed vessel that could be used again. So I did my research and I found a food-safe and water-tight all-purpose adhesive from Dap. I had to order it online from Amazon.ca, because for some reason none of the hardware stores in Ottawa were stocking it.

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I also picked up these awesome babies from Lee Valley. They’re teeny tiny condoms you stick on the ends of your nozzle-y glues to keep them from drying out. Because I hate that they come with a twist cap that you use to break the seal and once you add the nozzle the cap is useless. And then the glue dries up in the nozzle and you’re hooped.

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These are awesome. And cheap.

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Now, to adorn the adhesive I needed some precious, precious gold. Or a reasonable facsimile. I considered gold leaf but again, pricey, and too complicated. So I looked around and I found these nice metallic powders from Neuberg-Ebel that looked awesome.  Of course I couldn’t find anyone who would ship them to Canada.    But then I found some re-packaged Jacquard Pearl-Ex powders at DeSerres that were in my price range so I picked up a few colours.  Make sure you get metal powder and not embossing powder, because embossing powder turns to plastic when it’s heated.  Although now that I think about it, that might be a good idea for next time …

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And, you know, protective gloves and sheets of newspaper and stirring sticks and containers and all that stuff.

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First Attempt:

I decided to start my experiments after I accidentally broke one of my parents’ porcelain bowls at Christmas time.  Porcelain and ceramic are ideal for this sort of thing, because they don’t shatter when they break (unless you totally smash them, of course).  Clay will turn into dust if you break it but porcelain is good stuff for dropping.

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This bowl broke cleanly into three pieces, which was a good starting point for me.

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My original idea was to mix the metallic powder with the adhesive and then apply it like regular glue. I reasoned that the metallic sheen would shine through the clear glue and it would look awesome. So I painstakingly removed the lid from the powder and tried really hard not to breath on the beautiful glittery copper stuff.

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I squeezed some glue into a dish and carefully tipped some powder onto it.

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Then I used a stir stick (these ones are left over from my coffee stirrer wall art) to mix them together.

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And used a paintbrush to apply the glue to the first piece.

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Then I stuck it to the second piece. Unfortunately, it didn’t goosh out around the crack in the nice smooth way I wanted it to, probably because I applied it with a paintbrush.

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So then I tried to wipe some of it away. Yup, you saw that coming.

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Whatever. This was an experiment. So I continued with the final piece, once the first two were dry. I left it to goosh as it would, though the ragged little wisps were so not cool.

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What it looked like on the inside.

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I used rocks and a box of matches to hold pieces in place while they dried. I think traditionally you wedge it in sand, but you do what you gotta do.

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I wasn’t happy with the final result, so I thought I might try to trim off those wisps I disliked so much. I used an X-acto knife and it was super easy.

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Except when the adhesive inside the cracks decided to come with the stuff I was trying to cut off. GARGLEBARGLEGRRRRRRRR …

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And really it didn’t look that great anyway.

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The bowl did, however, hold water. So I had that going for me.

Second Attempt:

For this one I was out of porcelain but I had this small pottery bowl thing. I knew that pottery would shatter more, but I figured if I controlled the environment in which it broke I might be in luck.

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So after washing and drying the bowl I placed it in a paper bag and rolled the top down to seal it in. Then I took it into my garage and prepared to drop it on the concrete floor.

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The only damage was a tear in the bag after the pottery shards had their way with it.

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I definitely had more pieces than I would had the bowl been of china.

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But only a little bit of shatter dust, which means I could still put the whole thing back together.

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So I laid the pieces out and got ready to go.

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In this attempt, I used the nozzle of the glue to lay a nice smooth bead along the edge of one piece.

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Then I stuck them together and had a lovely smooth bit of glue smoosh out both sides. I carefully tipped some of the metallic powder onto the glue smoosh.

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And did the same to the other side. What a mess!

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Then I set the piece down and let it dry overnight before I tried to get the excess powder off.

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Look at that! It’s beautiful!

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The problem was that I couldn’t re-create the situation again. The powder got everywhere, and my hands aren’t that steady, so I ended up dropping pieces while trying to glue them together. It’s really hard to maintain pressure on two pieces of odd-shaped pottery (but not too much pressure) while also carefully tipping fine powder everywhere, especially if you have carpal tunnel syndrome and you have no gripping power.

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So that’s where I am right now. If you folks have any ideas, I’d love to hear ’em!

Izod’s Bookcase

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I had a totally different plan for this, but when it turned out that it was completely unfeasible, this one worked out really well instead.  When I first found out that Atlas was pregnant, I decided that the baby would get as a first Christmas gift from me a collection of my favourite children’s books.  I’ve been picking them up second-hand at various thrift shops, and I aim to continue to do so whenever I find one that is right.  But so far, I have a pretty good collection of Roald Dahl, some Doctor Doolittle, the Narnia series, and a few of the classics.

I bought the bookshelf at IKEA.  I wanted to re-vamp a thrifted one but I couldn’t find an appropriate one and this one was inexpensive and the exact size I wanted.

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I took off the back panel of the bookshelf and set it up against some nice blue fabric, which I cut to size.

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Then I glued it onto the back with hot glue.

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Because the fabric made the panel thicker, I used a craft knife to widen the slots on the back of the bookshelf.

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So now it fit, and it’s all in place.

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I’d originally planned a nice stencil here, with contact paper and spray paint, but I discovered that if you use spray paint on contact paper it peels back from the design and doesn’t work.  So I ended up free-handing Izod’s name here with craft paint and it worked out really well.

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And it’s all finished.  I hope he has many adventures with some of my favourite stories!

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Quick Mouse Pad Re-Fit

Mousepad Refit 1

I’ve had this mousepad since I got my first MacBook about eight years ago.  With an optical mouse, of course, I don’t actually NEED a mouse pad, but I don’t like rolling my hand over the relatively rough surface of my desk.  It makes me feel icky.  This mousepad, of course, has seen better days, and the cloth on top of the foam is peeling off.

Well, I have fabric, and I have fabric glue.  How hard can a re-fit be?

So first I peeled off the old fabric, which was some form of stretchy something.

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I gave the neoprene base a bit of a rinse and scrub to get rid of the now powderized ancient adhesive and let it dry.  Then I set out my equipment: paint brush, fabric glue, scissors, and a piece of fabric.  Go with a fabric that feels okay against your wrist, because you will constantly be rubbing your wrist against it. This was a scrap leftover from a previous experiment making bow ties, and it was just the right width.

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I used my paintbrush to slather fabric paint across the entire surface of the mousepad. Make sure to get it right to the edges, and don’t spread it on too thick. I may have gotten mine a little thick in some places and it showed through the fabric later. Not a huge deal, but if you’re a perfectionist, use caution.

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Then I simply flipped it over and trimmed around the edges with scissors. Easy peasy.

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All trimmed up and sitting to dry.

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And that’s it. A new look in five minutes or less.

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Mousepad Refit 10

Rainbow-Dipped Wooden Spoons

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This is a great and quick gift for people who are just starting out in a new home.  When I saw it over at A Pretty Cool Life I knew I had to do it.  And maybe even jazz up my own wooden spoons while I was at it, though at present I only own two. You can never have too many spoons (especially when you’re entertaining and all is chaos), and these bright and shiny ones are a great accent for any kitchen.

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So you need some spoons, wooden ones. The Pie and I picked these up at Winners for a reasonable price. We did two sets, six spoons each. And you need some craft paint. We had six spoons, so we picked up six colours. We went with Martha Stewart Crafts™ Multi-Surface Satin Acrylic Paint.  It had a nice finish, was easy to apply, and is guaranteed to be non-toxic and food safe.  And if you let it cure for 21 days, then you can pop these babies in the dishwasher with no worries.

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I gave the spoons a quick sand with some fine-grade sandpaper to get some of the splinters and rough edges off.  Then I measured to see where I wanted the paint to go.  These self-healing cutting mats also make great ruler-like work surfaces.

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Then I used masking tape along the line I measured and pressed it down securely to make sure the paint wouldn’t bleed under.

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These are my own wooden spoons here.  I originally wanted to do a set of stripes forming a rainbow on each handle, with them being the reverse of each other, so I blocked off 1″ increments for my stripes, figuring I could do a few colours at a time.  Conveniently, my masking tape is also 1″ thick.

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I wedged the spoons in plastic cups with some rocks in the bottom for stability.  This way they can dry properly without touching anything else.

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Then I set up my palette in an old pie pan.  Re-use, re-use, re-use!

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Then I painted.  It was easy.  Leave an hour between coats to make sure it dries properly.  I ended up doing three coats on the spoons I was giving away, though I only did one coat on my own spoons.

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When I took the tape off my own spoons in order to mask off the already painted sections, I decided I liked the stripes just as they were.

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And if you put the spoons together it forms a rainbow!

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And of course the other spoons are raring to go, just waiting for their requisite 21 days of curing.

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If you have a glass utensil holder, you can put them handle-side-down.

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Or if not, have them handle-side-up.

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Either way, they’re a cheery addition to my kitchen.  Can I keep them?

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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

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!