Category Archives: Being Creative

Simple DIY screen-printing!

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Four the past four months I’ve been co-managing a team of seven 3rd-graders as part of a program called Destination Imagination in preparation for the Jefferson Region’s D.I. regional tournament this past weekend. Destination Imagination is an awesome S.T.E.A.M.-focused program that aims to develop teamwork, creativity, innovation, and problem-solving skills in kids from elementary school to high school.

Our team’s name was Creative Crew, and one of the requirements for the tournament was that the kids make a team sign with their name on it. One of the boys took charge of writing the team name on the sign and I loved the character of the letters!

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As the tournament drew nearer, I really wanted the kids to have team shirts. The regional D.I. program offered t-shirts, but we hadn’t ordered them, and since D.I. is all about being crafty and creative, I decided to take the task on myself. I was curious enough about screen-printing and have never tried it, and I was *sure* there had to be a DIY screen-printing tutorial somewhere on Pinterest. Sure enough, there are many! I settled pretty quickly on this one, probably because it said “easy” in the title. After all, I’m a procrastinator and with the tournament only a week away, easy was a prerequisite.

I had decided to use the team sign as the basis for the design. Bringing a photo of the sign into Photoshop Elements, I basically created a digital overlay and ultimately a black-and-white version of the words on the sign. I should mention that the project required an embroidery hoop, which is what holds the screen that you use to print your design. So, “Creative Crew” had to fit comfortably inside my 9.5-inch hoop. I resized the image accordingly and printed it. It looked like this:

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Sheer curtain fabric is used for the printing screen, “synthetic, not stretchy, fine gauge, thin enough to see through easily”. I found some at JoAnn Fabric and bought two yards of it. I was pumped about the project and was sure I’d be screen-printing shirts left and right after this, so my impulsive and obsessive self needed to stock up! Plus, I had a coupon. (If you’re local to me and need DIY screen-printing fabric, let me know. I’ll hook you up.)

I cut a piece of fabric plenty big enough to fit the embroidery hoop and inserted it. Then I taped the printed design to the bottom side of the hoop.

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Using a Sharpie, I traced the design onto the fabric, then painted around the letters and ellipse with Mod Podge to seal those areas closed. This required 2-3 coats of Mod Podge, and holding the hoop up the light periodically to make sure all of the “negative space” was getting covered. Once satisfied with how the screen looked, I let it dry for 24 hours.

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Next was the fun part. In terms of fabric paints, my choices at the store were limited. (Procrastinators can’t be choosy.) There were a ton of tie-dye paints and puffy paints, neither of which would have been suitable for this project. The Tulip soft matte fabric paints were my best option and worked well with my homemade screen.

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Placing the screen where I wanted it, I squeezed out a line of paint and used a plastic pastry tool to swipe the paint upward and downward over the screen. A plastic putty knife would have been better, but I used what I had handy. I would recommend doing a few trial prints on old shirts or cloths first, because I ruined the first shirt by pressing way to hard and pushing too much paint through the screen. The quality of the prints definitely got better as I went along. I made eleven shirts altogether, quickly rinsing and towel-drying the screen between each print. (I’m not sure if this was necessary; it just seemed like a good idea.)

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I applied one color at a time, pulling the paint upward and downward so the edges of the colors blended together, wiping excess paint from the plastic tool onto a paper plate. The colors blended together beautifully and I loved the results!

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For most prints I only had a few spots where the paint didn’t pass through the screen. I used a brush and some of the excess paint to fill in those places. (It probably would have helped if I had ironed out the creases in the shirts first, but again… procrastinator, here.)

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I loved how they came out and the team was thrilled with them too!

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Here is Mr. D. and me on the morning of the D.I. regional tournament, sporting our DIY screen-printed shirts! I’ll definitely be looking for opportunities to do more DIY screen prints! It was a lot of fun!

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Simple Things: Missing Summer

I haven’t blogged in quite a while. I think I just got tired, but I’ve also been missing it. Just needed a little break, I guess. I tend to work that way. I’m very passionate about something for a while until I burn myself out. Then I move on to something else, and eventually find my way back when the time is right.

It’s been a mild winter so far, which I have mixed feelings about. I don’t mind the mild weather, except for the fact that I find the unseasonably warm conditions (a la global warming) unsettling. Despite the light-jacket-weather, I finally took the kids to get snow boots, in anticipation of a heavy snow that we’re bound to get at some point in the coming weeks.

I don’t think I have the winter blues, but I do miss the sights and sounds of summer. I also just upgraded my Photoshop Elements software and bought some textures and brushes from 2 Lil’ Owls Studio today, so I wanted to play with some photos I took back in July. It’s a bit of a cheat for the “Simple Things Sunday” link-up, but I didn’t think anyone would mind. 😉

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Then I did a little more playing with a Florabella action and got this, which I like even more.

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Simple Things Sunday: Scallion Blossoms

I’ve been enjoying the Simple Things photography link-up. There are some great photos posted every week, but I gotta say some of my favorites have been from  Gigi Marie Photography, especially her macro photography. She takes some amazingly creative photos of sometimes ordinary things using a macro lens. For instance, check out her photos of the sewing machine needle from last week’s Simple Things post. Awesome.

Though her skills and equipment are definitely a cut above mine, I do have a 100mm f2.8 telephoto/macro lens that I bought a few years ago, so this week I decided to try to get creative with it in the garden. The scallions that I planted from seed last summer are blooming, and there is just something about onion blooms that I love. So, I captured a few close-ups.

The photos would have been crisper if I had used a tripod, but it was getting late and the sun was setting. I stole a few moments before supper time to get these photos, keeping one eye on the kids to make sure they weren’t getting themselves into any trouble. There just wasn’t time for a tripod. In fact, in the five or ten minutes I took to take these photos, our basset hound snatched and ate a handful of radishes we had just picked. Bummer.

Lastly, I wouldn’t normally choose to go monochrome with garden produce, but I thought the combination of the structure of the blossoms and the low sun shining on them created some nice shadows, lending them to black-and-white. I also love the texture of thin, papery sheath these flowers are pushing their way out of. The first photo is on the soft side, but I thought there was something sexy and moody about it. (Imagine that… a scallion being sexy and moody.)

In the future, I probably won’t plant scallions from seed. They take FOREVER to grow! But I am enjoying their beauty.

A Good Luck Charm?

I’ve got between one-third and one-half of the garden planted with early season and frost-tolerant crops, but about one-quarter of the garden still needs to be cleaned up before I can plant anything there. (Meanwhile, my seed potatoes are in the basement sprouting!) I was weeding this last section the other day, while the ground was a bit wet and the much-too-large weeds would be easy to pull, and I noticed a huge clump of oversize clovers. I decided to comb it over to see if I could find one with four leaves, and within seconds I found one! Could this mean it’s going to be a good year for the garden? That’s what I’m choosing to believe!

Thanks to Kim Klassen for the pretty textures she creates and generously shares! The one I used here is called “lifesgood”.

Dinosaur Dig and Play Dough Potato Head

I took my son to get a haircut the other day. He wasn’t really into going, so I *might* have bribed him just a little by promising him one of those little dinosaur excavation kits. (They sell them in the waiting area.) The kits are marked “7+ years”, but I knew he would enjoy it, if he could find the persistence to keep digging. We got two.

When we got home he was eager to start digging and was at it for a while. But, when he didn’t find pieces of the dinosaur “skeleton” quickly, he started to get discouraged,… stopping every minute or two to say “Mommy, this is hard.” I encouraged him to keep going. I said he could take a break whenever he wanted, that it might take some time to get to the “bones”…. but that he’d get there eventually. He chipped, scraped, and brushed…

Then… finally he found a “bone”! He was soooo excited!

He proudly announced every bone that he found after that! He excavated bone after bone and collected them in a cup until he found all 17 pieces. Then we assembled them to make the triceratops “skeleton”. (I wish I had a photo of the skeleton, but my son was too excited to stop and let me take any pictures at that point.)

While my son was playing archaeologist, I made some homemade playdough for my daughter so she could try making a play dough Mr. Potato Head. I saw this idea on Happy Hooligans blog and thought it was genius, especially since the real Mr. Potato Head can be a little challenging for little hands! Both of my kids loved it, actually.

The convergence of the dino excavation and play dough gave my son an idea. “Let’s use the play dough to put the skin on the dinosaur!” (“Brilliant!”, I thought.) We had to try. It wasn’t easy, but here is our triceratops with most of his skin. (It was tough to get it right around the head….)

In case you are wondering, the homemade play dough recipe I used can be found here. It’s very easy and makes a nice big softball-size ball of dough! The recipe is pretty forgiving, too. It mixed up perfectly the first time I did it; but the next two times it was too wet, so I just kept adding flour (a tablespoon at a time) until it was right. The play dough will keep for quite a while, if you store it in a ziplock bag or tupperware container. If you find it getting a little dried out, just splash a little water onto the outside and knead it a bit; it’ll be good as new! I even added some lavender oil to one batch to make a pretty-scented dough. Give it a try!

First Harvest: Spring Onions

What an incredible weekend to be outside in the garden! I didn’t want it to end… especially Sunday. The weather was perfect.

With the snow and rain we got over the last couple of weeks I was starting to get anxious to plant and wanted to get as much in the ground this weekend as I could. We got the garden mostly tilled and ready, which included mixing in some horse manure that my husband picked up two weeks ago. My in-laws were in town and helped keep the kids busy, which gave me some larger chunks of time in the garden than I usually get. (Thank you to E, G, and my hubby!)

Saturday I sowed yellow and sweet onions, lettuce (arugula and simpson), and spinach, and transplanted some lettuce and chard that had come up from last year. I also planted some broccoli and cabbage plants that we got at the garden store just up the road, along with some garlic chives. On Sunday I sowed garden peas, snap peas, kale, turnips, broccoli rabe, and kohlrabi. My son went to the garden store with me on Saturday and he picked out some pansies for the kids’ garden. So, we planted those too, and added a few other fun things, like some pinwheels and river rocks.

As I mentioned, there are some plants that overwintered and are showing new growth. I moved the lettuce and chard to the appropriate plot, based on my crop rotation plan. (The spot where there were will have tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes this year.) Also, while taking compost out of the bottom of our compost bin to put in the garden, I found four cloves of garlic that were sprouting, so I planted them in the garden near the onions. (Why not?)

Finally, we had a bunch of onions in last year’s onion plot that had grown new green stalks. They weren’t onions that I planted in the fall with the expectation of an early spring harvest. They were onions I missed when harvesting them last year, because I wasn’t really sure when I was supposed to pull them out and I did it a little too late, after the stalks on some of the smaller onions completely dried up and withered away. So, they grew back this spring. At the suggestion of my mother-in-law, I pulled them to have as spring onions. They filled a quart size mason jar nicely, so I decided to get a little creative with them before eating them. I’m so excited Spring is finally here!

A Snowy Day in January

Ok…. if Mother Nature hadn’t done a complete 180, I wouldn’t feel so compelled to post today. But, since I JUST posted about how beautiful the weather was two days ago, I couldn’t not post today, when we got our first real snow of the season. It was T-shirt weather yesterday, hats-and-mittens weather today!

There was probably less than 1/4 of an inch of snow on the ground, but my son insisted on us making a snowman. I tried to tell him there wasn’t enough snow, but his Grandma whipped up a small snowman for him a week or so ago with just a dusting on the ground. So, the sly little guy wasn’t accepting “no” for an answer.

Before we got to making our snowman, we scoured the house for the items we would need, besides snow. We found three black buttons for his coat, cut a small piece of carrot for his nose, and cut up some dark chocolate for his eyes. Next I took the handle off of a Christmas gift bag to use has his scarf. I thought we were all set, but then Declan said “We need a hat!”

Hmmm… where do we find a hat for a 6-inch snowman? We walked around the room of our house that since Christmas has been a toy-frenzied mess, looking for a small hat. I asked him if any of his toys had a small hat that we could use. With my back to him and our Christmas tree (yes, it’s still up!), I heard him say “I know, Mommy! We could use this for a hat!” I turned around and he was pointing to a little red crocheted bell that hung from the tree. It was perfect! What creativity and resourcefulness! That’s my boy!

By the way, Lightning McQueen has nothing to do with the snowman. I just liked the pic. 🙂