Sunday, December 20, 2015

2015 Christmas How-to: Terra Cotta Essential Oil Diffusing Ornaments

After way too long of a hiatus, I was able to do our annual Christmas ornament this year.

The usual prerequisites I try to meet on these; fast, easy and inexpensive, but without looking like it! LOL

This year, I was inspired by some essential oil diffuser pendants I'd seen on Pinterest.  The premise is basic.  Make an object from a clay that will absorb the oil, then slowly release the scent over time.  After a few days, more oil can be added.  This is one of those crafts that can be kept simple, or more elaborate, with only a few minor changes.

Materials needed:

Terra Cotta air dry clay
cookie cutters
stamps or textural items.
essential oil

Tools:

rolling pin
skewer or straw
vinyl sheet
craft knife
craft brush
course and fine grit sand paper



The main thing, of course, is the air dry clay.  After doing a bit of research, I chose to use terra cotta clay, as it seems to have some of the best properties to act as a diffuser.

This is one of those areas where you get what you paid for!  I tested out a dollar store brand of air dry clay someone had donated to our church's Bible school art supplies, and it was just horrid stuff.  You defininely don't want to skimp on quality here!  Take the time to knead the clay before starting, and keep some water and a damp cloth handy.

For the cookie cutters, you can go with seasonal shapes, but I chose to go with basic shapes.  As long as the cutter leaves a surface large enough to fit your stamps, if that's what you want to use.

For decorating the surface, I chose seasonal stamps, however you can use anything that will give a texture to the surface.  For example, a crocheted doily, leaves, sprigs, or even some of those textured rollers you can get in the cake decorating supplies.

Start by covering your surface with a sheet of vinyl - it'll make moving things around a lot easier, later on - then rolling to about 1/4 inch thick, and roughly rectangular.

Smooth the surface with a damp cloth or paper towel, if you wish.

If you wish to use an all-over texture for your ornaments, this would be the time to add them.  Place your leaves, twigs, doilies, or whatever you are using on your clay and gently press.


The clay is rolled out fairly thick because the shapes I chose are quite large; the largest of the sets I bought.

Choose your shapes and start cutting out the clay.

If you've used an all-over texture on your clay, position your cutters selectively to get the texture where you want it on the shape.  Otherwise, just fit in as many as you can.



Remove the excess clay and put it into an air tight container or cover with a damp cloth to keep it from drying out while you work.











Choose your stamps to add texture, if you haven't already.

I wanted my squares to be oriented as diamonds, so I placed the stamps at a 45 degree angle.

Take care when pressing the stamps in to keep them even.  You want a nice, deep impression without accidentally including the outline of the rubber stamp.











For the round shape, I tried using a button to add texture.  In the end, I was unhappy with it and re-used the clay in my next batch of ornaments.












Because of the larger size of these ornaments, I used a straw to cut out holes for the hangers.  The skewer still came in handy to push the little plugs of clay out of the straw.

For smaller ornaments or pendants, I'd use the skewer or even a large needle for a smaller hole.








This next part was a first for me.  I had aquired a food dehydrator recently, and decided to try it out to dry the ornaments.

This is where working on a piece of vinyl really helps out.  It makes it SO much easier to move the pieces onto the drying racks.  There was still a bit of flopping and shape distortion.  If that is an issue, you may wish to leave your shapes to dry for a few minutes before moving them.








On to the next batch; this time I used completely different stamps.  They were a bit more difficult to press evenly into the surface compared to the wooden stamps, but I like the designs better.




One of them didn't work out at all and the clay got re-used later.

I used an Xacto knife to cut the shapes out, completely forgetting to leave a space for the hanger hole.

I decided to keep them, anyhow.




In the next batch, I remembered to space them so I could cut out an area for the hanger hole.













A definite bonus to using the dehydrator is the ability to use layers.  Talk about saving space!  The trays are easy to move around as needed.  I was really looking forward to seeing how well this worked.











I also experimented a bit with other shapes, and this is one I ended up keeping.  I used the largest flower shape for the outside, then the smallest for the inside.  I then found a button with a texture I liked and used a skewer through the shank to apply even pressure into the clay.










Here are all of the finished shapes after an hour or two in the dehydrator.

The little heart was something I made using clay that was rolled out thinner, and I used a heart shaped stamp with an all-over texture to it, then cut the heart shape out manually.

The dehydrator fan was noisy, but not too bad.










The shapes are not completely dried through, but I decided to turn off the dehydrator at this point.
















While not as much of an issue with the smaller pieces, the larger pieces started to curl a bit from drying too quickly.  You can also see that the damp clay had started to sink into the mesh of the drying racks.

I've noticed that there are different meshes available for different types of foods to dry, including no mesh at all for fruit leathers.  I think this worked out well enough that I might invest in different drying surfaces for future use.





Here are all the shapes removed from the dehydrator and left to finish drying on a paper towel.

In the future, I think I would sitll use the dehydrator, but leaving it on for a shorter time.  At least if I'm making something that's thinner, like the little heart, or larger, like the squares and flower.  The rectangles had almost no warping at all.









After letting them all dry overnight, it was time for the finishing touches.

For sanding, I find I like these sponges.  They are available in a variety of grits, including the 60 and 220 I have here.  I really ought to have a medium grit, too, but I just don't happen to right now.




Here's a closer look at the fully dried shapes.  You can really see how much the larger pieces have warped from drying too quickly, as well as how rough the edges are.













This is after using the course grit sanding pad, and part of it has been done with fine grit.

I used course grit only to do the backs of the ornaments, while the fronts got a final touch up with fine grit.  I did want to keep a bit of the roughness, so I didn't do too much sanding  Mostly, it was to get rid of the sharper edges.








Clay dust will build up in the grit.  Most of it can be knocked out fairly well, but I found using a stiff bristled brush also helped clean the dust out.  When I was done, I washed the dust out with plain water.

Working over paper towel made clean up much easier!

Here, all of the shapes have been sanded.






For the hangers, I just used some quarter inch satin ribbon I happened to have.

For these, I chose to stop here and not ad any more to the decorations.  Some of the things I considered was using fancier ribbons, hot gluing seasonal foliage to the tops, at the base of the ribbon, or adding something to frame the edges.  I also considered adding colour.  In the end, I decided to just keep it simple for these and experiment with the others.





 Here is one experiment; adding glow in the dark glitter glue around the edges of the rectangles without hanging holes.
















 With the heart, I experimented with adding colour using metallic markers.  I was quite pleased with how well teh colour stood out.


I then added the essential oil to the shapes; I chose Rose for the scent this time.

Because of how large the pieces are, rather than putting on a drop or two and leaving it, I used the stiff bristled brush to spread the oil across the surfaces.

I then reminded myself that, if I'm going to use a brush like that, I really ought to wait until the glitter glue dried, first.

Thankfully, I was able to fix the mess. LOL





Here they all are, fully dry.

And yes, they work quite well as diffusers.  My office smelled like roses for days!

Also, that glow in the dark glitter glue works really, really well.

Our tree now has quite a lot of scented ornaments.  The cinnamon and applesauce dough ornaments have held their scent for many years, and the more recent ornaments with spices decorating them have also maintained their scent quite well.  Even the sachets with drops of essential oil in the stuffing still let off a faint scent.  Now, we have roses, as well.

And here is how some of our new ornaments look on the tree!










Now that I've made these as ornaments, I am looking to make oil diffusers as pendents.  I am also looking into trying a white home made clay recipe.

If I'm happy with how they turn out, expect to see some in my etsy shop!







Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Spun


I decided to try my hand with making and using plarn.   For those unfamiliar with plarn, it is plastic yarn made from strips of plastic bags.

Making it was easy.  Using it sucked.

So I borrowed my daughter's drop spindle. I now have this batch balled up and a second, larger batch stretched around the back of a chair until I can ball it.

Now.  What shall I make with it?

Sent by mobile.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Doodles

Stuff by my daughter.

Just doodles, she tells me.

Sent by mobile.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Swift Thinking


My daughter has finished spinning her colourful batch of roving.  After being spun, it needs to be wound onto a swift, dampened, then left to dry, so that the twisted fibre doesn't do crazy things, like unwind and tangle around itself.

We don't have a swift.

This is my daughter's compromise.

She wraps it around her weight bench.

Works quite well, too.

Sent by mobile.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Spun dreams

My daughter has discovered the drop spindle, and she loves it!  She was gifted with some colourful merino roving for her birthday and this is what she has spun so far.

I am really looking forward to the finished product!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Benefits of Crafting

First off, my apologies for not posting much lately.  The real world has been intruding, and the past couple of years have been very rough. 

For myself, one of the things that made it rougher is that I haven't been able to do much crafting or writing; two things that help ground me and refresh my energy levels.

My husband, who has been seeing some major struggles lately, made a post on our shared photo blog that had me thinking of the important role crafting can have in our lives.  He has been living with a lot of pain over the years, and it has become increasingly debilitating.  For those with back injuries, I'm sure you'll understand the struggle of not being able to sit, stand or lie down for any length of time, and the effects pain medication can have on one's ability to think clearly and focus. 

Now that he's been forced to go onto short term disability, with a high likelyhood of having to go onto long term disability (as defined by his insurance company, which has been amazing in their support - kudos to Sun Life!), he is able to focus more on getting himself better.  Physiotherapy and medication deals with the physical side of things, but it's just as important to work on the mental side of things, too.  You can't battle constant pain for years and not have it affect your mental health, too!

For my husband, that meant taking up the needles again.  He'd taken knitting up some time ago, then stopped long enough to be pretty much a beginner all over again. I don't knit, and he's not into crochet, so it's not something I can help him with. 

He started out doing practise swatches, reminding himself on how to do the basics of casting on, knit and purl, then moving on to simple ribbing.  Yesterday, he picked up some Caron Simply Soft and longer 5mm needles of his own.  He then made a knit version of the earwarmers I like to crochet.

In the photo, the crochet earwarmer is done with reflective yarn, which Micheals no longer carries.  So he matched the pink.

Yes, my husband wears hot pink, and it's awesome.  Talk about high viz!


He started and finished his knit version earwarmers in one evening, which is just fantastic.  Expecially considering that he was making up the pattern as he went along.  He selected the yarn weight to match the new yarn I'd bought for his baby stash; two skeins of locally produced mohair/wool blend in a medium weight - something to motivate him to improve his skills before working with some high end yarn! Yes, my husband is now building up his very own yarn stash.  I love it!

One of the things that he mentioned to me as we talked about his knitting is how, as he focused on the knitting, it served as a distraction away from his constant pain and making it more bareable. 

Knitting is going to be part of his medical treatment.

The creative side of crafting has mental benefits that most people recognise, but I think there's a tendancy to forget just how much the act of creating crafts benefits us physically, as well.  It's good therapy, for our minds and our bodies.  It can reduce pain, lower blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety and improve mood. 

When I am teaching new crocheters, I sometimes get students who are really hard on themselves for not "getting" it as fast as they expect.  They begin to get tense and angry with themselves.  When this happens, I try to remind them that crochet is supposed to be fun!

Yes, it's nice to be able to figure it out and do perfect stitches, but ultimately, it's not about being perfect - or even being good!  It's about enjoying the creative process.  Not everyone picks things up quickly.  That's okay.  The last thing I ever want to see is a student who comes out of my class hating crochet because they couldn't "get" it.  I never "got" crochet when my mother tried to teach me as a child, all those years ago.  I was 25 years old before I picked up a hook again and finally figured it out.  Even then, it was another 10 years or so before a I discovered a surge of new patterns and yarns, and I really hit my groove when it came to crochet.  Now, it's not only my favourite craft, but one that is actually bringing in a few extra bucks here and there.  I've now been crocheting for more than 20 years and still love it.  Would I have loved it as much if I hadn't just left it alone for years and did other things?  I doubt it. 

If you're learning a new craft and it's causing you grief and frustration, stop!  Take a break.  Breath.  Relax.  Mistakes will happen.  Your fingers won't always co-operate.  That's part of the learning process.  Give yourself time.  If necessary, switch crafts.  Come back to it later, if you wish.  It's not a competition or a race. 

There are many reasons for all of us to get crafting.  It's fun and gets those creative juices flowing.  It's wonderful to produce a magnificent piece, sure, but you know what?  It's also wonderful to produce that weird, twisted funky disaster, too!

It's okay to make mistakes.

It's okay to not be perfect.

That's not what crafting is about.

Crafting is about so many things besides producing an object.  Unless you're crafting as a business and making objects to sell (which has its own benefits, but face it; many of us just don't have any desire to go in that direction), the finished project is secondary to the process of making it.

It's about creativity. 

It's about growth. 

It's about healing.

Start making things.  Pick up an old craft.  Learn a new craft.  Any craft.  Many crafts.  Do "good" crafting.  Do "bad" crafting.  Get messy and make mistakes.  Learn.  Have fun.

Just go out and get crafting!