Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wine Charm Display How To

The summer craft show season is nearly upon us, and I've been thinking of ways to better display my wine charms, particularly the alphabet charms. I've them in cute little bowls (a hassle to find letters when they're all bunched together), I've separated them a plastic container so they're easy to find (but not as attractive as I'd like and people don't seem to like having to bend over to look at them all), so now I'm trying an upright display.

I couldn't find any pre-made, so I decided to make my own. I did a few searches online for jewelry displays and decided to try something with cork board. Although all the how to's were very nice, they didn't meet all of my criteria for an outdoor show. First, I wasn't hanging this on a wall, so it so it had to be sturdy enough to stand up by itself. I also wanted some kind of frame. Second, using cute tacks or hooks weren't going to do me any good if a gust of wind came up and blew everything down. Whatever I hung on the board had to be secure and stay on the board.

I did some recon at Michael's during a recent 40% off sale and found most of what I needed. I supplemented the essentials with a quick stop at my local quilt shop and Ace Hardware store.
  1. 11x14 piece of cork board - Michael's
  2. 11x14 simple frame - Michael's
  3. 1 square yard of white cotton (I didn't need it all, but I wanted enough in case I messed up) - Quilt Shop
  4. 3 pkgs of 5/8 eye screws - Ace
I also needed a few supplies from around the house.
  1. Stapler that opens
  2. Ruler or other measuring tool
  3. Iron
All told, this project should take between 30 minutes and 1 hour.
  1. Step 1 - Remove the glass from the picture frame and set aside. I'll have to come up with something to do with it later.
  2. Step 2 - Cut 2 pieces of approximately 14x17 fabric. I felt that one piece was too thin, but two pieces covered the cork board nicely and looked whiter.
  3. Step 3 - Iron the fabric. Irons make me nervous. I avoid them if I can, but in this case, ironed fabric just looks nicer.
  4. Step 4 - Lay out the fabric with the cork board on top. I tried two different methods of stapling (I'll explain why later). You can see in the pictures for one try, I cut out most of the corner and folded, and for the second take, I used less fabric and folded the corner in, then stapled. Either worked well. My staples are probably 1" to 1.5" apart. I just estimated what felt best for keeping the fabric taut.
  5. Step 5 - Fit the board into the frame. Unfortunately, the back won't fit back on. After I've used this once or twice, I might go back and glue it in, but the board isn't loose at all. I would have preferred to use the back to be able to stand up the board, but I ended up using a frame stand instead, and the frame became mostly decoration and a little added weight.
  6. Using the ruler, decide how far apart the eye screws need to be. I want to hang wine charms on, so I measured out six across and five down. After measuring the first row and the beginning of the second, I used the grain of the fabric as a guide and it worked fine.
    1. Here's why I had to staple twice: on the first attempt, instead of eye screw, I used double sided tacks, which are basically big staples. It didn't work. Hammering them in was a pain, and then they weren't big enough for the wine charms to clasp. I took off the fabric which now had ugly holes in it, put on fresh fabric, and tried again using eye screws, which worked beautifully, although my thumb was pretty tired by the end.
That's it! See the pictures below to see all the steps.

All told, and without looking at my receipts, I'd say I spend about $25. I probably could have found a frame at thrift shop or something, but it wasn't convenient to where I was.

What do you think?

Monday, May 28, 2012

New Product: Magnetic Clasp Wine Charms

I was recently trying to decide what to give as a gift for a friend of mine. I wanted to make her a special set of wine charms, but I know she has had trouble with arthritis, and I was afraid the small clasps would be frustrating. Suddenly, I thought: magnets! Last summer I made several necklaces with heavier magnetic clasps for some older people I know who have difficulty clasping necklaces. Even trying to clasp in front first and then moving it properly behind the neck was tough. Why couldn't I use the same concept with a lighter gauge magnet and flexible wire?

Here was one of my prototypes: Notice the barrel magnet at the back. I might see if I can find something a little smaller in the future.

I did a little bit of experimenting with the number of beads used and with how much "give" to leave so when closed it wouldn't be too tight. I also had to be careful not to kink the wire during the process of stringing and running the wire back, although I believe that kinking the finished product will be pretty difficult.

Overall, I think it turned out pretty well. I even used some blue beads I haven't used in forever, but I like the look of this prototype that I might just make more in these colors!

After choosing a combination of letters and charms to create the set, I was ready to begin. To the left is an example of one with a pretty rose charm. I used red beads for the whole set, in keeping with my friend's favorite color. :)

I think this is another example of my creating philosophy: beauty and utility and finding inspiration in the people around me. I've found that many of my favorite and most popular products have come from considering the needs and wants of the people around me, and trying to create something to fit those needs and wants. I hope these magnetic wine charms follow in those footsteps and ease some of the frustration many people have as they find new physical restrictions prevent them from wearing or using their favorite items.

If you're interested, here's a link to my first set using magnetic clasps for sale. And here are some pictures:

I used the barrel clasps for this set, same as my sample and the set made for my friend. However, I have found some that are a little smaller where the magnets go flat against each other as opposed the the barrel, where  the magnets are attracted to each other but must go in a small entrance. The benefit of the barrel clasp is it can just be pulled apart, whereas the other kind should be taken apart sideways.

Friday, May 25, 2012

BESTeam: Fun with Yarn

It's Feature Friday again, and today I'm looking at Debbi and Amanda of Yankee Burrow Creations on Etsy. This mother/daughter team are fiber fanatics from North Carolina and can knit or crochet you a variety of items.

First, some non-trad ways to use specialty yarn! This is a hot pink flip-flop statement piece, ready for the beach or walking around town. There are several other colors available, so make sure to check them out.

Next is something a little more traditional. This skinny scarf is great for the in-between warm and cold weather in Spring and Fall when it's not quite cold enough for a coat and not quite warm enough to go around in your shirt sleeves.

And finally, for something a little warmer but still not ready for those cool autumn nights, this brown shawl is a perfect wrap. It's over 8.5' long and 12" wide, perfect for wrapping your shoulders if you're going out in the summer around sundown.

Don't forget to follow these ladies online! Etsy - Blog - Twitter - Facebook - Creating the Hive

Are you enjoying reading my features? Would you like to write some of your own, and be included in similar stories? Consider joining the BESTeam on Etsy!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Gift Ideas for Dad, Continued

Okay, I've done some thinking, and here's a few of the gift ideas I've come up with for my dad:
  1. Video Greeting Card: You can read directions on eHow. I like it because it's personal and it lets me talk to my dad in a way that he can keep and view later if he wants. I haven't tried it out yet, but I'm going to this weekend. I'll try to remember to write a post about how it goes.
  2. Personalized Map Coasters: This is a significant birthday, and my dad has lived a lot of places. These coasters are easy and useful. Here are directions. My hesitation comes from wondering if he'd want coasters. Maybe I can take the concept and modify it to a non-coaster item?
  3. Bonsai Tree: Sigh. I think this is just projection. It's me who wants a Bonsai tree after seeing all the varieties at the Bonsai Boy website. Still, we have similar interests, so maybe it would be a good decoration for his desk at work (some varieties don't need much if any natural sunlight).
  4. Personalized Marble Magnets: The appeal is that I already have the glue and magnets, so I can print off some pictures of family members and buy the flat marbles. I could even try mini 1" maps to modify the previous coaster idea. I like this because it could also be taken to work and stuck on his metal desk drawers for a reminder of all of us. You can find directions on the Not Martha website
Update: I actually wrote this post a few days ago and have since made my decision. . . Bonsai Tree for his birthday (with a video card if I can get it done in time; if not, it will be for Father's Day)! I called and talked it over with my mom, who thought he'd really like it but was worried about the stereotyped Bonsai that requires hours and hours of care. No problem, because I found a tree that doesn't want direct natural sunlight and isn't keen on water, either! Seriously, a tree that doesn't like sun or water? It's true, though. I found it at a shop online in their "Bonsai for Dummies" section. I don't really like the name, but what are you going to do? (Note: I am not affiliated with this store in any way, shape, or form.)

I'm also going shopping tomorrow for magnet supplies for a Father's Day gift. I'll let you know how it turns out in a week or so!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gift Ideas for Dad

I've begun seeing ads for Father's Day (June 17 this year), but I have a more pressing matter: my dad's birthday is in two weeks! Birthdays are a big deal in my family. They always have been, but it's also one of my opportunities to show my family how much I love and think of them since I live so far away and don't get to see them very often. Not only that, but I've been known for coming up with some great ideas (disclaimer: I've also thought of some real duds). What's strange is I was thinking about his birthday just a few weeks ago and it never even crossed my mind to think, "Present!"

What makes my dad's birthday particularly hard is that he is the quintessential guy who has everything. If he needs or wants something, he just gets it for himself at the time instead of waiting. That means either the family imposes a "no buying" time the month before his birthday and makes him write down everything he would have bought (this actually worked moderately well when we were all younger) or all gifts need to anticipate something he doesn't even know he needs or wants.

The double hard factor is that almost everything I handcraft is feminine in nature. My dad doesn't want a bracelet or a necklace or wine charms (I already gave my mom a party set of wine charms for entertaining, but as a personal gift, I still don't think he'd be interested).

Now I need to brainstorm, and fast. I need something special that I can get in the mail by Saturday. I need to consider both store bought and handmade. I need to consider his likes and dislikes and the things I've given him in the past.

Whew! That's a lot of needs!

First, things I've given him before which might help you brainstorm and helped me weed out what not to get him.

My dad likes golf, so here are some of the golf items I've gotten him:
  1. Golf shirts: You can never have too many. Unfortunately for me, my dad has just enough.
  2. Golf ball identifier/engraver: It's pretty cool - it comes with a set of letters and ink and you can press your initials in so that whenever you get new golf balls, you can mark them.
  3. Golf balls: Yeah, I know, but they get lost so easily! You should know your dad's preferences, though, because there are a lot of brands and varieties.
  4. Golf course certificate: I talked to my brother, who golfs with my dad a lot, about his favorite course, then I bought a certificate online for a full round, enough to be used at peak times if that's when his buddies are going out. I then printed the certificate, glued it to pretty card stock, cut around the outside with scrap booking scissors and put it in a nice envelope.
  5. Golf ball marker: I took a 1" sterling silver disc and hammered it to look like a golf ball (dimples!), personalized it by hand stamping his name into it, and shined it up. To do this you need some advance planning, but if you don't have any stamping supplies, look on Etsy and you can find a lot of shops to personalize this in a variety of ways, not necessarily with sterling silver.
Here's a list of other generic things I've gotten him which he's enjoyed:
  1. Socks: Yes, I don't know why dads always want socks. I guess it's one thing he doesn't like to get for himself.
  2. Books: My dad was a history major, and he particularly likes reading things about the civil war, so I've gotten him books on specific people/events (not just broad history books, which aren't as interesting), and also books specific to that time of history and the region I live in now (South Dakota). I am discerning, though. I once didn't get him an awesome book of first hand accounts of a battle because when I skimmed random pages, it was extremely bloody, violent, and gruesome with a lot of terrible kinds of deaths. I feel responsible for people not feeling worse after they've read a book I've given them.
  3. Books Continued: I've also gotten him a US Atlas and magnifying glass.
  4. Movies: Kind of cliche and I avoid this if I can, but the truth is my dad likes to collect movies, and if that's what he wants and I can't think of anything better, should I argue?
  5. Music: I try to pay attention when I'm visiting to the music groups he says he likes. It's usually something nice from the 70's which we both enjoy listening to.
While all of this is great, I want to think of something that doesn't take up a lot of space. He doesn't really need more "stuff" to lay around the house, so I'll also try to come up with something useful.

Okay, this post is getting really long now, so I'm going to use this information to come up with a list of things I think he'll like that I can find or make in a few short days. Tune in tomorrow to see what I've come up with and leave a comment with things you've gotten your dad that he's enjoyed.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bacon Swiss Individual Quiche

I've been in the mood for quiche lately, and I thought it would be nice to make individual quiches to make leftovers easier. It's been a while since I made a quiche, but after looking up several recipes, I decided to just wing it. Most of the recipes were fairly similar, and I've never liked having to be too exact.

So if you've never made a quiche before, you're in luck: this is something you can't mess up.

Here's approximately what I used:
  • 7 eggs
  • 3/4 c milk
  • 1 c shredded Swiss
  • 2/3 c bacon bits
  • 1 t crushed garlic
  • handful of spinach
  • handful of other shredded cheeses (Parmesan mix from deli)
  • pepper to taste
  • 5 layers phyllo dough (remember, if you buy frozen phyllo, put it in the fridge 24 hours before you want to use it) *NOTE - this can also be done with puff pastry
  • 3 T Butter/melted
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. I used 4 ceramic 1 3/4 cup Corelle casserole dishes.

First I sauteed the spinach until wilted, the set it aside to cool. Then I mixed the eggs, milk, Swiss, bacon, garlic, other cheese, and pepper together and set it aside.

I took out 5 layers of phyllo dough and cut into 4 equal squares. I took the first section and brushed a little bit of butter between each of the five layers, which I then put into one of the casserole dishes. I set aside and repeated with the other 3 dishes.

I put the four phyllo dishes into the oven and baked for 5 minutes, then removed the dishes.

I mixed the spinach in with the egg mixture and poured a little under one cup of the mixture into each dish, placing them back into the oven for approximately 25 minutes.

When a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, they're done.


I thought they came out excellent! There was a very strong bacon flavor, and just enough spinach for my taste. Some people may prefer more. I didn't add any salt because the bacon was pretty salty already, but others may want to add salt or Tabasco for additional flavor.

 I might try to be a little more careful with the edges of the phyllo next time. Taking the dishes in and out of the oven so much made a lot of the edges break off and fall into the bottom of the oven and all over the stove and made a mess.

Have you ever made quiche before? Do you use a real recipe, or just add whatever sounds good?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lists & Blog Organization

I absolutely love lists. I love making lists, crossing things off lists, and organizing various parts of my life using lists. It should come as no surprise that I'm the person who does something not on a list, then puts it on the list to cross off. Oh, yeah, lists also help me remember to do stuff. :)

It does surprise me, though, that it has taken me so long to use a list to organize this blog. Two lists, actually. One list gives a little more order and structure to the blog, and the other list sub-categorizes the first list with potential topic ideas for each one. Don't you just love the word "sub-categorize"?

Anyway, after sitting down this morning and brainstorming for a while, this is the format I've come up with (subject to change, of course).
Blog Topic Ideas

  • Three posts per week minimum – additional posts as interesting things happen :)
    • Week 1
      • Monday: New/feature product (mine)
      • Wednesday: DIY
      • Friday: Shop Feature
    • Week 2
      • Monday: Food
      • Wednesday: Fun list/book review/other
      • Friday: Shop Feature
    • Repeat

Did you notice how I'm really into bullets, sub-bullets, and bolding things?

I won't post my ideas list now; you'll just have to keep coming back to see what kinds of ideas I've come up with for each category. At this point, I think I've come up with at good month's worth of ideas, which should be helpful because right now, I'm lucky if I know what's going to be written next week.

I'll admit, other than the gratification of making a list and organizing, the ulterior motive here is to make my blog more consistent and higher quality to increase view numbers and build a more solid reader base. Any thoughts on the categories or opinions on whether you'd like to see anything else? Do these look interesting enough to keep readers coming back?
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