Category Archives: Craft

Potholders: A Fun Project Not Just For Kids

Last fall, I was hosting a brunch for some friends and went to grab a potholder from the drawer…

woven cotton potholder

Hmm, that was embarrassing. How had I not noticed that my favorite potholders had seen better days.  I probably made these as a mother daughter craft with Emily at least 15 years ago and they’ve seen almost daily use since.  Seemed like a good time to replace them, so off I went to the store to buy some new potholders.  But I left empty handed.  Nothing seemed as comfortable or useful as what I had in the drawer.  I guess it was time to make new ones instead.

I had tried to make some at one time a few years back, but all I could find were polyester loops and and plastic looms.  Bad experience; polyester isn’t very useful around hot things, and plastic looms just broke under the tension.  I was hoping things had improved in the intervening years.

Success at Amazon! Harrisville Designs makes exactly what I was looking for. This Made in the USA company makes a kit that contains a sturdy metal loom, weaving and finishing hooks, and high quality, beautifully colored cotton loops.

Lotta loops

I ordered the kit and plenty of extra loops in all my favorite colors.  When they arrived, I got to work.  I forgot how fun it is to weave potholders, especially with all the great colors Harrisville Designs offers.

woven cotton potholder

woven cotton potholder

woven cotton potholder

These aren’t hard to make.  Pick you favorite colors and start weaving.  For help with pattern ideas, there’s a great Potholder Pattern Wizard on the Harrisville Designs website.

woven cotton potholder

woven cotton potholder

woven cotton potholder

woven cotton potholder

When they’re done, it’s time to use them!

woven cotton potholder

I brought my weaving supplies up to my mom’s to work on during my last visit.  At one point, she disappeared to the basement and came back with a very old Fay’s Drug bag containing bags of cotton loops bought at a local store, Pleasure’s and Pastimes.  My friends back in Buffalo will recognize these places, and how old those loops must be 🙂  I’m guessing 20 years minimum.

cotton potholder loops

While the colors are nowhere near as fun and bright as the new ones from Harrisville Designs, I may make some for old times sake.

 

Happy New Year 2016

Happy New Year and Best Wishes for 2016!  I truly appreciate all who have visited my blog this year.  Here’s a look back at some of my most popular posts of 2015!  

Tomato Florida Weave

1.   Taming My Tomatoes With A Florida Weave:  My tomatoes were a mess, so I tried something new to try and keep things in order.
 

 

 

Blue Jay

2.    The Blue Jays are Back (and That’s Not a Good Thing):  What to do when you have nuisance birds at your feeder?

 

 

 

Garlic3.  Warding Off The Vampires:  This was my first try at growing garlic.  Easier than I thought and definitely worth the effort.

 

 

 

Multi stemmed Freeman Maple Autumn Blaze4.  So Long Beautiful Maple Tree:  Sometimes things go terribly wrong with plant.  In this case, construction and cold brought about the demise of our beautiful Freeman Maple

 

 

IMG_38415.  November in Chicago:  This fall was quite an unusual one.  Here in Chicago, the plants were quite confused as to the time of year and it made for an interesting fall.

 

 

clematis wilt6.  Something’s Wrong With the Clematis and Clematis Stem Wilt: An Update to Something’s Wrong With The Clematis:  The wet spring affected a lot of plants.  Many of us saw some terrible die back of our clematis due to Clematis Stem Wilt.  Hopefully next spring everything will rebound.

 

westie7.  Little White Pepper Thief:  Apparently Westies love peppers.  I didn’t get any sweet or hot peppers from my garden this year because of my little thief 🙁

 

 

rabbit nest8.  Spring Surprises:  Even when you think you know everything in your garden, you get surprised!

 

 

 

Callicarpa9.  Beautyberry Bushes:  Did They Survive the Winter?  After a winter like we had, I thought I had lost my new bushes.  But, they are one of the last to leaf out in the spring, so I’m glad I was patient.  

 

 

IMG_349510.  Fall in Northern Michigan/Stumbling Upon Club-Mosses:  This was one of my favorite posts of the year.  Not only was fall in Northern Michigan stunning, my mom and I stumbled onto a forest area full of a club mosses.   Very cool to see and explore.

 

..and a few of my all-time most popular posts:

Curled Leaves On The Bushes (August 2014)

Creeping Thyme Problems (April 2014) and an update in August, Oops, September Garden Update 

Painting Rock Garden Markers (February 2014)

Pelicans In Illinois (September 2013)

Our Family Christmas Tree (December 2013)

Hope you keep visiting, I have all kinds of ideas to keep everyone in the gardening mood all winter.  

Remember, you can also find Stephi Gardens on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and  Twitter.

 

Making My Own Pumpkin at the Pumpkin Patch

glass pumpkin

During the Morton Arboretum Pumpkin Patch this year, my friend Susan and I signed up for a Glass Pumpkin Workshop where we would learn to make our own pumpkin paperweight.   So on a drizzly, cold October morning, six of us gathered by the demonstration tent to learn how to work with molten glass to create our own glass pumpkin paperweights.  Our great instructors, Sandy and Hillary from the Girl Glass Studio in Sacramento, CA, first demonstrated how we were going to make our pumpkins, then helped each of us make our own creations.  It was far more complicated than I though it would be, but they expertly led each of us through the steps.

The first thing we all had to decide was what color(s) we wanted our pumpkin to be.  I wanted one to compliment the others I had, and settled on something similar to one of Sandy’s own designs that was a beautiful combination of green and yellow.  Susan was just starting her collection and went with a more traditional orange pumpkin.  The others ranged from choosing her favorite color, to another who wanted to match the beautiful fall red color of a nearby tree.

glass pumpkin

glass pumpkin

Then it was time to begin.  Using a pipe, it was time to do the first gather of glass. In the furnace was clear glass, molten at a temperature of 2000° F.

glass pumpkin

glass pumpkin

Constantly rolling the pipe (and keeping it level), we walked the pipe over to the marveling table.  There we rolled the glass into a cylinder, while also letting it cool slightly.

glass pumpkin

glass pumpkin

We repeated this to make the gathered glass the size and shape that was desired.  After the final gather, we rolled the glass in the first “frit” or color.

glass pumpkin

Then is was back to the furnace to reheat the now color coated glass.  Once the glass is colored, it is reheated in the reheating chamber that is in the front of the furnace.  It’s used during reheating so someone doesn’t contaminate the clear molten glass in the furnace accidentally with colored glass.  You don’t want to be that person!

After reheating, its time to shape the glass in a mold.

glass pumpkin

glass pumpkin

Then the glass is rolled again in frit to add a contrasting color to the points.

glass pumpkin

Back to the furnace one last time and then to the bench for final shaping.  This is where things speed up.  The glass can’t be allowed to cool very much or we run the risk of it shattering.

glass pumpkin

First rule was we had to sit on our left hand until Sandy was ready to guide our hand to a safe position.  It is deceivingly tempting to grab the pipe placed in front of us, but it’s hard for us to know visually where it is cool and where it is crazy hot, so to keep us safe we sit on our hand.  Using jacks, the pumpkin is shaped and the top prepared for breaking off the pipe.

It’s hard to see, but Hillary is holding a board under my arm to help keep the heat from the glass off my skin.  Throughout the process I was amazed at the heat that was pouring out of the furnace and off the glass and rod.  It didn’t necessarily always look hot, but we could feel it.  That is also why we needed to have our hair tied back and wear only natural fiber clothing.  Finding something to wear was actually harder than it sounds 🙂

glass pumpkin

At this point, Sandy and Hillary took over since every minute the pumpkin is cooling, shattering becomes a bigger reality.  Hillary brought the pipe with the now shaped pumpkin to a heating table where Sandy was ready to help heat up the pumpkin with blow torches.  A few taps and the pumpkin was broken free from the pipe and it was time to prepare the stem.

glass pumpkin

Glass is gathered, colored frit is layered on and the stem is shaped in a mold.  The stem glass was pushed onto the pumpkin and then drawn and twirled, making a beautiful unique twisted stem.

glass pumpkin

glass pumpkin

glass pumpkin

glass pumpkin

The pumpkin was then whisked away to anneal in a kiln overnight. The temperature controlled kiln was set to 920° and overnight the temperature dropped slowly, about 60° an hour, until the pumpkins were cooled and hardened.  Now they’re ready to go home.

Here’s all our creations…

glass pumpkin

glass pumpkin

pumpkin 067

I wish I could do it again, but the class is so popular they have a one time rule.  If you’re in the Sacramento area, check out the Girl Glass Studio classes.  Based on my experience here, I’m sure it’d be fun and you’ll learn a lot.  I’m going to try and  look for something near me.  It was also fun use my new-found knowledge of glass blowing techniques to understand a little better the different styles and techniques the artists used to make their own pumpkins.

Thanks Sandy and Hillary!

IMG_7971

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2015!  As many of you have noticed, I had to take a little break this fall.  Sometimes, life just gets busy and something needs to give.  I’ve been taking lots of pictures and notes, so I’m looking forward to catching up over the next few weeks.  In the meantime, here’s a look back at some of my most popular posts of 2014!

Painted Rock Garden Labels

1.  Painting Garden Rock Garden Markers:  A fun project to jazz up the garden.

 

 

Biltmore Estate

2. Girls Weekend in Asheville:  A wonderful weekend away in a great city!

 

 

IMG_5288 (1)3.  Angel Wings in the Snow:  Fascinating tracks in the snow.

 

 

Creeping Thyme4.  Creeping Thyme Problems:  Trying to salvage a mess in the garden.

 

 

snowflakes5.  Peggy’s Snowflakes:  Every snowflake is truly different.

 

 

stephi gardens6.  Gardening:  All in the Family:  From grandparents to great-granchildren, gardening is a family tradition.

 

 

Homemade Suet Cakes7.  Homemade Suet Cakes:  Giving homemade suet a try.  The birds loved it!

 

 

glass pumpkin8.  Visiting the Glass Pumpkin Patch 2014:  I love seeing all the different creations the artists bring every year.  

 

 

Yarn wrapped bottles9.  Yarn Wrapped Bottles:  A fun and easy craft project to decorate for the holidays, a party, a wedding, or for whatever you have that needs some color.

 

 

Raised vegetable bed10.  My New Raised Bed: Construction:  I needed more garden space so we built two new raised bed gardens.

 

 

Visiting the Pumpkin Patch 2014

A couple of weeks ago, it was time to visit the Glass Pumpkin Patch at the Morton Arboretum again.

glass pumpkin

This has become one of my favorite fall things to do.  The weather wasn’t great, but at least on the day I went it wasn’t raining.  I also had the chance to make my own glass pumpkin paperweight in a class earlier in the week.  I’ll describe that super fun experience in the next post.  But as a teaser, here’s the pumpkins my friend and I made, along with everyone’s in the class.  Mine is the green one, hers is the orange.

So many different pumpkins!  We each got to pick our own colors, and each turned out beautiful and unique.

glass pumpkin

 

glass pumpkin

As always, there are so many to choose from in the patch.  Each artist has their own style and unique methods of making the pumpkins their own.  After taking the class and learning some basic techniques, it was fun to talk to the artists about how they make theirs.  Some of the artists are local, but many travel from the Girl Glass Studios run by Shannon Jane Morgan in Sacramento.  They travel from California with their pumpkins, and a furnace, kiln and all their equipment to run classes and glass blowing demonstrations.

glass pumpkin

 

glass pumpkin

 

glass pumpkin

There was even a “vegetable garden” this year.

glass pumpkin

 

glass pumpkin

Of course, I added to my collection. This year I chose a pumpkin by  Matthew Urban of Furnace Urbini that can be lit up and glows a beautiful golden bronze.  I love the twisting of the spines and spiderweb appearance of this pumpkin.

glass pumpkin

Here’s my collection…

glass pumpkin

Painted Rocks as Plant Labels–In the Garden

Last fall, I had great fun painting rocks to use as plant labels  (Painting Rock Garden Markers).  They look great in the garden and add a bright splash of color!  But, now that I know what I’ve actually planted, I need to get my paints out and make some more to complete the set. Painted Rock Garden Labels   Painted Rock Garden Labels   Painted Rock Garden Labels   Painted Rock Garden Labels   Painted Rock Garden Labels   Painted Rock Garden Labels   Painted Rock Garden Labels

Painting Rock Garden Markers

Rock Garden Markers

Every year I try to mark which plants are which in the vegetable garden and always end up with something missing or mislabeled.  While this might not solve my problem, it’ll jazz up things a bit for sure.  It’s also a fun project on a cold, wintry day.

Here’s how I made these cute garden markers.

First gather the supplies:

  • smooth rocks
  • acrylic craft paint
  • set of good brushes; at least one thick brush for painting the background and a fine tip brush for painting letters
  • Krylon Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating Spray-#1303

Rock Garden Markers

  • Paint your background color.  Usually takes 2 coats.  Dry thoroughly before turning over if you are painting the back.

Rock Garden Markers

  • Once dry, use a fine tip brush to paint on the letters.   Hint: I investigated using a sharpie type pen, but have had mixed results when spraying with acrylic sealer.  It can run and ruin your design.  Safer to use the acrylic paint.  With practice it’s not too hard!

Rock Garden Markers

 

Rock Garden Markers

  • Now comes the fun part, decorating your stone.  Depending on your artistic talent, you can embellish the stones any way you want.  Me, I went with simple geometric designs.  I know my limits 🙂
  • You can use the back of the brush to paint dots, use different thicknesses of brushes to do lines, or just paint whatever your imagination can think up.

Rock Garden Markers

 

Rock Garden Markers

 

Rock Garden Markers

 

Rock Garden Markers

  •  When you are finished let them dry completely, preferably overnight.  Then spray them with an acrylic sealant (I used Krylon Crystal Clear #1303) outdoors, or in a well ventilated location.  Be sure to let it dry completely before turning over to spray the underside.

Rock Garden Markers

Ready for the garden!

Yarn Wrapped Bottles

Yarn wrapped bottles

My mom Peggy and I had some fun making these Pinterest-inspired yarn wrapped bottles. You can use this fun and easy craft project to decorate for the holidays, a party, a wedding, or for whatever you have that needs some color.

First, gather your supplies.  Depending on the size of the bottle and thickness of yarn, this project can take 15-30 minutes per bottle:

  • bottles (wine, beer, vases, food jar; anything will work)
  • white glue or mod podge
  • yarn, twine or macrame cord (something a bit thicker and has texture works best)

Yarn wrapped bottles

Yarn wrapped bottles

Starting at the top, apply glue to the top of your bottle.

Yarn wrapped bottles

Leaving a tail, that will be hidden, gently wrap the first few rows of twine, being sure it’s straight and aligned with the top of the bottle.  Keep wrapping, covering the tail.

Hint: Some bottles have a big ridge near the top like this one.  Just wrap the yarn  a couple of times over itself to raise up the row right below it, then continue on.  The bottle will be covered and look fine.

Yarn wrapped bottles

Keep wrapping.  No glue needed for the straight parts.  Add some glue when you get to the bottom of the bottle neck.  This helps keep the twine from buckling and slipping as you go over this rounded part.

Yarn wrapped bottles

Keep wrapping.

Yarn wrapped bottles

You’ll need glue again as you get to the bottom.

Yarn wrapped bottles

Gently wrap the last couple of rows.  The twine can have a tendency to want to slip off, but with glue and a gentle touch, it’ll stay.  If really troublesome, let each row sit for a few second to let the glue grab it before moving to the next row.

Yarn wrapped bottles

Cut the end and secure it with glue.  If you have any visible glue spots (trust me, it happens), it’s easily wiped off gently with a damp cloth once the glue is dry.

Yarn wrapped bottles

Now you have your finished project!  But you can add ornaments, decorations– whatever you want.  Then pick a new fun yarn or twine and you’re ready for the next one!

Yarn wrapped bottles

Yarn-Wrapped Bottle Gallery
 

Yarn wrapped bottles

Yarn wrapped bottles

Yarn wrapped bottles

Yarn wrapped bottles

Yarn wrapped bottles

Yarn wrapped bottles

Yarn wrapped bottles

Yarn wrapped bottles

Yarn wrapped bottles