Leave a comment

Halloween Costume Tutorials

Another year means another roundup of costume-related projects and tutorials! With almost 3 weeks left until Halloween you’ll still have plenty of time to make any of the projects below.

Easily my most popular post (with almost 140,000 impressions on Pinterest in the last 60 days alone!), here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to make Minecraft Steve & Creeper heads.

Next up (with almost 50,000 impressions) is a similar tutorial, this time for making a Minecraft Enderman head along with a diamond block trick-or-treat box.

Both projects include full charts for game-accurate colors and the exact hex codes for perfect color matching!

If your idea of fantasy is less block-based and more magical, here’s a free knitting pattern for an easy scarf in the Gryffindor house colors.

If training a dragon is more your thing, here’s how to make a viking vest.

If you prefer Pokemon to Night Furies, here’s an easy, last-minute Pikachu costume idea.

If your friends-group themed costume runs more Grease than Greninja, here’s how you can make a super simple Poodle skirt.

Finally, if you’ve got enough knitting time on your hands, you can knit my Baby’s First Superhero Costume pattern as-is with cute designs for boys and girls, or convert the chart and the colors to create your superhero of choice.

Find more tips and tutorials on my How-To page!


Leave a comment

Same-Size Fondant Balls Trick

It’s National Cake Decorating Day today so I’ve decided to share a project from my personal archives along with a tip to help you level up your cake decorating skills.

A few years ago I made this baby shower cake for one of my sister’s friends.

I didn’t take too many progress pictures so I can’t share a visual step-by-step, but the process is pretty similar for most of my cakes. A few days before the event I bake the cake(s) and then wrap them in saran while still warm to trap in the moisture while they cool down.

I’ve already shared a full post breaking down every step of baking a cake and getting it ready to decorate, and I followed the same steps for this cake except I covered the layers with fondant instead of icing.

The step that took the longest with this cake was to create the fondant topper. The dad-to-be is a hockey player so I was asked if I could create a baby ice skate for the top. It’s fully fondant except for the lace, and I made it about a week in advance so it would have plenty of time to dry out and harden before the party. I wanted the skate on a long skewer to make it easy to slide securely into the cake after delivery so I put the skate and blade together while soft so I could slide the skewer in and make sure the holes were lined up, but then I took them apart to dry separately. I didn’t want the weight of the skate to distort the blade before it was fully set up.

When there is going to be a lot of weight on a cake it’s important to have enough support in the lower layers so the cake doesn’t sag. First I covered the lower layer in a base of baby blue and then I broke a dowel into 5 pieces to create a support to hold the weight of the upper tier. I didn’t want to take a chance on any splinters getting into the cake so there’s a cut length of straw around each dowel. I also made a note for the recipient letting them know how many supports there were so there would be no chance of a guest receiving more than they bargained for on their plate.

I don’t have progress pics of the decoration itself but it’s fairly simple – the base tier was covered in strips of fondant in various shades of blue and white and then topped with a disk of gray on top to clean up the edges and hide the supports. The top tier was covered with white fondant and then fondant circles of blues and gray in assorted sizes. To get the smaller circles I used an assortment of cookie cutters as well as straws of varying thicknesses.

This is where the tip comes in! When creating a fondant pearl border for the cakes the easiest way to make sure you get all your balls the same size is to use a cutter to cut out identical pieces of fondant before rolling. You can use a straw for really small pearls or a cookie cutter like I did to get larger ones, or any size in between! It’s super fast and easy and eliminates the guesswork of judging how large a piece of fondant you’ll need to roll. You can use the same tip for clay work as well!

As you can see with my pearls, there’s still a tiny bit of variance. This is because I didn’t roll my fondant to the same thickness each time. I’d advise using guide rings on your fondant roller to get the same thickness every time.

I added 2 more circles of blue on top to give a contrast for the skate, and then the cake was ready for pick-up.

My box wasn’t tall enough for the cake so I used 2 skewers to hold the lid in place, and set the skate in a bed of paper towel in the plastic container from a package of strawberries. The holes in the plastic were perfect to slip the skewer that was inserted in the skate through.

Here’s the finished cake. I’m really pleased with how it turned out!

I also really love this image I was sent of the cake in place among the other desserts at the shower. ♥

Here’s an easy-to-pin reference image for those who don’t already follow me on Pinterest. 🙂

Hopefully this little trick will help out the next time you’ve got to make a whole bunch of identically-sized fondant (or clay) balls!

Note: Today is also World Mental Health Day. This year’s Mental Health campaign is focused on showcasing the efforts various countries have made to bring mental health care to their populations, especially during the pandemic. For more information about the campaign, please click here, and if you’d like to donate to the World Federation for Mental Health you can do so here.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


Leave a comment

Bowling Cookies

It’s National Homemade Cookie Day in the USA today, and even though I live in Canada, who could say no to cookies? They’re tasty, versatile, and in these mid-pandemic days, a great way to provide individual portions per person.

Here’s an easy way to make a set of fun bowling cookies that you could even bowl with!*

I made these a few years ago for Father’s Day, as bowling has been a family sport since I was a kid. My dad was on a league through until Covid, and most of my siblings and I were on leagues at various times as well.

Back in the blogging heyday I used to follow a handful of cookie decorators (Sweetopia, The Bearfoot Baker and SweetSugarBelle were 3 favorites) and a big lesson I learned was how to use cookie cutters in creative ways. After deciding on “bowling cookies” I went through my bin of cookie cutters and pulled out 3 that would be perfect for this project.

The square cutter is from a nesting set similar to this one. Using it to create the lanes, choose the size that works best to fit as a multiple on the serving tray you plan to use. Rectangles would also work just fine. In my case I used the roughly 2″ square. The circle cutter is from a set similar to these. Used for the bowling balls, choose a size that looks appropriate on your size lanes. Mine is roughly 1″ in diameter. As for the bowling pin, this is where you have an opportunity to be creative! They do make actual bowling-themed cookie cutters, but I don’t have any so I used a Christmas bulb from a set similar to this one.

Step 1: Bake your cookies. You can use your preferred recipe of choice; I used my standard sugar cookie recipe adapted to taste years ago from this old Martha Stewart recipe. You want to avoid your cookies spreading while baking so be sure to chill your dough (before cutting works but after cutting is even better). Make enough squares (or rectangles) to fill the shape of your bowling lanes, plus a few extra to account for breakage. Bowling uses 10 pins so you’ll need to make at least that many, plus again extra to account for breakage. Finally, use the rest of your dough to make as many round cookies as you’d like. You really only need one to be the bowling ball, but I was serving a crowd so I made as many as I could with the dough that remained.

Step 2: Fondant toppers. If you prefer royal icing you could certainly line and flood the cookies and decorate them that way, but I find fondant a quick and easy way to get them done faster. Another example of this technique is here, where I used fondant to turn round cookies into records for a music-themed set.

Roll out white, ivory or cream fondant and use the same square and pin/bulb/etc cutter that you used for the cookies to cut a topper for each one. Moisten the back of the fondant (or the top of the cookie) with a bit of water and press the fondant into place, one topper on each cookie.

The bowling balls are a great place to use up leftover scraps of fondant. Roll out some black fondant then tear little pieces of your other colors and place them randomly on the black. Then roll over it some more to blend out the colors. Once you have it looking the way you like, use the same circle cutter to cut out enough toppers and place them on the ball cookies in the same way as above.

Step 3: Turn your base cookies into lanes. Start by using a yellow, orange or brown edible marker and a straight edge to draw stripes down your lanes to represent the individual planks of wood. I used a yellow Wilton FoodWriter and the edge of my transparent cutting mat. I generally prefer these AmeriColor edible markers so I tend to save them for when I’ll be needing to draw details because the Foodwriters are more broad-tipped.

Step 4: Wood grain, part 1. Using a paintbrush that’s ONLY ever used for food, dip it into a pot of brown icing gel color and blot onto a paper towel to get most of the globs of gel color off. Cheap plastic paintbrushes like what come in childrens’ art kits are perfect for this, but it’s super important that the brushes are reserved strictly for food use. Don’t worry about the messy bristles- the messier the better for this technique! Splotch the brown gel color directly onto the fondant cookie toppers. Try to pounce in a direction in line with the stripes you’d drawn so your wood grain goes in the proper direction. Repeat until you’ve done one full vertical row. In theory you could repeat this process on all the cookies and then move on to the next step, but I didn’t want to take a chance on the gel drying too much to reactivate so to be safe I did one strip at a time.

Step 5: Wood grain, part 2. Dip the same scrappy paintbrush into water and then brush lightly over the cookie to reactivate the brown tint and spread it across the fondant. Ensure to always brush in a vertical direction to create a faux woodgrain texture. Make sure to thin down the color just enough so that the stripes you’d painted earlier just barely show through.

Once you’ve completed the entire vertical stripe, repeat steps 4 and 5 on the remaining stripes of cookies.

Here’s the final look.

If you’re a longtime follower of this blog you’ll remember I’ve used this technique before, to make the hot tub for the Betty Boop cake for my mom’s birthday.

Step 6: Marker details. Use a red edible marker to add the characteristic stripes on the bowling pins…

…a black marker to add three dots to represent holes on the bowling balls…

…and the red marker again to add the triangular lane markers onto the lanes.

And that’s it! Assemble your pins into place at the top of the lanes and your set of bowling cookies is complete! I added a quick fondant ribbon sign to mark the occasion but that’s completely optional.

*Can bowl with them: If you take “bowl” to mean “stand up the pin cookies and flick a ball cookie at them, hoping to not get caught on the lip of one of the lane cookies”

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


Leave a comment

Cartoon Girls Trio – UPDATE (19WIPtoFO2019)

Back in January 2019 (!) I posted 19 projects I was determined to complete in 2019.  Spoiler alert – I failed – but I have made significant progress on about half of the projects on the list. Inspired by the recent Masters of the Universe and Suicide Squad remakes, here’s the current progress on my trio of 80s cartoon girls.

What I said: I’ve never shown these before, except for the odd glimpse in the background of Instagram pics.  I started this trio of plastic canvas portraits when I moved in August 2017.  While I love how they look in black and white (and blue), I designed them to be in full color and I’d love to see them complete.

What I did: Quite a bit of progress! 

I’d never shown them on the blog prior to that post, so here’s a look back at how they got to where they are now.

I’d moved in 2017 and was really excited to be able to fill my space with all the crafty, nerdy little things that make me who I am. 

Every shelf and table has some item that references my varied interests, and I’ve even used some previous projects as home décor – see the Minecraft heads from my tutorials peeping from above the kids’ desk, along with an as-yet-unshown secret project hidden among the books – so I was really excited to fill a blank wall space in my dining room with a handmade project.

First I purchased three of the largest plastic canvas sheets I could find. When looking for inspiration for what to stitch on them I really didn’t need to look very far. There are Archie comics in nearly every room in my house, thanks to my kids enjoying them as much as I do. In addition to the coloring book from my last post, I’ve drawn Betty on the blog here before, and Henri had drawn Archie a few years back. (He was even an Archie comics character for Hallowe’en last year, and I’ll be sharing that project here in October.) So clearly, Betty Cooper would be one of my cartoon trio.

Initially I drafted up Betty, Archie and Veronica, and planned out a triptych of the three of them, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it was Betty specifically that I like, and that I didn’t care if I saw Archie and Veronica daily, so I scrapped them and looked around for more inspo. As soon as I had the freedom to look beyond Riverdale I knew Harley Quinn HAD to be one of them. I’ve adored her for decades, and she’s featured in assorted places around my house, including in two different spots on this one shelving unit:

Finally, it wasn’t hard to decide on Teela as my third girl. I grew up watching He-Man and playing with the toy sets along with my younger brothers. I don’t know if it’s that she’s a strong, independant woman or if it was because she often wore a cobra headpiece and had a snake staff, and I’ve always adored snakes… but either way she had to be the one to complete my cartoon trio. I’ve shared Teela and a portion of my 80s toy collection on the blog before, and they’ve now found a home in a cabinet along with other childhood relics:

The hard part done, the next step was to create charts for each character. Instead of doing it the easy way and importing reference images into a stitch software, I decided to go the hard route and chart them myself in Excel. I found reference images for each character, adjusted the Excel cells to be square and marked off an area with the same stitch count as my total canvas size. From there it was just a matter of redrawing each girl, pixel-art style, and tweaking the design until they looked right. I’d originally planned to use continental stitch to save time, but quickly realized the angles would be skewed and that cross-stitch would be best, using one stitch for every pixel/cell in my chart.

I ordered a bunch of yarn from Knit Pics, then got started.

Here you can see the initial stages. I didn’t want to have to refer to the charts throughout the entire stitching process so decided to start with the black outlines first, so I could then later fill them in, coloring-book-style. Plus I didn’t know how long they would take to complete into full color and wanted to be able to hang them on the wall in the meantime. Considering I started these in 2017 and I’m typing this post in 2021, I’m glad I had that foresight!!

After finishing most of Betty I moved on to chart HQ next. I bet you’re wondering why I left Betty mostly done instead of finishing the rest of her border? Took me a moment to remember too lol but it’s because I left myself things to work on that didn’t require concentration, so when I had more time I would work on HQ and follow my charts, and when I had the kids with me or was watching something that required more focus I could work on Betty’s border that didn’t require much thought or any chart reference. Basically it was the cross-stitch equivalent of having knitting or crochet projects of varying difficulty levels.

Once the outlining was all done I worked on each of their eyes, as I thought it would look better on the wall, and truthfully HQ was a bit creepy without them. Then, while I still had the blue out, I added Betty’s shirt. Her top was red in my reference image but blue is my favorite color so I swapped it out, plus I liked having a color that was in each of the 3 images, to help tie them together. The middle pic above is the one posted on the blog back in 2019, and where they sat for basically most of the last 3 years. At some point I filled in their mouths and got started on Betty’s skin, and that’s where I’d stopped and moved on to other projects.

Eventually I started working on them again. I’d always had it in mind to work on equal parts of each, so as they hung on the wall they’d look similar in completion. First Betty had the slow progress on her face and neck…

…and then this past summer Teela got the same treatment, using stash yarn so she wouldn’t have the exact same skin tone as Betty’s.

Technically I should have done Harley’s face next, for them to all match, but these sheets are large and get folded up against my body or resting under my arm as I work. Since Harley’s face is white, and clearly a focal point of the image, I decided to hold it off for last so it wouldn’t get dirty or faded, and work on her costume instead.

At that point I was on a roll! The new Netflix Masters of the Universe had just come out, and it was kinda cool to start working on Teela’s tiara while watching the premiere. In fact, I got so into it that I kept watching until I found I’d binged the whole first season!

Spoiler-free take: ignore the men complaining about the show. It’s awesome to see the old gang again, even Stinkor! (Man I can still remember the smell of that toy!) I love the focus on Teela and magic vs tech. Made me think about Skylanders and my girl Sprocket – guess I’m always drawn to my tech girls! Also, as a big Buffy fan, with Sarah Michelle Gellar as the voice of Teela, it’s fantastic to hear Buffy kicking butt again. ♥

This is where the girls are now. I’ll be working on HQ’s white bib and pompom next, to complete her outfit, and that will put me into the home stretch with only 2 sections left on each girl. At the end I’ll have to do one run of border around each one, as the edges are currently unfinished, and then finally attach rings for hanging them properly, as I’m currently holding them to the wall with thumbtacks.

I know it’s not conventional wall art for an adult woman, but I love them.


1 Comment

Use sandpaper to improve the tooth of coloring book pages

Today, September 14th, is National Coloring Day. Of course coloring isn’t limited to coloring books, but over the last few years they’ve definitely become more prevalent! Whether they’re your preferred place to apply color or something you only do with kids, you’ve likely noticed that the paper quality can vary greatly. From thick cardstock to what’s basically printer paper, the type of paper will affect everything from what media you can use in the book to if you can actually color both sides of the same page.

On average, most adult coloring books use a slightly thicker-weight white paper that can handle all dry media as well as water-based markers, with some bleed-through if you press too hard or go over the same spot repeatedly. Crayons and colored pencils will lay down pretty evenly as the paper has little-to-no tooth, but if you’re the kind of artist who prefers to work with a more textured paper, here’s a tip that can help transform the books you already own – sandpaper!

I’ll demonstrate this in my copy Archie’s Coloring Book (and there’s a video demonstration at the end of the post).

This is a great book that is jam-packed with tons of images of Archie and the gang, showcasing everyone from the core trio to side characters (Dilton, Moose, Cheryl, Sabrina, Josie and the Pussycats, Miss Grundy, Mr. Weatherbee), to the ‘Lil Archie gang. Even Jughead’s dog Hotdog appears in all his shaggy glory!

I first thought about this back in 2017 after watching one of SuperRaeDizzle’s videos on dollar store art supplies. If you don’t follow her you really should – she’s a fantastic artist who does a lot of art supply reviews and draws/paints with incredible realism. In the linked video she uses a sanding block to rough up a sheet of inexpensive Bristol board to give it a better drawing surface.

I thought it was really cool but didn’t think it applied to me – until I started wondering if the same technique would work in what I was using a lot of at the time – coloring books. In theory it seemed like it should work but with the paper so much thinner than Bristol board I didn’t know if it would work. Would it tear the paper? Would it destroy the printed outlines? Would the ink bleed?

I had to try it for myself. To make the results as clear as possible I chose a page that allowed me to clearly divide the page into two halves.

I left the Veronica side of the page untouched and sandpaper I had on-hand to lightly rough up the Betty side of the page.

Here you can see the before (left) and after (right). There’s no obvious distress to the page though if you look closely at the black line of Betty’s shirt near the guitar you can see faint striae where the ink was removed.

To hold the book open while I worked I used my pants hanger hack. Still highly recommend!

I then set about coloring the page with Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils. I was careful to color in both girls the same way, using the same colors and applying the same amount of pressure.

Right away you can see a difference! Coloring on the Veronica side was exactly like coloring with colored pencils on computer printer paper (though I think this paper is slightly thicker). It’s super smooth and flat without any tooth or texture at all, and the colored pencil glided over the page really easily. On the Betty side I could feel the roughened-up surface of the page and it gave the colored pencil something to grab to, making coloring a very different experience.

It’s difficult to put the feeling into words but coloring the Veronica side felt like I had to concentrate more, because my natural tendency was to use more pressure to get more color payoff, whereas on the Betty side the same amount of barely-there pressure gave a richer color payoff.

Coloring on the super-smooth side made me very conscious of trying to not color too hard because it took more work to lay color down. On the flip side, coloring on the textured side of the page made color application a breeze, to the point where I had to concentrate on not applying too much and losing any highlights.

Both sides are colored the exact same way, using different colors for shading. I didn’t want to do anything too fancy because this was only a test; it was more about seeing if the sandpaper would ruin the book or any attempts to color vs me trying to get a professional-looking result.

I’d sanded the guitar evenly down the middle and thought there would be a more obvious difference between the two sides but I’d say it’s pretty subtle. Again- the sanded side has more depth and more color payoff while using the exact same pressure as the unsanded side.

I was also curious if sanding the paper would affect marker application, so decided to fill in the music notes with a mix of sparkle and metallic gel pens, in black and charcoal. I was really happy to see that there didn’t seem to be any effect on how the gel ink applied, and that both sides had the same amount of glitter and shine in the light.

Finally I wanted to see if there would be any issues coloring on larger open areas, so I picked two colors and experimented with blending them to each other. In my first layer of color (2nd image from the left) you can see that both sides are streaky but the funny thing is it’s for different reasons!

Veronica’s side is streaky because I struggle with laying down barely any color…though I probably didn’t have a proper point on my pencil, which didn’t help. Whereas Betty’s side is streaky because that’s the grain from the direction I’d sanded. You can see it better in the image below (though I sort of like the streaky look on her jeans because it makes them look more like real denim LOL)

The last test that I did was to compare the difference that burnishing would make on either side. I went over both sides of the guitar with my beloved Prismacolor Premiere colorless blender and really tried to smooth any grain down and move the color to fill any remaining white areas. I have the page open in front of me as I type this and while my fingertip can tell the difference between the two sides it is SLIGHT, and definitely not as much of a contrast as the rest of the page halves.

(And truthfully I’m not completely convinced that I’d feel a texture difference there at all if I hadn’t sanded too hard in that spot, as you can see by the diagonal lines of indentation on the lower right of the guitar)

Here’s the completed page. If I didn’t know that one side had been sanded I would think that I’d colored harder on the right side, and possibly used a different color for Betty’s jeans and background, as I do feel that there’s a visible difference in this closeup.

I don’t find the difference is as obvious in this image, though I’m not sure if it’s because the black background is causing a distraction.

After trying this once I’m a convert! I have a large collection of coloring books and I think this technique opens up a world of possibilities for getting different effects and results with colored pencils, crayons, and pastels. The opportunities expand even further if you experiment with different grits of sandpaper!

Imagine coloring a fantasy scene and sanding a grassy area with one grade of sandpaper, bricks of a castle with another, and the bark of a tree with a third… you could get a whole range of textural effects within the image all before even laying down any color!

Other notes: in the video below you’ll see a little bit of ink smearing. That was due to pressing too hard with the sandpaper, so it’s avoidable but something to watch out for. I was happy to see that there was no consequence to the back of the sanded page, nor any texture transfer on the facing page.

Here’s a graphic for those of you who like to pin my posts, and as promised above, here below is a video showing this technique in action.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


1 Comment

Happy Birthday Sweet Seventeen

Seventeen years ago, on September 7 2004, I started this blog. Yes, this creative passion project of mine is officially old enough to be in college and donate blood. It began on Blogger in the boom of knitting/craft blogs that fed blogrolls and Yahoo swaps and RAOK groups.  We’ve seen the onset of Ravelry and Worldwide Knit In Public Day, and welcomed pattern sources like Knitty, Craftsy, Twist Collective, St Denis Yarns and others before having to say goodbye to some of them.

With YouTube, Instagram and TikTok flooding the internet with video-based creative content, running a blog feels almost antiquated. I’ve been asked by friends and family why I don’t switch to another format but the truth is… I don’t want to. I love video tutorials. I follow a TON of craft-content YouTubers, and have saved a huge amount of “try one day” crafty TikToks to my favorites list too, so it’s not a critique of the other formats. They absolutely have their place, especially for some techniques or tutorials that can really only best be shown in video. That said, I still think there’s a place for blogs and photo-based project/pattern support.

My “blogaversary” this year falls on the first day of Rosh Hashana, which is the Jewish New Year.  I think that makes it perfect timing for a long-overdue blog restart. (I know, I know, I’ve said this before. Shhhh!) Coincidentally I was born on was erev (eve) Rosh Hashanna (we won’t say how long ago!) so Happy birthday to the blog, happy sort of birthday to me, and happy Jewish New Year!

To celebrate 17 years in the public craft domain I’ve scoured the site, my notes, folders, and metadata and picked 17 fun, interesting or long-forgotten items from my blogging history.

1-7

Numbers 1-7 are from the archives.  These are posts even I forgot about!  Some are helpful tips, some are free patterns/tutorials, and all are added to the How To section above.

8

Even when I don’t post regularly I get a steady stream of visitors (thanks!) and I’m always curious to see what search terms bring people my way.  So number 8 is my top referrer keywords from back in my Blogger days.  Funny enough it’s a tie between two completely random things that have almost nothing to do with my site: “cute japanese cartoons” & “hangman”.  I’m guessing the former is related to the time I knit a Japanese boy band, but the latter?  NO idea.

9

Number 9 is the results of my top search terms after migrating the blog to WordPress.  Unfortunately/fortunately Google has been encrypting the vast majority of search terms since 2013 so 9771 of my results are “unknown”.  Of the list that remains the top three terms are: “Toothless”, “pocketbook slippers”, and “pocket book slippers”, likely linking back to these two projects (Toothless, slippers).  Wanna know the lowest search result that brought someone my way?  “Long hair cut feet”.  I wonder how disappointed the searcher was to find my post was literally about a long hair transformation??

10

Number 10 is a really cool fact- I’ve had visitors from 170 different countries!  The majority are, unsurprisingly, from Canada and the United States, but rounding out the top 20 are the UK, Australia, Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, Mexico, France, Iceland, Spain, Italy, the Philippines, Israel, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Argentina, Hungary and Denmark.

11-14

Numbers 11-14 are my the top 4 posts since switching to WordPress.  I had a hunch what these were because they keep Pinterest flashing up on my phone.  What I didn’t expect was that the top post would outrank second place by more than double!

15

I’ve spent the last few months poring over my unshared projects and planning out a blog schedule for the year.  For number 15 I thought it would be fun to look through my folders and see just how old my oldest unshared project truly is. There was a lot to wade through but I found it!  Coming in at over a decade old a crafty hack that you’ll see on the block next year dates all the way back to February 2010!

16

Looking through all those projects was a fun trip down a creative memory lane.  As number 16 here’s a little teaser of a post I can’t wait to share in full…

Any guesses?

17

And finally, for making down this far: number 17 is a picture of me at the same age as this blog.

Whether you’ve been here since day 1 or day 6204, thanks for being a part of my creative adventures. I run this blog for me, but I love sharing it with you. ♥

*All search terms and other totals above were accurate as of the date of preparing this post.


11 Comments

Create This Book December Challenge – and Introducing a New One

It’s January, so that means out with the old, and in with the new… challenge. While I didn’t get as far as posting my backlog of projects and tutorials, the monthly posting (self-imposed) commitment did keep me going, and I’m going to take it a step further in 2021.

But first- let’s close out the current challenge. For the 12th and final time: each month in 2020 my 11yo son Henri and I chose a page from Moriah Elizabeth‘s Create This Book (vol 1) and each of us completed the page in our own books. Now the year has gone by, Henri will be 12 next week, and there’s a link to all past pages at the bottom of this post.

For December Henri chose the “Create Art with Wax” spread on pages 52-53.

Instead of coloring with the crayons, he wanted to try a heat-and-drip method. He used regular Crayola and Cra-Z-Art wax crayons, and I decided to get “fancy” and go with the Crayola Twistables I’d used back in May.

Note- don’t do this. First of all, if you don’t twist the crayon out enough, you can start melting the plastic. Secondly, the glitter ones kept making strands (like when you use a glue gun). Thirdly, they don’t melt that great before starting to scorch, and finally – they burn. As in, like a candle. As in they hold a flame and now you’re just holding fire. I was able to time how long to heat them for, but I wouldn’t allow my kids to try to heat these. Stick to using them on paper.

We used the candle as our heat source and started playing around. Looking back at this pic I remember how well I thought it was starting. It wasn’t great by any means – they didn’t melt well and they dried super fast so I only got one dab onto the paper before having to re-heat… but it seemed like it would be ok…

<cough> …and then this mess happened. I have no words. Like, it’s just… ugly. I tried to embrace the “no rules, just go with it” but then also tried to do… something? The combination doesn’t work. These crayons for melting doesn’t work. Nothing you see here works LOL

In fact I like the blotting paper I kept on the side better than the actual “artwork”.

I even like the dusting page where we swept up all the wax bits better than the actual art!

So it’s no surprise that once again Henri kicked my ass!

Seriously. The kid made a freaking sunset over water.

How cool is that??? I love it. I’m tempted to give him a canvas and a lighter and ask him to make me one for my wall. (Kidding).

(Mostly).

And that’s a wrap on the year!

Complete list of 2020 Create This Book Challenge pages:

Final thoughts: this was a really fun experience to do all year. I loved having an art challenge with my child, and getting to see his creativity and the ways it can be similar or different from my own. I loved watching him hunched over the book or getting excited over an idea, and I love that I have the book as a memento of his talents at this point in time (and future ones as we keep filling in the pages).

Favorite page(s) of Henri’s: I love his February because it’s got so many weird and random elements (pooping apple?!?) that reflect his sense of humor. Speaking of which, I LOVE his September page! Not only the idea but the execution. Oh, and his July! He made it look like a full magazine spread!

Favorite page(s) of mine: I think March was my most “professional” page, so the part of me that feels like the art I present to the world needs to be reflective of skill, I’m proud of that one. April takes me back to my childhood, as a card fold I learned in an early art class when I was about 8 or 9 is one I still use today for fun “talking” cards, and this page will always remind me of 2020 and social distancing and quarantining and cuddling with my boys and giggling over cool TikTok videos. I also really like my October. I haven’t freehand drawn anything publicly (outside of Becket stuff) and it felt good to flex those muscles again.

Finally I think I like November for both of us. I created my first OC in years, and he wow’d me with the details and thought he puts into his drawings. He doesn’t miss a thing.

So now that 2020 is done, it’s time to reveal my 2021 challenge. It’s actually one I was looking into about a year or so ago, but then forgot about. When it came to mind on Jan 1 I knew it was a sign, because one of my current goals is to teach myself Procreate, and this challenge can be either physical or digital. I sprung for the digital version, and on January 1st 2021 I sat down and did my first square in the One Year Doodle Challenge by Jennifer (SeaLemon on YouTube).

My short explanation is that it’s a year (undated, so you can start anytime, any year) of doodle prompts, but you can watch her full explanation video:

I’m going to do my best to do one doodle per day and then post the full month somewhere in the first week of the following month.

As a little preview, here’s my January 1 square “balloon”. I was going to draw a regular balloon but went for a balloon animal instead. If I’d been sketching by hand on paper, I’d have put in the actual 3D perspective with the other legs and ear behind the ones shown. But I’m still learning layers and shading and didn’t want to have the extra elements to get me frustrated. As it was I should have used the function that smooths the lines, because my balloon would look way better without wonky edges, and the smudge function annoys me because it doesn’t smudge like I feel it should… Nonetheless I’m quite pleased with my little doodle and looking forward to seeing how far I come by Dec 31.

Happy New Year!

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


11 Comments

Create This Book November Challenge

As the year keeps slipping away, so do the days in the month. This challenge page WAS actually completed in November, but I wasn’t able to post it in time. I’d be upset but… it’s 2020. Really, in the grand scheme of things, a few days late is a total win. 😉

As you’ve seen every month this year, each month in 2020 my 11yo son Henri and I are choosing a page from Moriah Elizabeth‘s Create This Book (vol 1) and each of us are completing the page in our own books. There’s a link to all past pages at the bottom of this post.

For this month Henri picked the “create a combo” theme on page 185.

As usual Henri’s creativity wow’d me. He decided to combine his favorite people (his family) and his favorite objects (video games), and game up with this detailed scene:

I didn’t even fully appreciate all the thought he put into it until I was taking close up pics for this post.

That isn’t just a shelving unit – it’s got a hinged door that’s open! The screen says “Press any button to start”!

In his dream world, his custom wall unit has one side that’s a full speaker sound system!

He thought through his image enough to include not only a virtual game and the PS4 up on the shelf, but to even have a PS4 game BOX with bar code on the front (does that make it a rental? LOL)

He even made his family game a WIKI PAGE where you can look up each of the game items and characters! Typos and wonky thumb placement (his words) aside, it’s clear he didn’t just half-ass this challenge but rather put in the time and details to make it as real as possible. And he did it in under 15 minutes.

This kid. ❤

When it came time to do my own page, I knew right away which 2 of my favorite things I’d put together. Ladybugs and snakes! They’re both special to me, and totems in their own ways, and as soon as I hit on the idea of a snake with ladybug markings I was sold.

I did a quick browse online and found a snake lineart in the appropriate derpy pose for what I wanted. I used it to make a quick sketch of the basic snake shape, and then looked up the proper ladybug markings.

All those eraser marks on the face show that I initially did what many people do and confused ladybugs with Asian lady beetles, and drew the classic “M”-shaped white head marking, as well as the large white shapes. Oops!

After I sorted out my sketch I did a quick fill in with my Feela markers. Nothing fancy, just some quick color sections and called it a day.

I think he turned out really cute! Kind of looks like a snake wearing a Red Riding Hood cloak that happens to have polka dots, or a snake in a dotted pj onesie. I haven’t created my own OC since I was in my teens, but this would definitely be my newest one. Ladysnake? Snakabug? Ladke? Snug? Whatever breed he is, I want a plushie of one!

Complete list of 2020 Create This Book Challenge pages:

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


12 Comments

Create This Book October Challenge

October’s Create This Book challenge page was a fail from the start, because we should have picked a page we could complete with a Halloween theme. Fail #2 was not posting it within the actual month of October. But the page itself isn’t a fail, because I’m really happy with how it came out!

For anyone not following, every month in 2020 my 11yo son Henri and I are choosing a page from Moriah Elizabeth‘s Create This Book (vol 1) and each of us completing the page in our own books. There’s a link to all past pages at the bottom of this post.

For this month Henri picked the “favorite cartoon character” theme on page 175.

Henri’s still on a Henry Stickmin kick and drew a few moments from the game. He traced a glue stick to get perfect circles for Henry, Ellie and Charles’ heads, and then freehanded the rest.

I love how easily he’s able to recreate what he sees freehanded (and often without reference photos), and I especially love the touches he added like the shadow under Ellie.

I was going to sketch up Harley Quinn but decided instead to go with my girl, Betty Cooper (from the comics, not the show). I found an image I liked online, and I’ll be honest- I was going to trace it. I was in the mood to color, but not to draw so I planned to take the easy way out.

And then I decided to draw after all, and accept however it turned out.

I started by sketching the outline of the face and then started blocking in the features.

Thickening the lines to match the widths of the comic really did a lot to make it look more accurate, though it did take me a lot of erasing and redoing until I got it to a point I was happy with.

It’s not quite perfect – her face should be longer so she’s a little squished between the nose and chin… but all in all I’m happy with my accuracy.

I filled in the inking lines with the brush end of my Feela markers. (There will be a full review on those coming soon, I’ve been using them a lot and really love them, especially for coloring book fans). Adding the black lines really helped me to see what worked and what didn’t. It still looks pretty good, but I can still see the shortened face.

The paper in this book is thin, and the water-based marker does bleed and ghost. But the page on the back asks one to “attach” something so I don’t think it will be an issue to cover in the future.

The next step was coloring, which I was really down for. I was watching the Big Brother 22 (All Stars 2) finale and it was something relaxing to do while enjoying the drama on screen.

Betty’s pretty simple, in terms of color. No shading, no highlights, just block color fills in the outlined areas.

I could have left the page as-is, but long-time blog readers will know I’m growing addicted to colorless blenders. I have a bad habit of “saving” things I like and not using them, and I’ve been trying to force myself to USE these things and not worry I’m “wasting” them by using them for their intended purpose. (Plus, it’s 2020. If ever there was a time for enjoying the little things, it’s now!)

Here you can see the difference before and after. Betty’s face was colored only with the Polychromos, but her neck has been gone over with the colorless blender. Just colored as you would normally, only instead of adding pigment, it blends the existing pigment together, smoothing it and filling in the white areas left on the paper. (Effectively, this burnishes the coloring, so you only want to do this after you’re done coloring, because it would be very difficult to lay down any more color afterwards).

Here’s Betty after I’ve blended the whole page. It really transforms the look! I find it makes it look more complete, and more professional. I’m always looking to improve my skills so these blenders are one tool I’m thrilled to have discovered.

Finally, I went back over some of the black lines with the brush end of my marker, to touch up areas where I’d gone out of the lines and the colored pencil showed on top of the borders.

Complete list of 2020 Create This Book Challenge pages:

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


11 Comments

Create This Book September Challenge

September has come to and end, so now it’s time to share mine & Henri’s year-long challenge of doing one page from Moriah Elizabeth‘s Create This Book (vol 1) each month. There’s a link to all past posts at the bottom of this post. For this month Henri picked the “shared drawing” theme on page 88.

Henri went first and drew this for me to complete:

(The right page was completely blank, but I forgot to take a photo until I’d already started sketching). It’s a dabbing dude wearing a Henry Stickmin dabbing shirt. (The Henry Stickmin Collection has been all over YouTube these days as assorted gaming channels play through, and the boys have been enjoying watching their favorites find every fail).

For my side (the right) I did my best to copy Henri’s style and make it look like one complete image. I think I did pretty good! (And I can use the excuse of copying the style to excuse my horrible hand drawing LOL)

When it came to my page, I decided to make Henri have to think and be creative.

I drew an iphone and told him he could draw any app he wanted on it’s screen. He decided instead to draw the lock screen, and I love it!!

In keeping with the Henry Stickmin theme, he drew Henry doing the Distraction Dance… specifically the one at 0:49sec here:

He did so good! He put the time, the date, even the “swipe to unlock” at the bottom… he even remembered to put the little connection etc icons at the top! I love it.

He did so good I don’t even care that he used permanent markers that bled through the page. I’m always in awe of his talent and I’m really happy that I have this drawing in my book to keep. 🙂

And that’s our challenges for this month. He’s already picked out October’s, so we can get started on them early for a change.

Complete list of 2020 Create This Book Challenge pages:

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.