DIY: Shiny Robot Ornaments from Wine Corks

Since this month’s DIY Craft Challenge Theme is Glitter I started thinking about all the things that sparkle around the holidays… and obviously thought “Robot”.

Actually, I’m not sure why I went straight to our metal friends, but that’s what the DIY Craft Challenge is all about! It’s a jumping off point for all your great ideas. I think glitter, I think robots. It’s just fine!

I’ve been playing with projects that use wine corks, and decided with a little paint, wire, and decoration I could make some amazing little guys for my tree.


The unusual suspects.


Supplies I used

• Wine Bottle Corks
• A large kitchen knife and cutting board
Folk Art Metallic Acrylic Paint – in Gunmetal and Silver Sterling and paintbrush
E6000® Craft Adhesive
• A nail and hammer and a scrap piece of wood (you could also use an awl)
18 Gauge Steel Galvanized Wire, needle nose pliers, and wire cutters
• Stud Earrings, buttons, and other decoration bits.

I used a few basic shapes to form my robots. Wheels were just thin slices off the corks. Bodies and heads were mainly full or shortened corks. Legs were cut long wise either in half or in quarters. I used a very sharp knife to cut several different shapes out and held those shapes together to see what looked “roboty” to me.

Once I decided on the shape of my robot, I painted each piece with the gunmetal color of acrylic. If you’re having trouble getting the paint to stick to the outside of the cork, rough it up a little with sandpaper.

After several (sloppy) coats of paint, I began drilling holes in my corks to run wire through. I love that using wire instead of glue means that the wheels, heads, and arms can all be spun or moved.

For the wheely robots, I ran the through the center body piece, and through each wheel.

Then secured the ends of the wire by making a loop with the wire, then folding the loops down against the wheel.

When I had a wire that I couldn’t run all the way through a piece, I applied a dab of E6000 adhesive to the end before pressing it into the cork.


Mad Robot Scientist Workshop

I have a huge stash of old earrings that were donated to me, and some of them were absolutely perfect for decorating the robots. It’s okay that they are a little mismatched; their hearts are in the right place. (Get it?!)

I had a great time making these little guys… and playing with them. I absolutely love taking the opportunity to look at everything in a new way.

Breaking down robots into a few basic shapes, then building them from an unexpected material.

While you’re brainstorming for the DIY Challenge, I encourage you to take the chance to try something a little different. Take the theme and run with it.

If you ever make robots like these, be careful.

They can get rowdy and make a royal mess out of your other decorations… especially if they have help.


IMG_4772What does your brain go when you think Glitter?

BEHIND THE SCENES: Creative Blog Hop

We were invited to participate in the Creative Blog Hop by Lindsay at A Wooden Nest, and I thought I (Alison) would take a swing at the hop.


Late on the holiday designs, as usual. Somehow I can’t seem to come up with anything when it’s 70 degrees and sunny.

What am I working on?

I split my time between running the So There shop in Issaquah and working on my own line of paper goods. I have to be very careful to give myself time to work on creative things, and sometimes I can get spread a little thin.

I’ve been a little more focused this week, because I sprained my ankle and have to do seated tasks. That means more drawing and painting and inking. I’ve finally been working on my holiday cards (if they’re too late, I’ll use them next year!) and trying to add a few more card designs to my line.


I was trying to be clever with this left-handed journal.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I always have the same goals on repeat in my head while I work. I like to think that if you look at my work as a whole it represents those goals… I hope it does, anyways.
• Make it useful & clever. Let it solve a problem.
• Make it funny, even if its audience is limited.
• Make it pretty, but not cute.
• Make it unique.
• Let it be imperfect, because no matter what you do, it will never be perfect. Ever.


I love to come up with ways of reusing materials in my work. These card catalog pieces took a long time to find a function on lampshades.

Why do I write/create what I do?

I’m coming to grips with the fact that I have a couple of creative motivations– that are sometimes at odds with each other.

One  is all about problem solving. I like to make products that serve some purpose bigger than aesthetics. Some of my favorite products have come about this way, the FlipOver Planners and Delicious Recipe books for example. Other times the problem I’m trying to solve is more about using or reusing materials instead of throwing them away. That’s where the Library Card Lamps, Doodle Jars, and handmade paper cards come in.

The other thing that drives me is a need to draw, and write, and express myself however I can. There’s a weird kind of connection that comes with a stranger appreciating my work. It’s not so much a “look at me and how awesome I am” but more of a quiet need to be understood, and to know other brains work like mine does. I guess that’s my artist side.


This is one of my more obvious sketches, but only I know what I am really up to.

How does my writing/illustration/creative process work?

Because my work is all over the place, the development takes a lot of different forms. The beginning step is the same for almost everything. I usually start with a really basic sketch on with whatever is conveniently close. The sketch is often peppered with descriptive words, and would mean nothing to a casual bystander.

If I’m doing a drawing I’ll typically move to a piece of card stock with a pencil to capture the energy of the idea as fast as I can, and that’s that.

If I’m working on something that’s more of a product, sometimes I let the idea rest there for a bit, until I’ve flushed it out a bit more in my head. I’m likely to start experimenting with materials next– building “dummies” out of paper, or string, or other things that are close to what I’m planning to use in the end. I like to work with scale and shape before settling on a style for the graphics or art. (Form and function and all that.) After that it’s a process of perfecting my method for production, making the product and the art harmonious, and making sure that it’s going to work.


These “dummies” are helping me figure out the form of the new FlipOver planning system. I’m making them the same shape, and with the same types of paper so I can see how everything will work.

Well, I think that’s about it. I want to thank Lindsay for inviting us to the hop!


*You can find some of my work in my etsy shop but everything shows up first at the So, There store in Issaquah– especially one of a kind pieces.

DIY: Woven Paper Gift Basket

After my experiment with the rolled paper gift basket, I decided that I needed a quicker version that I wouldn’t feel bad about parting with as a gift basket. (The rolled paper version was lovely, but it took so much time that it was more like a gift in itself.)

Using similar methods, and the same materials, I came up with a very simple woven basket that could easily be sized to fit different gifts.

Supplies I used

• A medium sized stapled catalog
• Elmer’s Glue-All
• A dowel for rolling strips
• Clothes pins
• Scissors
My first step was to remove the staples that bound the catalog, and to cut it length-wised into 5″ pieces.

I took each piece and quickly rolled it around a wooden dowel, starting at the corner. I then secured the other corner with a drop of glue, and carefully  slid the paper tube off of the dowel. I then flattened it with my fingernail into a long strip of paper.


I estimate how many strips of paper I wanted in the width and length of my basket (in this case it was 3 pieces by 5 pieces), and started weaving the base pieces together- alternating “over” and “under”. Every once in a while I added glue between pieces of paper to ensure that things wouldn’t slide around while I was working (a little bit goes a long way.)

Once I had my base woven I used a straight edge to fold all of the woven strips to the center. This made it easier to begin the sides of my basket.


Using a similar “over and under” method, I wove strips through the existing strips. I secured each piece with a tiny drop of glue, and clipped the pieces together with clothes pins. When I got to the end of a side, I made a fold in the strip I was working with, and began weaving it into the next side. When I reached the end of my weaving strip, I attached it to another loose strip with a drop of glue, then continued weaving until I made it all the way around the basket.

I repeated this with another strip of paper, weaving in and out along every side of the basket, and securing with glue and clothes pins. Once everything felt dry and stable, I simply trimmed the strips at the top of the weaving, and voila…

a super simple gift basket made out of recycled materials- sure to brighten someone’s day.

I have to say I don’t love the look of this basket as much as the rolled paper version- but it took significantly less time, and I think with a little experimentation I could (or you could) make it into something really special.


Things to try

• Using more, smaller strips of paper for a more intricate texture.
• Using brown kraft paper for a simpler look.
• Weaving at a 45 degree angle, like this project from {nifty thrifty things}
• Finishing the top of the basket a little cleaner, either by covering them with a strip, or by rounding them off.
• Using stitched paper.
• Coming up with some sort of nifty handle.
• Making a lid so it can close like a box.
• Making a huge version that could be used as a fruit basket.

DIY: Rolled Paper Gift Basket

Sometimes the best gift is a collection of small things. I love to put together little sets at the store, and I’ve been looking for a awesome little gift basket that would be special enough to keep.

Since it’s the season of unrequested catalogs, I thought I would use this abundant (and colorful) resource as the primary material for my project. I was inspired by photos of a Mark Montano project to roll the pieces and form the basket out of little paper donuts.


Supplies I used

• Glossy lightweight catalog pages
• A scrap 1/8 inch strip of chipboard (from a cereal box)
• A pen, and a dowel of two different diameters
• Glue – I used Elmer’s Glue-All for the majority of my gluing, but did have to use some E6000 to repair weak spots in my basket at the end.
• A bowl to use as a template shape for my gift basket

To begin, I cut the catalog pages into 3 inch and 5 inch strips.

I wrapped each piece of paper around my chipboard strip, starting at the corner.

Once I had the strip almost completely rolled up, I applied glue to the last corner, and smoothed it down. Then I pulled the chipboard strip out, and flattened the rolled strip with my fingernail.

I tried to roll each sheet so that as much solid color as possible showed on the final piece. (A fun puzzle.)

Once I had a nice stack of rolled pieces, I began making my final donut shaped pieces. I started wrapping the strip around a pen, or dowel; applying a drop of glue near the beginning…

and a drop at the end to secure the donut. I then smoothed down the tail end, held it closed for a few seconds, and gently slid it off of the pen.

Using a couple of different widths of paper strip, and a couple of different sized dowels/pens meant that after several rounds of donut rolling I had a nice selection of building blocks for my final basket.

I am going to admit something here. Since I usually jump into projects without sufficient direction, I have a lot of false starts. It took me way too long to figure out that I should work on the inside of a bowl. Live and learn, and let gravity help.

This bowl turned out to be the perfect size for the small collection of items I wanted to basket.

Starting from the bottom, I applied small drops of glue to the edges of my donuts, and began laying them in a single layer in the bowl.


I started with the whiter donuts, working towards more saturated pieces as I went up.


Does this make anyone else crave Froot Loops?

I made sure to put enough glue to hold the pieces together once I removed it from the jig. Once all of my pieces were in place, I let the whole thing dry overnight. Once it was dry, I held the bowl upside-down, gently twisted the inside form to loosen it, and let it fall into my other hand.

The glue did a relatively good job of holding things together, but there were definitely a couple of weak spots that I had to repair with the heavier duty E6000.

I love the way the basket looks…but….

It is extremely time consuming, with every little piece requiring multiple steps to form. The end product is worth it, but I was inspired to make a much quicker basket out of the same materials. (I’ll share that with you soon.)


Things to try

• Making Christmas ornaments out of the donuts.
• Try newspaper, tissue paper, and other materials.
• Try painting or dyeing the final basket.

What would you try?

DIY: Ampersand Shadow Box

Over the last couple of years I have started to accumulate little tchotchkes, despite my best efforts to “collect no functionless thing.” Every little piece has a special connection to my family and memory, so they’ll all just have to stay.

My mom’s house had shadowboxes everywhere, but most of them were type cases that I have since stolen and use for their original purpose (holding lead type for letterpress printing.) I decided to use scrap materials to make a shadowbox of my own, and since I love letters it turned into an ampersand.

Supplies for the Base

• Scrap Cardboard- lots of it, including one piece that was at least 12×12
• Printed Letter or Symbol – approximately 12″ x 12″. I printed on, and tape together several pieces of letter-sized paper to make my template.
• Pencil
• Scotch Tape
• Carbon Paper (if you have it)
• X-acto Knife
Gummed Paper Tape (and wet sponge) or Wide Masking Tape – I like using gummed tape on projects like this because you can slide the tape while it is wet and get the placement just right.
• Scissors

Supplies for Paper Mache Layer

• Black and White Printed Newsprint (or other thin paper)
• Bowl
• All Purpose Flour
• Water

First I print out and pieced together the template using scissors and scotch tape. I lightly taped the template to a large piece of cardboard (at least 12″x12″), slipped the carbon paper underneath and traced along it with a pencil- checking periodically to make sure that I was making an impression on the cardboard. (Alternately you can cut the letter shape out of your template, and trace around it with pencil.)

I darkened the lines with pencil to make sure I knew where to cut.

Carefully I started cutting the shape out of the cardboard.


To make the sides of the shadowbox, I cut several 2″ strips of cardboard, making sure that the corrugation ran the short way. (See image above.)

Since there are a lot of curves in the ampersand, I gave myself a head start by slitting along the ribs on one side of each of the strips. This allowed the strip to flex more easily along the curves.

Slowly I started covering each edge of the ampersand piece with the cardboard strips, following around each side.

I attached each piece using gummed paper tape (masking tape would work as well.) On heavy curves, I stuck the tape to the side first, then made small cuts that overlap and lay flat on the back side. (Everything will be covered with with paper mache, so little mistakes are a-okay.) I cut and began a new piece at each sharp corner, and connected them with gummed tape.  REMEMBER: It’s just cardboard, so if you mess up it’s okay! Just toss that piece and try again. I messed up a lot.


After I had the whole shape outlined and taped, I made a few more strips of board for shelves. These strips are 1.75″ each, so that they are a little less deep than the outside walls.
I took a good look at what I wanted to store, and tried to leave space for each item. (If you have larger or smaller nicknacks you might want your shelves placed differently.) I trimmed the shelves to size, and attached them to the walls using more gummed tape pieces.

With the cardboard base built, I got everything ready for paper mache. I typically combine water and flour in a bowl until I have something that resembles very runny pancake batter.

I tore newspaper into small strips, and dipped it into the flour mixture, then laid a single layer or pieces all along the base, including the sides and back. (Again, mistakes are OK! You can always remove a piece and replace it.)


A gloppy mess.

After I had the base completely covered, I let it dry in front of a heater for a few hours, then went back and added a few more pieces to the spots I had missed. (You can add a whole second layer if you want, it will make the form looks smoother, and give you a little extra strength.)

Well, I’m done for now. I love the way my keepsakes fit into this shadowbox… and happy that I made it using only scrap materials.




Other Things I Might Try

• Sealing it with a spray sealant. I’m skipping this step for now, but if everything falls apart, I’ll let you know!
• Painting the whole shape, or just the inside. If you mix acrylic paint with glue you can make a partially translucent color. That way the print will still show through.
• Do a whole word of shadowboxes.

What would you make?

DIY: Crayon Candles

DIY: Crayon Candles #craft #crayola #recycled
My obsession with bright colors got me hooked when I saw this tutorial by Brit+Co. I already had a bunch of old crayons on hand from my previous DIY crayon post and I’ve been interested in making candles lately, so this was the perfect project!

Once you’ve gathered your supplies and setup a work space near your microwave, this project is fairly simple and would be a great craft to do with a friend. I loved blending my own colors and experimenting with different color combinations.

DIY: Crayon Candles #craft #crayola #recycled

Supplies Needed

• Old crayons
• Glass votives (I used small juice glasses)
• Wax
• Wicks
• Dixie cups (or any paper cup)
• Popsicle sticks (for stirring)

Additional Tools

• Microwave
• X-acto knife

The first step is to peel the paper off your crayons. You can either use an x-acto knife or soak the crayons in water for easy peeling.

Next, fill a dixie cup with wax and microwave for 1 minute. Give it a stir and microwave again in 30 second intervals until wax is completely melted. Pour a thin layer of wax into the bottom of each votive and place the candle wick in the center. Let harden.

DIY: Crayon Candles #craft #crayola #recycled

Using one crayon per color, fill a dixie cup with wax and top with a broken up crayon. Microwave for 2 minutes and then in 30 second intervals until completely liquified. Let cool for 30 seconds or so and pour colored wax into the votive. Let the first layer dry for 20-30 minutes.

DIY: Crayon Candles #craft #crayola #recycled

Repeat this process and continue to pour layers of colored wax into each votive, making sure to let them dry between each layer.

DIY: Crayon Candles #craft #crayola #recycled

And that’s it!

DIY: Crayon Candles #craft #crayola #recycled
DIY: Crayon Candles #craft #crayola #recycled

What other fun crafts have you made with old crayons? We’d love to hear about your projects…

UPDATE 9/14/14

I had some trouble burning my candles. After talking with a candle making friend, she recommended I use a larger (thicker) wick. Also, be careful not to burn out your microwave! I recommend only make a few candles at a time to prevent over-heating your microwave. Happy making!

SHOW + TELL: Paper Scrap Birds, from the Vault

We’re not happy unless we’re making things- which means we have a whole slew of projects from the time before A-i-M. We thought we take time now-and-again to share some of these projects from the DIY vault. This one’s more of a Show + Tell, but it’s a great example of how you can add creativity into you life anywhere…. even with scraps.

Have I mentioned I am unable to throw anything away?

A few years ago, after printing and trimming massive quantities of cards, I was left with a treasure trove of cotton, cover-weight paper strips (which I have since started using to make handmade paper).

I grabbed a bottle of Elmer’s glue and started working them into simple Christmas decorations, using the strength of the stock, and a few tricky reinforcing pieces disguised as decoration. Eventually the pieces began to turn into birds, trees, and other fun critters.

I would find a picture of an animal, and work with the paper scraps until they started to take a shape I liked. It was fun trying to recreate animals with the strips, using just glue and the natural resistance of the cover-stock.

I enjoyed playing with them, and making scenes and patterns out of the shapes. Nothing beats a quick, simple exercise that uses scrap materials.

I’ve got to go now- there’s a box of black paper scraps calling my name.

DIY: 6 Projects To Try Before Summer Ends

I can feel summer quickly approaching it’s end, but there is still time to get creative and try some fun summer craft projects! It’s now or never people! Gather your crafty friends and family and get to making. We are loving all of these great project ideas from some of our favorite bloggers, crafters and designers.


1. DIY Key Wind Chime by Inner Child Giving
2. How To Make Sunprints by Martha Stewart
3. DIY Paper Butterflies by Agus Yornet
4. DIY Wrap Bangles by Honestly WTF
5. Color Rock Dominoes by House That Lars Built
6. Tie-Dye Pillow by P.S. I Made This

We want to see what you’re making! Use #adventuresinmkg to share your creations with us.

DIY: Plastic Free Card Wraps

Instead of using plastic sleeves for my cards, I like to hold the card and envelope together with a strip of recyclable paper. I also use this as a chance to price my cards, and provide a little story to go along with each design. (Stories can make your products- more on that in the Packaging Post).

Since I’ve been using the photo corners to package my prints, I decided to move over to a similar method to pack my cards. I played around with folding until I came up with a method that needs no tape or plastic, but still looks pretty nifty!

First I print out my card descriptions, and cut them into strips with a rotary cutter. Each strip is about 2.5″ tall and 11″ wide.

For smaller cards (up to 4 1/4″ x 5 1/2″) I use a decorative blade or punch on one edge of the strip.

A Then I turn everything over, and center the envelope diagonally on the paper strip. B Once it’s centered, I fold the non-decorative corners in, using the envelope as a guide. C Then I fold the flap back across. The scalloped edge will now be on top…  D so that I can slip the corner of the card into the little pouch I made with the folds. Then I slip the other corner in. The card itself keeps the wrap secured.

I use a similar method to cover larger cards (up to 5″ x 7″), with a couple of changes. Since I have to use more of the length of the strip, it takes a little adjustment to make sure that I have a pretty corner to tuck into. I still center the envelope on the strip (diagonally) but then…

I fold the two opposite corners first. (Notice that the first fold doesn’t quite cover the whole corner of the envelope.) G Then I fold the second, longer, side over to make the same type of pocket for a card. Then slide in the card a corner at a time.

Voila. A plastic free wrap, and a story too!

You might not need to use exactly this method for all the things you get up to- but I hope my experiment encourages you to think outside of the box with your projects. Just a couple of little clever changes could make the world a better place.

(I’m thinking big.)



DIY: God’s Eye Bouquet

DIY: God's Eye Bouquet #tutorial #craft #decoration

God’s Eyes are my all-time favorite summer craft to make. They are so simple (a perfect craft to do with kids) and the color combinations and techniques are as endless as your own creativity. Traditionally made by the Huichol Indians, God’s Eyes are said to give one “the power to see and understand things unknown.”

A variation I love to make is a God’s Eye, but with a long stem that can be poked into the ground for a garden decoration or arranged in a vase (with or without flowers). I absolutely love the look of these little bouquet centerpieces. They would make for great party decorations. I found the colored glass vases on sale at Michael’s and they coordinate perfectly.

DIY: God's Eye Bouquet #tutorial #craft #decoration

Supplies Needed

• Stick or twigs
• Yarn (scrap yarn works great)
• Small vases
• Scissors
• Garden clippers

Step 1: Gather your sticks

You’ll want to gather a handful of long, straight sticks. Use garden clippers to cut them from a tree in your backyard or gather up some already fallen on the ground. For this project, you’ll want to cut 3 sticks between 12″-18″ long and another 3 sticks that are 4″-4.5″ long.

DIY: God's Eye Bouquet #tutorial #craft

Step 2: Choose your yarn

This project is perfect for using up scrap pieces of yarn you already have on hand. You can use as few or as many colors as you want, choosing color combinations to match any special occasion.

DIY: God's Eye Bouquet #tutorial #craft #decoration

Step 3: Make your god’s eye

To start your first God’s Eye, take one long stick and one short stick and cross them over each other about 2 inches down from the long stick.

DIY: God's Eye Bouquet #tutorial #craft #decoration

Take your first yarn color and tie a tight knot at the center, where the sticks intersect, to hold the cross shape. (Don’t cut the yarn from the skein- you can cut it later, when you’re ready to change colors). Make sure the knot faces the back of your God’s Eye. Wind the yarn diagonally around the intersection, in both directions, to stabilize the sticks and cover the middle.

DIY: God's Eye Bouquet #tutorial #craft #decoration

Once you have the intersection of the sticks covered and secure, wrap the yarn over and around one stick. Continue the same over-around pattern on each stick. You can continue this pattern until you want to change colors. To do this, cut the yarn from the skein and tie the new color to the previous color, making sure that as you continue weaving, the knot is on the back side of the god’s eye.

DIY: God's Eye Bouquet #tutorial #craft #decoration
DIY: God's Eye Bouquet #tutorial #craft #decoration

When you are nearing the ends of the sticks, cut your yarn, leaving about 3 inches at the end. Tie a tight knot around the last stick. Trim excess yarn strands.

DIY: God's Eye Bouquet #tutorial #craft #decoration
DIY: God's Eye Bouquet #tutorial #craft #decoration

Make as many god’s eyes as you need for your bouquets. Feel free to experiment with different color combinations too!

DIY: God's Eye Bouquet #tutorial #craft #decoration