Where a Newspaper Can Take You

A visitor left a newspaper on my kitchen counter. After I scanned the headlines, I thought I’d like to write a post that tied together: the price of Groceries in my city, Eco-Friendly Cat Litter, Brier Curling Results, the Stock Market Report, the latest on Gadhafi in Libya, and what people are saying in the Letters to the Editor. I couldn’t find a common thread, and didn’t really want to spend much time looking for one.

Yet, I did accomplish what I set out to do, thanks to a website dedicated to green design projects. All I had to do was gather up the appropriate newspaper pages, fold and tie them as directed, and then fan the pages into a Pom Pom shape. In about ten minutes, I had tied all my stories together, though not in the way I had originally intended…

I can’t think of any practical use for this Newspaper Pom Pom in my house, but I have no use for Cat Litter nor Gadhafi either, so I guess this project is a useful social commentary.

I’d never make another one, though, because I really don’t like the feel of newsprint, and I don’t like ink all over my fingers. Which got me thinking about books and ink.

I was at the library the other day with my sister-in-law (The Reader). She absolutely loves books – she likes the feel of the paper, the smell of the ink, and the weight of the book in her hand. Those types of observations would never cross my mind. I don’t think much about how things feel, nor how the smell, for that matter. So while she was happily browsing the books, I was talking to the information man about eBook readers and which books I could download onto my Nook.

If I am not really a tactile centered person, what am I? That question took me to a site about Learning Styles, a place I had no intention of going when I started writing this post. I had not thought about what my learning style was. Yet, there I was in the Visual Learning Section. It described me so thoroughly that it was spooky:
– Good at spelling but forgets names. (This is a big relief…)
– Needs quiet study time. (No TV or radio when I am trying to write!)
– Has to think awhile before understanding. (Explains that blank look I sometimes get.)
– Take notes, make lists. (Is there anything that can’t be put on a list?)
– Likes colors. (Did you guess this by my blog theme?)
– Understands/likes charts. (I like maps too…)

I learned a lot today. I think I’ll go make a list of those things…

How to Make Metal Art with a Forge and Welder

In true Martha Stewart style, I’d like to show you is how to make a few SIMPLE  pieces of  Metal Art with a forge and a welder… It is not inconceivable that Martha would have access to a forge and a welder, and would have “people” who know how to use such things, though she doesn’t seem to have posted any stories about this kind of project.

For one brief day, I had access to a forge and welder. Actually, it was a whole shop of interesting tools, and several barns of raw materials to choose from. So I started off the morning by collecting enough metal pieces to make two “critters” and one piece of garden art.

welded metal

welded metal

Once I had my designs figured out, I laid out all the pieces on the shop floor. Then I was shown how to make the coal in the forge glow bright red. This heat was going to be used to bend metal. I showed my Spousal Unit which nails I wanted bent to make some legs. (This didn’t seem to be a job that I had the strength or finesse to do.)  That is about all we did with the forge, other than stand around it and warm ourselves up – it was a cold day.

The next step was the welding. Again, a handy man was there to help me – while I held the parts in place, he spot welded them. Once all was cool, I headed for the bead blasting machine to clean everything up. (I did the bead blasting all by myself!) And that was it for the mosquito and the crab paperweights. Sounds fast and easy, doesn’t it?

The last project that day was a piece of garden art. It was a bit more involved because it used larger scraps of metal – rakes for the wings, a big spring and a length of rebar for the backbone,  a hinge for the beak, some nails for a tail, and some bits that I don’t even know what they once were, for the rest of the body. Once all was welded, I decided it was a chicken. I named her Henrietta, and retired to the house to help make supper. That left my two gentlemen helpers to clean up the shop. It also left them alone with Henrietta. They decided to make “her” a “he”, and added the appropriate hardware.

I didn’t learn of Henrietta’s gender change until the next morning, when I was asked to stand next to the chicken for a photo. Everyone else was smiling – well laughing, actually. I didn’t get the joke at first – but realized that it had to be something to do with my garden art. It was then that I saw the added nuts and a bolt”

In Other Crafting News

Apparently Martha Stewart has put together a list of what should be in the Ultimate Craft Kit. It includes such items as a glue gun, paper trimmer and cutting mat. While I agree that these things should reside in every home that has packs of paper in all the colours of the rainbow, I know from reading “Martha Stewart Living” that Martha is capable of so much more than that.

Have you ever read that magazine? My daughters left me a pile to peruse when they moved out. I attacked them with a pair of Martha Stewart approved scissors, removed a few good ideas, then threw the remains into the recycle box. The most fascinating part of the magazines, I thought, was Martha’s monthly calendar.  If I was to be as efficient as Martha, my week might look like this:

Monday – pick up all the pine cones in the “Four Acre Forest” for use in Christmas crafts; create pine cone centre pieces for 500 close friends.

Tuesday – clean house, wash windows, organize closets, defrost freezer, do laundry.

Wednesday – harvest garden,  mulch flower beds, rake the forest; make preserves.

Thursday – repaint all rooms inside house.

Friday – paint outside of house; buy groceries, and make dinner for 50 guests

In reality, by Friday I wouldn’t have finished Mondays task, assuming I’d ever think I should do those things…

Work and Play with LEGO

One of my grandsons (Lego Lad) shares my passion for LEGO. Nothing pleases either of us more than a shiny new set of LEGO blocks. But while I prefer the sets that have little people with smiling faces, he likes the newer stern looking warriors.

When he comes to stay at the cabin, he can only pack so much LEGO. His mother insists that his suitcase be primarily devoted to mundane stuff like underwear and T-shirts. So he brings lots of LEGO people, and improvises the scenery and buildings. One morning I woke to find my kitchen counter had become a battle field. I named it the LEGO Fruit War. A large watermelon, all the apples, a few oranges and a banana had all been incorporated into an intricate battle scene. I half expected to find blobs of ketchup next to the fallen warriors…

On another occasion when we both had suitcases to unpack, I surprised him with a gift of a LEGO book. He thanked me for it, then proceeded to show me which LEGO he had brought on this trip. Then he looked at me expectantly and said, “So what LEGO did you bring?” I was surprised, but gratified, to think that my grandson would assume I would pack LEGO along with my toothbrush.

LEGO is not merely a child’s plaything. It has applications as unlimited as the minds that use it. I found this story about the Antikythera Mechanism today, and realized what a perfect construction media LEGO was for this project. And there is a blog called A LEGO a Day, with great photos and wonderful captions.

LEGO – it’s not just a toy for children and grandmas!

Crochet – How to Preserve and Use Grandma’s Doilies

Nostalgia – I am just one generation removed from a time when my people covered the tops of almost every piece of furniture with doilies! I don’t want to recreate that era in my home, but I would still like to display a few of these intricate pieces of art.
Here are a few ways I have either done this (or might try someday):

1. Mount a doily in a metal ring. To do this, lightly spray the doily with spray starch and press flat, using a pressing cloth. Center the doily on the inside of a metal hoop that is big enough! Using crochet thread, stitch the doily to the hoop at all the points.


2. Tack a doily to a stretched piece of fabric, then frame the fabric in some manner, such as inside quilt hoops.

3. I used to make small crochet snowflakes for my Christmas Tree. I used a white glue and water mixture to stiffen them. Some of them yellowed, and some of them didn’t – don’t really know why. I probably should have used a cornstarch stiffener.



4. I used cornstarch stiffener on doilies, then pinned them on a wall. The stiffened doilies look quite dramatic on a dark wall!


5. Stitch the doilies onto contrasting plain fabric and use them as a block for quilts or as cushions.



6. Doilies can be tacked together into “fabric” that can used as runners on tables or draped onto furniture.

7. Doilies could be pressed between two layers of glass. You can buy picture frames that work that way. I haven’t tried to do this, but I would suggest using the cornstarch recipe below to stiffen the doily. When it was dry, I’d carefully brush on a small amount of some more cornstarch stiffener  on one side of the doily to use as a glue. I’d mount the “glue” side of the doily onto one of the pieces of glass. When that was dry, I would finish assembling the frame. Be sure to leave an air gap between the top glass and the doily.

8.  I have several tables with glass tops. I could lay the doily, and maybe a few old photos of grandma on the table top, then cover it with another piece of glass, being careful to leave an air space between the two pieces of glass.

9. Doilies can be used with other archival materials to make a collage for a scrapbook.

10. Doilies can be starched into a bowl shape.

11. Doilies can be hung at different heights from a rod to form a wall hanging or lacy curtains.

Washing the Doilies
I hand washed them in cold water and Woolite. Some of them had stains on them, so I soaked them in a mixture of Woolite and OxyClean in hot tap water. The stains gradually lightened. It might take more than one soaking.

Corn Starch Stiffener
Apparently Corn Starch Stiffener is the best archival method to starch doilies because it can be washed out. Handle the doilies carefully when they are stiffened, because they may be more brittle.
– To make the stiffener, add 1 part cornstarch to 6 parts cold water. A small batch of 1 tablespoon cornstarch to 6 tablespoons water would stiffen three or four doilies.
– Stir until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Then heat the mixture over a medium low heat until it thickens. Stir frequently, but not too vigorously, while heating.
– It can also be heated in a microwave, as long as it is in a bowl that is much larger than the mixture, and you check and stir the stiffener every 15 to 30 seconds or so.
– Let the mixture cool for a few minutes. Then dip the doily in the mixture until it is thoroughly coated. Carefully wring out the excess, and blot between paper towels. Or, with your fingers, “paint” the mixture onto the doily until it is coated.

Blocking the Doily
There are many methods of blocking the doily until it dries. Some involve plastic wrap or tin foil and pins. But the easiest method I have found is to simply lay the doily out onto a melamine work surface. Carefully stretch it until it is evenly arranged, then leave it to dry. I tried laying it on a piece of glass to dry, but that didn’t work because it stuck to the glass too well. I had to get it wet again to remove it. The melamine is slightly textured, so the doily doesn’t stick nearly as firmly but still sticks well enough to keep it stretched. I suppose the degree of “stickiness” would also depend on how much stiffener had been used on the doily.

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Nostalgia.