Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My "Bless Me and Protect Me from Evil" Necklace

or, what to do with all of those old religious medals.

A while back, I created a one-of-a-kind necklace for myself that generates a conversation whenever I wear it.  I took 15 old religious medals (that kind generally worn by faithful Catholics), spaced them out, and hung them from a brass-colored chain with large links.  I picked out different shapes and sizes, some from my grandmother and mom, others that I had collected along my way in life.  Its longer length is great to wear with sweaters, and I really like that is jingle-jangles.  I call it my "Bless Me and Protect Me from All Evil" necklace. 

Here's a brief tutorial on how you can make one!

First, collect all of the medals you have (or can get your hands on).  Looks a flea markets, thrift stores, and through the drawers and jewelry boxes of relatives and/or friends.  Let people know you're looking for them, and you'd be surprised how many you'll get!  You may have to pay a couple of dollars each for them at a flea market, but don't be afraid to bargain!

Sort through the medals and select the ones you'd like to use -- you can pick a theme (one of mine has medals featuring the Blessed Virgin Mary, another is made up of only saints), or stick to a color (silver, brass, gold), or make a mixed metal necklace, which is what I prefer.  I like to select unusual shapes -- crosses, ovals, cut-out medals, squares, etc.  Lay out your medals in a pleasing manner.  This necklace has the largest medal in the center, and each one is a bit smaller working out to each side.  I have put smaller medals next to the large one in the center on helps fill in the gaps created by very large medals.
You'll need 21 inches of chain, and one jump ring for each medal, plus two for the clasp.

The center medal is a 'book' that opens!
I select a chain with larger links in a 'neutral' color, usually gun-metal grey or brass.  I buy this by the inch/foot at The Bead Garden, in Havertown, Pa., ( ) which is my local bead store.  These necklaces are 21" long.  You'll also need jump rings -- these are the little round or oval-shaped rings that can open with a pair of chain nose or round nose pliers.  Start in the center of your necklace.  Open a jump ring, slip on the medal, and slip the jump ring through the center link on your chain.  Close the jump ring.  A note about opening and closing jump rings:  jump rings are in a nice, round circle.  Don't pull the cut ends away from each other and distort the circle.  Instead, use the pliers to hold one side of the ring, and use your thumb to push the ring down and away from you, until you have a big enough opening to slip on the medal.  Then, use your fingers (or a second pair of pliers) to pull the ring back up toward you, until the cut ends are even and touching.  Some medals may already have a jump ring on can use it, but I replace them so all of the jump rings are the same.

Depending on how big your center medal is, you'll want to count over a few links to hang the next one.  In the photo above, I hung the next medal four links over to the right, and then the third four links over to the left of center.  After I put on each pair of medals, I hold the chain up and see if the placement is good -- I want the medals to be separate, but still clink together when the necklace is worn.  Continue adding medals, right and left, until all of them are on your chain.
The last thing to add is a clasp.  I prefer a hook and a jump ring's easy for me to do myself.  The weight of the medals will keep the necklace from coming undone while you are wearing it. 
That's it!  You have a one-of-a kind piece of jewelry, with a little added protection from above (we hope!). 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Is anything as American as Apple Pie?

Well, maybe baseball...

Until a few years ago, I didn't know that Pennsylvania was a large apple growing state.  My d.h. and I took a little trip in the Fall of 2010 from Philadelphia to Gettysburg (my first time to the battlefield) and made our way further west to Pine Grove Furnace State Park.  The Appalachian Trail Museum is located there, and if you're up for a hike, the trail runs through the park and you can walk along it for a while. 

Back to my point -- we drove through miles and miles of apple orchards between York, Pa., and the park, and workers were harvesting truckloads of apples.  I can't resist the urge this time of year to visit my local orchard and pick up a half-bushel of apples and make applesauce (which I freeze), but  I always set aside 7 or 8 apples for a fresh pie.  My d.h. loves Dutch Apple best, and so do I.   

Here's the recipe:  Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. 
1)  One pie crust, unbaked, rolled out and placed in a deep dish 9" pie plate (You can make your own crust, but this year I used a Pillsbury refrigerated crust.)  Sprinkle about 1 tsp flour over the bottom of the crust.

I pinch the edges of the pie crust and press my finger into the ridge to make it look 'fluted.'
2)  Peel and slice 7 - 10 apples (depending on the size - enough to fill pie plate); place in a large bowl.
3)  In a small bowl, mix 1 cup sugar, 3 TBS flour, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1 TBS Minute (dry) Tapioca.  Pour over apples and stir gently to coat.  (The tapioca absorbs the juices as the apples bake.)
4)  Prepare crumb topping:  1/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour and 3 TBS cold butter or margarine.  Use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter into the sugar and flour, until it resembles coarse crumbs. 
5)  Spoon apples into pie crust, heaping them high...they will shrink when they bake.  Sprinkle the crumb topping over the apples. 
A heaping pile of apples, before adding the crumb topping!

6)  Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.  Lower the temperature to 350 degrees, and bake for another 40 minutes. 
7)  Remove from oven and let cool.  You can it serve tastes especially good with vanilla ice cream!
Hint:  you may want to put a piece of foil on the oven rack beneath the pie...the apple juice may bubble up and spill, and the foil will keep the oven from getting messy.      

Yum!  I may have to make another!

Friday, October 19, 2012

A True Blue Baby Quilt

It may be blue, but it's for a new baby girl!

I recently finished up a 'wearable art' jacket, using Moonlight Design's "Sunset Strip" pattern (  The jacket called for eight different fabrics in the same color family, and blue was my color of choice.  The lining was navy, but the strips ranged from light periwinkle to teal to true blue. 

Funny thing, though...when I finished the jacket, I had stacks and stacks of leftover strips of fabric that were 1 1/2" wide.  Since I hate to throw anything out, I browsed through a few quilting books, and found a block suitable for using up the leftovers, plus a few fabric scraps I pulled from my stash.  It is a variation of a log cabin block, called "Barn Raising Log Cabin." 

There are two things that make this quilt block different from a regular log cabin block.  The first is the center square.  On the barn raising block, the center is made up of two triangle pieces, one light and one dark (also called 'half square triangles').  Second, the fabric strips were sorted into three piles:  light, medium and dark.  The light strips were sewn on the two sides adjacent to the light triangle, and the dark strips were sewn on the two sides adjacent to the dark triangle.  The medium strips were mixed in on both sides. 

This baby quilt is made up of 16 blocks.  When I laid the blocks out, I arranged the dark sides of four blocks together to form the center.  As I added the other blocks, I matched the light sides to another light side, and the dark sides to dark sides.  By aligning dark to dark and light to light, another design pops out...a square, on point, in the center, within a band of light, then dark, surrounding it. 

I framed the quilt with a dark, narrow border, and added a four inch medium-toned border all around.  Can you imagine what this would look like if the quilt were 12 blocks wide by 16 blocks long?  It would make a beautiful queen-sized quilt.

So, why is this quilt for a baby girl?  Well, you can't see it too well from this photo, but the fabrics have floral prints, swirls and patterns that read 'girly,' and there's a lot of  periwinkle (bordering on violet) in the border print.  Plus, I have a friend who is expecting in mid-winter, and I think she'll really love this for her firstborn. 

There is still a pretty large pile of 1 1/2" wide strips left over...some day, I'll make something else from them.  In the meantime, I have to get busy on two other baby quilts...we're expecting two grand-nephews or neices on my husband's side of the family soon!

Keep stitchin'!


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Stamping Techniques: Brayered Background and Basic Embossing

I belong to a monthly ATC (artist trading card) swap, and every month around this time, I'm working on cards to trade with the other stamp artists.  Having a deadline keeps me stamping, and I like to try out different background techniques and coloring methods.  But, after all of these years of stamping, I do go back to some 'tried and true' methods to create my ATCs.  The tutorial for today is mostly for newbies...using a brayer to apply color for a background, and how to heat emboss.

The swap theme this month is "Fall Leaves."  There are several stamps in my stash that I could use, but I decided I wanted a really large leaf, so it would take up most of the 2.5" by 3.5" card.  I didn't have much time to spend making the cards, so I decided to use my hard rubber brayer to apply the color to the cardstock.

Kaleidacolor, by Tsukineko, makes an "Autumn Leaves" stamp pad that has orange, red-orange, brown, goldenrod and moss green inks on it.  Each color has its own separate pad, and when you are ready to use them, you flip a little switch on the plastic container to push the pads together.

My brayer is pretty old, but Speedball sells a hard rubber brayer with a nice handle on it.  The key to inking the brayer is to remember to roll it over the pad a few times (so the entire cylinder is inked) and to go in the same direction on the pad, so you get a good saturation of color in the same spot.  If you roll the brayer across the pad horizontally and then vertically, the colors will get muddied, both on the brayer and on your ink pad.    

This technique works best on glossy paper.  The ink sits on top of the paper for a bit, and allows you to brayer over it a couple of times to move the ink around and better cover the paper.  (You can try it on regular cardstock, but you'll have to re-ink frequently, and once the ink is on the paper, it soaks in and can't be 'moved'.)

I was working on a scrap of cardstock about 4" x 6", so I didn't have to repeat the brayering more than twice.  If you are covering an 8.5" x 11" piece of cardstock, you will have to repeat the brayering process several times.  Here's another hint -- after you lay down the first roll of color, flip the paper over for the second roll...this will create a mirror image of the ink pattern, giving you a wider swath of color on the paper.  I did this with the paper I'm using here.  You can see the green ink left and right, with more orange in the center.

After I laid down the color, I stamped the image using a VersaMark ink pad (also by Tsukinkeo).  This is a clear ink that can be embossed.  On regular cardstock, it appears as a watermark when allowed to dry without embossing. 

Working quickly, I sprinkled on my embossing powder over the wet ink.   I used copper embossing powder.  Don't be afraid to use a lot of embossing powder; just flip over your card and tap the back with your finger to remove the excess onto a piece of scrap paper, then pour the excess back into its container.

Be careful not to touch the image before you heat emboss it, or the powder will smear off.  It can wait to be heat embossed, so if you are doing a number of the same images, work in an assembly-line fashion before you heat emboss them all.  Turn on your embossing gun and let it warm up for a few seconds, then hold it over your embossed image (about 2-3 inches away) until the powder begins to melt.  Move the heat gun back and forth, so you don't burn the powder or your paper.  You will see the design raise up and begin to get shiny. 
Continue to move your heat gun around the image until the entire thing is embossed.  Let it cool a few minutes before you touch it, or it will smear.

For this project, I trimmed my glossy cardstock down to 2.25" x 3.25", then mounted each on a piece of burnt orange cardstock. 

Then I decided to try something a little different with my leaf image.  Instead of brayering the background, I stamped and embossed the image, then used Judi-Kins duster brushes to apply the ink from my Kaleidacolor pad.  It creates a softer image, but I like it, too.  The last thing I did was rub over the embossing, to remove any residual ink and really make the image shiny. 
I had an extra leaf, so I trimmed around it closely, and mounted it to the front of a card that I made. 
So, I finished up my ATCs and they'll get into the mail tomorrow.  I hope this tutorial will inspire you.  More stamping again soon!