Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Stained Glass" stick-ons for windows, mirrors, and more

If you've wandered through your local craft store lately, you may have come across an aisle full of window paint. And, you may have wondered, "Does that stuff really work?" "Is it just for kids?" "Can I do something I wouldn't mind displaying in my house, without breaking the bank?" The answer to these questions is "Yes", "no," and "yes." :)
The finished product can look quite elegant, and will last for years. And actually, I wouldn't let very young kids anywhere near it: terribly messy! :)

This isn't a traditional tutorial today, because the concept is mostly self-explanatory. What it is is a compilation of tips and tricks for getting the best, cheapest results from window paint.

The basic idea of this stuff is that you use "faux leading" to outline your desired image "stained glass" style either directly on a window, or on a piece of plastic. Then you fill in the design with the colored paints. Once dry, it will stay on your window or other object more or less permanently, but can be removed easily enough - often without damaging the "sticker," which can theoretically be re-used.

One commenter asked "How long will these stickers last?  Can I make them now and apply them in 6 months?"  The answer is "Pretty much indefinitely" and "Yes."  I have had these last through moves - taken them off mirrors, stuck them onto clear plastic, and re-applied to a new mirror.  No problem.
If they've been in a hot window, your chances are not as good.  But a climate-controlled indoor location?  Should last forever.
The only other thing I'd change is my blithe guarantee that sticking them to non-glass or tile surfaces is perfectly safe.  I actually did have trouble removing one from a painted door where it had been for several years.  I gave up because I didn't have a razor blade on me and it looked fine.  During that same move I had a Little trouble removing them from a mirror as well.  Nothing that couldn't be dealt with, but I couldn't have salvaged the stickers if I'd wanted to.

* "Leading" paint for outlines (See tips below)
* Several colors of transparent paint
* Large piece of slick plastic, like a Ziplock bag
* Images to paint, printed out or drawn on ordinary paper
* paper towels or rags for cleanup
* Large pin for clearing blockages, popping bubbles, etc.

The most popular brand of window paint is "Gallery Glass," by Plaid.
DecorArt also makes a type called "Liquid Rainbow," and Sandylion has a variety as well, although I think I got all mine from a kit: haven't seen it for sale individually. Gallery Glass costs about $3 or a little less per tube. You can get a Lot of mileage out of one tube. Liquid Rainbow is a little cheaper.

Materials and Money Tips
First Tip: Stick with the Gallery Glass, especially if you plan to paint directly on a window instead of making "stickers" to apply later. Liquid Rainbow looks fine when it dries, but is much runnier as a rule. Sandylion's looks fine too, but the tube tips are badly designed and its hard to get it to come out even after carefully clearing "clots."
If you end up with a variety of brands, they can be mixed and matched in the same "sticker": there's no serious difference once dry.

Tip Two: Skip the "leading." It is hard to use, tends to come out in a thicker line than I want for anything vaguely intricate, and costs too much. Instead, use "Scribbler" brand fabric paint in black, gold, or pewter - or your choice! The tubes are easy to work with, they go a long ways, and usually cost around $1. It dries pretty quickly: you only need to let it rest about 15 minutes before filling in with color.

Tip Three: Skip the expensive and unnecessary "Styrene Blank." Instead, use a clear plastic food storage bag, preferably the heavier freezer style. I used a gallon Ziplock myself. Cut it open to give yourself more surface area. It is actually much easier to remove stickers from this surface than the official Styrene sheet Plaid wants to sell you.

Tip Four: The color you see in the tube and when applying the wet paint and the color you see when dry are two different colors. Take the time to make a reference chart: get a piece of wax paper or other plastic and apply pea-sized blobs of each color, labeled with the color name and/or number.

Technique Tips
Tip Five: Take your time with the outlining step, and do some practice first. Eventually you'll learn to keep all your lines going in the same direction so you don't smear when turning a tight curve, and you'll learn the sweet spot between hovering the tip of the tube too far above the plastic (causes blots) and actually having it in contact (smears.)

On that note, you will want to be careful not to bite off more than you can chew in terms of image complexity. When selecting an image, imagine you're using a full sized Sharpie. Could it get around all those little lines?

Tip Six: When filling in with color, as long as you've waited for the outline to be mostly dry it doesn't matter, much, if you overflow a line. The colored paint dries transparent and won't obscure the leading.

Tip Seven: Be sure to fill clear to the edges with the colored paint. It's easy to leave little gaps near the corners. Not only do these look bad, but they also make the "stickers" harder to remove from the plastic: they tend to rip apart.

Tip Eight: Clear clots of dried paint in the applicator tubes with a long quilting straight pin. Sometimes you've got to simply pull them out - be careful of the mess! Other times you can at least temporarily push them back into the tube.

Tip Nine: Both major brands can get a bit runny and come out of the tube faster than you want, leaving too much paint on the surface. This evening I used the ball end of the same quilting pin I was using to clear clots as essentially a ballpoint pen. I put the tube down and used the pin to spread the excess paint around into all the corners. Worked perfectly. (You can also use the pin to pop any bubbles that come out when you ignore the precaution to not shake the tube!)

Here are some 1/2 done images of rubber ducks. The paint is still quite wet. Note I overran one of the lines in the center duck's bill pretty badly. This will look just fine when dry.

Cautionary Tips
Tip Ten: Cover your work area, and wear short sleeves.
Tip Eleven: Don't let paper or fabric come in long contact with a finished piece: it will eventually stick and mess things up. Even more importantly, don't let two stickers come in contact with each other: you probably won't get them apart again without damage.
For storage of painted pieces (i.e. Christmas candles!), wrap in a layer of waxed paper first, then add the padding. For storage or transportation of new pieces, cover with another layer of zip-lock or similar plastic.
Tip Twelve: Do not allow your cats to walk through a half-dried sheet of stickers and track the paint onto the kitchen table. Do not ask me how I know this. :)

One last warning: I jauntily stuck one of my pieces to a painted door in my old house. Years later it was time to move, but that sticker wasn't moving! When I realized it wasn't coming off intact, I left it there, but our renters obviously tried to get it off and it wasn't pretty. An Exacto might help, but I'm thinking the paint will need to be touched up, period.
So yeah, Don't stick these things to painted surfaces. Glass is best. Even if it doesn't come off intact - and it may not if it's been there a while - at least you can go after it with a knife or razor blade without damaging the surface!

Ideas for what to paint

  • Your bathroom. Make a matched set of tumblers, toothbrush holders, soap dishes, etc. Add similar designs to the mirror. The stickers also adhere nicely to tile or plastic in the shower.
  • Candle holders. My favorite technique is to draw random shapes with the "leading" and then fill them in with color for a true stained glass look. My second favorite technique is to turn a cheap tea light holder upside down and drizzle several colors of paint over it. Simple and surprisingly pretty. So called "Catholic candles" (tall, low priced, in glass jars) are great canvases too.
  • Large pillar candles. The paint will stick to the wax just fine
  • Sun catchers
  • Windows, of course. Even car windows - just keep it small and subtle, for safety's sake! :)
  • Glass table tops. I have a very nice Backgammon board painted onto a circular table top.
  • Lamp shades. I have decorated multiple cheap torchiere-style lamps from Target. I usually paint directly on the shade to avoid trouble with curves, and seal with spray sealer to make it more permanent. Ikea's frosted glass block lamps would also decorate beautifully!
  • Night Lights. Use a small plain plastic picture frame as the base, and glue on a Christmas light clip to attach it around the neck of a standard night light.
  • Alternately, use a thinner plastic (try upcycling packaging materials or even 2 liter bottles), cut your shape out entirely, and glue directly to a nightlight base.
  • Picture frames. Start with a plain, free-standing plastic frame and add an interesting border or small elements.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dispenser for Diaper Disposal Bags

So, you've got this nasty used disposable diaper (or, who knows, even a cloth one!) and you're in the car and you've got to get this thing packaged in some scent-proof manner before you and the rest of your passengers gag. Obviously someone else has had this problem, because any baby store or aisle will happily sell you a roll of 25 powder scented bags specifically designed for this problem for about $3. They'll also sell you a funky duck-shaped dispenser that looks to me like it would always be at the bottom of my diaper bag.
I thought it would be more useful to have a fabric cover that clipped on the outside of the bag, so I figured out one.

Here's what we're making:


* Roll of diaper disposal bags for verifying size
* Fabric square, about 7 x 7 inches. (Note mine is bigger than it needs to be)
* Scrap of elastic (optional: you could use ribbon or thread)
* Ribbon or cord for making the clip loop and tying shut the top of the bag
* clip of some sort - a small carabiner would work
* cord lock (optional: you could always just tie it.)
* Thread to match

* Scissors
* Sewing Machine (although I sewed my first model by hand - there's not much to it.)
* A few straight pins
* A safety pin

* Basic sewing and sewing machine operation

1. Fold and sew a roughly 1/2 inch seam on two edges of the fabric square.

2. Fold and sew two slightly larger seams, which will become the channels for the elastic (at the bottom) and ribbon closure (at the top.) Mine were about 3/4 inch. Use a scant seam allowance to leave as much room as possible for the ribbon or elastic.

3. Attach the ribbon loop for the clip, and the clip itself if you're using one of the style I had.
I used about 4 inches of 3/4 inch ribbon, with the ends folded in so as to not leave a raw edge. I attached it about 2 inches down from the "top" channel. If I were doing it again, I would make the loop a little smaller and attach it a little further up.

4. Wrap your cover around the roll of bags, wrong side out. There will be an overlap. Place two pins, one about 1 inch below the top channel, and the other 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the bottom channel.

5. Slip the roll of bags out, and flatten your cover, placing the fold right where the overlap ends on the "right" side of the cover. Sew a seam with scant allowance starting at the very top of the cover and to the first pin. Backstitch. Repeat at the bottom.

6. With the cover still inside out, carefully cut two slits in the bottom channel, one on each side of the seam. Using a safety pin, thread a scrap of elastic (or ribbon) through. Cinch, tie a good knot and cut off the excess.

7. Turn the cover right-side out. Carefully cut two slits in the top channel. You should probably use some "no-fray," or even stitch a button hole around these since they're on the outside.

8. Thread in your ribbon or cord, using the safety pin.

9. Tie a knot at the end of the ribbon, and attach the cord lock if using.

10. All done! Slip in your roll of bags and pull the first one out of the slot in the side. Attach to your diaper bag and always have it at your finger tips!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Very "quick n' dirty" tutorial for "Pee Pee TeePee"

I am seriously embarrassed that more than three years after its premier, this remains my most popular blog entry of all time.  Why?!  Is there a deep, unmet need out there for such a product?  Is it all the spam comments the post collected up front?  Or is it merely that it triggers the "potty humor" reflex in nearly every one who sees it?  I suppose we'll never know, but I've seriously considered deleting it.  Several times.  Because let's be honest, it doesn't really work.  I checked the original publish date: it was just under a month *before my son was born!* That's right folks: I Didn't Have a Clue!
In real life I tried to use these little gems three or four times.  And they kept falling off.  And he never really had much tendency to sprinkle in the first place. And even if he had, it would have been Much easier to use a wash-rag, which is big enough to shield the entire area, won't fall off when you lift his legs to wipe his butt, and is far easier to store.  So seriously, don't make one of these.  Unless you just can't wait to see the look on your friend's face when she unwraps it at the baby shower for her first son.  In that case, sew away!

Some disclaimers right up front:
1) Definitely not an original idea. You can buy these lots of places - you can even pay $10 for a commercial version at Babies R Us.
2) There's a better tutorial for a more professional looking option at Little Birdie Secrets.
Mine is quicker and easier, but Not more professional!
3) I am not very good at the whole serger thing yet. My "pattern" uses a serger. I will also include instructions for using a regular sewing machine at the end.
OK, on to the tutorial.
This is what we're making:

It's basically a small cone to place proactively at changing time on the little "sprinkler" your baby boy comes with. Better than a face full of pee, right? ;)

* 1 10x5 inch piece of flannel. If you want to make yourself a larger version (this size is probably a little small for older babies) you'll need a little more flannel
* Thread to match (unlike mine!)

* Sewing machine or serger
* Scissors
* CD to use as a template, or larger bowl / jar.

Skills: Basic sewing machine or serger operation

1. Using a CD as a template (A CD is 5 inches in diameter, BTW!), cut two circles of flannel.

2. Cut an arc out of your circles approx. 1/6 of the total. I just eyeballed this: precision is rather unnecessary.

You can see how it folds into a little teepee shape here:

3. Serge the edges of the arc together

4. Now serge a perfect, pretty circle all around the edge. (Sarcasm intentional. Like I said, serging is a new skill to me!)
Brown thread would certainly make it look better though - but I'm not re-threading that thing, are you?!?

Alternate directions for using a standard sewing machine:

Steps 1 and 2 as above. You probably will want a slightly larger circle, though, to permit greater seam allowances.
3. Place right sides together, if using a print . Using a scant seam allowance, sew all the way around the diameter of the circle.

4. Turn the piece inside out. Match the two edges of the arc, and sew - again, using a scant seam allowance.