General Craft Ideas and Tips

Here's a collection of several general craft ideas and tips submitted by readers.

I particularly love this lib balm recipe. Can't wait to try it out!

Sun Screen Lip Balm

Ocoee, Florida U.S.A.

I adore lip balm because my lips have a tendency to get chapped, but I live in Florida where you put shiny substance on your lips and they get burned. So I did a little research and discovered that alkanet root offers just enough SPF that I can wear my lip balm any old time and all the time and it has a red tint to it.

I found my small bag of dry alkanet root on-line at a craft product store on-line. You can do a search and turn up many places that sell it.

You need to have about a month set aside to let the alkanet root soak in your favorite oil (safflower, grape-seed, sweet almond). I start with a clean glass jar then I pack it with alkanet root (the more you use the more intense the color red your oil will get)and then fill the jar up with oil. Place the lid on your jar and keep it in a cool dark place for a month at least, the pantry is perfect. Shake it once in a while when you think of it--once a week or so. When your oil is a nice dark red use this recipe for lip balm. Your balm will turn out in varying shades of pink depending on how much root and how long it soaked in the oil.

1/2 cup oil that has had alkanet root
1/2 ounce beeswax
Optional: You can add some Cocoa Butter or Shea Butter to it as well, just 1/2 an ounce or so.

Warm the oil just enough to melt beeswax - pan on the stove or micro - remember less is more. Start with really low heat or short cook times. A wooden chopstick is a great tool for stirring and then you can pitch it.

Once the beeswax is completely melted and blended in with the oil pour your balm into small glass or plastic lip balm containers. You can find them at back pack stores or at some on-line craft supply stores that are very reasonably priced.

Let it cool completely (a few hours) and then put the lids on and label them with what ingredients you used and when you made it.

Lisa's Response

Thanks for the tip, Lisa. I feel like you were reading my mind.

In an effort to be more environmentally friendly and more aware of what is in the products my family and I are using, I want to start making my own cosmetics/soaps.

I'm just researching right now (I'm pregnant and I understand you need to be careful about using essential oils when you're pregnant, so I'm waiting until after the new arrival before I actually get started on this). In fact, I spent the night last night writing down interesting recipes that I want to try.

I haven't come across a lip balm recipe like yours, so I've added it to my list of recipes. I can't wait to give it a try.

Thanks again for the tip!

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Colorful Bird Nests Are Small But Creative Gifts

by Joanie
(Kewanna, IN USA)

Colorful Bird's Nest

Colorful Bird's Nest

An easy unusual craft is a creative, colorful bird's nest you can make as a small gift or for your own home decor.

You'll need:
-- raw spaghetti (enough to fill the space between your thumb and forefinger as if you're making the "OK" sign with your hand),
--2 cups of very strong coffee for a brown nest, or 2 cups of beet juice for a purple nest, or 2 cups water with your choice of food coloring
--8 to 10 small 2-inch colorful feathers you can purchase at craft stores
--half of a strong paper towel
--invisible glue or a hot glue gun with glue.

1. Carefully break the raw spaghetti into pieces that are 2 to 2 1/2 inches long.

2. Dye the raw spaghetti the color you desire by simply letting it sit for a few hours in the 2 cups of liquid. This is the color of the nest, so if you want to color it something other than brown as nests usually are, then try beet juice by itself or food coloring in water. Lay the spaghetti pieces on a cookie cooling rack to dry.

3. Put a half-inch or more layer of spaghetti pieces down on a work surface to form the bottom of the nest, which will be approximately 3 by 4 inches or a little larger. You may need to hold the formation together with something as you put glue all over the top and all throughout the pieces. Then gather groups of spaghetti pieces to glue onto this, one group at a time, eventually forming somewhat of a circle so that there is a hole in the middle of the nest for eggs.

4. Roll up the paper towel (you'll have extra) into 3 neat egg shapes (larger than you want) and make it wet so you can squeeze them into shape and they will hold together. When dry, glue these eggs into the nest.

5. Finally, glue on the colorful feathers around the eggs, decorating the nest. It will be a pretty decoration for your shelf.

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Glass Paints

Painting glass is not only pretty but hugely effective and a whole lot more inexpensive than buying stained glass. It can really improve a front door or a child's window and to see sunlight flooding through those beautiful colors.

The best tips I can give is always buy perspex or window plastic like the stuff used in garden sheds. This is so much easier to work on at a table rather than applying it straight to the door. Also if it all goes wrong it is easier and less expensive to rectify!

You can also use stencils for a pattern.

Always use a good glass paint maker pen which requires a steady hand. Take your time is the best advice I can give.

You can fix it easily to the door or window with some clear pva around the edges and it seems to stay for some time. Another effective idea for glass painting is hurricane lamps which not only can you glass paint the glass but a nice bold color and little flowers painted on a cheap lantern can make it look very pretty. Quite "gypsy" and a fantastically individual gift.

Most of all have fun, take your time and have a steady hand.

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Paint a Bottle

This craft project involves small outlay of money and the final product can be very decorative.

An empty bottle
Student-quality acrylic paints: yellow, white and ochre Water-based varnish
Medium-sized brush for painting and a thicker brush for varnishing

Choose a bottle that has interesting shape. Clean it well and let it dry.

Squeeze a small amount of white, yellow and ochre acrylic paint on a palette or a plate. Paint small irregular shapes all over the bottle – some in white, some in yellow, some in ochre. Bean shapes can work very well.

Leave a narrow area of clear glass between the shapes for an interesting effect.

Start from the top and work your way down, turning the bottle as you work.

To make the turning easier, place the bottle on a piece of cardboard and turn the cardboard as needed. That way, it will not be necessary to touch the bottle – a risky move when most of the surface is painted.

Acrylic paints dry quickly, and you should be able to apply the first layer of varnish in one sitting.

Apply one or two more layers of varnish, allowing each layer to dry before applying the next one.

Make sure to clean your brushes immediately after use. If you allow acrylic paint to dry on a brush, you will not be able to use that brush again.

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Paper Mache

Paper mache is an easy craft to get started on but can grow into complex paper mache sculpture with time and practice. One of my first paper mache projects was a fish.

You need newspaper, paper towels, paste, water and bowl and a brush. Form a general fish shape out of the newspaper and wrap it with paper towels soaked in the paste water mixture. The mixture doesn't need to be to accurate just enough paste in water to feel a bit sticky still.

You want to let it dry once it looks good then work on some fins using the same method or use cardboard cut outs for the fins and cover them in the wet towels. Let them dry then use wet towels to attach them to the fish body.

You can add eyes if you want.

Cover the whole thing in towels and paste trying to make it smooth. Then let dry and you can paint it. Other ideas may be to form a mouth and teeth and a tongue. You may want to use poster paint or you can find something glossy to use that may be better. Try spray painting it then add touches with a brush like the eyes and paint on scales and fin lines

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The Fabulous Hot Glue Gun

I am not much for sewing. I never really learned how to and I don't own a sewing machine. But there have been occasions where I needed to make something but was unable to, due to my lack of skills in that department. That's when I'd reach for my hot glue gun.

Granted, you can't glue clothes together and just hope they don't fall off. Instead, I used my glue gun for craft projects, to make a clean edge on curtains, table runners, or table cloths without all the sewing.

Here's how:

1. First select the material you would like. The thinner and more delicate the material, the more likely the glue will show through. So select something that's not too thin and not too thick.

2. Cut the material to the desired length and width, with an extra 2 inches or so.

3. After your glue gun has sufficiently warmed up, apply a line of glue about 1/2 inch from the edge of the material (apply in small lengths to prevent the glue from drying before it attaches to the other side of the material)

4. Fold the material over the glue

5. Use a flat solid object to smooth out the seam. (It can be anything from a glass cup to a ramekin, as long as it has a flat bottom side and would be easy to peel glue off of)

6. Let the glue cool and dry, and you're done!

Lisa's Response

When I sew, I do so by hand. I find it more relaxing than using my sewing machine, but it takes a long time to sew something by hand.

When I want to make something quickly and don't want to get out my sewing machine, I use fusible web.

It does the same thing as the hot glue you mentioned, and it's made for sticking fabric together, so it's very easy to use. It's a simple matter of placing the fusible web where you want to join the fabric and ironing the "seams" together according to the instructions on the fusible web.

I've made several pairs of curtains as well as a crib skirt using fusible web. I've also used a similar product to attach badges to a uniform. It works well and saves a lot of time.

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