Sunday, September 28, 2014

Turtle Time

A recent date at Creekside in Gahanna held a prehistoric surprise for me--an encounter with an alligator snapping turtle. Two parks employees were gazing at what seemed to be an ordinary muddy stretch of Big Walnut Creek Bog, so I asked what they were looking at. What seemed to be a lumpy, mossy rock MOVED! I'd never heard of alligator snapping turtles and this one was the biggest turtle I'd ever seen outside a zoo, easily measuring 24 inches or more from snout to tail tip.

 
Please forgive my amateur videography.

Fossils of similar turtles have been found in the late Cretaceous (at least 66 million years ago). Turtles are usually pretty easy for even kids to spot in a wetlands area, where they often line up, and sometimes pile up, on logs and rocks over the water to catch some sun. If you don't have a good turtle spotting site nearby try your hand at an origami turtle. My poor attempt is too misshapen to be blog worthy but origami was never  my strong suit. Hope you have better luck, or try Danielle's Place for some easier turtle craft ideas.

Other notable sitings were a bee tree, a red-shouldered hawk just hanging out, and a swan log rolling and splashing among the ducks. I'm planning to return one weekend this fall to try out the sparkly green paddle boats ($5 for 30 minutes).

Thanks for coming back even though I haven't added much content lately. I recently moved and will try to post more regularly now we're getting settled.

Thanks for stopping by!
~Susie Qute


I think this is a Red-shouldered Hawk. They are common in woods with swampy areas. Any experts want to weigh in?


It was hard to get a close up of this old girl-she looks like a rock!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Leather & Ribbon Bookmarks: Go Bucks!

Around here college football isn't just a past time, it's a religion. There are special clothes, a catechism, a call and response, etc. When I first met someone from Columbus, I couldn't understand why most of his clothes bore a logo from The Ohio State University (don't forget the The!). After moving to Ohio many years ago, I was still blissfully unaware of the phenomenon for several months. Then I was working on a Game Day.

Wearing the OSU colors goes far beyond a T-shirt or jersey on alumni. Fans love necklaces and bracelets made out of buckeyes, the large nut of the state tree. People of all ages stick temporary tattoos on their cheeks, or have an O painted on. Babies, kids, cars, dogs; 75% of the town seemed to have Buckeye Fever. Once I became aware, I noticed the region turns into a sea of scarlet and gray. Fans spill out onto High Street from the restaurants and sports bars. If the Bucks lose, there's a pervasive air of dejection the following day, especially if it was to long time rival, Michigan.

Don't believe me? Attend any event, even if not sports related, in Central Ohio, and yell out "O-H!" You're guaranteed a response of "I-O!" Or just give a shout out of "Go Bucks!" when you see a someone in Buckeye apparel. They'll love you for it, even if you're a reluctant Buckeye like me.

Nitty Gritty
Materials
  • Leather or suede strip 7x1.25" or size desired
  • Ribbon 0.25" wide (I used grosgrain but you can use anything you like)
  • Craft knife
  • Sharpie markers
  • Scissors
  • Super glue
  • Lighter or matches (optional)
Directions
  1. Cut a 1" fringe on either end of your bookmark. Start with the middle cut, then cut in the middle of each half, then in the middle of each quarter so you have eight even fringes.
  2. Cut four 45 degree angle slits slightly wider than your ribbon, about 1" apart, as shown at right.
  3. Thread your ribbon through lower two horizontal slits, coming up from the back to the front, then returning to the back.
  4. Turn to the back, fold the longer end of the ribbon up to the top slits, and push through to the front. Push end through remaining slit towards the back. 

  5. Trim the ribbon ends. To keep them from fraying, apply a small amount of Fray Check, Super Glue, or my favorite for synthetics:  just apply a bit of heat from a match or lighter (practice this first on a scrap so your project doesn't go up in smoke!).
  6. Turn bookmark 90 degrees and repeat to form the sides of the O.
  7. Trim ends and prevent fraying as described in step 5. Apply a few drops of super glue or take a few stitches with a thread and needle to hold all the ends down. I use a clothespin to hold the ends down while the glue sets-be careful not to glue the clothespin to your bookmark, though.
  8. I decided to use my Sharpies to add a buckeye leaf and nut. You can draw freehand, or try a rubber stamp.
  9. After the marker and glue dried, I pressed my bookmark under some heavy books to flatten the ribbon a bit more. You could use an iron set to low, but be sure to test it on scraps first.

This could easily be adapted to make other letters, so be sure to post a link to your projects in the comments. Go Bucks!

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the Qute life!
~Susie Qute

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Photo Pendant Options and DIY

Pendants are a fabulous way to make a personal style statement. One of my sisters gave me a collection of old stamps and I was thrilled to discover a couple featuring art by Alphonse Mucha, a man whose work is synonymous with the Art Nouveau period.

There are many options for making pendants. I wanted one that would withstand water, so I chose to use a bezel cup and fill it with clear epoxy. Other options are using a bezel cup and glass face, gluing your piece to a clay or wood backing, or Mod Podge's new jewelry blanks. Frankly if Mod Podge's product was available when I bought my bezel cup from Rings & Things earlier this year, I would have gone that route instead. But there's always next time.

This is pretty simple so I'm not going to describe it in much detail. I basically traced the pendant back, trimmed my stamp to fit, placed it in the pendant and filled with epoxy. I let it cure for 24 hours and am pretty happy with the results. There are some bubbles in the epoxy making it a little cloudier than I would have preferred, but it's still very wearable.

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the qute life!
~Susie Qute

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Craft Achievement Unlocked: Craft Bomb My Bike

I was inspired to add some personality to my bicycle after reading "Craft Bomb Your Bike" by Shara Ballard. There are contributions from different crafters so there is something to inspire everyone, whether you sew, knit, crochet, embroider, or something else. Some projects are just decorative, and many are useful.

I bought a plain white Bell brand bike basket years ago, along with a white package carrier and fenders to give it a more European/vintage look. The basket can come off and be carried so it's very handy when I ride to the grocery or farmer's market in Canal Winchester. The handle is just a thick piece of wire and it cuts into my arm when I carry something heavy. I crocheted around it to give it some padding.

The metal mesh basket material reminded me of plastic canvas so I embroidered an owl using cotton yarn left over from other projects. If you would like a better close up photo so you can make your own, just let me know in the comments. There are many cute basket options now; I especially like Nantucket Bike Basket Co. classic wicker designs. If I need more storage options in the future I might add a basket to the package carrier, or sew fabric panniers. For now I just keep an orange bungee cord looped around the back, ready for action.

I used the same sky blue and striped Sugar 'n Cream cotton to make six African flower motifs for my seat cover. These hexagons lend themselves well to 3D shapes. Heidi Bears has an excellent tutorial on her blog with more information about these simple, yet high impact design.  I love this motif so much I'm planning to make an afghan to use up all my worsted weight leftovers.

To complete my seat cover, I filled in the gaps
with solid color double crochets, then double crocheted a few rounds around the whole thing, and finally threaded a long crochet chain through the edge to make a drawstring. I'd hoped it would give me extra padding but I didn't notice much difference. I'll probably add a layer of foam underneath for a more comfortable ride.

Cushy knit garter stich grip covers are just the thing to spare my hands from post-riding aches. I added the pattern to Ravelry here. They were a quick knit and a success! I already have a request from someone else for a pair for their bike. I'm debating about adding a tassel to get the long streamer effect. Remember those? I had some on my banana seat bike back in the day.

I adore this cute owl bell one of my sisters gave me. She found it second hand and it coordinates with my other accessories perfectly. There are many cute bells available online like Kikkerland's octopus bell here. Or you could buy a plain bell and paint it, cover it with Duct tape, or crochet a pretty flower shaped cosy.

My helmet need a makeover, too. It was already pretty scruffy when I picked it up at a thrift store for a couple bucks. I decided to spray paint it with aqua Rustoleum paint, so I peeled off the tape holding the plastic shell to the styrofoam base. Paint and styrofoam don't mix very well in many cases, and I didn't want to risk ruining my helmet. A couple of quick coats and I used Scotch printed tape to stick the shell back on. I'm not sure how well it will hold, but I'll replace it with mini Duck tape if needed. Have you seen those mini rolls? They're so useful! Plus it's nice to have a smaller option instead of trying to tear long strips from regular tape, which always leaves a stringy, stick edge.

Here's a pic of the whole project. The local sheep weren't appreciative-they scampered away when I pulled over. I'd love to see pics of your bicycle, car, or other craft embellished conveyances. Comment below, or send links via facebook or Pinterest.

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the qute life!
~Susie Qute

Saturday, July 19, 2014

DIY Mushroom Nightlight/Lighted Garden Feature

I'm currently in the throes of a toadstool obsession. After making wooden toadstools for the garden, I keep seeing mushroom potential in many everyday objects. I decided my house needs a mushroom shaped lamp, because really, what home doesn't? I had a lamp cord and other materials on hand, so it only cost me $1 out of pocket!

You can use this light indoors or out, but if you're using it outside be sure your lamp kit or twinkle lights are for outdoor use. It's a great way to use a string of holiday lights that are partially burned out. I chose a traditional red color for the top of my shade, but you could use blue, green, or purple to give your lamp a more eerie quality, like the glowing mushrooms in Skyrim's Blackreach underground area. Perfect for creepy Halloween path lights. Bowls and vases with more rounded edges could become Super Mario power up mushrooms. This would be fun for a game room or teen's room makeover.

Nitty Gritty
Materials
  • Bowl
  • Vase
  • Lamp cord kit or small lamp base for indoor use, outdoor cord kit/twinkle lights for outdoor use
    • I bought my light cord set at Ikea ages ago and they don't seem to carry the same type anymore. It has a switch to turn it on/off. You can find a similar product here.
    • Another option is to buy a very small lamp at a thrift store, and just put your mushroom over it.
    • Use low wattage CFL or LED bulbs to avoid overheating. If you put in a high wattage bulb this could become a fire hazard!
  • Optional-something to make a platform under the lamp base. I used cork trivets from Ikea because the cork is easy to cut. If you are making a very large or top heavy project you should use wood or something with more weight. If you don't add a base to your indoor lamp, the cord won't have a nice channel to fit through, and will make the lamp tilt a bit.
  • Epoxy
  • Paper cup
  • Popsicle stick/wooden skewer (to mix epoxy-will be discarded)
  • Paint and brushes (for indoor use see below for alternatives)
  • Optional-piece of sticky back felt, contact paper, or fabric to glue to the bottom of your base. This will make it look nice, last longer, and protect your table surface.
Nitty Gritty
  1. Gather your materials. I bought the red bowl and clear jar/vase for 50¢ each at Volunteers of America on Indianola Ave. I was lucky to find a thick plastic bowl with such a nice smooth shape.  Be creative and look in all thrift store departments for suitable pieces. Make sure they are slightly translucent. Thick pottery or stoneware won't let the light shine through.
  2. Wash and dry your bowl and vase. 
  3. You need to make the inside of the vase white if it is clear. You can just line it or cover the
    sides with paper, contact paper, or fabric if it's for indoor use. I poured paint inside and rotated until it was evenly coated. I poured out the excess and stood upright to dry overnight.
    • You may need a couple of coats to ensure it's coated evenly-any imperfections will show through when the light is on, but if it's too thick it will block out all the light.
    • Hold it up over a lamp to check the level of translucency when dry. You can always lightly sand the inside to allow more light through.
  4. Paint spots on your bowl. I describe how to do this in another post here. You can also use round white labels or cut out circles of white duct tape. If your lamp is for outdoor use skip to step 9.
  5. Trace around the open mouth of your vase on one trivet and cut out the center. Save the piece you cut out.
  6. Cut a 1/4" wide channel from the edge of one trivet to the center. Don't cut all the way through.  The cord will lay in this channel.
  7. Using the piece of cut out cork, cut a hole just large enough for the lamp plug to fit through. Trim the edges so your lamp base will be able to fit in the channel between the two rings.
    Assembled lamp base.
  8. Assemble the base.
    • Thread the cork ring onto your cord and slide until snug around your bulb socket. Lay the cord in the channel.
    • Mix epoxy and use it to glue the smaller cork ring in place as shown at right. Pour extra epoxy around the light socket base and hold upright until dry. This will help keep your bulb upright. 
    • Mix a second batch of epoxy to glue the outer ring to the bottom trivet. Lay the cord in the channel you cut through the bottom trivet. Apply epoxy and allow to dry.
  9. Use epoxy to glue the shade to the vase/jar. Allow to dry.
  10. Insert bulb, put mushroom on base, and enjoy!
For my next trick, I would love to make an upholstered toadstool storage footrest/stool. Oh, and a small toadstool dollhouse with natural material furnishings. A simple terra cotta planter and saucer would be a cute garden mushroom. Or maybe I have enough mushrooms in my life already? I have a slight tendency to go overboard.

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the qute life!
~Susie Qute

Update 5/20/15 If this is more work than you want to put into a nightlight, checkout the adorable options for under $5 on Amazon. I bought this one about a month ago and LOVE it!
~sq

 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Craft Bomb Your Bike" Now Available!

I love my orange Electra bike but think it needs a bit of personality. I'm already feeling inspired by "Craft Bomb Your Bike: 25 Makes for You and Your Bike" by Shara Ballard, even though I haven't gotten to see the whole book yet. It's available for just $18.49 here on Amazon.

The birds, buntings, and floral motifs featured on the cover could easily be used for many other projects, so think outside the bike whenever you look at a craft project or pattern. A red bunting could be used on a bike in the summer and as part of a holiday display indoors or out in the winter.

I don't normally buy books since our home is very small, but the sneak peek I had of this one makes me want it in my crafty library. I can imagine aqua crocheted accents on the basket, seat, handlebars...everywhere! Of course I'll need to get working on my boring white helmet, too.

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the Qute life!

~Susie Qute

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Paul Thurlby's Awesome Alphabet

I was lucky enough to find a copy of Paul Thurlby's awesome alphabet book at a library sale for $2! He has a mid-century esthetic with bright colors and fun shapes. I like how he incorporated the subject into the letter. I used to draw funny alphabet people and animals all the time. Cool bonus-the book jacket unfolds into a poster of the whole alphabet. 

Fun fact about the etymology of alphabet-it comes from the names of the first two letters (Middle English alphabete, from Late Latin alphabetum, from Greek alphabētos, from alpha + bēta beta First Known Use: 1513).

I like T for Trapeze and O for Owl the best. You can buy your own copy, or prints of individual pages, online here. They are pricey individually so if you want to use them for a nursery decoration, you are better off purchasing the whole book for $9-14. He also created numbers, flash cards, and many other prints in his signature style.

I'm not sure yet what I'll do with my book. The only thing I can think of is use them as inserts in binders with clear fronts. Any other suggestions? Keep in mind my boys are teenagers and wouldn't welcome alphabet decor, so I probably won't frame the pages. Perhaps I should keep it intact for visiting little ones.

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the qute life!
~Susie Qute

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Simple Summer Pleasures: Wildflower Bouquets

One of the sweetest joys of having children in your life is when they smile, thrust out a grubby fist filled with flowers and say "These are for you." They might have stems only an inch long, or no stems left at all. They could be crushed or wilted, but regardless, I would always find a cup or vase, or maybe a bowl to float them in for the decapitated blooms.

There are many naturalized or just plain weedy areas around my neighborhood, on the side of the road, and in parks. I never pick from areas where prairie conservation efforts are underway, but I still have many options. Carry a small pair of scissors on a walk and you might come home with a beautiful bouquet for yourself, as I did while walking with my dog this morning. My teenage boys don't seem inclined to pick flowers for me these days.

You can stick with one type of flower, or go for a seasonal mix like I did today. I'm no botanist so I
don't know the names, but try to mix a couple of clover or daisy like flowers in the middle to form the bulk of the bouquet, then surround with longer stalks that will sprawl out. Don't forget some foliage to surround and support the blooms.

Once you get them home, cut the stems at an angle. If you can cut them while they're submerged, they'll last longest, but I just soak them all in the sink for a few minutes, give 'em a chop, and stuff them in a vase.

Any container will do--I think wildflowers look best in something homely like this glass porch light shade or a tin can. Mine reside on the front porch since my cats view plants as a buffet, and I have no idea if any of these are toxic. Plus I think it's nice to bring some color up to the front door.

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the qute life!
~Susie Qute

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sewing Summer Pants & Yarn Bomb Sighting

When I'm down, one of my favorite pick me up movies is "50 First Dates." It's silly but sweet, and the Hawaiian setting is beautiful. Drew Barrymore's character wears the same simple outfit over and over:  a lightweight pair of white pants, pink tee, and flip flops. Ideal for days starting with cool mornings but heating up later on.

I don't sew clothing very often because I have a hard time getting a good fit, and there are more and more plus sized petite lines of clothing available. However, I've been looking for a pair of breezy white cotton or linen blend pants for some time, and finally had to take matters into my own hands.

Drew Barrymore & Adam Sandler
To make sure I got a good fit, I used an old pair of well- fitting lounge pants for my pattern. You can find a good tutorial on making a pattern from a favorite garment at Sweet Verbena. She recommends using brown wrapping paper but for smaller sizes or tops you could use tissue paper, or to save money just any large paper or cut open some brown paper bags.

I think this method works best for simple garments like pullover tops and drawstring pants. For more complex items, I would buy a cheap pattern for a similar garment, and modify it to match my original garment, that way I would have the sewing directions (or find a good sewing tutorial online first). If you have a much loved but worn out piece of clothing, you can take it apart at the seams and the pieces become your pattern.

I'm 5'4" and a size 14-16, so I needed three yards of fabric. I bought some white quilter's cotton at JoAnn's (with a coupon of course) for about $9. It has a paisley pattern printed on it in white. I already had white thread, and I made the drawstring and back patch pocket out of leftover fabric. They took about two and a half hours to cut out and sew. I also showed my little brother how to make pants of his own. It was a lot of fun to be sewing again, and we loved how our pants turned out.

Ready to stitch up your own pair? There's a free tutorial on Craftsy. The only oversight, in my opinion, is that front and back pieces, especially in bigger sizes, aren't exactly the same. The back pieces are usually a bit wider, with a deeper rise (the seam between your legs from navel to lower back) in back. So when copying your pants, make sure you cut the front pieces as they describe, then switch to the back pieces and cut them separately.

I wore my pants out for lunch with friends over the weekend. On the way home I noticed a
construction site fence had been yarn bombed with dozens of flowers, so it was the perfect photo spot! It's on N. 4th St. between 1st and 5th (in Columbus, OH) if you want to check it out yourself.

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the qute life!
~Susie Qute




Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wooden Whale


Many antique shop signs were shaped or painted to give an idea of the type of business. I thought it would be fun to make a book store sign shaped like a whale. You just need a plank, pencil, sandpaper, paint, hanging hardware and a jigsaw for this project. Sketch your outline on the plank, cut with jigsaw, sand edges, and paint. I used a few light layers of dusty teal and dark gray to get a weathered look for my whale cut out.

I had a very sad moment when my whale's tail broke off! I was able to perform surgery with wood glue, a screw, and my power drill. The plank I used is a thick piece of hardwood my dad salvaged from an old building he tore down. It's probably about 100 years old, so it's not surprising it had trouble holding up to the stress of the jigsaw.

I love the character of the old wood; the cracks, gouges, and nails give it life. If you have a piece of old wood, you can use the imperfections as part of your design. The eye of my whale is painted where there was already a hole and nail. If your wood is new, before you paint it put some chicken wire or chain on top and hit it with a hammer to give some texture (practice on scraps first).

I originally planned to paint a shop name on my whale, but wasn't very happy with my mock up. I might paint it on a separate board and then suspend my whale underneath with eyebolts and chain, but for now she's happy perching above my back door.

I used some hanging hardware I had on hand to mount my whale. You can purchase kits very cheaply in the hardware department of Target or framing section of JoAnn's.

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the qute life!
~Susie Qute

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mushroom Garden Decorations DIY

Fly amanita (Amanita muscaria) is the cutest mushroom with its cheery red cap and jaunty white spots. A long time ago I bought hand-lathed mushroom yard stakes from a neighbor in England, but sadly lost them many moves ago. I don't have access to a lathe, and I was enchanted when I saw Twig and Toadstool's mushroom seat project from the 70s here on Pinterest. They use old wooden salad bowls and logs. I love bringing a bit of European charm to my suburban Ohio home.

As I don't have any little ones about, I decided to recreate my lost mushroom stakes, rather than make seating. The process is basically the same, but I use smaller "stems" and add a screw to the bottom so they will stand up on their own. I plan to experiment with other thrifted materials in the future since wooden bowls are hard to find. I think plastic bowls and cups, glass or ceramic bowls with candlestick or vase stems (using epoxy instead of screws), or anything vaguely mushroom-y would work. I'm trying to think of a way to make some that light up--maybe with an overturned vase for the stem.

Not feeling crafty or need a couple of bowls? I have toadstools and bowls for sale in my Etsy shop here.

Nitty Gritty

Materials
  • Wooden bowls in various sizes and shapes
  • Lengths of branches cut from 7-12" as desired
  • Red spray paint (or any color desired for mushroom caps)
  • Small can of white latex paint
  • Spray clear coat paint
  • 1" screws
  • 3-4" screws (use longer screws for looser soil)
  • Small artist's paint brush (about 1/2" wide) or round sponge stamp (for making spots)
  • Power drill with drill bits and screwdriver bits
  • Sandpaper or sanding block
  • Drop cloth for painting
  • Optional-white spray paint or 2" paint brush to paint stems white. (I left mine natural.)
Directions
  1. If you want to paint your branch "stems" white, do so first and allow to dry. I didn't do this first and the natural wood color just got lost in the grass and mulch.
  2. Wash your bowls with warm water and soap and allow to dry. Remove any stickers and residue. Sand bowls lightly and wipe with lint free cloth.
  3. I set my bowls on wooden stakes so the bottoms wouldn't touch the drop cloth.
  4. Apply several light coats of red paint, allowing to dry between coats. I used Valspar's outdoor paint for added durability. It took a long time to dry and remained tacky to the touch for longer than I expected, so I'm not completely happy with this product.
  5. Using a drill bit slightly narrower than your screws, drill pilot holes about 1/2" deep in each end of your stems. Drill a hole all the way through each bowl in the bottom center.
  6. Using the 1" screws, attach the bowls to the stems.
  7. Using the longer screws, drill them about one inch into the base of the stem. This will push into the dirt and allow your mushrooms to stand up on their own.
  8. Paint on white spots-try this on some other surface first to make sure you have the technique down. I dip my brush in the can of paint about halfway up the bristles, wipe off one side of the bristles against the edge of the can, put the side with paint on it against mushroom surface, apply slight pressure, and turn it 360 degrees. Another option is to use a sponge stamp for textured circles. You can make one by cutting a circle out of a kitchen sponge, getting it wet and thoroughly wringing it out, then dipping one side in the paint and lightly applying to your mushroom.
  9. After the spots have dried, apply a few thin layers of spray on clear coat to protect them from the weather.
  10. Stake in your favorite spot and enjoy!
I left some of my bowls the natural wood like the hand turned toadstools I used to have, and am quite happy with the results of those. I painted white ribs underneath those just for fun, and later decided to paint the stems white. These look fine alone but I like a grouping of two or more with a little garden gnome or animal statue underneath, or even Smurfs for some 80s nostalgia.

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the qute life!
~Susie Qute


 
The mushrooms shown above, and some plain bowls, are available in my shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/susiequte42.