Category Archives: Tutorial/How To

natural dyes…

Mr Magpie recently brought home two bags of onion skins and thus began a wonderful two day+ adventure eco dyeing eggs AND fabrics...


last year I used onion skins, beets and turmeric to dye eggs but resorted to food coloring for some blue and green…

beets ready to be trimmed and cut

this year I went all natural using two kinds of onion skins, beets and red cabbage and could not be more pleased with the results and surprises all along the way…red cab

here is how I did our eggs starting with Martha Stewart’s fail proof method of hard boiling eggs so the yolks stay a pretty yellow with no green coloring at all…

Getting Started

using squares cut from nylons to help press the items I selected against the egg to act as a resist I tied the bundles securely with a twist tie to help hold everything in place (you can tell how excited I got about this by my run on wording trying to tell you about it all)

Yellow & Red Onion Skinsafter filling one pot with yellow onion skins (pulled from 10-12 onions at the supermarket thanks to my Mr Magpie!) and a second pot for red onion skins I added about 4 cups of water to each pot (not covering the skins completely) along with 3 Tablespoons of white vinegar …Tablespoon

bring the skins and water to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes or longer straining liquid from the plant material (rubber gloves and paper to protect your work surface are a very good idea)…

onion dye egg bundles

soak bundled eggs in the dye liquid in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight…

onion dye  reveal

the eggs needed to be handled gently after removing  them from the nylon wrappers and dabbed dry to keep from smudging the dye giving them a chance to dry completely undisturbed…

Yellow Onion Skins

Love the golden glow the yellow onion skins gave the eggs…

Red Onion Skins

the resist pattern flopped on one of the red onion dyed eggs above on the left (I tried layering threads from ripping a second hand eyelet dust ruffle which made great fabric for dyeing) so I gently dabbed the egg with a paper towel leaving a wonderful mottled finish…

'Chocolate' Red Onion Dyewho would guess that red onion skins would turn eggs into rich chocolate colors…

egg bundles

 on day two I chopped up the beets for one pot and the red cabbage in a second pot following the same cooking directions as I did for the onion skins…Beet Eggs & Fabric

as vibrant as the beet dye turned out the eggs stayed a soft color…Beet Dye Collage

 interesting green colors emerged which is a bit mysterious because no greenery was used in the beet dye bath at all…

Red Cabbage & sampler

the red cabbage had the biggest WOW reaction for me leaving me to wonder HOW it could dye the eggs beautiful shades of blue while fabrics turned gorgeous shades of lavender using the same cabbage dye bath…

Red Cabbage Eggs and Fabric

the lighter colored blue eggs were soaked for several hours

Cabbage!and the darker blue were left in the cabbage dye overnight in the refrigerator …cabbage & beets egg carton

as you can tell I was more than delighted with this entire process…

Onion skin egg carton

only one egg cracked during cooking which was a good way to test the yolk which was done to perfection…

Beet Dyed Fabrics

I could do an entire post on the fun of using up the leftover dyes for fabric scraps, laces and doilies and such…

Onion skin dyed fabrics and lace

but I have gone on long enough here…

Red Cabbage Dyed Fabrics

if you are interested in learning more about the possibilities of dyeing with natural plant materials try searching the internet for “natural dyes” and prepare to be amazed

Mr Magpie

“A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked” ~Bernard Meltzer

WS: Dream Big

I created a Dream page in my art journal for this week’s Wednesday Stamper challenge

and tried to take a few photos along the way…

lots of torn papers glued onto the page using gel medium…

a wash of colored glaze over the top…dabbed with a paper napkin…

some highlights of acrylic paint…now you know my secret water container for my brushes…we Love pickled beets ;)…

touches of color with water soluble oil pastels…

time for the focal image…I had some thin pieces of paper towel that I had used to wipe turquoise paint in another project… they were wonderful additions to my collage along with some pieces of netting and other papers…

more layers of color…

I stamped onto pattern tissue and adhered it to the page with gel medium… it melts into the surface beautifully..

after a couple of hours of gluing…layering papers…adding color again and again…my Dream page is finished…it is very satisfying to begin with a blank page…some scraps of paper and then before you know it…a finished piece…

you might be interested in playing along with Strathmore’s Visual Journal Free Online Workshop Series…my sweet bloggie friend Estivalia told me about it

Christmas Tea

only four more sleeps until Christmas morning…

our family celebrates German Christmas on the 24th with a visit over the river to my Mom’s (Mutti’s) house with food and merriment…

we make our way home by way of the Capitol and White House Christmas trees in Washington D.C. listening to Christmas music all the way…

my tea today is delicious Earl Grey Supreme by Harney & Sons…the aroma is gorgeous…even the foil packet smells great…the silken sachet bags come in handy for wings and things…the little angel (3 in tall) is one of many that my talented mother used to make…no two were alike as they each seemed to have their own personalities…

I found these glass teddy bear maple syrups with knitted hats impossible to resist…

kumquats are a seasonal treat that I really look forward to eating over the holidays…

you can make quick and easy pomanders out of the fresh fruit by pressing whole cloves into them…

sometimes it helps to poke a hole first with a sturdy toothpick…

sprinkle the studded fruit with a bit of cinnamon and let them dry on a wire rack for several weeks…

you can tell they are dry when they get very lightweight…

stored in a plastic bag they last from season to season…

wishing you all a T Tuesday that is merry and bright…

to those of you in the Northern Hemisphere…Happy Winter Solstice

thanks as always for stopping by …

for more holiday cheer you can visit Kimmie’s sidebar here…all are most welcome to join in…

fa la la

Romeo y Julieta

… cigar boxes …

I have always had a “thing” for boxes of all kinds … pretty wooden cigar boxes with special closures make great storage … and perfect gift boxes too … thank you sweet Jean x two …

Mr Magpie and I hit it lucky recently … we popped into a local cigar/smoke shop to check on boxes …

we arrived just as they were about to throw a nice stack of them away … WHAT … oh MY … time for a rescue mission …

the boxes  made of wood with nice closures on them are my first choice … but often the graphics on the boxes with nails in the lid are very tempting as well … ending up with a bounty of boxes … I had an idea … sometimes those come in a flash … gotta Love it when that happens…

you know how you soak envelopes in water to remove postage stamps … the first time I heard that … I could not believe it … it does work like a charm … well I decided to soak some of the boxes and wouldn’t you know it … the lovely decorative bands … most likely each glued on by hand … got slippery after about thirty minutes (hot or cool water didn’t really seem to make a huge difference) and they pulled right off into nice long strips … ooh la laa…

time to dry on a towel … curling a bit …

when I found myself ironing cigar strips … YES … even I had to shake my head for a moment … but a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do…

look at how beautiful they are … instant borders/decorations for collage and more … I was raised to waste not want not … thank you my Mutti … the box parts are waiting for a second life now too!

*footnote: thought I’d share a favorite story with you … at the risk of making this a longer bbb post 🙂 … when our boys were young I did iron every now and again … but chose to do so after they were tucked in their beds … for safety reasons or more likely that I’d put it off long enough … one Saturday while getting ready for a wedding and being forced to get the iron out in daylight … our middle son, Alex … who was around five years old …  asked “what IS that” when he saw the iron … still makes us chuckle … ironing is never on the top of my to do list … hardly seems necessary … unless it’s cigar papers perhaps …

breathe in the quiet center …

many thanks to all of the lovely people who stopped by for tea yesterday and reminded me to breathe …

your kind concern and support certainly are uplifiting …

to make up for whining I thought I would show you my latest journal pages … my first spread in the Britannica Junior was “harmony” … the second “balance” and now “breathe” …

I don’t often have my camera upstairs in my studio/art cave … but did focus on taking some step by step photos to share some of my creative process with you … clicking for closeups will help answer some product questions …

this song always touches my heart … I hope that it does yours as well … I could listen to it over and over and over again …

I began with a wet transfer using a free Dover fantasy jelly fish image on the book page … you can learn more about this and more by taking Cat’s super Transfer Love class … don’t miss her generous giveaway of a free spot in class here …

I got excited and did not take a photo of the pieces of paper that I glued randomly on the pages before blending them in with some heavy body turquoise paint and glazing liquid … more paper glued on the left than the right … I like leaving some text showing …

Golden’s Yellow Ochre dry brushed with some Raw Sienna around the edges …

next a little dry brushing of white gesso … the hand is from a Paper Whimsy collage sheet …

adding a bit of texture here by pressing some super heavy gesso though a lovely plastic doily piece … thank you again Linda … I used my fingers … snapped that photo very carefully with the one clean finger I had left …

time for some words and a chance to use my new set of Sharpie water based poster paint pens … thanks to Terri for telling us they have been reissued … I find that water based markers are superior to oil markers on paper … with much better coverage

rub ons are always fun …

a Tim Holtz stamp to help finish off the edges of my pages …

and last but not least … a bit of crocheted doily that I cut up and brushed with paints …

as Turquoise is the current theme over at Wednesday Stamper/Mittwoch Stempler … I made this second piece for the challenge …

I have always enjoyed this Swedish Proverb:

“Fear less, hope more; East less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more, Love more, and all good things will be yours.”

footnote: now it seems something is up in my Post Editing as well OY!!!!  photos are duplicated when I have only posted them once ACK!!!  trying to stay calm here and hoping WP settles down!

Felted Soap

ever  since I saw bars of soap in little wool “jackets” a couple of years ago … I have wanted to give soap felting a try

the ingredients are simple … wool roving … hot water

and soap … new travel soaps are perfect

fun to see the transformation from a loosely wrapped bar

dribbled again and again with hot water … not too much at one time

it takes a bit of patience to keep working the wool … since I do not have a wash board … I used this ribbed bottle to help rough up the fibers helping them cling and conform to the shape of the bars of soap … it is impossible to make just one by the way

sitting out on the back porch worked nicely as it does get a little splashy with lots of foamy bubbles by the end… it takes a good 20 minutes or so of working the bar of soap … last is a cool water rinse and patting and pressing a bit in a towel

the wool dries fairly quickly … you end up with neat and tight wool wrapped bars … perfect as individual soap for a special someone to use in the bath or shower

here is  a nice tutorial that got me started … along with some questions and answers and links for supplies and such

footnote: these soaps would be meant as personal bars of soap not community soaps to be shared … great for exfoliating and for gardener’s hands


*Scraped Paint*

I have been meaning to share a quick and easy way to make background paper with you for a while now… just in case you’ve never given it a try… only need a few basic things to get started

*click on any photo for a closer look*


*an old book (if you use loose papers you would need to tape them down and put something underneath them to catch the overflow, I find it handy having them still attached in the book, they rip out nicely once the page is softened with paint and almost dry)

*a plastic card (old credit card or gift card, using whichever edge feels right to you)

*acrylic paints (cheap, sparkly, precious or not…whatever you have on hand…I like the sheerness of the less expensive paint which lets some of the text show through)


begin by dabbing a few dots of paint here and there  on the page…it does not take much….several swipes with the plastic card this way and that way and your paint is pulled across the paper, blending the colors

be sure to use all of the paint that is stuck on the plastic card smearing it back on the paper


I usually begin with a couple of colors of paint, to keep it from turning muddy….add additional dots of paint if desired (the same or new colors)

scraping the paint on the page helps it dry quickly


on most of these pages I finished by plopping bits of dauber paint using the wooden stirrer, shown in the first photo (I have never been successful in getting those daubers to work properly)

scraping it back and forth for an additional thin coat which helps add a little more depth to the pages

pink or pale yellow was my choice this time around, the sky is the limit in combining colors

wind guard

now you have lovely papers that you can draw on. stamp on or use as wrapping paper… of a kind papers to use as your heart desires….quick and easy!

for an inspiring example of how to use your scraped paint papers, along with a chance to see some beautiful artwork, visit Linda here

Alter a Tin: Dream

Over at Awfully Big Art Adventure we are altering tins this week.  So many tins, so little time 🙂  I am a tin, of all kinds, collector. When I have time, I like heating them on a grill to blister off the paint and give instant patina to the metal.  You can find out more about how I do that, here.  I also like coating ungrilled tins with gesso and painting them.

Here is my recycled mint tin…..”dream”.    After applying gouache, smoothing and then dabbing with my fingers for texture, I also used some Golden’s Quinacridone Gold paint to help give the rusted look.  I then collaged the long haired lady under a two inch glass slide with a Forget Me Not blossom, a sprig of Artemesia (Sweet Annie), angelina fibers and netting; edging it with copper metal tape (no soldering).   I attached that on top of netting and paper with double sided sticky tape.

tindreamtop tinsideviewThese are something I would like to make lots more of.

“If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again.” ~Flavia

More Inchie Ornaments

Inchie cube ornaments are popping up everywhere and I LOVE it 🙂

Be sure and visit Jean and Faye, they've both created some
beautious (is that a word?) inchie cubes!  

It is so much fun to see different people’s creations.  

Also, just in, a wonderful Zentangle inchie cube by Pat.

Inspired by a comment from Anni, I just had to try a fabric inchie cube.
I glued a piece of beautiful cotton from my new fabric stash that
Judy sent me onto my card stock template.  Because of the glue stick,
I hardly had any fraying.
My favorite back porch photo spot was a bit breezy and freezing
cold this morning, so these pics are not as sharp as I'd like
I was shivering, it's 33 degrees ( .5 Celsius)...Brrrrrrr.
After seeing an amazing altered book spread that Margaret in Switzerland
created using glitter, I was inspired to add some Diamond Dust glass glitter
to a couple of painted cubes.  My husband thought the red ones looked 
good enough to eat last night....
 it was dinner time and I had not yet added
the wire and beads 😉
I have included lots of links in this post (underlined words) packed with
eye candy you won't want to miss.
Who's next, we wanna see your inchie cubes!
If you're wondering how to make one, visit my tutorial, it's easy peasy.

Inchie Ornament Tutorial

Inchie cube ornaments are so much fun to make for any occasion, but especially nice this time of year.  Since I did not find instructions anywhere, I thought I would share my creative process in making them.  My husband was thinking a copper metal one would be nice to try, and mesh and = Wow!

Here you go, nothing hard or mysterious; like most projects it just takes a little time and enthusiasm.

*Step 1*

Print out your template, generously shared by Shelly Rae Wood, here. I used white card stock; fitting two on one sheet of paper.  You could also print on patterned paper and skip to *Step 4*.


After cutting out the templates, score each line.  A metal ruler is helpful and instead of my bone folder I used this old fashioned lead pencil with no lead.  Bend your scored lines back and forth, it’s a good way to make sure you got them all.

*Step 2*


I used my new foam blending tool (thanks again Sue), to apply color to the blank side of the template.  I tried one with Lumiere paint as well.

*can you see another great background paper emerging from the sheet of paper I’m using to protect my table top 🙂

*Step 3*

step-3-stampHere I stamped with a favorite background stamp.  The sky is the limit on what you can do at this step (at each step actually – can’t wait to see what you all create).

*Step 4*

step-4-poke-holeI found it easiest to poke the holes in the top and bottom for the hanging wire, before I glued the cube.  Mark the center of both the Top square and Bottom square on the inside of your template.   Having something soft underneath helped to keep the card stock from bending while poking the pencil through.

*Step 5*

step-5-glueUse your favorite adhesive to begin gluing the tabs inside the cube. This step takes a little patience; you want to be sure your cube is lined up squarely and that the paper sticks securely. I hold the cube and tweek it gently with my fingers, turning often.  Then proceed to the next tabs until you are ready to close your cube, just like a gift box, with the last tab also glued and tucked inside the cube.

*Step 6*

step-6-decorateTime to decorate and embellish with bits of this and that.  It doesn’t take much on a one inch canvas! You will have a hole at the top and bottom of your cube.

*Step 7*

step-7-wireTo create the hanger, I used 20 gauge silver wire (an 8 or 9 inch piece worked for me) and beads, working from the bottom up.  Be patient as you’re trying to feed your wire from the bottom hole into the top one; sometimes it takes a bit of fiddling. I added a tiny crimp bead at the very top of the beads to keep them from sliding.

Here is a sample of one of my painted inchie cubes…..I used Lumiere paint and edged with a gold Krylon pen.


Hope you found this tutorial helpful and that it has inspired you to play with inchie cubes.  I bet you can’t make just one 🙂 Thanks again to Fran and Linda and Rosie for getting me going!

By the way, I would LOVE to see what you make with the inchie template, sharing is fun!

Grilling Tins

Having a nice batch of tins accumulated again (thank you friends and mint eaters)! It was time to cook some up outside on the grill.

*Heating the tins takes the paint finish off and gives the them a nice patina. They are then ready to alter as you see fit using beeswax, paint or whatever.*

There have been a fair number of questions on just “how” to bake the paint off tins.

Here you will find some notes on my latest experience with the process.

A few words to describe the fun, it’s HotHotHot AND Smelly, did I say it gets VERY hot! We used a propane (bottled) gas grill, set at medium heat (about 300-350 degrees F).

I had mentioned in an earlier beeswax tin tutorial that we line the outside grill racks with tin foil. My husband said not to bother this time. He plans to wire brush them vigorously with a brass grill brush and heat the grill up to a very hot temperature before using it for it’s intended purpose = ‘food’.

If you are sensitive you may want to wear a face mask. I cannot stress enough that this MUST be done OUTSIDE!!! There will be some fumes. I set a timer so I don’t feel the need to hover over the grill. You may open your tins (if they are hinged) or leave them closed while cooking. I can’t see that it makes a big difference, and have tried it both ways. Once they are hot do not touch them without good protection, a kitchen hot mitt will NOT do the trick, it might melt…..ask me how I know.
Place the tins on the hottest part of the grill. I did line the top shelf with some as well and then those were moved to the lower hotter shelf when there was room.
I set the timer for 15 minutes to begin with; flipping/turning the tins at that point. Photo #2 shows the tins after roasting them for 15 minutes. I set the timer for 10 minutes after that (Photo #3), checking and turning the tins again.
On average one batch of tins took about 25-35 minutes for the look I was after.

You will find these items handy:

*Grill (propane works well, charcoal would too)

*assortment of tins (more is better)

*Leather heat proof gloves

*Face Mask for protection from fumes

*Tongs (my tool of choice for turning and removing tins, I felt safe without leather gloves, but worked VERY carefully)


*Heat proof tray for cooling tins after removing from grill

Hope this has taken most of the mystery out of the paint peeling process. You may want to sand the tins lightly with a fine sandpaper, rub them with an old rag to clean them up a bit. Your tins are now ready to alter…..have fun….go forth and create!

This last picture shows the results of a little over two hours worth of grilling. You can see my melted mitt too 🙂

“A danger foreseen is half avoided” ~ Thomas Fuller

dear child

dear child Here is one of the tins that I altered with beeswax along with a brief how-to (I do have several other posts with beeswax as well).

The first step is to bake the tin outside on the grill. I line the racks with tin foil. The heat peels the paint off nicely giving it a vintage patina in the process. You want to bake it long enough to peel the paint but not warp your tin. Check on it periodically, turning if necessary.

Lightly sand the tin, clean with a cloth and you’re ready to play. Be sure and protect your work surface with a generous layer of newspaper or craft sheet, it can get messy.

Using the Clover Mini Quilting Iron and a beeswax candle (just because that’s what I had handy); I dripped some wax onto the top of the tin. Next, I put down the trimmed Paper Whimsy image, layering some patterned tissue, along with other paper bits. Pressing on the papers with the iron brings the melted wax up from behind; it may be necessary to drip a little more wax on top depending on the look you’re going for. I experimented with using less wax on this tin. Even the golden crown charm is affixed with beeswax, no glue needed at all. One of the beauties of working with wax, and there are many, is that you can reheat thicker papers and peel them off if you’re not happy with their placement. Save that lovely waxed paper for another project.

You can also use a heat tool, from a good distance, to level the wax if you so desire. It gives a nice finish. It all depends on the look you’re after. Be sure and give it plenty of time to harden and do it on a level protected surface.

As a final step, you can buff the surface lightly on a soft pair of jeans or rub lightly with your fingers to remove a bit of the bloom and give it a light shine. I’m using the tin to hold my growing Moo collection.