Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Night Before Christmas Embroidery

Well, the plan was to make a collection of these hoops to hang as Christmas decorations, each highlighting a portion of the ever popular "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" poem.  Last year I made the Not a creature was stirring mouse for Gwenny Penny's Haul Out the Holly.  This year I completed the Hung by the chimney with care stockings.  I seem to be averaging one per year...check back in a decade or so if you want to see the completed set.

The mouse hoop, by the way, is a tutorial complete with a template!  See the little gray mouse down there?  I made him for a giveaway a long, long time ago and he was the inspiration for my overly ambitious let's-make-a-set idea. 

I also got a little sidetracked and made a hoop for one of my favorite Christmas carols.

I know what you're thinking.  "Why can't the little pink bird just fly up to the top of the tree to hang the shining star upon the highest bough?"  Because that wouldn't look as cute embroidered and framed, now would it?

   Laugh, Love, & Craft

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Anatomy of a Penguin

Haul Out the Holly,Gwenny Penny,Christmas tutorials

Welcome to the post where I show you how to make this cute fondant penguin!  I've made these little guys a couple times before for cupcake toppers at penguin-themed birthday parties and when Gwen asked me if I'd like to participate in Haul Out the Holly I thought this would make the perfect tutorial to share with you.  What could be more festive than adorning your holiday treats with fondant penguins?  

Before we begin, a little bit about working with fondant:
I buy my fondant pre-made from the craft store (Michaels or JoAnn's).  There are recipes for homemade, but I think it's downright affordable at $8 for the box in the picture - and even less if you've got one of their 40% off coupons.

Here are two great resources for coloring fondant if you're a first-timer and need some direction: Wilton's brief tutorial or this handy YouTube video.

During the penguin-making process, keep the balls of fondant that you're not currently using in a container with a lid or a plastic baggie to keep them from drying out.  

To reinvigorate slightly dry fondant, smear some Crisco on your hands and knead it into the fondant until it's a pliable, workable consistency. 

I store my leftover colored fondant (each color in a separate plastic sandwich bag) in plastic Tupperware containers in the pantry.  They last for about a month before they get totally dried out.  I wrap the unused portion of the brick of fondant in a plastic Ziploc bag, inside it's original box and it keeps for a really long time.  The end might get kind of dried out, but you just chop it off and the rest is fine.

Fondant critters can keep for a couple of weeks in a container with a lid in a cool, dry place. 

Alright.  Let's make a penguin!

Phase 1:  The Body

1.  Roll some black fondant into about a 1/2" ball.
2.  Shape the ball into an oval or jellybean shape.

3.  Elongate one end of the oval by gently pinching and rolling it between thumb and forefinger.
4.  Gently tamp it down on the work surface to make the base flat and even.  The end result should be a shape somewhere between a bowling pin and an egg.

Phase 2:  The Tummy

1.  Roll out a small piece of white fondant pretty darn thin.
2.  Use the 1/2" circle cutter to make one circle of fondant.
3.  Cut the circle in half.
4.  Form one of the half-circles into kind of a horse shoe shape.
(You could skip the circle cutter and just freehand it, whatever gets your goat.)

Use a damp paintbrush to apply water to the tummy piece and place it on the black body.  Use just a tiny bit of water; dipping your paintbrush in the water and then dabbing it on a paper towel or napkin works to remove excess water. 

Phase 3:  The Wings...or are They Flippers?

1.  Start by making two pea-sized balls and rolling them into little Tic Tac shapes.
2.  Use your thumb and forefinger to pinch one end to flatten it while using your other hand to shape the unpinched end into a point.  This should make a nice teardrop shaped wing.
3.  If the teardrop shape has become too big for the body, simply use the paring knife to chop off its tip and reshape it. 
4.  The end result should be two stubby teardrop shapes that'll make perfect fondant flippers!

Use a damp paintbrush to apply a tiny bit of water to the tip of the wing.  Press it gently into place on the penguin's body.

Phase 4:  The Feet

1.  Roll out a small amount of orange fondant to maybe 1/8" thick (maybe thicker if the final product is going to be slightly submerged in frosting).  Cut out a 1/2" circle.
2.  Cut about 1/3 of the circle off.
3.  Cut the third in half to make two triangular shapes.
4.  Pinch the triangles a bit to shape them.
5.  Now there should be two wedge shapes (thicker triangles, basically) that will be the feet.
6.  Use the paintbrush handle as a rolling pin to flatten the top point of each triangle.  Place the two triangles side by side, almost touching and apply a tiny bit of water to the flattened portions.

Place the penguin's body on top of the flattened portions of the feet and press down gently.  I've shown you what the feet should look like from a couple different angles.  If desired, use the dull side of the paring knife to score little marks on the feet to give them the appearance of being webbed.

Phase 5:  The Eyes

This is pretty simple.  Use a sharpened pencil to make eye marks.  If you want the eyes larger, just wiggle the pencil ever so gently from side to side and then up and down in the fondant.  There.  Now you've given your penguin the gift of sight.

Phase 6:  The Beak

1.  Make a super-tiny ball of orange fondant.  A good way to measure it is to make a pea-sized ball and cut it into quarters. Use one quarter of it to make a tiny cone shape. 
2.  Use the pencil to make an indentation wide enough for the base of the beak to fit into.
3.  Use a damp toothpick to dampen the hole and carefully put the beak into place.  It can be reshaped a little - either with your fingertips or the dull edge of the knife - once it's securely in its hole.

Let the whole thing dry overnight so none of the anatomy falls off while you're adding accessories.  I usually put him on a piece of wax paper on a plate on top of the fridge, far out of the reach of curious passersby.

Phase 7:  The Hat

1.  Roll a small ball of fondant from whatever color you wish.  The ball should be about 1/3".
2.  Use your thumb and forefinger to make one end slightly pointed and the base flat, kind of like an egg shape.
3.  Use the eraser end of a pencil to make an indentation in/hollow out part of the base.  Make the indent large enough to fit on the penguin's rounded head by pushing out the sides of the indent with the pencil eraser.

Apply a small amount of water to the indent and place it on the penguin's head, gently pushing the fondant down around where his ears might be (you don't want him to get an earache from that frigid Antarctic wind).  Let it dry for about 5 minutes.

1.  Use the dull edge of the paring knife to score little lines around the edge of the hat.
2.  Use the eraser end of the pencil to flatten the very tip of the hat, making an area just large enough for a ball to sit on.
3.  Make a tiny ball of fondant and attach it to the tip of the hat using a damp paint brush.  Let dry for about 5 minutes.
4.  Use the sharpened end of the pencil to poke the ball and give it some texture - like the pompom on top of a cute stocking cap.  You may have to use your fingers to hold the ball in place and kind of reshape it if it becomes deformed while you poke.

And there he is, Folks.  A fully accessorized fondant penguin ready to make your holiday treats merry and bright!  You can return him to his home on top of the fridge for about 24 hours to dry completely and then he's pretty darn sturdy. 

Have fun experimenting with different accessories for these little guys!  Here are a couple of ideas from penguins I've made in the past (click on the photos to be transported to the original posts).  You can use them to decorate cakes or cupcakes or whatever the heck else you want!

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Penguin Goodies in Pink and Purple

These get more and more fun each time I make them.  This is round two for penguin cake and coordinating penguin cupcakes.  This time I did a pink and purple color scheme for a little girl's first birthday party.

I love the way the hat turned out and the black frosting, once again, turned the birthday girl's mouth bright pink...almost a magenta color!  Sorry I don't have a photo of the psychedelic tongue.

I tried to match the accessories for the fondant penguins to the pink and purple frosting and cupcake papers.  Plenty of pink and purple to go around!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Preserving Fall with Mod Podge

The mad scientist has formaldehyde, the woodworker has shellac and the crafter has...Mod Podge!  I discovered that it can be used to somewhat preserve fall leaves!  It keeps them from getting totally brittle and dried out so they can be used for decorating.  See?  I made this garland of mod podged leaves and pine cones a couple weeks ago and it's holding up really well!

It was pretty simple, really.  I put one layer of Mod Podge on each side of the leaves while they were still fresh.  It takes quite awhile for each side to dry, but after the coats are complete the leaves are pretty sturdy!  I used a hole punch to make two holes in each leaf through which to feed the twine.  I also tied some random pine cones into the mix.  

Some leaves worked better than others for Mod Podging.  My neighbor's tree has beautiful red leaves (some manner of Maple) with feathery edges that shrunk and curled up after applying the Mod Podge - so I had to forgo that particular variety.   
Anyhow, I hope you find this helpful.  I realize it's a little late for fall projects now that Thanksgiving is almost here and you'll likely be switching out autumn for winter decor soon.  You could Pin it for next year, though! 

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Polka Dot Party - Favors and Decorations

Okay.  This is the last time you'll have to hear about polka dots, I promise!  I must document the party favors and decorations so they can live eternally in the blogosphere - so just bear with me!  
Let's start with the favors, shall we?  Fabric-covered clothespins paired with coordinating gift tags...a cute way to spruce up present wrapping!  This was my first foray into Mod Podge and I think I'm hooked!  I used this tutorial to help me along.

Another new adventure for me was bow-making or clip-making...basically making cute hair accessories using grosgrain ribbon (which I ended up ordering from Hip Girl Boutique since the craft store didn't really have the cute polka dots I was looking for). 

Hip Girl is also where I found tutorials for making the ladybugs, the bow ties and the pom pom/korker things

I also made some magnets using scraps of polka dot paper and those flat glass beads.  I know this craft was all over the place not so long ago and I was happy to have an excuse to try it out!  I definitely see more of these in my future.  (The tutorial I finally settled on was this one from Not Martha.)  The ladybug cork boards were an impulse buy at the craft store - I love those little ladybug push pins and they made great favors!

I guess I should mention how party goers could win these fabulous prizes!  First, by wearing polka dots to the party and then by getting a bingo during our party game.  Polka Dot Bingo looks like this: 

I made it using any polka dotted clip art I could find - even an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini! 

Now on to the decorations, which were pretty simple this time around:  some streamers to decorate the dessert table, some random polka dot balloons and a couple tissue paper fans for the center pieces.

The balloons I had to order online from Party City because I couldn't find them in our local store - but they were definitely worth the extra shipping and handling because they're just so festive.  The tissue paper fans also came from Party City.  I just used my handy dandy glue gun to attach some card stock circles and wooden skewers to transform them into polka dot flowers!  The toadstools are little syrofoam thingies meant for floral arrangements that I found at Oriental Trading.  The containers are canned vegetable tins covered in card stock and filled halfway with marbles to give them some weight.

The streamers are home made by me, my circle paper punch, my glue stick and my sewing machine.  This is definitely a craft I'll revisit for future parties.  It's so easy and fun and versatile!

Whew!  I think I covered everything.  As always, if you have a question just shoot me an email!

More Polka Dot Party Posts:

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