A brain slug for a baby

I recently finished a knitted gift for our friend’s baby. It arrived in their hands only a day or two before his birth. Whew! I made a brain slug hat. What, you don’t know what a brain slug is??

Anyhow, I felt a geeky hat would be perfect for the baby of our friends. We also sent him things like periodic table blocks and a book called Calculus for Infants. Obviously, a brain slug would fit right in. I found the pattern on Ravelry.

I’m happy with the results, but I could never get the white knitted eye part to have the right shape. The instructions weren’t very clear so I ended up just using white felt and cutting out a shape that worked instead.

BrainSlug-3 BrainSlug-2 BrainSlug-1


Update! A picture of our friend’s baby wearing the brain slug. Apparently the hat should have been a bit wider. But what a cutie!


Sprucin’ up the back porch

The before picture of the porch.

The before picture of the porch.

We’ve got a really nice back porch at our new house and it even came with a pre-installed porch swing. The porch swing was nice but a bit drab so I decided to spruce it up a bit.

Close up of the drabness.

Close up of the drabness.

I found some yellow Valspar spray paint at Lowe’s that I felt was the perfect shade. At first I bought two cans of primer + paint in one. Once I removed the porch swing from the chains I decided it should be scrubbed because it seemed dirty.

Cleaning the swing.

Cleaning the swing.

I used a hose, a bucket and a scrub brush. I don’t know what was on that swing but it was more than just grime. It must have had some sort of coating on it at some point because it seemed fibrous. It was a pain and didn’t even come all of the way off. After the swing dried in the sun for a number of hours I began the spray paint. The cans of primer + paint were just absorbed by that thing and I was left with a vaguely yellowish swing. I then got two more cans of spray paint, also Valspar, but this time for outdoor projects. Once I used those up, I was satisfied that the swing was yellow enough. My husband isn’t sure about my color choice, but I like it. It even matches the fun outdoor pillows I picked up a few months back. The project wasn’t as quick as I imagined in my mind, but still well worth it.

See! So much better!

See! So much better!

Homemade lotion bars, great for dry skin!

I decided to venture into making body care gifts for my family this year. I wanted to try something they (and I) would actually use. I came across a few tutorials for making your own lotion bars, along with claims about how great lotion bars were for dry skin. After inspecting tutorials from One Good Thing and Being Frugal by Choice, along with a few others I’ve forgotten, I realized that they all used a ratio close to one part beeswax, one part shea / coconut butter, and one part oil. You can change the ratios and types of oils and butters as long as you keep it close to 1:1:1. If I make these again, I’ll probably grab some essential oil to give the lotion bars a light scent. Mine ended up smelling vaguely of coconut, which reminds me of suntan lotion.

The good news is that I’ve been using one of the bars for about a month and really like it. When you first hold it, it melts slightly in your hand, allowing you to rub it on dry skin. When you first rub it on it feels a bit oily but just few seconds later, it all absorbed and you’ve got moisturized skin.

My ingredients:

  • White refined beeswax from Dadant & Sons (Holds the oil and butter together, promotes absorption into the skin)
  • Shea butter from Whole Foods (Repairs dry skin)
  • Almond oil from Whole Foods (Nourishes, revives and promotes clear, soft, healthy skin)
  • Avocado oil from Whole Foods (Supports skin elasticity)
  • Coconut oil (or butter if you can find it) from Sprouts (Restores skin, combats damaging effects)

Tools needed:

  • Scale (you need to measure by weight, not volume)
  • Double boiler
  • Mini silicon mold
Ingredients for my lotion bars

Ingredients for my lotion bars


I had to guess about how much of the ingredients I needed to fill the silicon molds, so I started with 3 ounces of each ingredient set.

In the double boiler, I melted 3 ounces beeswax until completely melted, added the butter (2 ounces of shea butter plus 1 ounce of coconut) and once that was melted I added the oils (2 ounces coconut and 1 ounce avocado).

Melting the beeswax, adding the butter

Melting the beeswax, adding the butter

After everything was melted, I poured the mixture directly from the double boiler into my silicon mold because if you try to pour it into something with a spout to make this part easier, the mixture just hardens.

Lotion bars starting to cool in the silicon mold.

Lotion bars starting to cool in the silicon mold.

The bars harden completely in just a few hours, you can even put them in the fridge if you need it to happen quicker. Make sure your mold is clean and dry before pouring in the liquid lotion.

Lotion bars out of the mold

Lotion bars out of the mold

I didn’t have anything handy to package up the lotion bars, so I made little boxes out of card stock and wrote the ingredients and instructions on the bottom of the boxes.

Lotion bars in home made boxes, ready for gifting

Lotion bars in home made boxes, ready for gifting


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Pet-proofing the Christmas tree and decorating the tree stand

Ok, so there’s really no such thing as pet-proofing a Christmas tree, but at least I can keep it from being knocked down. Our fake Christmas tree is short, only about 5 feet tall, so years ago we made a 4′ x 4′ platform about 18 inches tall to raise the bottom of the tree so that the entire tree can be seen from outside the window. After our dog and a foster dog collaborated to knock the tree off the platform one year, we quickly anchored the base of the tree to the platform using some large U shaped bolts. So now each year before we assemble the tree and put down the tree skirt, we tighten the U bolts around the three legs of the tree stand to make sure that nothing will happen to the tree laden with our precious ornaments.

This year we broke out the tree stand in our new house and I realized that the cloth covering I sewed for the stand years back no longer worked. It was designed to go on the stand when only 2 sides of the stand could be seen. Now, you can see 3 sides of the stand. I took a quick trip to Joann fabrics to pick up some white eco-fi felt to cover the stand and some decorative garland accents to make it less plain. I then cut the felt to have enough to cover the entire 4′ x 4′ top of the stand, with a bit of overlap on each side (more on the side that no one can see, since I didn’t cover that with a “skirt”). I cut rectangles of felt to hang from the top of the stand to the floor, with a bit of extra so that I could fold it over at the top. I fastened the tree stand skirts with my staple gun and then added the garland to each side, also fastening with the staple gun. We then cut the felt on the tree stand where the U bolts went though and proceeded to fasten the tree and decorate it. Now if only I could keep the cats from getting their fur all over my nice new white felt….

Overall view of the tree, tree stand, and white felt and garland used to decorate the stand.

Overall view of the tree, tree stand, and white felt and garland used to decorate the stand.

Close up view of the tree stand. You can see how the felt is simply folded over at the top and secured with a staple gun. The bottom of the felt is already wavy from cats crawling under the stand. It's amazing how difficult it is to avoid having pets in my pictures at home.

Close up view of the tree stand. You can see how the felt is simply folded over at the top and secured with a staple gun. The bottom of the felt is already wavy from cats crawling under the stand. It’s amazing how difficult it is to avoid having pets in my pictures at home.

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Make your own wooden Christmas ornaments!

*This post was originally published in 2011 on Pretty Handy Girl and I’ve been saving it to share with you this year!*

Every year, I make some percentage of my gifts rather than buy them. At first I started out with grand ambitions and would pick one or two recipients to get a labor-intensive gift like a crocheted afghan. In the last few years, I’ve scaled my efforts back and now make small gifts for multiple recipients. I typically will make a handful of one style of gift to boost my holiday time efficiency.

This year I started thinking about what type of ornament I could make from materials I had lying around. I settled on ornaments made from branches we cut off our trees a few years back. Basically, I cut thin slices of the branches, added a painted Christmas design and a ribbon for hanging and they are ready to go!

So you’re probably wondering how you can do this too… Well, you’re in luck because I’m ready to share!

Step 1: Cut your wood slices

Find a branch with a diameter of 2 – 3 inches (or large enough to fit your design) and cut thin slices. I used a reciprocating saw with a 9” wood blade on it to cut slices about an inch thick.  I just have a photo of the saw, but remember to securely clamp your branch before starting to saw it and to wear safety glasses while operating the saw.

Step 2: Sand your wood slices

The reciprocating saw left a rough finish so I used sanding blocks to create a smooth surface. I first used a very coarse grain sandpaper to get the surface level and then a fine grain sandpaper to create a nice finish. The sanding blocks were very handy – I held the block still while moving the wood slice to sand the surface.

Step 3: Drill holes for small eyelets

This is as easy as it sounds. Use a small drill bit to drill a hole in the top of your wood sliced and then screw in a small eyelet. This will allow your gift recipients to hang your ornaments. You can pick up small eyelets at any home improvement store.

Step 4: Create your designs

I like to create my own linocuts (a print-making method) so I decided to create reproducible designs by basically making holiday stamps for my wood slices. You could also simply buy stamps or paint a design if cutting your own stamps isn’t your thing.

I started by drawing my designs on paper – a snowflake, a Christmas light bulb, and a Christmas tree. I traced the outline of my wood slices so that I would be sure to create designs that fit on the slices.

After that, I transferred the design onto my carving blocks.

And then I used my speedball cutter to carve out my designs.

Step 5: Get that design onto your wood slice!

Whether you make your own stamp, buy a stamp, or paint your design free hand, it’s now time to get the design on to your wood slice. Because two of my designs were meant to have two colors, I used a paintbrush to apply my paint to the stamp before stamping the wood slice. Of course, before doing any stamping I first tested my carved stamps to make sure they looked how I expected and also tested the amount of paint that need to be applied. The snowflake design only used a single color so I used a small brayer instead of a paintbrush to apply the paint.

I found that it worked best to lay the stamp on the table, place the wood slice on top of it, and press down with firm (but not hard) pressure. This helped transfer the paint to the wood even if some small ridges remained after the sanding step.

The trick is getting the right amount of paint on the stamp so I recommend practicing on paper for a while before moving on to the wood slices. If I painted the paint on too thick, I would first light place the stamp on paper to absorb some of the extra paint. Of course if you are just painting directly on the slices you can just jump to that step! I made one freehanded design of a snowman for a particular snowman lover in my life.

Step 6: Embellish your designs

Because I felt that my Christmas bulbs and trees turned out a bit plain, I broke out some leftover red glitter glue to embellish them. For the red bulbs, I painted on the red glitter glue. For the trees, I added little dots to signify tree decorations.

Step 7: Seal your ornaments

I wanted to add some sort of sealant coat to my ornaments for protection. I settled on Mod Podge because I had some at home. Experimentation taught me that I couldn’t use a sponge applicator to brush on the Mod Podge or it would smear the paint even though it was dry. Instead, it seemed that using a paint bush to dab the Mod Podge on top of the paint worked the best.  When first applied, it looks somewhat white but it does dry clear.

Before drying:

After drying:

Step 8: Add a way to hang those ornaments

I used ribbon to create a small bow at the top of the ornaments and also to create a loop so that the ornaments can be hung. Hooray! They are complete and ready to be gifted!

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Making a laser etched notebook

I attended another laser etching workshop put on by Women.Design.Build and MAKEatx.  In a previous workshop we etched pint glasses and in this workshop we etched cardboard covered moleskin notebooks. Because I already have a number of notebooks for notes and drawing, I decided to etch a notebook for my sister. In preparation for the class, I drew a design using her name and scanned it into a jpg file that could be converted to black and white and loaded into the software that controls the laser.

Hand drawn design for the notebook cover.

A shelf full of laser-etched goodness at MAKEatx.

Love the mustaches on sticks and the jackalope.

A jackalope etched notebook made before the workshop.


The notebooks were placed in the laser and the cover weighted with large washers since the cover is a bit lightweight.

The laser doing its thing.


An awesome idea for a notebook cover made by one of my friends at the workshop.

A french bulldog cover, made by another friend.


My notebook, ready to send to my sister.

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Hand stamped infinity scarf

Two infinity scarves.

Sometimes I’m not so sure where my time goes, but I do know that I finally have a craft project to share! Now that we’ve had like two whole fall days in Austin, I decided it was time for a new scarf. I’m pretty bad at wrapping traditional scarves around my neck and looking fashionable, so I decided to make an infinity scarf, which is a loop scarf that you can typically wear as a single long loop or short double loops if it’s cold. It’s hard to mess up wearing a loop. There are a number of tutorials about sewing an infinity scarf. I read quite a few and relied on this video from Craft Gemini to show me the step where you have to join the two ends to form a loop. It can be a bit confusing if you don’t take your time. More on that later. My Supplies:

  • 1.5 yards of knit fabric, pre-washed and ironed as much as possible
  • Hand carved stamps (stamp blocks carved with a speed ball cutter)
  • Fabric paint in a few colors
  • Standard sewing stuff – matching thread, sewing machine, etc.

First I decided on a design using tear drop shapes, sketched them on my stamp blocks and carved three separate stamps so that I could use them in a variety of patterns.

The three stamps I carved, tear drop shapes.

Then, I tested them out on some paper to make sure they stamped well.

Stamp test!

I cut my knit fabric in half, so that I had two pieces of fabric, 1.5 yards long by 24 inches wide. Because you fold the fabric in half length wise and sew, this gives a scarf about about 12 inches wide (minus seam allowances). I got a nice dark brownish/grayish knit fabric with a small weave.

Knit fabric

I then used my stamp set and fabric paint to hand stamp a design down the middle of both pieces of fabric.

Three fabric paints – linen, light green and light blue.

For one design I only used linen and green paints.

For the other design, I used all three colors.

If you do this, make sure to put something under the fabric as you stamp, the paint will seep through in some places. The next step was sewing. The first step to make an infinity scarf is to fold the fabric length wise, with the correct side of the fabric (in my case, the stamped side) touching. Then pin along the whole length of the fabric, but leave four inches on each side not sewn so that you can connect the loop in a later step.

Fabric pinned length wise. I measured in 4 inches from both ends and used a pin to mark the spot where I would start and stop sewing.

When it comes time to sew, make sure to backstitch a bit on both ends so that your seams are secure!

Annie the cat helps me sew. Or really just gets in the way.

Remember to start and stop sewing four inches from each edge and to backstitch to secure your seam.

After the fabric is sewn lengthwise, the tricky part begins. Definitely view the video I mentioned above if you are unsure about these steps. First, turn the fabric so that the correct side is facing out (the way it should be at the end). Notice the four inches that aren’t sewn on either side. Position the fabric so that the seams match and there are no twists in the fabric.

Fabric, turned so that the correct side is on the outside. Seam is lined up so that there are no twists in the scarf.

Next, you have to pin the ends of the fabric together, which is what feels a bit tricky. This is the part where you actually join your scarf into a loop. You start with matching corners and keep the correct side of the fabric facing in so that it touches the entire time you are pinning. Continue to pin around in a circle until you hit the other corners. The extra four inches you left on each side of the scarf is what allows you to do this – the rest of the fabric ends up being contained in those 8 inches after you are done pinning.

Pin the fabric, starting from matchin corners with the correct side of the fabric facing in and touching.

Pin around the entire circle until you come to the other corners. You’ll then see the main part of the scarf coming through the 8 inch opening. That part of the scarf has the correct side of the fabric facing out.

Then, you sew. Start at one corner and go to the other. Make sure to backstitch at both ends.

Sewing the two ends of the scarf together.

When you’re done, you’ll flip that section of the scarf so that the right side is facing out for the entire section. You’ll have an eight inch section left to hand sew to complete the scarf.

After sewing the ends together, you’re left with an 8 inch section to hand stitch.

Pin the opening closed using the same seam allowance you used on the rest of the scarf.

Pinned and ready to hand sew.

I used a slip stitch to close the seam, with help of a tutorial from Michelle patterns. Then, I positioned the scarf so that the seam was positioned in the back. Lastly, I wore the scarf around town. You can see the loop in the scarf on the left and the view of the scarf when it’s flattened out on the right. I’m quite happy with the finished product!

Make your own hand stamped infinity scarf - lauramakes.com

The finished scarves.

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My new foot stool

I was wandering through Joann Fabrics not too long ago with an extra 40% off coupon in my pocket when a short little wooden foot stool caught my eye. Ever since moving into the new house, I’ve wanted something to help me reach the top shelves in the pantry without having to drag out our folding step stool. I quickly brought the foot stool home with me and got to work finishing it.

Raw wood foot stool from Joann Fabrics.

From previous painting projects, I have a ton of paint samples in a variety of colors. I decided to use those samples to paint my stool. I wanted to make it two colors, so I painted a stripe down the top of the stool in yellow, and the side supports underneath. After two coats dried, I taped over those parts so that I could paint the rest of the stool green.

Yellow paint is under the blue tape.

Getting ready to paint the top.

After two coats of green were complete, the stool was ready! I had to give it extra drying time because of the humidity here – the paint felt tacky for a while but eventually the tackiness went away. I added stick-on rubber pads to the feet to keep the stool from leaving scraped off paint on the floor.

Finished product.

Finished product, side view.

The stool lives in our pantry, ready to spring into action and help me reach items on the top shelves.

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Introducing… my craft room!

Ok, so the title is a little misleading. It’s really OUR craft and computer room and we had a similar room in our previous house. The exciting news  today is that after a few months in our new house, the craft room is finally unpacked and ready for use! And it is huge… it has all of the furniture from the last house, plus our old couch bed (and room to spare).

We had a long delay with unpacking the room because of our cats. We decided that we needed to protect our raw wood Ikea Ivar shelving units from their fur. Since the shelves were unfinished, cat fur stuck to them and was impossible to get off. So we took the time to sand all 25 shelves and two cabinet doors and apply three coats of Minwax fast drying polyurethane. It took awhile.

When we first installed our Ivar units in the previous house, we need to have some amount of hidden storage for office and craft supplies and all those other things that would look silly just left out somewhere. To create hidden storage, we have some galvanized metal doors and wood cabinet doors. However, Ivar does not come with anything to enclose the sides of the unit, so when we installed the doors I knew I needed something to cover the sides so people couldn’t see the messes we were hiding.

The tall thin shelving unit, mostly dedicated to crafts.

The shorter shelving unit, mostly dedicated to books and office supplies.

At that time, I decided to use plain canvas cloth and print it with sponge stamps I made myself. It was a good idea, but I’ve not been entirely happy with the execution.

Side of the cabinet with hand printed canvas.

Side of the office supply cabinet.

Since we were taking the time to upgrade the shelves with polyurethane, I decided to also upgrade the fabric. After a misguided decision to try to make my own chevron pattern fabric starting from canvas again, I quickly realized I could buy chevron home decor fabric on Etsy. A few days later, it arrived in the mail.

Chartreuse home decor chevron fabric.

I then started the somewhat frustrating process of prying all of the staples out of the shelf supports. I tend to get a little staple gun crazy sometimes. After taking out the old fabric, I used it as a template to cut a piece of the chevron fabric. To keep the fabric from unraveling and so that I didn’t have to do any sewing, I used pinking shears to cut the fabric. I stapled the fabric to the sides, the bottom shelf (so nothing can fall out) and any wood supports that happened to be positioned at the top or bottom of the fabric.

The inside of the shelf after stapling the new fabric

My arm sure is sore now after prying out staples and then maneuvering the staple gun over my head. I’m pretty short so some of these shelves were hard to reach.

The new fabric makes the craft room stylish.

The other stylish shelf unit.

A view of both shelves.

Someday we’ll get around to personalizing this room… painting the walls, hanging decorations, adding curtains or a valance, replacing the tiny little white fan… and so on.

Glass Sculpting at East Side Glass Studio

Last weekend, I attended another event sponsored by Women.Design.Build. This time it was a glass sculpting class at East Side Glass Studio.  What exactly is glass sculpting you ask? Well, I also didn’t know until I did it myself (with a lot of help).

East Side Glass is conveniently located next to Hops & Grain Brewery and they are often open at the same time on Saturdays, advertising the afternoon as “Hot Glass, Cold Beer” because you can taste some beer in the taproom and watch a glass blowing demonstration in the studio, all in the same day. Which is all to say, OF COURSE I sampled some beer before heading to the glass sculpting event.

All the beers to choose from at Hops and Grain. Look at those cool glass tap handles!

After sampling the beers, we all headed over to the East Side Glass Studio where Christina from Women.Design.Build kicked off the event.

Christina (left) from Women.Design.Build and Shara (middle) and Leigh (right), owners and operators of East Side Glass.

We started out with a demo from Leigh and Shara showing us what they would do to get our glass ready to be “sculpted” and how we would actually sculpt the glass with large metal shears. After that, we all took turns in the hot seat snipping away at our glass creations.

After getting enough molten glass at the end of a metal rod, Leigh and Shara would use the table to turn the molten glass so that it would have a nice globe shape. You’ll notice the two giant fire-filled ovens on the side of the studio. I’m not entirely sure what they were for, but it seems one was used when first creating the molten glass and the second was used after the molten glass had started to cool a bit and they needed to heat it back up.

Leigh turns the molten glass at the end of a metal rod so that it will have a round shape.

While the molten glass was being prepared, one of the workshop participants would assume the “hot seat” and grab the large metal shears. Shara or Leigh would bring over the molten glass for each of us to cut away at. While we cut it, they continued to rotate the rod so that the glass would not fall over to one side. It kind of reminded me of toasting marshmallows – when they were gooey inside you had to spin the stick to keep them from falling off.

Got my shears, ready to sculpt!

Cindy creates a masterpiece

Kristen from MakeATX snips away.

After we were done sculpting, Leigh and Shara would heat the glass a bit more and then use some sort of large tweezer looking tool to start to remove the glass from the rod.

Leigh starts the process of removing the glass sculpture from the rod.

Then, they would heat it again and use some clippers to further crimp the glass on the rod and then cool it a bit in front of a fan.

Glass being cooled by a fan.

Next, they placed the glass on the table, knocked the rod with something metal and the glass sculpture would break off in a controlled fashion. They heated up the breakage point with a torch and then we used something they called a brake pad to smooth out any rough edges.

Ready to apply the brake pad.

My glass sculpture ended up being long and thin. I think it looks like a piece of coral.  After using the brake pad, Leigh and Shara donned large oven type mitts and covered up exposed skin so that they could place the glass in a super hot oven. The oven started at something like 970 degrees and slowly brought the temperature down so that the glass wouldn’t crack. Glass doesn’t appreciate large temperature changes.

After I brought my sculpture home, I decided that in order to display it in its best light, I needed to mount it to something. After a bit of brainstorming and some ideas from my husband, I found an appropriately sized orange rock from our landscaping to use with the glass sculpture. After cleaning the rock I used gorilla glue to attach the glass to the rock and used a rubber band to hold the pieces together while the glue dried. Gorilla glue expands as it dries so after it was cured, I used a box cutter to cut off the extra glue.  I think I might use my water colors to give my sculpture a bit of pastel color down the road so that it matches the room that I end up displaying it in.

My sculpture after gluing it to a rock

View #2

While at the workshop, I took some time to browse the studio where Leigh and Shara display their glasswork. I saw many awesome pieces, so I encourage you to check it out sometime!

Kitty glasses! Kitties are the best.

Awesome glass sculpture. Love the tribal feel to it.

Very delicate glass tree, set on a shelf way above my head. I just love the shape.

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