Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Snowflake Ornaments and a Challenge Update.

My latest Crafty Christmas Tree ornaments are these delicate looking snowflakes made from- can you guess what...

coffee filters!

But they've been stiffened to make them more rigid and ornament like. And as an added bonus the fabric stiffening medium I used gave the filters a semi-translucent icy look.

As you probably already know I love to craft with coffee filters. (As demonstrated by this post, this post, this post, this post, and this post) Not only are they cheap but they're so versatile. And at only a dollar for pack of 200, they were definitely on my list of materials for the tree.

Now you've probably seen more than one tutorial on how to cut snowflakes from coffee filters so I'm just going to give you a brief overview of those steps.

Step One: First smooth the filter out so it's flat. Then fold in half. Fold in half again, so it's in quarters. And then fold in half one more time.

Step Two: Use a craft knife to cut the folded filter.

I made some cuts along the edges and inside the middle to get a really detailed and delicate looking flake.

After you're done cutting unfold to reveal your beautiful flake. I cut each one randomly so no two are alike- just like real flakes.

Next it's time to stiffen the filters up with fabric medium. I used Plaid's Stiffy product but I'm sure any liquid (paint on) fabric medium would work.

Step Three: Lay the snowflake on some wax paper, pour on some drops of fabric medium, and smooth the medium over the entire filter. I used my finger instead of a brush, that way I didn't bend or fold any of the delicately cut areas.

Step Four: Carefully pick up/peel up the flake and transfer it to something plastic to dry.

For my plastic surface I cut the top and two sides off of large plastic storage bag. Unfolded it and taped the edges down to be sure it stayed flat. That gave me a fairly large plastic area that held 4 snowflakes at one time.

Don't be afraid to pick up the flakes. They will feel very delicate and the arms will probably flop over and stick together- but that's ok because once it's on the plastic you can smooth it out so it's nice and flat and smooth again.

Transferring the flake this way is important for two reasons. One- If you let the flake dry on waxed paper it will be very hard to peel off (ask me how I found that out). And two- If you don't transfer the flake to another surface after spreading the fabric medium on you won't get a flake with open cutout areas. You'll get one that looks like this- see how most of the cutout areas are filled in.

Step Five- Once the flake was dry I gave it another coat of fabric medium by repeating steps three and four. This second coat helps to really make the snowflakes rigid.

Last but not least, I used some of the red embroidery floss, leftover from my last Christmas Tree project, to hang my flakes.

I can't wait to see how they look on the tree! So far I've made about 14- but I'll probably make more.

This project was pretty cheap- $1 for the coffee filters and I bought the fabric medium using a 50% off coupon. So the whole thing, including tax, came to $3.47. And I have a lot of leftover filters and fabric medium!

That leaves me with (insert drum roll sound here please)- $10.27

Now as promised I have an update on the Crafty Christmas Tree Challenge.

Located in the upper right sidebar (just under the Crafty Christmas Tree Logo) is a link list of everyone's blog who participating in the challenge. Please go and check them out- I've already seen some really cool ornament tutorials! I can't wait to see all the finished trees.

There are a few people who expressed interest but I'm not sure are participating- so if I've left your name out of the link list please either send me an email or leave a comment on the original post- here and I'll add you.

And if you'd like to join the challenge- there's still time! Leave me a comment with your blog address on this post- here or send me an email

I'll be doing periodic roundups of the participants ornaments and a reveal of the finished trees sometime after December 15th (details and date to come soon)!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake- using a grocery store cake!

This past weekend was my nephews 2nd birthday party. When I volunteered to make the cake for his Very Hungry Caterpillar party I was intending to actually make the cake, cover it with fondant, and decorate it.

But... I've had a nasty side effect from a migraine medicine the doctor had me try. It's made my heart beat too fast, even just walking from one room to the next makes my pulse shoot up like I'm running a race.

It takes time to get the medicine out of your system. So I needed a plan b. Because rolling out fondant and baking the cake just wasn't going to happen.

My plan b was to buy a sheet cake. From the grocery store. (Yup the grocery store. When it's the 11th hour and you need a cake it's the only best option.) I had them frost it with white, pipe the border, and add some cute polka dot confetti sprinkles around the edge (I noticed them on another cake while ordering and thought they were perfect). They did a nice job, exactly what I asked for, and it was cute!

Once I had the cake I proceeded to decorate it with the caterpillar as I'd originally intended.

I really wanted to mimmic the famous Eric Carle look as closely as possible. After wracking my brain for a few days on how best to recreate painted tissue paper collage with something edible I decided to use Sugar Sheets.

I started with plain white sugar sheets and "painted" them using gel food coloring. Toothpicks, and paper towels were used to get the textures and details. First I would add some yellow to one spot, then some green or blue. Smear it around, and wipe it off or blend it with a paper towel. I used the tooth picks to scratch lines or make dots of other colors.

It was really fun and by the end of it my hands looked like I'd been painting (I should have worn some gloves). I had one green sheet for the caterpillar's body, another sheet that I painted a variety of colors and finally a partial sheet (leftover from another project) that I colored red, purple, brown, and yellow for the head, antenna, feet, and eyes.

I painted the sheets the day before picking up the cake and let them dry overnight.

While my sheets were drying I traced the caterpillar onto paper and cut out the pieces using a craft knife. I made sure to number all the segments, and also the feet. And mark anything there were two of (antenna and eyes) with a L or a R so I knew if they went on the right or left.

The next day I had my template, I had my edible "tissue paper", and I had my cake. I began cutting my pieces from the sugar sheets using my templates as my guide.

And before long my little caterpillar was taking shape.

I used the pre-cut black letter sugar sheet to spell out my message. Except for the number 2 and my nephew's name. Those I cut out of painted sugar sheet so they looked like Eric Carle Letters. I used the black letters as a template so my hand cut letters were the same size.

The only snafu came when I tried to place the caterpillar on the cake. I knew the chances assembling all those little pieces on the cake and having the caterpillar turnout straight were slim to none. I thought I could stick all the pieces together first using royal icing. My idea was to frost the basic shape onto parchment, place the pieces of the body on the frosting and let it dry.

Unfortunately I think my frosting base was too thin because as soon as I peeled it off the parchment it broke into five or six pieces. I ended up doing exactly what I feared- piecing the body together on the cake. But I still think my idea would have worked if I'd used a thicker base of frosting.

Last but not least I used royal icing to pipe the yellow line down the back and draw the caterpillar's hair with a toothpick.

In the end I actually turned out to be quite happy with plan B! I was thrilled with how much the painted sugar sheets really did resembled the tissue paper collage method of Eric Carle.
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