Archive for the ‘DIY’ Tag

Stepping Stones   2 comments

Taking a short break from posting about my singleness travails to post this DIY on stepping-stones.  I’ve wanted to try this for years, and now that the yard is slowly (oh so slowly) getting landscaped I thought some personalized, customized stepping-stones would brighten things up.  My sister has a co-worker who has done pottery for many years, and she got lots of “seconds” from her.  Pieces that had cracked or broken or for whatever reason did not turn out right.  So I had a lot of pieces of pottery to work with, in a variety of colors.  You can also buy mosaic material from web sites, or go to junk yards and buy pieces of different things there.  The junk yards will have tiles you can break up, broken glass, stones, etc.  Use your imagination and have fun with it.

I searched the internet for “stepping stone molds” and ordered a few that I liked.  I bought 10 pound bags of cement, which was a size I could handle myself.  The next size up is 60 pounds, which is too large to move by myself and if you don’t use it quickly it can harden.  Plus, I had no place to store it inside.  I also got a beginner mosaic “kit” from a mosaic internet site.  It came with some colored glass tiles, but it also had a tile nipper, glass cutter, and protective goggles.  All important equipment.

I already had a “saw horse” (Black and Decker triangle stand) and a piece of plywood to put on top.  You could do this on the ground also, but for me it is easier to work standing up.  I covered the ground with a blue tarp as the broken pottery ends up in little bitty pieces that I didn’t want on the ground.

Your designs could be as detailed or abstract as you like.  I do better with abstract, and with the pieces I ended up getting they lent themselves to that anyway, so that’s pretty much what I did.  So this was my work area:

The cement block is there to break the pottery on.  Once they are in small enough pieces I can make further cuts with the nippers or glass cutters.  I found, with my material, that the nippers tended to shatter and cut in unexpected ways, whereas the glass cutter could make smaller and finer cuts.  It does take strength to press them to the tile/pottery, and if you do a lot of it your hand can hurt.  I’ve got some piles of pottery on the ground already, as I broke up white brown and green for a mountain I wanted to make, and you can see the molds on both tables.  Here is a close up of some of my tools on the table:

Empty mold on the right (you can see I’ve used it before), and I’ve laid out a pattern in the one on the left.  These are 8″ squares, which are really too small for good stepping-stones, unless you put them together.  Once I have laid out my tiles in the mold, I take them out (laying them on the plywood in the same pattern) and then mix my cement.  These 8″ squares take 5 pounds of concrete each.  The 18″ rounds I have take a whole 10 pounds, but they could actually hold about 12-13 pounds to be full up to the top.  Follow package directions to add enough water.   What I found was that if you make the mixture a little on the wet side it is better.  Remember you can always add more water, but it is hard to take water away once it has been added.  Add, mix, add a bit more, mix again, and keep doing that until the consistency is right.  Make sure everything gets mixed.  This takes muscle and something strong to mix with!  Then, pour it into the empty mold:

You want to press the cement into the mold, not leaving any gaps or air bubbles.  This takes a bit of muscle.  Any flat surface will do – I used the back of a wooden spoon until I found a cement trowel.  Then I pick up the mold and bang it on the table a couple of times.  Make sure the top is even.  You have about 15 minutes before the cement starts to get hard to place your tiles. 

Place your tiles, making any adjustments necessary, and then press them into the cement.  These stones will be for actually walking on, so I wanted the surface as flat as possible.  If you are making something decorative or not to be walked on, just make sure the tiles are secure in the cement.  Smooth out the cement, as necessary, as you go.  Here is my “mountain”:

Now I will let this sit for two days.  Outside or in doesn’t matter. As long as it is protected from water and it is not too humid outside you can keep them outside.  I found a full 48 hours is needed for the cement to dry thoroughly. 

When I am ready to unmold, I move the mold a bit, pulling it this way and that away from the cement.  Holding onto the cement, I carefully flip it over (sometimes they slide right out, and you don’t want them to do that as you are flipping them) and place them on the ground or plywood.  I tap the bottom with a screwdriver and then hold onto the frame and jiggle it up until the stone slides out.  Sometimes I gently bang the frame on the ground or plywood.  It will slide out – just keep coaxing it.  Then, gently turn over — and you have a stepping stone! 

Here are some of the ones I’ve created already:

Finished work…. and the next   Leave a comment

I’ve been working on this a little bit at a time for….. about 9 months. Ahhhhh — I am finally finished.  And in time for Christmas, too!  This is a cloth you put in a bread basket.  It was fun to work on, but I’m very glad I’m done with it.

Bread basket cloth


And for my next trick…… I am embroidering a Celtic animal on tie-backs for our front curtains.  I traced the animals and colored it the way I want it to look. The blue at the top is the tie-back I am doing the work on.

Tie-back work

Posted November 2, 2010 by Maureen in Art (if you wanna call it that), DIY

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Darn it? Darn right!   Leave a comment

My grandmother Anna taught me how to darn.  When I was growing up she would fly down from Seattle once a year, and one of the things we would do would be to gather all our socks that were worn or had holes in the toes and/or heels, and she would darn them for us.  When I got older I would watch her and I finally asked her to show me how to do it myself.

Ever have a sock that is perfectly good…. EXCEPT for that annoying hole?  Does your big toe poke holes in your socks like mine does?  Making a perfectly good pair of socks unwearable because the part of your foot sticking from the hole rubs against the inside of your shoe?  Worry no more.  I’m going to show you how to darn.

First, the tools.  I use a straight needle because that’s the way I learned, but you can also buy a bent darning needle.  They don’t make darning thread anymore (at least I can’t find it) so I use embroidery thread.  You’ll want to separate the strands into three, and flatten them.  Embroidery thread comes in six strands that are twisted together – gently pull apart and flatten the three threads you’ll be using.  You will of course want to choose a color that is the same or close to your sock color.  Unless of course you want to create some great contrast.  If so – have at it.  You also need a darning tool.  These come in eggs, mushrooms, and gourds.  I like the gourd – my grandmother gave it to me.  It is rounded, has a handle, but is also flat on one side – that’s the side you darn on.

Darning gourd

Darning gourd

Next, get your sock(s).

Hole-y sock

Hole-y sock


Pull the sock over the darning tool.  If you don’t have a darning tool….. you will need to find something hard with a flat surface to pull your sock over.  It is important that your sock has something hard on the other side when you are darning, and you need to be able to pull your darning point tight and hold it while you darn. 

Sock on darning gourd

Sock on darning gourd

Thread your needle.  Do NOT tie a knot at the end of the thread.  Why not?  Because what you are going to sew will be pressing against your foot and shoe.  Do you want to be pressing against a knot?  I didn’t think so.  What you are going to do is create a weave pattern with your stitching.  You will stitch in a row in one direction over the hole, then stitch in a row in the other direction, weaving your thread through.  #  like that.

You want to start your stitches a quarter inch or so outside the edge of the hole.  For the first stitch, leave about a half inch or less of thread sticking up.  You will fold that over and sew over and under those loose threads, weaving them into your stitching, as you move across the hole with your first set of stitches.  With the tip of your needle, pick up a few threads, move forward, pick up some more, dipping your needle point up and down.  Start to one side of the hole, moving across the hole to the other side.  About a quarter inch on each side.  Now turn and go back the other way, so your threads are next to each other. 

The weaving is important, as is picking up part of the edge of the hole (so it smoothes out and becomes part of the new covered hole).  Go slow.  Sometimes you may have to weave a bit, pull your needle through, and then continue.  An experienced darner can weave in and out in one smooth motion before pulling the needle, but don’t worry if you have to do it more than once. 

Weave and move in and out through the sock fabric and across the hole.  Your hole should now be covered with threads in one direction, with your loose threads you had at the very beginning woven in with those threads.  Now turn your sock (or darning tool) and start back the same way, doing the same weaving, in and out thing with your needle.  Now you are also picking up pieces of your first set of threads as you weave.

Partially done

Partially done

I know my pictures aren’t the best – my camera does not do close-ups very well, and I’m working with a white sock and white thread.  Squint.  Now – do you see it? 

When you get to the end and are satisfied with your weaving, weave your needle along the side, back and forth a bit, turning and going back another way, about a half inch or so, and then cut your thread.  You are done!  You can now wear your sock for a long time to come.  Wear it, wash it – you’ll forget there was ever a hole there.  Sometimes a darned hole will not last long, but I’ve found they usually last a very long time indeed.  You can also use this same technique on a worn heel on a sock.  With a worn heel you usually have some existing threads to work with and weave through.  In that sense it is easier to do a heel, but heels are also larger and so they are harder to work with.  Here is my finished product.  I used my thumb to point to the place the hole used to be, since it is had to see in this picture.  Happy darning!

Darned sock

Darned sock

Posted October 8, 2010 by Maureen in DIY

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