Shelf updated

Remember this garage sale bargain?

It now looks like this!

I swapped out the ugly knobs for some more modern ones, then painted the sides of the drawer lavender and lined the inside with polka dot Contact paper. I love it, and can’t wait to see it filled with all my handmade goodies.

Sign before/after

A while back I got this idea for a sign to put in my booth at craft fairs. I wanted the name of my business to be spelled out in buttons. And I wanted the sign itself to be a frame of some sort – something that conveyed my “recycled and rescued” theme. I looked and looked for the perfect frame in the right size and shape and with some kind of detailing that made it truly unique. I even bought a frame at a garage sale, but I knew I had the perfect frame when my mom came up with this.

Sorry for the crappy photo, but hopefully you can tell it’s a mirror with ornate details on the top and bottom.

The mirror itself is very heavy, so I decided to remove it and replace it with a piece of cardboard cut to shape. I spraypainted both the frame and the cardboard purple and then got to work glueing buttons on top.

I think it came out pretty good. My next goal is to fill in the background with buttons. I think that will really turn it into a one-of-a-kind sign. But seeing as how I’ve already gone through my button collection and picked out all the good multicolored ones for other projects, I’m gonna have to get some more!

How I make recycled candles

Candlemaking has been quite the learning process, especially with my somewhat unorthodox method. Basically, one day Mike and I were driving either to or from Wisconsin and I got this idea that maybe I could melt down old candles that no one wanted anymore and make new ones out of the wax. And what I really wanted to do was put the candles into found objects I collected while thrifting. I looked on etsy and found that others were pouring their wax into teacups and jelly jars, but no one was really using recycled wax.

So I bought a bunch of supplies and dove into it. I discovered that making a candle is actually pretty easy, but making a perfect candle is a lot harder. And when you’re using a slightly different product for every single batch, you are going to get a slightly different result every time.

But, I love a challenge, so I’m still tweaking my process and experimenting with new containers. In case you were interested in how I do it, I thought I’d give a little tutorial.

In my craft room I have a stockpile of candles that basically look like this.

I have just about every color, shape and style – leftovers from weddings, bags of half-burnt candles people give me, garage and estate sale finds.

If they’re too large to melt whole, I start by putting the candle in the freezer for 15 minutes to an hour. When it comes out, it will be really brittle, and sometimes even crack.

I put it in a plastic tub and whack the crap out of it with a hammer until it breaks into chunks.

To melt it, I have this little setup with a burner and a pot with a lid. This keeps everything completely separate from what I would use in the kitchen. Trust me, everything gets too waxy to use anywhere else.

I bought a couple of metal pitchers so that I could do two colors at a time, and this has really helped me since I started making candles with stripes.

So I fill my pan with about an inch of water and heat that to boiling. This melts the wax with a double boiler effect. Then I drop in the chunks and wait for it to melt. I usually stir it a bit, and if there is any debris in there, I’ll pull it out.

Meanwhile, I heat up my glue gun so that I can glue the wicks to the bottom of my containers. I usually use a pencil to push the wick into the exact center of the container without burning my fingers.

Then I string the top of the wick through a clothespin, center it on top of the container, and pinch the end to keep it secure. If your container is wider than the clothespin, you can twist the wick around a pencil and rest it on top.

When the wax is completely melted, you can use a thermometer to test the temperature. Often with big batches sitting there a long time it can get a bit too hot, which can effect the wax when it cools, so I try to keep it below 175.

At this point, if my wax is unscented I usually add a fragrance. In this case I used apple because it seemed to go with the green color, but I have tons of others, and sometimes I will use a few drops of essential oil, like citronella. Originally I thought I would only use essential oils, but I found that too limiting so I added the fragrances.

When wax cools, it actually creates kind of a sinkhole, so you really have to pour twice. The first time you fill it a little lower than where you want it. Let it cool for at least four hours.

Then pour the second layer to fill in the hole, and let that cool. With this candle I poured white for the second layer, and then did a third layer in green to create the stripe.

When it’s all done I put a safety sticker on the bottom that has room to write in the scent. For my tins I also print off logos and stick them on the side.

My initial investment was probably about $100 for a starter kit with a pitcher, wicks, scents and colors, plus the burner and the pot. Later I bought a heat gun, which is great for cleaning out old containers or fixing any bubbles that come up to the surface. It’s basically like a hairdryer, but not for your hair!

De-lurk, and win!

I thought it was about time I said thank you to all of you lovely readers by doing a little giveaway!

**The giveaway has ended.

I have a package here of some of my handmade items:

-A chalkboard flowerpot
-Two crochet dish scrubbers
-One red juice glass recycled wax candle, fruit slices scent (my personal fave)

The flowerpot is the larger of the two sizes I made this summer, and is actually plastic, so it’s much less likely to break in the mail.

It doesn’t come with a flower, but it does have two pieces of chalk in cute whale-y ribbon.

This is about $25 worth of goodies, and I want you to have it!

So, all you have to do is leave a comment and tell me a little about yourself. Are you mainly a crafter? A cook? An all-around Martha? Or do you just love to read blogs (this I understand, as I have at least 50 in my reader).

I will randomly select a winner tomorrow morning before I leave for Ragbrai. At that time you can e-mail me your address so I know where to ship it.

Coming up soon I have another giveaway from a crafty reader, so get excited for that, too!

My best-selling item

So far my best-selling item on Etsy is not what I set out to make (candles) or what was in the Country Living article (gingham thumbtacks), but the vintage fabric thumbtacks. It’s so interesting, what sells and what doesn’t, but I’m glad for anything that does well. Actually thumbtacks generally are a good seller for me, even though they are pretty ubiquitous on Etsy. I think it’s a myth that you HAVE to create something original. You just have to do what you do well.

And I have to get back to work because I’m all out of vintage tacks (although I do have a set of magnets in stock).

Have you had any Etsy surprises?

Update

I have about fifty million things to blog about and lots of photos to share with you, but unfortunately my photo server has been down all day. Maybe if I blog about it, it will come back up?

It has been storming all day, which might be a factor. The dogs have been huddled up against me or Mike most of the day. I thought they were supposed to be the protectors.

He’s making jambalaya for dinner, and I’m making rhubarb crisp for dessert (no strawberries this time). I saw the reddest of red rhubarb stalks at the grocery store and thought I just had to go there. So. much. butter.

Craft Saturday went well, more for the interaction with other crafters than the sales in my case. Me and the vendor next to me both agreed we were probably not projecting a good vibe since we were both stressed and moody when it first started. Shortly before, I was frantically trying to find a post office where I could mail a package and never did. Plus my head filled up with snot, and the neverending cold was starting to get to me.

Anyway, I think when you have a modest sale day it’s helpful to put things in perspective. Some items sell different days, different venues, different times of year. And some things just don’t sell. I’m probably going to stop making some items that in all my efforts have never sold. And I’m going to keep selling the things that do sell, and hopefully experiment with carrying some more vintage items that I find at garage and estate sales. I am finding out just how much I love the treasure hunt. And crochet! I was very inspired by another vendor to keep at that because even though it is crazy time consuming, I do love it.

I’m currently working on a ripple blanket. I’m calling it the retro stripe ripple because it’s got the sort of ’70s colorway that my crochet stripe blanket had. I looked on Etsy and I couldn’t find anything quite like it.

So, I apologize if you are trying to read my blog and no photos are showing up. I promise it will be resolved soon, and I’ll have more updates for you. Until then, I’ll be baking, crocheting, and trying to enjoy the last of this rainy weekend before I go back to the grind.

Craft Saturday!

I’m so excited for tomorrow, when I’ll be selling my goodies at the next Craft Saturday.

I hear it’s supposed to rain, but I hope that doesn’t discourage anyone from coming out because there’s going to be some seriously good stuff there. These things are always bad for profits when you’re going table to table wanting to buy other people’s wares.

I promised some more photos of what I’d be selling, so here you go. Please do come out if you get a chance and support our local craft community.

I have some great recycled wax candles in various sizes.

New are citronella candles, scented with essential oil.

Also new are chalkboard flowerpots.

And cotton crocheted dish scrubbers. I’ve used these in my own kitchen and they are great for scrubbing dirty pots. All are made with yarn remnants from my ridiculous collection.

I’ll also have magnets in two styles:

Covered buttons

and stacked vintage buttons.

And more thumbtacks, in various different fabrics. These are mixed vintage fabrics.

See you there!

New items in my Etsy shop!

TGI-Furlough because I’ve actually had time to work on some more crafts this week. I wanted to do something spring-y, and because I was on a thumb tack roll, I thought I would make some more of those. I also made some in magnet version. A few of the sets use vintage fabric or vintage buttons.

But I am in love with the little orange polka dot ones. Can you tell?

I’ll have more of these for sale later this month at Craft Saturday. Hope you can come!

My thumbtacks in Country Living

This is pretty exciting. When I first heard about it I wasn’t going to believe it until I saw it. And then today I saw it!

The May issue of Country Living magazine features my little gingham button thumbtacks in a spread about all things gingham and adorable. Mine are the blue and purple ones.

I have plenty of these little guys in stock and can make more (or make them into refrigerator magnets).

The story behind the fabric is that it was used to make a baby blanket years ago. My mom gave me all the leftover scraps, and this is what I did with them. I always thought they were cute, so it’s nice to know someone else does, too.