Now it’s personal.

Anything we make is a special thing.  We take the time to put something together, but do we go that extra mile to make sure that someone could find us again, if only by looking at the finished piece?  Tags and labeling are an oft-overlooked detail that can pay off in a big way.  So, in light of the fact that Christmas will soon be upon us, I thought we could use some inspiring ideas for tagging the gifts we make both to give and to sell.  Hooray for Etsy! 🙂

One simple way to make your own:

Last night’s trash becomes today’s crafty treasure!

Remember that take-out container you brought home the other night?  The pad thai is long-gone, but that Number 6 plastic container can live on… give it a better life by turning it into custom jewelry tags or charms!

1.  Cut out the flat parts of the box on the top and bottom (I don’t have to tell you to clean it first, do I?  Of course not, you’re not my ex-suitemate!).

Color lightly on the sanded surface.

2.  Use some 300-400 grit sandpaper to roughen up one side of the plastic (move your sandpaper in little circles).  Then use a colored pencil to scrawl your signature, Etsy shop name, etc.  You don’t need to press hard at all.  In fact, the lighter you go, the better:  when the plastic shrinks, everything you drew on it will become extra dark.  If you like, you can print your name out in a nice font and then trace it.  You can also use a custom stamp you’ve carved or had made (use alcohol-based inks for best results).

Be sure to leave some room for a hole to attach a jump ring; a standard-sized hole punch works perfectly.  Once your hole has been punched and the final shape cut out around the text, it’s ready to shrink!

They’ll twist and turn a little while. When they lie flat (or thereabouts) take them out.

3.  Line a pan with parchment paper and lay the piece on it.  Pop the piece in a preheated oven at around 350 degrees (anywhere between 300-350 degrees should be fine).  Watch it heat up–it will begin to undulate and shrink up.  After a couple of minutes it will stop moving and lay mostly flat.  At this point, you may remove it from the oven.  If it doesn’t lay completely flat, take a glass and press the piece down while it’s still warm.  Don’t use your fingers, as the plastic gets very hot.

4.  Once the piece has cooled, you may want to sand the edges with an emery board if they’re not completely smooth.  Seal the penciled side with a resin gloss spray.  It looks nicer, and it keeps your design from smearing if you penciled too deeply.  Add a jump link through the now-tiny punched hole.

***A trick for figuring out the final size:  On a scrap piece of plastic, trace a 6″ ruler and then shrink it.  Once it’s shrunk, you can tell what the size of your piece needs to be before shrinking.  For example, if you want the finished tag to be 1″ long, hold up the real ruler next to your shrunken one and see where the 1″ falls on the tiny one–the number on the tiny one is how long your plastic piece should be starting out.***

For an even fancier/standardized tag, purchase inkjet-printable shrink film (you CANNOT use recycled plastic here).  Create an image in Adobe or Paint with your name on it.  Think about the scale of the finished tag, and choose your font accordingly (*you want it to be readable once it’s shrunk to size).  DaFont.com is a nice place to download nice fonts for free.  You’ll also want to leave a blank area for the hole you’ll be punching for a jump link.  Copy your art and paste it as many times as you can within an 8.5″x11″ file (100-200 dpi–you may have to see what you like best after experimenting).  Try rotating your pieces to get as many on the page as possible (and don’t forget, each printer’s margins are different; try to account for that).

Once you’ve made a nice image, flatten it and take the opacity down to 25-40%, depending on how saturated your images are (this is to account for the darkening once the plastic is shrunk). You may have to experiment with each page to get a saturation you’re happy with.

Print it out on the inkjet shrink plastic (available here from DickBlick.com), making sure that you have “transparency film” selected in your printer’s paper output.  Cut out each individual piece, punch holes, bake and seal.  Cool, huh?

Now all you have to do is make a beautiful piece of jewelry to go with your fabulous new tags!  🙂

New Tool Demos, Hooray!!

Very interested in checking this out… I really want one of these…

Sign up for emails/invites to interesting webinars like this at BerninaUSA.com.

Or click HERE for the 11-20-10, 10:00am CST (remember this is CENTRAL time)

HERE for the 11-20-10, 4:00pm CST webinar (remember this is CENTRAL time)

I have done one webinar before this.  It was about apparel-sewing shortcuts.  It was pretty good!  I learned a couple new things, and it would be excellent for people who are light sewers hoping to make more professional-looking garments.  I think the video archive is available somewhere on the website.  Don’t be dissuaded by the old-lady pattern looks they’re trying to market throughout the video–the techniques remain practical whether you’re interested in home sewing or high fashion.

Carbonara Homage to Buffalo

Today I came home hungry to a virtually empty fridge.  The only residents were some eggs, a carton of 1% milk, bacon, some leftover cheese (jarlsburg and gorgonzola), apple cider, and one of the saddest-looking onions I’ve ever seen.  Luckily, my hoarding tendencies have left me with a large amount of whole grain pasta, so I won’t actually starve anytime soon–I just run the risk of eating really boring dinners.

Not tonight, however…

Tonight?  I give you… (dun-da-da-DAH!!!)

Buffalo Carbonara!! (HOORAY!!!)

Ingredients:
1 package organic whole wheat spiral pasta
3 pieces bacon, cut into thirds
1/2 cup 1% milk
4 eggs
1/2 cup gorgonzola (crumbled)
salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large skillet, cook the bacon on medium heat until crispy (or not so crispy, I don’t care). In another pot, cook up the pasta according to directions. When bacon is cooked, transfer to a paper towel.  Do not empty the skillet of its lovely drippings.

Meanwhile, combine eggs, milk, gorgonzola and salt and pepper.  Beat ’em all together.

Once the pasta is done, drain it.  Add just a little water to the skillet. Transfer as much as you can into the skillet and start stirring.  Slowly add the egg/milk mixture and fold into the pasta, keeping it moving so you don’t get glorified scrambled eggs at the bottom of the skillet.  Put the bacon back in too.  Once they’re well mixed, pour the whole thing back into the pasta pot and mix some more.

DONE!  Well, actually, I ended up microwaving a half-package of frozen peas for two minutes and adding that too… I feel guilty if I don’t have any veggies with it.

Very easy, and pretty darn good for a desperate dinner!  Could only be conceived by a Buffalonian.  🙂

Email Me at StarsAndGartersWP@gmail.com