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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

ToolBox Tuesday: Clay Conditioning

Today we are talking about two fabulous tools for conditioning polymer clay.  
What the heck?  What is Polymer Clay, you ask?

These little cakes of clay are polymer.  I am sure you have seen them.  You probably have tried to use one before.  I found the secret to getting the clay ready to use.  This liquid clay is fabulous.

And this clay pasta machine is something I could have never lived without!
I know, you think I am crazy.  You are right, I am crazy, but I really have NEEDED these tools in my line of work and I will show you some of my projects a little bit later.   

First, my disclaimer.  I chose my one block of clay I didn't open up last night in my middle-of-the-night clippie party, Metallic Gold.  One problem...in some of the pictures, it..um...looks a little like...er, um..just saying it kind of resembles...OK, Just gonna say it....
POOP!
Sorry about that :0)
If I hadn't really stayed up the ENTIRE night working on my clay clippies I would have colored all the clay purple in photoshop before posting.  Since I am just too tuckered out, you will just have to sit near a garbage can.  Really, try not to imagine that it is poop I am pushing through my machine, please!?!

That said, I took my fabulously metallic gold block of clay and could not even dent it with my hands.  It was so rock hard there was NO WAY it could have been made into ANYTHING!

I tried to squish it against the table, but it only broke in half along the crease line.

Eventually I stood up, squishing it with all my might AND body weight, barely making a crack in the stuff.

Here is where my fabulous liquid clay comes in.  I dropped a nickle-sized pool of the liquid in the center of the clay.  
***A couple notes about working with polymer:
Don't work on a wood surface like me :0) -this is my craft table and it has taken a beating.  I don't care if the finish comes off due to the clay, but really, I kinda wished I had started on a beat-up cookie sheet or something.  This liquid clay is MESSY!
Also, you may want to wear gloves because it is kinda hard to get off your hands.  I did find dish soap to be a good tool in the removal since it is so much thicker than regular soap.

OK, so if your clay is too stiff to squish the liquid into the clay, just stack one block on top of the other like a sandwich and then squish with all your might.

Here is the SUper PoopY picture  |0p  Yuck!  Sorry again.
Ok, so once you have done all you can at squishing the clay by hand, pull out your clay pasta machine.  
***More notes: be certain NOT to use your regular pasta machine.  The polymer clay is actually TOXIC.  You don't want to bake it on cookie sheets you actually make cookies on, you don't want to use the same spatulas or pasta machines.  You also don't want to use your fondant tools as clay tools or mix your cookie cutters.  You should have separate clay cookie cutters/tools that are only for clay.
{Stepping down from soap box}

Let me show you a little anatomy with this pasta machine.  There is a clamp that holds the machine to the table or counter.  Above that is the hand crank that you use to pull the clay through the machine.  

On the other side, there is a dial with numbers 1-9.  These numbers pertain to thickness of the clay.  9, the biggest number, will give you the thickest sheet of clay.  1 will give you extremely thin sheets of clay.
When you are conditioning, or preparing your clay for modeling, you will want to start your machine on number 9 for the first dozen times through the machine, and then maybe move it down to 7, 5, and so on as the clay gets more pliable.
****More Notes- Clay picks up any color around it.  If you run a piece of blue clay through your machine, then run a piece of white through, your white will have streaks of blue *Ugh*
Some experts recommend having a "cleaner" or practice scrap of clay, like a white or something, that you run through after a darker color or something.  

OK, so push your hard clay pile into the slot at the top of the machine, then turn the side crank while pushing the clay through the machine with the palm of your hand.  You will have to observe which direction the handle needs to be turned in order to pull the clay down into the machine.  If you are turning it the wrong direction, the clay will not go anywhere.

This gold clay was SUPER hard...like the hardest clay I have EVER shoved through my machine.  I had to push and push and turn the clay over and push some more.  See the pile of crumbs that came through the bottom?

Gather up those crumbs, squish them together, and plunge them through the pasta machine again and again.


I had to add some more liquid clay because this block was just so stiff.  In went another nickle sized pool of goo.

See how the crumbs are starting to stick together in bigger pieces.  
I just kept squishing the pile into a ball and running it through the machine. 

After a third blop of liquid clay and a few more dozen times through the machine set at 9, the clay is finally coming out in a sheet.  It is a hole-ie sheet, but at least it is finally sticking together.

Now, fold and keep running through the machine.  Now is a good time to change to number 7 on the side dial.  As you decrease the number, the clay is sheeted thinner and thinner, making the clay much more pliable and useful.

Put it in, take it out.  Repeat.

Wow!  Finally!!!
Look at that sheet of clay!  Quite the difference from THIS:
I won't tell you that it took me 25-30 minutes to get these crumbs...

to this smooth, workable state.  *Huff!*  Kinda a pain.  Actually, I like the process since I have some rather painful knots in my palms and working with the really hard blocks of clay end up a fabulous way to get a free hand massage.  

Ok, so now that I have shown you how those two tools work together
{p.s.I bought both the liquid clay and the clay pasta machine from Hobby Lobby with their 40% off coupon}

And now for my secret weapon!  Bake Shop clay!!!  It is by Sculpey and it is fabulous!  for what I use it for anyway.  The Bake Shop clay is at Joanns, Micheals, Hobby Lobby, and is only $1-$1.20 each.  They are much softer.  Only one time have I ever bought a pack that ended up hard.  It is a softer clay so it is much easier to work with.  It comes in all the primary colors.  If you want a special color you will have to go through the above process, but if you are going for the basics, this clay ROCKS!

Now to show you a few things I have made with the clay/liquid clay/clay pasta machine.



Grapes and Red Chocolates Box

Various Mini Chocolates {just ignore the other clips}

And then all my clay clips I made as samples last night:



My customers only want school related clips, so I do my best to comply.

Now, if you aren't much into clippies {like the rest of the SANE world}, here are a couple fun projects using the tools and clay mentioned above:
{super fun for girls of any age-great to make for barbie house or what not}

{Madison wants to make these all}

Darling shop on Etsy, Hummingbird Miniatures
{this is actually a tutorial for sale}

Who doesn't LOVE a charm bracelet!!!

I just can't stop staring at this house!!!  Ebay is a fabulous place to search for miniatures.  You could always take up making miniatures and sell them at $20 a pop!


Darling

LOve these pens!!!  What a fun birthday gift for girlfriends.  LOVE!!!

These creep me out, but are amazing.  Kudos to whoever makes them :0)

So darling-ly spooky


Then there is the jewelry aspect of polymer clay:
Made from stacking clay, wrapping in more clay, then rolling until thin canes of clay.  You can just buy these made, but why not give making them a try!?!


Don't you LOvE these rings:???  I do!  You could totally make these any size or color to go with any outfit.
Totally fun.

I hope you had the slightest inspiration to try polymer clay.  It is so fun.  It is like playdough for adults!!!  
And the liquid clay and clay pasta maker make the whole experience all the easier.
Go ahead.  Give it a try :0)

Over The Rainbow

Madison was volunteered to bring desserts for their New Beginnings program at church.  The theme was a Wizard of Oz kinda thing.  After running every possible angle through my crowded brain, I finally landed on rainbows, or more exactly, Over the Rainbow.  Makes me smile just looking at it.  I forgot how much I love rainbows.  It's kinda a little girl blast from the past.
We managed the whole entire thing, including cutting and painting the stand in 1 1/2 hours so don't look too closely at my cake pops :0)  They aren't the best and, for the record, I had helpers!!!

So, we just made oreo truffles on straws, dipped them in various rainbow colored chocolates, and I made the stand out of layers of 2" circles.  Pretty simple, but so very fun :0)
Ahhhhh...rainbows....and unicorns...and Rainbow Bright.  I miss those days...
sometimes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

ToolBox Tuesday: Clip-On Tie Hardware

Many months ago...OK, almost a year ago I called up my most favorite ribbon supplier, TheRibbonRetreat of Shelly, Idaho, and asked them if they had any way to order clip-on tie hardware.  They had just recently added clip-on bow tie hardware to their available products and I was really hoping they would be the missing link in the search for clip-on tie clips.

It turns out, THEY WERE the missing link!  Yeah for The Ribbon Retreat!!!
They were super sweet and incredibly patient with me through the entire search.
You can order the clips HERE for only $.95!!!
The Ribbon Retreat is also very reasonable about shipping, not to mention super fast to get your order out the door.  Most times I order from them, the items arrive the same week :0)
It makes me happy just thinking about them. 

So, this is the side that faces out.  

This is the side where all the magic happens.
That post {that doesn't show up well, so I surrounded it with arrows} is the pivotal piece of the whole operation.  Let me show you how it works.

We will be working on a toddler tie today.  Originally when I wanted to make holiday ties a few years back I purchased THIS pattern from YouCanMakeThis.com.  I love that site also.  All the patterns have tons of pictures and are totally downloadable so you don't have to go anywhere to pick them up and you don't have to wait days for them to come in the mail.  

So here is the low-down.  The difference in size between regular tied ties and clip on ties is one size.  That means that if you have a baby tie {tie-on style} it will be the perfect size for a Toddler clip-on tie.  If you have a Toddler tie {again, tie-on style}, it will be perfect for a Children's size.  Children's to Teen, Teen to Adult.  Get the picture?  You can certainly purchase that pattern like I did, or find a free tutorial online.  Or, dare I suggest, go to Goodwill and buy a used tie.  Cut it down to size and grab your clip.  

So, as you can see in the picture above, our infant tie was 18" long.

If we were to find the center of that tie, it would be 9" in from either end of the tie.  Because we want the two ends to be offset, like in the picture below, we need to add one more inch to the front half of the tie.  That means, we need to measure up from the fatter front of the tie to the half-way mark, and then go one more inch.  For larger ties, like for your 12 yr. old, I would probably add 2-3 inches.  


I placed the exact spot, again,10" up on my infant tie, right smack in the center of the front side of the tie clip.  
From here on out we will be calling the spot under my thumb, even though not the exact center point, the middle of the tie.  I need to tell you that so you can understand the instructions later on.

Holding that point, the middle of the tie, on the clip, the front of my tie {fat part} is to the left, the back half of the tie is going to fold under the clip.

I turned the clip backwards to show you what it looks like on the other side.  The corner comes right by the post on the clip.

Take a seam ripper and poked a hole in the fabric, about 1/4" over from the edge of the tie, right in line with the post on the clip.  After we have a small hole poked,  grab sewing scissors and snip that hole just a little bigger on both sides so the fabric will fit right over the post.

There is our little hole, not bigger than 1/4".

It ends up a little hard to see, but there is the white post poking through.

Now that you have that post holding your fabric in place, continue the tail of the tie over the top.

It will look like this.  I show you this just so you can imagine where that back half of the tie needs to go.  You actually need it flopped over the top of the clip, just like it is, but it needs to be under the middle of the tie.   

To make that happen, hold your finger over the fabric on the post, then let go of the middle of the tie.  Once the back end is pulled neatly over the top of the clip...

pick up that middle of the tie portion and pull it in front of the tie end, covering the front of the tie clip again..

Now is the tricky part :0)  Nope, all that wasn't tricky {snicker, snicker}
We now have to get the fat, or front end of the tie under that middle part too.
Pull the front end under the clip, and then pull it up behind the clip.

If you were to turn it over it would look like this.

Mark and poke a hole in this tail just like you did the first.  Go ahead and put the tie down, pick up your scissors, and snip that hole bigger so it will fit on the post too.

Now we need to get "This" under "Here".  You can try to tuck it under the middle of the tie, but I didn't have much luck with that.  Here is what I suggest...

Take the hole you just made off the post, pull the front piece of tie straight out to the side.

Fold it up over the tie like it is supposed to go, but at the last minute, 

tuck it under it's self.  In the picture above, I have the front tie strip folded under and you can see the white arm of the tie clip standing there waiting to be covered.  

From the front it looks a little crazy, but with a little working of the fabric, you will see the miracle in a few more moments, I promise!

Now, after you folded that tie strand under it's self, you will be left with a little loopy area.  That is where you need to tuck the tie clip arm. 

I hope you are not totally lost by this point.  

It looks like a tie, but still a little wonky.  It will get there.  Keep going!

Now that everything is tucked in, I can see my little hole I made. 

Work that fabric over again and again until you are able to work the hole over to the post.
Be sure and turn your tie over occasionally to make sure the tails are lying nicely from the front side.

We did it!  We got the hole back on the post!  Yay!!!!!
Oh, I am so proud of us :0)

Now grab one of those little grommets and shove it on the post.  I use my needle nose plyers to push it down.  That will hold the fabric onto the clip.  Now, if somewhere along the way you accidentally ripped your fabric or something came loose, a tiny bit of FabriTac glue or good old needle and thread to patch things up.  

There you go!  Cute little clip on tie.  
The first one always looks a little goofy, but the more you make the better they will look!

I make these as baby gifts for all the ladies at church.  Now that I have the clip-on hardware I can make ties that are both cute AND easy to put on a squirmy little guy.

Emmalee likes them too :0)  
{do you like how I cropped out her eyes.  They were all weird and blinky and I was too lazy to get the picture again}
What a nice mom!


Here are some of the fabrics I found at SAS Fabric in Phoenix to use for new ties.  Love it!!!   I like a little fatter tie.  Somewhere down the road I will show you my new and improved tie pattern I made myself.
Until then, you can find these tie clips at The Ribbon Retreat.com.