Archive for December, 2011


Project 50: Caning

December 31, 2011


For my last project on this blog I’m going to tackle chair caning. It won’t be nearly as intricate as the photo above! I’d love to try that kind of caning someday, but you’ll see the materials I have available and you’ll understand why that won’t work.

It’s my final project! Obviously they won’t all get done by the end of the year (um, this evening) but I’ll continue to post updates until everything is finished. Until then, have a very happy New Year!

Photo by the National Rural Knowledge Exchange on Flickr


Project 49: Upholstery

December 30, 2011

Wicker trunk attributed to Joachim Schildhauer, New Holstein, Wisconsin, 1890-1915

I have had a wicker trunk since I was young. It went back and forth to college with me (one time full of books, which was when I learned to pack books in smaller boxes). I still have it, though the top is a bit worse for wear.

My vision for this trunk has been for it to have an upholstered top and function more like a bench. Now instead of just imagining it (like I have for at least a decade) I’m going to do it. Watch this space for updates!

Photo by Wisconsin Decorative Arts on Flickr


Project 47: Finished glass and lessons learned

December 29, 2011

Finished glass soap dish

Here it is! See how the edge is clear and the frit made little brown speckles everywhere? I think this dish would look great with my homemade soap in it. What do you think?

I would like to thank Melsie Glass for hosting me and giving me so much information about fusing glass. It was great fun!

Lessons learned:
– On the one hand, making fused glass seems pretty simple. You cut glass pieces, lay them out, and fire them.
– On the other hand there is a lot of science behind doing it well, I think. There are chemical reactions between glass colors, firing temperatures and lengths of time, and more that I probably don’t even know about.
– But wow, look at the finished pieces you can make! Talk about impressive.

If you are interested in learning to fuse glass in the Triangle area you can take classes at these places:

Carolina Stained Glass in Durham
Pullen Arts Center in Raleigh

If you’re not local check a glass store or an arts center near you. Enjoy!


Project 47: In the kiln

December 28, 2011

When we last left our dish it was designed and ready for its long nap in the kiln. It takes half a day to fuse glass in the kiln, and then longer to shape  and finish the piece. For the purposes of this blog entry we will be demonstrating using pieces that had already been finished.

In the kiln

Here is the piece in the kiln. It is sitting on special kiln paper to protect the kiln floor. The kiln needs to heat the glass to 1500 degrees F for a full fuse, which is what we’re looking for. At that temperature the glass fully liquifies and becomes one piece.

For technical details about fusing glass visit

After the piece has fully fused and cooled enough to handle, it can then be shaped in a process called slumping. For this step you need a ceramic mold to give the glass its final shape. The kiln is heated again but not as hot — just until the glass becomes soft enough to take the shape of the mold.

We chose to make a soap dish, so here it is in the soap dish mold:

In the mold

Check back tomorrow for a photo of our finished piece and my lessons learned.


Project 47: Cutting the glass

December 27, 2011


Just before Christmas I was invited to the studio of Melsie Glass to learn how she makes beautiful fused glass pieces like the one above. You can see more of her work at her Etsy store (or will be able to when she returns from her Christmas vacation).

Before fusing glass one needs to buy some glass. Melsie Glass is made from a brand called Bullseye Glass. If you would like to try this yourself you can find it online or at a local glass shop. In the Triangle area of NC you can find it at Carolina Stained Glass in Durham. It is important to use the same kinds of glass when fusing to guarantee that they will expand and contract at similar rates to each other. The other supplies you need are glass cutting tools and access to a kiln.

Then it’s just a matter of cutting and designing your piece. We chose to make a simple dish using a piece of clear glass on the bottom and brown glass on the top. Here we are cutting the clear glass:

Cutting the glass

We then placed the brown piece on top:

Both glass pieces

Notice how the clear is still visible around the edges? That will create a neat effect once the piece is fused.

For decoration we used small glass chips called frit. These were sprinkled over the top of the brown portion of the glass:

With added frit

Then our dish was ready to go into the kiln.


Project 48: Quilling

December 27, 2011

28 Aug 05 QUILLING - 1

I’ve been wanting to give quilling a try but it is kind of everything that makes me crazy in a craft: lots of little fragile pieces that have to be perfect and should look like a realistic thing when combined. These are my weak areas. Still, quilled pieces are so lovely that I’ll give it a shot.

Join me as I make a quilled snowflake that won’t look nearly as beautiful as the photo above!

Photo by Sidda’s Mom on Flickr


Project 47: Glass

December 26, 2011

fused & slumped bowl

Do you see how close I’m getting to the end? I have one week left to at least start the last 4 projects and I think I’m going to make it!

I can’t even tell you how excited I am to share this project with you this week. Since the beginning of my blog I have wanted to feature a glass project but I had no luck finding someone to teach me. Then, a couple of weekends ago, I was at a pre-Christmas craft show and there was a local person there with some beautiful fused glass pieces. I took a chance and asked if she would be willing to show me how to do it, and she agreed!

So join me over the next couple of days as I show you how to make things out of fused glass. I’m very excited!

Photo by tylluan on Flickr


Project 46: Lessons learned

December 25, 2011

I Got Bored So I Roasted a Chicken - Picture of My Dinner 9-30-08

Final guest post by Nicole:

The verdict:  Butchering is so stinkin easy.

Lessons learned:
– This is definitely a craft.  And unlike with needlepoint, if you don’t do this well the animal suffers.  Do yourself a favor and find someone to guide you through the process in real life the first time you attempt it.  I have a lot more respect for butchers now.
– Butchering goes much, much easier for both you and the chicken if you have sharp knives.
– It’s better to kill chickens on a sunny day that’s not too cold or too hot, preferably fall after the flies have settled down.
– Taking the life of a living creature hasn’t gotten easier for me a dozen birds in, but there is a huge satisfaction in knowing that I can put meat on my family’s table without a grocery store.  Organic, pastured chicken is delicious... and cheap if you do it at home.

Many thanks to Nicole for this great series!

Photo by The_Smiths on Flickr


Project 46: Cleaning the bird

December 25, 2011

Another guest post by Nicole:

After the chickens are plucked, we chop off the head and feet.  We didn’t keep the feet this time, but you can.  You have to descale them and then freeze them until you have enough so you can make Pipius Claw, which is one my daughter’s favorite snacks.   Or you can make broth like some sort of pujwI’ if you can’t handle gnawing on feet.

Removing the feet

Then comes the part where you want to make sure you are doing this outdoors:  start taking out the innards.  First we remove the crop from the top of the bird.

Removing the crop

It’s kinda gross inside, so we try not to accidentally cut it open, though I don’t think it ruins the meat if it that happens.  Then we very, very carefully cut around the anal vent to free it from the fat and skin.

Cutting out the anal vent

Once you get through to the membranes, you carefully separate the intestines form the surrounding membranes.  When I get to this point, I prefer to use my hands lest I cut the intenstines… which *would* ruin the meat.  Eventually you work your way around the insides enough that they sort of fall out of the bottom cavity.  If they don’t come out easily, you have to go back in and remove more membranes.

Removing the organs
Once they are out, it’s easy enough to remove the gizzard, liver, and heart.  There’s a tiny little green sac attached to the liver you have to remove.  Don’t puncture that either.  A chicken liver is a horrible thing to waste.  We have not yet bothered cleaning out the gizzards.  I used to eat them all the time in North Carolina, but I am much less enthusiastic having come into contact with them in their natural state.

Removing the green thing from the liver

Wash the bird up and store it in your preferred manner and you’re almost done.  The cleanup is easy if you do this outside and keep a trash can for the discards.


Project 46: Killing the bird

December 25, 2011

This guest post is by Nicole:

This year I made a new friend and my new friend wanted to raise chickens. She just didn’t want to kill them. I couldn’t raise chickens (we rent), and I figured, “How hard would it be to kill a few chickens? My grandmother did it all the time.” So a deal was struck and eggs were incubated. The chicks were adorable and survived the curiosity of six kids under the age of 5. Thus we found ourselves actually going to do this crazy thing. (About 60% of the time, I never actually follow through with my crazy urban homesteading plans… so this was kind of a shock for me.) We killed probably ten chickens and ducks combined this summer, thus I think I’m still squarely in the “First Crafts” range of my experience.

This tutorial looks very good in theory. We didn’t actually follow it. But we probably should. Maybe next time.

Stringing up the chicken

First you catch the chicken. To me, this is the most difficult part of killing chickens. I do not like holding live animals… so I let Anna do that part. She ties them up for me too. The day we chose to kill them was very rainy. This was a mistake. The chickens required a significant bath before we dunked them to pluck.

Doing the deed

I like to grab the head and pull the neck straight to get a good view of the neck. The first couple times I did this I just tried to slice right through feathers and everything. That seemed to work for Anna’s husband (who could cut the head right off in one go), but I didn’t have the strength to do the same. I finally figured out that if you slide the knife in under the feathers so that it rests against the skin, when you cut you will easily slice through the jugular. Ideally, I would repeat this on the other side of the neck, but I admit that having the chicken protest the first cut always startles me so much that I let go. If you do it right, the blood will flow freely and the bird will die within a minute. Let it finish bleeding out, then proceed to the next bird.

Letting the chicken bleed out

Once you’ve killed the birds, then you have to scald them to make plucking easier. There exists machines to do this for you, but honestly it is so easy I don’t really know why one would bother with the expense unless one was raising many birds for sale.

Dunking the chicken to loosen the feathers

And kids LOVE to pluck… so we let them. (At least, with the chickens. I don’t let them near the more finicky duck feathers.)

Plucking the chicken