Free Fonts for National Handwriting Day!

So you may know that I have a thing for making fonts. Several of which are yours for the taking, for free. Which means that I’m super-duper excited that YourFonts will create your very own handwriting font for FREE today and tomorrow, in honor of National Handwriting Day (January 23).

I’ve already created a couple, and coerced Scott to fill out his own template so I could process it.

new fonts for 2012

They make it pretty darned easy — download the template, fill out the letters with your favorite pen (I have a clicky Sharpie I’m quite fond of [and for the record, I originally wrote “quite font of”]), scan and upload, and enter the coupon code. Which is: CPN4NHD2012.

Now get on it, people! I want to see your scrawls!

(I’ll most likely update my fonts page with everything I create, after this next couple of days.)

Oh, and I’m still using my sharpest font (the one used in Basic Instructions) on my phone. Along with a new icon set I drew. Which is a craft I see that I’ve forgotten to post about. SOON!

Compu-Crafts: More Phone Hijinks!

Yes, I just spent a good portion of last weekend monkeying with my phone. Not only did I do things to the user interface to make it look pretty, but I also installed new software on it.

That software was awesome.

Then, this last Monday, the news came out that with Cyanogen (the new software we’d put on our phones), our phones couldn’t dial 911.

It’s not a problem with all phones. It’s not even a problem with some phones. It’s a problem specifically with this one model of phone, the Samsung Vibrant, which just happens to be the one model of phone that Scott and I both have. But this is the kind of freaky fluke thing that happens to us all the time. We’ve had these phones for a year and a half. We’ve thought about changing the software off and on for over a year. We finally do it, and the very next day, the software developer says sorry, no longer supporting your phone, because Samsung has it wired in some totally wack way that we can’t work around.

GREAT.

So I made it through the week without needing to call 911, thank goodness. This weekend I researched putting the original Samsung software back on the phone, which kills my soul a little bit, because they loaded it up with dozens of crappy programs that I don’t want, don’t use, and can’t delete. That’s right, they filled it up with tons of bloat and don’t give you the ability to get rid of it. At least Windows lets you delete the AOL setup software if you don’t want it, am I right?

Fortunately, you can re-install the original Samsung software and then root the phone, which gives you deep-down access to everything. Of course, rooting the phone voids the warranty, but I’d already voided the warranty by installing the Cyanogen software, so what the heck.

So it’s back to stock Samsung Froyo, but rooted. And with root access, I can delete programs that Samsung wants me to keep. Goodbye Layar, and Gogo, and MobiTV, and The Sims 3, and the movie Avatar. Don’t want any of you, don’t need any of you.

I also added in a new launcher, since the stock TouchWiz launcher is also a stinker. I’d used Launcher Pro before, but saw that Go Launcher EX has a ton of themes to choose from.

And the developer offers a theme-making program.

How could I not?

Here’s my first attempt at my own theme, to get comfortable with the program. I based some of the icons off of another theme that I mostly liked, but wasn’t 100% in love with.

I also made a new battery widget. Although this is not my weather widget; I found this one that was already in the Beautiful Widgets download section, and liked it a lot. (Please don’t hate on our weather; we tolerate four ghastly months in the summer and this is our reward.)

Here’s inside the app drawer:

Now that I’m familiar with the theme-building program, I’ll have to think about what icon theme to build. I have two three-day weekends coming up, and Scott’s working all of those days, so I’ll have some time on my hands. Maybe a full Basic Instructions theme, although I can’t quite see yet what the icons would be.

Compu-Crafts: Phone Fonts, Skins, and Rooting

It feels weird to categorize this stuff in the same way as the oven mitts, but it’s crafty in its own way.

I discovered the other day, after a year and a half of using this phone, that I could change the font. Yes, it took that long for me to find a little menu. I immediately changed it to something called “choco cooky” or something, which was cute enough, but if you know me at all, you know that I want my own darned font on there.

So I researched, and found out how to take a .ttf font file and compile it into an Android .apk file that the phone would recognize.

THEN, I thought to myself, if I can download widget skins for the Beautiful Widgets app (which I just got for 10¢, thanks to the 10 days of 10¢ apps sale going on right now), why can’t I make my own widget skins?

So I did.

And this is the horror that I created:

Because really, WHY NOT?

A few days of partly Scottish with a chance of rain, and then a day of just partly Scott. And the battery was creeping down toward half Scott.

Even creepier, the 50% level of the battery:

That’s right, it’s Scott as the Dread Pirate Roberts. I can only hope that soon we’ll be living like kings in Patagonia.

Well, all this research took me to some fascinating sites like the XDA Developers forum and Android Central and a host of others that I read but didn’t bookmark. And everywhere I looked, there were mentions of rooting phones.

For those who don’t know, rooting the phone means clearing off the software that came pre-installed by the cell carrier, and installing a fresh and clean version of Android. It makes the phone way faster and less bloated, and it also voids your warranty immediately.

I’ve always been scared of rooting the phone, because what if something happens? And I screw it up? Then my warranty is voided, and I’m up a creek without a paddle. But I don’t have much time left on this contract, the phone is two generations old, it’s running Android from two releases ago, the carrier isn’t updating anytime soon, and it came pre-loaded with 30 or 40 applications that I don’t use but can’t delete.

So I rooted! It wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it wasn’t that hard either. And we only had a couple of minor heart attacks throughout the process. (Scott decided to root his this morning too, and we each had different weird things happen.) But both phones are now working great, and they’re SO FAST.

I also made a new background, and a new battery widget skin, and a new weather widget skin. Because those Scott Meyer heads are creepy.

I also adjusted the old font that Scott uses for the Basic Instructions dialog — bumped it up to 130% in size, because in its old format it was displaying a little too small on the phone. I combined it with the special characters from one of my other handwriting fonts, because sometimes it’s nice to have accent marks and stuff.

SO! I’m all about sharing the arts & crafts. Here’s various things, if you want them:

MissyFonts.zip – the original Basic Instructions font from 2006 (“BoldMissyHand” in regular and bold), the 2010 handwriting font (“MissyMeyerNew”) and the up-sized combo of the two I’m using on my phone now (“MissyCombo”).

Basic Battery Instructions – the Scott Meyer head you can use for a Beautiful Widgets battery meter.

Basic Weather Instructions – ditto, but for the weather widget.

Battery Doodles – Black – the doodled battery meter I’m using now, also for Beautiful Widgets.

Weather Doodles – Black – ditto, but for the weather widget.

If you’re using Beautiful Widgets, all you need to do is extract the .zip file, and then move that onto your phone. Your Beautiful Widgets folder will probably be on the phone memory drive, under data>beautifulwidgets. Plop each folder into the corresponding sub-folder on your phone (the battery widgets into the “bskins” folder, the weather ones into “wskins”.)

Since I ended up with a 30-day version of a font-making program, I guess I should get cracking on a 2011 font. Before it becomes 2012.

Crafts: Easy Little Oven Mitt

So a little while ago, in a post about gluten-free pasta, I mentioned that I’d made the oven mitt in the background. We have two other store-bought oven mitts, but we went for the cheapest and most boring ones, and they look a little scruffy. The yellow one is the one we use the most.

I figured I’d make a couple more, and take snappies of the process.

This is a pretty easy project for a beginner, and a lot of fun. Onward!

First off, you’ll need to get your fabrics. This is a selection of stuff from my miscellaneous box. What you’ll need is:

– Cotton for the lining and the outside (I like quilting-weight cotton)
– Insulated batting / wadding / filler (whatever you call it in your ‘hood)
– Double-fold quilt binding (also called “bias tape” — I got the extra-wide 7/8″ size)
– Thread, naturally

I like quilting-weight cotton because it feels good, and also because it comes in a thousand and one cool patterns. Oh, and it’s relatively cheap. You can get a “fat quarter” (a quarter-yard of fabric cut in such a way that instead of a long, thin strip, it’s an 18″ x 21″ rectangle) for 99¢ most places. You might also check the remnant bin (one of my favorite stops at the fabric store) for anything that tickles your fancy. The plain blue fabric I have was a remnant, and thus super-cheap.

You can get fat quarters singly, or wrapped together with a few other patterns that go with each other. I have both single quarters and five-packs in my collection of miscellaneous stuff. Take a peek when you’re at the fabric store — the quilting section is surprisingly enormous.

The insulated batting will be over with other battings and fillings and waddings and stuffings. At Jo-Ann Fabrics, it runs $7.99 per yard; at the Wal-Mart, it was something like $6.50. Either way, you can get eight oven mitts out of a yard. Maybe nine or ten if you cut really well. I went ahead and got a whole yard last time, so I still had more than enough left over.

All right, on to making a pattern!

Take an oven mitt and put it on a regular sheet of paper. Trace around, giving yourself an extra half or three-quarters of an inch around the outside. I wanted to make these new mitts a little wider at the fingertips, so I accounted for that. And it’s important to always have a cat overseeing this kind of thing, and helping hold down the paper for you.

Fold your fabric in half, either right-sides together or wrong-sides together, then cut out two of each piece. This green will be the lining of a mitt. You’ll need two pieces of lining, two pieces of insulated batting, and two pieces of outside.

And also, if you’re nervous about how thin the batting is, you can cut an extra piece for the middle. You can either use another piece of insulated batting, or just something heavier like fleece.

Here’s the thing — this is going to be a LOT of layers to sew. So this extra layer, you can cut it a little smaller. So it’ll sit inside the mitt, but you don’t have to sew through the edges. Just make another copy of your pattern, and cut off a half-inch or so around the outside.

So now you’ll have four layers for the front of the mitt, and four layers for the back. Here’s how they’ll go together:

The lining, upside-down. Then the extra fleece. Then the insulated batting (toward the outside of the mitt, for maximum heat-protection) and then the outside cotton.

Now, the decision: to quilt, or not to quilt?

Your oven mitts at home might be either way. They might not be quilted at all, or they might be quilted with lines, or they might be quilted criss-cross. I advise quilting, because it takes four layers and turns them into one easier-to-handle layer.

If you opt to quilt your pieces, just take your stack of four layers, pin them together, then do single lines of stitches across one way, then across the other way. But be sure to pin them. PIN THEM. If you don’t, some of your under-layers could flop around, and you could do something foolish, like:

That.

Then you have to pick the stitches out, which is a pain, then PIN IT and re-sew.

You really don’t want to go through that.

Once things are quilted, then put the quilt binding on. Make sure it’s double fold. This way you get a nice, clean finished bottom with as little effort as possible.

Sew the binding along the bottom of each half. Did you pin it? I sure hope so.

Now all that’s left is sewing the front to the back! Put the wrong sides together, pinning them, of course. I advise lining the sides up then starting the pinning at the thumb, because the thumb area is the most complex part of the project. Then sew all around the outside.

As you can see, I did a fairly terrible job of this. My sewing machine is small and cheap, and there are a LOT of layers to sew through. Instead of the machine feeding the material along, I pretty much had to pull it through. And the corners were problematic. As you can see.

I did a zig-zag stitch to hopefully make them a little tougher. And I went over the ends of the seams back and forth.

As I write this up, it occurs to me that I could have cut the insulated batting to the same size as the fleece. That way when doing my outside seams, I would only be going through four layers of cotton, not four layers of cotton and two layers of heavy batting. Live and learn, eh? Certainly it’ll be something to try next time.

OH, and if you want a loop to hang it by, take a little piece of ribbon (which I think all crafty girls have in a drawer somewhere) and put it between the front and the back before you stitch them together. The loop of the ribbon should stick into the entry-hole and stick out the bottom. (That sounds dirty.)

Flip right-side-out (yes, it’s tough — a lot of layers) and there you have it, an oven mitt!

With a fun, colorful surprise inside!

(Also handy for fisticuffs.)

I See Some White Shorts and I Want to Dye Them Black

I visited Old Navy the other day, and was delighted to find that they had half the store on clearance. A huge section was dedicated to white shorts in all lengths. I got a couple of pairs, since Old Navy’s shorts fit my pear-shaped butt fairly well. But white shorts have a problem — a HUGE problem, if most of your undergarments are colorful.

shorts3

That’s right: VISIBLE UNDIES. Scourge of the warm-weather world. So I figured I’d keep one white pair (to only be worn with flesh-toned underthings, I swear) and dye the other. Because they were so cheap to buy, and they fit so well.

shorts1

I got Rit dye from the grocery store. I haven’t used this stuff in almost 20 years. I think the last time was when I was a summer camp counselor, and we did tie-dyed t-shirts. Although apparently Rit isn’t the best option for cotton, but it’s what was available. And cheap. Did I mention that cheap was a big part of this project? Anyhoo, they print the instructions in tiny grey type on the inside of the box. If that’s too small and hard to read, they do have the instructions up on their Web site as well (thank goodness).

shorts2

First I set up my dying vessel. You can use plastic, glass, metal, whatever. But they warn you that it’ll probably be permanently stained afterward. I didn’t want any of my pots and pans to get stained, so I put a garbage bag inside a storage box. It was perfect! The bag got totally stained in the end, but the box was dry and untouched. Before I threw in the dye, I soaked the shorts thoroughly in plain warm water. This apparently helps the dye soak in more evenly.

shorts5

I heated some water to 140°F on the stove, poured it in my bag, mixed in the entire dye packet (as well as about a half-cup of salt, which Rit says will help the color stay better), and plunged in the shorts. You’re supposed to soak your fabric for a half-hour, agitating the entire time. Honestly, I don’t have that much patience. So I just squooshed everything around thoroughly every five minutes or so. And did I mention the need for gloves? I have a huge box full, initially purchased for hair coloring but handy for 1,001 household uses. The gloves immediately turned purple, and I’m just glad it wasn’t my hands.

shorts4

After a salty black soak, it was time to rinse. And I’ll tell you what, these things took FOREVER to rinse. I thought it was boring to wait for the water to run clear when rinsing out hair color. This took five times as long, and I had to sqoosh and smoosh the shorts the entire time. Bottom line: I just rinsed Rit dye out of some shorts, and BOY are my arms tired.

shorts6

After wringing out as much water as I could, I sent them through the dryer. And now, here they are. They’re not exactly black — more of a dark grey. Which I don’t mind. And the threads, zipper fabric, and part of the lining of the waistband didn’t take much of the color at all, which I think is kind of cool.

Every other pair of shorts I got this season was plaid (which I guess was big this year), so now it’s nice to have two solids to choose from. For cheap! Plus I got to have fun in a sciency, messy way, so it’s a win-win.

Basic Instructions: Behind the Scenes

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been over three years since I drew a guest comic for Basic Instructions. My first was the aptly titled “How to Have a Guest Artist Draw Your Comic Strip.” Now I have an additional strip under my belt (which you should go read first, if you haven’t already), and since I had to re-learn how to draw and assemble a strip in the Scott Meyer way, I figured I’d give a little behind-the-scenes peek at how Basic Instructions gets made.

First off, there’s the idea. I try not to say the following words to Scott often: “You should do a strip about how to ______!” Believe me, he hears that all the time from everyone. But our conversations sometimes lead to an idea popping out. If he doesn’t already make a note of it on his own (and most of the time he does), I might say something like, “Huh, there might be something in that.” For this strip, we were indeed coming up with drinking game rules at the grocery store, and I thought not only that there was potential, but that I could help Scott with his workload by doing a guest strip.

The idea percolated for a while, until one day when I was trying to take a nap. Which wasn’t working, because of the cat giving himself a bath while pressed against my leg, and the other cat giving herself a bath while pressed against my head. But while I was lying there, I came up with my four punchlines.

I got up, wrote them down, and figured out rough narration for those four panels. Scott doesn’t always write the same way — sometimes he comes up with the “how to” concept first, sometimes he comes up with a couple of punchlines and figures out what kind of “how to” framework they’ll fit in. And some rare times, an almost-complete strip will pop out from his head like some kind of comedic Athena.

I worried about a strip about drinking games, and considered some sort of “please drink responsibly” fine print at the bottom. Finally, I decided to start the narration in the very first panel with “alcoholic or not,” and I went with coffee cups and soft drinks for two of the art panels. Hopefully that will satisfy everyone but the most sticklerific out there.

With the writing done, it was time for the art. The software involved is Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. I’m sure you could use other drawing programs, but these are the ones that are (a) in my house, and (b) I know how to use. As for the hardware, we both swear by Wacom tablets:

BI-1

I use the small Wacom Bamboo tablet. Scott has another model. I’ve used a tablet instead of a mouse for 10 years or so, and love it. I used to have a larger off-brand tablet, but when that one conked out, I got a smaller but higher quality model. Diet Coke is also an essential piece of hardware. Or would that be wetware? Anyhoo.

Photography comes next. In my first guest strip I called Scott’s drawing process “photocartooning.” Its more technical term is “rotoscoping,” and it mainly consists of drawing over the top of a photograph. Shots are taken in the appropriate poses and costumes (Yes, costumes — what would Scott be without a black t-shirt and chinos? Or Mullet Boss without his suit jacket and unbuttoned shirt?) and put on the computer.

Tracing over the pictures isn’t as easy as you’d think. I think the hardest part, and the part that Scott really rocks at, is figuring out what parts to trace, and what to leave behind. You can’t trace every single line on someone’s face, for example — it’d look like a line-filled, wrinkly mess. Likewise, you don’t want to capture every wrinkle of clothing, and you don’t want to define every single tooth. It just looks creepy. Plus, these drawings are going to shrink down to a tiny size, so you’d lose a lot of the fine details anyway. Pick the bold stuff and ignore the rest.

BI-2

Here’s a sample of one of my tracings, and you can see some of the subtle changes and things left out. I made sure to remove my double-chin, which makes an appearance every single time I make a hammy face. What can I say, I’m blessed with chins. I also didn’t draw any of the lines around my chin or mouth; those details would be lost upon shrinkage. I did have fun with my hair, however. (I’m also fascinated by how the curve of my face follows the curve of my guitar on the wall. Also, please enjoy our messy desk and bookshelves. And I moved my wedding ring to the proper finger, since it’s too big and I’m too lazy to have it resized.)

The tracing is done in Photoshop, saved as a JPG file, and then placed in Illustrator. Why, you may ask? Well, the Photoshop paintbrush is easier to draw with (Illustrator’s pen and brush can both be a little weird) but Illustrator is needed to turn the drawing into a vector format. A process called Live Trace is run on the JPG, and Illustrator finds all of the lines and turns them into points on curves. That way, you can resize the art as small or large as you want, and as long as the software knows how the points and curves relate to each other, it’ll always look the same. Illustrator’s fill-in paint bucket is really nice, as well.

BI-3

Here’s our image, first in the Photoshop drawing, then in the colored Illustrator vector drawing. You can see some subtle differences in the smoothness of the lines. The Live Trace process is very forgiving for shaky hands and small errors — for the most part, it smooths them out in a stylish way.

Once all the drawings are traced and colored, it’s time to assemble the strip. I had to draw eight figures and some furniture all from scratch for my strip, which made my poor hand tired. Scott has a huge stockpile of drawings of his characters, and almost always has a drawing he can use again for most common poses (thus the title of book 2: Made with 90% Recycled Art). I did not, however, build my own framework. I used Scott’s, because I wasn’t about to measure everything and start from scratch when he had a perfectly usable template ready for the borrowing.

Although the template appears simple, it’s a 15-layer Illustrator document. Each panel’s art gets its own layer, as well as layers for the outer frame, the shaded background, narration, dialog, word balloons, and more.

The first part of assembly is a mad festival of copying, pasting, resizing, typing, and nudging things around until they fit right. A little scootch here and there really makes a difference.

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Here you can see my strip before I’ve clipped the unused parts of the artwork away, and before I’ve put balloons around the words. It took a lot of nudging and wiggling to get everything to fit. I worry that I might be even wordier than Scott, which is saying something. You can see that I didn’t draw Scott’s feet, because I didn’t think I’d use them. I actually wish I’d been more complete with a couple of the drawings, because I had to really finesse them to get them to fit right. Like Scott’s shopping cart (and he is, indeed, the one who pushes the cart), which is as high as it can go without showing that the side comes to an abrupt end.

BI-5

The superfluous art is hidden away with a clipping mask, and word balloons are placed around the text. For voices coming from out-of-frame, I wanted a different look than just the rounded rectangles. Scott’s template had a soft, rounded thought-balloon brush, but nothing as jagged as I wanted. So I had to make a pattern, then make a brush out of it. You can see my original jagged line on the side, and how it repeats its way around the dialog. The directional tail of the balloon is made with a > shape, made with the pen tool and lined up with the jagged balloon edges. The curved tails from the regular dialog are also made with the pen, then the pen shape and the rounded rectangle balloon are merged into one shape. (I also had to learn how to adjust the corners of my rounded rectangles. I learned a ton about Illustrator in general.)

A few more nudges and adjustments, and the strip was ready to send to Scott. I sent it to him as an Illustrator file, and he rendered it as a 600×600 GIF for the Basic Instructions site. For his strips, there are a couple of additonal steps — there’s a larger vector-based copy that gets sent to newspapers, so it’ll print clearly at any size. He also has to keep everything scheduled tightly, due to newspapers and the Cracked.com site running strips certain lengths of time before they show up on the BI site.

So there it is, how a Basic Instructions gets made!

Quick & Easy Gadget Sleeve (Phone, Kindle, iPad, etc.)

So Scott has acquired a gadget. I’m sure from the photos coming up, you’ll figure out what that gadget is. He also has a birthday coming up in less than a week. Combine that with me and a sewing machine, and I knew what to make him for his big day.

I studied a couple of other gadget case blog posts, namely the Padded iPad Sleeve Tutorial and the Slightly Self-Cleaning iPad Sleeve. I liked the padded sleeve because no closure was necessary, but I liked the soft idea of a self-cleaning sleeve. So I built a fleece-lined sleeve that I think hits both nails.

I started by cutting, freehand, four rectangles of fabric. Two of the grey fleece (I thought about using black, but the only choices at the Wal*Mart fabric section were grey, maroon and navy blue) and two of the outer patterned fabric. I gave myself a good healthy inch on all sides of the gadget, so I’d have plenty of room to maneuver. I’d just trim the excess off later.

Next, I put one panel of fleece and one panel of pattern together, with the right sides together. I stitched across the top of each, so that they could then be flipped right-sides-out. This made a two-piece front and a two-piece back, pattern on the outside and fleece on the inside, with a nice neat lip. As you can see, I didn’t stitch all the way across the top; I knew I’d be cutting some of the sides away, so I stayed about an inch in from the left and right sides so as to not cut through any of my stitching.

After flipping the panels, I made a gadget sandwich. The two double-fabric panels should have the right side of the pattern facing each other, and the right sides of the fleece on the outside. Line up the top of the gadget with the nice tidy sewn-and-folded edges, and pin it tightly on the sides and bottom. The key is, you’re not going to sew where the pins are; you’re going to sew a little bit outside the pins. Because when you flip this thing around right-side-out, there’s going to be a little bit of space taken up by the extra fabric just outside your stitches. If you pin this tightly, then sew outside the pins, it should give you enough room for that extra fabric while keeping the pad a snug fit.

Sew outside the pin lines, all the way around the outside. As you can see (if you squint really hard), I started and ended my stitching about a quarter-inch below the lip; they won’t come undone, because I back-and-forth stitched a couple of times, and this way I won’t have any little bitty thread ends sticking out the top.

Trim the edges. And on the bottom corners, trim diagonally. That way when you flip this thing right-side-out, you won’t have big waddy bulges of fabric down in the corners. I cut this fairly close; probably a little less than a quarter-inch.

Flip the whole thing inside-out, poke a finger or the end of a pen down into the corners to square them out, and you’re done! Your gadget of choice has a cozy, fleece-lined, happy little home.

I also made a smaller one for my phone. (Different fabric — for the phone, I used the same grey fleece and some cute material I got in a set of fat quarters.) Same steps as above, but on a smaller scale. And you’ll want to stitch outside the pin lines a bit further, because there’s not as much wiggle room in the smaller format. This case fits, but it might be a little too tight.

And hey, you’re wondering — is Missy going to talk about the fabric she used for Scott’s case? Why yes, yes she is. Here’s the deal: I had it made at Fabric on Demand. They gently walk you through the whole process, from uploading an image or pattern, deciding how you want it displayed on the fabric, and what fabric weight and amount you want. I chose the 6 oz. cotton; it’s a little tougher than the 4 oz. (typical quilting and calico cotton is 4 ounce) and feels almost like a good cotton duck. I made one PNG file of the six-logo flower, and they laid it out in a half-brick repeating pattern for me. I ordered a “fat quarter” (18″ x 21″ rectangle), which was more than enough for this project and a matching phone case.

The turnaround was amazing. I ordered April 28th, was sent a proof of how it’d look on the 29th, it shipped on May 5th, and it arrived today, May 7th. Less than a fortnight from having a crazy idea to having the fabric in my grubby little hands. I love the internets, and I love living in the future!

And speaking of things I love: Happy Birthday, Scott Meyer!

DIY Font

My attention was directed today to Your Fonts, a site that will generate your own handwriting as a font for FREE.

I’ve made several handwriting fonts in the past, but it’s been a labor-intensive process of drawing/editing each character, then compiling them in a font creation program.

This was much quicker and easier. They give you a template to print out. You fill in each letter and character. Scan it back in, upload it, and in a trice, you have a font of your handwriting! It took maybe 15 minutes total to do the whole thing, and the most time-consuming part was writing in all of the letters.

Here’s my new font:

new font

Fizzy Bath Bombs

A little craft project that works great, and saves a ton of money.

ingredients

1 cup baking soda (ordinary, store-bought variety)
1/2 cup citric acid (powdered)*
1/2 cup Epsom salts (health and beauty section)
1/4 cup cornstarch **

2 Tbsp oil (vegetable, olive, walnut, almond — whatever you want)
1/2 to 1 tsp essential or fragrance oil
10 drops food coloring

witch hazel in a misting spray bottle

* Citric acid can be found in some stores — if your local grocery has a pickling/canning section, you might find it as “sour salt”. You can also find it in winemaking shops. I got mine online from a soap goods retailer.
** Cornstarch is optional. It makes the balls float better, but some people apparently have … “lady problems” with cornstarch in a bath.

dry goods

Whisk dry ingredients (baking soda, citric acid, salts, cornstarch) together until well blended. You may need to sift your powdered ingredients to get rid of clumps.

wet goods

Mix wet ingredients (oil, fragrance oil, food coloring). Add slowly in little bits (maybe one teaspoon at a time) to the dry stuff. Smoosh it around well with your hand, or whisk it, until the color and liquids are evenly distributed. If you add too much liquid at once, you may start the fizzing reaction prematurely. You can listen to the mix to see if it’s fully blended.

wet sand

Hopefully, you’ll have the consistency of wet sand, and it will stick together when you press a clump in your hand. If not, then spritz lightly with witch hazel, three spritzes or so and then mix again, until it’ll hold together.

fill molds

Use a two-part plastic Xmas ornament (I got mine at Michael’s Crafts for 89 cents). Pack the mix into each side, then pile extra on top. Press firmly together. Wipe the excess off the seam, then gently remove the mold.
Your ornament halves should come off easily and cleanly. If not, your mixture might not be quite damp enough. Spritz a couple more times, mix, and try to mold up again.

squeeze molds tight

Your ornament halves should come off easily and cleanly. If not, your mixture might not be quite damp enough. Spritz a couple more times, mix, and try to mold up again.

Put the balls on a cookie sheet (I covered mine with foil, for easy cleanup) to dry. Don’t put them on a paper towel — they’ll stick. Lesson learned the hard way. You can dry them a bit faster if you put them in a warm oven — just turn the oven on to “warm” for a couple of minutes, then turn the oven off. Put in your tray of bombs — with the door closed, the oven will stay warm for quite a while.

24 hours later, you have fizzy bombs ready for a bath!

finished bombs

Get Shirty

Earlier in the week, I learned that my friend Meg had done a DIY screen print technique. As I’ve been interested in screen printing for quite some time, I was delighted to find out how she did it, and to try it for myself.

Here are the supplies I used. Everything but the ink was around $10; the ink can be had for around $6 per 8-oz. jar, but I got a 6-color basic package of 4-oz. jars for $17.99. I got new blank shirts at Target for $5 each. The ink will last a long time, I barely touched the jar of black for this shirt.

The first step was to clamp a piece of material into the embroidery hoop and pull it tight, screwing the hoop down tight to keep everything nice and taut. I got a remnant of sheer curtain fabric for 60¢ (should be able to do about 5 screens with it) and the embroidery hoops were 89 cents each for the 9-inch jobbies.

It was tough to decide what to use for my first try; it needed to be something bold that could be done in just one color. I grabbed a photo of Boba Fett’s mask from the internet, then traced over it in Illustrator to reduce it down to black and white. You could take any image or photograph and run it through a Photoshop filter to get it down to just two colors. It took a few tries to get it printed in a size I liked.

Next up, put the stretched fabric over the printed image and trace over the lines with a pencil. A duller pencil works better; my really sharp one tended to pull the threads of the fabric.

The finished pencil drawing on the stretched fabric.

This was the most time-consuming part; blocking out the areas of the screen that aren’t to be printed. This is where the Mod Podge glue comes in; using a couple of different brush sizes, I painted the glue on the fabric. Being incredibly anal, I did three coats of glue to make sure there were no holes or gaps left. The glue rinses off when wet, but is impervious to water when dried. Even though I was totally uptight about getting it right, it still only took around an hour to complete the screen.

The pants hanger is now my best friend when it comes to the screen. It made it mighty easy to leave the glue to dry. I just let it dry overnight, but supposedly the glue sets up in less than an hour.

Printing time! I put the screen where I wanted it on the shirt, and got ready to ink. The binder clip you see on the collar is holding a sheet of paper inside the shirt. Just in case the ink goes all the way through, it wouldn’t then stain the back of the shirt. I didn’t really need to worry, it turns out — the ink doesn’t go all the way through the shirt, but is more of an acrylic paint texture, and sits on top of the shirt.

Then I slathered the ink all over the open parts of the screen. I used a bristly brush to poke the paint down into the screen. I know now I still didn’t poke hard enough, since some areas came out lighter or a little blotchy. Next time I’ll really cram the ink down in there, so it goes everywhere it’s supposed to on the shirt. I ended up filling in a couple of spaces just using a brush on the shirt after I peeled back the screen.

The ink rinses away with water when it’s still wet; cleaning the screen was surprisingly easy. Though the black ink did color the open parts of the screen a bit; oh well, it makes it easier to see what parts are blocked off. Here are the finished shirt and the cleaned screen drying over the bathtub. The screen dried beautifully, and is ready for Scott to try his hand at painting his own Boba Fett shirt.

Once the ink dries, just slap a piece of paper on top and iron the front and the back for 3-5 minutes. We’ll see how it washes!