Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Haunt 2013: DIY Potion Bottles

Yup it's another Haunt2013 post and certainly not the last. Today I'm going to show you how I upcycled some glass into more spooky props.

To start I found some interesting bottles in my glass stash (yes it's a thing, our community doesn't recycle glass anything and frowns on it being put in the landfill so I've got a bit of a hoard growing in my shed). Bottles with an interesting shape (short, squat, fluted etc) or embossed ornate designs were my first picks (Carolan's, Baileys, Flors Cana and Bacardi all make/sell embossed liquor bottles for those who don't want to spend hours in the liquor store trying to find a cool looking bottle to empty).

Alternatively if you have an unlimited decorating budget you can go and buy some apothecary jars to decoupage, but I'm cheap so I used what was readily available.

Cleaning the bottles with hot soapy water and peeling the labels was a bit of a pain, even though they had been rinsed before going out to the shed dust is a pain and so is glue. I found it easiest to clean the bottles in batches, soaking them in the sink to loosen labels while I hopped on the computer to whip up some labels.

**A note about labels: there are 983847832764million "free labels" out there that you can easily search and download, but the thing is that 95% are crap for quality. They print blurry and distorted even when not resized, so so yourself a favour and do what I did: make your own.

It's really really easy and takes minimal time and effort. I went to and found some vintage label frames that would suit my needs as well as  a few ephemera images that Karen Watson had already painstakingly gone to the trouble of uploading. For those who have never visited Karen's site, the quality and selection is amazing. You're guaranteed to find pretty much any image you need there (ephemera wise), and it's all free for personal use (no selling!).

Using Photoshop I opened one of the frames, layered the ephemera image of a skeleton on top, found a font I liked and added text. Simples.

 Using the frame and the (some) text as my base template I quickly and easily created three variations of this design. I found the clip art  images of Hecate and the Imp via a Google image search and both were under a creative commons license. Score. Layered them into the frames, clicked print and away I went.

These particular labels weren't re-sized in any way and I found they fit these bottles (Bacardi 8) rather well. They would likely be too large for a wine bottle, unless you wanted a full wrap. I used Gorilla glue and a sponge to re-stick the new labels, but mod-podge, elmers or any genero white glue would do the trick.

{click to enlarge}

Using a different frame found on The Graphics Fairy site and the same font I whipped up a shorter label for one of the squat bottles I had.

{click to enlarge}
This label took a little more work to get the right fit for the particular bottle I was using (Carolan's Irish Cream) as there is an indent in the bottle for the label to sit in. If using a flush faced bottle there wouldn't have been any fussing at all.

The bottles can be added to your mantle, bookshelf, side table etc for a little Halloween decor, or you could replace the labels on full bottles (harder likely) and serve your own spooky brews at a Halloween party.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Microblogging: a.k.a. Instagram Is My Lifeblood.

You should really follow me on instagram.

No, really.

You should.

This isn't shameless self promotion (okay maybe just a little), it's about microblogging. Particularly that I find it my favourite 'blogging' medium to-date. It's where I am most consistent, the most engaged and where the result or "product" is something that nine times out of ten I am proud of and happy to share with zero of guilty or shameful feelings that come with sharing a written post.

{organic apples we grew}

If you read this blog whenever it is that I sporadically choose post then you probably (maybe) already do have me in your IG feed. To those who do I just want to say thanks for all your kind comments and support, they mean a lot.

{berries we picked}

But if you've just stumbled here,  follow me on twitter or don't even know what the hell I'm talking about, you just need to know pretty much one thing:


aka: The only thing I do regularly is take pictures.

{riding in a boat. going to an island.}

a number of those pictures end up on my feed (700+ and counting).

{the laundry house @ a camp we visited}

I try and capture simple moments every day*

{wild organic pincherries harvested}

and share glimpses of the beauty around us.

{a sunset during a roadtrip}

To try to tell a story with a picture is a wonderful thing.

{snow in october}

And I actually, really quite enjoy it.

{a summer sunset}

This is my little corner of the wilderness where we have quiet little adventures and I sometimes (more often than not) take pictures.

{canoeing at camp}

Which you can viewed at your leisure more reliably here or here, because mobile is friendly and real blogs take time (more time) to write (re-write), upload, re-size, edit (re-edit) than their micro cousins.**

{a daily walk}
I was going to publish another Halloween post today, but then I thought "naaah, to heck with that. I'm going to post 'grams instead."

*(except on the days when everyone is sick, and trust me you don't want to see that, I had to unfollow someone who had 'grammed their own sidewalk spew. not cool guys. not cool)

**this is not an "abandon ship" call. I will continue to blog sporadically and unpredictably if/when there are completed projects to be shared. It just takes an awful lot more time to write a legit blog post than it does to snap a picture and think of a caption. I will also continue to 'gram the crap out of everything and anything that takes my fancy. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Haunt 2013: DIY Sign Props.

Signs are a great way to add to your haunt if you don't have a lot of space or time to make more intricate and time-sucking decorations. Even a simple "BOO!" will thrill trick-or-treaters.

Since we do have a large, un-fenced yard and want to make sure everyone is safe while they're having fun on Halloween, I wanted to incorporate a few visual cues to deter kids from "straying off the path" or so to speak. We back and front onto wooded green space which can be hazardous to traverse in the dark, flashlight or no flashlight, and wanted to keep visitors in the "haunt zone" where it will be safe, well lit and have less treacherous footing.

To start I found a piece of 1/2" plywood in one of our outbuildings that was pretty much unusable for anything than the burn pile. If you're fancy you can go buy some brandspankingnew ply. I started by whitewashing the plywood to age it a little more because even though it was starting to go soft on the edges it wasn't quite as "old" as I wanted it to look.

Using a jigsaw a roughly cut the piece of plywood into quadrants. I say roughly because there was some rusted bolts I had to cut around and also because I wanted various sizes.

Using painters tape to  create the letters of the message was pretty simple, though less than "factory perfect" which was fine by me on all accounts.

Then I used a rag to rub/spread some craft paint over the wood. I wasn't going for total perfect coverage which is why I used a rag instead of a brush or roller. I wanted the final product to look like it had been sitting around in the elements for a while and a perfect paint job would have been the antithesis of that.

Removing the tape almost immediately after I had finished smearing the paint around, I was left with this:

A straightforward message that doubles as both a visual safety cue and a Halloween prop.

Because you never know what could be lurking in the deep, dark woods.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Haunt 2013: DIY Witches Brooms.

On Monday I shared a glimpse of these props next to my diy countdown to Halloween sign, and today I'm going to do the whole 'show&tell' thing of how they came to be.

Of the zillions of visual cues I absorb via Pinterest on a weekly basis one happened to be "diy porch decor broomsticks".

Of course like many, many pins this one did not have a source.. so if anyone out there knows where the original source is, please let me know in the comments. Without a tutorial to follow here's my take on it:

Step one: go get some sticks.

{woods. sticks.}
Go into the woods, or the park or just find a tree and find some sticks. Not rotten sticks and not piddlybitching little sticks that a teacher would use to "tan your hide" back in the '30s. You want something solid and substantial but obviously not so large that you can't carry it. Common sense folks. I'm talking the type of sticks kids would use to chase each other around with and have "sword fights" with.

Step two: cut the sticks.

{garden shears}

Use some hefty garden shears, a hack saw, circsaw, brute force, or whateverhaveyou to cut off all the wayward branches and then trim the 'broomsticks' to length to make them less unweildly.

**You could stop here and attach your bristles now if you're either particularly lazy or really like the way the bark looks on your broomsticks. 

I don't like bark. It's rough. It's messy. It stinks. It can hide pests and it can lead to rot. If you don't plan on keeping your props for more than one year, then okay, good for you skip on to step 5. 

Step three: get a knife.

No, not a kitchen knife. Not an exacto/box knife. A utility knife, a million bladed Swiss Army knife or a less fancy $10 bare-basic knife you can pick up at pretty much any hardware or outdoors store (even Walmart and Canadian Tire will have them). 

{a knife}
Score the bark at the ends and start peeling that sucker like a potato (it's called whittling, you can google that). Please cut away from yourself. "Cut towards your chum, not your thumb" as my dad would say, because really, no one likes knifing themselves in the hands/fingers and then bleeding profusely.

Step four: sand & seal that sucker.

Use a 100-120grit sand paper to smooth out any knots or potential slivers. Next use a rag to wipe/rub stain or polyurethane (or both) into the raw wood. It doesn't have to be perfect, these are supposed to be cuddy, gnarly old witches brooms no? Embrace the "good enough."

{good enough!}

Step five: build the bristly part.

Collect some thin "I am so easily destroyed!" branches. I used bare pine boughs because they were easy to find. Birch twigs would do in a pinch as well, though they may not be as durable (prone to snapping) but birches are notoriously messy trees so if you find a birch tree you're bound to find shed branches. If you have a craft store that sells straw and such I suppose you could use that too.

Lay the branches in the same direction at the base of your broomstick to create the 'bristles.' Use liberal amounts of hot glue to attach. Don't burn your fingers.

Step six: channel your inner Martha with some twine.

Where the glue holds the "bristles" to the "broom" will look pretty crudtastic up close.

{mmm yummy}

So cover that ish up with some burlap/jute/hemp twine.  Wrap it up nice and tight--but don't break the bristles, that would be too tight. Tie it, glue it, tape it whatever make sure it doesn't come undone. Because that would suck. I tied the twine to start, wrapped several rows and tied it off to finish which seemed to work fairly well.

Step seven: pat yourself on the back and check out your handiwork.

You are now the proud owner of some satan sticks err, seasonal porch decor broomsticks that are both rustic and somewhat environmentally friendly.

Whoever thinks this took longer than this tute lets on, you're completely right.

Anyone else spend an embarrassing amount of time crafting seasonal decor? (please tell me I'm not the only one).