Tag Archives: crafts

Hiding Laptop Cords with a Serving Tray

Recently I started a new job and with each new job comes a new work space and new equipment.  At my new (to me… 1960s standard university issues Steelcase) desk, I’ve got a sleek new laptop and a heap of cords plugged into a hub that they tell me is called a docking station, which just looks like a heap of cords to me.  It not only looks cluttered, it’s taking up space.  So here’s my solution…

1. Get yourself a serving tray.  Make sure you like the look of the sides and bottom because you’re going to turn it over.  Also, make sure there are handle holes and that the whole edge of the tray is even. Some have handles that stick up and you’re not going to want that.  Finally, make sure it’s deep enough to accommodate the height of your cord mess (I mean docking station).  Mine’s less than an inch tall, so this 2 inch deep tray is great.

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2. Stick your “docking station” (or cord mess) in the middle of that tray and run the wires out of the holes.  I’ve got the mouse and keyboard cords running into the hub from the handle that’s near the center of the desk and the power cords through the handle on the edge of the desk.  The cords that plug into each side of the laptop come out on their respective sides.

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3. Now, turn that tray over and hide that mess underneath the tray.  So much better.  Now I only see small lengths of cords and the computer can sit over the cord jumble.

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Ok, I need to bring more decorations, but now I can put a potted plant on the corner of the tray with the computer and it won’t be in the way.

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Limp on a Limb: Another Charley Harper Inspired Quilt Block

This second block in my Charley Harper Quilt is inspired by the piece Limp on a Limb.  If you compare the original and the block, you’ll see that I’ve made some edits.  Most notably, I have decided (for now at least) to not include the leaf pattern in the background.  Repeated shapes are a hallmark of Harper’s work, so including the pattern would be more true to the work, but in reality, it would require extensive embroidery and I’m afraid that won’t hold up long-term, especially given the light weight of the fabric I’ve chosen for the background.  That being said, the fabric I chose is mottled green and I hope it at least gives the piece some more depth.

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Example diagram from placing the cat’s eye wiskers.

For this block, I thought I would show some of the detail of how I transfer lines from the pattern to the piece.  All my patterns are digital svg files, which means I can measure the size of each object in Inkscape.  (I promise to write a post about this with more detail and hopefully convert some quilters to Inkscape quilt designers… but later.  Ok, it’s later. See the post here.)  I make measurements from a reference point, draw out a diagram, then transfer the measurements to the fabric using a chalk pencil (either white or blue depending on the color of the fabric).  Then I embroider.  It’s important to mark as little as possible on the fabric with the calk pencils, because the marks are hard to get out.

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Faint chalk pencil marks show where to embroider the eye whiskers.

When placing any object in a piece, whether it’s embroidery or a layer of fabric, I’ve found that it’s important to figure out what feature the new object needs to be inline with. For placing the eye whiskers, at first I was going to reference the corner of the eye. It seemed logical. Then I found that in the original piece, the left eye and whiskers don’t line up. What? But there’s always such precision in Harper’s work! But after some staring at the piece, I realized that the vertical line of both sets of eye whiskers intersects the point where the ear meets the head. Bingo! Now my whiskers are in the right spot.

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The finished piece.


Plant Eyeballs

plant_eyeballsPlants need eyes, right?  Maybe not.  But these floppy heaps of native grasses that my HOA planted in front of my house needed something, especially for Halloween.  Giving your plant eyes is easy.  These were made out of ping-pong balls (with circles drawn on with permanent marker) hot glued to wooden skewers.  You just stick the skewers in the ground and you’re good to go.  If you had a shrub, you could glue a loop of string instead of the skewer and hang them on a branch like Christmas ornaments.  I have been contemplating how to make teeth for my little grass buddies next, you know, just to make sure the neighbors really question my sanity.


Floral Tape Alternative

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I’m the family florist.  My freshman year of high school, I took Floristry to fulfill my art requirement (Tangent: Why didn’t I take the drawing class?  Who can remember that now?  Logic isn’t the forte of a 13-year-old.) and ever since I’ve been providing floral services for family members.  I’ve done countless arrangements for my mom (parties, work events, etc.), arrangements to cheer people up (the snowman made out of mums was EPIC), and now I’ve made the bouquets for my cousin and my sister’s weddings.  This last one presented some unique challenges and I’m going to tell you how to solve them: Masking Tape!

The goal: turn several dozen roses, mums, stock, and freesias into 4 bouquets, 2 corsages, and 4 boutonnieres using an ample supply of wire and ribbon and 3 rolls of floral tape.  That’s not unreasonable.  But the floral tape was terrible.  It stuck to itself fairly well with some coaxing, but it really would rather stick to my fingers.  I taught another bridesmaid and a groomsman to wire and tape roses to make things go quicker, and about 30 minute into the process of making the bouquets, we were all so sticky that the tape would only stick to our fingers and not to the flower stems.  We muddled through, washing our hands when things got too sticky with harsh dish soap to get the wax off.

Masking tape!

Masking tape!

When all the roses were wired, I started putting the first bouquet together and disaster struck.  The tape wouldn’t hold around anything larger than 3 stems.  I had a dozen roses to get into this bouquet plus other flowers.  The boyfriend cocks his head to the side, knits his eyebrows together, and says, “What about masking tape?”  Genius!  Since the individual stems were already wrapped, the masking tape wouldn’t get wet and fall apart.  So, the clumps of stems got a heavy wrap of masking tape, then the ribbon wraps went on so no one knew what was holding it all together.

Can't tell what's under that map ribbon, can you?

Can’t tell what’s under that map ribbon, can you?


Call for Guest Bloggers

Home-made kite tail for kite aerial photography

Home-made kite tail for kite aerial photography

One of the fascinating things I find about doing biological and geographical research is the tools that scientists make for themselves to help them in their research.  For example, I designed and my dad constructed a set of quadrat frames for me.  I’ve also constructed two low altitude remote sensing platforms and the accessories that go with them like a fuzzy tail and camera housing for my air photo kite.

Now it’s your turn!  What tools have you made or re-purposed to help you collect or process data?  Do you have a creative use for straws?  Have you constructed a tool you couldn’t buy anywhere?  I’m looking for researchers of all kinds who have made their own tools to write a blog post about their creation.  The text can be as short as a paragraph or as long as a page and should describe what the tool is and how you use it.  It can also include instructions for how to make it, if you would like.  All submissions should include at least one photograph of the tool.  Submissions should be emailed to micheletobias [at] yahoo [dot] com.


Costumes: Sheep

It’s October, so it’s time for costumes!  Last fall, I made sheep and wolf costumes for a performance of the Pamela Trokanski Dance Theatre that was called “Sheep/Wolves/We The People”.  I made 6 sheep costumes for the apprentice company, which they used in several numbers throughout the work.  Above, you’ll find the video of the Sheep/Wolf Rap.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any still shots of someone wearing the finished product, but a video is also helpful.  Note that these costumes took quite a bit of abuse – several dress rehearsals and three performances!

Here’s how I made them…

Loosened cotton balls glued down

For the shirt, you’ll need HEAPS of cotton balls, hot glue, and a white men’s undershirt tank.  The shirt needs to be a size or two larger than you (or the person who will wear the costume) would normally wear because once you’re done gluing on the cotton balls, the fabric won’t stretch as much.  The procedure is simple.  First, stretch out the shirt a little.  Next, I found it helpful to loosen the cotton balls.  The are made of cotton sheets wound up in a spiral, so if you loosen them up, they get bigger so you need fewer of them.  Finally, glue them on.  You’ll need to find a balance between too much glue and not enough.  An X across the cotton ball would be a good way to secure them.  Occasionally, I didn’t secure the middle of a cotton spiral, and they came out.  In the video you can see some dangling.

A finished sheep top

For the hat, you’ll need a fabric marker, snaps or velcro closures, black felt for the ears, and white felt for the hat part.  To make the shape of the hood, I traced another person’s head profile and cut it a little larger to allow for the seam and some extra room.  You can always sew the seam tighter, but it’s hard to add fabric once you’ve cut it.  I also made a tab of fabric that goes around the neck.  You’ll cut out 2 of the white hood shapes and sew them together along the top and back of the head.  Add your snap or velcro to the neck tab.  Finally, cut out 2 matching black ears and attach them, and you’re done.

The hat for reference

Sheep costumes make excellent beds for older kitties too!


21 Pairs of Underwear Later…

… I have a rag rug.  Yup.  It’s a rag rug made out of old boxer shorts.  Why?  Well, it may be a long story, but here it goes.

The boyfriend and I are moving across town soon, but we’ve been planning this for about 6 months, so we started purging closets and junk piles a while ago.  During this process, I learned that the boyfriend has been rather reluctant to part with his old undershorts.  Why?  I’m really not sure.  Some of them had rips, others were worn so thin you could see through them.   Anyway, he wouldn’t throw them out, so I promised that if he would make me a stack of them (washed in hot water), I would find some use for them.  Moving day is approaching fast I didn’t want to move a stack of old undies, so I had to find a project, quick.  The answer: a rag rug.  I figured it can’t hurt to have another rug, especially one that can be used as a bath mat (kitty sometimes voices her displeasure with something by “going” on the bathmat so extras are helpful).  Anyway, what you see is the result.

How did I make it?  It’s pretty easy to find instructions for these online.  Making a rag rug is super simple.  Basically, you cut strips of fabric, braid them, then sew the braid together along the edge of the braid.  There are some things to make it easier though.  Here are some thoughts in no particular order:

  1. Use sturdy thread to sew the braid into the rug.  I started with “button thread” (that’s what the old spool of thread said it was), which is apparently thick maybe even waxed thread.  It seemed a lot like quilting thread to me.  It worked great.  Then I ran out of it, and used regular sewing thread doubled up.  That didn’t go so well… splits, fraying, fuzzing… might have to mend the outside layers of the rug more quickly than the inside.
  2. Keep a consistent thickness in your braid.  Thin fabric might need to be cut into thicker strips than more substantial fabric.
  3. Seams in the fabric make bulky spots so minimize these if possible.
  4. You don’t need to sew your strips together when you reach the end of a strip when you’re braiding.  I just overlapped the new strip on top of the old one and kept going.  I figured the sewing and the braid itself would keep it together and it does.
  5. Don’t stress about imperfections.  It’s a rag rug.  It’s gonna look rustic.  And honestly, even the problems that seemed big don’t even show in the finished product.
  6. If there’s a logic to what you do, it will look good.  I had a pile of different plaids.  I kept one red, one blue, and one strip with white of some sort at all times.
  7. Mix it up.  I didn’t want blocks of solid colors because I thought it might drive me crazy if they ended up uneven.  Three completely different patterns totally looks fine when braided together.

I can’t decide if the finished rug is going on the floor yet.  It ended up a somewhat awkward size – almost square even though I started with a rectangle – and it’s kind of too cool looking to walk on.  I might hang it on the wall as a conversation piece.  We’ll have to see when we get to the new house.