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How To Create a Cutting file from a Photo Using Inkscape

I frequently use the freely available program Inkscape to alter and create new cutting files. It can handle more than Silhouette Studio and can also output a DXF file, which is a file format that Silhouette Studio can open and use.
Before and After

 

You can download Inkscape HERE (as of April 2016).
Normally, I would use Inkscape’s handy “Trace Bitmap” feature. This is located under Path->Trace Bitmap. It has lots of options which you can play around with for your image if you like, but I could tell that I wasn’t going to get what I wanted from this particular image.
The Trace Bitmap Function Doesn’t work as well on images with busy backgrounds!
The problem was that my image has a lot going on in the background and is hard to separate out from the foreground.
I’m guessing that there are some Photoshop gurus out there who could probably separate the background and foreground of this image and then use Inkscape’s Trace function. However, I am not one of those gurus and I don’t own Photoshop! Sad, I know. Alternatively, I could have tried to mess around with the image in GIMP (a fairly nice free alternative to Photoshop) – but I wasn’t up for that seemingly overwhelming task. Sometimes the dumb but straight forward way can be quicker anyhow!
Covered in Paths
Now, this method takes some patience, but you can get exactly the image you want and don’t have to hassle with photo editing. The basic idea is to use several circular paths to bend and form into the shape we need. If you have not played around with path nodes before, this may look confusing, but once you start, it is not too difficult.

 

Now for the tutorial. Begin by opening your image up in Inkscape, then do the following:


  1.  Draw a circle using the shape tool shown below and place it over part of your image.
  2.  Change to the arrow tool, click your circle, and select Path->Object to Path. This will ensure that your circle is a path and not just a shape.
  3. Now, go ahead and copy this circle and paste it several times on your image. I needed about 7 blobs (which started as circles) to cover my image. You may need more or less depending on the size and shape of your image.
  4. Now for the fun part! Click on the node tool (Arrow 1 in the image below). Then, click on your shape to start conforming it to your image. If you look closely at Arrow 2 in the image below, you will see a node highlighted in red. If you click a node, you can move it around.
  5. Drag the nodes to spots along the edges of your image. Once the node is on the edge of your image, move the little round “whiskers” (I don’t know what these are really called). These bend the edges of your circle and allow you to match the contour of your image. There are also tools for change the node type from a rounded one to a pointy one (right above Arrow 1). Also, keep in mind you can remove nodes by selecting one and hitting delete and you can add nodes by double clicking where you want one.
  6. Once you have your image covered in OVERLAPING paths, select all the paths (but not the image itself) and click Path -> UNION. This will combine all of your shapes into one, and if you did a good job matching the contours and filling all the space, you should have the image you wanted! You can see our bunny Geronimo loved being turned into a cutting file.

 

Here is the resulting file that I created. Feel free to download it and use it for your own creations.

 

FREE SVG FILE DOWNLOAD

 

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How To Make Custom Monogrammed Travertine Coasters with your Silhouette Cameo

I absolutely love how these turned out! Our set of coasters had been almost completely demolished by our one-year-old and I knew my husband would appreciate some new ones. The natural texture and indentations in the tiles are really highlighted and enhanced by the design. My worry had been that the design would be obscured, but it was not a problem at all.
First things first – you need a design! I had seen lots of monograms on Pinterest, and thought that ours would make for some great coasters. I plan on making a separate post on how I made this monogram using Regal font. Here is how my monogram design turned out:
Once you have your design, size it to fit your coasters. My coasters are 4″ x 4″, so I made my design just under that size and cut a 4″ square around it.
Next, cut out your designs with your Silhouette Cameo (or whatever cutting machine you have), one for each coaster. Weed your designs and adhere your transfer tape. Remember, take away the parts of the vinyl design that you WANT to show up, since this is going to be a stencil.
My tiles were a bit dusty from rubbing together in the package, so I wiped them off with a damp cloth before I applied my vinyl stencils. Once they are clean and dry, apply your stencils to each tile. I made a total of 6 coasters, but forgot to take a picture of this part! If I make some more, I will update this page so you can see how it works.
Finally, the fun part! Once your vinyl is on, it is time to apply the ink. I used a black speedball caligraphy ink and a make-up sponge. The ink permanent and water-proof. I tested it on the back of a tile first, and it looked great! Put a small amount of ink on your make-up sponge and dab it gently over the stencil. Try not to get any on the edges of the coasters past the stencil, and make sure you just apply a little at a time. If you put too much down at once, it may seep under your stencil.
Wait until it is dry (it took only a matter of seconds for mine) and start peeling off that stencil to reveal your design! Your coasters are beautiful now, but not quite done.
To ensure that they do not scratch your furniture, you will probably want to apply some sort of protective backing. I bought a roll of thin cork material, and some spray adhesive. Cut your cork into squares just smaller than your coasters. Apply adhesive according to your adhesive spray – for mine I applied a medium coat to both the tile and the cork, waited a few seconds, and then held them together.
Below is a side view of my coasters once the cork was applied.
What do you think? I would love to hear your thought, I think they came out well, but love hearing suggestions. Let me know if you have any questions too, I am happy to help.
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DIY Wooden Growth Ruler Chart

Well, this is one of those projects that I’m sure you have seen if you have spent any time on Pinterest. Despite its ubiquity, I wanted to give it a try since it has a wonderful appeal both in its practicality and in its decorative nature.

Once completed, you can chart your children’s growth without the worry of having to leave behind a chart on the wall. The ruler is also a beautiful keepsake for years to come!

I wanted to keep the cost of this project down, so I rummaged around the stash of paints and such that was left in our home by the previous owner. I found a can of stain – just what I was after. Now, this meant that I had to be content with the stain color I had (red oak), but it definitely kept the costs down.

Materials

  • 1″ x 8″ x 6′ board (I had them cut an 8′ pine board down to 6′, cost = $8)
  • Stain – whatever color you like, it really doesn’t take too much either
  • Sandpaper
  • Black Permanent Marker
  • Ruler / Square (Square is optional, but VERY helpful)
  • Silhouette Cameo (optional – can use printer and exacto to make a template instead)
  • Black Vinyl (optional, see above)
  • Clear Spray Coat (optional)
Directions
 

  1. Sand and Stain your wood.Tips: Sand a lot; I definitely should have sanded this some more, but oh well… Also, you can wipe your stain off after several minutes with a paper towel to get a lighter look (didn’t know this at first!)
  2. Mark your lines every inch with your permanent marker and measuring device.Length of the lines I drew:
    – Each “foot” mark = 3.5″ long
    – Each 4″ between feet = 3″ long (these divide each foot in thirds)
    – Each 2″ withing the thirds = 2″ long (these divide each third in half)
    – Each remaing 1″ mark = 1″ longTips: Use a square if you have one! This allows you to make even, perpendicular lines. I began my board at 6″, so my 1 foot mark was 6″ up the board. Measure the baseboards where you plan to hang your finished product to ensure you start high enough. Also, if you have room, there is no shame in making a taller ruler – I probably could have had an extra foot on mine if I had thought ahead.

     

  3. Spray your wood with several light coats of your clear protective coat.Tips: I don’t know how essential this is. It seemed to smooth the surface, make me feel better about the projects durability, and perhaps prep it for the vinyl. Note that I did not spray the project after the vinyl was applied as this can make the vinyl peel up. 
  4. Design and cut out your vinyl (or paper stencil). Feel free to use the numbers I made – here is my svg file.

    Tips: I used Century font and put a little bracket around each number to help me line it up. If you use my cut file, leave the bracket on while applying to get it straight, then pull it off your project. Play around with your name if you want it, I used Xiomara font with Century for the numbers.

     

  5. Apply your vinyl lettering and admire your work! (And, I suppose, hang it on the wall…)
If you made a wonderful growth chart like this, I would love to see how yours turned out.
Happy Crafting!
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DIY Bulletin Board and Household Command Center Makeover

We recently moved into a new house, and I am afraid my walls are mostly still blank. I have an area of our main floor that I have been using as a command center to gather odds and ends, pay the bills, stash the printer, etc. Someday, it will get a pretty little white desk, but unfortunately that is not in the budget yet.

What could I do to make the space more usable right now without spending money? It turns out I could do quite a lot. Well, technically, I did spend $1.50 on the frames, and a little bit at some point in time on the spray paint and a few other materials… but the point is, I didn’t go out and buy things I didn’t have already.

I had an old black framed bulletin board lying around, so I decided it needed a spray paint makeover! What doesn’t, right? Well, it turned out that I had paper and paint just the same teal color as a file holder I had on hand, so my colors were chosen.

Now, for the fun part!

I had already worked on some nice little chore charts with my Silhouette Cameo machine as you can see here if you like. I started by spraying my three thrift store frames white. After tweaking the text on my chore charts, I sketched the text on a plain piece of white cardstock. Then, I cut out the frames with a pattern I made. Basically, the pattern I came up with involved a shape (created from overlapping circles) that repeats across the area I wanted to have for a frame. It doesn’t look like much by itself, but trust me, when it is repeated, it looks awesome! Here is the shape I repeated to form the pattern:

Free SVG File Download

Here is the bulletin board I started with (well, almost… I forgot to take a true before picture, before the teal paint and application of the stencil):

 

Before the white paint (but after the teal – sorry!)

STEP 1: Paint the cork board part of the bulletin board the background color of your choice (teal!).

STEP 2: Make a stencil using copies of the shape given above (or another one, of course). Size the template according to the inner cork dimensions of your bulletin board.

STEP 3: Cut out your stencil from contact paper or vinyl (I used clear contact paper). You may need to use multiple strips to get the necessary width.

The Stencil is On

 

STEP 4: Apply your stencil. This is the hardest step. At first I tried to remove all the negative space (the diamond shape pieces) before applying it to the board, but since I was using clear contact paper, this proved very difficult. So, I applied it to the board and it was a lot easier to pick off all the diamonds. Be very careful applying the second strip. You want the stencil to align just right in the center where they come together, so BE CAREFUL! I had to trim a little bit with an exacto knife to make the stencil just right. It didn’t come out as perfect as I would have liked, but the result was still awesome!

 

 

STEP 5: Spray paint it white (or whatever color you like better)! Spray it from above just to make sure it doesn’t seep under the edge. Make sure you cover it well, then wait for it to dry.

STEP 6: Peel off the stencil and marvel at your handiwork!

 

All Done!

Doesn’t it look awesome? I framed the chore charts with a cutout frame using the same stencil and color. I hung them below and added a dry erase marker to check off my chores! Let me know if you have any questions. I am smiling at how nice it looks, and at how I conveniently chopped off the part of the picture that shows my messy folding table desk.

 

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How to Make a DIY Bed Buddy (a cozy microwave heating bag)

One of my favorite things when I am cold, achy, or sick is my bed buddy. My older sister got me one a while back and I love it. It even had a nice smell to it when heated, which sadly is now mostly faded. However, lately, whenever I warm it up and snuggle up, my husband somehow manages to get his hands on it and steal it away! So… I thought I would make him one (and perhaps a new one for myself soon too).

At first, I was planning to make it rather simple – sew 2 rectangles together, fill with rice and tada! However there are a few things that I considered:

 

  1.  It would be nice if the rice didn’t all fall to one side or the other and was more spaced out along the length of the bed buddy.
  2. Washing the bed buddy, or at least the outer layer, would come in very handy.
  3.  If I was going to make an outer layer anyhow, it would be nice to be able to use the inserts individually as hand-warmers if needed.

So, after much thought, I came up with this design. Basically, I mbean rice bags and long rectangle with handles and pockets for the rice bags to slip into. Velcro was considered to hold each bag in its pocket, but I didn’t like the idea of it scratching me, so I found another way! I was actually very pleased with how the design turned out and really love the way it looks (even despite my sloppy sewing skills!).
ade 6 small

I hope you like this tutorial. Please let me know if you have any questions and I would love to see what anyone else makes based on this – even if it puts mine to shame! 😉

 INSTRUCTIONS: 

 PART ONE: Making the “hand-warmer” inserts! 

1 2 3 making bean bag hand warmer inserts

This is the easy part. Basically, you are making 6 “bean” bags. Dimensions don’t really matter as long as you make them all the same size. I decided I wanted each one to be about 5″x7″, so I cut 12 rectangles measuring 6″x8″ to allow ample room for seams:

Finished Bean Bag Hand-Warmer Inserts Stacked Filling the Bean Bag Hand-Warmer Inserts With Rice and a Funnel

  1. Cut 12 rectangles from your cotton fabric of choice (I used a dinosaur print flannel).
  2. Place them right sides together in pairs (for 6 total pairs).
  3. Sew around the edges, leaving an opening large enough to turn them right side out again.
  4. Turn each bag right side out.
  5. Top stitch along the edges (I played with my decorative stitches) to give it a finished look. Remember NOT to stitch over the opening!
  6. Optional: Mix rice with some drops of essential oil to give it a nice smell.
  7. Fill with rice. I used a funnel (I don’t know if I could have filled them without it) and put about 1 cup of rice in each bag.
  8. Finish the top stitch over the opening to seal in the rice. As you can probably see in the pictures, I am no expert here. I learned that I don’t know the proper way to turn the corner when using a decorative top stitch, and I ended up with lots of little nests of thread on the corners. Thankfully, I have learned not to get to distraught and decided that it didn’t really matter. The item still works very well, and my husband didn’t seem to mind its imperfections!

 PART TWO: Making the bed buddy with pockets!


This part was much more challenging, but not that bad! And, as a caveat, it was by no means an exact science.

  1. First, I took my fabric and laid out my finished inserts on top. I was aiming for it to be slightly larger than all six of them laid out side by side. This put me at a little over 30 inches, plus extra for seam allowances. Since my fabric was a yard wide, I just used that.
  2. I then hemmed the fabric on each side with a basic straight stitch. I made extra wide hems since I had some extra fabric there. I suppose I could just as easily have trimmed off some of the extra – but where is the fun in that?
  3. I then laid my inserts along the center again and folded the sides over to get an idea of how much I needed to hem the long edges up. My idea (which worked better than I anticipated!) was to make little pockets for each bag and have them held in by overlapping fabric flaps. I wanted the edge of the overlap to be slightly off center, and to make sure the bottom layer didn’t fold up too high and prevent the inserts from sliding into position.

    So… I ended up with the bottom layer folding up about 5 inches (remember, my rice bag inserts are about 7 inches tall) and the top flap coming down about 4 inches too. This creates a 2 inch overlap to secure the inserts. In my final product, the inserts do go in and out, but I may decrease the overlap on future versions as it is a little challenging to take them in and out.
  4. Once you have the fabric lined up, fold over the raw edges along the sides (the total width should be the 7 inches for the inserts along the back + 5 inches for the bottom flap layer + 4 inches for the top flap layer + seam allowance for the hems). Now, hem the raw edges close to the fold and your width should be right about 16 inches total.
  5. If you like, at this point, you can top stitch along the hems you just made.
  6. Before we get to carried away, we need to make fabric loops to hold the handles in place.
    Take a somewhat long scrap of fabric, fold it in half lengthwise, and sew along the edge. Reverse it and you should have a nice fabric tube. Cut it into four equal pieces and iron them flat if you like.
  7. Fold your cover lengthwise such that you have an overlap above where the rice inserts will go. If you want to make this part in the same way I did, you will have the bottom layer coming up 5 inches over top of the inserts, and the top layer over that coming up 4 inches from the edge.
  8. Pin the cover in place.
    Then, fold each of the four handle holders you made in half and pin two on each short end of your cover. You want to position them so that they are between the layers of the cover and stick out enough to thread your nylon handle string through the hole.
  9. Sew the ends of the cover together, ensuring that you also sew the handle loop holders in place as well. You can also top stitch with your decorative stitch over the ends as well to add style and stability.
  10. You are almost done! Right now, you should have a long cover that overlaps on one side to make one giant (and very long and skinny) pocket. The last step is to simply sew dividing lines to make a spot for each of your inserts. Measure, divide that number into six, and mark these spots along the length of your cover. Sew a simple line across the cover in each spot.
  11. Trim all your edges and threads.
  12. String your handle through the loops and tie it off. I used a candle to melt the ends and the knots together so they don’t have even a chance of coming undone!
  13. Insert your rice bean bag hand warmers into the pockets.

Congratulations! You are done. Warm up your new bed buddy in the microwave and enjoy!  Mine takes about 3 – 3.5 minutes to get warm. Try warming yours for a couple minutes and then add 30 second increments until it is just right. Don’t heat it too hot or you can burn yourself!

Have fun making a nice warm bed buddy this winter! Let me know if you do, I would love to see how yours turned out!