December 26, 2011

A (sort of) Statistical Analysis of the Craftiness of Mormons

As you know I read a lot of craft blogs. I mean it's sort of my job. (Or at least I would like it to be my regular job at some point.)

And lately I have also been compiling a massive spreadsheet of all the craft blogs I have added to the RTG database. It includes contact info and other important stuff that I have been painstakingly retrieving from each blog (which makes me sort of wish that Tute-Bot could be a REAL robot that could do this work for me. But I digress.)

Well, as I was gathering this info by hand, I started to notice a lot of buttons that look like this:

or this:

You know what I'm talking about.

And being the nerd that I am I got curious to know what percentage of the craft blogs I was looking at were by Mormons. And since I was already collecting other info it was easy to add another column to my spreadsheet.

Keep in mind that the sample size is pretty small -- only 500 blogs so far.

What I found was a bit surprising. Out of 500 blogs, 26 had one of these buttons or otherwise stated in an obvious way that the bloggers were Mormons. That's just a bit more than 5%.

It doesn't sound like much until you realize that according to Wikipedia* Mormons make up 1.7% of the population in the United States.

So if I understand the data correctly then Mormons are about three times as likely to be craft bloggers as the general population.

And that's not counting the bloggers who are Mormon but don't happen to use the buttons or otherwise mention their Mormon-ness.

So this begs the question. Why are Mormons so darn crafty? Are they craftier than the rest of Americans? Or are they just more likely to blog about it?

I pose these questions with total respect and admiration.

*Say what you want to about Wikipedia but I trust it for most things based on this.

December 16, 2011

10,000 tutes and counting! Yay!

Today the RTG reached a big milestone. There are now 10,000 tutorials in the database!

The more tutorials in the database, the more fun the site is and the more useful the search will be. Right now the search is still a little weak, but it's getting better all the time.

December 8, 2011

Ask Tute-Bot: Handmade Gift for Boyfriend

Tute-Bot got a great question on Twitter:

     Planning to make my bf something for Christmas, but I've run out of ideas, any help? xx
     He's a solicitor, like does Kung Fu, likes Batman and monkeys xx

I figured my answer deserved more than 140 characters, so I'm answering it here. And maybe "Ask Tute-Bot" will become a new regular feature (assuming I get anymore questions).

So here goes...

T-shirts are always a safe bet as boyfriend gifts and there are SO MANY options for making them. You could design a cute monkey doing Kung Fu or wearing a batman mask. (And if you can't draw, you could hire someone to design it for you on Fiverr.)

1) Traditional screen printing is one option. But if you are only making one shirt this might not be your best choice. Especially if you don't already have the equipment and skills. If you've never screen printed before and you want to ease into it you could try a kit like the one tested out by Dollar Store Crafts.

2) Or you could try freezer paper printing. There are lots of tutorials for that. Two of my favorites are here and here.

3) You could also do your design in reverse with bleach -- like this or this.

4) Or you could try this which seems particularly magical to me.

If you can crochet, there are lots of free amigurumi patterns out there, including Batman and monkeys.

If you knit, you can incorporate this batman intarsia pattern into a scarf, hat or sweater.

If you sew, you could make a sock monkey and dress him up however you like.

I wish I could think of more ideas that have to do with kung fu. Maybe my lovely readers have some ideas.

Please, please please comment if you can think of any more suggestions for DIY projects (not gifts to buy).

December 4, 2011

More Changes

To make RTG easier to use, I added a frame with a button at the top of the page so you don't have to constantly go back to push the button again (and again and again)

I know it still needs a little tweaking. Please send me a message at comments@random-tutorial if you have any complaints about how it is working or comments about how it should be improved.

One thing I know I need is a way to "break out" of the frames.

And please excuse me while I try to figure this out. I hope to have things working properly within 24 hours.

December 2, 2011

More Changes

I decided to merge DIY Daily and Random Tutorial Generator, so now this blog will be the official blog of RTG. The former @DIY_daily Twitter account is now @tutebot as well.  It just seemed silly to keep them separate when there is so much overlap.

I might still do some original tutorials of my own once in a while, but mostly I'll be reporting on the great tutorials I find by other bloggers that I add to the Random Tutorial Generator.

Today I added 1,000 new tutorials to the search function. That makes a total of almost 7,000. It still has a long way to go before it is the great resource I want it to be, but it's getting there.

November 30, 2011

Update on the Random Tutorial Generator

I haven't been blogging here much because I've been focused on a couple other projects I'm juggling, including the Random Tutorial Generator.

The site still needs a lot of work. For one thing I just don't have enough tutorials for the search function to be very useful. Right now I have somewhere around 6,0000 but I figure I need at least 50,000 (all of them awesome hand-picked tutorials) before the search will be better than using a regular Google search.

Also, I need to figure out a way to let people report broken links because sadly blogs come and go. And I want to have a little banner thing at the top of the page with the button so you don't have to go back to push the button again. (In other words I want to make pushing the red button super fun and addictive.)

Oh, and I need to get the tute-bot Twitter account going, and I need to sign up for a Facebook page (a lot of people have "liked" the RTG, but I don't even have a FB page yet!)

I could go on and on, but you get the point. The site is not quite ready for prime time.

So I haven't started promoting the site yet and I was only getting around 20-30 visitors per day.

Then on Thanksgiving something very strange happened. On that day I suddenly got a spike of about 50,000 visitors! It's still a mystery exactly how it happened, but a lot of my traffic is coming from StumbleUpon and it looks like a few people who found it there blogged about it.

It's very exciting, but at the same time I'm a little embarrassed for all these people to see the site when it still needs a lot of work.

The really good news is that I am getting tons of tutorial submissions. So that will help me increase the size of the database for the search function.

In the next few weeks I hope to have the site working better so it will be the valuable (and fun!) tool I envision.

Stay tuned!

October 19, 2011

The sad demise of ReadyMade Magazine

I know I'm a little slow to mention this, but somebody forgot to to give me the memo. Apparently, ReadyMade Magazine is dead!

A couple weeks ago I was getting the antsy feeling that something was missing. I hadn't received a new ReadyMade in a while and I was going through MacGyver Challenge withdrawal. It was already October but the most recent issue I had received was June/July!

So I went to the ReadyMade website to report the missing issues and have them sent. That's when I saw this:

So I've known this news for about two weeks, but today it feels really official because I got a mysterious issue of Better Homes and Gardens (which I don't subscribe to) with a note that says:

"Dear Christistine,

I'm sorry to tell you that ReadyMade Magazine is no longer being published.

But there is good news...."

Good news? Do tell.

"I talked my publisher into sending you Better Homes and Gardens to round out the remainder of your subscription... plus 3 Extra Bonus Issues to thank you for your patience."

Seriously? You call that good news? That's the least you can do.  Better Homes and Gardens is a perfectly nice little magazine, but it hardly makes up for the loss of ReadyMade!

It goes on from there with a sales pitch for Better Homes and Gardens. And then there's one of those fake bills that says the payment (for a magazine I never subscribed to) is "due" on 11/09/11. Whatever.

Actually, it's a really good price -- only $5.99 for 12 issues plus a free cookbook. And BH&G does bring back good memories of my grandma so it is tempting.... But No! I refuse to be swayed. The pain I feel from the  loss of my favorite magazine in the whole world is still too raw.

The ReadyMade website is still up but I'm surprised to see it isn't being updated. At least not as far as I can tell. Readers can still leave comments -- which aren't being moderated so there is a TON of spam -- and there are some new calendar entries which are also submitted by readers. But there are no new features, projects or blog postings.

I think this is a big mistake on the part of the publisher, Meredith. It should do what O'Reilly Media did with Craft when it stopped being published. It kept the blog going with fresh content and it probably has a lot more readers now than it did as a magazine. And I can't imagine the cost is very high to keep it going.

At the very least, ReadyMade needs to keep the MacGyver challenge going!

May 27, 2011

Seed Bomb Season!

For the last few years I have tried to be the Johnny Appleseed of Chicago. But instead of planting apple trees, I plant wildflowers and grass in empty lots and other sad-looking locations.

I do it with seed bombs.

A seed bomb is one of the primary "weapons" in the arsenals of guerrilla gardeners. The traditional seed bomb is a little ball of clay with some fertilizer and seeds in it that you can throw into a fenced-in area that needs some plant life.

But I have come up with my own version of a seed bomb that is easier to make (in my opinion) and less messy.

The idea came from seed paper — handmade paper that has seeds in it and you can plant in the ground.

I figured it would be just as easy to form the paper pulp into balls as it would be to make paper out of it (easier, actually). And then it can be used as a projectile to spread green throughout my neighborhood.

So here is my version of recycled paper seed bombs.

- Old paper bags or other paper. Just make sure it is unbleached and doesn't have any dyes or ink.
- Wildflower or grass seeds (they grow best because they don't need to be planted deeply).
- Stick blender
- Tub to hold everything

- Paper shreadder
- Food dehydrator

Paper is rough on blades (that's why it's really bad to use your favorite fabric shears on paper). So I don't recommend using your brand new, expensive blender for this project.

Shred or cut your paper into small pieces no more than 1/2 inch on any side. For this batch of seed bombs I cut up about 10 paper bags.

Put the shredded paper into a tub and fill the tub with water. Let the paper soak for several hours to soften it so it won't be so hard on your blender.

Use your stick blender to turn the paper and water into pulp.

You can't see the seeds in the picture but, trust me, they're there.

Add seeds to the mixture. You don't want too many seeds or the plants will crowd each other out. But if you use too few seeds you may not get any viable plants at all. As a rule of thumb I say the pulp with seeds should look like poppyseed muffin batter.

Reach into the pulp mixture and pull out a little bit of pulp. Squeeze as much water out of it as you can and roll the pulp into a small ball.

Set the balls somewhere they can dry quickly. It's important that they dry quickly so they don't mold and the seeds don't germinate. But you don't want to apply too much heat or you could start a fire or kill the seeds. I put mine in a food dehydrator.

After the balls are bone dry they will be shelf-stable. You can store them for future use or use them right away.

Throw the seed bombs into areas that have soil but need a little plant life.

Technically, seed bombs could be considered litter and using them could be against the law. So follow a few basic rules.

Rule No. 1: Don't get caught. :)
Rule No. 2: Only use seeds for plants that are native to your area (no invasive species).
Rule No. 3: Only use them to improve an area, not to vandalize.

May 17, 2011

My Cheapie Version of the Sun/Moon Jar

(Just $1 plus some basic craft supplies you probably already have)

Is it called a Sun Jar or a Moon Jar? I have seen it both ways, but you know what I'm talking about. It's a jar with a solar-powered light inside. You can buy one on various websites for around $30, or you can make your own.

The secret ingredient is one of those solar lights people use along the sides of their driveways. The ones I used are from the Dollar Tree for $1 each. You probably won't find them any cheaper than that. But if you don't like the basic black plastic you can also find prettier metalic ones at Target for $2 each.

The light screws apart easily, and you only need the top part. It contains the solar panel, led light and whatever electronic bits it needs to work. I call it the "hockey puck."

 Besides the light, you probably have all the materials you need at home.

- Paint (I used pearlescent white tempura paint but any light colored water-based paint should work)
- Mod Podge
- An empty jar with a lid that has an opening roughly the size of the light
- Hot glue gun and hot glue
- Some string or ribbon
- Solar light

If you don't have Mod Podge you can replace it with watered down white glue.
Instead of paint you can use a small amount of food coloring. 

Mix equal parts Mod Podge (or watered down white glue) and paint in a separate cup. Mix well.
You will need approximately 1/4 cup total.

Pour the mixture into the jar. Put the lid on tightly. Shake the jar until the mixture is evenly coating the inside of the jar. 

Less is more for this stage. The less paint/glue you use the better. You'll have to shake the jar longer, but it will dry faster.

Remove the lid and let the paint/glue dry. This might take several hours. Keep an eye on it and if it starts looking streaky replace the lid and shake it again.

Once the paint is bone dry, hot glue the light "hockey puck" to the top of the jar.

Cover the seam between the jar and the "hockey puck" as well as the threads of the jar with some yarn, ribbon, rope or whatever you want to make it look pretty.

Place your jar in a sunny window so it can charge up. When nightfall comes you will have a pretty glowing jar. (Trust me. It looks better in person than my crummy picture would suggest.)

May 7, 2011

Ode to the Greatest Craft Book Ever Written: Rosey Grier's Needlepoint for Men

Rosey Grier was a man ahead of his time. Back in 1973, this actor, singer and former NFL football player wrote a book about his love for needlepoint. That's right. NEEDLEPOINT!

Even nowadays I imagine there are few men who would admit to a needlepoint habit. In the 1970s, declaring his love of such a "feminine" hobby in print must have been radical.

Of course, I suppose when you are Rosey Grier nobody is going to give you a hard time about it.

I was reminded of his book "Rosey Grier's Needlepoint for Men" when I read this article about outrageous craft books.

I used to have a copy of this book. It was even a signed copy.

I remember the day I found it at my local thrift store. I couldn't believe that such a book existed. It was love at first sight.  

But I'm not into needlepoint myself (I'm more of a knitter) so it just sat on my book shelf for a couple years. Then one day when I was in a big organizing and cleaning mood, I decided to sell it on eBay.

Now, years later, the book seems to be a big cult classic. It was even featured on Extreme Craft!

I'm glad to see Rosey is finally getting the recognition he deserves as a pioneer in manly crafting. But now I really regret selling that book!

The book is hard to come by. There are a few copies on Amazon, but they're a little pricey (totally worth it though, if you can afford it). 

So in case you can't get your hands on one, Garth from Extreme Craft has generously scanned some of the pages for you and put them on Flickr.

May 2, 2011

Pincushions Galore!

My obsession with pin cushions started with this ceramic elephant I found at a thrift store a few weeks ago. I think he was originally a very small planter, but immediately I envisioned him as the perfect pincushion. 

So I set about finding out how to make a pincushion. That's when I found this tutorial on the CraftPudding blog. I loved it immediately because you can store little buttons and notions in the bottom. And it just so happened that I had 16 baby food jars left over from another project. It was meant to be.

This is what I came up with. I only deviated from the CraftPudding tutorial in one major way: I filled the cushions with sand instead of fiberfill. I put the sand in plastic baggies first because it would have been messy otherwise. I used about 2 1/2 tablespoons of sand per pincushion. 

I wasn't very happy with the way the ribbon looked after I hot glued it in place -- it was a bit wrinkly -- so I added the lace. 

I love projects like this because I get to use up little scraps of fabric and ribbon. Everything I needed I had on hand. So it didn't cost me anything to make 16 little sewing kits (I filled the bottoms with buttons, needles, thread and a little bit of ribbon) to keep on hand for gifts. 

The elephant pincushion is made essentially the same way. I filled a little baggie with sand, wrapped it in fabric and hot glued it into the hole in the elephant's back.

If you are interested in making some pin cushions of your own, here are some more really good tutorials I found when I was doing my "research":

Tin Can Pincushion on Design Sponge
Elda's Knit Pin Cushion on Craft Leftovers
Hex Pincushions on A Stitch in Dye
Wrist Pincushion on The Long Thread
Toadstool Cottage/Mushroom House on Little House by the Sea
YoYo Pincushion on CraftyPod

April 19, 2011

New Project in the Works

I've been working on a new project that I'm really excited about. I'm putting together a custom Google search engine that only includes crafty tutorials. 

At first I thought it would just be a good tool for me to use to keep track of the super long list of tutorials that I have been compiling. Then I thought maybe this is a resource that other people would like as well!

Imagine that if you did a search for "Easter eggs" every result would be a really good tutorial because it would be hand selected by a crafter.

By "really good" I mean it 1) includes photos (at least of the finished project and preferably of the steps) and 2) includes clear instructions that you can follow.  And it would be original and art/craft related (no computer programming or cooking tutorials here).

So you wouldn't have to wade through the crummy tutorials that turn up in a regular Google search. You could get right to the good stuff.

I'm also excluding tutorials from Martha Stewart, Instructables and eHow. I love those sites and use them all the time, but they already dominate the regular Google searches. You don't need my help to find their tutorials. 

I want to focus on the independent crafty blogs that put a lot of love into their tutorials even if they aren't getting a ton of traffic or showing up on the first page of a regular Google search.

So far I have entered 2,000 tutorials. It's a start. I still have a long way to go before it is the useful tool that I want it to be. But I'm too excited to wait, so I'm sharing it now.

Try it out and see what you think (but remember that it has a long way to go).

I'll be adding more tutorials as fast as I can, but I can't catalog the whole Internet! That's where I need your help. In the near future I'll figure out a way to let other crafters (including you!) submit tutorials automatically (but then I'll also need a way to let people flag inappropriate submissions...)

In the meantime, leave a comment if you have a tutorial you would like included. It can be your own or someone else's but keep in mind that it needs to include photos and clear instructions.

Please include direct links to specific tutorials (not links to entire blogs).

April 6, 2011

Top 10 Best Crafty Tutorial Sites

This little blog is all about collecting the best crafty tutorials, so I thought it would be good to write about the websites that I turn to when I look for tutorials. If you're a crafter, most of these will probably be familiar to you, but there may be a few surprises.

1. ReadyMade. ReadyMade is my favoriite magazine of all time. I have every back issue ever published and they are displayed proudly on my office bookshelf. But you don't have to subscribe to take advantage of RM's massive collection of DIY project tutorials. You can submit your own projects as well, including submissions to the famous bi-monthly MacGyver Challenge.

2. Craft. I was pretty sad when Craft magazine stopped publishing its print version after a mere 10 issues. But luckily for us, it kept the very popular website -- complete with lots of tutorials -- running. If you follow me on Twitter you'll notice that I like to retweet Craft's tweets a lot. That's because they are sooooo good.

3. Craftster. "No Tea Cozies Without Irony" is the motto of this message board site. It's more than just a place to read and submit tutorials -- it's also a community to meet like-minded crafters and share tips and techniques. The site also hosts monthly craft challenges.

4. Martha Stewart. I'm not ashamed to admit that I love Martha Stewart. If you haven't watched her show lately you might be surprised to find that she does a lot of hip and modern projects. All (or nearly all) of the projects she has done on her shows or featured in any of her magazines over the years are archived on her website. It's an incredible resource.

5. YouTube. It's so obvious that I almost didn't think of it. If you need a tutorial in video form, you might as well go straight to YouTube to search for it. Most videos on other websites these days are also posted on YouTube, so you're likely to find exactly what you're looking for -- and a whole lot more.

6. Etsy.  Etsy is well known as a place to buy things that other people make, but its blog also has a nice assortment of tutorials. And there is a new video tutorial every Tuesday (How-To Tuesday).

7. Make.  Make's projects are a little more technical rather than crafty, but they are never boring. This magazine is by the same company that published Craft and hosts the Maker Faire. The website includes projects from the magazine as well as reader-submitted tutorials.

8. Instructables. This site has a lot of interesting tutorials with lots of pictures and rich detail. My only complaint is that you need a pro (paid) account to download PDFs of the projects.

9. Crafty Pod.  Unlike the other sites mentioned here, CraftyPod's tutorials are all the love children of a single person — a crafty lady who goes by the name Sister Diane. All of her tutorials are lovingly photographed and carefully documented. They are among the best out there, which is why she makes the list with all these big sites.

10. eHow. This website is a little hit or miss. Some of the tutorials are really good, and some are not. But there are so many tutorials here that it is a good place to check if there's something you want basic directions for.

If you have any recommendations of your own, please leave a comment.

April 5, 2011

ReadyMade MacGyver Challenge

I got the April/May 2011 issue of ReadyMade magazine in the mail yesterday. Yay!

The first thing I always do when I get a new issue is flip to the back and see 1) what the winning MacGyver Challenge project is and 2) what the new MacGyver Challenge is.

Every month I plan on entering and spend a lot of time and energy trying to come up with the best project. But so far I have never sent in an entry. I usually run out of time before I think of a good enough idea. Or I think of a good idea, but I can't get it to turn out the way it looks in my head.

That is what happened with the chopstick challenge. I went out and bought a boatload of chopsticks and some electrical wire for what was going to be my masterpiece. Let's just say it didn't work out. (It's still too disappointing for me to talk about.)

Because of my massive chopstick failure I was anxious to see what the winning project would be. I wanted to see if it was good enough to beat the idealized version in my head of what my project would have been. I wanted it to be better than my idea because then I wouldn't feel so bad. "See, I wouldn't have won anyway. Even if I did figure out how to weave the stupid wire between the chopsticks without making it look like a third grade art project," I'd say.

So I was relieved to see that the winning project is amazing! It is much better than anything I could have come up with.

You can see it -- along with the full instructions -- on the ReadyMade blog.

The new MacGyver Challenge is Frisbees. (That's a tough one!) Entries are due .... well, I don't know when they are due because it doesn't say in the magazine and I can't find it online. To be considered for the prize (a subscription to ReadyMade and "respect of ReadyMakers everywhere") you should probably submit your entry within about a month. If anyone knows when the due date is, let me know.