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