The Art of Darkness

Creepy Crackers

August 20th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Finished CrackerChristmas crackers are part of traditional holiday celebrations in the UK, Australia, and several other countries.* They consist of a cardboard tube filled with candy and novelties (usually including a paper crown and a fortune cookie-type strip of paper with jokes), a strip of thin cardboard containing the same chemical that makes popguns go bang, and a wrapping of tissue paper. When the ends of the tissue are pulled, the cardboard thingie makes a cracking noise and you harvest the treats inside.

There’s no reason why these things have to be limited to Christmas. I can think of another holiday that’s big on treats. Can’t you?


You will need:

  • Cardboard tubes; empty toilet tissue rolls are the perfect size
  • Cracker snaps (see below)
  • Small novelties and candy
  • Tissue paper (see below)
  • Narrow ribbon
  • Halloween-themed stickers (optional)

Cracker snaps can be purchased at some craft stores and online. I actually found a children’s activity kit on Amazon which included the cracker snaps, paper crowns, and jokes for cheaper than I could buy just the cracker snaps.

You can find all kinds of wonderful Halloween-themed wrapping paper meant for scrapbooking; I actually created this post as a way to use up some Halloween scrapbook paper I’d been given and…I can’t find the stinkin’ paper anywhere. So I just used plain tissue paper and you can too.

Click the thumbnails for larger images.

 
Cracker Strips

 
Make sure that the cardboard tubes you use are short enough to let the cracker snaps extend out both sides. Toilet tissue rolls work great; if you have long tubes (like those for paper towels), cut them in half.

 
Cracker Goodies

 
Gather whatever small novelties and candies you want to fit in the tube.

 
Add Strip

 
Place the cracker snap in the tube with ends extending out both sides, and pack the treats on top.

 
Wrap Tissue

 
Cut a piece of tissue paper wide enough to enclose the ends of the cracker snap and long enough to roll around the tube a few times. Roll everything up, and pinch in around the outside of the tube.

 
Finished Cracker

 
Tie the ends with ribbon, making sure to securely enclose the ends of the cracker snap inside. If desired, decorate the outside of the cracker with stickers or other lightweight items.

 

And…done! The ends of my cracker are a bit wrinkly; for more precise edges with only a bit more work, check out Chica and Jo’s tutorial for making Christmas crackers.

These are easy to make and a pile of them would be a big hit at a Halloween party.


*But not in the US. When I was in fifth grade my dad returned from a business trip with a bunch of crackers for me to hand out to my classmates. My teacher made me wait until after lunch because he didn’t want everyone spoiling their appetites by eating them; he was deeply perplexed when I told him they weren’t those kind of crackers.

Posted in Bittens, Doom It Yourself | 6 Comments »

Fingernail Guards

July 30th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Fingernail GuardsLong fingernails were a status symbol in Imperial China because they signified that you didn’t have to do manual labor. The wealthy wore special fingernail guards to keep their long nails from being broken, and over time the guards became more and more ornate.

They varied in both length and design: Some were cones that slipped over the whole tip of the finger, and others were more like a ring with a shield attached to the top. There are some photos of various styles at enticz, and a few others (including an interesting mesh design) at Dream Tree.

Today the guards are collector’s items, either simply displayed (as here, second photo) or converted into brooches and other jewelry. However, since they: a) Have a vintage pedigree, b) Make your fingers look like claws, c) Simply cry out for embellishment, and d) Actually have a quasi-utilitarian purpose (i.e., protecting long fingernails), I’d say they’re due for a comeback.

Highly-embellished modern versions are apparently available somewhere–the photo above is a modern set worn by China Steel–but don’t seem particularly easy to find (especially since search results are muddied with antique versions). Somewhat similar, and perhaps a good jumping-off point, are Thai dance nail wraps. They seem to be available in a variety of styles (search for “belly dance” or “Thai dance”), and could be decorated with paint or glued-on gems.

Another possibility is to make your own. Marlene Brady made an interesting set with polymer clay, then added chain and jewelry findings (there’s a photo of a second set she made here, which are unembellished but the clay itself is patterned). Other materials might include plastic, thin cardboard, or even stiffened fabric. Decorate with lightweight items of your choice, and you can protect your nails and look awesome whilst doing so.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 2 Comments »

Homemade Seasoning Salt

July 28th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Seasoned SaltIf you’ve ever found yourself in need of a last-minute hostess gift, look no further than homemade seasoning salts (which are also worth making for your own use). They are cheap, easy to make, endlessly customizable, have a long shelf life, and can be made in bulk. You can even make ’em gothy, which means they’re a fun idea for a party (or wedding) favor, or as part of a gift for your favorite gloomy cook.

A quick word on salt: Some recipes suggest using flake salt like Maldon or even fleur de sel, but since you’re usually running it through a blender or food processor it seems silly to waste money on flakes that you’re going to whirl into oblivion. Your best bet is probably kosher salt. Don’t use table salt, since it usually contains anti-clumping agents.

If you want to get fancy, look into black lava salt; sea salt that’s been blended with activated charcoal. You can get it on Amazon or in bulk at places like Mountain Rose Herbs. It’s usually used as a finishing salt, but it’d be fun to use in some of these recipes too. It’d also be very attractive layered with other seasoned salt in a tall skinny jar.

There are a zillion different recipes out on the intartubes, but here are a few to get you started:

Vampire-Repelling Garlic Salt

1 C kosher salt
1/4 C peeled garlic cloves

Heat oven to 180F (if your oven doesn’t go that low, just use its lowest setting and adjust bake time accordingly). Combine the garlic and salt in a food processor and process until the garlic is pulverized and the mixture has a consistency of moist sand; 30 seconds. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the salt mixture out evenly. Bake until dry, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Return to food processor and pulse several times to break up clumps.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Skull Clock

July 16th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Skull ClockJ. Oswald was a German company which started making novelty clocks in the mid-1920s. Their most popular models were clocks with rotating eyeballs, one eye displaying the hours and the other the minutes.

They had a number of designs, including dogs, genies, and apes, but their cross-eyed skulls are particularly awesome. You can occasionally find original Oswald clocks on eBay (the ones in good shape run around $1,000US), and there have also been a few knockoffs from other companies. However, there are several ways you could DIY something similar.

There’s a short Instructables guide for installing a watch face in a plastic prop skull; just install one in the other eye too. After setting the correct time on both, remove the minute hand from the one on the left and the hour hand from the one on the right. A bit crude, but it’d work.

A larger version could be made by stenciling a skull on a wall and using two round wall clocks for eyes. Remove the hour/minute hands as above, and cut a circular piece of thin black acrylic to fit over the remaining clock hands (see the eyeball clock sold by SUCK UK to see how to position them). That would give you the true rotating-googly-eyes effect but would still be fairly straightforward to do.

If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, pick up a couple of small clock movements from your local craft store, insert them in the eye sockets of a plastic skull, and use small plastic hemispheres (perhaps a ping pong ball cut in half, depending on the skull size) to represent the eyes. Paint on pupils for the hour/minute markers. Be sure to fit the movements in so that you can change the batteries as necessary.

(via Shellhawk’s Nest)

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Make a Purse from a Book

July 1st, 2015 by Cobwebs

Purse BookRecycling hardback books into handbags or clutches is a fairly common project: You can purchase them at shops like Gorey Details or Etsy (the ones in that shop are particularly nice). There are also many DIY tutorials available, so if you’ve got a book that you’ve loved to death you can turn the pages into flowers and convert the cover into an attractive purse.

There are some nice, easy-to-follow tutorials at Instructables, Rookie, and Country Living, and Craftser has a roundup of various purses that its members have made. The estimable EPBOT also has an exhaustive post on her quest for “the world’s best book purse,” which includes several helpful tips.

If a handbag isn’t really your thing, you can make a clutch instead: See Kate Sew has good directions for a zippered version, and A Beautiful Mess has one with a snap closure. There’s also an interesting project at Runway DIY which involves hollowing out a space in the pages (as for a “secret stash” book) instead of removing them entirely.

Once you’ve finished the purse, complete the ensemble with a wallet made from a paperback book cover. I’ve got a tutorial for that here, but there’s a simpler version at Hello, ReFabulous!.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 2 Comments »

Creepy-Crawly Earrings

June 24th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Spider EarringHere’s another one of those brilliant but forehead-slappingly obvious ideas that make you annoyed that you didn’t think of it yourself: A new Japanese fashion trend involving earrings made of bisected rubber spiders, insects, and lizards.

It’s an example of kimo-kawa (gross-cute) and are available online for around $15US, assuming you can read Japanese (since I don’t, I have no idea what their shipping range is, nor what the cost for that would be).

Fortunately, these would also be ridiculously simple to DIY:
1) Get a small rubber critter.
2) Cut it in half.
3) Glue a flat earring post to the front half.
4) Use a needle to poke a channel in the back half for the post to fit down into.
5) Stick ’em in your ear.

Easy!

If you don’t have pierced ears it should be possible to do something reasonably similar with a flat clasp earring; glue the front half to the earring front and the back half to the clasp, being careful to line them up so they appear to be a whole creature.

The Geyser of Awesome has several additional pictures, including a horned beetle and some colorful lizards. Next time you see a package of cheap novelty insects, grab it and make some earrings.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 1 Comment »

Fandom-Scented Candles

June 17th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Harry Potter CandleIntrepid commenter Jes pointed me toward this article about Mud in My Blood’s line of Harry Potter-themed candles. Each candle features three scents which represent a particular character; since they also appear to have three layers of color I’m assuming that each color has a separate scent instead of the whole thing having a blended fragrance.* Whilst it’s easy to figure out what some of the fragrances smell like (“raspberry jam,” “spearmint toothpaste”), some of them seem a little more vague (I have no idea what scent “pygmy puff” or “Hogwarts halls” would be).

The “scents that represent a character’s qualities” thing seems to be fairly popular. Fandlemonium offers candles like “Belle” (bookshoppe, French pastries, and enchanted rose) and “Sherlock” (tobacco, clean clothes, and old books); Bubble and Geek has “Hobbit” (English ivy, oak moss, apples, strawberry, garden mint), “Sunnydale Library” (leather-bound books, rosewood, hot brewed tea, house plants), and “Winter is Coming” (garden mint and vanilla).

Fortunately, candles–particularly jar candles–are extremely easy to make, so if you’ve always suspected that your favorite character smells like leather, smoke, and pine (Aragorn) or lavender, fresh linen, and mist (Mina Harker), you can custom-make a candle just for them.

There are plenty of tutorials for making jar candles: She Knows and Peak both have easy-to-follow instructions for the basic technique, and About has instructions for making them layered instead of single-color. If you want to get a little fancier, there’s a tutorial on Queen of DIY for making layered pillar candles.

You can get candlemaking supplies at many craft stores, and they’re widely available online. Lone Star, CandleScience, and The Candlemakers Store all have good selections, but a quick google will turn up plenty of others.

You can print out a simple paper label for your finished jar candles, but there are plenty of other ways to decorate them: BreeCraft has a neat book-themed design (which doesn’t even require the rending of a book); the LOTR suggestion would pair nicely with the natural herb-infused candles from Live Simply. The jars can also be wrapped with lace or ribbon, decoupaged with autumn leaves, or decorated with beads.

It should go without saying that scented candles are great favors for parties or weddings. Not only are they inexpensive and easy to make in quantity, they can be customized in all sorts of ways to match your theme.


*I unfortunately can’t tell for certain because The Mud in My Blood store doesn’t seem to be online at the moment; the site linked to in the article is “under construction” and the Etsy shop referenced on the placeholder page is defunct.

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Fun with Cockroaches

April 8th, 2015 by Cobwebs

When I was cleaning out a closet recently I ran across a package of rubber cockroaches that I picked up at some post-Halloween clearance and decided to put ’em to use. This project is pretty much the ultimate in “last-minute,” since you only need three things: Fake cockroaches, small magnets, and something to stick one to the other.

Supplies Fake cockroaches are widely available at party-supply stores around Halloween, but you can also get them online. If cockroaches aren’t really your bag, this project would work well with plastic spiders or other lightweight creepy-crawlies.

You’ll need two small magnets for each roach. I used these little round guys, but you could also get flexible magnetic tape and cut it to the desired size.

Now you just need something to stick ’em together. I used a hot-glue gun, but just about any adhesive should work. (I guess you could also save yourself a step and use self-adhesive magnets.)

Roach with Magnet

Turn each roach over and glue a magnet to its underside. Let dry.

Boom. Done. That’s the entire amount of work required for this project.

Roaches on Lampshade Now to have fun with them. Place the roach on a lampshade or curtain, and stick the second magnet behind it on the other side. The magnets will hold the roach in place, so it looks like it’s crawling around by itself.

The magnets will also hold the roaches on any metal surface, so arrange several crawling around on the refrigerator too.

If you’ve got leftover bugs, you can:

  • Glue thumbtacks to their undersides and use them as pushpins on a bulletin board
  • Glue them to a bar clasp or a tie tack and accessorize.
  • If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could also attach them to a necklace (source). In this particular case I doubt that glue would be strong enough; the rubber that the roaches are made from is fairly soft, so your best bet would probably be to poke a hole through their underside with a big needle and thread embroidery floss or thin wire through the hole. Use that to tie each roach onto the necklace.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 3 Comments »

DIY Adventurer’s Kit

March 18th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Adventurer's KitDesigner Mitch Barchi created this attractive Adventurer’s Kit for quick, portable roleplaying:

My goal was to create a portable kit that anyone could pickup and play a quick, or introductory, roleplaying session with little to no prep time. I created a simple overland map illustration for the lid using the Art Institute of Seattle’s lasercutter. I also included a standard set of polyhedral dice since they are used in many roleplaying systems. Many roleplaying systems also use miniatures, I wanted to include some basic minis for the players. The miniatures featured in these sets are vintage unpainted Heroscape monsters. Also provided is a Moleskine notebook with gridded paper if the player or game master want to map a dungeon or take notes. Each kit also includes a pamphlet for the excellent hack and slash World of Dungeons RPG system.

There are a couple of photos of the interior on Barachi’s site; the dice and miniatures are kept neatly in place with a foam insert. He doesn’t give any dimensions for the box, but assuming that the pencil inside is a standard-size #2, it’s probably about 10″ (25cm) square.

This would be a fun project to make as a gift for a tabletop gamer. You can find unfinished wooden boxes at craft stores or online; a flat cigar box like this one would work pretty well, but if you’re making a D&D-themed kit you may as well go a step further and use a treasure chest.

If you don’t have access to a laser cutter, a color printout of a map or other artwork could be decoupaged to the top. It’d also be possible to decorate the exterior with glued-on jewels or other decorations, but if the kit is intended to be portable you’d want to be careful to use flattish, sturdy elements that wouldn’t be chipped or dislodged by knocking about. Alternately, the wood could simply be stained or painted.

Foam padding for the interior is available at craft stores, but the dice and miniatures could also be put in little fabric bags to keep them from rolling around.

The notebook with gridded paper could also be themed; this “Smaug’s Scribbles” one from Etsy is cute. This “dragon skin” one is probably a bit too expensive to include in a DIY gaming kit, but it might be possible to find something similar made from faux crocodile leather.

This is a fun, thoughtful gift that could be personalized and embellished in all sorts of ways. You never know when an adventure game is going to suddenly break out, so it’s best to be prepared with a portable kit.

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Giant Squid Pillow

February 18th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Giant Squid PillowGiant squid are undeniably awesome, but just as undeniably hard to cuddle due to their unfortunate insistence on living underwater. No more must your squid-snuggling proclivities go unslaked–this Build-a-DIY tutorial has a pattern and easy instructions for making a big plush squid of your very own.

Their sample squid is 8 feet long, but the pattern could be scaled down (or, I guess, up if you want a mega-colossal squid). You could make a whole shoal* of different sizes and colors.

The tutorial calls for felt, but the construction method seems to indicate that it would work with pretty much any fabric so this would be a good way to use up scraps from other sewing projects. You could have velvet squid, brocade squid, even faux-fur squid if you’re feeling particularly ambitious.

The tutorial also suggests polka-dot fabric for the underside of the tentacles to suggest suckers, but also links to a method for creating quilted circles for a more three-dimensional appearance. You could also do both, quilting the polka dots on the fabric for a really sucker-y look.

This is a fun project which doesn’t require advanced sewing skills, and the payoff is a cuddly squid of your very own. What could be better?


*I couldn’t remember if a group of squid was called a “school” or not, so I startled typing, “a group of squid” and Google auto-suggested “a group of squid is not called a squad,” which makes me sad. I want to be able to yell, “Look! A squad of squid!” and I’m terribly disappointed that I can’t.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 4 Comments »

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