Design team member of Alpha Stamps, moderator at Craftster, lover of ephemera and junk.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tutorial: Altered Altoid Tin

Make your Altoid tins something special! I've altered dozens of Altoid tins, and have learned a few tricks I thought I would share. Here's what we're making today:

And here's what you'll need: Mod Podge (I prefer Matte Finish), an old ink pad, heavy scrapbook paper (for this tin, I used paper from Graphic 45), a sharp exacto blade, an inexpensive sponge brush, a straight edge, a ruler, a brayer if you have one, and an empty Altoid tin.

Figure out where your pattern will fall on the top of the tin by holding the tin and the paper up to a bright light. You'll be able to see the shadow of the tin through the paper. Center any motifs or patterns in the paper. Make sure you pay attention to placement. Carefully flip the paper over with the tin in place, and trace around the tin. Remove the tin, and brush a good amount of Mod Podge on the top of the tin. Once you've got good coverage, flip the tin over and put it down where you marked the position. If you've got a brayer, use it to make sure the paper is adhered well.
Now flip the tin and paper over, and with your sharp exacto blade (don't be stingy; change your blade often!), carefully cut around the edge of the tin.

Look how perfect the top is! This way of cutting it out assures a perfect fit every time. *Before you go further, if you don't have another tin to use for measurement, trace around the bottom of this tin twice with whatever paper you want to use for the inside (one piece for the inside top, one piece for the bottom).

Now take your old ink pad and scrape it around the edge to get rid of the stark white edge of the paper and to give the top a little aging. This will help camouflage any little flaws that may occur when you cover the sides. Cover the bottom of the tin in the same way, and ink the edges.

Very carefully measure the side. You will covering the sides with two separate pieces. You know the old saying: "measure twice, cut once". Do it. Even though I have altered several tins, I measure each time, just in case the tin I'm working on is a little different from the last.

Making sure your measurements are very accurate, cut the strips needed to cover the sides. Once they're cut, use your ink pad to distress the edges a bit before you begin to adhere them to the sides.

Let's do the top strip first. Check to make sure you actually cut it to the right size to fit. Then, brush the Mod Podge on the narrow side of the top, and begin attaching the strip, making sure you butt the paper right up against the little lip of the tin. Pay special attention to the corners, as the paper may want to gap in those areas. Smooth as you go.
You're going to have to cut a little around the hinges in the back. The best way to do this is to slice the paper carefully along the side of each hinge. Once you've made those four little cuts, use your fingernail along the long side of the hinge to fold the paper up on the hinge. You can cut the paper there if you wish, but generally folding it there will hide it well enough.

The strip of paper will be a little longer than you need. I find it's best to trim off the extra little bit when you see how the pattern of the paper will look at the overlap. Try to make the seam as invisible as possible. When you do the bottom, make sure the patterns on the two strips match up as closely as possible. Little things like this make such a big difference! You'll most likely have to cut out around the bottom hinge. Just use your blade to cut along each short side of the hinges, and then cut along the bottom of the hinge to remove the little flap you created. It's very important that your blade is sharp for this step, as a dull blade will tear the wet-with-glue paper.

Now for the inside! If you haven't already done so, trace the BOTTOM of a spare tin onto the papers you want to use to cover the inside top and bottom of the tin. For the inside top, cut just barely within the lines of your tracing. Fit the paper into the top and make sure you have a good fit. Trim a little if necessary. For the bottom of the inside, you will have to cut a tinier bit more inside of your tracing lines. Remember, you can always trim more, so be conservative at first, and keep fitting the piece as often as needed, until you get it right. Measure the side of the tin, and cut a strip to cover. Ink all your edges, and then adhere the paper to the bottom of the tin. Put the side strip in, tucked carefully under the lip. Start from the back, as pictured, so your seam will be in the front of the tin, where it will be less noticable. Pay attention to how the pattern falls. Really tuck those corners in tightly. The paper is going to want to pull out, so watch it and make those corners obey!
Put a good coat of Mod Podge on the bottom and sides to seal. Glue in the top paper, and seal it as well.
If you're like me, you're going to have a little Mod Podge residue on the exposed metal parts of the tin, both on the side of the tin and on the inside lip of the top, as well as on the hinges.  Scrape all that off with your fingernail. Clean that bad boy up!
Now that your tin is fully covered, decorate and embellish. Find some good images to use. I used these images from Alpha Stamps collage sheets. To make sure your images fit perfectly, glue them on with parts hanging over the edges, and then flip over the tin and trim to fit. Make sure you edge the corners. Coat the entire tin with Mod Podge to seal any edges. When the tin is dry, you can further embellish it. I added some Dresden trim under the lip of the side, and a few metal bits. The Dresden trim was attached with Tacky Glue, but any metal parts are best adhered with E6000 glue. Here's the finished project:

Sometimes I like using beads for feet, or ribbons for trim; the decorating possibilities are endless. Don't ever throw those tins away. Make something!

Friday, February 25, 2011

I saw a blog entry online about using an Altoid tin for a clock housing, and I had to give it a try, especially since I have a vast collection of empty Altoid tins that are just screaming for attention. I didn't have a favorite greeting card, so I used a little chipboard house for the clock face. I styled this similar to the Valentine houses I made for Alpha Stamps, but gave it a woodsier feel. I am a little more comfortable with these colors, as opposed to all the pink I used before.

Clock workings are relatively inexpensive; I got mine at Michaels with a 40% coupon, and I believe it cost less than $3.00. Not too bad for a little minty fresh clock!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hanging junk&stuff

I'm always attracted to displays of any kind. I love busy shelves where there's lots to look at. 7Gypsies makes this great shallow tray that resembles a printer's box. Mine is a work in progress, but it currently holds atcs, altered matchboxes, and little trinkets and knick knacks. I made three of the atcs, the red matchbox and the little house shrine sitting on top, but everything else was made by some good friends at and Alpha Stamps. I love this because I can add, subtract, and move things around whenever I feel like fiddling with it. It's constantly changing.
I wish I could remember everyone who sent cards, but I do know that there is art there from knickertwist (the lovely "in the woods" tin on the top row, and the little cat block next to it) and  amaryllisroze (the crazy housewife atc and the altered matchbox on the middle row), plus there are atcs from Stifflersmom and goatgoddess, among others. The "celebrate" star was a gift from my sister. Thanks, everyone!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More Swap Items

I just finished a swap on Craftster with cackle, who is an amazing artist. She is as fond of Halloween type items as I am. Here are two of the things I sent her:

1. A smarmy smiling cat. This is a painted paper mache ball from Michaels, with polymer clay ears. The box is also from Michaels. All the paper is from Graphic 45. I never get tired of making these cats!

2. A little witch collage. I love this so much, mostly because of the vintage handmade box she's in. The box came from the Field Museum in Chicago, and used to contain a fish specimen (not to worry; it's not stinky!) I loved all the writing, which was originally on the bottom of the box, so I took apart the bottom and flipped it around. I added the spider web charm and the image of the little witch (both from Alpha Stamps), and then some bottles filled with glitter and an old watch part. It's simple, but I really like how it turned out.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What I'm up to now

I have been looking for over a year for the perfect table to go in my keeping room next to the sofa. I found this secretary in a consignment shop, and was so sad that it had that gigantic box on top, because everything else about it is perfect: the size, the colors, and the distressed state of it.
And the legs! Oh, the legs!
I walked past this piece of furniture about five times, bemoaning the fact that it couldn't just be a table.

And then I remembered: my husband is quite a handy woodworker. So I bought the cabinet, crammed it into the SUV, and brought it home. I'm pretty sure the hubby thought I was nuts when he first saw it. It wasn't easy to remove the top part, because it was glued on, but he managed without doing too much damage to the edge. We're going to have to construct a new top, because the boxy part was not sitting on solid wood, but I think we can pull it off. We're hoping to be able to use the routed edge, and perhaps use the back of one of the cabinet doors for an insert.

Here it is in its new home, sans a real top, which we are still working on. I'll post "after" photos when we complete the project. Meanwhile, even though he thinks I'm nuts, I'm still crazy about those legs.
And in case you're concerned, I did save all the gorgeous hardware. Look for it in future projects. Plus, there was a bonus: when we took the cabinet part off the base, we found a little hidden cache of papers including bills, receipts, stamps, bank statements and a photograph, most from the 30's and 40's. That was almost as exciting to me as the furniture itself.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fancy Chicken

I seem to have a thing for birds all of a sudden. I participated in a swap on Craftster (one of many!), and was asked by my swap partner to do a piece of art that related to her farm. She sent me several photos, and when I saw the picture she sent of her chicken, "Nugget", I fell in love. I wanted to do something fun for her, as obviously anyone who names a chicken "Nugget" is someone with a good sense of humor. So here's Nugget, the party chicken, on an 8" by 8" canvas:

The block of type at the bottom is the definition of the word "nugget", carefully torn from an old dictionary. I hope Nugget approves.

I just sent out another swap package today. I'll post some of the items I sent once the package is received.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sweet Little Birds for Valentine's Day

I made these little birds using plastic Easter eggs as a base. They're the sure sign of spring, and so fancy with their jaunty little floral headgear and acorn caps.

Look how much fun they have when they get together and hang out...
 If you'd like directions on how to make these birds, click here. I posted a full tutorial on

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Clown love

Lots of people find them creepy, but I do love a circus clown. I made this clown box from a cheap little two drawer jewelry box. With cartoon cats on it. Bleh.
Whether you like clowns or not, I hope you'll agree that this was an improvement on the original:
I mean, c'mon!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Spring will come!

It's the dead of winter here, but I know spring is just around the corner. Alpha Stamps carries these cute little birds with niches in their bellies, so I had to make these little birds-on-blocks. I'm really looking forward to spring!

She lives on Love Street

When Jim Morrison sang the words "She lives on Love Street / Lingers long on Love Street / She has a house and garden / I would like to see what happens", do you think this is what he had in mind?

Probably not.

Happy almost-Valentine's Day, everyone!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Full Disclosure

I have to admit it, up until now I have been very hesitant to host a blog. However, today Graphic 45 announced the call for their new design team, and one of the requirements is that you have a blog. So this one's for you, Graphic 45! Here are some of my favorite projects, all made with your fantastic papers.

EDIT 7/19/17: Photobucket is now charging for hosting photos, so many photos in this post are no longer available. I have replaced the photos I could, but much of this post has had to be deleted. Sorry!

Steampunk Fairy Cabinet:
And, the back of cabinet:


Welcome to my new blog. This is a new venture for me, and I'm excited about posting up my work.
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