DIY Showcase: Craft Show Display


Every time I do a craft show, I’m always in a panic over how to make my table interesting and how to display my wares in a tidy-yet-interesting fashion. Even after hours of looking at displays for inspiration, I usually wind up with a boring collection of baskets and other random containers and placing items around the table in a lifeless manner. Everything winds up on one level, with very little motivation for customer engagement with the items. Or I overwhelm the table and customer with all the things I’ve made.

Last month I had the opportunity to do my first fair in over a year. Again, I went into a panic. Again, I spent hours scouring the internet for photos of displays for inspiration. I found my solution in my breakfast.

To display my plushies on a square two-foot table, I created two sets of risers using four cereal boxes, two frozen waffle boxes, kraft paper, and tape. The boxes offered the perfect mix of size, weight, and flexibility I needed for my vision. By wrapping the boxes in plain kraft paper I was able to quickly cover the printing and create a neutral base. Hindsight indicates that I could have simply flipped the boxes inside out to reveal the non-printed side. Hindsight could have pointed that out a month ago, but Hindsight is kind of a jerk.

I still needed a way to keep my plushies upright and easily handled by customers. I thought about creating cardboard or wire stands for each item. Then I remembered my stash of cardboard coffee sleeves. With a quick application of tissue paper and masking tape, I had devised a genius solution for preventing the comic but embarrassing scene of plush monster dominoes. Most of my plushies were a perfect fit for the coffee sleeve width. My customers were able to handle all the plushies without incident.

On travel day, the risers fit into a large reusable grocery tote. For once I didn’t feel weighed down by all my gear. Setting up meant taping down all the sleeves to the risers. I used masking tape because it’s durable but also pulls up cleanly at packing time.

I will probably redo this display. Flipping the boxes and coffee sleeves to their non-printed side will strip the bulk of the kraft paper and allow access to the boxes’ tabs to fold them for easier transport/storage.

Here’s the display in action at the Toronto Indie Arts Market.



katharine likes to make things: bunting necklace

As the weather warms, it’s time to find projects that don’t involve being buried under fabric for hours at a time. It’s back to the craft table for me to figure out just what to do with all these tiny scraps of paper. Whenever I finish a paper craft, I’m always left with chunks and strips of paper that are too small and awkward for my regular projects but big enough that I feel guilty just tossing out.

If you can’t make circles or squares, make triangles! I decided to jump on the trend of making…bunting? Pennants? Garland? These easy-peasy necklaces are a fun way to feel festive on even the crappiest days.

Scrap paper
jump rings
chain, clasps
paper piercing tool
gloss Mod Podge


1. First, I cut a bunch of small diamonds from scrap strips. It helps me to have a template that I can trace onto the paper and then cut. My necklaces have at least three pennants but I like to have five just so I can use less chain later. An odd number drapes better on the neck than an even number of pennants.

2. Fold the diamonds in half to create triangles and glue sides together.
Some scrapbook paper is actually printed cardstock and may not need the diamond treatment. Also, some paper is printed double-sided, with a different design on front than back. In those cases, I would use clear packing tape to act as a protective laminate (look, I’m not making these for the Queen. Costume jewelry isn’t meant to last for generations. Heck, televisions aren’t meant to last for generations anymore!) If my scrap paper is too small for diamonds, I’ll just cut the triangles and glue black paper to the back to stiffen the charms.

3. Coat the triangles with gloss Mod Podge. This helps stiffen and protect the paper. You still don’t want to wear these in a heavy rainstorm. Also, the gloss adds a bit of sheen. Let the pennants dry fully before going onto the other steps. Go hula hoop for half an hour or watch a couple of episodes of QI.

4. Using the paper piercing tool, I poke holes in two corners of each triangle, where I want the jump rings to go. This is tricky business because the paper is still fragile and could tear when pulling the piercer out. Slow and steady makes the holes.

5. Join the pennants and jump rings.

6. Attach chain to pennant with jump rings. Cut your chain to desire length and attach your favourite kind of necklace clasp.

I can make several of these in one sitting. This is great if you need to whip up a bunch of inexpensive gifts for girls. Sit down and cut a bunch of paper, take a break, do all the gluing, take a break, punch all the holes, take a break, and attach all the findings.

You can find a few of my finished creations at Peppermint Robot Surprise on Etsy.

katharine likes to make things: eye pillows


Another month, another craft project. I don’t have much new to say about this project, since it’s another sewing craft and I sew everything by hand. I set out to make something more useful than decorative and came up with the eye pillow. I used an old sleep mask to trace out the design to create a pillow that wouldn’t put so much pressure on the nose. I find the rectangle pillows feel too heavy on the bridge of my nose.

You’ll find a lot of tutorials online for DIY lavender-laden aromatherapy eye pillows that are filled with buckwheat hulls or flax seed. I chose to fill my eye pillows with plain white rice and omit the fragrant leaves. Some people aren’t into putting smelly things on their faces. I’m not one of those people, but I want to provide an option for them.



Except in one case, I used all new materials here. A couple of years ago, I put a few of my designs up on Spoonflower and printed some 8″x 8″ test swatches. This was the perfect size for an eye pillow. One swatch alone would yield one mask. I had some blue satin fabric on hand that I used for the backs, so I managed to squeeze out four masks from two swatches. These particular swatches are Organic Cotton Sateen.


This is just something I found in a remainders bin at Fabricland for a couple of dollars. I had ambitious plans that fell through. Now it’s a thing someone can put on their face.

The fabric used here comes from the dress I wore on the cover of my book 30 Failures by Age 30. It was a nice costume by unfit for regular wear. Repurpose ahoy! I actually tried experimenting with scents in the rectangle eye pillow from this fabric. It was…not successful.

My fabric designs are still up on Spoonflower. You can get any test swatch of any design/fabric for $5/each. I don’t see much about the company outside of niche craft blogs. A lot of designs tend to be of the novelty sort and the prices are a bit steep for anyone who’s used to shopping remainder bins. If I were a better seamstress, I might be more tempted by the options presenting by all the indie designers. Maybe this unscented eye pillow endeavor will pay off and I can splurge on a couple of fat quarters someday.

katharine likes to make things: kitty plush


I like scraps of fabric. Give me your tired shirts and I will happily stitch together some kind of lumpy figure while watching a dumb movie. I don’t have a sewing machine and most textile art befuddles me, but I can handle making small cloth items by hand. If I mess up a small project, it’s much less frustrating than muddling up a large project. Any project larger than five inches results in tears and vows never to craft again.

For a few months I was content whipping up little monster-type creatures. You may have seen them on this blog and there’s quite a few still up for grabs in my Etsy shop. Still, I’ve got more of them than I can give away and I got bored with the same-old template. To switch things up, I created a new, slightly more complex cat-like creature. It’s complex because I’ve added a tail, so instead of merely stitching two pieces of fabric together, it’s four and then attaching the tail at the end.


embroidery floss
jump ring
wooden disc
hand drill (for wooden disc)
filling/fiber fill


1. Once I had my creature design worked out, I traced the silhouette outline onto cereal box and cut it out. I like sturdy patterns to cut around, especially for small pieces that aren’t easily pinned. Not exactly the most elegant solution but I like how well cardboard stands up to repeated use (so far).

2. With my pattern/template, I trace the outline onto backside of fabric.

3. Pick which side will be the face and stitch the eyes on first. My kitty design has the eyes closed, so I stitch that up with black embroidery floss. Sometimes I use buttons for eyes and will choose to glue those on after the creature has been stuffed.

4. Pin fabric together wrong way out for sewing.

5. Sew around the sides and top, leaving the bottom open for reversing and filling. Do the same with the tail. Trim excess fabric around seams, leaving about 1/2″ all around.

6. Starting with tail, turn the fabric right side out, pulling/pushing through hole.

7. Add stuffing to tail. Do not stitch up end, set aside.


8. Flip main body right side out, gently push the ears out with a pencil tip.

9. Add stuffing to body.

10. Fold the 1/2″ fabric excess flaps into the body, pin the bottom, and decide where to place the tail. I try to aim for the centre.

11. Slip the unfinished edge of the tail into place between the bottom flaps, pin it. Stitch the bottom to finish. To secure the tail in right position, I do a quick whip stitch between the tail and the body.

12. Cut a little triangle from felt for the nose. Glue on felt nose and ribbon collar. Attach tag and jump ring to collar. For the tags, I used wood discs I had in my stash and got some use out of my hand-cranked wood drill. The discs are flimsy and it’s far too easy to split them with the drill. Lesson learned.

I can stitch up one of these in about two and a half hours, depending on the fabric. For stuffed creatures, thick heavy fabrics don’t make for cuddly toys and are tougher to wrangle batting into. I don’t recommend denim as a fabric choice for stuffed animals, unless you’re looking for something that can withstand drool and dirt. Softer acrylic-based fabrics are prone to overstuffing and warping. Jersey t-shirts are nice and forgiving for wonky stitching and more likely to hold the intended shape of the plushy.




This is the perfect project for upcycling that favourite shirt or sweater. You know, the one that you wore all through school but it’s all worn out in places and possibly paint-splattered but the fabric has memories. If you turn it into something like this, then (potentially) if you have an item worthy of display instead of a thing you encounter only when you move or clean out a storage area. This is not a great project for fancy fabrics, so don’t make a bunch of little wonky cats (or monsters or whatevers) from your wedding gown. That’s probably not considered “upcycling.” (I know, what I’ve done here may not be what you consider “upcycling” either, but that’s a matter of taste/opinion and a topic for another time.)

katharine likes to make things: painted coffee jars


I picked up the habit of drinking instant coffee in the afternoon. Which led to the habit of collecting empty coffee jars. Not a terrible habit to develop in our recycle/reuse culture niche. With all the dry goods we pick up from bulk food stores, it’s nice to have glass containers around to transfer them from the plastic bags. I hate the plastic bags. And I hate their little twist ties that I apparently tend to twist on backwards, which frustrates Boyfriend. So we have a tidy collection of jars waiting for a new purpose.

During one of my infinite Tumblr scrolls, I happened onto Eric Barclay’s transformation of used condiment containers. Brilliant. Of course I came down with a case of the Icandothat. So I took a couple of my instant coffee jars and painted them up.



Nescafé instant coffee jar
shoe whitener
acrylic craft paint
pompom (for top of hat)
felt (for scarf)
Mod Podge Gloss

I came up with this owl/bird-like creature to paint on the jar surface. I used shoe whitener as a primer because that’s what I had on hand. The sponge applicator made applying the whitener easy, but it still required several coats. Shoe whitener does dry pretty quick, though, so I didn’t need to wait too long. After the primer, I drew on my character design with a light pencil. The trouble with drawing on oddly shaped surfaces means the design can go a bit wonky. But I didn’t do too badly. Success!

Once I had my design sketched on, I used some tiny brushes to apply regular acrylic paint, drew over the paint borders with Sharpie and covered the whole thing in a coat or two of gloss Mod Podge to protect from light scratches and the elements.

Barclay’s coffee mates reminded me so much of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore that I decided to transform my jars into their Pete & Dud characters.


I didn’t document the process for the owl jars, so I snapped a few low light shots of my Pete & Dud process.




I felt it was appropriate, in creating a work of “art,” to capture Pete & Dud in the moment during the art museum sketch where Peter sends Dudley into a bit of a giggle fit.

katharine makes so many, many things

Blogging falls way low on the priority list these days. Instead of writing, I’ve been illustrating, designing, relearning epub coding, playing with my Silhouette SD cutting machine, making plush monsters, making bunting jewelry from scraps, designing an articulated paper doll for Robot of Leisure, and playing Boggle.

Here’s some proof of my non-writing endeavors:


Monsters and moose and kitties, oh my!


Boris becomes articulated in paper doll form.

Boris demonstrates the writing process.

Robot of Leisure #5 is up on iTunes. (As are all the rest of my books.)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Boris and the Open House by Katharine Miller

Boris and the Open House

by Katharine Miller

Giveaway ends August 25, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

If you’re on GoodReads, you can enter to win paperback editions of the first four installments (there are six total) of the Robot of Leisure graphic novel series.

And then sometimes I just make faces. Tra-la.