The Best Wines to Pair with Thanksgiving Dinner

The Best Wines to Pair with Thanksgiving Dinner

holiday wine pairings

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Bringing wine to a holiday or Thanksgiving dinner party can be…fraught, to say the least. You know it’s impolite to show up empty-handed (hence, the wine), but what if you make a poor selection? If you’re not especially versed in wine tasting and pairings, you might default to picking the bottle with the prettiest label, the most interesting description, or the most apt-seeming price-point. Whether you’re looking for a red wine Zinfandel from France or a sparkling wine with fruit flavors, wine doesn’t have to be so vexing. A little information goes a long way.

Rather than playing the which-wine guessing game as you stand among other frazzled shoppers, we asked Master Sommelier and author Richard Betts — who emphasizes that “wine is a grocery, not a luxury,” about the best wine pairings for your holiday gatherings — particularly Thanksgiving wine to help accompany the rich flavors of cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes (or sweet potatoes) and pumpkin pie at the Thanksgiving table.

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Here’s his definitive guide for Thanksgiving dinner wines to pair with your Thanksgiving feast:

2000 Kalin Cellars Semillon, California

Best white wine from America? Very likely. Semillon is not well known but it certainly deserves to be as it is a perfect partner to most food and ages into a thing of beauty.

2013 Bellus Scopello Frappato, Italy

Super fun alternative to pinot noir, Frappato is native to Sicily and is all about red fruits and fun. It’s also relatively unencumbered by tannin and oak which makes it a perfect table mate.

2012 RPM Wines Gamay Noir, California

Remember all of that Beaujolais that America used to drink at Thanksgiving?  It was for good reason as the grape, Gamay, is bright, crunchy and perfect with Turkey. This Gamay from California is a very serious step up in quality and focus while remaining everything great Gamay should be, delicious.

2013 Copain Tous Ensemble Pinot, California

You gotta have pinot noir, you just gotta and Wells Guthrie at Copain makes some of my very favorites including this super easy, extremely yummy version.  A few years back Wells made a big pivot in his winemaking and his style now prizes balance and grace which, whether you know it or not, is a style that will make it impossible for you to have just one glass.

For more straight-talk about wines ranging from Italian cabernet sauvignons to French sauvignon blancs, join Richard for his CreativeLive class, Become A Great Wine Taster, or check out his blog, My Essential Wine.

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How to Sell Art with Lisa Congdon

How to Sell Art with Lisa Congdon

You became a professional artist for the love of it.

Growing up, you enjoyed creating things, whether it was paintings, mixed media sculptures, mosaics or drawings. When you became an adult, you decided to follow your dreams and pursued an art career.

Now that you’re a working artist, you know the hustle well. You market yourself to the art world and show art buyers and potential customers that your art is going to enhance their lives. Selling art isn’t always the easiest thing to sell, like a car or a television, but with a bit of patience and time, you can learn how to sell art and make your business successful.

If you don’t know where to start, here is some helpful advice on how to sell art to potential buyers, courtesy of CreativeLive teacher, author of “Art Inc: The Essential Guide to Building Your Career as an Artist” and successful working artist Lisa Congdon.

Figure out different ways to make money and promote your fine art

As an artist, you know that figuring out how to sell art can be tricky. This is why Congdon stresses diversifying your income streams. The artist herself leads CreativeLive classes, writes books and works for a number of clients globally including Martha Stewart Living, Harvard University and REI. In the beginning of her career, she also licensed her work, had an online shop and displayed her work in galleries or art fairs.

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How to sell art with Lisa Congdon

“I didn’t put my eggs in one basket, so to speak,” says Congdon. “And that has benefited me greatly. It’s the premise of my book, ‘Art Inc’ – that making a living as an artist requires most people, at least in the beginning, to diversify their income streams.”

There may never be one thing you’re going to do that will show you how to sell art, so keep hustling and promoting yourself in various ways. You can do this by trying to get into art galleries, pop-ups or art fairs, or you can try to sell art online via a personal website, online marketplaces like Etsy, Amazon and eBay, or even social media. Selling art online (or at least creating an online presence for our art) can typically be a less expensive, easier way to dip your toes in the water of the art business. You can create your own e-commerce site with companies like Shopify or Society6 that help you create an online store with an online gallery of your work to help sell your art online. If you’re looking to find ways to physically print your work, there are several online marketplaces that allow you to print on demand high-quality prints.

Network with excitement

Art collectors and art buyers are more likely to be excited about your original work if you are. Even if you’re having a bad week and art sales are down, don’t lose your enthusiasm for your work.

Congdon suggests attending industry events, joining a support group, connecting with other art lovers or sellers online all in an effort to continuously put yourself out there. “Keep sharing what you do. Be excited about it. Your excitement and passion will be contagious. Don’t be shy about talking about your work, both online and in person.” This will ultimately help with sales or online art sales.

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Be authentic to your true self

Authenticity shines – especially in a world full of tabloids and fake news. Congdon says it is crucial to “stay true and take great care with your work.”

This means do what matters most to you, and always give 100 percent. Don’t succumb to societal standards just to fit in with other artists. People want to see a unique, fresh voice that only you can deliver.

“If you want to be a great artist, use what you are passionate about internally,” says Congdon. “Draw from yourself, not from what other people are doing. That’s number one. And take great care with your work. Be meticulous, take the time, make it your best. The combination of that care, attention, work ethic and authenticity is a really strong formula.”

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7 Beginner Photography Techniques to Try out This Weekend

7 Beginner Photography Techniques to Try out This Weekend

When most people ask me questions about print or digital photography, I quickly realize that they think that all I do is grab the camera, point it at something until that something looks pretty, and then press the shutter button. If you’re just getting into photography, you might think that too. And you know what? That’s OK.

There’s more to photography than clicking a button, though, and it all depends on two things: light and technique. Light is the most important factor in any type of photography, but knowing different techniques on how to harness its power is an essential part of being a good photographer.

Here are some basic photography tips and techniques that you can play around with if you’re just starting out in the photography world.

Long Exposure

One of the most versatile photography techniques to master is the long exposure. It can be used in numerous situations, either to create dramatic effect and show you something your eyes can’t see, or as a tool to better document exactly what it is you can see. The idea is that by leaving the shutter open for a longer amount of time, you let in more light and are able to catch where that light is moving to or from. Things that are moving begin to flow, while things that are stationary stay that way. If you’ve ever seen images of waterfalls with that blurry, flowing water, that was done with an exposure of generally a half a second or longer. If you’ve seen images of stars, those images were usually taken at 15-30 second lengths. Luckily, with modern digital cameras, you can play around with long exposures (or any of these techniques) and get instant feedback on how the image will turn out, without having to do the painstaking calculations that were prominent in the film days.

Tip: For long exposures in the daytime, you’re likely going to need a neutral density filter, which cuts down the amount of light entering your lens. A tripod is also a must, since any camera shake can ruin your shot.

Motion Blur

Related to the long exposure is the idea of “motion blur.” With a long exposure, you need to put the camera on a tripod. In order to capture motion blur, the camera must move while you take the image. Your shutter speed should be slower, but not to the extent of a long exposure. Whereas a long exposure could be a second, ten seconds, twenty seconds, etc., a photo with a goal of motion blur might be just 1/30 of a second, or even 1/60, or sometimes even 1/200, depending on what you’re shooting and how fast it’s moving. The idea is to “pan” the camera along with your subject while the image is being captured, so that the subject appears more still relative to its surroundings. This takes a lot of practice and experimentation with a slow shutter speed, but the results can be interesting.

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The term macro has always confused me. Macro photography refers to the photographing of small things. Tiny things. To me, that should be “micro,” not “macro,” but no one consulted me when coming up with the term. (FYI: Nikon’s macro lenses are called “Micro-NIKKOR.” Food for thought.)

In any case, macro photography is fascinating. In our human-oriented world, we forget that there exists an entirely different world on a much, much smaller scale, and by playing with macro photography, you can bring that world to life.

Macro work requires more specialized equipment than many other forms of photography. You’ll need a special lens — a macro lens — or a lens or camera with macro functionality. If you’re starting on a point-and-shoot camera, look for a little icon of a flower on the camera. Turning that function on lets you focus at a closer distance to your subject, which is exactly what you need to do macro work. A camera with a dedicated macro lens, however, will give you the best results. And not all macro lenses are created equal. Look for one with a 1:1 magnification or greater, and ideally, one with a larger focal length. I have a 105mm macro lens, which is fantastic, but there are also longer focal length macro lenses, which allow you to be less close-up from your subject. This can be especially handy if your subject is a little skittish, such as a butterfly. There are also other macro-specific gear, such as extension tubes, reversing rings, macro-specific lighting, and more, but that’s something to look at once you’ve done all you can with the equipment you have.

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Black & White

This one isn’t as much of a technique as it is a style, but there is definitely a technique to shooting good black and whites. With practice, you can start to turn off the “color” part of your vision, and just start to see light. It takes a lot of time to master black & white photography, surprisingly, if you started out shooting color. Many photography students are required to begin their coursework with black and white photography before adding in the color variable, and with good reason.

My best tip for getting good at shooting black and white photography, or for learning how to select which images you want to convert to black and white during post-processing in Photoshop (or Lightroom), is this: if your camera shoots in raw, you can most likely turn on a monochrome setting that allows you to see the images in black and white as you’re shooting. If you have a mirrorless camera, you can do this and see the world in black and white in real time. This will quickly start to shift your mindset and allow you to more easily look for light instead of being distracted by color information. And by shooting in raw, once you get back to the computer, you’ll still have all of the color information at your fingertips. The monochrome image on the back of the camera is just a JPEG preview, but all of the color data is preserved. Give it a shot.

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Light Painting

One of the most fun photography techniques is called “light painting.” The name photography itself breaks down, in the Greek, to “writing with light.” So, “painting” with light is a fairly accurate term for this technique.

To give light painting a whirl, you’ll need two things: a tripod, because this will be a long exposure, and a light source you can control, such as a flashlight, candle, glow stick, etc. Find a dark place (this is also a good opportunity to dabble with night photography), put the camera on a tripod, stop down the aperture to f/8 or smaller (you’ll have to play with the camera settings a bit), and then set the exposure to either bulb mode if you’re using a remote shutter release, or to a longer exposure of 15-30 seconds, depending on what you’re shooting and how you’re painting it. Then hit the shutter, and paint!

You can do this a couple of ways. The first is to aim the light back at the camera, and the other is to shine it on whatever it is you want to paint. Here are a couple of examples.

This will take lots of practice and patience, but the result can be fun.


Silhouettes have a rich history. They started out as paper cutouts and were an early form of faster, cheaper portraiture in the 1800s. Today, we can recreate their style easily with our cameras.

I always enjoy practicing silhouettes, though I don’t do it very often. In my client work, usually people want to see the subject, not just an outline of the subject, but throwing a silhouette into the mix can show that you’re able to think about the world a little differently, and knowing this technique can also help you translate what you’re actually seeing in the real world into a photograph.

The basic technique is to place your subject against a brighter background, and expose so that the outline of the subject is dark against that background. Profiles of people work better than straight-on portraits when doing silhouettes, because you’re better able to see the outline of their face.

Combining Light Sources

One of the more complex photography techniques that you’ll start to experiment involves combining multiple sources and types of light. If you’ve used a camera flash, you’ve already done this — combining the flash’s light with the light of the sun, or the interior lights of a house, etc. Once you start to play with light, you can experiment even further with that idea. Mix a constant light source, such as a lamp, with the flash of a strobe. Use the flashlight in coordination with the light of the moon when doing a light painting. The potential for this is limitless, and when you master using different kinds of light in your images, you’ll truly be living up to the intentions of photography.

After you’ve mastered some of these techniques, the next step is to start combining them. Try long exposure photography, but turn it black and white. Do macro work, but as silhouettes. The combinations of techniques are endless in photography, and by learning and practicing these techniques, you can take your skills up a notch and begin to develop your own style.

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What is the Best Lighting For Photography? A Beginner’s Guide to Lighting Gear

What is the Best Lighting For Photography? A Beginner’s Guide to Lighting Gear

If photography means writing with light, then lighting gear is a photographer’s pen. Adding lighting gear to a photography kit opens up endless creative possibilities to play with shadows, create a glow, or add that sparkling light source. But understanding lighting is also one of the trickiest tasks for new and intermediate photographers to tackle. So what is the best photography lighting?

We’ve rounded up all those newbie lighting gear questions to help you not just find the best lighting for photography, but the best lights for your photography.

best lighting for photography

What’s better, a speedlight or studio lights?

One of the first questions photographers need to ask before investing in lights is whether or not those lights need to be portable. Studio-based photographers are going to pick up different lighting kits than photographers that need to not only easily carry the lighting gear far from any electrical outlet.

speedlight or flash is often the best photography lighting that’s on-site because of the portability. With an off-camera wireless flash system, speedlights can do much of the work of studio strobes. Wedding and sports photographers tend to favor speedlights because of that portability, as well as the flexibility since the same light can also be mounted on-camera. Speedlights aren’t perfect though. They don’t reach as far as studio lights or light stands, the light isn’t as strong and they can take longer to be ready for that next flash of light. (That last one is a tech spec referred to a recycle time).

Studio style lights are larger, but with battery packs, many of them can be used in the studio or on site. Continuous or strobe lights are significantly larger than speedlights because along with packing the actual light, many require separate battery packs to bring along as well. But these lights answer many of the negatives of using a speedlight because they offer more power and have faster recycle times.

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cinematic photography lighting with Chris Knight

What’s the difference between strobe lighting and continuous lighting?

If you’re leaning towards those studio-style lights, you have another decision to make: strobe lighting or continuous lighting? A strobe light has that traditional camera flash with a quick burst of light, while continuous lights are on all the time. Because strobe lights are only putting out light for a short burst, they tend to be more powerful than continuous lights. When shooting portraits, strobe lighting will also make a subtle difference in the subject’s eyes because the burst of light won’t make the pupils larger, leaving more of the color of the iris in the image.

Continuous lights may be less powerful, but they are often affordable — and a must if you are shooting videos rather than stills. For beginners, continuous lights are often easier to work with because you see the light in real time, rather than adjusting, taking a picture with flash, then adjusting again. (Some strobe lights, however, do have a continuous mode to use while setting up the position of the light). Continuous lights are often popular for product photography.

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What about light strength or wattage?

Speedlights, strobes and continuous lights all tend to have varying strengths, that is, they put out a different amount of light, measured in watts for studio lights and in the distance the light can reach for speedlights. But just how much light do you need your lights to actually put out? The answer depends largely on what you shoot.

The most powerful lights are used for shooting with a telephoto lens, photographing large groups and creative lighting tasks like overpowering the sun. Photographers often tasked with those shoots often pick lights with at least 600 watts per second, and for flash, some of the more pricier options.

But more isn’t always better. Powerful light is hard light with harsh shadows. Many photographers favor the soft light and will largely shoot with a light modifier and that light turned down to just a fraction of its power — which means spending the extra cash on that souped-up light isn’t really necessary.

What about modifiers?

Lights are just the beginning. To really get the most creative possibilities from your lighting kit, modifiers are necessary. There are a few different types of modifiers, and no, you don’t need every type, at least not right away. Here are the options:

  • Softboxes or diffusers: Light is powerful. Softboxes and other types of diffusers soften the light, creating a more gradual transition between the light and dark areas of the image. Diffusing the light makes it possible to take an image without that obvious flash look, yet still creates a catchlight, prevents a silhouette or any number of different scenarios. If you don’t know what type of light modifier to get, get a softbox or diffuser.
  • Umbrellas: A shoot through umbrella is a type of diffuser, similar to the look of a softbox. Using a reflective umbrella, you point the light away from the subject and the umbrella sends a more concentrated beam of light back to the subject.
  • Beauty dish: Most often used in portraits in fashion, a beauty dish creates a more vibrant light than a softbox, but doesn’t have the same extreme, hard shadows of a naked light.
  • Barn doors: By placing doors or panels on all four sides of the light, you can leave the doors open and get a wide light or focus the light down by closing any combination of doors.
  • Grids and snoots — These types of modifiers focus the light down to a smaller area. The light hits the subject but then quickly falls off to leave the rest of the scene dark.
  • Gels — Gels give light color. These can be used to troubleshoot — like making a flash match the orange of the sunset in the scene — or to get creative and add unexpected color.

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So what is the best lighting for photography? Recommended lighting gear

Now that you have an idea of what you need, what kit should you put in your cart? There are many great lighting brands out there at many different price points. But, to get you started, here are a few favorites with a moderate price tag.

Speedlight: Nikon SB-700 or Canon Speedlight 430EX II, with the Phottix Stratto II receiver and transmitter for off-camera flash.

Continuous Light: Look for affordable options from Lowel or Impact, or try ikan’s LED panels.

Strobe light kit: Try the Profoto B2s, or options from Wescott, Elinchrom or Bowens. For tighter budgets, look at the Impact brand.

Modifiers: For modifying a speedlight, try the MagMod diffuser or kit, or, if you are on a tight budget, a small inexpensive flash softbox. For diffusing studio light, Elinchrom and Wescott are great, while Neweer works if you don’t have much to spend. For other modifiers, look at what the manufacturer of your studio light suggests to ensure you pick up something compatible.

Learn how to manipulate light, and you can learn how to create nearly any kind of photograph. The best lighting for photography is going to to be the best lighting for your style of photography — one photographer may swear by his flash while the next insists her battery-powered strobes are the best. Armed with information on the types of lights and modifiers and the most essential specs, you can choose the right tool for the shot.

Push yourself to incorporate new photography lighting techniques to expand your photographic style. Join photographer Chris Knight to learn more. 

cinematic photography lighting with Chris Knight

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How To Make Fabric Decoupaged Blocks

How To Make Fabric Decoupaged Blocks

fabric blocks

Don’t let outgrown building blocks languish unloved in a back closet when there are so many beautiful ways to upcycle them!

I’ve been in the process of slowly upcycling my kids’ old building blocks for years (I promise, there will still be more building blocks in the world when/if I have grandchildren!), and one of my favorite ways to upcycle building blocks is to turn them into holiday decorations using simple decoupage techniques.

I’ve already shown you how easy it is to decoupage blocks with paper, but you’ll be pretty excited to know that decoupaging blocks with fabric is EVEN easier! Fabric is sturdier than paper, which means that you need fewer layers of Mod Podge to seal it, and the surface is so much more forgiving than paper, so you’ll find that every Mod Podge layer looks nice and smooth, in stark contrast to all the fussing that one tends to have to do with paper decoupage.

For paper or fabric decoupage, the supplies are nearly identical. Here’s what you need:


  • Outgrown building blocks. I love the look of plain cubes, but you can decoupage any block shape.
  • Fabric, pencil, and scissors. You’ll be fussy cutting your fabric to size, then trimming, if necessary.
  • Mod Podge and a foam paintbrush. Foam paintbrushes aren’t as eco-friendly as natural hair brushes, but they apply the glue smoothly, and if you wash them well after each use they’ll last forever.

blocks, scissors, and fabric


  1. Prepare your fabric. If it’s new fabric, there’s no need to wash and dry it just for this project, but you should iron out any creases.
  2. Measure and cut the fabric. I like to fussy cut the fabric pieces for my decoupaged fabric blocks, so I use the block itself as my template, tracing around each side on the reverse of the fabric piece. You can do this with a pencil or piece of chalk, and if you cut INSIDE the lines that you drew, the piece will match the side of the block more closely.
  3. Glue the fabric to the block. Working on one side at a time, paint a layer of Mod Podge onto the block, carefully smooth the fabric piece onto that side, and then paint another thin layer of Mod Podge on top of the fabric. Let it dry completely before you glue another side–this isn’t a hands-on time-consuming project, but it DOES take up a lot of resting time!

You might think that these cute blocks are only for decorating–and yes, they DO make super cute decorations!–but once they’re sealed with Mod Podge, a kid can play with them just as they do any other blocks. I wouldn’t let a kid who’s still mouthing things have them, but any other kids would probably love having some fun, festive holiday elements added to their open-ended block play.

Upcycled Building Block Projects

Do you have even more blocks that you’re ready to upcycle? Here are just a few of my favorite ways to upcycle building blocks!

DIY puzzles

1. DIY puzzle blocks. Older kids will enjoy the challenge of using their building blocks in this completely new way.

2. Artist Trading Blocks. Create, share, and collect these blocks with other artists.

3. Candle holder. These candle holders work best with big, chunky alphabet blocks.

4. Art dice. Amp up your creativity with this fun, open-ended art game!art dice

5. Snowman blocks. Here’s another simple holiday decoration.

6. Building block tabletop. This method to make a tabletop out of upcycled building blocks is brilliant, and it’s on my to-do list, for sure.

7. Alphabet block coat rackHere’s another fun piece of furniture that you can make from unneeded alphabet blocks.

8. Photo holderYou always need more room for photos, and here’s an easy way to make a photo holder out of old building blocks.

9. MirrorThis would be a cute way to decorate a children’s bathroom mirror.

10. Translucent color blocksUpcycle Keva or Kapla blocks into these beautiful science and sensory manipulatives.

11. Photo puzzle blocksThese aren’t just for kids–they make a great coffee table or desktop toy, so they’re a great gift to make for grandparents.

12. Countdown calendarA countdown calendar is sooooo much easier than an Advent calendar!

13. Block signageThese blocks would make a great holiday message, either out of the way on the mantle, or on the coffee table for kids to rearrange at will–it’s not hard to put them back in order!

14. Chalkboard blocksSometimes a set of building blocks just needs a new coat of paint to make them brand-new. If you use chalkboard paint, then the fun never has to end!

15. Baby shower craftI LOVE this idea! At one of my baby showers, guests decorated onesies, but how much fun could it have also been for guests to embellish baby’s future toys! This project would work best with clean, unfinished wooden blocks that haven’t been loved a lot in their previous life. They’ll be loved a lot in their next one!

What are YOUR favorite ways to upcycle old toys? Tell me about them in the Comments below!


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How to Upcycle a Crystal Head Vodka Bottle Into a Sugar Skull Candle Holder

How to Upcycle a Crystal Head Vodka Bottle Into a Sugar Skull Candle Holder

skull head candle holder

Y’all, I drank some vodka so that my kids and I could make this project. Friends, I am always working for YOU!

It’s October. You need a sugar skull candle holder.

There are skull-shaped vodka bottles for sale in liquor stores.

Let’s play!


To make your own sugar skull candle holder, you will need:

  • Skull-shaped glass bottle. I’m using empty Crystal Head vodka bottles (hiccup!), but there are other skull-shaped glass bottles around.
  • Rust-Oleum Paint+Primer spray paint, heirloom white. I don’t love spray paint, obviously, because it’s not eco-friendly, BUT this exact color in this exact brand is the perfect bone color.
  • Paint pens. We used both Sharpie and Beric paint pens. I, personally, preferred the narrower tips of the Beric pens, but both brands show up well and don’t flake off or smear.

spray painting skull bottles


  1. Clean and paint the skull-shaped glass bottle. There’s a neat trick that you can do to paint a bottle: stick a pole in the ground, upend the bottle over the pole, and get the whole bottle, top, and bottom, in one go! I, however, didn’t feel like digging around for a pole, so I just turned the bottles upside-down after they dried and sprayed on another coat. No big deal.
  2. Decorate the bottles with paint pens. Have a lot of fun with this! Draw patterns and designs or focus on one big concept; either way its going to look absolutely awesome.

decorating skull bottle heads

This is a great project for a kid to do if they can treat paint pens respectfully. Teach them all about the Day of the Dead, let them look at lots and lots of images of real sugar skulls, and then let them be as creative as they like.

If you want to seal your sugar skull candle holder with a clear sealant, you can, but in this case, I don’t really think it’s necessary. I also didn’t want to make my own sugar skull candle holder shiny.

The Crystal Head vodka bottle fits a standard-sized taper candle, and I’d recommend cutting a cardboard circle out of recycled food packaging to fit around the candle so that you’re not in any danger of wax dripping onto your beautiful creation.

finished skull head bottle candle holder

P.S. Want to make a REAL sugar skull? Check out my walk-through here!

P.P.S. Want to make even more types of sugar skulls? Check out some of my other favorite sugar skull projects!


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Four Dozen Eco-Friendly Felt Crafts

Four Dozen Eco-Friendly Felt Crafts

Felt is SO much fun to craft with, and felt crafts are even better when you realize how eco-friendly they can be!

Prefer crafting with natural materials? Wool felt is for you.

Prefer crafting with recycled materials? You’ll love Eco-fi felt, made from recycled plastic bottles!

Whichever kind of felt you prefer, you can settle happily into any of the felt crafts below, knowing that whatever you make, it will be a great choice for the environment:

1. Realistic felt leaf silhouettesYou use real leaves as the templates for these felt leaves, so each one is unique and realistic.

2. Felt piggy bank coin purseThis little piggy is adorable and will keep your change safe.

3. Felt party hatsDon’t waste your money on buying party hats every year–these are cute, easy to make, and will last forever.

4. Felt woodland creature masksIf you’re already freaking out about Halloween costumes, these adorable felt woodland creature masks may just save your month!

This cute little no-sew felt owl is a perfect way to take a break from the summer swelter.

5. No-sew owlThis is a great craft for a kid to make independently–working with felt is great for kids!

6. Plantable felt garden boxSo, this is the cutest craft EVER. If you have a kid who loves play food, that kid is going to LOVE this play garden.

7. Felt play foodI’m 42 years old, and I would still play with felt food–it’s THAT fun.

8. Travel tic-tac-toeHere’s an easy-to-make, easy-to-play travel game!

9. Baby capeOne 9” x 12” piece of felt is the perfect size for a cape for a baby. It’s an easy Halloween costume!

10. Felt sugar skull sachetsI am a firm believer that skulls are a year-round decorating element. Whether you, too, have skulls all over, or if you reserve them for Halloween, you’re going to think that these felt sugar skulls are super cool!

11. Fabric heartsI love mixing felt with other fabrics, and here it goes especially well with cotton prints to make beautiful valentine hearts.

12. Sheep mobileThese bouncy felt sheep will send your baby right to sleep!

13. First sewing project for a kidFelt is PERFECT for a first sewing project for a kid! It’s a real fabric, and therefore not babyish, but it doesn’t fray and is very forgiving. Show kids how to cut out simple shapes and how to thread a needle with embroidery floss, and then stand back and watch them create!

Crafts for Kids: Kid-Friendly Sewing Projects

14. Coffee sleeveYou don’t need to take and waste a cardboard sleeve when your DIY version is this cozy.

15. Felt acorn coasterCool weather is no reason for warm drinks to leave rings on your coffee table!

16. Felt gingerbread manThese little gingerbread men make cute ornaments or gift tags.

17. Felt koozieA felt koozie is easy enough for a kid to make with white glue and a few simple stitches, but you could also make these amazingly elaborate, with lots of details and embroidery. It’s the perfect all-level project!

Handmade Father's Day Gifts

18. Felt mailbox play setDoes your kid LOVE checking the mail? Make them a homemade felt mailbox!

19. Felt succulentsYou can’t kill them.

20. Garland necklaceYou get to whip out your jewelry making skills for this project!

21. CrownAre birthday crowns a thing where you live? They’re not a thing where I live, but I did them anyway when my kids were wee. Felt is a great material to use since it’s so easy to sew, and you can add whatever embellishments you like.

22. Felt heart bookmarkThis corner-style bookmark is the cleverest, and the design meshes perfectly with its function.

23. Felt lollipopMy kid had a candy-themed birthday party once, and these would have made great party favors.

24. Felt storage boxesWith all of the colors that felt comes in, you can have an endless variety of boxes to store all your odds and ends.

25. Car air freshenerFair warning: I have only tried this with wool felt, and so I don’t know how long the scent would last with recycled plastic felt. But this is also a terrific way to get some scent into your car, and especially without resorting to store-bought artificial scents!

Best of Crafting Green

26. Christmas pudding ornamentSo you can have a very British Christmas!

27. Felt peonyAfter you read through this entire round-up, you should be able to make an entire garden of felt flowers!

28. Ice cream broochApparently felt is THE fabric to have when making novelty accessories.

29.  Reusable party streamersThese streamers sew up quickly from even the smallest felt scraps, and you can reuse them year after year.

30. Felt leaf garlandUse these instead of store-bought faux greenery.

31. Felt wedding bouquetI LOVE this idea. I’d love to still have my own wedding bouquet, as fresh as when I walked down the aisle with it!

32. Guinea pig ornamentEverybody should want an ornament that celebrates their own favorite piggy.

33. Pinwheel broochHere’s a silly and sweet accessory for your next date night!

34. Felt bowThese are easy to make as multiples. Party favors, anyone?

35. Felt eucalyptusHere’s another one to add to your felt garden!

36. Rainbow heart bannerI love how colorful this is!

37. Peacock fascinatorNeed another lighthearted accessory? Check out this adorable peacock fascinator!

38. Felt baby shoesYour baby will be the most stylish–and the comfiest–in these homemade baby shoes.

39. Felt hot air balloon mobileOnce you learn how to make a mobile, tons of creative options are open to you!

40. Felt flowers mobileIf your baby doesn’t want a mobile of hot air balloons or sheep, then how about flowers?

41. Felt scraps garlandHere’s another easy streamer to make from all your littlest felt scraps.

42. Christmas pillowOne thing to know about felt is that it doesn’t always wash well, so I’d make sure that this pillow was mainly decorative.

43. Felt doughnutIt’s all hand-sewn, so anyone can do it–the more sprinkles, the better!

44. Felt mitten patternTwenty-four of these mittens lined up in a row would make a super sweet Advent calendar.

45. Felt playsetKids love felt boards for all the ways that they support imaginary play. Here’s how to make a felt playset with all of YOUR kid’s favorite things!

46. Felt corsageIt’s cheaper and more meaningful than even fresh flowers.

47. Felt dove ornamentThis link takes you right to the pdf template, so making this dove couldn’t be easier!

48. Felt tissue holdersThese are perfect for carrying around just a few tissues in your bag.

Do you have a favorite felt craft? Share it with me in the Comments below!


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Three Dozen Free Knit Hat Patterns

Three Dozen Free Knit Hat Patterns

Knitting season is upon us! I can tell, because as I sit here at my writing desk, I’m wearing wool socks, sweatpants, and a fleece hoodie with a giant unicorn head for a hood (it’s for sure my best thrift shop score EVER!), and I’m still freezing. When I go outside later, I will absolutely pull a knit hat on under my giant unicorn head, because in the fall and winter, you can never have too many knit hats.

A knit hat is a great knitting project, whether you’re a beginning knitter or a seasoned professional because there is a knit hat pattern to suit everybody. Don’t have a ton of time? Use chunky yarn! Have ages and ages to knit in? Allow yourself to make the most beautiful, elaborately detailed hat ever! Want to use up a bunch of scraps? Make the most colorful hat on the planet! Knitting for the pickiest person you’ve ever met? There’s a yarn color and weight and fiber for everyone!

So whatever type of project you’re looking for, check out the list below of my favorite FREE knit hat patterns online. You’re going to find something that you’ll love!

1. Classic knit hat Think of a knit hat. Got it? Okay, you’re thinking of this very hat! It’s a classic for a reason, simple in looks, easy to make, and lovely in any color.

2. Easy pom-pom hat on Ravelr If you love knitting (or you’re just learning to love it!), then you need to sign up for a Ravelry account. You’ll find loads of knitting projects and advice on Ravelry, and plenty of well-vetted patterns that are absolutely free–like this one!

3. Easy knit toque Here’s a simple pom-pom hat that’s knit with chunky yarn so it’s quick to make and comfy to wear.

4. Anthropologie-inspired knit hat I have absolutely no problem with seeing something that I like in a store and then heading straight home to DIY it. Here’s a great DIY version of an expensive store-bought knit hat.

5. Stripey knit slouchy beanie This is a cute style that will also stand up to lots of wear and tear and activity.

6. Beanie with a pom-pom This knit beanie is very similar to the one just above, but this one has a POM-POM!!!

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When your oldest friend asks for a Seahawks hat, you oblige even though they cheer for the wrong Birds (FLY EAGLES FLY!!) Crochet Winter Hat Pattern” free on Colors: Lion Brand Hometown USA “Fort Worth Blue” and Caron Simply Soft “Neon Green.” Maybe this will make the end of football season bearable for her 😉. . … #yarnspirations #lionbrandyarn #lionbrandhometownUSA #seattleseahawks #crochethat #crochetersofinstagram #crochetgirlgang #crochetlove #crochetersofig #likecrochet #crochetmagazine #lovecrochet #crochetaddict #crocheting #lovecrochetcom #insidecrochet #crochetgirlgang #crochetfans #happilyhooked #handmade #lovecrochet #knittedpatternsdotcom #yarnstagram #freepattern

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7. Despicable Me Edith hat Have a kiddo who loves Despicable Me and would love to dress just like one of those cute little cartoon kids? It’s now possible!

8. Seed stitch knit hat pattern Not all knit hats are knit with the easiest, most basic stitches. Here’s one that will stand out from the crowd thanks to the seed stitch.

9. Snowy Day hat This hat could not look warmer or more snuggly–it’ll FEEL warm, too, thanks to two strands of yarn knit together throughout the entire hat.

10. Audrey hat for beginners The pattern for this hat was designed with beginners in mind and has helpful written tips just for newbie knitters.

11. Effortless beanie Here’s another free hat pattern just for knitters. The pattern, itself, is free, but if you need even more hand-holding, you can actually buy a kit with all the supplies needed to make this hat right from the pattern page.

12. Baby earphones hat This free hat is sized for 12 months, with other sizes for sale.

13. Braided hat Even those of us with buzzcuts can have long braids for winter!

14. Matching hearts hat The heart earflaps are too cute, and you can even knit them separately to embellish an entire line of matching winter gear.

15. Child’s earflap hat Earflap hats are the warmest, and the little ties mean that you can actually keep this hat ON a kid’s head.

16. Child’s crown I don’t know how warm this will actually keep a child, but it is ADORABLE.

17. Knight’s helmet This WILL keep a head–and face!–quite warm.

18. Creepy critters chullo I LOVE the critters knitted into this super-warm hat!

19. Owl knit hat pattern Like the idea of animals on your head, but you’re NOT into the idea of creepy animals? I think this owl knit hat is going to be just the thing for you.

20. Cupcake hat Your little cupcake needs a cupcake hat!

21. Ombre pom-pom beanie With just three colors of yarn, this beanie hat pattern has the cleverest way to make an ombre effect.

22. Sock monkey hat You need a hat that looks like a sock monkey, and that’s all that I’m going to say about it.

23. Simple texture slouch hat Yarn companies can be a great resource for free knitting patterns, such as this version of a knitted slouch hat.

24. Mummy hat Here’s another yarn company offering–this one a hat that will keep your face and head warm, and make you look quite a lot like a mummy.

25. Chunky knit hat And another yarn company, wanting to show you how to make a chunky knit hat that’s very snuggly and knits up quickly.

26. Daffodil hat This little hat would be so cute on a kid in early spring!

27. Transformers toque This hat is more than meets the eye. It is not, however, a robot in disguise.

28. Four-row repeat hat Here’s an easy technique for making a hat that looks more complicated than it is!

29. Brain hat Why yes, this IS a free pattern to knit a hat that looks like a brain. You guys, I want this hat sooo badly!

30. Snowfall hat If you want something Christmasy but a little more elegant, check out this snowfall hat.

31. Rudolph hat Knit hats are the clothing of Christmas–get a little more festive with a Rudolph hat!

32. Santa hat If someone is going to be Rudolph, then someone else has to be Santa Claus!

33. Belle wig Maybe you can only get your loved one to wear a hat outside in the cold if that hat happens to look exactly like Belle’s wig from the Beauty and the Beast animated film. That’s cool because this knit hat does that!

34. Knitted wig This wig isn’t nearly as elaborate as the Belle wig, above, but it’s still a fun way to keep your heard warm with a faux hair look.

35. Elvis wig Or, you know, you could just knit yourself an Elvis wig.

36. Spock ears hat Or maybe you can only get them to wear a hat if the hat looks like Spock’s ears. Whatever works!

Do you have any favorite free knit hat patterns? Share them with me in the Comments below!


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How to Design a Logo, in 5 Simple Steps

How to Design a Logo, in 5 Simple Steps

Take a quick glance around whatever space you’re in right now. No matter whether it’s a coffee shop, your office, your bedroom, a subway car, or the park, there’s one thing you’ll certainly find: a logo. Be it on a postcard pinned to a corkboard, emblazoned on a T-shirt or hat, driving by on the side of a truck, or tattooed on the arm of the person next to you, logos are the communication currency of the modern world.

Every brand, whether corporate or personal, has a logo. The bands you listen to, the food you eat, the sports teams you root for, the bloggers you follow — all have logos. Logos surround you, wherever you are.

And that’s because there’s nothing more important for a brand’s identity than its logo. A visual symbol, when executed well, expresses so much more than words can about the company, product or group it represents. And the best symbols express so much, in turn, about you, the consumer. Iconic logos like Apple’s, LEGO’s and Levi’s didn’t cement themselves in our culture just because they’re cleanly designed or boldly colored or eye-catching shaped, or just because they contain a company name; they’re icons that consumers are proud to tout in their homes, on their clothing, and in their hands.

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So, if you’re new to this work, how do you go about tackling logo design, given how high the stakes are? Maybe you want to add heft to your graphic design portfolio, or create a personal logo for your own brand, or simply challenge yourself creatively. Regardless, adding logo design to your toolkit will serve you well given how critical these assets are across every industry. Below, your ultimate, step-by-step guide to designing a logo.

Step 1: Deep-Dive Into the Brand

First things first: do a close study of the brand for which you’re designing a logo. Read any materials you can get your hands on, peruse any design guidelines that are available, scroll through the brand’s social media feeds if they exist, talk to people who work for or consume (or would consume, if it doesn’t exist yet) the brand. A powerful logo encapsulates the essence of the brand, so it’s critical to begin the logo design process with an airtight understanding of what that brand stands for, who its target audience is and what its core values are. Collect all of this information into a thorough design brief that can guide your creative process as you begin exploring ideas.

Step 2: Gather Inspiration

The world around you is teeming with examples of great logos. Before you dive into design, assemble a mood board of logos — either physical or digital — that resonate with you and feel relevant for the brand for which you’re creating a visual identity. Check out sites like PinterestDribbble, and Behance, and browse the portfolios and Instagram accounts of designers you admire. Page through magazines, art books, and even catalogs.

Step 3: Start Sketching

Using the inputs from Step 1 and the inspiration from Step 2, start playing around with ideas using paper and pen. Sketching by hand is quicker than jumping right into Adobe Illustrator; you won’t get bogged down in the tiny details and the quantity of your creative output will be greater. You don’t need to be excellent at drawing, either; the sketching phase is just about churning out all stripes of ideas efficiently. As you begin, you’ll want to determine the right aesthetic that fits the brand in question — quirky? classic? retro? — as well as the colors and typography that best communicate the brand identity. In addition, you’ll need to decide what type of logo is most suitable: wordmark, monogram, combination, brandmark or emblem. It’s up to you as the designer to determine the creative direction of each of these elements in combination. At this stage, no ideas are bad ideas. Don’t erase or throw out anything you come up with; you never know what creative fruit may be borne from your early thoughts when you take stock of your work, even if it’s for a future project.

Step 4: Tighten Your Concept

Once you start to get a sense of a few solid options for your logo, hold each up to a strict checklist to ensure you’re headed in the right direction. A great logo must be:

Simple: Is it clear at first glance what the logo is communicating? Is it not trying to do too much? Does it not overwhelm the eye? Will potential customers understand what this brand does?

Memorable: Is the logo impactful? Does it leave a good visual impression?

Versatile: Logos are used in all manner of branding materials, both print and digital. Can this logo design be adapted across a variety of media? Is it scalable, up and down?

Relevant: Does the logo match the aesthetic and personality of the brand? Does it have meaning that’s appropriate to the company or product it’s representing?

Timeless: Will the logo still be effective in 2 years? 10? 50?

Unique: Does the logo take too many obvious cues from similar brands’ logos? Does it have an individualized visual voice?

Use the above criteria to narrow down your designs to 2-5 finalists to show your client, or to consider yourself even more closely if the logo is for your own project. It helps to take a breather at this stage — even just a day — and come back to the designs with fresh perspective in order to select a winner.

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Step 5: Digitize Your Design

There are a variety of ways to digitize your hand-sketched logo, if you want to use your drawing as the basis of the final logo versus designing a new on your computer. The most common route is to scan the sketch, and then convert the image into a vector file in Adobe Illustrator. You’ll also need to export your logo into a variety of file types, depending on the project needs (for example, .ai, .eps, .png and .pdf).

That’s it! All that’s left is to put that logo to use, on everything from business cards, letterhead, email footers and social media profile images to branded apparel, swag and packaging.

The logo creation process can be time-consuming and creatively challenging. But it’s worth the investment of energy and time: a brand is only as powerful as its logo.

Now go forth and design.

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21 Free Leggings Patterns and Tutorials

21 Free Leggings Patterns and Tutorials

mermaid leggings

If you’ve been suspecting that you can make leggings that are just as good as the ones you can buy in stores, then you are RIGHT! Leggings are super easy to sew, very forgiving for the beginner, and best yet, when you’re in charge of making them, you get to choose your favorite prints and patterns, and you get to make sure that the fit and length are exactly what you want.

For instance, those mermaid leggings in that photo above? I sewed them in exactly the holographic blue mermaid scale print that my mermaid-obsessed kid has been dreaming of, and I went up a full size in the length, so that unlike every other pair of leggings that I’ve ever tried to buy her in a store, they actually fit both her waist AND her legs–yay!

And of COURSE, I sewed her American Girl doll a matching pair of mermaid leggings from the scrap fabric.

Making a kid’s dream come true isn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Interested in making some dreams of your own come true, or maybe you just want another pair of comfy pants? No problem! Check out my list of FREE leggings patterns and tutorials below, and soon you and your ball-point sewing needle will be cranking out some new favorites.

space leggings

1. Peg Legs by Patterns for PiratesI seriously cannot believe that this pattern is free. It is the BEST leggings pattern, and you can also get free add-ons to it to make it even fancier. It also comes in a huge variety of sizes–my 12-year-old is just barely too small for the smallest size, but my 14-year-old (near the bottom of the sizes) and I (near the top) both love the leggings that I made from this pattern.

2. Easy 18-inch doll leggingsThis is THEE pattern that I use to make American Girl doll leggings. Every time I sew a pair of leggings, I use the scraps to sew a pair for my kid’s dolls. She loves them, and *I* love using up every last bit of fabric!

3. Adult sweater to child leggingsThese kid leggings aren’t stretchy, but they are SO warm and toasty, and the wilder the sweater, the more the kid will love them.

4. Draft your own leggings patternIf you want a real, made-from-scratch DIY experience, why not draft your own pattern? Leggings are so forgiving that this is a great beginner’s project.

5. No-sew braided leggingsYou do have to start with a complete pair of leggings for this project, but it would be a great way to jazz up a boring pair of leggings rather than buying a brand-new pair.

6. Free children’s leggings patternSo many tutorials tell you to make leggings by tracing a pair of leggings that you already own, and honestly, I’m pretty over that. That’s a fine novice trick, but after a while, you really just want a well-drafted pattern with a decent range of sizes. So hallelujah, here’s just that!

7. Knit shirt to child leggingsHonestly, if I had another kid, all I’d do is upcycle old adult shirts into clothes for that kid. Any comfy long-sleeved shirt made of T-shirt fabric can be used to make a comfy pair of leggings for a kid.

8. No-hem bow cuff for leggingsUse this cute finishing technique with any leggings pattern.

9. Skirt + leggingsThis pattern is a great idea for kids who want to wear a pair of leggings under their skirt, anyway. Hint: it makes the monkey bars so much easier!

10. Knee patches for leggingsYou can save yourself a lot of trouble by simply putting knee patches on your kids’ leggings as you sew them.

11. Another free leggings pattern. And here’s another free adult leggings pattern! It’s an embarrassment of riches!

12. Another free kids’ leggings patternI really like the flounced capri option with these leggings.

13. Leggings to shortsRefashioning holey leggings into shorts is super easy, and you always need another pair of shorts!

14. Add ruffles to leggingsThese ruffles would be super cute attached to capri leggings.

15. Size medium leggings patternFree patterns for adult leggings are hard to come by. If you’re a size medium, then you’re in luck!

16. Painted patterns on leggingsHere’s another fun way to embellish a boring pair of leggings.

17. Baby leggings patternIf anyone deserves to be comfy, it’s a BABY!

18. Stretch lace leggingsUse any of the listed leggings patterns with stretch lace, and make yourself a super cute base layer.

19. Anything But Basic leggings patternHere’s another free pattern for adults, and it comes in a range of sizes, too. Yay!

20. Yoga pants to leggingsIf you’ve got yoga pants but you’d rather have leggings, here’s how to make the change.

21. Leggings with ruffled flowersWhen you sew your own leggings, it’s simple to add high-fashion embellishments–like these ruffled flowers!

Do YOU have a favorite way to sew or embellish leggings? Share them with me in the comments below!


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