Decluttering the Ghosts of Projects Past AND Make Fast Last Minute Gifts!

rice filled foot warmer

Use the cheapest rice this one cost about 40 cents a pound.

Last Minute Gifts that help you declutter from projects past!

We are in the holiday Gift Giving Season! Whatever it is you celebrate – it all comes together this month!

I like to have a stash of last minute gifts for unexpected guests, party hosts or just to fill in a gap under the tree.

This year I  established a practice of daily decluttering my household from past debris and detritus (i.e. old project leftovers).

Since I have an art studio/craft room I have LOTS of leftovers that are too nice to throw away. So for my last minute gifts I am using up small pieces of fabric by making non-electric heating pads. These little gems are great as a replacement for the old-fashioned hot-water-bottle as well as a substitute for the electric heating pad.


Overview: To make this rice filled warmer you need:

  • A piece of cotton material 17 inches by 20 inches, flannel or just a soft cotton will work.
  • The ability to sew straight lines on a sewing machine (I taught my 10-year-old grandson to make these).
  • A sewing machine
  • and some rice.

After you make your first one, you can figure out your own variations in size and shape.

Step 1: Cut your material – for an 8″ X 18″ warmer your piece will need to measure 16″ X 20″. If you are already someone that sews you could make this in an animal shape or any shape you want. Remnants or Fat Squares work well.

Fig1- folding&1st stitching

Step 2: Fold your material lengthwise with right sides facing in. Sew along each short side. (see Fig. 1 above)

TIP #1: Sew from open side towards the fold and sew clear off the end of the material to make sure the pocket will be closed.

Step 3: Turn the sewn piece right side out so the side seams are on the inside. Poke out corners until they are squared.

Step 4: Sew on the right sides starting with the center. This does not have to be exact – eyeball measures work.  Then sew in the center between the first center stitching and the right side. I drew in the stitching and numbered them to help with the visual. Don’t forget TIP #1.

Fig2 sewing the tube pockets

Step 5: Repeat Step 3 on the left side. As you can see from my drawing the tubular pockets do not have to be exactly the same. They can be – but eyeball measuring still works.

Now comes the fiddly part – filling the tubes with rice. You will adjust to personal preferences here, but remember the tubes do not have to be tightly packed. The loosely filled pockets are softer and you don’t want the warmer to fell like a brick on an aching joint or pulled muscle. On the other hand if you don’t put in enough rice – the warmer cools off faster. Here is a picture of the “tools” I use:

Supplies for filling

I made 10 warmers and used 25 pounds of cheap rice. You will use about 2 – 3 pounds of rice for one large warmer (this size). I use a 2 quart measuring bowl to stand the empty warmer in – use what you have – it helps hold the pockets upright and catches spills as you are pouring in the rice. I use a measuring cup for a scoop so I can get pretty close to filling the pockets with one scoop. Use a regular funnel inserted in the top of the pocket to corral the rice.

rice in funnel

Step 5: Insert funnel into open pocket (see above photo) and pour rice into funnel – fill pockets one at a time to about and inch and a half from the top. I stand the warmer in a large bowl until half the pockets are full, then you can take it out and just lean it on something. Straight-sided containers other than bowls work too.

Pinning top of pockets

Step 6: Fold in the unfinished edge and pin the pockets closed. One pin per pocket will work, you may use more pins if you wish.

Step 7: Sew the pockets closed. Go slowly using a toothpick or a straight pin to push wayward rice grains out of the path of the needle. This is very important as one grain of rice will stop the sewing and can break your needle.
Pinning top of pockets

Last step: Snip all the excess thread and check that all pockets are sewn all the way shut so rice cannot migrate.

There you have it – an beautiful warmer that would have cost $30+ at the store. AND you have used up excess stuff from your craft area creating space and freeing up your creativity for the next time around.


Put the rice-filled pillow in the microwave oven for 3 minutes to get it hot. I use heavily patterned fabric because over time the warmer will pick up little smudges from debris in the microwave. Some people like to make pillowcase type covers that can be taken off and washed. My warmer lasted 2 years – nuked 3 – 5 times a day in our cold season – then the rice got brittle and burned a hole in the fabric. I fixed it but it didn’t really work too well after that.

Hooray! You have used up several (I made 10 in one afternoon) scraps of fabric – thus freeing you up by decluttering space in your craft area and in your mind. And you have enough gifts to be very generous this year. I use them for hostess  gifts, birthday gifts, unexpected-guest gifts and plain old “Here you need this” gifts.

BEST OF ALL  – You have joined the green movement by using up what you have AND there is less clutter in your home!


If you have questions about making the warmers, ask them in the comment section and I will answer you – be sure to leave me an email address too.

Purse Journals – Everyone Should Have One! – Art Camp for Women

Inside front cover - title pageLori W. talks about making Purse Journals this morning as her Monday morning guest post over at Artistcellar. Go check it out and see if you have any questions.

Dinner with Julie Fei-Fan Balzer and A Tutorial for You!

Julie, Lori and Lorri

Julie Fei-Fan Balzer, Lori W. & Lorri F.

We are in the very heart of winter here in Colorado and since Groundhog’s day was a bust – we had to get up to some other mischief.  We heard through the grapevine (aka her blog) that Julie Fei-Fan Balzer was going to be in Colorado to do some work on her book (to be released this fall)!

Being big fans, we arranged to meet up with her for dinner – how fun is that?

We had a relaxed and fun dinner – chatting and laughing throughout as always seems to happen when women meet up to talk about art and life.

Julie was so generous, giving us insights and telling us tips about blogging, publishing, writing, arting and being an entrepreneur that we thought we would share her with you.

Julie’s blog is a continual and enormous wealth of mixed media knowledge and inspiration. For inspiration and ideas for your valentine cards I found this tutorial of hers.

And as an extra bonus valentine – here is a quick (as in fast) video showing her doing about a jillion little techniques you could use in all kinds of mixed media art pieces.

Using these two inspiring articles of Julie’s – we are pulling out every paper, paint, and ribbon that we have that is red, pink or lacy to see what we can come up with for our sweethearts.  And we can laugh as another snowy weekend stares us in the face.

The joys of being with other creative people (and why we need to push ourselves to get out and mingle!)

My art group "Uncommon Cloth"

My art group "Uncommon Cloth" (Lorri F third from left)

Why do I have to force myself to get out, mingle and feed my creative side??  I belong to a small art group and to a much larger contemporary art quilt group and every month I have to give myself an extra nudge to go to our meetings.  It’s a common theme in my life and by the time I work and run errands for our household, I’d rather stay home and slip down to my art room if I have a few moments (and some energy) left in the day.    It’s just easier to stay home!  However, when I  “stay home” too long, I find myself feeling stale; out of ideas and inspiration.

Last Saturday, I went to a talk by Seth Apter held at Two Hands Paperie in Boulder, Colorado.  It was a completely inspiring, nurturing morning listening to Seth and other artists featured in his book,  “The Pulse of Mixed Media: Secrets and Passions of 100 Artists Revealed.”  I stayed for the whole time and was one of the last to leave. HOWEVER, I must confess that it wasn’t my idea to go to the talk.  Lori W. wanted to go, but had a scheduling conflict and asked me if I would go instead.   It was on a Saturday morning and if I had my druthers, I would stay home.  But I gave myself a little push and went to Seth’s talk because I knew I would LOVE it once I got there…and of course, I did!

"Art is NOT Optional" tote bag from

Once I do get out, I love the energy of being with my art friends.  I’m inspired, recharged and come home with new ideas for my work.  That’s when I laugh at my silliness and remind myself that  it’s essential for me to be with other creative people and to stop thinking about getting out and JUST DO IT!  Lori’s friend Lisa, the owner of artistcellar, sells bags printed with the phrase “Art is NOT Optional” and neither is creative nurturing time with other people.  When I stay home, I’m cheating myself out of the richness of sharing and being inspired by others.

Bringing creative people together (and we’re all creative by the way) is one of the reasons Lori and I started Art Camp for Women.  While working at home on our own or watching a DVD or online class has it’s benefits – nothing takes the place of the creative energy that is generated by a group of women coming together.  You can get “unstuck” in a matter of minutes if you have someone else to turn to plus you get great  ideas when you can see what your fellow campers are doing – everyone brings their unique creativity to the group to share.

Lori and I started Art Camp for Women because we wanted a retreat where women would be nutured with good food, fantastic teachers and the joy of sharing the creative experience with other women.  We encourage you to get out and mingle – whether it’s at Art Camp, with friends and neighbors or an art group of your own – you deserve it!



Organize with Custom Foamcore Boxes

If you’re joining us from Julie Fei-Fan Balzer’s Organization Week…Welcome to Art Camp for Women!  We love to hang out in our PJ’s and what better place to do that than Art Camp…so we have a Pajama Giveaway happening during the month of January.  Sign up for our newsletter during the month of January and you’ll be placed in a random drawing to win a $50 gift certificate to 

Read on to learn how to make your very own foamcore box (designed by Lorri F) so you can start organizing your stuff!


Custom sized boxes for beads, thread and markers

These nifty custom made boxes are super easy to make, sturdy and inexpensive! I’ve made boxes to fit shallow map drawers and deeper cabinet drawers. You could also make boxes with deep sides to sit on shelves…the sky’s the limit!

Cutting mat, white duct tape, Foam Board, kraft knife, extra-fine black Sharpie, ruler

Supplies Needed:

  • – 1/4 inch thick foamcore board also called “Foam Board” (3/16″ thick foamcore works just as well and follow the directions as if you have 1/4″ foamcore)
    – Ruler
    – Kraft knife (treat yourself to a brand new blade – you’ll be happier with your finished cuts!)
    – Cutting mat
    – Extra-fine Sharpie or sharp pencil
    – Duct tape (I used white…but the sky’s the limit)

Markers snuggled in their customized foamcore box

Let’s start by making a shallow box to hold Sharpie Markers.  This box with 2″ high sides will fit in both a shallow map drawer or a deeper cabinet drawer.  I measured a marker and decided I wanted a box with outside dimensions of 6 1/2″ x 10″ with 2″ high sides.   If you are using 1/4″ thick foamcore, the inside dimensions of the box will be 6″ x 9 1/2″.

NOTE:  If you are making a box to fit a space – determine the space you want to fill and that will be your finished measurements.  If you are making a box to store items of a certain size,  measure your items to determine the inside dimensions of the box and add 1/2″ to the width and 1/2″ to the length to get the finished measurements.

Finished height of box sides =  2″

Finished width of box (If you’re making a rectangle shaped box, you will have a short side and a long side. If you’re making a square shaped box, both sides will be the same length)

Finished short side =   6 1/2″

Finished long side =    10″

Use the measurements above and the steps below to determine the size to CUT the foamcore board (Just click on the photo to enlarge it to read my notes):     

Use a ruler and sharp kraft knife to cut through the foamcore on the marked lines.

Determine the cut width of the short side:

Finished height of sides x 2 = 2″ x 2 = 4
Plus Width of short side = 6 1/2
Minus Width of foamcore x 4 = 1/4″ x 4 = 1″

Cut width of the short side = 4″ + 6 1/2″ – 1″ = 9 1/2″

Determine the cut width of the long side:

Finished height of sides x 2 = 2″ x 2 = 4
Plus Width of long side = 10″
Minus Width of foamcore x 4 = 1/4″ x 4 = 1″

Cut width of the long side = 4″ + 10″ – 1″ = 13″

Cut a piece of 1/4″ foamcore board that is 9 1/2″ x 13″.  Mark the cut lines using an extra-fine Sharpie.  Use  a ruler and a sharp kraft knife to cut on the marked lines.  (If you’re using 3/16″ thick foamcore – just pretend it’s 1/4″ for the purpose of following these directions. The difference is not worth messing with.)

When you’re ready to make your own box, here’s a downloadable form you can use to determine the cut size of your foamcore board.


Now, onto the fun part…let’s make a box!

(Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them to read my notes)

Step 1 – Using a ruler and an extra-fine Sharpie or sharp pencil, mark the score lines on the short sides of the box.

Step 1: Measure and mark the score lines on the short sides of the box.

Starting with the short sides, measure in the height of the side less the width of the foamcore board – in our example this is 2″ – 1/4″ .   Measure in and mark (using an extra-fine Sharpie or sharp pencil) a line 1 3/4″ from the short edge along both short sides of the foamcore.

Step 2: Mark cutting lines for corner pieces.

Step 2: Measure and mark the corner cutting lines.

Calculate the height of the side less 2 x the width of the foamcore board (in our example this is 2″ less 1/4″ x 2 = 1 1/2 “). In each corner of the foamcore, measure in 1 1/2” from the long edge and draw a line from the short edge to the line parallel to the short edge.

Step 3: Using a ruler and an extra-fine Sharpie or a sharp pencil, mark score lines for long sides of box

Step 3: Measure and mark the score lines on the long sides of the box.

On the long sides, measure in the height of the side less the width of the foamcore board – in our example this is 2″ – 1/4″ = 1 3/4″.   Measure in and mark (using an extra-fine Sharpie or a sharp pencil) a line 1 3/4″ from the long edge – starting and stopping at the line parallel to the short side of the box.

Step 4: Using a ruler and a kraft knife, cut out each corner, cutting through the CORNER LINES only (do not cut all the way along the short and long edge lines).

Step 4: Cut out the corners.

Using a cutting mat, kraft knife and ruler, cut out the CORNERS ONLY.  Do not cut all the way along the short and long edge lines.

Step 5: Using a ruler and a kraft knife, “score” along the marked lines. “Score” ONLY HALF WAY THROUGH THE THICKNESS OF THE FOAMCORE. Do not cut all the way through the foamcore.

Step 5: Score along remaining lines.

Using a cutting mat, a ruler and a kraft knife, “score”along the remaining marked lines starting with the short sides first and then the long sides. “Score” means to cut only half-way through the thickness of the foamcore.  VERY IMPORTANT – Do not cut all the way through the foamcore board. Cut through one side of the paper and a bit into the foamcore.

Step 6: With the scored side towards you, gently break along score lines and fold the sides away from you. The “score” side is the back side of the box.

Step 6: Break along score lines.

With the scored side towards you, gently “break” the foamcore along the score lines and fold the sides away from the score side (or back side).

Tape the corners by cutting a 4″ piece of white duct tape for each corner. Start 2″ from the corner and wrap the tape one one side and around the corner onto the other side. The tape should be even with the top of the box . If there’s extra tape along the bottom, wrap it over the edge.

Taped corner – note the short side overlaps the edge of the long side. Click on this photo to get a better view.












Step 7: Tape the corners.

Turn the box so the front is facing you.  Using white duct tape, cut four  4″ long pieces of duct tape (one for each corner) and starting with one corner, adhere a 4″ piece of tape starting 2″ from the corner so that it wraps around the corner with half the tape on the short side and half on the long side.  Have the duct tape line up even with the edge of the box opening.  If your duct tape is wider than the side of the box, fold the extra onto the bottom of the box.

Tada! Your box is complete and you’re ready to start organizing!

Thanks for playing…and please comment about how you used your boxes!


What if … you just want to use up some foamcore scraps AND you want the box to fit into a drawer (so you care about the height of the sides) but you don’t care about the size of the box??

Start with Step 1 above and continue through Step 7 using the scrap piece of foamcore board you have.  You will have a box with the desired side height and you won’t have to find a place to store that random piece of foamcore!  This is how I got started making these boxes…and I found lots of uses for them.

Here are some photos of my studio:

My Studio View 1…and yes, I cleaned up a bit!

My Studio View 2








Folded fabric stored on pull out shelves

Thanks for Playing!