My reviews are based on my personal experience with a product or event. I am not a professional product tester nor do I get paid for any of my blog posts.

The items that I post reviews on, have either been purchased on the internet or through a local vendor. Additionally I will review items that I got on sale, as a gift or as a sample from either the manufacurer or some other source.

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Every penny counts when trying to set a budget to get supplies to use for my reviews, tutorials and hauls. However, you do not have to use my links. You can use your favorite search engine to find the best price for your budget.

A review of the Letraset AquaMarkers

The "Letraset" AquaMarkers are markers with a water based acid free pigment ink.  

The list price for one marker is $2.75 .   They are also sold in a set of twelve colors for $29.95.  A google search found several great deals on these markers, so the price can vary according to the retailer.

This AquaMarker Set includes 12 markers with the added bonus of ProMarker Blender pen.  These water based pigment inks are very vibrant.  The colors in this kit are:
  • Flame Red
  • Sepia
  • Gold Ochre
  • Straw Yellow
  • Bamboo
  • Celery
  • Fern Green
  • Aquamarine
  • Twilight Blue
  • Royal Purple
  • Rose Carmine
  • Lamp Black
The kit also includes a handy guide that gives hints on how to:
  • blend with water
  • achieve colour graduations
  • a handy color chart
  • how to use the blender marker
  • what types of paper work best with the markers
  • brief description of the nibs
The AquaMarkers have double nib tips like the other line of markers that Letraset carries.  However, these come with a fine tip nib on one end and 

medium brush like nib on the other end. 

These two nibs can be used to create a variety of effects with the inks.  The fine nib is used for drawing and small areas.

The medium brush like nib, is for filling in larger areas.

Because the inks blend easily, you can achieve similar effects to watercolor paints with color tone and washes as you would traditional water colors.  You can also soften the bright pigmented colors by adding water with a paint brush or  

Sable Paintbrush
using the ProMarker Blender pen.
AquaMarker Blender Pen

You can blend the colors by using either the ProMarker Blender or a water brush pen filled 

with water.  This can be done without leaving a hard edge which can be a problem with some of the water color pens on the market today.  The colors can even be blended after they have dried.  

The manufacturer recommends using a hot pressed watercolor paper.  Since all that type of information in available on their website, I decided to test the markers on cold pressed watercolor papers to see what type of results I would get.

Here are the results I got:

1.  The first paper I tried was "Canson" cold press 140lb fine grain paper (XL Series).

The inks worked well with that paper and spread without any problems.  Here is what the project looked like.

2.  The second paper I tried was Strathmore Watercolor cold press 140lb paper from the 300

Series.  I got a fairly decent watercolor effect with these, but I did have to wet the paper a lot.  

Here is what the project looked like with this paper.

3.  The third paper I tested these inks on was Biefang Watercolor 140lb paper by Speedball.
The color soaked into the paper.  The best way to work with this paper was to wet it well first, 

and then add the inks (working quickly before it had a chance to soak in again).  I would not

recommend using these inks on this paper.

4.  The fourth paper that I tested the inks on was Arches Watercolor cold press 140lb 

fine grain paper.  The inks spread well using just the brush (wet with water).
It was an easy paper to work with and the inks were easy to control just by controlling the 

amount of water I used to create the watercolor wash effect.

5.  The fifth and final paper that I tested the inks on was Strathmore watercolor cold press 

140lb paper (400) series.  Once again, I encountered no issues.  The watercolor wash looked 

great and was easy to do on this paper.

I should point out that getting the stamped image to come out dark was a bit of a challenge. The Staz on ink virtually sunk into the paper and faded out a bit.  I had to go over the stamped images with the Aquacolors to get in dark enough to photograph.

Anyway, the first project which was a tag worked well for testing out the inks on cold press paper.
First Project - Tag

First Project - Tag

First Project Supplies:
  • Letraset AquaMarkers (Aquamarine, Twilight Blue, Straw Yellow, Flame Red, Bamboo, Fern Green, Lamp Black, and Gold Ochre)
  • Rubber Stamp
  • Staz On ink pad
  • brush pen filled or a clean paint brush 
  • heavy weight watercolor paper
  • water

1. Stamp image with staz on.  Heat set or let air dry.
2. Then using a paint brush that has been dipped in water, brush it across the image.  Be careful of how much water you use, because it could buckle the paper and affect the finished product.
3.  This will help to blend the inks for your wash.
4.  Take the marker and brush in the image.  Then using the wet brush, you can blend it out.
5.  Then just add color to achieve the finished product.

For the second project, I decided to demonstrate how to do a "Watercolor Wash" with these inks.  A warning on the video below, it is shot with an iphone and we were having technical issues in getting the screen to work right.  However, it will work enough for you to get the idea of how easy these markers are to use.

The project came out looking like this.

Another plus, is the fact that since the AquaMarkers are a pigment ink, they can be directly applied to rubber 

stamps.  An experienced rubber stamper friend of mine told me to work fast and to blow on the inked stamp, for some reason the moisture from one's breathe keeps the ink moist. .  
The ink will not stain the stamp, if you clean the stamp immediately after using it.  I used this stamp and applied the ink directly to the stamp to decorate this pillow box.

The Letraset AquaMarkers are very versatile and fun to work with.  Additionally, the Letraset website states that the Aqua Markers ink are acid free, so they are considered to be safe to use in your scrapbooking.  

Book Review of 101 Tees: Restyle Refashion & Revamp by Cathie Filian

The book motto is to: "Restyle, Refashion and Revamp" your t-shirts.

I borrowed a copy of "101 Tees" by Cathie Filian from a friend of mine to check it out.  As someone who is always in support of recycling or upcycling clothing, this book was a treasure trove of ideas.  A quick glance convinced me that I needed to purchase a copy of this book for my own personal craft library.

My kids are always bringing home t-shirts from various events they participate in and often the design, color or cut of the shirt is not particularly flattering for them.  In the past, we usually just cut off the neck and sleeves to change it out or we turned them into pillow covers.  However, after reading this book, we realized the tremendous potential for individual expression that the author's ideas allowed for.

So how does Cathie go about upcycling old t-shirts?  Well she gives the reader an easy series of steps to follow, along with a brief explanation of the different types of t-shirts to look out for.  She also uses simple techniques which are broken down by chapters to transform old t-shirts into something that reflects the readers personal taste and enjoyment.

There are 11 chapters which include the following subjects:
  • cutting and stitching
  • painting on fabric
  • dyeing fabric
  • appliques
  • embroidery
  • ribbons and trims
  • iron-ons and patches
  • sparkle and shine (rhinestones, paints, sequins, glitter paints)
  • mixed media
  • just the boys (male orientated projects)
  • holiday and special occassions
  • templates

Within each chapter Cathie covers a lot of material in a very condensed and interesting manner.  I really love the way this book is written.

She wrote an introduction that gives some tips on supplies, preparation and caring for your t-shirts.  Cathie Fillian immediately gets into the process the t-shirt makeover process rather than spend a few pages talking about non-related matters.  The book also includes templates and great graphics which are a time saver for the reader when one is trying to finish a project.  After all, how many of us get hit by the creativity bug at a time when it is just not feasible to go and search for templates at our local craft stores.  The pictures are really good and help you to get an idea of the style of shirt and its potential for re-styling.

In her book, she mentions that the first step is to wash your shirt.  This helps to remove dirt, stains, and any other chemicals that may be on the shirt.

The second step is to lay your shirt out and really look at it.  Decide what elements you want to keep and what elements of the shirt you do not want to keep.  This will help you figure out your layout and which pattern from the book best works with your particular shirt.  With over 101 different design ideas, you are bound to find one that works.

In the shirt that I choose, I like the color but find the shirt a bit boring.  The shirt itself has a nice cut to it and I like the lines of the shirt.  It just needs something to make it more interesting.  So I went to Chapter 6 in her book that focuses on "Ribbons & Trims".  She explains the different types of ribbons and trims, along with hints on how to best utilize them.  So I decided to lay out different trims to see what
would work with this particular shirt.  I started with the lace collar. Then tried a piece of wedding dress lace on the shoulder.
I did not like that, so I tried it on the bottom of the shirt to see how that would look.

I tried a different type of lace on the center of the neckline.
Then I tried a different piece of lace on the shoulder area.

I then decided to try a ribbon flower and see how that would work.  It looked a little better.
I like to keep some things simple and this seemed about right.  My two favorite looks were the lace collar and the ribbon flowers.  You can see that just by laying the pieces out on the shirt, you can get good feel of what would work with that particular garment.

Cathie also talks about trims like rickrack, floral trims, rhinestone trims, buttons, ribbon & silk flowers and much more.  She gives you ideas on different ways to apply them to the fabric and to use them as a design element.

I wondered if I could apply the information from this book to something besides t-shirts.  So I looked through my closet for a different type of shirt to refashion.  I found a great cotton button up shirt to work with.
I looked through the book and found that Chapter 7, deals with "Iron-ons & Patches".  So for my second project, I will just make some minor changes to the shirt by adding a cool iron transfer from plaid that I recently picked up.  I ironed the shirt to remove any creases.

Then I followed the directions and ironed on the patch.  You should know that I have never ironed on a patch before and managed to mess this one up a bit.  So I decided to add some rhinestones with heat activated adhesive on the back to cover some small flaws.  It worked pretty good. Plus I liked the way the shirt looked.

The ideas from the book are applicable to many different types of items.  I tried some of her applique tips on paper, and a couple of totes.  This first is a tote that I added another some bits and pieces that I found around the house, along with a cute "Cup Cake" iron on from Plaid that I picked up.
Then I tried some applique, trims and an iron on a different tote bag.
The final one is of a gift bag and I just cut out fabric and glued it onto the paper bag to make it look like an applique.  Then added some sparkle with glitter glue.

All in all, this is a great resource that can is not limited to use just on t-shirts.  You can apply the ideas in this book to a variety of projects.  If love Cathie Fillians work, she does have a shop on Etsy where you can purchased her finished projects and/or supplies.

Volunteering to decorate the Tournament of Roses Parade Floats Decorating Process.

   This is a behind the scenes peek into the decorating process for the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade floats.  
   Volunteering my skills to decorate the Roses Parade Floats, has truly been one of my favorite family holiday traditions.  

Traditionally, the decorating of floats is done in the week that follows Christmas.  This is a short 

time period that challenges float building companies to finish a lot of work in a very short time span.  This is only accomplished by the commitment and hard work of hundreds of volunteer float decorators who apply their skills to create the wonderful floats you see during the Rose Parade.  If you are interested in contributing to this amazing process, you can find out volunteer information through the Rose Parade website link and/or through the Petal Pushers organization.  The Petal Pushers
Petal Pushers volunteers decorating floats
is a Lutheran organization that provides hundreds of volunteers to help decorate the Tournament of Roses Parade floats each year.
2012 Lions Club Intl Tournament Rose Parade Float 
So how does the float get from the plastic coated metal base to a finished float like the 2012 Lions Club Intl Tournament Rose Parade above?  Well it is accomplished through a very well organized system that is powered by both float personnel and volunteers of all ages and from all walks of life.

The work floor may look a bit chaotic but it is actually a very organized process.  There are flowers, floral supplies, scaffolding, miscellaneous equipment, and people everywhere all working in a unique harmony to create some

of the most breath taking pieces of floral art.  It is hard to appreciate their true beauty just by seeing them on the television.     They make a very different impact on viewers when seen in person.   Every visible area of the float is covered in either flowers, seeds, spices, herbs and other organic materials.  Below are two sample posters of the various organic materials that are used on the floats.

These are all hand applied by the decorators and volunteers.  In picture below, these materials were applied to create the drawing.

This process is similar to those old fashioned sand painting sets that one can find at the craft supply store.  A good example of how to do this process is the use of dried split peas.

They are individually hand applied to the base form,

using adhesive, to create dimension on the float.
As you can see in this dinosaurs face.

We also used Brussels sprouts that were split in half and glued onto the form to create scales.

Every flower that comes goes through a process.  Then the volunteers begin the  processes of gluing wooden sticks to the stem of each bud.

Once the adhesive is dry, each carnation bloom is then carefully hand fluffed by the volunteers

and then put onto Styrofoam base to be lined up by color and type of flower.  Delicate flower and roses are kept fresh by being placed in individual water filled vials.

Then they are labeled to be placed onto the float in accordance with artist diagram directions.

Once they are labeled, the flowers are lined up next to the float they are going to be placed on.  This

allows the volunteers to begin the process of placing the flowers onto the floats, one by one.  So you can literally watch the float going from this:

to this in just a matter of a few days.  The large flower pieces are removed and placed back onto the float once the lower area is prepared.

Once again, every part of the float is covered by flowers, leaves, stems, seeds, and other natural materials.  The organic materials used to cover the float signage can vary from seed, spices, crushed flowers, and fresh flower petals.  
White carnation petals for covering the City of Glendale 2012 Rose Parade Sign
Pink Carnation Petals for covering giant flower forms

The Carnation Petals after being adhered to the floral form
This is a view of how the decorated floral form looks once it has been loaded onto the float.

The flower petals are adhered to the surface by a process of using individual flower petals 

which are glued onto it one-by-one by the volunteers.

The delicate petals must be glued with care to not damage the petal. Below are Iris petals which are being used to create a faux stitched effect.

This is slow and sticky process. The glue has to be strong enough to hold the petals onto the signage throughout the parade route without damaging the petals (so they look good for the parade).   

We usually end up with glue all over our hands and clothing, most of the seasoned volunteers will advise new volunteers to wear their oldest clothing (since it will probably get trashed during the float decorating process).  Additionally, we glue seeds, dried orange slices, and other natural materials to various surfaces 

and signage.  In the photo below, you can see a decorator working on the "City of LA" plaque using these types of materials.
You can see how tiny the natural materials used in the process can be.  Each seed has to be attached with the adhesive.
More examples of various materials used.

The miniature building in the photo below, is composed of seeds, beans, flowers and other natural materials.

Here is a look at some of the different floats and the cool features you may not get to see when you watch the parade on television.
2012 Odd Fellows & Rebekahs Rose Parade Float

On the Odd Fellows & Rebekahs float they had a memorial garden.
2012 Odd Fellows & Rebekahs Rose Parade Float Memorial Garden

The 2012 HGTV Dream Home Tournament Of Roses Float had some cute details.

The Stag was decorated in grasses and other organic materials which gave it the fur effect.

The 2012 City of Los Angeles Tournament of Roses Parade float had all kinds of cool details besides the dinosaurs.

The Shriners Hospital for kids 2012 Rose Parade float was such a fun float.

The Farmers Insurance Group also had some amazing details on their float.

Seeing these amazing works of art emerge from their beginning stages to end product is an amazing experience. Volunteering to decorate these floats can be fun. Time just seems to just fly by as you watch the floats change with each new floral addition.  You get to meet new friends and learn new skills.   If you live in or are visiting California,  I highly recommend checking out the Rose Parade Float display which sets up at the end of the parade route on January 2.  It is worth the traffic and parking challenges to see these floats in person.