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November 30, 2011

Let the Holiday Shopping Season Begin!

One good thing about our new baby deciding to arrive a few weeks earlier than her December 20th expected due date, is sleep interruptions or not, I already have WAY more energy than I did in the extra-pregnant state I was previously!  In fact, today I've been in super mommy mode: laundry and dishes washed and put away, baby fed (and fed again, and fed again, etc.), apartment straightened up, business orders taken care of and ready to ship! They're ready to ship as soon as my hubby gets out of bed--he decided to use his night off to "catch up" on several hours worth of Skyrim--the latest video game must-have, and went to bed at 7am.

In any case, I was trying to find a lovely packaging system for my holiday season orders.  I hate to gift wrap things in such a way that the buyer can't double check them before giving them as a gift--so the "wrapping" has to be both pretty, but easy to remove and replace without messing up the packaging.  So to keep it simple yet lovely, I looked around the stuff I had on hand, and decided to use these simple boxes, with a hemp wrap and bow.  But that was looking just a little lacking.  After sniffing around my collection of miscellaneous stuff I keep on hand for exactly this reason, I spied a branch of evergreen the landscapers had dropped off their carts, literally right in front of my apartment window.  Yay!  I snipped a twig of pine-needly-goodness and slid it into the hemp wrap.

The result, a simple, lovely, natural gift wrap!

November 26, 2011

Our family business just grew more family!

We truly had a Thanksgiving Day surprise: a 5-pound, 10 oz adorable little "turkey!"  Our second daughter, Rivkah, arrived earlier than expected--almost 3 weeks early.  She must have been afraid she was going to miss out on the yummy goodies her daddy and I were planning to fix,  but instead we all got the hospital turkey 'special.'  I'm not even sure that was real turkey, but no matter, we are thankful for what we did get: a happy, healthy little girl!


Our daughter Avigael is at her grandma's until I get home from the hospital on Sunday.  She wasn't quite sure what to think of her new sister when she visited, but she was in better spirits than when we all had to troop into the hospital in the middle of the night.  She was upset "baby sister is hurting mommy!" and that I had to be attached various machines.  Thankfully the nurses were understanding, and let her stay in bed with me, like a protective puppy, until my husband's little cousin could pick her up before pre-op.

A mere 2 days after c-section, I'm up and walking around the recovery wing pretty darn well for having been sliced n' diced!   It took almost 5 days last time around with Avi's c-section.   I was even able to get some good photos of our turkey day baby (such as these below), though none with her eyes open yet.  We brought this little knit blanket a friend of mine made me, which made for a nice photo prop.


 The vendor from Our365 made her rounds in the maternity ward to take the professional shots, but when she revealed the whopping $278 cost of their photo package, I was sure I could make do on my own.  I took some macro shots, edited them, and even made the cute chocolate and lavender stripe DIY birth announcement above--in Microsoft Word.  I don't have Photoshop or any other pricey photo editor, or Publisher.  I started from scratch in a blank document, even making the stripes by hand, and it still only took about a half hour.  We can order our own prints of my photos later--without paying $139 to own the copyright for the 6 photos the vendor took.  And we can get the announcements printed at the copy shop too--on nice glossy card stock, for far less too.

I don't mean to sound cheap, but I can tell from the sales pitch the vendor gave--it's just more "buy this stuff new mom, because if you don't, you don't love your child like the mommies who do!" consumerism at work.  I'm sure a lot of new moms can't afford fork over almost $300 to "commemorate" baby's first day.

My husband had to work all night Thursday and hadn't yet made it back in Friday morning when I got such a pitch from the sales lady, who also tried to push me into making a decision on the spot lest I loose the "special discount" (I'd hate to think how much that would've cost if almost $300 was the discounted price!) I thought that was kind of a cheap shot: it's easy to take advantage of all the hormones and stress of a mom stuck in her room by herself with a new baby a day after surgery (or a regular delivery).

She even stuck those 6 photos in a generic slide show with generic motivational quotes (the same one that everybody's "unique, special" moment gets stuck into) with some generic tear-jerker soft song about a mother's love.  And that could be all mine, for just $49.99 more.  Plus I could pick from several generic birth announcements and buy those too!  And the keepsake key chains and coffee mugs for the grandparents or the T-shirt for the siblings...all were just another little, teensy "add on."   Geesh, give me a break!

My mini lesson:  it's OK to say no.  It's OK not to buy into this ever-so-prevalent concept of needing to buy more and more stuff.  It's OK not to spend a bunch of money, everybody should know that's not truly a measure of how much you love your baby and how much you're excited about her birth.  You  can still take nice photos, make pretty birth announcements, and all these things just by being creative!  Make your own--and then how much more special is it!?

November 22, 2011

New Studio Platform- Bonanza! Come Visit Us!

Sine Metu Designs has been on ETSY, the handmade marketplace, for about a year now.  We're branching out and just signed up with another marketplace platform, Bonanza (formerly 1000 Markets).
Shop Front for our new booth at Bonanza HOME


 Bonanza has some diverse features that may appeal to our customers:

Payment Choices-
You can check out using PayPal, Google Checkout (Google Wallet), or using your existing Amazon account!  That's three different ways to securely check out and most people probably already have accounts with at least one of those services.  The same buyer guarantees each service offers still apply to checkouts from the Bonanza studio booth.

Diversity of Merchandise-
Bonanza is kind of like an Amazon and Etsy hybrid--there are numerous artisans offering handcrafted original work, but Bonaza retailers also run the gamut of commercial retail outlets selling everything from name brand clothes, books, electronics, music and more.

Flexibility of Pricing (Name Your Own Price Opportunities)-
Some sellers may indicate that they're willing to negotiate prices for specific items in their shop, including Sine Metu Designs.  Items that we may be willing to let go at a lower price than our regular studio pricing just to see it move on will show a "make an offer" feature which allows customers to negotiate a new price.

Better Coupons, Special Offers, Automatic Discounts and Freebies-
The Bonanza Platform offers sellers more control of how they can set up coupon codes, which is pretty limited with ETSY.  We can also set up automatic discounts that everyone can get just by meeting a certain qualification--for example, right now we have an automatic coupon that will discount 10% off an entire order of $50 or more (that's $5 free at the minimum!)

We also have shipping discounts--many items have US Priority shipping included in the main price with no special handling charges.  For those items that have shipping costs, ordering additional items that have shipping costs will only cost $1.50 more per item instead of whatever the shipping fee would be for that item separately--giving you the fairest shipping fee possible!

Plus Bonanza has an entire section devoted to FREEBIES--and will let you browse all the shops which offer items for free--either alone or available with any purchase.

Local Pick Up--
Bonanza also lets local buyers schedule a local pickup--avoid shipping charges and waiting altogether!  If you're nearby we can hook you up!

We are just getting set up and don't yet have our full ETSY line up uploaded, but we hope you stop by our new booth and take a look!

We realize some prices may be different on each platform.  The reason for this is that ETSY and Bonanza charge us as merchants differently for different listings, so we can pass along the discounts as we get them for some items.

See our new Bonanza booth HERE!
And of course, our ETSY studio Here.

November 18, 2011

A Mom's Kitchen Spellbook: $5 e-booklet with recipes & resources for creating homemade alternatives to commercial kits arts & crafts basics

We're proud to release our first e-book!  


Magically transform common pantry staples into children's arts & crafts basics with this e-booklet filled with ten different recipes for homemade alternatives for commercial products. Appealing to the DIY enthusiast, the frugal mom, and those who are earth-conscious and concerned about the quantity of commercial chemicals our children come in contact with on a daily basis--these homemade alternatives are a breath of fresh air. 

Time-tested recipes have been complied, tested, and tweaked to form the best recipe, with suggestions for alterations and substitutions. You will also find great ideas for reducing craft waste by reusing common household goods, create a recycle-craft friendly environment, how to turn making homemade craft supplies into an educational & enriching experience, and kid-friendly project ideas for what to do with the finished products. 

At a fraction of the cost of commercial, chemical-laiden products, you too can whip up some homemade alternatives with pantry staples with this informative instructional guide. Plus, at only $5, this resource is just as frugal as the recipes it offers, and saves you valuable time trying to research, adapt, and tweak all these recipes yourself! Find recipes such as watercolors, finger paints, craft clays, scented play dough, colored salt "sand", face paint, "flubber" and more.

Delivered via PDF attachment sent through email as soon as payment is received through PayPal. Check out ETSY listing for additional details. 
View this item at our studio HERE-- great ideas for a homemade holiday (whip up batches of chemical-free arts & craft goodness for a child in your life) or for a gift for a teacher or childcare provider!


Cheers!

November 12, 2011

Recycled Jet Pack--- Woosh!

I nicked this idea off Pinterest.  I don't know where it came from, because the link from Pinterest was to someone else who said she found the idea on Pinterest!  And I LOVE Pinterest! If you don't "do" Pinterest... well, what's wrong with you!? No seriously, you'll love it too, and probably spend an inordinate amount of time browsing through all the fabulous ideas you can glean from the collective "oh that's cool" findings from around the world.  I have ferreted away a plethora of good ideas for how to entertain my soon-to-be four-year-old:  educational, just for fun, seasonal artsy-crafty projects, rainy day projects and more.

Among these, The Jet Pack!  Two empty Coke 2-liter bottles (or any matching-shaped pair) painted silver (I just used a couple coats of a silver acrylic I had on hand, the version I saw was spray-painted), some ribbon for the straps (or you could maybe use lengths of duct tape, folded over on itself so the sticky part is internal), some craft felt for the flames (the idea I saw used crepe paper or streamer rolls, but I didn't have this, and I imagine Avi would tear the delicate paper fairly quickly zooming around) and hot glue.  The idea is to use things you have on hand, so improvise--it's a recycle craft!


DIY Washable & Reusable Swiffer Duster

We've been at our new place almost exactly one month, and the very first bit of dust is starting to show on our dark bookshelves and the like.  We haven't yet turned the heat on, which (yay!) is not gas, so we haven't had the   raining down of dust problem we had at the last place.  But, today my husband (who is considerably taller than me) said he could see dust on the decorative ledges in the bathroom, and mentioned it was probably time "we" dust.  "We."  Snicker.  Gosh that's funny.  Luckily, this place still has that pristine, new-place cleanliness that I've been trying so hard to preserve, so I made it my project for today.


When we were packing for the move, I found our Swiffer dusting wand 'thingy' under the sink at the old place, and I stuck it in a box with other cleaning thingies, even though we haven't had refills for it in goodness knows how long.  It's one of the two-pronged fluffy disposable cloth-holding dusting wands with a telescoping base so short people like myself can actually reach places which need dusting. At WalMart in my area, a 10-pack of those refills is $7.87, that's IF you can find them there and IF the refills they have in stock are the kind that fit the model you own, which is discontinued and replaced with something else, I think, the WEEK you buy it.  Harumph.  Almost a buck per glorified ruffly paper-towel dusting thingy that I'm supposed to stuff in the trash when I'm done?... No thanks.

(The DIY alternative, easy tutorial after the jump.)

Natural Homemade Carpet & Mattress Re-freshener

Another stellar homemade DIY all-natural alternative to commercial cleaning products:  whip up this simple, cheap, delightfully refreshing carpet & mattress powder in a minute!

Baking soda is an extremely versatile natural cleaning and freshening agent.  It's especially handy for those of us who have little ones in the home who still have the occasional overnight potty accident (or any other mattress mishaps:  smelly dog, darling pet hurls in our bed, our kid spilled milk in bed, etc).

To a small mixing bowl just add some baking soda and a few drops of the essential oil of your choice.  For a pleasing sleep-friendly scent you could try lavender, but the only essential oil I tend to keep on hand is eucalyptus because it is so versatile, and we like the lively scent.  Whisk a bit with a fork, and sprinkle over mattress or carpet.  Let sit a bit, however long depends on the potency of the, er, problem.  If there is still dampness on the mattress, let it sit long enough to wick up the moisture and dry out again before vacuuming (use a hose attachment).  If it's just a re-freshener (or on the carpet) you can vacuum 20-30 min or sooner if you like.

The commercial carpet powders (particularly Arm & Hammer) are essentially, you guessed it-- baking soda plus some other chemicals for perfume and long-term storage. There is no magic "pet hair releaser" formula, or any other significant differences--just different smells (kindda like how there are 15 different types of Excedrin for back, body, tension, whatever, but the active ingredients are 100% the same and you couldn't tell a difference to save your life?  You notice that too?)

The extra chemicals and special packaging jack the price up considerably.  You can skip the price inflation, and the extra chemical content, by whipping up a batch yourself, and you can choose your own scent--one you don't hate after 10 minutes.  A smell you can actually identify, as in "yum, smells like eucalyptus, yup" as opposed to "random overbearing perfumey smell which most certainly does NOT smell like a Hawaiian Breeze".  But I digress.

Try it.  Save money.  Enjoy.

DIY Natural Citrus-Boost Cleaner-- Orange peel cured vinegar!

As I've mentioned before, we've been transitioning to a more home-made household, using natural and homemade concoctions in place of (expensive and chemical-laden) consumer goods.  We've been using our homemade  laundry detergent for a month now and LOVE it!  It gets the job done just as well as name brand and better than generic cheap brands.  We've even passed it out to some friends and the report is the same--effective and clean-smelling.  Plus it's crazy cheap.  Less than a penny per load cheap.

I've also been using plain white vinegar as a natural rinse aid in the dishwasher (I'd love to try the homemade version of dishwasher detergent too, but having trouble finding the needed citric acid) and have had just as clean results as commercial JetDry (or generic).  No, the dishes don't end up smelling like vinegar after the load is finished, but you can smell it for a bit if you're standing by the dishwasher when it hits the rinse cycle.

 So when I came across the idea to citrus-boost plain white vinegar for a natural cleaner, I was excited to try it in the dishwasher too!

It's easy to make your own:  simply let orange peels "cure" in plain white vinegar for a couple weeks.  The ratio of orange to vinegar isn't critical--the more orange peel, the more orangey your solution will be.  That's up to you.  I recommend peeling a "snake" with a paring knife so it coils nicely in a mason jar (as I have done, pictured).  You can peel it by hand too, of course, but be sure not to put any of the sugary fruit flesh in the solution lest you have to worry about making your cleaning agent sticky.

After the orange peel sits in the vinegar for awhile (a couple weeks or so, again, not critical) strain the solution and viola--you have a natural citrus-oil-boosted cleaning agent.  You can dilute with water in a spray bottle for a general all-purpose cleaner (about 1:4 vinegar to water) AND you can pour straight into the rinse aid compartment of the dishwasher for natural JetDry.

If you have mason jars or other glass jars hanging around (I save glass jars from grocery products too--like pasta sauces, etc., just pop in the dishwasher to clean and ALWAYS save the lid!) then every time you peel an orange (or try another citrus--grapefruit? Lemon? Lime?) you can pop the peel in an empty jar and fill it with vinegar (we buy ours cheap in a giant, hulking container, so we always have this on hand) and you have a fresh batch in the queue.  I slapped a piece of masking tape on my jar that said "orange-vinegar, 11/25" which is the date I should take the orange peel out.  Not so pretty but terribly utilitarian.  Then I stuck it on a shelf in the laundry room.

Of course, if you use white vinegar for salad dressing recipes, you could maybe try the citrus-vinegar in that too!?  Just a thought.

November 11, 2011

Celebrating Veterans Day, discount codes from our ETSY studio

With pride and gratitude, we're thinking of our servicemen and women past and present this Veterans Day.  I'm so happy to see so much participation in this holiday which could easily be overlooked as the consumer world thrusts right past Thanksgiving into the Christmas shopping season already.

It's a small token, but Sine Metu Designs is offering 20% off your entire order and free domestic shipping for current and veteran military and their families.  Get our coupon codes by following us on Twitter (@SineMetuDesigns) or on our Facebook page.  They are good today through 11/17/11.

Thanks again to all our veterans, may we remember them and their sacrifices not just today, but everyday we have the blessing of life and liberty in this nation!

November 9, 2011

No-Sew Frilly Scarf (recycled T-shirt) TUTORIAL

These frilly accessory scarves are popping up all over, and they're super easy and unthinkably cheap to make one for yourself.  It's a great way to score a fashionable piece by recycling an unloved jersey T-shirt--either your own or you can nab one from a thrift store for less than a couple bucks.  It takes about 30 minutes of your time or less (it took me a half an hour, even with pausing to take photos for the tutorial, though I was using a thin piece of tee).

Materials:
1.  standard jersey knit tee, sizes XL or larger work best for a fuller scarf, or use a couple mediums (even in different colors if you like).  You can plain white tees and dye them any shade you like, or just use a tee in the color you want for your scarf.
2.  Circular object to trace, such as a plate.  Smaller circles will give you more narrow frills, while larger circles will give deeper frills.
3.  Washable marker or fabric pencil to trace circles onto fabric.
4.  Scissors

That's it!  Ready?  You won't believe how simple this is.  The best part, no perfection is needed for any step and no sewing either--jersey doesn't fray and when you pull it taught the unfinished edges roll so you won't even see any imperfections from the cutting!

Instructions:

1.  Lay your tee out flat.  I used a sleeveless PJ tank.  Cut up a side seam so you have a long strip of fabric.  If you have sleeves, you can cut those off.
2.  With your fabric laid flat, use your plate and marker to trace as many circles as will fit on your tee.  I folded the cloth in half so for each circle I traced and cut, I got two, halving my cut time.


3.  It's best to end up with an even number, but cut as many as possible, just in case you mess one up.  Then collect your circles and set aside your scraps (but don't discard yet, you'll need a piece later). Since my tee was mostly white with a bit of graphic, the scarf is mostly white with a little pop of color.  Below--my cut circles. I got 12 circles of about 7" diameter.


4.  Cut each circle into a spiral.  You can dot the back for a guide, but it's perfectly easy enough to freehand your spiral since it doesn't need to be perfect anyway.  The photo is just a guide, and the only one I drew out a spiral.  Once you get the hang of it, stack some circles and do them all at once to save time.  With the super-thin weight of this tee, I cut 4 at a time.  I cut the spiral about 2 inches wide.  Wider and you will have deeper ruffles.  Thinner, and you have tighter frills.  Your choice.  I think I like the wider ones better, but since I was just using small circles and lightweight material, the thin ones were more appropriate.


5.  Once you have your spirals, with one end in one hand, gently stretch the strip straight by running your other hand down the entire strip and letting it bounce back a couple times.  You'll see it ruffle and the ends roll.  It should also lengthen considerably.  Don't over-stretch though or you'll decrease the bounce of your ruffles.


6.  Next, gather all your strips neatly in one hand with all the pointy tails (the part of the spiral that was outer-most) together.  Count them, and separate them into two even groups.  If you have an oddball, pull it out.  Then "mate" each tail in one group to another and double-knot it with a simple knot.

7.  Take a piece of scrap tee, wrap the bundle of knots and tie this to give it a more finished look.


8.  Your scarf is pretty much done.  You can add things to it (like a flower pin, buttons, or any other little embellishments) or leave it as it is.  Tie it in a knot or two in front of you and let the frilly ruffles dangle.  It's machine washable, so if you can see any of your marker tracings you can wash these out, or dye the scarf if you wish.


Stack it with a tee and a jacket or whatever you like!

THANKFUL Folk Art Project: oil pastel & watercolor resist

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and this easy project is a great reminder to think of everything you have to be thankful for this season.  It's kid friendly-- older kids can do the lettering too, and younger kids can help with the watercolor washes.


Materials:  9 little squares of paint-friendly paper (I used 3 X 3 squares of textured card stock in various autumn colors, you could also use plain white water color paper, cut), oil pastels (or crayons), watercolors, a 12 X 12 square of card stock or scrapbook paper (12 X 12 was fine for the size squares I used, you can adjust as needed depending on how large/small your little squares are), and complementary card stock for the background, glue stick.

1.  Draw your letters with oil pastel or crayon.  Since the wax or oil in the medium will be used to "resist" the water color, make sure to apply it thickly.  You can leave gaps in the lines to let water color settle within the letter, or color it in completely.  I chose a limited pallet of colors since I was also using colored paper, to keep things cohesive.  I also drew a cornucopia for the center square.  Not too detailed, it's just folk art folks!

2.  Apply a water color wash over your letters.  This is done by lightly brushing slightly pigmented water color over the wax.  Again, I chose only a couple colors per square, enough to allow them to mix, but if you apply too much it can become muddy.  You can lift off excess water with a crumpled tissue for some extra textural effects.

3.  Allow your squares to dry completely.  Then glue them to your square of scrapbook paper.  I used some more card stock to give a wider border--just glue strips or pages to the back, straight edges out.

You could frame, but I usually don't bother for seasonal art work.  I just hung it on our pantry door with double sided tape.  All done!

November 8, 2011

Fall leaves tactile art project for kids, TUTORIAL

Fall is my favorite season, and having the extra time at home this year, the beautiful changing of the leaves has put me in a decidedly crafty mood.  Avi, who will be coming upon 4 years old in a couple months is incessantly interested in whatever project I've got going on.  She loves to paint, cut and paste, and of course, play-dough!

This project was great because it involved her at various stages of prepping and creating, and thus there was plenty to keep her hands busy.

I posted the process on Facebook, and immediately got comments about it being a must-try for other moms and their kiddos, so I thought I'd share it for all.

You'll need:  dry plain white rice, food coloring (for the fall-theme, we used green, red, yellow, and orange), ziplock bag, water, some containers (or I used a muffin tin), cardboard (I recycled an empty cereal box), construction paper, white school glue, watercolor, paint brush, straw, and newspapers or some table covering.



Step 1:  Dye the rice.  Use about 6 drops of food coloring and 1 teaspoon of water per about a half cup of white rice.  Mix it up in a ziplock bag until the color is evenly distributed.  Once I dumped out the rice into the muffin tins, I rinsed out and re-used the baggie, but you could use separate ones.

2.  Let the rice dry.  It should only be slightly damp from the small amount of water, and in the tins it took about a half hour to be dry to the touch.

3.  Meanwhile, prep your scene surface.  It will need to be pretty heavy since you will be gluing rice onto it later, but will need to be paper in order for the watercolor part to work (shown above).  I recycled an empty cereal box, cut a panel out and covered it with white drawing paper using a glue stick.

4.  Blown water color trees:  make a watery mix of trunk-colored watercolor.  Mine come in tubes, but you could adapt for tray watercolors.  Using a brush, dab a tiny puddle onto the bottom of the page and let your child blow the droplet up the page with a drinking straw.  This will make random tree-like branches, which is a neat treat to watch as your child figures this out.  Stand by to add more paint droplets where needed, and encourage your child to blow in different directions.

5.  Paint in the trunks with a brush.


6.  Dab white school glue around the tree branches however you/your child likes.  We also made a line of glue at the bottom just for green to be grass.  Sprinkle on the rice randomly over all the glue until covered.

 (This was Avi's favorite part!)


7.  When the glue is dry (about half hour depending on how thickly it was applied), tap the excess rice off the page.  Viola!  Pretty falling leaves rice scene!

If you were smart and covered your surface with newspaper, you can just wad it all up and sack it in the trash.  No big mess here!

Hope you enjoy this little project--my kiddo sure did!

November 5, 2011

Wall hanging project with freebie 4X6 prints

If you find yourself contemplating the irony of taking a LOT of photos, but not having too many in actual physical hold-in-your-hands prints, you can clear out your digital backlog pretty much for free by taking advantage of coupon codes for free 4X6's that photo services offer very frequently.  I mean really frequently.  As in, I've received 105 4X6 prints from Walgreens alone this month! You can find freebie codes online (try google searching them), from other bloggers (I like the Freebie Junkie, most of her posts actually work), and by creating an account with a couple photo services like Walgreens, Target, or CVS, and letting them email you special offers.  Today Walgreens emailed me codes for 15 free prints (free4x6) AND a free desktop calendar (freeforu) (only good for today, Nov, 5th).

Unfortunately, the quality of some of these services is less than stellar.  I've printed better-quality photos from my photo printer on photo paper, but that is quite costly.  Finding and using freebie codes is a good way to test out a particular service before you actually spend money there.  It seems like some companies try to auto-enhance your photos for you, which is not a good thing if you digitally edit your photos yourself.  If your colors are already bright and pretty in your digital file, the generically-applied "auto-enhance" treatment makes them look almost neon, and sometimes downright garish.  Photos you've edited to be sepia or black & white, in my opinion, come out the best.

You may also want to manually crop your images to the size you'll be ordering (such as to 4X6) because if their computer does it, you get some random results (heads partially chopped off, etc.) depending on where they auto-center the image.  Walgreens offers a "digital" size that's slightly smaller than 4X6 where it fits the whole image to the space, instead of cropping some away, but most just center and chop.  Unfortunately, it auto-recognizes which files it things are from a digital camera and offers to do this just for those.  ALL of my photos come from a digital camera, but it only has recognized a few.

Be wary of the services that let you pull directly from Facebook.  Yes, that's super quick and convenient, but the images have been compressed in FB, and you'll get some grainy, fuzzy, inferior prints (some will work, but most will be 'blah' at best).  If you've lost some of your photos on your hard drive that you have on Facebook, you can select "download" from FB when you view the image, and then if using windows, there will be a feature to edit in Picasa (a free program I use for most of my quick & easy edits) where you can save in higher quality to your computer.

The bottom line: you'll have to experiment A LOT with settings -on your end and by learning the idiosyncrasies of each service before you can get reliably good prints, which is why it's great to get them for free--less disappointing when they don't turn out like your perfectly-edited digital file.

So your stock of freebie photos is growing, now what?  I sorted mine into the good, the ok, and the trash pile.    With the ok photo's, I've chopped these up to fill all the little photo frames we've accumulated:  oddball sized frames we've filled with family photos for our 3 year old's room, even a couple Spongebob Burger King kiddie meal refrigerator-magnet photo frames.  You get the idea--Frames you wouldn't waste your best photo prints on.  Collages or other crafting uses for these prints would be another good way to put these "ok" quality prints to use--just check out Pinterest for more ideas than you can hope to accomplish!

I just made this little project with some of my freebie 4X6 prints that came out quite nicely (all sepia).  I have quite a collection of nature photographs I've taken at the various Columbus, OH Metro Parks this year--mostly macro shots of insects, flowers, seeds, mushrooms, moss, or anything else of textural interest.  My husband and I picked out 15 of our favorite, and I used them to create this wall hanging.

Supplies for my model:  36" square dowel rod, painted with acrylic, I used "metallic espresso," a number of photos which appear aesthetically pleasing together,  the same number of 3X3 sticker-backed card stock squares in neutrals (scrapbooking supply), three 36" lengths of 2"-wide ribbon, three flat-headed thumb tacks, ruler, 2 brad nails, hammer, level, painter's tape.

I spent a considerable amount of time deciding what photo would go where--being mindful of many aspects: orientation (vertical or landscape), busy-ness or pattern (some have many details throughout the whole photo, some were more simple), subject (I used all nature prints, but of these some were insects, butterflies, flowers, etc.), and coloration (some of my freebie 4X6s had printed with more yellow hue to the sepia than others), and anything else that affects how the eye perceives your photos as they lie next to each other.  Keep in mind where your eye will see the installation first (depends on where & how high you plan to hang it) and place your very best or favorites there.  This is more difficult than it seems:  not only must you be aware of how a particular photo looks, but how it looks above/below/beside another, AND how the whole group looks!

When you finally figure the above out, I recommend marking their position on the back.  I used a simple coordinate system (e.g. 2,5 for row 2, 5th photo) so you don't have to try to remember your set-up once you stumble on arrangement perfection.

I hand-folded the scrapbooking cardstock stickers into mounts which just showed at the top of the photos, but you could omit this, or mat them all, or whatever you like.


I evenly spaced the ribbon strands, tacked to the back of the dowel with a flat-head thumb tack, let the ribbon wrap around to the front of the dowel, and secured the photos with painter's tape to the ribbon, also evenly spaced.

You could do a horizontal ribbon & clothesline version, whatever you like!