Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

MakerSpace: Instax Mini Fun

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I have had an Instax Mini camera sitting in my house for some time, but Thing 2 (now a Tween, how did that happen?) recently discovered it and fell in love. She started asking me to go on walks with her and now we go on nightly walks and take pictures. And because she has spent some time in the Teen MakerSpace at my library she knows all about photo booths, so she asked me to help her make one and some props so that she could have her friends over and take pictures of them. And as always happens, this got me started thinking about all of the ways we could use the Instax Mini in teen programming.

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Thing 2 taking some pics with her Instax Mini

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The Instax Mini is an instant camera that produces pictures on the spot. The camera itself can be purchased for around 55 to 65 dollars. It comes in 3 sizes, the 7s, the 8 and the 9. If you can, I recommend purchasing the 9 because it comes with a close up lens. You can purchase a close up lens for the other editions, but you might as well buy the 9 which comes with the lens. The Instax mini is fun and instant, but it doesn’t have a lot of versatility in terms of things like shudder speed, focus and flash. In fact, the flash always goes off and it is recommended that to avoid over exposure in some situations you may want to cover the flash with electrical tape. There are some user guides out there and I recommend taking a look at them.

The Ultimate Fuji Instax Camera Comparison – Photography Concentrate

The Key Differences Between the Instax Mini 9 and Mini 8

Using your Instax Mini 8 | Some Tips & Tricks – Heidi Swapp

Let Your Creativity Show in an Instax! · Lomography

If you buy the film in bulk each pictures costs an average of anywhere between 60 and 65 cents. Be careful when buying the film, because it can go as high as $1.00 a picture. You can buy film with a plain white border or buy film with decorative borders. Fuji even occasionally releases specialty film, like Alice in Wonderland or Lilo and Stitch. You can buy sticker frames or acrylic frames for your pictures, put them into photo albums, or make a variety of cool crafts with them. You can even buy small scrapbooking stickers and decorate the border yourself.

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This is a Instax pic with a pre-purchased sticker frame. Teens can make their own frames using scrapbook paper or patterned vinyl. Cut it by hand using a stencil or using a cutter like the Silhouette Cameo.

I’ve already made one crafty display for my pictures and Thing 2 is working on one of her one that will take up a large chunk of one wall. In fact, I started a Pinterest board of Instax Mini ideas that I’m planning on trying to implement in a makerspace.

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A co-worker and I recently did our final outside outreach event of the season and we made an “I Love My Library” sign and used the Instax Mini camera to take pictures that we gave to attendees to take home and remember the library. Kids were amazed by the instant photo and their parents were excited to have a blast from the past.

Some ideas I have include:

For Teen Read Week: Have teens create a tripdic (a series of 3 pictures) that relate somehow to their favorite book. Display the pictures and see if other teens can guess what book it is. This can be set up as a bulletin board or display wall and be an interactive promotion.

For Banned Books Week: Set up a jail cell or photo booth and take pictures of teens with their favorite “banned” books. Again, this would make a fun display.

Let teens take a picture or series of pictures and decorate or display them. They can create frames, wall art, magnet frames and more. In fact, we have a Silhouette cameo and you can purchase magnet sheets that can be cut with the Silhouette Cameo. Cut out frames, then cut out a piece of vinyl to decorate the frame, and you have a great fridge or locker craft.

MakerSpace: DIY Games

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We host a monthly teen videogaming program at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County and we recently bought a Nintendo Switch to add to our array of video gaming equipment. I’ll talk more about the Switch soon, but as a new system it isn’t cheap and the games that you can buy for it aren’t cheap either. But we now have 3 video game systems and even with this number of systems and controllers, some teens still find themselves waiting for their turn to play and as you can imagine, waiting is boring. The fundamental drawback to teen videogaming in the library is the cost of the equipment and the wait in between times you get to play.

Our teens have asked for board games to play while waiting, but a large number of the games they have requested are expensive and they often don’t accommodate a lot of players, which would mean we would be spending a couple hundred dollars on board games. I know that lots of public libraries have board games and use them in their programming, but this hasn’t been something that our administration has wanted to invest in because of the cost and issues of lost pieces, etc. Plus, we are currently investing a lot of money into our Teen MakerSpace. But we have an excellent Teen MakerSpace so I thought, let’s address this teen request and get teens involved in making. My grand idea: we could combine the two and help teens create their own games to play. Thus, we started working with teens on DIY Games.diygames8Here are five ways that you can encourage teens to create and make their own games.

1. Coding

scratch scratch2LEGO Computer Coding STEM Activities for Kids

Code Your Own Games!: 20 Games to Create with Scratch

Whether you are using a PC, a laptop or a tablet, a lot of coding apps use the idea of game creation as a learning basis. Scratch is a free program from MIT that encourages game coding. And as you can imagine, there are lots of coding and gaming books out there to help teens to get started and thinking about game creation. This is, of course, the most difficult and challenging level of gaming. It’s not just thinking about the game design and play, but you have to learn the fundamentals of coding to get your game created. You can also use popular games like Crossy Road, Roblox and Minecraft that your teens are already playing to learn more about coding and game creation.

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2. Bloxels

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Bloxels – Build Your Own Video Games

Bloxels is a kit you can purchase that is designed specifically to be used with a tablet to create your own video games. You use little blocks  to create characters and layouts on a grid base and then upload them to create a gameboard. It’s similar to the idea of making a stop motion animation video by capturing a lot of pictures.

3. Build Your Own Pinball Machine

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There are a lot of ways that you can build your own pinball machine. I have a kit at home that we purchased for our girls and we have had a lot of fun with it. We also worked some on building a pinball machine from scratch using random materials. It was a teen who initially came to us and wanted to build a pinball machine and got us onto the idea, but that teen eventually lost interest in the project because building one from scratch is a longer, time consuming process.

How to Build an Arduino Pinball Machine: 15 Steps (with Pictures)

MAKERBALL – The DIY Pinball Machine Kit by MAKE & PLAY

Raspberry Pi-Powered Pinball Machine | Make: – Make Magazine

PinBox 3000: Unbox Your Imagination! | DIY Cardboard Pinball Machine

How to make a Pinball Machine with Cardboard at Home – YouTube

4. Dry Erase Game Board and Cards

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You can buy a dry erase game board and playing cards off of Amazon and let teens create their own board games. We used Sculpey clay to make dice and you could use the same medium to make playing pieces if you found that you needed them. Dry erase is a great medium because if you find something isn’t working out, you can just erase it and start over again.

5. Legos

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You can build a variety of games using Legos. Chess and checkerboards are the easiest and most popular. Also, Lego minifigs make excellent game pieces if you are making your own games. Trying to build your own Lego mazes is also a fun challenge.

Make Your Own LEGO© Board Game – What Do We Do All Day

10 Fun Lego Game Ideas Lego Fans of All Ages Will Love

Easy DIY Checkers Homemade LEGO Checker Board Game

If you look online, there are no shortage of ways that you can get teens thinking about creating their own games and they can be high or low tech, or some combination of the two. For example, have an empty Altoid tin laying around, you can modify it to make a travel game. You can turn popular board games into live action versions like Candy Land, Hungry Hungry Hippo or Monopoly. TLTs own Heather Booth taught me how to host a live Angry Birds game, which I have done multiple times to great success. Mental Floss has an article which shares 26 life size versions of popular board games. If you have technology on hand, like LittleBits, Arduino or Raspberry Pi, you can have teens use those tools to make their own games. And if you and your teens needing even more guidance, you can purchase one of many kits easily online.

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CARNIVAL GAMES littleBits Design Challenge

Years ago as I majored in Youth Ministry, I had to take an entire class on games. That’s right, I took an entire class devoted to learning about, playing and designing games as part of my youth ministry major. If you have ever been to a Christian youth group in the 90s, you would know that there was a lot of emphasis put on games and ice breakers as part of the youth group experience. If you were born after the nineties, congratulations you’re not as old as I am. Group games are a huge area of focus in youth ministry, or at least it was in the 90s. Christian publishers publish entire books on great games for tweens and teens, and these were in fact some of my text books. For the record, these books are also good for game ideas in general, they don’t all have a distinctly Christian focus, they’re often just games for the sake of playing games. One of our assignments for this class was to create our own game from scratch. For the sake of this assigment, our game had to have an underlying purpose – what message were we trying to teach with the game? – but the actual assignment was to create a game. At the time, I thought it was an absurd assignment because they had made me purchase books and books of games and icebreakers. Why did I need to create my own games when there are books of them available? Little did I know at the time, but a lot of my professional career would be about trying to design or adapt games to make engaging teen programs. I do it for the library and not a church, but it turns out I would use that class a lot in life. And now not only am I designing them, but I’m giving teens the tools and resources and am asking them to make their own.

DIY games are a fun and entertaining ways to get teens making and in the end, they have a game designed by them to play with their friends. All in all, it doesn’t suck.

MakerSpace: Rhonna Designs Photo and Collage App Review

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Behold, I have found a new photo app! As I mentioned last week, a friend fell into a button maker group and they talk a lot about two things:

1) The Canon Selphy printer, which I reviewed last week and

2) The Rhonna Designs app, which a lot of people in the button making community use to design their buttons.

rhonna1For more information about Rhonna Designs, visit their homepage

Rhonna App information at the iTunes stores

Here’s a look at some photos created by the Rhonna Design app from the Rhonna Designs homepage.

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And, since you know I love a good photo app, I decided to try it out. For you. I’m a giver.

As you can see, the Rhonna Designs app specializes in making Instagram ready pics and memes by layering photos, backgrounds, texts and graphics. There is a pretty steep learning curve for this app, but once I figured it out I was able to make some quick and easy graphics for this post in literally one minute.

The Basics

Technically, there are 3 Rhonna Design apps: Rhonna, RhonnaCollage and Rhonna Magic. You can buy one for $1.99 or buy all three in a bundle for $4.99. I made the mistake of buying just one and realized it is better to have all three. Each app in the package does a very specific thing and then you can open your photo in the next app to do that specific thing.

Let me try and clarify, it’s kind of confusing.

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App descriptions screen cap from Rhonna Designs home page

Rhonna Designs has a collection of backgrounds which you can use or you can use your own photo. You can then add text or a variety of stickers. In this app you also have some filters, frames and a mask feature. If you buy only one of the apps, this is probably the one you want to buy.

Rhonna Collage allows you to make a collage, just like the name says. You can pick a layout or begin with a blank page and create your layout. I have tried a lot of collage apps and this one is probably my favorite in terms of how it lets you choose a background and layer pictures over the top of it.

Photo made using Rhonna Collage

Photo made using Rhonna Collage

Rhonna Designs Magic uses layers and allows you to use a variety of filters and effects to enhance your photo. For example, you can use Bokeh lighting, light leaks and blur effects. It also has a “candy” feature which allows you to color your photos. One of my favorite features in Instagram in the title shift, which allows you to blur edges and pull the focus on a specific part of a photo. Blur effects allows you to do that same thing here. Bokeh lighting allows you to add light flares allows you to play with the lighting on your photo. If you don’t like an effect, you can just go in and delete the layer.

Photo then opened in RD Magic and transformed using the candy function

Photo then opened in RD Magic and transformed using the candy function

This is a photo I transformed using something from all three of the apps:

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And here is a photo I created using Rhonna Designs made into a button. The background is a background provided in the app, I then just layered stickers and texts using this years Teen Summer Reading theme.

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I spend a lot of time using photo apps, and overall I liked this one. I still don’t think it does everything I would like one app to do and I kind of hate having to open it in another app to do some of the magic effects. I do, however, really like many aspects of the collage app. In fact, I like everything it does, I just wish it did them all in one place and for one lower price. And like many apps, there are additional in app purchases for things like more text fonts and sticker options, so it can get pricey if you let it.

I do have a digital media lab in our Teen MakerSpace which consists of a bank of iPads with pre-loaded apps, and I would definitely consider adding these. Though you can do a lot of these same things with a free Canva account, which has a lot more versatility when using a tablet. Though it works very quickly and pretty easily for a smart phone app. So if you’re using a smart phone, definitely check out this app. If you’re using a tablet or a PC, I also recommend researching Canva before making any purchasing decisions. It’s also important to note that although a basic Canva account is free, there can be some additional purchases in using that as well.

I would recommend this app, depending on what you want to use it for. If you are looking for quick, mobile and something to use on your smartphone, it definitely has a lot more options in one place, especially if you are primarily going to be making Instagram pics and memes. Many photo apps do one or a few specific things, and all together this app bundle does a lot of things in one place.

There is also a PC version of Rhonna Designs that you can use, which I have not tried.

More Digital Media/Photo App Reviews at TLT

How Did You Do That? Photo Apps Version – Teen Librarian Toolbox

Fused (with an assist from the Silhouette app) – Teen Librarian Toolbox

Aviary – Teen Librarian Toolbox

App Review: FotoRus

App Review: Candy Camera

App Review: Enlight

App Review: Prisma

App Review: A Beautiful Mess

MakerSpace Tech Review: Canon Selphy 1300 Printer

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When I began thinking of creating a Teen MakerSpace, I knew that one of the things I wanted to include was a digital media lab or station. My goal was to teach my Instagram and meme loving teens how to create their own Instagram worthy pics or memes. And given the number of super cool apps available out there, I thought that using tablets would be a good way to do this. The only problem with tablets is that they don’t print well with conventional public library printing systems. If you have secure access to a wifi printing system, you can get around this, but if you have to hard wire into a printer using tablets for things like photo manipulation and meme creation can be a real stumbling block. Actually, it’s impossible. Printing from a tablet is challenging if you don’t have secure access to an air print enabled printer.

I developed a somewhat doable work around for this problem, but it involved more steps than simply hitting print and it is by no means ideal. This work around involves creating some type of an account, such as a Dropbox or Flickr account, to upload photos into and then logging onto another device to print them. See, not ideal. Too complicated, too many steps, and just too cumbersome. I have spent 3 years researching the best ways to print from tablets.

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I have recently, however, become aware of the Canon Selphy 1300 photo printer and have found that this is indeed a really good device to help fix the printing problem. The Canon Selphy has a built in WLAN so you connect with it using wifi but it has its own unique password so you don’t have to worry about others jumping onto your connection and accidentally printing. I want to print my pictures, I don’t want others to find the printer and send their own prints to it.

The Canon Selphy works like this: You have to download a print app to print from your tablet or smart phone. There is a Canon Selphy app that you can use, but I have also used it with a generic app called Print to Size. Both worked fine. The Print to Size app allowed me to make my picture smaller on the sheet and make more than one copy as I was printing the image to make buttons out of them.

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The Basics

The Canon Selphy 1300 costs $110.00 by itself.

You can buy a paper/printer cartridge pack that makes 108 prints for $37.99. This averages out to roughly .36 cents a print.

You can print wirelessly through a password secure WLAN.

The Canon Selphy printer prints onto 4×6 photo paper.

It has a few other features that I haven’t fully explored yet, like making photobooth strips.

Mobile & Compact Printer | SELPHY CP1300 | Canon USA

A Few Unique Things

Printing on the Canon Selphy is different than printing on a regular copier because of the printing method used. Here, your paper will make several passed through the printer and it prints one color at a time.

The Canon Selphy paper has perforated edges, which means that your photo doesn’t have crisp edges at the two ends. You can solve this with a paper cutter, but I would prefer clean edges without this extra step.

The Quality of the Photo

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For me, the biggest selling point was the amazing quality of the photo. It does not compare at all to a standard printer because it is really sharp and clear. I have made a lot of art using a simple smart phone and some apps and I was blown away with the improvement in print quality using the Canon Selphy. I printed several prints in both color and black and white and was very satisfied with the quality of the prints.

So Why the Canon Selphy?

I learned about the Canon Selphy from a friend who is a part of an online button making community. Many button makers use this printer because it is small and travels well. Many in the button making community use the Selphy and they set up quick photo booths, print their photos, and turn those photos into buttons. This is something we do with our Teen MakerSpace outreach, minus the printing, so we wanted to see if this would be a good tool for our mobile photo booths. The answer is yes, yes it would be. It’s portable, easy to use and quick, a great resource for mobile photo booths.

A digital media image becomes a button

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It also helps us solve the setting up a digital media lab using tablets and being able to print problem. And with the printer being portable, we can store the Selphy when we aren’t emphasizing the digital media lab and bring it out when we are.

Final Thoughts

I recommend the Canon Selphy 1300 both personally, I’m going to print all the things, and for a digital media lab looking to use tablets and wanting a quick way to print quality images using a secure wireless connection. It’s also a very workable printer for mobile printing if you want to set up a photo booth.

MakerSpace: Screenprinting Program Recap

Regular readers know that I have been on a roller coaster journey trying  to learn how to do screen printing in order to host a program at the Teen MakerSpace at my library, The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH). There were tragic fails, epic highs, emotional angsty, and some down right sweating as the program came closer and I still wasn’t sure how to set up the first portion of the program (more on that in a minute).

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I am happy to report that we hosted our program on Monday night and it was a success! 99% of the teens walked out with a successfully screen printed t-shirt. As always, I had printed out instructions that the teens could take home and a sample of books that they could check out from the library to help them further explore screen printing. We did screen printing on paper and t-shirts. There was one shirt, our first, that we had to try and fill in some, but otherwise it went really, really well.

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So here’ what I did.

First, I set up the room into three main stations:

1) Designing your stencil

2) Making your screen

3) Doing the actual screen printing

DESIGNING YOUR STENCIL

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To design our stencils, I brought out a couple of laptops and our Silhouette Cameo cutting machine. We used cardstock as our medium to cut into stencils and this worked really well. With a little bit of instructions, our teens were able to sit down and make their designs. I was worried about how the teens would do with the design process because the Silhouette has its own design software, but it’s not too different in the details from things like Microsoft Powerpoint, which most of our teens have used some in school. Some teens needed a little more one on one than others, but everyone did walk away from this station with a design of their own making and choosing cut into a stencil.

“Details Make Fails”

At one point, I was explaining how simpler designers were better and a teen came up with the phrasing “Details Make Fails”. This became kind of our motto in the design phase. The more details you try to add, the more likely you are to have a failed project, especially as a newbie.

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Cutting a finished stencil down to size to fit on our screens

Using multiple laptops to one Silhouette Cameo cutter meant we could have more than one teen designing at once and we could just move the USB from latptop to laptop to do the actual cutting. I believe you can have 1 Silhouette set up on up to 5 devices.

MAKING YOUR SCREEN

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To make our screens, we used a temporary spray adhesive purchased in the sewing section of a craft store to adhere the design to a piece of pre-cut mesh curtain. We pre-cut all of our materials to size and were able to get 25 pieces of screen from one $5.00 mesh curtain purchased at the local Wal-Mart. We had 8×8 embroidery hoops so we cut our screens to a 10×10 size. Each embroidery hoop cost $1.50 and the screens average out to $0.20 s0 each screen is roughly $1.70 (I’m going to round up to $2.00 because I like to make my math simpler).

We have 3 Teen MakerSpace staff so each staff member helped at a station.

DOING THE ACTUAL SCREEN PRINTING

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Before working on a shirt, we had each teen practice on a piece of card stock paper. If they were satisfied with the result, they would then screen print their shirts. Although we had squeegees available, which is the traditional way you screen print, most of the teens preferred to use a foam paint brush to help prevent bleeding under the stencil.

RUNNING THE PROGRAM

Because I knew that we would have to allow teens time to design their stencils, I ran the program for a full 5 hours. As each teen came in, I gave them a brief run down of how traditional screen printing worked and how we were modifying that process so that they could do it at home if they wanted to. I then introduced them to the Silhouette Cameo cutter, explaining that if they didn’t have access to that type of technology at home they could still make their own stencils. That was our goal: to teach teens how they could take a Teen MakerSpace project and do the entire process at home without a lot of fancy tools and not a lot of money.

All in all, it took each teen about 20 minutes to make a t-shirt. We bought t-shirts on sale at a local craft store for $2.50 each. Each screen cost us about $2.00. And a single color of paint and a foam brush costs about $2.00. So each t-shirt cost us about $6.50.

HERE’S ONE T-SHIRT FROM START TO FINISH

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AND HERE’S A GALLERY OF SOME OF OUR SCREEN PRINTING JOURNEY

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Not only did my teens learn how to screen print, but I did as well! This was a fun, successful, and relatively inexpensive program. It had a steep learning curve for me personally, but watching those teens successfully create their own shirts and seeing that joy and pride was 100% worth it.

MakerSpace: Guitar Pick Jewelry

Because this year’s summer reading theme, Libraries Rock!, is music based, we have been trying to find ways to make our various MakerSpace activities music oriented. Luckily for us, we have a guitar pick punch that hasn’t been used very much in our space. Outside of the obvious – you can use it to make actual guitar picks – you can also use it to make guitar pick jewelry!

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You can do a variety of things with a guitar pick: decoupage it, glam it up with glitter and rhinestones, or you can engrave them. Since we also have a Silhouette Cameo, we will definitely be adding engraving guitar picks and turning them into jewelry for one of our MakerSpace activity stations. Your mileage may vary, because you don’t have to do very much to make cool guitar pick jewelry.

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Supplies:

  • Guitar pick punch (available for purchase at Amazon)
  • Plastic (can be purchased or you can use things like invalid credit cards and foot take out containers)
  • Small hole punch (1/16 for smaller holes)
  • Various jewelry making supplies and findings like o rings, cord, and pliers
  • A laptop and Silhouette Cameo for engraving (see section on engraving for less expensive methods)

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If you want to engrave your guitar pick, you can use hand held engraving tools or a Silhouette Cameo with an etching tool.

Making Your Guitar Pick

Making your guitar pick is simple and quick. You can buy a variety of colorful plastic strips online or you can use plastic found around the house. I’ve even used old bank and credit cards, making sure not to include any of my name or number in a way that can be seen. If you’re going to do something like decoupage your pick, you can even use plastic from take out food containers.

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After you punch out your guitar pick, you’ll want to use the small hole punch at one end of the guitar pick to make a hole so you can attach it to your jewelry with an o ring.

Engraving Your Guitar Pick

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You can buy an etching tool for the Silhouette Cameo which you can use to engrave your guitar pick. You’ll want to follow these instructions, with a slight modification. I suggest choosing the highest level of settings, including making 10 passes. We tried a variety of settings but found that making 10 passes really helped to make sure that you could see the engraving.

You can also do DIY engraving using a hand tool, which is less expensive. They have instructions at Instructables for this. There are also suggested ways of engraving at WikiHow.

Making Your Jewelry

With your guitar pick now ready to go, you can make whatever kind of jewelry you want to make following basic jewelry making principles. Necklaces and ear rings work best because of the size of the guitar pick. And of course, they make cool key rings.

The cost, time and skill for this project depends on how elaborate you make your jewelry, which makes it very customizable.

MakerSpace: Screen Printing with the Silhouette Cameo – a comparison of processes and cost

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Making t-shirts have traditionally been some of my most popular programs throughout the years as a YA/Teen Librarian. T-shirts can be immensely cool and we choose them, often, as a form of self expression. Last year we did an entire series on altering t-shirts and it was popular and fun. One of our programs taught teens how to do a low cost form of screen printing on t-shirts. I’ve talked about screen printing before here at TLT, but I wanted to do an in depth analysis of what would work best in a public makerspace, consider process, outcome, and cost.

This past year, we purchased a Silhouette Cameo for our Teen MakerSpace and given this year’s Teen Summer Reading theme – Libraries Rock! – it seemed fitting that we would look once again at screen printing. My goal has been to teach our teens how they can use this type of technology to create their own screen printing designs.

Today we are going to be looking at screen printing using a silhouette cameo in a couple of different ways, to address various cost issues. One of the factors we will look at is cost, but we have to be honest and admit up front that the technology needed to use a Silhouette Cameo is costly up front. You need a computer or laptop and the Silhouette Cameo itself. Many people have this technology in their homes, but cost is a barrier to access. There are less expensive ways to make stencils, which we have covered before. For example, you can cut stencils out of card stock or old overhead projector sheets.

Traditional screen printing produces screens using an emulsion process. It’s time consuming and requires access to technology and tools that most libraries don’t have, even those with makerspaces. The Silhouette Cameo can be a way to produce screens without going through the traditional emulsion process.

We will be specifically looking at using a pre-made screen and a homemade screen.

Screenprinting is divided into three main activities:

1) Designing your screen

2) Cutting and making your screen

3) And using the screen to screen print onto a t-shirt (the actual screen printing process).

Designing Your Screen

If you are going to be using a Silhouette Cameo to do your screen printing, as we are here, then it comes with it’s own design software. I’m not going to go into detail here how to use the design software. There is a bit of a learning curve and there are a lot of really good online tutorials to help you get started.

When designing specifically for screen printing, I have learned a few rules that help you be successful.

T-Shirt screen printed by me

T-Shirt screen printed by me

1. Text is difficult, so avoid it if you can.

2. If you do use text, you want to use big and less complicated fonts.

3. Especially when you begin, the less complicated your design the better.

4. You want big, open spaces that are easy to weed, transfer, and ink.

Once you have made a design you are happy with, you will need to cut your vinyl. I do not know how a Silhouette Cameo screen compares to a more traditional emulsion created screen, as I have no experience with that type of screen. I have, however, used stencils, both store bought and hand made, and find the Silhouette Cameo created screen to be superior to other types of stencils. For example, because of the precision of the Silhouette Cameo, I could create a more elaborate design because the Cameo did all the cutting for me; it’s easy and precise. Trying to make smooth cuts onto a stencil by hand is hard, the Cameo elevates the design and precision. Also, using a stencil to paint a t-shirt without the screen is not technically screen printing. That may be splitting hairs, but I like the idea of teaching teens various ways to design and create their own personal shirts.

Cutting and Making Your Screen

To begin, you will send your design to cut like normal.

After your design is finished cutting, don’t remove any vinyl yet! Look at your design and consider what parts of the design you want to be printed onto the shirt. This is the part of the vinyl you will weed. You will be doing a reverse or negative weed. Leave the big piece of vinyl in place with the backing and weed out the design and letters that you want to fill with ink.

You will then have to transfer your sheet of vinyl onto your screen. So let’s talk about screens.

You can purchase a traditional, pre-made screen for screen printing from most craft stores or online. The most common one is made by Speedball. These are wooden frames that have a screen in them, a sort of mesh material. I have seen them priced as high as $25.00. These come in a rectangle shape, they are pre-made so they are pretty taut (this is important to help prevent bleeding), and they are easy to use. They’re ready to go, so you can’t beat that. But buying multiple screens can really begin to add up. The screen in these screen printing frames can be pulled tighter or even replaced.

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Completed screen including vinyl design with tape

Completed screen including vinyl design with tape

You can also make your own using a mesh curtain and an embroidery hoop for less money. When purchasing a curtain you want a sheer curtain. I bought mine at a local store for only $5.00. Embroidery hoops also cost around $5.00. To create my homemade screen I used permanent vinyl on a piece of sheer curtain. You can take out the entire curtain piece and put a different one in to make a different design. I have made 3 designs and they are just stored for re-use; I literally have a small box that has pieces of curtain with the vinyl attached to them. I just take them out, pop them in an embroidery hoop (making sure to pull it really, really tight) and print another shirt.

A "Screen" for Screenprinting

A “Screen” for Screenprinting

I have tried and used both the Speedball and a homemade screen and, although I found the professional screen to be slightly more effective and easier to use, they both work well.

Screen made with curtain and embroidery hoop

Screen made with curtain and embroidery hoop

Pre-made screen

Pre-made screen

If you have some spare wood lying around, a sheer curtain, and a staple gun, you can also make your own screens this way. You always want to pull your screen as taut as possible. I can not stress how important this is.

Whichever screen you use, the next step is to transfer your vinyl stencil onto your screen. If you have worked with vinyl before, you’ll know that you use transfer tape (clear contact paper is my preferred transfer tape) and a wedge tool to help you get the backing off of your vinyl and your stencil onto the screen. Be careful to leave all the little bits and pieces in place, like the insides of circles and letters. When screen printing these little bits and pieces can slip or tear away, which is why I recommend as simple a design as possible. You also want to avoid any bubbles or wrinkles and you want to make sure your stencil is firmly applied. You will then want to use painter’s tape to cover up any exposed areas of your screen.

Completed screen including vinyl design with tape

Completed Speedball screen including vinyl design with tape

So now you’re screen is made and you need to do the actual screen printing.

Screen Printing Your T-shirt

To do the actual screen printing, you’ll need a paint or ink (fabric paints work, screen printing ink works best but is more expensive), the screen, a wedge or squeegee, and a piece of cardboard to place inside your shirt. First, place your cardboard inside the two layers of your short so your ink doesn’t bleed through to the back layer. You will then put your screen on place on your shirt. Scoop out some of your ink and use the wedge/squeegee to smooth the ink into the empty spaces on your stencil. You’ll then use it to scrape off any excess. Be very careful to fill in every last nook and cranny on your stencil to get a good print.

Applying the ink

Applying the ink

Carefully remove your screen. I recommend having a blow dryer handy to do a little bit of drying before moving or touching your shirt. Then let it dry completely. Follow the instructions for washing your shirts afterwards.

My final t-shirt

My final t-shirt

So in the shirt above, I actually had both a success and a failure. When doing the Spaghetti Sundays shirt above, the words were the negative space and that worked really well. However, in this design, the words Libraries Rock were on the screen and were meant to prevent the ink from going into that space and leave the shirt exposed, displaying the words. That didn’t work, the letters moved and there was bleeding. So I covered it all up with black and that worked fine. I then used vinyl cut outs on heat transfer to put my wording in place. I’m still trying to figure out how to be more successful with lettering.

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In all honesty, the pre-made screen is easier to make and use. It’s already taut, so you don’t have to worry about pulling it tight enough in your embroidery hoop. I also found the rectangle shape easier to work with, which may just be a personal preference. I had more bleeding with the embroidery hoop, though I admit that can be user error. Because I had a great discount coupon, the pre-made screen wasn’t really any more expensive than making my own.

So deciding which screen to use is a draw. Because you can make more than one screen with a curtain, I think it would work better in a public makerspace with multiple people making and using screens. Making your own screens is cheaper when you need multiple screens.

For my personal use, I much prefer the Speedball screens. However, for the Teen MakerSpace, home made screens seem the better way to go. Ultimately, they are less expensive so you can produce multiple screens for the same amount of money, which is important when you are going to have to produce multiple screens in a single program.

Supplies:

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  • Laptop/Computer
  • Silhouette Cameo
  • Vinyl
  • Scissors
  • Various vinyl tools, including the weeding tool
  • Painters tape
  • Screen printing screen (premade or homemade using a mesh curtain or embroidery hoop)
  • Screen printing ink
  • Wedge/squeegee
  • Table covering
  • Clear contact paper
  • T-shirt

Please note, you can also screen print things like posters and such, it doesn’t have to be done solely on material.

Some good tutorials

Silhouette Screenprinting Tutorial (for beginners) – YouTube

How to Screen Print Using Vinyl: Silhouette Tutorial – Silhouette School

Previously on TLT

MakerSpace: 5 Ways We Transformed T-Shirts into Something New

Low Tech, Low Cost “Screenprinting”

MakerSpace: Using a Silhouette Cameo to Do Screenprinting

TPiB MakerSpace: Love Your Pets

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In our Teen MakerSpace, we have kind of drifted into a model where we have themes to unite our making, which teens can choose to participate in or not. Some teens, we have found, need some type of guidance while others do not. So for the month of February, we wanted to do something that tied into Valentine’s Day but didn’t necessarily emphasize romantic love. Love Your Pets was our February celebration of the love that we have for our pets or favorite animals and it was the unifying theme for all of our making that month in the Teen MakerSpace.

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Now it does happen that the two Teen MakerSpace Assistants and I have pets, dogs to be specific. And of course many of our teens know this because they hear us talk about them. So we included them in our promotional materials. Charm is our family dog, he is a long haired dapple coat Dachsund. He is also, for the record, a great cuddler.

We then set up a variety of stations around The MakerSpace with examples of how they can use those stations to make pet themed items

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Stamps, Stickers, Buttons and More!

We bought a variety of pet themed stamps and stickers which could be used to make a variety of pet crafts, including a wood painted signs, buttons, banners and more.

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DIY Pet Toys

We had a variety of discarded t-shirts which could be braided to make hand-made pet toys.

33 Dog Toys You Can Make From Things Around the House – BarkPost

44 Really Cool Homemade DIY Dog Toys Your Dog Will Love

25 Frugally Fun DIY Dog Toys To Pamper Your Pooch – DIY & Crafts

Perler Beads

Perler beads can be used to make a pet portrait.

DIY Pet Tags

And we bought an etching tool and dog tags for our Silhouette Cameo to make hand-made dog tags. We could even teach you how to make a paracord pet collar to hang that hand-made tag off of.

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A note about etching on the Silhouette Cameo: it took us several attempts to find out what settings to use to get a good etching. There is a tutorial here that is helpful: https://www.silhouetteschoolblog.com/2014/10/engraving-with-silhouette-7-tips-to.html. My biggest tip is that you will want to set up your settings to make as many passes as possible.

In all honesty, I have done a version of this program before with different DIY crafts and as a one-time event. Doing it as a theme in the Teen MakerSpace proved to be a tad bit more ideal in that teens could come and go and work at their own pace instead of trying to finish a variety of crafts in 1 to 2 hours. But it is a great program whatever scenario you choose to set it up as.

MakerSpace: DIY Faux Enamel Pins

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All things old are new again, and enamel pins are all the rage. In fact, I picked up some super cool Dumplin ones from Julie Murphy at TLA. And you can buy them at a lot of craft and hot trendy stores. Hot Topic, for example, sells a wide variety of enamel pins.

You can buy these Mermicorno enamel pins at Hot Topic: https://www.hottopic.com/product/tokidoki-mermicorno-blind-box-enamel-pin/10844289.html

You can buy these Mermicorno enamel pins at Hot Topic: https://www.hottopic.com/product/tokidoki-mermicorno-blind-box-enamel-pin/10844289.html

 

But you can also make your own, or a variation of them at least. In April we are doing a variety of Mod Podge crafts, including DIY Faux Enamel Pins, and this is one of the examples I made to help me outline the instructions.

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Supplies Needed:

  • Shrinky dink plastic
  • Acrylic or enamel paint
  • Paint brushes, with fine brush tips
  • A laptop/PC with a printer OR tracing paper and pens
  • A vinyl cutting machine OR a pair of small but good scissors
  • A toaster oven
  • E6000 glue
  • A pin back
  • Mod Podge
  • A brush or paint sponge to apply the Mod Podge
  • Black Sharpie, fine tip

Step 1: Making Your Pin Shape

We’re going to be working with Shrinky Dink plastic, which has a 3 to 1 ratio. So whatever design you make needs to be 3 times bigger than the size you want your project to end up as. So if you want a 1 inch pin, you need to start with a 3 inch design.

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We used a laptop to create our designs in the Silhouette Cameo design studio. This made it easy to get intricate and precise cuts as the Silhouette machine did all the cutting for us. We had to make several attempts before we found the right cut setting and found it helps if you tell the machine to make multiple passes. This Silhouette School tutorial has some recommended cut settings: Best Shrinky Dink Silhouette CAMEO Cut Settings – Silhouette School. Though I realize not all libraries have a Silhouette Cameo cutting machine, I highly recommend purchasing one because of the wide variety of projects and types of projects you can do with one. It certainly increased the quality of our project here because we could make more designs.

If you don’t have a Silhouette Cameo machine, you can simply trace an image onto your Srinky Dink plastic and cut it out by hand. If you want more details in your design and you are cutting out by hand, be sure to use smaller, sharp scissors to give you more control. Persia Lou has a tutorial on doing DIY Enamel Pins and provides templates that you can use to trace and have a successful first attempt.

Please note, you can also print directly onto Shrink plastic if you make sure and purchase the right kind. You could either print an outline and then paint it or print a full color image and skip the painting step.

Use a black Sharpie to make bold, black outlines on your pin shape, especially if you have various areas within your design.

Step 2: Painting Your Pin Shape

You’re going to want to paint your pin shape BEFORE shrinking it. The color will darken a bit as it shrinks, so try not to start out with too dark of a color.Use a small tipped brush to paint your design. You can even use a toothpick to paint in small areas.

Step 3: Shrinking Your Pin Shape

It is recommended that you use a dedicated toaster oven for any and all crafts. We have a specific toaster oven for our Teen MakerSpace which we use for Shrinky Dinks and Sculpey clay projects. Follow the directions on your packaging for times and temperature. Basically, your pin shape will start to curl up as is shrinks and then will suddenly go flat. Wait a second or two after it goes flat, and then take it out of the oven to cool.

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Step 4: Seal the Deal

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You’ll want to give your finished pin a coat of glossy Mod Podge to seal the paint and give it that glossy enamel pin finish. Wait for the Mod Podge to dry completely before doing any final steps.

Step 5: Apply Your Pin Back

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After your pin has fully dried, you can then use the E6000 glue to apply the pin back to the back of the pin. Well, that’s a weird sounding sentence. You can use any type of pin back, but the traditional enamel pin has a tie pin closure on the back. You can buy these at most craft stores in the jewelry findings section.

pinback

I had fun making these pins and am looking forward to making some more. It took me several attempts to work out all of the details, but once I did this was a fun, easy and semi-quick craft.

MakerSpace: DIY Metal Stamping (A metal stamping kit review)

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Jewelry making has been pretty popular in our Teen MakerSpace, and I really wanted to give metal stamping a try. However, the individual components always seemed more expensive then something I wanted to spend just to try something out. Fortunately, I found a complete metal stamping kit at Target for only $24.99, and that seemed like a more reasonable price, so The Teen and I bought it and tried them out at home. Here’s what happened.

metalstamping5 metalstamping4Target STMT Kit, $24.99

The kit includes individual jewelry pieces to stamp, a small hammer, a block that you need for leverage and a complete set of alphabet letters. It also comes with a small pair of pliers and a few findings to turn your little metal pieces into jewelry. It’s a pretty good kit for getting started. We found additional pieces to stamp at Michael’s, where they also have larger letters. After trying out the little letters in this kit, I highly recommend the larger letters. These letters were very small and hard to read. We were not entirely happy with the final product, though I must admit that it took some time to learn how to hit hard enough to get a good imprint. Still, the letters are a really fine print.

Getting started, a work in progress

Getting started, a work in progress

What we created

What we created

The pieces themselves are fine for learning, particularly for making a small charm necklace or ear rings. However, you can’t really put more than initials on them. Again, it’s fine for trying it out, but you will definitely want to invest in better tools if you want to create a better product.

I will also be completely honest with you and share that The Teen was not into this at all. She found trying to line up the letters infinitely frustrating and tedious. It didn’t help that she was not impressed with the final product. Other teens, of course, will have different feelings about it.

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Impress Arts seems to be a major manufacturer of metal stamping supplies. A basic set of letter stamps at Michael’s costs around $20.00. The set I bought at Target was purchased for $25.00 and contained more than just the letter stamps. In addition to the stamp set you need a small hammer, a base to stamp on, and, of course, your additional supplies to create your jewelry including the metal you will be stamping, chains or cord, and clasps. You’ll also need some type of closure. Finals costs end up being more than I want to spend in our Teen MakerSpace.

Some Basic Info

Metal Stamping Projects DIY Projects Craft Ideas & How To’s

DIY Metal Stamping: 10 Steps (with Pictures) – Instructables

Make Your Own Hand-Stamped Necklace – A Beautiful Mess

67 best DIY Jewelry | Metal Stamping Tutorials and Inspiration images

Final Thoughts

In the end, I decided that metal stamping would be good for an individual program in our more isolated program room, but it is not a good fit for our centrally located Teen MakerSpace because it’s loud. It takes some hard hammering, which is both noisy and repetitive, to really create a good finished product. So if you have a more isolated MakerSpace where the noise wouldn’t annoy library patrons using the library, give it a try. But for us, we decided not to make it a regular component of our Teen MakerSpace because it didn’t fit our situation and it cost more than we wanted to spend for a TMS station.

So if you want to give metal stamping a try, this kit is a good starting point with clear limitations. If you are serious about metal stamping, spend the money to buy better tools and, most importantly, better (and bigger) letter stamps. Just keep in mind that it’s noisy. The final product is cool, but it’s not necessarily a best fit for public libraries.

Teen Summer Reading Planning 2018

If you are doing the Libraries Rock theme for your 2018 Teen Summer Reading Program, please note that metal stamping guitar pick jewelry looks fantastic. Here’s a link to just one example:

https://www.etsy.com/market/stamped_guitar_pick