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How To Make Alcohol Ink: Walnut Style

Recipe for permanent walnut alcohol ink

My How To Make Alcohol Ink tutorial is popular. However, many of you wanted to learn how to make a permanent alcohol ink.  Honestly, I am not a scrapbooker so it took some research into various alcohol inks to find a good formula.  While this recipe for walnut colored permanent alcohol ink is not quite as concentrated as commercial alcohol ink it gives a nice finish and is another option to age paper.

Now when I say permanent alcohol ink I want to clarify.  This walnut alcohol ink can stain a dark brown.  It stuck to wood, paper, fabric, soft plastic, paperclay, and skin.  Oh skin…  My hands were dyed brown for 5 days…  It did not dye hard plastic, metal, or glass as well.

On to the walnut alcohol ink recipe:

Recipe for permanent walnut alcohol ink


Walnut Hulls (surprisingly the wet green hulls made a darker brown.  Dried black walnut hulls still made a nice brown)

Rubbing Alcohol (90% concentration works better)

Filters (plain coffee filter and funnel worked fine)

Glass Jars

Rubber Gloves (why, why, why must I always forget gloves?)

Black walnut hulls are supplies for creating the base of walnut alcohol ink

 Step 1: Pretend You Are A Squirrel

Gather up black walnuts.  In Western North Carolina walnuts are everywhere.  The Fall is a particularly good time to find the hulls but you can find dried bits of hull under the trees all year around.  Once you have gathered the walnuts tear the hulls into small bits.  You can see that I separated the green hulls from the drier brown ones.  The green make a darker shade of brown in less time, but dry hull can achieve a very nice color as well.

Walnut hulls torn into bits to make alcohol ink
Now would be a good time to remember gloves if you don’t want a walnut fake tan

Step 2: Shake What Your Mama Gave You

Cover the hulls in alcohol, cap the jars and give them a good shake.  Let the mixture sit and shake some more. Basically rinse and repeat.  I let mine sit for about an hour for the test strips shown in the top photo.  However, letting the ink sit longer gets a darker more concentrated color.

First few minutes of alcohol leaching color from walnut hulls
I swear the green makes the darker ink in the long run. Though this picture doesn’t appear that way.

Step 3: Try Not To Strain About Filtering

Like the filter set up?  I found an old funnel, stuck in a coffee filter, and poured in my mix.  Once it was clean of all the particles the ink was ready to paint, dip, and/or spray.

Filtering completed permanent alcohol ink

If you want bright colors check out my Original Guide to Alcohol Ink or Permanent Bright Colored Alcohol Ink.
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Two Ways To Age Paper (Coffee & Tea)

Aged Paper from Coffee and Tea

I wanted a variety of aged papers to cover books for my Thanksgiving Mantel.  Not having any walnut ink on hand, but having plenty of old coffee grounds (One needs to appear slightly perky at work after blogging all night) I thought why not give it a try. It just grew there and I tried tea as well.  Enter the tutorial on aging paper with coffee and tea:

Aged Paper from Coffee and Tea


Got Paper?

Got Coffee or Tea?

Got Water?

You are good to go.

Coffee Steps

Mix some old coffee grounds in a shallow pan with hot water.  Put the paper in and stir and press the coffee grounds around the paper.  I let mine sit for a couple minutes to suck up the brown and then pulled the sheet out grounds intact and laid it on a old towel.  If you look at #3 I had some cheapo kids clothes hangers I used to hand up each sheet to dry.  The extra coffee brushes off when the paper is fully dry.

Aging Paper with Coffee

Tea Steps

Um… See coffee but leave it in longer and scrunch/squish the old tea bags onto the paper periodically.  You can see in #4 how wrinkling the paper makes such a difference from #2.  Not necessarily better, just an option for further aging the paper.

Aging Paper With Tea

You can see how I used these papers on my Thanksgiving Mantel.

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Faux Cast Iron Finish

The final finish has a lot of texture and is matte in nature like real cast iron.

I developed this paint technique to create a cast iron finish on a HID-E-OUS brass lamp we had in our living room.  My husband and I have a lovely cast iron legged side table and a shared like of Restoration Hardware.  Also a shared like of not spending that type of money.  I tried to find a good tutorial to fake a cast iron finish but gave up and started playing with paint.  After multiple attempts, hauling the side table around to compare, and scraping off bad finishes I found a way to paint a faux cast iron finish.

Faux Cast Iron Tutorial


It looks great on furniture but also works to make an ‘urn’ like finish for Halloween.


Supplies to create a faux cast iron finish.


For the basic finish you need:

Rustoleum American Accents Stone Finish in Mineral Brown* (long enough title?)

Bronze Spray Paint*

Matte Clear Finishing Spray*

Sand Paper (higher grit is better for smoother finish)

If you want to paint glass:

Add a glass primer or frosting spray*

Step 1 We All Hate It: Priming

Depending on the piece you are covering you’ll need to prime it.  Glass required a coat of frosting spray.  My horrible brass lamp needed a clear coat sanded off.  Google directions for the piece you want to cover.

Step 2 Using the Rustoleum American… Ah to hell with it: The Stone Paint

Faux Cast Iron: Spraying Stone

I’m just going to call it stone spray paint from here on out.  The title in supplies should let you know what I mean.  By the way, I am only suggesting that particular brand for the stone paint because it is the only one I have used.  I tried a variety of bronze paints and they worked fine, but I haven’t had a chance to try a different texture brand.  If you do please leave a note in the comments.

Lightly cover the whole piece with a splattering of the texture.  I moved waaaay back than my usual spray painting technique.  You can see if just splattered a coating.

Step 3: Bronzer instead of Blush

Cast Iron Paint Finish: Adding bronze

You can go ahead and spray a covering coat of bronze spray paint before the stone paint is dry.  Save some time and it doesn’t hurt anything.  However, let the bronze mostly dry.  I say mostly because I am impatient and if it is a bit tacky and peels up you’ll be fine. If you are doing it right it will look shiny and warty and you’ll be thinking “what the hell is this?”

Step 4: More OMG This Looks Awful

After the bronze ‘mostly’ dries take the sand paper and give it a buff.  It will knock off a lot of the texture leaving pits, holes, and scuffs.  Then cover in bronze paint again.  Repeat step 3 & 4 if you don’t feel like it had a lot of varied texture, or you were impatient (like me) and gummed up the paint into a wad.

Step 5: Now It Will Come Together

Finishing the faux cast iron finish
From What? to Wow! all in one coat of paint.

Let everything dry and then cover the whole item with a thick coat of matte spray.  By thick, I mean disregard the manufacturers guidelines and get that puppy about 3-6 inches from the surface.  You want the matte paint to pool in the pits and any decorative carvings.

That is pretty much that!  There aren’t really notes with this process other than more layers of paint give a richer finish.  You can see how I styled these cast iron ‘urn’ vases for a Halloween Vignette.

The final finish has a lot of texture and is matte in nature like real cast iron.

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Old Fashioned Paper Bag Book Covers

DIY book covers from paper bags with a modern twist.

Creating your own paper bag book covers is as simple as this 4 step how to. Of course, I am way past my school years and my kids aren’t quite to the ‘back to school’ point, but the back to school fever got me thinking I needed a decorating refresh before I start putting up Halloween items. I used the basic paper bag book cover and then embellished it. The tape based embellishments work perfectly to reinforce the covers for students and decorate the covers for me.

DIY book covers from paper bags with a modern twist.

Supplies (Not Shown, because I think we all know what a ruler looks like)

Paper (paper bags can be split at the seams and laid flat, thick craft paper works just as well)



Pen or Pencil

Decorative Tape (for embellishing)

Step 1: Can you trace?

Lay out the book on your paper. If the paper is decorative make sure the ugly side is up so you can mark on it. Open the book in the middle so the spin is wide open. Trace around the edges.

Step 1 to DIY book covers

Step 2: Add Allowance

Place the book off to the side and grab the ruler. Add about 1.5 inches along the top sides of the tracing and 4 inches along the sides. No one is going to come mark you down if you fudge the measurements a bit.

Step 2 in DIY book cover creation
That is not an over exposed photo. My arms really are that white.

Step 3: Cut and Fold

Cut along the allowance you just drew. Fold the top and bottom inward along the original book line you traced.

Step 3 in how to make a paper bag book cover
I bet everyone can cut… This photo is more about folding the right direction.

Step 4: Putting the book into the grooves, fold, slots, pocket… Whatever you want to call the paper thing you just folded.

Take the book and open it back up to one of the covers. Align that cover with one of the sides you traced. Take the edge of the paper and start feeding the cover into the folds you made. Feed enough in until you are close the the original tracing line. Then close the cover, flip the book over and repeat on the other side. You will get the sharpest crease if you pull the jacket over the closed book and kind of crease it along the edge before feeding the cover into the slots. (see the last image)Final step in paper bag book cover creation

Voila you are done!


I always remember how my book jackets would tear at the corners and bottom of the spine as a kid. To solve this and add some pep to the cover I took decorative tape and covered the spine and sealed the corners.

The ‘classic’ bag paper book is edged in faux leather aka brown duck tape and the ‘modern’ white book got trimmed in paisley duck tape.

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Gold Foil, The Right Way to Gold Leaf Fabric

Fabric with washable gold foil or leaf added

There are plenty of metallic fabric paints on the market, and while they excel at adding shimmer they don’t have that rich metallic leaf look that is so popular on various commercial t-shirts.  It took a little bit of research but I finally figured out how they get gold leaf on fabric and keep it washable.  Allow me to introduce you to Gold Foiling Fabric.

Fabric with washable gold foil or leaf added
Adding bling to your napkins


Supplies to gold leaf or gold foil fabric

Fabric -This fabric had been ombre dyed using this tutorial

Transfer Adhesive* (Full disclosure about this affiliate link: I wasn’t thrilled with the Martha Stewart Transfer Glue I used here.  I might try a different brand.  The important point is that is is tacky when set and stays adhered through gentle washing. Maybe it was user error…)

Metallic Foil Sheets* (These are different than gold leaf. They are thicker and have a backing to the metallic portion)

Sponge applicator

Step 1:  It’s Sticky

Transfer glue on fabric

I wanted a random/worn pattern to my finished foil look so I put the glue at random and used varying thicknesses of glue.  You can get a smoother finish by putting a nice, thick, even application of glue.  You can even use a stencil and apply glue in a pattern.  The important part is to get enough on that the glue quits soaking into the fabric and leaves an even coat on the top layer.

The directions will tell you how long to let the glue set.  My suggestion is to lightly test with your finger.  The glue should stick to your finger but not leave the fabric when set.

Step 2:  Burnish and Repeat

Placing gold foil on fabric

Alright, I know this probably makes sense to everyone else, but put the shiny side up…  You are gluing the backing to the fabric. That was one of my duh moments.  To get a really good bond press the sheet into the glue.  Then burnish the top of the foil with a precision instrument paint brush handle.  Mostly because that was what I had laying around.

Slowly peel the foil from the fabric.  The plastic sheet should peel off and the gold leaf effect remain.  Leaving you with some nice shimmer like this.

Ombre fabric with gold leaf edging turned into a napkin

These final napkins where used in my Summer Pink Lemonade Table Setting seen here.


I already mentioned one important point.  Shiny-side up.  When done I let mine sit for 24 hours to fully cure.

I did hand wash them and the gold stayed put.  I believe it would hold up through a gentle cycle as well.  I just wouldn’t put these napkins up to a BBQ or Crab leg challenge.  But for a special occasion they work great.

It took a bit of practice to do a good application of glue and foil.  If it is your first time I would suggest buying an extra sheet or two of foil to practice with.  The napkins were completed after many trial runs that took to realize how to apply the glue and that burnishing helped.

Finally save your foil sheets if they have any left.  The little flecks make for an interesting effect when pressed into glue

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