Door/Crossword Puzzle Project

This summer has been a very busy time for me, as far as craft projects go.  Every single one has had a Cricut component at some point, so I thought I’d do a blog post, show off some great crafty projects, and show how incredibly versatile the Cricut Explore Air 2 really is.  It really can be part of your every day life, no matter what you’re doing!
Screen Doors
The first project was a group effort.  There were 3 of us involved and we each had our own part.  The first part was the actual design and build of the project, which was a set of screen doors for a family member’s camp.  The second part was the design and decoration of the doors.  That was my part.  The third part was the staining/sealing of the doors.  That was done by the owner of the camp, as he decided the color and sealant to be used.
Once I had all of the wood pieces that were going to make up the doors, I was able to do measurements and start to research the components of the requested product.  The camp owners had requested that the design be kept quite rustic and that woodpeckers be a part of the overall design.  They also requested that each door be specifically named.  Other than those things, the design was completely up to me..  No pressure, lol.  The first thing I decided to tackle was the specific names on each door.  I went into Cricut Design Space and searched fonts until I found the one I wanted.  

I used permanent adhesive vinyl to create templates and stencils for the letters and ribbon design.  Once the Cricut cut those out and I applied them, it was so simple to trace around and create the design on the wood.  With those parts of the design on the wood, I removed the stencils.  The next step was using drawings and images of trees, limbs, and woodpeckers to help me draw the scenery on the doors in pencil.  It was a slow and pretty detailed process, since I’m not exactly an artist when it comes to drawing.  I think the eraser got more use than the actual pencil did, lol.

The next step is where the project really started to get complicated and intricate.  I used a wood burning tool to burn the design into the wood.  Using the wood burner, I went over my drawings on the wood.  It’s a pretty slow and precise that takes hours and hours to do, depending on the design you’re working with.  I didn’t keep track of the number of hours I was burning, but it was a lot of hours, spread over a 2 week period.  I used a bunch of different types/styles of burning tips to create the various “effects” I was looking for. Overall, it wasn’t a difficult project, just an extensive and intricate one.  Definitely a fun one!

In addition to the actual doors, we decided to add a little extra “treat” for the camp owners.  We cut out a woodpecker from a chunk of wood.  We carved, sanded, burned in all of the feathers and details, and then painted the whole thing in oil based paints.  Lastly we sealed with an acrylic sealer so it could withstand the weather.  It will be attached to the frame and engineered to be used as a door knocker!!  Too cool!!

Crossword Puzzle
The second project is one that I’ve had in motion for 6 months or more.  I first had the idea back in January.  I saw a picture on Facebook of a wall hanging that was pretty much 5 or 6 names spelled out in crossword form and pinned up on the wall.  It looked pretty cool and it sparked an idea for a project of my own.  I knew I wanted to use the crossword format as the base of the project, but I want to expand on it in my own way.  

I found a board to use as my background and covered it with thin cork tiles to give it a little better color and depth.  I used a crossword puzzle generator I found online to help me determine with versions of the family’s names to be used (spelling vs. nicknames vs formal names, etc).  As you can see from the pictures, there were a lot of names to work with and spelling became very important when it came to making sure everybody got included!!  

Once I had the spelling and placement set, I fired up my Cricut and Cricut Design Space and began the font search and the adding of the names for them all.  As the project evolved from conception to design to reality, I added features, and one of those was individual tiles with a middle name on each one.  One for every sibling.  It would add a great “guessing” aspect for a lot of people once it was done.  That meant jumping back into CDS and cutting out more names.  Some names were an inch high (to go on the actual crossword tiles) and some were pretty small, so my Cricut Explore Air 2 definitely got an alphabetical workout that day!  

After a ton of weeding (which I actually find relaxing and calming) I started adding letters to tiles and forming names.  As each name went into place, the puzzle started to take shape.  Once all of the names were in place, I decided to add birthdates to each name, so back to CDS I went, added all of the birthdays to the project and cut them out with my Cricut.  More weeding, then found that because the names were spread out over a number of tiles, the birth dates would have to be applied one number at a time.  

They were pretty small, as well.  I ended up using my Cricut tweezers to apply all of the numbers to the tiles.  Next I applied each of the middle names to their own tiles and placed them in random spots around the board.

At this point I pretty much knew what I wanted the end project to look like.  I wanted it to be a shadow box.  I didn’t want to just hang a board on the wall.  I had a lot of space all around those names and tiles that needed something.  I needed to figure out what was going to fill the spaces, yet still be about the names, about the people who were named in that puzzle.  I began an extensive search for various items that might add character or depth to the project.  I looked on Pinterest, about a million crafty sites, Etsy, craft stores.  

I really didn’t know what I was looking for, but I knew that I’d know it when I saw it.  The first thing that caught my attention was birthstones.  I could use various crafting gems to add color to the project by way of adding birthstones to each letter of the name.  For example, Jimmy has a December birthday, which is a Sapphire gem.  Each letter of his name got a Sapphire gem. 
I started to ask some of the family members (not the brothers and sisters in the puzzle, but those close to them) various questions and the next idea presented itself.  I could use trinkets or charms to represent the various interests and hobbies of each of the siblings.  I ran with that idea with a lot of scouring Etsy shops and online sites, I soon had piles of charms, buttons, doodads, and gadgets all over my desk.  It took about 2 months to collect them all.  In the end, I considered it time well spent.  Once I had them all, I started mapping placement.  

It all really just seemed to fall into place at that point.  As each piece claimed a spot, and all of the pieces were added, I got my glue gun out and attached each one.  In my searching Etsy and crafty sites, I came across these amazing flowers that were so cool.  They’re called Sola Wood Flowers.  They’re made from wood, but are soft and plush.  I loved them, so I ordered some and added a few to the puzzle, to add some more color and depth.  They’re amazing.  Link to their website, if you want to check them out. 
The same day that I finished putting all of the pieces on the puzzle board I came across a post in one of the craft groups that I’m in and it sparked an idea that I knew would absolutely make this project complete.  It was a post about embedding a code for a music video or a song into a QR Code that could be scanned with your phone and would bring up and play the video or song.  The reason this struck such a cord is that Gram (mom to all of the siblings) had a special birthday song that she sang to each member of the family on their birthday.  

It didn’t matter where you were, or how old you were, you were either going to get a phone call, with Gram on the other end and she’d sing you her birthday song, or you’d get it sung in person if you were going to see her that day.  This was such a long standing tradition in the family that it just didn’t feel like your birthday if you didn’t hear from Gram with that song.  A few years before we lost Gram, one of the siblings had her husband record Gram as she was singing it, and made sure that we all got copies of that video.  It wasn’t long before one of the Grandkids got hold of that video and uploaded it to YouTube, where it’s saved for all of us to see!  I’m sure you can see where this is going.  

I watched a bunch of videos and tutorials and figured out how to get that video of Gram singing embedded into a QR Code and used my Cricut Explore Air 2 to print and cut a copy of that QR Code for every member of the family, and a spare to add to the crossword puzzle Shadow Box.  I laminated all of them, and as I see the various family members, I make sure that each person gets one for their wallet.  I added one to the puzzle and that was it.  Everything I wanted to be on it, was there.  

The last 2 steps were to add a frame to enclose it all and make it into a shadow box, and to complete that process by covering and protecting everything on the board with a 3/4 inch layer of Epoxy Resin.  The completed project will be hanging in the garage which tends to be the hangout place when family members stop by.  So far, they all seem to love it and really like to study it to see if they can guess which of the bits and bobs represents whom.  

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