How to Make a DIY Meditation Fountain

Some of us tend to forget what we’ve accomplished in our lifetimes and we find ourselves feeling like we’ve never done anything meaningful, useful or worthwhile.

Some of us may even go through low spots when we feel that our lives haven’t had any validity.

But when we express that to friends, they're aghast, because that’s not their sense at all. They may think we’re highly accomplished, but we feel like impostors.

So, after a couple of years of feeling that way, I decided to start questioning that belief. Just for a few days.

And in that few days I looked back at all the things I’ve done and you know what? Just scrolling through the ridiculous number of things I’ve made, tried to make, or failed to make, I felt better.

Here’s an example: Episode 1 of Anything I Can Do – “Fountain Do” – how to make a meditation fountain. It was my first day on set with this show (early 2000) and I was giddy to the point of hysteria. But it was kinda fun. And I got to shoot the show on the same farm we used when we shot Road to Avonlea. Such beauty and happy memories. 


And if by some chance DIY isn't your thang, here's Episode #1 of my relationship show, Men On Women, which aired in Canada in 2000-2001. 


  • Detecting attraction 
  • When a guy says "I'll call you" after a date, how long does a girl wait for him to call before she knows he was fibbing? And do women ever say "I'll call you" and not call?
  • Call from viewer: Why do guys make a distinction between a woman they'd want to marry and a woman who they want to fool around with?
  • Breast implants
  • Manly Moments: Kissing on a first date
  • Physical affection parameters
  • Rushing or not rushing a relationship
  • Audience question: On a first date, how do you know when you're not interested in a girl, and how do you let her know?
  • Relationships in art


Upcycling - ideas to spike your creativity

If you're the type of person who gets fidgety while riding in the passenger seat of a car for prolonged periods of, say, 5-10 minutes, you may need to work with your hands to modulate your nervous energy. 

Crocheting bird feeders out of 40-pound test fishing line is satisfying and productive. Whittling is an effective way to build up your supply of tinder for the winter, and the pile of wood shavings under your feet will keep your toes warm on long winter drives.

Or you can turn to your smartphone for solace and revel in arty/crafty/hacky/buildy project tutorials and start plotting your next DIY attempt.  

If you're naturally frugal with a sideways imagination you might enjoy the incredible range of human ingenuity I've collected in my Upcycling board on Pinterest.  

Who wouldn't want to make a combination candle/TP holder from scrap lumber and steel pipe?

Upcycled toilet paper holder

Or make a bench from an old bed headboard/footboard...

Upcycled bench from bed headboard

Or build a side table out of cut-offs...


Is there any human who doesn't like to make new stuff out of old stuff?  I haven't met one yet.

Christmas Tree Alternatives - why go traditional when your tree can scream quirkiness?

Things change in an average life and for some of us, that means hanging on to time-honoured traditions, like our Christmas tree style, with renewed tenacity. For others, it means jettisoning the familiar in an effort to redefine ourselves and acknowledge change.  For the latter group, here are a few suggestions for kicking up the festive while maximizing the restive. 

A driftwood Christmas tree...


Driftwood tree


A homemade scrapwood Christmas tree...


Scrapwood tree


A wall Christmas tree made from treasured ornaments...


Ornament wall tree


Another wall tree...




A cardboard Christmas tree...


And of course, you can always create a DIY tree with used spindles, although one of my readers complained last year that it was god-awful and 'what was I thinking?'.  Of course, if you're a died-in-the-wool non-traditionalist, you're used to hearing that.  

What about you?  Any searingly unique tree installations to share?

Lowe's Family Fun Projects - Tween Projects

Tweens are hugely creative and we've been having a blast shooting new episodes featuring their designs - here are a few:

Zoe (12) and her swinging treehouse lounger

Lowe's Family Fun Projects - treehouse swinging bed

Ella (9) and her climbing net

Lowe's Family Fun Projects - climbing net

Lucas and Kevin (11) with the chalkboard desk they built (steel pipe base)

Lowe's Family Fun Projects - chalkboard desk with steel base

We'll be posting tween episodes on Lowe's Canada in time for the Christmas break - check out our other kids' projects (ages 3+) if you ever find yourself stuck indoors with rowdy kids!   

How to make a tinned picture frame

This week's free ToolGirl How-to video gives you a billion options for bone-easy handmade gifts.  You'll learn to frame any two-dimensional item using inexpensive materials and a soldering iron...

How To Make A Tinned Picture Frame  - step by step instructions

Got the winter blues? Let your fingers do the therapy!


the plight of un-busy hands
Photo credit: chris@APL via Flickr


If this crisp cold snap is making you frantic and testy, your hands can calm you down and put you in The Zone where time ceases to exist, all problems turn to vapor, and Winter is just a word that applies to some other part of the world. Here's my curated list of places to find craft instruction online.

Now, if you want a truly in-depth course from a world-class instructor at a fraction of the cost ($20-$40) you'd pay to take the course in person, here's a closer look at my favourite online learning resource, (Correction to article: Craftsy won't be offering 'food tech' in 2013, but they will be offering food and cooking courses)

Craftsy offers fantastic classes that show you in REAL time (not fast-forward-big-reveal TV style) how to actually DO something.  Grab a cup of coffee and peruse your options for learning how to quilt, weave, sew, crochet, knit, decorate cakes, cook, garden, and even re-finish furniture. TIP: When you're scrolling through Craftsy's Featured Classes, you can click on any of the Free Mini-Classes for a taste of the instructor's style and content.  

If you don't have a local independent yarn store or craft retailer that offers classes, is an amazing virtual resource.  You can study anytime, 24/7, talk to the instructor and/or fellow class-mates while the lesson is in progress, record personal notes onscreen, and instantly repeat the last 30 seconds of video if you missed something.  

Have fun!

P.S. I'm enrolled in two courses (so far) if you want to join me - Scrap Quilting and From Drab to Fab (upcycling furniture).  

Here are some of my classmates' furniture projects from our Drab to Fab eh?

Projects from learners




Turning old wool sweaters into felt




Tea cozy from felted sweaters
A bobble-headed tea cozy made from a felted cardigan


Felted wool blanket
Felted blanket in progress


Felt is my new BFF - it's cuddly, uncomplaining and easy to make, plus you can form it into endless cool projects.  

The steps are fast and simple.  Take a pile of wool sweaters, scarves and mitts, wash them a couple of times in the washing machine so they're good and matted, then cut them up into strips, shapes or blocks and reconstruct them into rugs, blankets, dog beds, soft sculpture, toys and accessories. 

[For more details on the felting process, see this week's column, I Felt That.]

You can join pieces of felt together by hand sewing it, machine sewing with a zigzag stitch, or by using a crochet needle.  


Crocheting felted wool
Crocheted edge-joining


Making rosettes using felted strips
Strips cut on the bias and joined with zigzag stitch


Felted wool bowl
A bowl made from strips of felted wool



Felted wool bowl (from strips of bias-cut felted sweater)
Bowl detail (upside down) - the concave bottom is a natural result of the sewing process. When you keep tension on the outside edge of the strip while sewing, the piece naturally forms into a bowl shape.



Joining felted pieces with a sewing machine
Random pieces of felted wool joined with zig zag stitch over flannel backing


Felted wool cat toy
The cat's favourite new toy - a felted wool ruffled mouse (ruffle-making details below)


Ruffled tea cozy from felted sweater
it's easy to create ruffles from strips of felted wool


You can create fast ruffles from strips of felted wool using nothing more than a crochet needle.  You end up with a robust and rambunctious spiral that you can turn into a bobble/pompom (like the one on top of the tea cozy at the top of this post).  Here are the steps.


Creating ruffles with felted wool
Using a small crochet needle (I used .75 mm or 1/2), pierce the end of a strip of felted wool.



Creating ruffles with felted strips of wool
Pull a loop of yarn through (I use mohair because it's thin, strong and slippery - and I used a contrasting colour so you can see it better)



Creating ruffles with felted strips of wool
Next, pierce the felt along the top edge of the strip



Creating ruffles with strips of felted wool
Then move about an inch along and pierce it again (I'm left handed, so you'll need to reverse directions if you're right-handed)



Creating ruffles with felted wool strips
Keep going till you've got 3 or 4 'stitches' on your needle



Creating ruffles with strips of felted wool
Now hook a loop of yarn and drag it backwards through all 4 stitches, including the mohair loop you made back at the beginning



Creating ruffles from strips of felted wool
Draw the yarn through that first loop and snug the ruffle gently so the yarn is taut



Creating ruffles from strips of felted wool
Your ruffle is starting to take shape



Creating ruffles with strips of felted wool
To join strips, just pierce the top edge of the new strip as though it were part of the existing strip. Felted wool doesn't ravel, so the raw edges won't give you any grief

Creating a ruffle with felted wool strips
Just keep going now, adding strips and continuing to draw the yarn through clumps of 3 or 4 'stitches'. The ruffle will start to spiral on itself and create a staunch and flirty effect. When you're ready to end the ruffle, just draw the yarn through itself a couple of times to make a locking knot.



Creating a ruffle with corked wool
By the way, you can use the same process to create a ruffle using tubes of corking


Because felted wool doesn't ravel, you can cut it into fringe, too.  I'll keep posting pictures of the stuff I'm making for my last minute Christmas gifts.  Or if you can't wait to see mine, you can find a lot of cool ideas here.

Hobbit coasters - felted wool
Felted coasters that I subsequently needle-felted, inspired by the ironwork design on the inside of Hobbit doors

Felted sweaters turned into dog bed
Why is it that everything you make for a dog gets taken over by a cat?



Just got my 'nails' done for @HabitatToronto and @HomeShowsTO's #UpcycleChalllenge

ToolGirl Mag Ruffman's #UpcycleChallenge welded garden art
2,498 masonry nails, 3 wrenches, and 3 handsaw blades plus 11 pounds of MIG wire and 50 hours of welding!

The lovely folks at Habitat for Humanity Toronto and Toronto's Fall Home Show have come up with the most fantastic contest this year.  They asked 13 designer/DIYer/blogger types to go shopping at one of Toronto's 5 Habitat for Humanity ReStores (where they sell amazing building supplies and archtectural salvage for 50-80% less than retail).
We were each allowed to spend up to $100 to get something to repurpose into a household item.  The entries are fantastically creative. (You can vote for the project that you like best, or better yet, go to the Fall Home Show or place an online bid for your favourite piece.  All proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity to build more great homes for great families.)
Re: the sculpture above:
The first panel (far left) is a plain rectangle and is the first geometric thing I've made since my math debacle in Grade 10 (I got 11 out of 100 on my geometry final).  So I've officially made peace with geometry.  
The middle panel strays into a more organic shape, and the third panel is full-on entropy in the shape of a female form (or two lovebirds according to my Facebook friend Moe).  
P.S. Here's the 'Before' shot!
I seriously love welding.  I bought a Hobart Handler 125 for about $300 a few years ago and it's become my favourite weapon of mass construction.  
Last week I taught Oli, my niece-in-law, to weld.
Mag Ruffman and her niece Oli; welding lessons
Welding, the most popular activity at Ruffman reunions (besides eating)
I also gave my sister a few lessons last week and she went straight home and bought her own welder - a classy Lincoln package that included a helmet emblazoned with red flames!  She's making sculptures out of farm implements. 
Gillian on her first day with her new Lincoln MIG welder
A metal artist at work