Kathy Cano-Murillo chats about crafting and Halloween decor | Home Front

Oct 31, 2013

Kathy Cano-Murillo is a writer, artist and founder of the award-winning site, CraftyChica.com. Her work has been carried by hundreds of retailers, including Bloomingdales, Target, and Michaels. She is a former craft columnist for The Arizona Republic, and has authored nine books.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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I love the name of Kathy Cano-Murillo's blog - Crafty Chica. Kathy is a writer and an artist and the author of nine books. She has amazing ideas for decorating for Halloween and Day of the Dead - Dia De Los Muertos, plus every other holiday on the calendar. Kathy lives in Phoenix with her husband, two kids and five Chihuahuas. I love her motto for life:  “Crafts, drama and glitter”. Great to have you Kathy and let's get those questions going.

Do you have any suggestions for crafts for a girls group, ages 11-14?

Yes! I love to buy a pack of the 4" canvases at the craft store - use the coupon. Then decorate them with paints. It creates a fun gallery type look when they are all finished, you can group them together t hang, or have the girls trade them after they decorate them.

I have some very large walls in my home that I need to decorate, but cannot afford large pieces of art. What could I make? Thanks!

Again,  - canvases! You can buy large ones at teh craft store, using a coupon it will be affordable. you can buy three and paint them each in a solid color and hang. For example - red, hot pink and orange, or earth tones if you like that better. you can also make a fun gallery photo wall. Pick  up seom assorted frames fromthe thrift store and use all black and white photos inside, they will all work together once you hang them. Or you can spray them all gold or black or whatever color to tie the look together...

I love Halloween. I probably have as much Halloween stuff as I do Christmas. The problem is the mess involved. I need a better way to store holiday items when not in use. Both holidays share the same two storage spaces. I end up with bins of stuff sitting around waiting to be put up. And then after Halloween, I pull the bins of Christmas stuff forward where it will be easier to get to in a few weeks. Add a few trips to the store for new Holiday items and the place is more clutter between the two holidays. I need help before I decide it isn't worth decorating at all.

One thing you can do is limit yourself to one or two bins (or whatever amount you are comfy with). Then decide what items you want to donate, sell, etc. I have to do this with my art room. I'm constantly bringing in new supplies, but I have to make room. Plus it is good because it forces you to clean/organize as you go.

I recently acquired a tacky Halloween vinyl tablecloth. Any ideas on ways to use it, that don't include putting it on my table? I'm okay with it being tacky, but I just wanted to see if there was any other way to use it. Thanks!

You could use it when you are crafting on your kitchen table, or maybe even sew on a new piece of vinyl to refreshen it and give it new life. Maybe you can cut it up and use it like bubble wrap envelopes to mail things out. Cut it  up and sew coasters, lots of ideas!

For the busy person, what are a few quick ideas that are low maintenance

For any holiday - I go with string lights. They look all pretty and twinkly and make a big impact. Do you mean for Halloween or holidays in general? Maybe just decorate the entry way to your home as opposed to the entire house? 

What's new and different for lighting the dining room table for Thanksgiving dinner?

We've seen a lot of people using votive candles scattered around the dining table lately in magazines, vs. the traditional tall tapers. Also faux candles - those flickering battery operated pillars  that are also called flamless candles or battery operated candles - look nice grouped on a tray. Pottery Barn has some nice ones.

For those of us who are always last minute, do you have any fast and easy recommendations for Halloween house decor?

Spider webs are always good and give that creepy vibe! Gather up any decorations you set up in your house and arrange them on the porch where the trick or treaters will come. Last year, my daughter dressed like Victoria ghost (tattered prom dress she bought at the thrift store) and stood in the living room window and stared out....

Kathy: You must have amazing decorations at your house for this week. Can you tell us what you did?

Thanks! I start decorating starting in Septemember, because I do a lot of blogging, I use allthe items I make. I love Dia de los Muertos, so I made a lot of crafts with sugar skulls. Here is alink to see all the projects! http://www.craftychica.com/site/2013/10/dia-de-los-muertos-education-diy-inspiration/

Is the Day of the Dead celebrated all over the world?

Hi! It is, in different ways. What I have found is that each culture has its own version. But in a general sense, there are a lot of similarities - celebrating the cycle of life, honoring our ancestors. I'm Mexican-American, so I follow those traditions closest. I love the beauty of it all!

Do you get dressed in costume? If so, What is your costume this year?

I want to dress up as "The Crafty Geeka" - my friend, Alexa, gaveme the idea. I'm going to dress up to give out candy to the kids inmy neighborhood, they probably wont get it. but I will, lol!

Can you suggest some great craft projects for the holidays for Cub Scouts?

Sure! I love making little matchbox ornaments. You can buy them 10 to apack at the grocery store. Empty the matches in a tin can. THen you can have the Cub Scouts each take an empty match box and decorate and cut it up to create an ornament. Add glitter and glue a picture inthe center. Here are some I made: http://www.craftychica.com/site/2007/12/match-box-ornaments/

My kids still don't have costumes for tonight. HELP! What are some quick ideas.

Fast costumes! Easiest way would be to go to the craft orparty store and buy masks, then you can have them wear a black t-shirt and jeans. One year,my kids waited until the last minute  and only used itmes in the house. My daughter went as Super Mario goes to Heaven and my son went as a samurai. It was great because it forced them to use their imagination! http://www.craftychica.com/site/2009/10/halloween-costume-ideas/ and http://thecraftychica.blogspot.com/2008/11/deangelos-samurai-costume.html - also, when it doubt face painting!

Also: http://ilovetocreateblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/10-quick-easy-t-shirt-halloween-costume.html

Crafty Chica: just a note to say how I miss you in the AZ Republic and now how wonderful to see you on this national stage! Tempe

Thank you so much! I LOVED my days at the paper, wonderful place to work, so many happy memeories. I'm so gratefult o them to help me launch Crafty Chica! Thank you again!! xo!!

What are some crafty ideas for centerpieces for the Christmas table?

I'm very sentimental when it comes to centerpieces - I love beautiful things, but I also like to remind people (guests, family) the meaning of the holiday. Therefore I like to incorporate interactive ideas,like a big glass jar where people can write down something they are thankful for, or a Christmas wish, then everyone takes turns pulling one out to read it. Other ideas - dip ANYTHING in glitter - it'll look like a centerpiece! Keep in mind that identical things grouped together always make a statement...A big bowl of glittered ornaments, or a row of small glittered reindeer statues, etc...

Can you suggest a project for kids to make something that could be used as part of the Thanksgiving table setting?

Yes! Have them decorate a piece of watercolor paper with paints, sayings, pictures, like a scrapbook page. Then color copy it, and laminate to use as place mat - kind o flike this: http://www.craftychica.com/site/2006/11/project-thanksgiving-trivia-placemats/

What are you favorite holiday craft projects besides Halloween-themed ones?

Christmas and Valentines! I love anything that celebrates love, I love spreading the joy and the happy. I get very mushy and sparkly. I do Random Acts of Kindness with ornaments I make, or give our wish bracelets like this: http://www.craftychica.com/site/2007/12/wish-upon-a-star-bracelet/  I like to remind people that the holidays are not about material things, but spreading light! 

How long should a dining table be to seat 8 comfortably (3 on each side and 2 at the ends)?

I would go with an eight foot table!

How do you keep your supplies organized? Any tips?

Sure! I use clear bins and I make labels for each one and store so the labels show outward. The MOST IMPORTANT thing is to clean up after each mess and put everythign away in its bin. If you don't everything will get mixed up and it will take over. I do design work for aliving and time is short, deadlines are fast, so I have to stay on track and have a clean work area, it helps to have a fresh mind when you create. Clutter can be very stressful - and expensive because you'llkeep buying supplies you have, but cant find. 

I have to have a New Years Eve dinner this year and need inspiration for some crafty bling and glitter that I could add to my table. Thanks.

I would deocrate wine glasses! You can glitter the glasses at the bottom and varnish them, tha way when people drink their wine, they will see sparkles in pretty colors. You can also make mini top hats for your guests as party favors and tie in the 2014 theme with sequins and such...

Hello Ladies, I just had my kitchen remodeled and would love to have a corner banquette. Do you all know where you can buy and/or have one built? I saw one in Better Homes and Garden that I really love. The seat part is vinyl/wood; the back part has pillows. Thank you for your help.

That sounds like a great idea! I would visit a place like Lowe's where they have a lot of magazines to look through. Take a picture of your kitchen to show the help there and see if they can get you pointed inthe right direction with plans. Good luck! 

Jura, I am so happy to finally need a white paint recommendation! I bought a new house and want to paint everything white while I live with it for a few years. Can you recommend wall and trim colors that are the "perfect" white? I want something very pure and bright - no yellow undertones. Trim would be semi-gloss. I am inclined to paint both the same color, but I'm open to a slight difference in color for a bit of contrast. Sherwin WIlliams is preferable, but I can also do BM. Thanks!

In a recent article I did on Kiera Kushlan, she told me that her two favorite whites to use together were Benjamin Moore's Decorators White for walls and Benjamin Moore's Ice Mist for trim. A lot of designers use Benjamin Moore's Simply White or Glacier White and you could pair that with Benjamin Moore's Ivory White for trim. Dover White by Sherwin-Williams is a popular color for walls with Extra White or Pure White for trim.

Best bets for national stores? What about finding things online?

Hi! What kind of things are you looking for?

I hate doing crafts because they are so messy. How can I get over this?

You can choose crafts that are not messy - there is something for everyone. Make a plan, set  up a work area, make your crafts and then know that you are going to clean up after you are done and put everythign away. Just like if you were baking cookies or something. Consider it a project that you will set up and put away when you are done, and remember it is all about having fun! ;-)

Love the craft ideas, thanks! My question is a little off topic - where can I go to get ideas for great looking bathroom tile? We are on a budget, unfortunately, so I was thinking about using mostly everyday tile, with a gorgeous splurge area. But, the choices are overwhelming... I need inspiration for a master bath, guest bath, and kids bath. Thanks!

Great idea, I love your idea of a splurge area. You could also add in a "splurge" tile here and there inthe everyday tile areas too. Have you tried looking on Pinterest? I bet there are a lot of ideas there!

How can you incorporate crafts in your home decor without looking too crafty?

There are a lot of ways...You can add small embellishments to frames, painted vases, etc. It is all in your own style and comfort level. 

What's the best way to glitter something without getting the stuff all over your house?

There are a LOT of "safe sparkle" gliters out there - like puffy paint that has glitter in it, or ironon glitter sheets, or gliter you can paint on. If you do use loose glitter, make sure to work on a plastic bag or large sheet of paper so you can tie it up and throw it out when you are done. you can use a lint roller to remove it fromyour clothes or baby wipes for the table area...

What will you do at your house on the Day of the Dead?

We always build a little ofrenda - a space with pictures of our loved ones who passed on, with a candle, pan de muerto andmarigold flowers. My dad passed in 2009, I want to listen to music he liked and things like that.

What are some new ideas for ornaments we can make with the kids for Christmas to give as gifts?

The fun thing with ornaments is that you can make them out of anything! I really like using the flat glass bubble ornaments and gluing a picture totheback and then adding glitter. It reminds me of reverse painting - http://www.craftychica.com/site/2011/12/glass-bubble-ornaments/

I loved the story on Moroccan rugs - they are lovely. Can you suggest any fair-trade sources?

Here is the Moroccan rug story first of all, which is a fun read by Elizabeth Mayhew. Sometimes the Moroccans at overstock.com are labeled Fair Trade. Also check out the website www.kantara.com.

Does your husband like crafts? Does he do them? Just wondering how he deals with all your stuff!

Ha!! He does - he is an artist too. But he focuses on big paintings and sculptures. But I like that he will see what I'm working on and find way s to incoriporate new technqiues intohis work Because of me, he started adding glitter to his paintings! SCORE!

I need some inspiration for Christmas that isn't the typical red and green color scheme.

Remember that there are no rules - do what makes you happy! Find your favorite color scheme and go with that. Incorproate pine garland and lights and no mater what color you use, it iwlllook festive and bright. I have a friend who loves black and white - she find creative ways to make it all work and look gorgeous, so play with color and find what you like and go with it!

It was great having Kathy on the chat today and we covered some new topics. Love your ideas on organizing your craft supplies and also for creating a special display for the Day of the Dead and playing the songs of your loved ones to honor them. Hopefully we inspired some of you to get crafting before tonight. Join me next week with my guest Kerra Michele Huerta who will be talking about decorating a rental and her blog Apartment Envy. And read my feature on her super cute apartment next Thursday. Thanks everyone.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Kathy Cano-Murillo
Kathy Cano-Murillo is a writer, artist and founder of the award-winning site, CraftyChica.com. Her work has been carried by hundreds of retailers, including Bloomingdales, Target, and Michels. She is a former craft columnist for 'The Arizona Republic', and has authored nine books.
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