I’ve been a crafter all of my life. I make costumes and throw elaborate birthday parties. My first thought when I see something beautiful in a store is usually, “Can I make that?” I love to create handmade gifts, produce decorations for birthdays, and design personal touches for my home. The laser cutter/engraver (Glowforge) at HCLS Glenwood Branch + Makerspace is the latest tool in my crafting repertoire. Among the many things I’ve been able to make are jewelry, decorations, gifts, cake toppers, valentines, teacher appreciation keychains, and an LED light. My favorite things that I’ve made are keepsakes that engrave my son’s drawings and a lighted archway that I made to try and replicate the schwibbogen that are sold in Germany.
What is a Laser Cutter/Engraver?
This machine allows you to put a piece of material like leather, wood, or acrylic in the machine and it carves out your product using laser light. Glowforge is the name brand for the Laser Cutter Engraver at HCLS Glenwood Branch + Makerspace.
What materials can it cut?
At HCLS, we only allow Proofgrade materials in the machine – Glowforge sells proofgrade materials, which are certified to be laser safe. These materials also have pre-assigned settings in the machine – telling the laser exactly what power and speed it needs so cuts and engravings produce exactly how they should! Proofgrade materials include hardwood, acrylic, draft board, plywood, veneer, and leather, among others.
How can I get Proofgrade Materials?
The Glenwood Branch has a selection of materials to purchase directly from the library, including many colors of acrylic and several finishes for hardwood, plywood, and veneer. Alternately, you can purchase directly from the site, shop.glowforge.com, or from local craft stores that carry Proofgrade materials.
What kinds of things can I make?
The photos in this post are all things that have been made in the Makerspace with the Laser Cutter/Engraver. There is so much room for creativity and customization. Your design can be high-tech – you can create an .svg from scratch with interlocking or overlapping pieces to construct 3D artwork. Your design can also be low-tech – you can convert a line art drawing, photograph, or handwriting sample into a custom-engraved keepsake. You can also browse premade designs in the application and send them with customized engravings, or you can use the application to create a design using graphics, text, and shapes.
How do I get started?
If you want to see a quick intro video, you can watch on HCLS’s YouTube channel here. You can also register for upcoming make-it and take-it classes at Upcoming Laser Cutting Classes. Someone is always available in the Makerspace to help you get underway. Anyone under 18 who wishes to use the laser cutter must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Kimberly J is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the HCLS Glenwood Branch. She enjoys reading, photography, creating, crafting, and baking.
May is Older Americans Month and is the perfect time to start a new hobby with a little help from HCLS! Check out these great resources you can access for free with your library card.
Looking to get artsy? We’ve got some great DVD series to help you start. Craftsy offers hands-on lessons in creative mediums such as knitting, watercolors, crochet, and sewing. Interested in painting? Follow along with Bob Ross as he guides you every step of the way toward creating your own masterpiece in his art video series.
Interested in building a family tree and learning about your family’s history? Check out, via our online research tools, Ancestry Library Edition (only available in library branches), HeritageQuest, and MyHeritage Library Edition for access to billions of records from all around the world – including census records, immigration records, and beyond!
Budding photographers can head over to LinkedIn Learning for comprehensive video tutorials on topics like mobile photography, taking portraits, photo composition, photo editing, and more! Simply login with your library card and pin number to begin.
Expand your linguistic horizons and study a new language. For those who prefer to learn in quick, fun, daily lessons, Mango is a great option. Just download the free mobile app, select the language you want to learn, and start learning! For more immersive learning, Rosetta Stone offers structured lessons in reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
Hoping to introduce some new recipes into your repertoire? Check out the Great Courses’ Everyday Gourmet DVD series. With courses on outdoor cooking, Mediterranean cooking, and cooking with vegetables, there’s something for every palate!
Emily is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch. She enjoys reading, listening to music, and re-watching old seasons of Survivor.
In this dark and chilly season, creative activities like making and baking can light us up from within. Tapping into creativity is a proven mood-booster, whether you complete a masterpiece or simply enjoy the process. With the DIY Collection at Elkridge, find a trove of inspiration and tools to help you get cozy and crafty.
With the DIY Collection, you can even try your hand at leathercrafting, tile mosaics, and more. Whatever you choose, we hope you’ll be basking in the glow of creativity! Anyone 21 or older who lives, works, or attends school in Maryland may apply for an HCLS DIY library card (instructions and more information here).
Emily is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at the HCLS Elkridge Branch. Because she is solar-powered, her favorite winter activities involve warm, sunny window seats and brisk walks outside if she’s feeling adventurous.
Eric is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at the Elkridge branch. He enjoys reading, films, music, doing nearly anything outside, and people.
First of all, a well-deserved welcome back to all of our customers! We have so enjoyed seeing your faces (or at least, half of them) in our branches once again, particularly for in-person classes and events like the one we’re sharing here.
Were you one of the regular participants in Create by Music at the Miller Branch in the pre-pandemic times? Well, good news! We are back but we have re-branded. Create by Music is now Tezukuri Crafternoon. What does that mean? Well, Tezukuri translates to “handmade” in Japanese and Crafternoon…well, that’s just craft combined with afternoon.
Each first Wednesday of the month, join us for a relaxing afternoon hour of crafts and conversation. No artistic talent required! And if you’re looking for a selection of titles from our collection to check out about handmade crafting, please enjoy this list of items from our catalog.
Register for our next Tezukuri Crafternoon on November 10th at 2 pm here. Ages 19+.
Peter is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch and LIVES for the upcoming sweater weather.
Have you ever visited the Howard County Library System Elkridge Branch? If you haven’t been in a while – or at all – you might not realize that it’s now the Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center! DIY, which stands for Do It Yourself, is an area that we know a little something about at Elkridge. You can check out tools for building, gardening, crafting, baking, and exploring from our DIY collection. We have everything from cake pans to knitting needles to reciprocating saws. Visit HCLS Elkridge Branch and get ready to tackle your next home or garden project! In the meantime, take a look at the selected titles below for inspiration and ideas about crafting and creating of all kinds. Keep an eye on our social media to see even more related books to explore.
Llama loves to knit, and she decides to create something special and lovely but isn’t quite sure what it will be. As different animal friends join her, they are each inspired to make their own special projects. When Beaver declares that he likes to make things that are useful, Llama and her friends get creative deciding how their projects will be used.
Grace loves playing with her pretend buddy Box, and she’s not about to let some wear and tear change that. This fun rhyming books makes a great read-aloud about imagination, crafty repairs, and all the joys of creative open-ended play time.
Hands can do so many things! In this charming picture book, author and cut-paper artist Nikki McClure follows a family as they notice a wide variety of activities that a pair of hands might do. From a play to a house to a safer neighborhood, readers are reminded of the many important parts of a community that hands can make.
Lou is a resourceful tween who dreams of creating a space of her own, away from the hubbub of her loving, extended family home. A talented woodworker, she sets out to build a tiny house, but finds it’s more difficult than expected. In this heartwarming story of community, Filipino culture, and perseverance, Lou learns about how to make a house a home.
In this complete guide to making crafts from materials already found around the house, kids can find inspiration to give new life to old objects and entertain themselves (without a screen). Projects are divided up by materials used, including paper, plastic, metal, and fabric, with clear instructions and illustrations as well as suggestions for alternative materials if the primary one isn’t available. Find fun ways to clear up clutter with the ideas in Make It!.
Bea and Parker are just a few short weeks away from the comic convention and without costumes! Learn along with Bea and Parker how to make a budget friendly cosplay with an easy-to-find mix of materials, tools, and a lot of imagination. Then, check out other titles in the Maker Comics series.
Ben Fletcher has gotten himself into a bit of trouble, and he ends up deciding on a knitting class as the best option to perform the required community service. Even though it turns out not to be taught by the expected (good-looking) instructor, Ben discovers that he’s actually good at knitting, and it helps his anxiety. Will his family and friends – not to mention his enemies – judge Ben harshly for his new pursuit?
Even if you’re not too worried about zombies threatening anytime soon, this book will give you some great ideas and step-by-step instructions for projects to communicate, defend, and generate power. Use circuits, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi systems to prepare for a time when you might not have access to all your usual electronics. Maybe until the zombies come, you can hone your skills as you practice defending your room against pestering pets or bothersome siblings.
Thirteen-year-old Ashley Rayburn has bounced from one foster home to another, always finding herself in trouble along the way. When she stumbles upon a set of body paints that grant the wearer a multitude of superpowers, the government agency that created them comes after her to get them back. To protect her new family, Ashley has to make some hard choices while facing the shadows of the past.
This volume provides the reader with instructions to develop a natural landscape in the Chesapeake watershed region. A few of the principles the authors enumerate are to “reduce lawn, grow native plants, and welcome wildlife,” all laudable goals. This book may have more prose than some of our other gardening selections, but it still contains beautiful photos.
If you enjoy what could be described as “modernish eclectic,” a style that is very “in” now, then you will like this book. Think lots of wood, and lots of black and white, or a monochromatic color scheme. And of course, gorgeous photos!
This first in a series of mysteries introduces the Queen Bee Quilt Shop in Crestwood, Kansas, where a group of women have been gathering to make a quilt in honor of the shop owner’s anniversary. While out on her morning run, Po, the unofficial leader of the group, discovers a dead body right on the quilt shop’s doorstep. She and her friends are great at working together to make beautiful quilts, but can they combine their unique strengths and knowledge to find a killer? With a charming small-town setting, cast of quirky characters, and compelling who-done-it, A Patchwork of Clues not only has everything you could ask for in a cozy mystery, it also celebrates crafting, particularly the art of quilting, as a way of connecting with friends and building community.
In the United States alone, it is estimated that 100 billion plastic bags are consumed each year. I’m guessing that we all have a few extra laying around the house, saved up from the last grocery trip, or hiding in a cupboard or box. Why not try upcycling them? Upcycling is the process of turning trash into treasure. These DIY projects and ideas help to reduce waste by reusing items that are destined for the landfill and transforming them into something new, useful, or beautiful. Two instructors from Howard County Library System have filmed classes for ideas on how to upcycle plastic bags into something useful. They are available on HCLS’s YouTube channel, which is full of On-Demand classes.
In the first video, the Central Branch’s Tamarah Nuttle gives a step-by-step tutorial on how to make plarn. Plarn is a heavy duty plastic yarn that can be created with all types of plastic bags. She demonstrates two methods for transforming them using scissors – creating loops and knotting them together, or making a continuous strip with the bag. The plarn can then be knitted or crocheted for endless practical purposes. Some ideas include rolled mats for the homeless or a sit-upon for camping or outdoor activities. If you’ve got experience with knitting or crocheting, you should check out Tamarah’s plarn tutorial here:
Not a knitter? No worries! Another video has been produced by Kimberly J, who is an instructor at the Elkridge Branch’s DIY Educational Center. She too has practical tips on how to upcycle plastic bags. Kimberly’s tutorial involves cutting loops and then braiding the plastic strands into a rope. She then uses this rope to make fun coasters using a hot glue gun. Watch her tutorial using simple steps for this crafty upcycle here: https://youtu.be/utMvzWsoS7s
HCLS is thrilled to now offer paper bags as a more eco-friendly option for Contactless Pickup. If you’ve stopped by to see us a few times, you probably have quite a collection piling up! Here are ten ways to reuse your Contactless Pickup paper bag:
1. Gift Bag
Decorate your bag and use it to surprise a friend or neighbor with a fun treat! Or save them for the holidays for easy gift wrapping.
2. Cat House
Decorate your bag to look like a house and see if your pet will nap inside.
3. Ripen Fruit
If you want your fruit to ripen up a bit faster, try placing it inside your paper bag and folding over the top.
4. Package Filler
Use your paper bag as an eco-friendly way to fill space when sending a package. Cut the bag apart and crumple the pieces so they act as a cushion.
5. Weed Blocker
Paper bags work great for blocking pesky weeds. Cut a hole in a piece of paper bag and arrange around seedlings in your garden.
6. Make a Luminary
Cut shapes out of your bag and place battery-operated candles inside for a lantern effect.
7. Book Cover
Use your bag to cover textbooks or cookbooks to keep them looking nice.
8. Recycling Receptacle
Use your bag to collect paper recycling for easy transport to the recycling bin.
9. Crab Paper
Cut open your bag and use it to line your table when picking steamed crabs at home.
10. Craft Station
Use your bag to protect your table or floor from paint and glue while you make something creative! Consider sharing your new creation with HCLS’s Created While Isolated.
There are so many ways to upcycle your bag to get the most out of it. We’d love to see how you are reusing yours!
Anna has worked at the Glenwood Branch as a Customer Service Specialist for 6 years. She loves crafting, yoga, and baking.