Archive | August, 2012

Easy Artwork Ideas

30 Aug

If you are ever looking for an easy, low-cost way to add art to your walls, there are several great sources that may already be in your home.  I had a large blank wall in our bedroom that I thought would be perfect for a gallery grouping.  I had been eyeing a number of artists that I really liked on Etsy, and found that one of them, OlaDesign, was offering a small calendar for a reasonable price (about the same as one print).  I knew it would be a great solution for my gallery wall.

I picked up a stack of RIBBA frames from IKEA for the project.  Once I received the calendar, I trimmed off the artwork portion of each month of the calendar, and played around with which ones I  liked best.  Because the calendar was narrower than the standard matte that came with the frames, I chose to cut my own mattes.  I have a matte cutter, and do this often.  One large matte board was enough to cover all of my frames.

Here’s my gallery wall:

Ideas for easy artwork sources:

  • Calendars
  • Cards/Postcards – especially from museums or traveling
  • Maps from your travels
  • Etsy
  • Local Artshows/Craftshows
  • Coffee Table Art Books (check out the discount big book section at B&N)

Where to find inexpensive frames:

  • Ikea
  • Michaels/JoAnn’s/HobbyLobby, etc – watch for sales – they often have 40%-50% off frame sales.
  • Thrift Stores and Garage Sales – You can find really cheap frames that can easily be painted/spray painted.


The Painted Headboard

28 Aug

I was looking for a headboard on Craigslist – something cheap that I could either refinish, paint, or upholster.  I swear I wasn’t even searching the free section, but I came across a headboard listed for free, and it seemed like just the ticket.  The finish was a bit scratched up, but really not bad.  My plan was to paint the headboard to match the nightstands I had redone. See that post here.

I started by sanding it down with my orbital sander to smooth out the scratches.  I didn’t sand the entire finish off, but just gave it a quick once over before priming and painting.

When painting furniture, I prefer to use small foam rollers rather than a traditional paint brush.  This helps put on a light even coat without leaving any brush strokes behind, and helps avoid leaving too much paint on the piece, which can pool and drip and not look so pretty.

I wiped down the sanded headboard to remove any excess debris, and started priming with the foam roller. One light coat of primer is all you need for the paint to adhere.

Once the primer was dry, I started painting.  I used the same black/brown paint that I had used on the nightstands.  I used the foam roller to paint the entire piece, and used a small foam brush to fill in corners and crevices.

Two coats of paint later, I had an updated headboard to match my nightstands!

I still have a lot to do to finish this room.  Stay tuned for future updates!

A Sham Shame…

23 Aug

After spending countless hours looking at home/design/diy blogs over the past couple of years, I realized that I was really lacking in the decorative bed pillow category.  I’d had this duvet cover for a number of years, but I decided it was still functional and I didn’t want to drop a ton of money on new bedding.  Plus, I’d been craving a return to the sewing machine, so I figured an easy pillow sham would be a good starter project since it’s been years since I’ve done any major sewing.

I brought my duvet cover and one piece of an artwork grouping on my search for fabric.  Tashia helped me pick these two fabrics for the main pillow shams and an accent.  Done and done.

Fast forward about 9 months….this project (like many of my grand ideas) evidently required a full gestational period.  I finally got around to tackling the two main shams.  I had an envelope style (red & white) Euro-sham that I modeled for my pattern.  I pinned and cut the fabric with a 1/2″ seam allowance.

I sewed the first side of the “envelope” and then realized that I didn’t have quite enough fabric for the last half of the envelope on the back side of the sham.  OOPS!  That’s what I get for winging it! I was off to the fabric store with my 9 month old fabric…and alas, they no longer carried it.  AAAARGH!  I went for a lime green that matched the little dot in the middle.  Hey, color blocking is way on trend, right?!  Oops averted…that is until I sewed it on incorrectly.  Oops again.  The green color block was supposed to be on the outside…my patience was waning at this  point, so I just decided to go with it.  Who looks at the back of a pillow anyway?! Sigh.

Well,  I had finally completed my first sewing project in years, and thought it looked pretty good on the bed when I got home.  I put off taking the “after” picture…this blog was just a mere twinkle in our eyes at that point.

Fast forward about 5 days later…when my duvet cover fell victim to a middle of the night cover stealing match.  My husband gave a rather unsportsmanlike yank to the covers, causing the duvet cover to rip in several directions down the middle.  So maybe it was a bit past it’s prime after all…All I could think of was my poor shams that I had so diligently worked to match that darn thing. Grrrr.  I was so disappointed that I threw out that duvet cover immediately the next day. It was too late before I realized I never got an appropriate AFTER picture with the duvet.

Here it is with some neutral white bedding in the meantime. Not convinced that this will be my end-all be-all, but I think I’ll go ahead and make the accent pillows anyway.  I figure they still go with my artwork!

Light up the Night

21 Aug

Both my neighbors and I have  trees in our backyard, but they are VERY tall, VERY old trees that don’t allow for the stringing of white lights or lanterns or candles or any of those lovely backyard lighting options that look so great in magazines and in photos on Pinterest.  I owe the inspiration for this project to my neighbors Chris and Melissa who created their little oasis in their backyard last summer.  After seeing their lights come up next door, I ran out and purchased the supplies, only to let them languish in my yard and garage for a full year.  I can’t tell you how excited I was to see these lights go up!

It took my boyfriend Fred to help make it happen. I DID assist with this project, but he got to be the model for the step-by-step photos. First step pounding in the rebar. Last summer I had already determined how many pieces 4 ft. rebar and 10 ft. EMT conduit I would need. I used 8 pieces total.  The rebar now costs about $3.00 a piece for the 1/2 inch 4 ft. section and the conduit is $1.69 for a ten foot 1/2 inch diameter section.

First, we hammered the rebar with a sledge hammer about 18 inches into the ground  in each location we wanted the poles.

Then, we worked the conduit over the rebar.

Some of them went on very easily and others took some coaxing. Typically we could twist and turn them on, but here is Fred is imitating his best George of the Jungle Swing.

Along with the rebar and conduit I had also purchased pipe clamps to attach to the top of each pole.  These allowed us something to wrap the lights around. They were less than a $1 a piece.

While I hope one day to buy bigger round bulbs, I chose to use white holiday lights I already had on hand.  We strung these between the poles and wrapped the lights around the fastener at the top of each pole. Did I mention we completed this project in less than an hour with dinner guests arrival impending?  At least that is how I remember it and the excuse I use for the various heights of the drape of lights you’ll see below.

Pardon the bright safety light and crazy reflections in the grass, but you can get the sense of what it looks like.   They lights also need to be restrung to have a better (and more equal) drape between poles.

One safety note- You can see the light shining off see my electrical lines to the house on the right side.  They are several feet above the lights, but in close enough proximity that we were VERY VERY careful about placement and working around the electrical lines.

All in all, they create the soft light perfect for a party or a quiet dinner at home on the patio.

Perfectly Good Pots

15 Aug

This spring I had visions of turquoise blue pots of sweet potato vine and bright fuchsia blooms gracing my front stoop. I found workable plastic pots in a similar shade at Target, but instead of planting they sat inside waiting for me to be inspired.  A week or so later I stumbled into the East Calhoun Community Organization’s neighborhood garage sale.  What could I do, but follow the signs? I found quite a few treasures that day, but chief among them were these three clay pots. I was drawn to their shape and immediately saw their potential. At a buck a piece they were a steal!

I hustled over to the local Ace hardware store to see if I was lucky enough for them to carry the color of my dreams. Lo and behold there it was: Rustoleum Paint Plus 2X Ultra Cover in Lagoon.  These pots were relatively clean so I took a dry rag and wiped them down to remove any cobwebs and extra dirt.

I sprayed them with two light coats of paint- waiting about a half hour between coats.  This is after the first of two coats so this paint really did cover quite well.

And here they are potted up bright and beautiful on my front step next to the Target model I returned.  The Target pots were serviceable, but nothing compared to the bright pop and texture these pots now have.  The photo above was taken in early June and the photo below is what they look like today- althought the plants seem to have taken over!

Have you found any great finds at garage sales this summer?

The Silver (or…baby blue) Lining

14 Aug

My go-to handmade baby gift is to knit up a hat.  They are cute and little, which usually means they are a quick and easy knitting project.  And my go-to baby hat book is Itty Bitty Hats by  Susan B. Anderson. My knitting group could probably start a fan club for the Itty Bitty Knitting books.  I think we all own at least one copy from her book collection, if not more.

I decided to go for a classic Ear Flap Hat (Inca Snowflake in Itty Bitty Hats) for my friend B’s impending arrival.  There’s nothing like some good ol’ road- trip-knitting to get me started (reason #357 why I love to knit: it’s mobile!).

Sometime’s I choose to skip the extra finishes in patterns, but I decided to go for the crocheted edge this time – as you can see below, it really helps the hat hold it’s shape (see the left earflap with edging vs. the messy curly right earflap) – and was also a good excuse to get reacquainted with my crochet hook (we’re long lost friends).

I also decided to line this hat with fleece to make it extra warm for Minnesota winter.  Did you know that fleece stretches only one way?  I learned this the hard way after cluelessly lining my nephew’s hat with fleece and then couldn’t get it on his sweet little head.  It’s important to plan your lining to accommodate some around-the-head stretch and room to grow.

To line the hat, I fold the fleece in half, and pin my hat to the fabric with one edge of the hat lined up with the fold.  Then I simply cut around the hat, leaving a small allowance (1/4″ or so) around the edge, and leaving the fold untouched.  The folded edge allows you to only  have one seam in the fleece lining, which I put in the back of the hat.

I then cut straight across the top of the lining, about an inch down from the top of the hat – this just keeps it simple.  Nobody sees the inside, right?

Once I have my lining cut out, I flip the hat inside out, and pin the lining in, trimming any excess fleece where my allowance was too much (better to have to much to trim, than to be short!).  Using a regular sewing needle and thread, I whip stitched my way around the outside, whip stitched the back seam of the fleece, and then did some pretty loose stitches across the straight top of the lining to allow for some wiggle room up there.

The lining not only gives a good dose of coziness, but it also adds some solid structure and color contrast to the finished piece.  For any yarn connoisseurs, this was my first time using Malibrigo (Rios Superwash Merino), and it lives up to it’s high user ratings.  Soft texture and a smooth knit!

Even if you’re not a knitter, crocheter, or general hat-maker, it’s easy to make any hat warmer by adding some fleece –  a simple band that goes around the lower ear-covering portion of the hat would be an easy fix for those day long snow fort adventures!

MN Memory Box

9 Aug

I’m a collector of memories. I’ve got boxes of momentos sitting and waiting for me to scrapbook.  Yet somehow the scrapbooks never get finished and the concert tickets are constantly floating around my house looking for a home. For the past few months or so I’ve been seeing memory boxes like this one pop up on Pinterest and I’d pinned a few, but had never taken the steps to make one.

Then I was struck by inspiration from my college roommate Kate who made her own version with the words “good times” inside. It inspired me to finally get off my seat and make one- that and the fact that she said the boxes were on sale at Michaels!  By the time I arrived at Michaels they were no longer on sale, but a kindly clerk gave me a 40% off coupon for my purchase which then left the cost of the shadowbox at $10.17.

I’ll tell you up front that this project had a few bumps and hiccups along the way. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes and it should go much more smoothly for you. To get started I flipped over the frame and removed the backing. You can see from the photo above- although I didn’t notice in the store- that there was some sort of glue/paper stuck to the black of the shadow box liner. Unfortunately I didn’t notice until I had pulled the whole thing apart and started working on it. I’ll remedy that problem a bit later in the post. After removing the back of the board I traced a small rectangle on the backing board-using a ruler to find the middle of the board and the appropriate distance from the top of the frame- about an inch and a half. I used an exacto knife to cut through the back. Unfortunately, I underestimated how thick the backing board was and it was soon clear that cutting through both this backing board and the cardboard attached to it would take more than my poor exacto blade could handle.  Thus, I carefully peeled away the backing board from the cardboard underneath.

I repeated the process above to cut an appropriate sized hole on the cardboard with success this time.

I was left with this-where you can clearly see the glue/paper mess on the side.  Fortunately I had some extra black felt in my fabric stash.

I ironed the felt to make sure it was smooth. Cut it to size and adhered it by spray mounting it with 3M Super 77 to the original cardboard.  Using the exacto knife, I cut the slot in the felt and made sure to leave a nice clean edge by pushing extra fabric through to the back side of the board.

You can see in this photo that the black was much more solid and rich looking than the original that came with the shadowbox.  I had decided instead of mounting the typical phrase in the shadow box- “memories” “admit one” are all versions I had seen- I was going to mount a postcard print I had picked up at a craft show at the State Fair Grounds earlier this summer.  To do so I used clear adhesive Zots pictured above. And in case you were wondering that is felt “fuzz” on the zots- I had pretested a couple to make sure they would stick before putting all four on the postcard.

Here is the nearly finished product.  About midway through this project I decided this was going to be the perfect birthday present I had been hunting for for a friend.  The postcard is the work of Adam Turman, a local Minneapolis artist.  With the Minnesota image it was apropos for Kara as she starts her first post-grad school position here in MN!

I hunted down a few memories we have shared together and I will gift her with these included- or rather color copies- I’m determined to make my own version and I want to make sure I still have MY ticket stub to add to my collection.  You can see I left the backing board off of this for now, but I probably will give it to Kara with the back on the shadow box. It is easily removed for easy access to the slot for future stubs and photos. The back will allow her the option to hang this shadowbox in addition to being a tabletop frame.

I could see so many other options for altering this project:

  • As an anniversary or wedding gift it could be fun to frame a photo of the couple or their wedding invitation- they can add memories for years to come.
  • Use it as a showcase for foreign currencies or airline stubs or travel memories and mount a travel quote such as “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
  • For the music lover or to be gifted to a teen at their first concert along with the quote  “Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die.” -Paul Simon

What kind of memories would this box hold for you?