Category Archives: Artsy Projects

Rug Painting

I won’t be painting the Nursery walls, mainly due to a large, immovable-without-a-6-man-moving-crew piece of furniture that sits in the corner. Instead, my painting contribution will be on a rug. And I’m painting what I wish I had growing outside right now: rows of green, sprouting vegetables. Appropriate subject matter for floor art, right?

In looking for reference photos to see what a garden looked like from overhead, naturally, the only view I could find was provided by Martha Stewart because who else would have not only a vegetable garden worth shooting from the sky, but also access to a helicopter to get the shot. See the picture below left – that dark brown stripe down the middle is the road for the pick-up truck to drive through…

Inspired by the colorful, textural stripes that Martha’s garden pic shows, I drew out a little diagram to decide what plants and colors to put on the rug. The rug itself isn’t anything special – it’s an inexpensive white cotton rug from Ikea, which I knew would accept water and paint easily. Acrylic paint will help to keep dirt from showing, and will make it easier to clean since it will “plasticize” the surface a bit.

Using a large brush and clean water, I got the rug nice and wet so that the paint would soak into the fibers and be soft (similar to water color painting) rather than sit on top of the fibers and feel scratchy. The paints I use are my standard Utrecht acrylics left over from college- they’re cheap, great quality, and have lasted through all the painting projects I’ve done in the last 7 years. You don’t need anything special for painting on fabric with acrylics – once the paint is on there, its never coming off.

You can see what I’ve done so far. There’s still more to do, more detail, dirt, and shadow to add, but I’m pleased with the progress. And in case you’re wondering, from the top that’s (going to be!) red leaf lettuce, bean sprouts, cucumber, cabbage, peppers, green onions, carrots, and lettuce.


Nursery Sneak Peak

This gallery contains 1 photos.

Its been lots of fun working on the Baby’s room, and so I thought I would show you a sneak peak of some of the parts and pieces. We’ve opted to wait till our little one is born to find … Continue reading

5 Ways to Use an Old Book

Our garage is home to 4 crates of cover-less books, the remnants of Sister’s September wedding (We were inspired by Restoration Hardware’s $30 book stacks tied with twine). Craigslist and library giveaways provided us with LOTS of books which we sorted through to pull out any that looked valuable or otherwise un-destroyable; we were interested in giving new life to some dump-bound books, not in destroying antiques!

The cover-less books looked great at the wedding, with their yellowed paper in a mix of creams and off-whites, and they all, (conveniently) match with their covers torn off. I couldn’t bear to throw them away after the wedding, and I’ve been putting this valuable stash to good use, I think. Here’s how:

#1 Add Height and Interest

Stacked up on their sides either loose or tied with twine, a book stack is a great way to give height to an arrangement, flower or otherwise. If you have a few vases of flowers that are the same height, put one on a stack of books to add variation. Or stack up some books on a shelf with an interesting paper-weight on top. It adds height and texture without too much visual competition.

#2 Gift Tags

Find a page at the end of a chapter (where there’s a little bit of blank space) and cut out a circle, square, or tag shape. You can include a little bit of type at the bottom of the tag, if you’d like, or even punch from a place entirely covered with text, and write your message over it with a felt pen. Tie onto your gift with your to/from.

#3 Press Flowers

I have flowers drying in an old book called “Garden Flowers”, which is always on display (this one still has its cover because its so pretty). Its good to have the title visible because it reminds me that I have flowers inside! And, because I know it will make me smile when I pull them out, I flipped open to the page about daffodils, and pressed the daffodils between those pages. The paper in these old books is really absorbent, and so they’re well suited to this purpose.

#4 Coaster

Tear out a stack of 15 sheets from the book, use the nice straight margins to trim the width (if you want your coasters narrower than the page width) and sew them together using quick seams on a sewing machine. This can go really quickly, they absolutely don’t need to be perfect lines! Then cut the rectangle in half (or into squares) and you’ve got a fun, literary coaster, which, if you’re using my set, have short excerpts from classic literature.

#5 Hidden messages

This activity is kind of a cross between a wordsearch, an old spy-code, and an open ended creative writing exercise. Go through the page and cross out all the text except for a few select words that spell out a little message. Start by briefly skimming the page and find a “first word” that catches your eye. Draw a line through every word up to that word. Then pick a second word, and line through everything until that word. Then, keep going! (My geeky side will tell you that I’ve been known to enjoy the challenge of writing little poems this way.) But don’t worry about making it a complicated message, a simple one of 2-3 words will do. Then use it as a unique little note or card-front.

Ideas 6-10 (I know I promised 5, I just had to keep going.)

#6 – Use as a nice looking cutting mat for Xacto knife projects. (tear off the used pages as they get cut-up

#7 – Tie in a bundle and use as a vintage looking doorstop

#8 – Use as wrapping paper for small gifts

#9 – Run through your printer to print on when you want something to look old

# 10 – Use as a background for little cards, sketches, place cards, etc – it gives so much more texture and interest than just using a plain sheet of paper!

fabric flowers

A friend told me about a little local secret called “Room With A Past.” Its a antique-y boutique full of all sorts of hand made or restored things, and its only open one weekend a month. So last Friday morning, we went over to see what they had. And oooh I was inspired! I came away with a few treasures, (most noteworthy is the beautiful glass doorknob for the chicken coop!) and lots of ideas. As soon as we got home I went right to the fabric bin to see if we could make some little flowers, just like the bunch of sweet peas that had caught my eye.

I gathered up some green velvet ribbon for a stem, orange linen (from a thrift-store shirt), a skewer, spray laundry starch, scissors, and a needle and thread.

Step One: Lay out a length of ribbon (however long you want your stem to be) and a strip of linen (2×6″, give or take) on a piece of scratch paper, and give it a good spray with laundry starch. Pick¬† up the ribbon and wrap it around a skewer lengthwise to make a ribbon tube. Wrap thread around the ribbon to keep it in place. When the starch is all dry, the ribbon stem will be cylindrical instead of, well, ribbon shaped.

Step Two: When the linen is dry, wind it up into a roll about an inch wide. Smash the roll to flatten, and cut through the layers of fabric to make a petal shape, as seen below. The shape on top isn’t as important as making sure that the sides connect so that you end up with a nice “petal chain” when you unroll the ribbon, as seen above.

Step Three: Thread a needle with thread that matches your fabric, and tie a knot in the end. Set it someplace safe and close so that you can grab it easily with one hand. Now begin to wind your petal chain around the top of the stem, trying to overlap the petals a bit so that they aren’t all on one side. The ribbon is so short that its easy to wind and unwind till you’re happy with how your flower looks.

Step Four: When your flower looks just how you want it, grab your needle (aren’t you glad its already threaded?) and stitch through the base of the flower. Go through enough times to secure the base of the petals in place and to the stem.

Step Five, Extra Credit: My friend had the great idea, if you are inclined to make a pile of these flowers, to make them into a “daisy chain.” Fold the base of the ribbon back on itself and cut 2 slits, which will turn into one matching slit when you roll the stem back up. Thread the stem of the next flower through the slit, just like a real dandelion chain. I started this but as cute as it is, its only 4 flowers long. I have my limits.



Making Pottery Barn Candles: Adding the Paint

The final step in recreating the Pottery Barn candles I started yesterday is adding the color. This part was difficult to take pictures of due to the awkwardness of operating a camera and a paintbrush at the same time. But hopefully the pictures I do have will be enough to get you in the right direction. And the nice thing about acrylic paint is that if you don’t like what you’ve done, just paint over it!

Supplies Needed for the Second Part of the Project

  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Acrylic Paint: off-white (mine is called buff white) and dark brown
  • Small paintbrush for making the fine lines
  • Bigger paintbrush for painting the large areas on the side
  • Stiff brush for stippling and adding texture
  • Paper towel for wiping paint

Start by wiping the candle down with rubbing alcohol. This will remove grease and extra wax from the surface.

Use a stippling brush to put dark brown paint in the knots and in any large gouges.

Paint the entire surface (except for the knots) with off-white paint. Surprisingly, the paint will adhere nicely to the wax, unless you’ve watered down the paint too much, in which case it will bead up. Let it dry.

Then use the small brush to paint dark brown paint in all your texture lines. Use a paper towel to wipe over the grooves, which will keep in paint in the recesses only.

Then mix a little bit of off-white paint with a little bit of brown paint to make light brown paint. Use a paper towel like a sponge brush and stipple this into the low edge of the vertical line to make a shadow.  Also feel free to stipple patches of this color around the candle in patches to add irregularity and depth to the sides.

And that’s that! You can burn these just like a normal candle, and the paint should stay on just fine.

Making Pottery Barn Candles: Shaping the Wax

Last week I had my eye on some candles from Pottery Barn. They looked so nice stacked up on the display with their birch bark sides. And they were finally on sale: not cheap enough for me to buy them that moment, but cheap enough to keep thinking about them and talk it over with Hubbs. But I waited too long, and by the time I got back down to the store, there was only one shallow 3-wick candle left.

So I bought the one they had left to use as a sample, and then thought I’d make myself two more to match it. I had no idea that you could do this stuff with pillar candles, and really enjoyed thinking about all the things I could do to candles in the future! (and in the picture above, I think I like mine better than the one in front that I bought)

There are two parts to this project: the texturing and the painting. Today I’ll post about how to sculpt the wax, tomorrow I’ll tell how to add the color.

Supplies needed for part one:

  • unscented pillar candles, off-white color. Unscented is important so the paint sticks to the wax.
  • butter knife/pallet knife/oyster shucker (any kind of smooth metal tool to scrape the wax)
  • wood-burning tool
  • heat gun I didn’t have this tool, but think it would be really useful for softening the wax.

This is a great project to do in a warm spot, near a heater or fireplace. First, get the surface of the wax warmed up a little by pointing a hair dryer or heat gun at it.

When the wax is a little bit soft, use your knife (thats the oyster shucker on the far left that I used) to draw a vertical line from the top to the bottom of the candle. This makes a lip which looks like the candle is wrapped in a piece of bark. Scrape and push the wax down on one side of the line so that the high side is about an 1/8 inch higher than the low side. Then do the same thing halfway round the other side of the candle.

Then take the knife and scrape down the sides of the candle to make it nice and irregular shaped. You don’t want big divots, but you want the silhouette of the candle to have crooked sides, not straight up pillar-candle sides.

Next, make the characteristic birch bark texture. Take the wood burning tool or the knife, and melt or carve short horizontal lines all over the sides. You’re going to be putting paint in these little grooves, so its okay to make them a little deep. Here’s a picture of real birch bark to remind you what you’re going for. And remember that real bark is very uneven and textured, so don’t try to make it perfect!

To make the knots, pick a spot and carve or melt a scribbled spiral. Keep going around and around till you have a nice little bumpy mess in that spot. Melt little speckled dots around the edges of the knot.

I was really excited to see how great they looked with just the texture, and can definitely see just taking things to this stage in the future. But these needed color in order to match my sample. Tomorrow I’ll show how to paint.

T-shirt Necklace

Sister started out with a great plan. For years, every t-shirt from every youth group and high school event went carefully into the closet, with the intention of one day making a memory-heavy t-shirt quilt. But last year as she made another move into another apartment, reality set in, and she realized that however great the dream, it wasn’t happening. So with a jr. high sleepover to plan, she called to see if we could come up with a great use for the shirts.

Some quick internet research yielded a fantastic project that although the jr. highers didn’t try (they were more interested in collecting all those “vintage” late 90’s shirts), I ended up with a fantastic necklace made out of my own collection of thriftstore-bound clothes. The best part of this versatile necklace is that in the winter it works like a scarf to keep your neck warm. In the summer you can get it wet and it will keep your neck cool!

Supplies needed:

  • 1 or more t-shirts or other knit shirts. One shirt will be plenty, but its fun to have some color variation I think.
  • Scissors, or better yet, a rotary cutter
  • Beads, charms, old jewelry, pieces of chain, etc. (optional)
  • 2″ O-ring (optional)

Starting at the bottom edge, cut the shirts into 3/4″-1″ strips. I don’t recommend cutting over printed areas of the shirt, as it will make sort of weird lumps in the necklace, and don’t cut much higher than the armpits. Cut as many strips as you’d like (I used about 25 strips, for reference) out of as many colors or patterns as you’d like. Some nice combanations involve multiple shades of the same color (like multiple shades of grey) or 2 solid colors with 2 coordinating stripes.

Once you have all your strips cut, take each one and stretch it out as far as you can without breaking it. When you let go, the strips will have lost their stretch and have curled in on themselves. Now its easier to see what they really look like, and you can start choosing the ones you’re going to use.

Now you start building the necklace. Start with one strip, and tie one end to the O-ring. Then tie the next and the next, squeezing each knot as close as possible to its neighbor. When you’ve filled up no more than half of the ring, stop and start tying the other sides of the strips onto the ring. Some things to keep in mind:

  • You can cut the strips to the right length as you start to tie the second end on, but make sure that after each addition it still fits around your head!
  • There’s lots of ways to get the strip from one side to the other – braid 3 strands together, weave one through a chain, slip a few beads on, tie a few knots along the way, loop it around the necklace “rope” that you’re making… Be creative, all these little things make a more interesting piece.

When you’re done, you can embellish a little more if you’d like, by tying a small piece of a strip around a couple of the strands, or adding a charm, or whatever you’d like. Its hard to go wrong on this project, if you “make a mistake” (hard to do here!) just untie and try again!