Wednesday, April 30, 2014

arrows on the wall

Dropping in with a quick little tip you might find useful: hanging arrows on the wall with simple hardware!

These clips are usually used for fastening cables to interior and exterior walls; I've shown them to you before when I hung my lights in the living room, I think.

They also work wonderfully well for hanging arrows directly on the wall.

I measured down from the ceiling to make sure to keep these level with each other, then just used the clips to nail them directly in place.

That's all there is to it. Maybe this will come in useful at your place? Thanks for reading!

p.s. wall art is by Nikki McClure

Linking up to:
The Cottage Market

Saturday, April 26, 2014

a simple baby shower favor (for nesting mamas)

I'm going to keep this one short and sweet: bird's nest baby shower favors! Stock up on a couple of things after Easter, and you'll be able to make a whole grouping of nests for guests.

You'll need:

• edible Easter grass (made from potato starch; it doesn't taste very good. I found mine at Target.)
• speckled candy eggs
• parchment paper
• cellophane bags
• cardstock
• vintage-style labels (I like these)
• stapler + staples
• scissors
• pen

How to:

Take each bag of edible Easter grass and separate it carefully into five sections, one for each nest. Shape a round nest on a square of parchment that will fit inside a cellophane bag. After slipping your nest + parchment into the bag, pile six or seven candy eggs into the nest. Cut and staple cardstock tags over the folded bag tops, then cover front staples with a vintage label. I put the word "nesting" on the front, and on the back, "candy eggs * edible nest" as a little fyi.

These turned out so cute, I know I'll be using them for future showers as well! Thanks for stopping by to check out this sweet little project.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

subway tile baby shower quilt

A friend of ours from the preschool had a baby shower for her second kiddo, a girl, a couple of weeks back, and in celebration I made this quick little subway tile-style baby quilt.

The top is made of vintage textiles I've collected at thrift stores and estate sales (poppies + stripes), stuff from my stash (including a pair of Heather Ross prints and some cute owls), and a couple of my own prints from Spoonflower (the measuring tape and cupcake prints are both mine). The kicker is that I also used a crib sheet from the recipient's registry for some of the blocks as well as the quilt backing, which ties it in nicely to the nursery bedding.

The subway tile pattern is a pretty simple one to replicate. Just cut 48 rectangular blocks (mine are 4 inches x 10 inches) and stitch into rows of four, pressing seams flat when done.

Every other row, cut a 5-inch section off of one end, and attach it to another end. Then sew the rows together to make your quilt top twelve rows high. Press all seams down.

Instead of quilt batting, I used some organic cotton + organic bamboo sweatshirt fleece in between the layers. I had it on hand and it gives the quilt a nice weight and a sturdiness that will help it last a nice long time.

I stacked and pinned the layers just like I did for my sister's wedding quilt, only on a smaller (and quicker) scale. When quilting the layers together, I stitched along both sides of each horizontal seam and called it good, except for the corners. There, I stitched some simple designs: a fish, a bird, a leaf.

I used the quilt binding technique introduced to me by the Smile and Wave blog; it's taken all the mystery out of quilt binding for me, and lets me coordinate binding to my project, which I love. I'll link to it once her site's back up. Updated 6/7/13: Here's the link.

Basically, cut 3-inch strips, sew together at an angle to avoid bulky seams, then press flat. Fold almost in half along the length (favoring one side by about 1/4 inch), press, then fold edges to the center and press again. The wider side goes on the back of your quilt, so that when you run the quilt through your sewing machine the top and bottom are certain to both get caught in the stitches.

After that, the hand finishing is a cinch.

It was a big hit with the mama-to-be, and I was pretty happy with it, too! A couple of people asked if I sell my quilts; I don't at present, but I really like to give them as gifts.

Thanks for reading! If you make your own subway tile quilt, I'd love to see!

Linking up to:
My Repurposed Life

Friday, April 18, 2014

industrial file cabinet makeover (part two)

Whee! I'm back with the follow up to my recent entry about the modern industrial makeover I gave this 1980s black + fake wood steel filing cabinet.

As you might recall, a few weeks ago I started cleaning my room, realized we needed a full-sized file cabinet instead of a bunch of file boxes, and got sidetracked from the room cleaning project while I finished making it over . . .

. . . into this bare steel industrial-style cabinet.  I don't mind having it in my house, even though it's full of boring papers and responsibility.

It's not just me, right? This is a little like when Eliza Dolittle turns out to be a stunner. (The rain in Spain is falling mainly on the plain, am I right?) Or like when Rachael Leigh Cook takes off the glasses and Freddie Prinze Jr. realizes she's Superman?

I really like the way this turned out.

When I last wrote about this cabinet, I'd stripped and sanded the main body and managed to get most of the paint off. I decided to keep the paint that remained after hours of palm sanding (aka: clanging and waking the neighbors) and I'm pretty happy about it. The black paint in the rivets, dents, and folds makes me happy.

Then I attached the casters, bought new from Harbor Freight on super sale. I had first searched the big bin o' casters at Bring and came up a couple short of a matching set, sadly. I like to check there first then follow up elsewhere. I don't always find what I need on the first try, but when I do, it's always worth the search.

I flipped the cabinet, exposing its rusty underside . . .

. . . and used the casters to mark where to drill the holes.

Once the holes were drilled and the filings swept away, I used three little bolts and three little nuts to attach each caster to the cabinet (the fourth hole won't fit on the frame).

And then, with all of the wheels attached, I flipped it upright and the easy part was done.

I say that because this next bit was kind of a trial.

I really wanted bare steel fronts until I started sanding the first drawer with the palm sander. It was slow, noisy work that reminded me (negatively) of sanding the cabinet (clangity clang clang!). I thought I might prime + chalkboard the drawer faces instead. And it was a bad idea.

I'd just finished removing all of that black paint from the rest of the cabinet and I didn't at all like it on the drawer fronts. The paintbrush marks didn't appeal to me, either, so I switched courses (after everything was painted, unfortunately) and decided to try sandblasting.

After a few days of waiting and gathering supplies, here's one attempt with the sandblaster + walnut shell media + 30 minutes. Look at how it's not even breaking through the original wood patterned paint. Awesome.

I switched to using sand as media and had an easier time of it, but really, our air compressor is just too wimpy for sandblasting.

I decided to try the orange paint stripper again and actually had pretty awesome luck with it. You can see here the less reflective (darker) areas where, after an hour or so of sandblasting, some of the paint came off. The lighter areas are where the paint stripper did it's thing, and then I did mine with a Scotch Brite pad, a sanding block, and some steel wool.

It took a bit of work to get the finish even, but only on this one drawer. The others hadn't been sandblasted yet when I moved on to paint stripper.

Handles were next! I shared a photo of seemingly random bits of metal hardware in the previous post; they weren't random after all, at it turns out. I used some of those pieces to make four new handles with the character I wanted.

I made the handles from some blank metal outlet plates and what I think were probably sliding screen door handles in a former life. This was my favorite part of this makeover, and the thing I think added the most to the piece. (I bought the light switch plates, too, unsure of which combination would work out. These cost between twenty-five and fifty cents at Bring, and I'll be able to find another use for them so I wasn't concerned about over-purchasing.)

I drilled holes through the old handles, using the blank outlet plates as templates. Little bolts and nuts joined them together to make a nice flat surface for the final piece.

After drilling one more hole and applying one more bolt per drawer, the handles are complete. When well-tightened, these don't shift or wiggle (possibly because the bolts underneath encourage them to stay in place).

Here it is, back in one piece, exuding awesomeness and making paperwork look a whole lot less 1980s-style boring.

This was a time-consuming project, but not outrageously expensive:

filing cabinet: $11.25 on sale at St. Vincent dePaul
handle parts: $5 or so, total, used from Bring
casters: $4 total, on super sale at Harbor Freight for $1 each
bolts + nuts: $5 or so, including bolts from Bring, nuts from the hardware store
coarse sandpapers and sanding block: $6
orange stripping gel spray: $9
Scotch Brite pads: had on hand

Ultimately the sandblasting kit and media weren't necessary or useful for this project, so I'm leaving them off the materials list. In lieu of a powerful air compressor/sandblaster combination, what you really need to finish something like this is a whole mess of elbow grease.

Thanks for sticking with me through the many, many words and pictures! I'm really pleased with how it came out, in case you couldn't tell. Now I can start obsessing over something else on Pinterest.

Linking up to:

My Repurposed Life
The Cottage Market 
Funky Junk Interiors

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

free mulch? sign me up.

I'm sure there are other communities out there where this is a thing: the public works department chips up downed tree limbs and trimmings from parks and public lands, and makes the chips available for free. Research to see if your community offers the same.


There are several of these stations around town. We stumbled upon one while out for a bike ride a couple of summers ago. Now when I need mulch, I pack the kiddo, a shovel, five plastic bins and a couple of Ikea's big blue bags in my car and head off.

It's been a pretty awesome resource for our yard. Thanks Public Works Department!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

industrial file cabinet makeover (part one)

Don't avert your eyes; you'll hurt its feelings.

We were in pretty urgent need of a four-drawer filing cabinet for organizing papers and craft supplies, but I had some standards that needed to be met:

1) Must be under 18 inches deep. This was a hard one, as many of the filing cabinets I was scouting out were quite a bit deeper, and I just don't have that kind of space right now.

2) Must be steel. (That wood pattern you see there isn't wood; it's a wood patterned paint on metal drawers. In person, it's really easy to tell the difference.) Steel has the advantage of being lighter than wood (at least, with modern steel construction) and won't let me down by turning out to be made of veneered particle board. Also, modern steel filing cabinets are pretty easy to find at thrift stores; the more modern, the less likely to have lead paint.

3) Must either have a key or have an unlocked top drawer. I passed on a giant antique three-door filing cabinet because the top drawer was locked and I knew it would be a large additional cost to get the lock drilled out. And who knows what was in the top! Could be old papers, could be dead raccoon. Never mind that the cabinet in question met neither of the previous specifications. It was gorgeous blue and had really lovely handles. But the locked cabinet drawer was a deal-breaker for $150.

I spotted this cabinet at St. Vincent de Paul on a day when yellow price tags were 25% off. After discount, I paid $11.24 for it. It met all of the above specifications, with the downside being that it's not a showpiece. I absolutely can't stand the handles.

So, I never intended to leave it as-is. I wanted something more like one of the cabinets I've pinned to my File Cabinets Pinterest board: protected bare metal, nicer hardware, with a style more vintage-industrial than 1980s-office. Sadly, I'm completely priced out of that market. Completely. I'm in more of a $50-filing-cabinet tax bracket.

Okay: so, for the first step, I brought the thing home, removed the drawers, and dug some green paint stripper out of the shed.

I was pretty optimistic after an hour, as the paint on the back was very bubbly and then scraped right off without a tantrum. I'd only used the green paint stripper on wood before (and been frustrated by the lack of results), so I was all excited about how well the rest of the cabinet would go.

You can see the back here, mostly paint-less, and the top, still painty and scabby even after giving the paint stripper another few hours to sit. (I would have let it sit overnight, but for the rain.)

The front and sides fared about the same.

This was a pretty big letdown after how easy the back was. A second run with a different brand of stripper didn't do much but make a mess and waste money.

The palm sander started out not making very good progress, but did better once I'd attached a 35-grit paper and really went at it. It was a lengthy, messy, NOISY undertaking. Sometimes you know a project is done because it's better than you could have imagined. Sometimes you know it's done because no one can listen to even one more minute of the sander vibrating a piece of sheet metal.

After sanding, I buffed it with a coat of automotive wax to protect the finish.

Here is the cabinet as it will stay, with a bit of black left, emphasizing the vintage look (I think it will do nicely).

And here is a sneak peek of what's yet to come:

If getting paint off of these cabinets wasn't such a major pita, I'd have a couple of sets of lockers in my carport stripped already. Wanna know something exciting? We've bought a sandblasting kit! I haven't tried it out yet, but I'm really looking forward to seeing how much faster and easier this project is with that tool in hand.

I'll be back soon with part two of this vintage industrial file cabinet makeover, when things really start coming together. Thanks for reading! 

Monday, April 7, 2014

mini art kit

A recent car trip highlighted the need to have various distractions for the kiddo in my bag at all times. I wanted a stash of compact little things to fit in there that won't add too much extra bulk, but will keep him entertained in a restaurant, in the back seat, or in a yurt during an overly rainy overnight trip to the beach. Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything.

An empty mint tin is a great way to organize a few art supplies, including a couple of those crayons that restaurants sometimes give out.

I also added a couple of short colored pencils, some neon posterboard cut to size, and a sheet of stickers sent to me as part of an advertisement. (Kids magazines sometimes send them out to tempt us to subscribe.)

When cutting the posterboard, I made sure to leave an inch of space at the end and a textured edge to make it easier to remove from the box.

And there is is! A mini art kit perfect for stashing in your bag, next to a Hot Wheels car and a travel-sized packet of Play Doh.

I know it's really the Boy Scout motto, but I think I'm going to adopt "Be Prepared" as my own.

Thanks for reading!