Friday, March 29, 2013

Button Wine Charms

I had a grown-up party this past weekend. Had food, wine and games, even. Well, since most of my guests are wine drinkers, I knew I needed a way for them to easily ascertain whose glass was whose.

Enter wine charms.

I knew I didn't want to spend a fortune on these little baubles, but I wanted them to be fun and somewhat whimsical.

From Pinterest I'd seen some ideas using hoop earrings as "templates" – so I decided to buy some of those (Michaels) and then use something I had already at the house...I had leftover buttons from my homemade burlap wreath project, so I just used those.

They were quick and simple to make, and I had no idea how big of a deal it would be for my guests to choose WHICH button wine charm they wanted for their glasses...who knew it'd be a little game in and of itself?

Fun, cheap and easy wine charms – I guess I need to have people over again just so we can break them out for another go-round :)

Rustic DIY Flower Vases

After completing my DIY burlap wreath I had a lot of leftover burlap, twine and white pillow case fabric. What to do with it all?

On Pinterest I'd seen some really cute centerpiece ideas – most notably, those using soup cans for vases. I'd already cleaned up and been using three such cans on my table for flowers, but they seemed a bit plain (I'd done nothing with the soup cans).

I'd originally thought to tie raffia around them, but then they still seemed a touch boring.

Well, since I had this leftover burlap and pillow case fabric, why not add that to my little soup can vases? So I did – and I'm quite pleased with the results!

For the first soup can, I covered it entirely with the burlap, but for the remaining two I trimmed the burlap to fit in the center of two of the soup cans. I like both methods but I think I like the vases where I can still see the soup can.

After attaching the burlap with the glue gun I cut some of the pillow case fabric to apply in the middle for some contrast. Then it was time to tie on some twine to complete the look.

And there you have it – cute little DIY rustic flower vases for a fun centerpiece.

DIY Burlap Wreath

I've never been a "wreath" person. That is to say, if it's not the Christmas season, I don't have any wreaths hanging in my house. Until now.

On one of my favorite dog-walk routes, I pass by the cutest little brick house. I can tell someone new moved in recently, because the décor has improved and there's always a wreath hanging on the front door. It recently changed from a Christmas-y reddish wreath to a gold-ish, spring-looking wreath.

The idea occurred to me: just because it's not Christmas didn't mean I couldn't hang a wreath on OUR front door...but what kind? So I started looking up ideas online – and figured I'd make my own wreath. For some reason or other I've decided I'm in love with burlap, so I went to Michaels and bought all the requisite materials for my first-ever DIY burlap wreath:

  • grapevine wreath
  • burlap
  • super glue
  • buttons
  • twine
  • wooden letter

I knew I wanted to make my own flowers to put on the wreath, and that if I only used burlap the color scheme would be a tad bland. So I headed over to the neighbors' house to ask if Jane had any leftover white fabric...lo and behold, she did – she'd just finished up her own project and had two leftover white pillow cases, which she gave to me.

Upon learning that I didn't have a glue gun of my own, she loaned me hers...which proved invaluable in the making of my burlap wreath. While I had started out using super glue to make my burlap flowers, the glue gun was easier*.

The pillow case fabric went perfectly with the burlap – a tad rustic, a tad rough and white to break up the brown color palette. I didn't end up using all the flowers I made, but settled on one flower pattern for the wreath: the oh-so-easy-to-make rosette. Most of the flowers are plain, but for a few I added button centers to shake it up a bit.

After I spent a couple nights making all the flowers, it was time to start figuring out just how I wanted the burlap "covering" to look on my grapevine wreath. I played around with wrapping the burlap for about two minutes before settling on how it should lay. I didn't even glue it in place; just wrapped it around and then tucked the ends into the grapevine wreath. 

Then it was time to arrange all the burlap and fabric flowers. I laid them all out, positioned them, re-positioned them a few times and then glued them down to the burlap with the hot glue gun.

At this point, all that was left was to add the curlicue letter "D" (for Danks :) with some twine. Voilà! A homemade burlap wreath for any season.

The only thing I didn't consider when making this wreath was the tendency of the grapevine wreath to hang a certain you can see, I didn't work with shape of the wreath; the way I positioned the burlap and flowers the wreath has a tendency to want to hang along the pre-existing "oval."

I originally wanted the flowers to lie along the left-hand side of the wreath, but the way it wants to hang they have to lie along the underside for weight distribution.
Oh well, next time. Consider that my "humility bead" aspect of my first DIY burlap wreath!

It was a fun project that led to more...after finishing my homemade wreath I had the "bug" and wanted to make more burlap stuff. With the leftover burlap and pillow case fabric I ended up making some cute, rustic DIY flower vases. And covering a cheap, store-bought candle. And wondering how hard it would be to make burlap curtains...

But that's for another day :)

*Note: I'd never used a glue gun before. I had read a lot of other DIY'er accounts of how you burn your fingers while using this tool...after a few minutes of using it I thought, "what's the big deal?" And then 45 minutes later, when that sucker was SUPER-hot, I got it. I think the most painful was when I got a big ol' dab of molten lava-hot glue on my fingernail. YOUCH.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sew-It-Yourself Dr. Girlfriend Costume

Dr. Girlfriend/Stewardess/Jackie O/Mad Men Costume

I tend to select my Halloween costumes months in advance so it wasn’t unusual that I decided I would be Dr. Girlfriend a few months ago as the boyfriend and I were working our way through The Venture Bros. Advanced planning would be my saving grace this year as I would have to sew my costume. Dr. Girlfriend’s dress/lab coat and pillbox hat are fairly specific and unique, which made it difficult/impossible to find an exact pattern.

Finding a Pattern for the Dress

I ended up going with Simplicity 3628 and making a few adjustments to turn the jacket with the mandarin collar into a dress. I used yellow tissue paper to add length to each of the panels. I also added some width to the right front panel and an angular cut to replicate the mod look of her dress. I cut each of the modified pieces out of pink, tweed (working around Stella Cat who made herself at home on the foreign fabric).

Side Note: I used a standard fabric scissors when I should have used a pinking shears to prevent the fabric from fraying. I ended up going back and trimming along my seams.

After cutting out each of the panels, I simply followed the pattern instructions, eliminating the lining since I would not be wearing it as a jacket. I ran into an issue when I tried the dress on mid-way through. I hadn’t allotted enough additional fabric to fit across the bust. This issue was remedied by unfolding a portion of the left front panel ostensibly doubling the panel. Because I wouldn’t be adding a lining, I was able to do this without affecting the rest of the garment.

Once everything was pieced together I hemmed the dress to well above my knee (I wore shorts for modesty under the dress) and the sleeves to just below my elbows. I marked the location of the buttons with a blue marking pencil, guided by the loops. With the buttons sewn on, the dress was complete.

Sewing The Hat

This element was much simpler than I anticipated. I fused interfacing to a piece of the pink tweed before cutting out a circle, using a bowl as a guide. I cut a 3.75-inch thick strip, hemmed it, sewed it in a circle and sewed it to the top piece. I added two loops to the inside so I could clip the hat to my hair.

Throw in some white boots and gloves and viola! Dr. Girlfriend or a stewardess or Jackie O. or a character from Mad Men, depending on the beholder’s eye.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

DIY Stuffed Animals

My sister's really into sewing these days, which is great, since I've benefited from her skills over the past year. First off, she gave me the prototype of her slouchy reversible tote bag. I use it all the time!

Next off, she decided to make new pillows for her living room to switch up the decor a bit...which quickly evolved into sewing stuffed animals for the girls' room.

Her first foray into DIY stuffed animals was the "Katie bird pillow" – a cute, fun little pattern you can mix up with coordinating prints. I oooh'd over it so much I even got my own (it goes with the wild, fun patterns she bought for the pillows she sewed me for my redecorated living room).

After the stuffed bird she tried out a stuffed bunny pattern – also very cute and somewhat retro. The girls love their new stuffed animals (that also double as little pillows for their naps) and they aren't just run-of-the-mill, purchased commercialized toys.

I'm no sewer but I think these patterns would be great for beginners.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Refinishing an Old, Three-Drawer Side Table

It's just a simply-made pine "dresser" with three drawers (back in the day, it was my dad's bedside table in which he kept socks, t-shirts & undies :). When I moved into a house in college, it was given to me to use.
I never really thought about it other than the fact it was a handy little side table, and it followed me from place to place over the years.

Now, in our house in St. Paul, it's down in my "office," where it holds stationery, stamps and other crafting odds-and-ends. I looked at it one day this spring and thought, "I'd really like it if that side table were darker." And so it began.

We don't have a wide variety of tools so I ended up borrowing my friend's little mouse sander for the project. Using 80-grit sand paper, I started removing the old finish. 

The sides, top and even the drawers of the side table were easy to sand; the nooks and crannies were the hardest. While I knew this wouldn't be perfect – it was, after all, my first refinishing project – I also didn't want it to LOOK like a first-time sanding job.

Of course, in my haste to get it done, I didn't bother to sand any part of this dresser by hand; I used the Black & Decker mouse for the entire project. I ended up finessing the sander well enough that I got all the old finish off without losing too much detailing.

At this point, the neighbors were interested in what I was doing so they came over to take a look – and critique the project, no doubt :) – and offered some good advice for the next steps of the refinishing. They also gave me some important items: a piece of tack cloth to wipe down the side table before I started in with the stain, and some fine steel wool to lightly sand in between coats of the stain and/or finish.

It was amazing how much sandpaper dust I removed from that dresser with the tack cloth, even after I'd wiped it with my hands. After wiping down the entire side table, I was ready to start staining.

For this part of the project, I'd purchased a nice brush but the neighbors said to use a foam paint brush – it's a cheap option to evenly apply the stain, and this way I didn't have to worry about cleaning off my nice brush when I was done (we even had several foam brushes leftover from a previous painting job; so no extra expense there).

The foam brush worked very well to apply the stain – Moorish Teak oil-based wood stain by Zar – and I had to do very little wiping with my soft cloths to remove excess stain. Since I was staining outside in the sun, the stain dried very quickly (although I still let everything sit for three hours, per the instructions on the can).

At this point, I was a tad worried about the Moorish Teak – in the sun it looked okay, but as soon as the sun slid behind a cloud, the dresser looked purple. I was a tad apprehensive, but my saintly neighbor came over once again and said, "don't pass judgment yet – it'll change once you sand it and apply the finish."

Once the stain was dry, I used the fine steel wool to lightly sand the dresser to prep it for the polyurethane. It was amazing how much the grain "popped" once I'd sanded it. I started to feel better about the color.

For the finish I used clear antique flat polyurethane (again, by Zar). I didn't want the side table to be shiny; I merely wanted it to have a good sheen and also I wanted to be able to safely dust it.

I knew I'd be applying at least two coats of polyurethane, and since the finish is supposed to dry thoroughly I only got in one coat before nightfall, so it had a couple days' worth of drying before I applied the second coat of finish. 

During the few days of hiatus I had time to think about what I wanted to do with the hardware – I wasn't sure if the vintage brass pulls would look good once the wood was darker...but I liked the "antique-y" look of them so much I ended up deciding to keep them. 

Finally, I had time to haul the side table and its drawers back outside to apply the second – and final – coat of finish.

Before starting to apply the polyurethane, I once again used my fine steel wool to lightly sand all the surfaces – to give the finish a "tooth" to hold onto – which helped get rid of a couple imperfections I had from the first coat. This second coat of finish had to be better than the first, since it was the final step.

One thing I'll do differently on my next refinishing project: I won't apply polyurethane in the sun. I'm somewhat limited with outside space (since we live in a town home), but I'll definitely be applying finish in the shade from here on out...the sun was so strong the finish was drying even as I was painting it on.

To that end, there are a few places in which the polyurethane coat wasn't quite thick enough and dried with a slightly "cloudy" appearance, but that – in my opinion – just adds to the charm of my very first refinishing project :)

When the final coat of finish was absolutely dry (I let it sit for a day to be sure), I put the hardware back on and it was done! It's not as pretty sitting in the sun as it is in my home office – the Moorish Teak worked out VERY well and gave the wood the rich, dark pigment I'd been hoping for.

Also, I think the sanding I did after I applied the stain helped to really bring out the wood grain and make the texture "pop" – again, something I'd wanted to see.

Even though I ended up using the same hardware on the side table – brass batwing drawer pulls – I think the entire dresser has transformed into something entirely different. It's amazing what a little time and love can do to an old piece of furniture!

I'll be honest...I haven't returned my friend's little mouse sander yet – I'm thinking I might want to refinish something else soon!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

DIY Green Onions

Oh, how I love my Pinterest. Okay, so technically I don't love Pinterest; I love the people ON it who find and Pin the most fun things ever. Sure, the fun things are out there on the "www" for anyone to find, but since these cool people have Pinned these neat ideas on Pinterest and I found them there, to Pinterest – well, its loyal users, technically – the credit goes.

Here's another Pinterest-inspired idea that I've come to know and love for no other reason than I'm a lover of Pinterest: regrowing green onions.

It seems like a no-brainer to reuse scallions you buy at the grocery store, but if not for my love of Pinterest I'd not have seen the post about regrowing green onions on your window sill from Homemade Serenity.

After seeing that, the next time I made tacos and needed green onions (I love, LOVE green onions on my tacos), I carefully saved the last inch or so of the root area of my scallion bunch and threw them into glass shot glasses on the west-facing window sill...lo and behold, I could literally see the new growth of my green onions the next day!

'Twas brillig. I was hooked...of course, there are a few caveats when re-purposing your green onion roots, such as:

  1. Don't put too much water in the glass; you want enough to cover the roots but not the green part (if any resides) of the scallions.
  2. Change the water and wash the "slime" off the green onion roots every 2-3 days.
  3. Even if you're not in need of green onions that day, clip the ends if they're getting "old"  – this will allow for new, fresh growth.
  4. Be sure to put your scallion roots in a sunny window – sun is essential!

Of course, if you were so inclined, you could just grow your own green onions – from seed or plant – in pots with soil, but this way if you're not a winter plant keeper (as I'm not) then you don't have to worry about keeping the potted scallions alive in winter :)

Happy DIY growing...and Pinning!

PS: Here are the same green onions 2 weeks later: 

As you can see, they grow quite quickly. I took these images right before I washed the scallions' roots and gave them fresh water – which, again, has to be done every few days.

Re-growing green onions you purchase at the grocery store is easy, economical and also adds a splash of color to your home.

All you need is a bunch of green onions, a glass and a sunny window sill to have your own, private "garden" that will continue yielding fresh scallions as long as you keep pruning them.

*Photography by Sarah B. Danks*