Category Archives: upcycling

Fun with freezer paper and a baby carrier

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I think I’m setting a new record here for time in between blog posts. Fall is such a busy time anyway, but this year ours has been plagued by time-consuming work duties (Rob’s work, but I’m helping), home repairs, more home repairs, and car malfunction. Ouch. These things do seem to come (unpleasantly) in clusters. I’ll not drag you through the details, but do look for an upcoming post about camping with a Uhaul pickup–once I can laugh about it. But we’ve been crafty in between all these diversions. I made a sweet new dress but don’t have any pictures yet and we’ve gotten a little obsessed with freezer paper. I made these shirts for my kids and nieces for my sister-in-law’s 30th birthday. You can find good tutorials for making freezer paper stencils on other blogs–the basic idea is that you cut out our design for the shirt with a craft knife, then iron the shiny side of the freezer paper to your shirt and dab paint in the missing spaces. I was able to make all four of these shirts from one stencil; you can just peel it off and reuse it several times.

I had picked up packs of plain t-shirts at Target for us to be crafty with this year (they came out to $.80 per shirt, on sale) so I was well supplied when I got the idea to make more shirts  to support my friend Toby who was participating in his third Ironman triathlon. The marathon portion goes right by our house, so the kids and I like to cheer him on and be inspired by all the men and women competing in that very impressive event. This time I used a stencil font (I print out the words and trace them onto the freezer paper before I cut) and that made the project easier than the Mollukah shirts because there were no insides of round letters to worry about.

This was a different kind of freezer paper project. I saw this on Pinterest and had to try it. You print directly onto the shiny side of the freezer paper with your computer printer, then dampen the fabric you want the image on, then rub the printed image onto your damp fabric. I thought it worked pretty well. I made a little bag for a friend’s birthday and then another just for fun. These images look better if you’re going for a somewhat rustic or primitive look–they aren’t vibrant or crisp. It’s still a fun, low-cost method and I’m sure I’ll use it again.

Moving away from the freezer paper, I made a baby carrier for my cousin. I make this carrier from my own pattern, based on my most beloved carrier purchased from Babyhawk. I made it reversible in pretty, bright fabrics that reminded me of her. I made a little drawstring bag with her monogram on it to stow the carrier in. I hope she gets as much use of it as I did of mine. I think of the smell of a fuzzy little baby head snuggled up onto a mama’s neck in one of these carriers…and it reminds me that I’ve got my hands totally full now, in spite of the baby-lusty feelings that daydream provokes! Maybe I can just borrow the carrier and its baby from my cousin for an afternoon. 🙂

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A chalkboard coffee table

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My coffee table was looking really shabby. I bought it used on Craig’s List back before I had kids myself, when a friend’s son drew all over my old one in black Sharpie. It served us well through Dorothy’s toddler-hood, sustaining the abuse of many marker and crayon episodes, though I kept my Sharpies under lock and key. By the time Worth came along I thought it really could use replacing, but I hated the idea of getting a new one and then watching it suffer through another child. I decided to stick it out, and that poor old table got pock-marked when Worth banged on it with wooden food, scuffed when the boy and his puppy made a game of chasing each other up and over it and off the other side, and colored on some more. Then the legs, which always needed a periodic tightening, actually reached a place where they just wobbled hopelessly and no amount of wood glue could keep them from going askew when someone forgot, once again, that the poor old table was not for sitting. I still wasn’t sure I could get another one–after all, dog and boy are no more reliable around furniture than they were, and the Sharpies are bound to come out sometime. But then I saw the one in the picture above at a local thrift store for $15.00. I figured that for $15 I could watch the decline of another table; at least this one seems sturdy.

I sanded it and used chalkboard paint on the top panels. Maybe having a legal place to write on the table will save it from other child artwork mayhem. (A girl can dream.) I painted the rest in a shade of red that goes nicely with the flowers in my curtains, then distressed the edges a bit with sandpaper so when my paint job starts getting chipped it might look a little intentional.

The chalkboard panels look interesting and are functional too, since we often sit on the sofa to do our homeschool work. This is our official “first day of school” photo from this morning. I love not rushing out the door in the morning! We aren’t morning people, my kids and I.

I sewed erasers from scraps and an old towel. It has pockets on the back to stow the chalk.

I had some red paint left a the end of the project so I painted an old end table to match. I love the way paint makes non-matchy things go together.

Since I was already in furniture-painting mode I finally got around to sprucing up a desk chair I’d bought at a thrift store more than a year ago. I was using a very ugly, wobbly chair at my desk and I’d found this sturdy wooden one to replace it. I painted it in black paint left over from my china hutch project and recovered the seat, which had been wearing ripped faux leather. Now it feels good to have this room that we spend so much time in be a little brighter and all around less wobbly as we start the school year.

Painted canisters and a dog collar

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I feel like this is one of those instances where the final product looks much cuter in my kitchen than it does in this crummy picture. I should outsource my photography to someone with better skills! Disclaimers aside, I gave my kitchen canisters a little update. The sturdy glass jars where still in perfectly good condition after ten or so years of wear, but the metal lids were starting to rust. I used craft paint on the lids, then coated them with a polyacrylic sealer. The top of the lids don’t come into contact with food, nor do they need to be dishwasher safe, so I’m hoping this solution stops the rust and improves the look of them.I tried to get a picture of one of the lids in front of the curtains that inspired the design. In retrospect I could probably have stamped on polka dots in the same paint colors and it would have looked nice with less work, but I didn’t think of that in time.

Belle the dog was the victim recipient of another of my recent projects. I’m quite pleased with this one and foresee homemade collars to match every season and holiday in lucky Belle’s future. I purchased inexpensive parachute clips, nylon webbing and D rings at my local crafts shop. I sewed decorative fabric over the webbing and then assembled the collar. This would have been a more complicated project if I’d had to make the collar adjustable, but since I was only sewing it for one full-grown dog I just based it on the measurement of one of her other collars already adjusted to fit her. The whole project only took a few minutes and a couple dollars–now I have to figure out which of my camper fabrics to use on the next one!

Belle models her new collar.

In which I use aqua paint twice

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Two unrelated projects, two different kinds of paint, but one color scheme. Here we go:

Folding chairs, rescued from my basement. They came with the house. First I spray painted them…

…then made fabric covers for the back and a nice padded foam one for the seat. I’m keeping these in my garage to pull out when I need comfy seating for child-watching in my back yard and swing-set area. Love making something cute out of old forgotten items left in my basement!

And the new camper. Unfortunately I haven’t finished this job because of threat of rain, but I have one coat on most of three sides. It looks sweet. Here’s the door side before (can you find me in this photo?)…

…and after. Check out my rims! It’s hard to tell exactly what the original blue shade was on here, but I think I probably went just one notch brighter. I love it so much that the first night I had to keep peeking at it our my bedroom window, just to take one more little look at the awesome aqua stripe. My husband has started teasing me about it, which I totally deserve. I can’t wait to finish up the exterior paint job and really make some progress on the inside. It’s going to be so cute! I’ve been watching (and winning) some online auctions for vintage Pyrex dinnerware, with turquoise and flamingo (reddish pink) bands. It’s going to look perfect in this little camper. You know me and dishes, right? I can’t pass up the opportunity.

A camera bag

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I have been looking for a camera bag. Standard-issue camera bags are both ugly and very expensive. There are some fantastic ones on Etsy, but those are beautiful and very expensive. I’d been considering making a camera bag but the construction of a sturdy enough bag to protect my camera in transit had me a little worried. Then yesterday I found this red vinyl case at a thrift store. It’s got the look of something that might have been a gift with makeup purchase twenty years ago but it’s in perfect condition. It is sturdy, with hard sides and strong handles, and it is just the perfect size for my little DSLR with the flash attached. It was kind of awesome in it’s own right, in a red lipstick kind of way, but wasn’t my style. I thought I could make it better if I had different colored old vinyl bags to cut up and make into flowers, but, well, I didn’t have any of those, and thrifting more bags just to cut up to decorate this one didn’t really fit my project schedule or budget so I improvised with what I had on hand–felt.

I used more of the felted wool blanket I’d used to make my Kindle case, plus other felt from my stash and some cool buttons to make flowers. I used hot glue to attach the pieces to each other and to the case. This project took less than a half an hour and I think I paid $2.50 for the case. Now this case is the kind of awesome that fits my style and I’m looking forward to using it for my camera. I’m also pretty sure that if I get tired of the decorations or want to change them that I can just peel off the glue.

I’m also going to share a review of a recent purchase from My Pix 2 Canvas. I’d purchased a Groupon (or was it Living Social?) deal for this company and finally took just the right photo to try out their services. I snapped this picture of the kids in front of my brother and sister-in-law’s barn last week and I really like it. Both kids look like themselves, the weathered barn siding looks cool, and the colors the kids are wearing just happen to work really well in my bedroom, which is where I’d envisioned hanging my bargain canvas. Uploading and ordering the canvas was easy and it arrived fast. The print quality seems very good, although I’m less than impressed with the way the extra canvas hangs off loose in the back. There is also no hook or wire to hang it with. I’m still very pleased, though, and I’d probably order from this company again. The actual image quality and color faithfulness just seems a lot better than those I’ve seen at, ahem, large warehouse club stores, for example. Their regular prices are a bit high but it appears that discount codes are easily available with a little Googling. I like the look of traditional, framed prints but this is an inexpensive nod to this current photo-display trend, so I’m sold.

Christmas t-shirts and a dresser

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This picture is what you get when you set the camera on something, focus on your children, hit the timer, then jump in yourself. Oops! I really do have a head–it just didn’t make it into this photo. Anyway, the point of this photo is the matching Santa t-shirts I made for Dorothy and me. I cut out round scraps from fabric left over from the pillow project (below), a coffee-drinking Santa for myself and a stocking-stuffing Santa for Dorothy. I ironed them onto the shirts with Wonder-Under and zigzagged around the edge in red. Also with the red thread I did decorative machine stitching around the neck and bottom hem of the shirts. I paid $2 for my like-new, name-brand cotton shirt at a thrift store and $.50 for Dorothy’s from the same place. Not bad!

Now the sad thing about making a t-shirt for Dorothy is that it was going to end up going into her closet, which is often a Horrifying Pit of Filth and Stuff, kind of like the rest of her room only worse. Housekeeping is not a talent of my five-year-old, but unfortunately hoarding does seem to be. One of the problems has been that she really hasn’t had enough drawers for folded clothing items. She has one vintage chest-of-drawers my Mom refinished before she was born, but it has very shallow drawers that won’t begin to accommodate the piles of accessories she accumulates. We were keeping skirts and pants in labeled kitty-litter buckets similar to these but as she got larger her clothing got larger too, and suddenly not very many pants would actually fit into a bucket at all, so they were mostly getting thrown in the direction of the buckets, spilling out, then mingling with doll clothes, dirty clothes, cat hair and who-knows-what-else on the floor. I got completely fed up with the situation all at once last week, drove to the nearest Goodwill, and promptly bought an old wooden dresser for $15. The drawers didn’t fit in quite right but I figured I’d see what I could do–I wasn’t making more than one stop.

The problem with the drawers ended up being that they weren’t in the right slots–easy fix! I sanded the whole piece, used leftover wall paint to make it a cheery yellow that coordinates with Dorothy’s beloved wallpaper, and sprayed the old handles white. I did need to purchase new knobs for the top because they were missing entirely, so I bought cute glass ones that look appropriately glamorous. We spent a productive afternoon organizing Dorothy’s things with the help of the roomy new drawers. She loves it and claims to be determined to stick to our new organization plan. I suspect she won’t, but at least now I can chalk her big mess up to her creative spirit instead of a system stacked against her.

As an update to an old post, we had a good thing happen in our family this week! Rob, who had been on crutches since he ruptured his Achilles tendon in September, is finally able to hobble around on his boot but without the crutches. He missed being able to drag the dresser downstairs to my work space and then upstairs to our daughter’s second-floor bedroom, but by the next time I drag home used furniture he should be much more useful!

Knooking and Bear Feet

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Something kind of major happened to me this past week. I finally learned to knit! I already “knew” how, technically, but I hated it. It just didn’t work for me. Crochet has always felt good in my hands but I just never could get comfortable with knitting needles. Every few months for a couple years I’d pick up a project and try again, but I’ve never made more than a dish towel and I’ve never enjoyed it even for a second. I’d get tensed up instead of calmed. Then I discovered knooking! At the risk of sounding totally dorky, knooking is like a dream come true for me. I’ve actually day-dreamed that knitting could feel like crochet for me, and that I could make knitted patterns without dealing with knitting needles, and–ta da!–it has happened! Knooking is making knitted fabric (interlacing yarn in the way known as “knitting”) but by using a crochet needle attached to a cord. It turns out the exact same product but feels like crocheting instead of knitting. Which, if you’re me, is totally fantastic. I used this blog, this blog, and this Ravelry group as references and used a locker hook as my first knooking hook. I knooked this hat for Worth by reading the tips at those links and holding the new hat up to a hat he already had for sizing. I’m ridiculously pleased with it and don’t you make fun of me, dangit, because it’s not every day that dreams come true.

Today I put down my next knooking project long enough to have a great day at an outlet mall with an old friend. She lives in Indianapolis so we met in between her city and mine for a fun day of catching up and fall shopping. I purchased what I thought were matching pajamas for my kids, who spent the day with their grandparents. Back at home, Worth wanted to put on his new pajamas right away. We allowed him to change and he immediately started stomping around, acting like a Big Scary Bear (this is a favorite Worth game already, which inspired the purchase of these pajamas) and admiring the bear faces sewn onto the feet of his new pajamas. Dorothy decided to put her matching pajamas on as well and join the fun. Sadly, however, she returned crying, having discovered that Carters unwisely manufactured pajamas that were almost identical in both sizes, but which lacked the novelty of bear face feet in the larger size. Curse you, Carters!

So I rallied my inner good mother (though she was a bit tired!) and rounded up some felt and sewed my own version of bear faces onto the feet of Dorothy’s pajamas.

Now all the Big Scary Bears in my “den” are happy again.