Saturday, November 30, 2013

Up-Cycled Christmas Ornaments

Our first Christmas tree and ornaments, as a married couple, were literally plucked out of the garbage. Okay, not literally, more like rescued. My husband's townhouse neighbors (back when he was single) had a water leak in their garage. The artificial Christmas tree, lights, stockings, stocking holders, and ornaments were near the water and despite everything being protected in plastic bags, they hastily chucked everything out on the curb. Although the decorations weren't my first choice, I couldn't really argue with FREE. The tree was white with red, gold, glitter, and pearly white ornaments. Some of the glass balls were a little scratched (from rubbing against one another in the bag), but I stuck them in the back or turned them inward.

Now that I've acquired some new ornaments and swapped the white tree for a traditional green one (my sis is totally rock 'n' the white tree), I had some old ornaments on my hands. For whatever reason, I couldn't throw them away and now I'm glad I didn't. You may have some scratched, dingy, just plain ugly, or 'those aren't my colors anymore' ornaments laying around too. Why throw them away when you can transform them into something new? It totally takes away the guilt too.

So I have to admit, I had NEVER used Modge Podge in my life until last fall. I know. I know. Hard to believe. I guess I just couldn't think of anything I wanted to decoupage. I can see now I was really missing out. This stuff is awe...some!

Here's what you'll need for these Up-Cycled Ornaments:

 Glass or plastic ornaments, scratched up/ banged up / not the right color

 Decoupage medium, regular or satin (I like satin)

 Fine iridescent glitter, preferably Martha Stewart "crystal fine"

 Wrapping paper, thin and interesting design, cut into strips

Pretty 1/8 inch ribbon or twine

1. Keep the hooks or put hooks on the balls so you can hang them while they're drying. Prop up two coffee mugs or cups and place a dowel/pencil in between to hang the ornaments to dry.

2. Working in small sections, apply decoupage medium or plain school glue on ball and lay strips down, smoothing down the edges as you go. I found this newspaper print wrapping paper at Target for $1. If you can find it, Sheet music or French script would be very pretty. Let dry completely (several hours) before going on to next step.

3. Cover entire ball with decoupage medium. This is where you use the good stuff. They have so many kinds at the craft store. The antique finish would be really neat. Let it dry until no longer tacky.

4. Apply another thin coat of decoupage medium and sprinkle with fine glitter immediately. The crystal glitter works best because it just makes the surface sparkle without taking away from the design on the paper.

5. Add a ribbon and some other baubles and Voila!

Looking for something less labor intensive? Try covering each ball in glue and rolling them around in German glass glitter. VERY FANCY. You can't go wrong with glitter.  I also turned some moss balls into ornaments by attaching ribbon, a bell, and some buttons.

The lesson for today, Kids, is be creative and not throw something away just because it's scratched or ugly.  Make something new it and/or use it in a different way. I love bowls of bulbs placed throughout the house. It's an even better way to showcase special ornaments or when you don't have a full set.  They're not just for trees anymore.

Slowly But Surely

"We shan't be disturbed here. This parlour is for my own particular use." -Charlotte, Pride and Prejudice

So I've written pretty far and in between because of one very good reason. My entire first floor has been under construction for a year. Yes, a year! Who's brilliant idea was it to start a blog during all this chaos? The formal living room and dining room hardwoods have been done for quite awhile, but we didn't put the rooms back together because we still needed to install baseboards and paint them. It's quite a process with all the dust, noise, and moving furniture around. I probably have the best contractor in town (my husband). We get to save a ton of money on labor, but it's not FREE; it costs a lot of patience.

I am so pleased to announce that my formal living room is totally finished! I am so excited to find a little corner of peace and tranquility. It's my little fancy room that no one ever sits in. I invite people to sit in there, but they usually decline. It's silly, actually. We end up gathering in the family room or our little kitchen table instead.

Here's where I get to show off my husband's handiwork. Not the most exciting thing, but he deserves a shout out for his fabulous carpentry skills.

Our flooring was purchased at Floor and D├ęcor. It is prefinished solid oak in two widths - 3" and 5". There were no prefinished register covers so we had to buy them unfinished and stain them to match. I say "we" but I mean Justin. He's the pro.  I guess we still need to fill the nail holes on this one with wood filler, but they are done for the most part. I like how they are built into the floor. It makes them easier to clean.

Our home unfortunately is finished with bull nose corners and orange peel textured walls (like most in the Denver suburbs). I thought it was the strangest thing when I moved out here from Michigan. That means every corner has to have an extra little piece of trim. Justin painted the trim with his small paint sprayer to achieve a nice smooth finish.

 I even touched up the trim along the staircase. Gonna snap some photos real quick before I start decorating for Christmas. I only have TWO rooms I can decorate this year! Well, maybe three if I'm lucky and the dining room gets finished;)

Okay...on to the decorating.

The coffee table from the family room needed a temporary home so I brought it in here. The red chair and ottoman (also from the family room) have been hibernating in my bedroom until now. I thought it would be nice to bring them out for Christmas. The scrolls are new (something I picked up at the antique mall), but everything else is just rearranged and no more green pillows or curtains. I grabbed a couple pillows from the family room too.  Looks like a different room in every way. Apparently, this is the only "before" shot I have where you can see the carpet. Instead of the red chair, I usually have two arm chairs from the dining room. You can see the back of the chairs in this photo.



As you can see,  I don't have any curtains up yet either, just sheers.

I don't have a rug down so I could showcase the floors. They've also been covered up with cardboard (for their protection and cleanliness) while we were working in the other rooms so I'm none too eager to cover them up again. I'm not really sure what I want to do though. I'll right another post to deal with the rug issue later. Slowly but surely, it will be tightened up. I was just so excited to share the progress.

What about you? Have you ever gone through a remodel during holiday season?


Friday, November 29, 2013

Homemade Billiard Ball Vase Filler Tutorial
Pottery Barn version

Each time my sis and I go to the mall we hit our favorite home stores: Crate n Barrel and Pottery Barn. And for the last few months I've seen her moon over the Vintage Pool Ball Vase Filler at Pottery Barn. She can never pull the plug to buy them and I always say, "I could totally make some for you." So I finally decided to make some for her already! Since I know this is something she wants and she does nice things for me all the time. It's the least I can do for my big sister.

The hardest part was sourcing the wooden craft balls, which was the main reason I didn't make these for her months ago.  I could only find them at Hobby Lobby and they were always out of stock when the wood working stuff was on sale. Grrr... I love you, Hobby Lobby! Just wish they had more in stock. I actually purchased them at regular price just so I could actually get some. I guess I could have gotten a raincheck but I didn't. I saw. I bought. I seized the opportunity.

Supply List:
10-12  2" wood balls (PB set is 10 pc)
1" painters tape
acrylic paint, flat, I used Craft Smart (Vanilla, Black, Dark blue, Plum, Holiday Red,  Dark orange, Hunter green, Espresso, Mustard yellow)
Black Sharpie marker, fine point
Modge Podge, satin finish (a.k.a. Mother's milk for crafters. Love this stuff!)
3/8" angle brush, preferably nylon for all brushes
3/8" straight brush
1" straight brush
2 cardboard paper towel rolls, cut into 2" sections (for setting the balls on)
1 screw or nail (for distressing)

The solids were the easiest to do. I basically just painted half the balls in various solid colors with the straight brush, one half at time, drying them on cardboard stands. Brush strokes are great because these are supposed to look handpainted and vintage. Once dry, I located the center of each ball and marked it with a pencil. It was really easy to find the centers on these because the wood grain was still visible. Then I used the angle brush in Cream to freehand the circles for the numbers. Just place the bottom of the bristles on the pencil mark and swirl the brush around in a clockwise direction. You may want to put the coffee down for this part (ask me how I know). Apply 2-3 coats or until it covers.

The stripes could be done one of two ways: Paint the balls in various colors and use the painters tape to cover the stripe while you paint multiple coats of cream onto the top and bottom of ball. OR you can do what I did: Paint the entire ball Cream (I used Vanilla, but they really should have been a touch creamier) and use the painters tape to trace a line in pencil. Remove the tape, then fill in the stripe with color of choice. This might seem harder than taping the stripe off, but the line from the tape is kind of wiggly anyway on such small object and I'd rather paint a dark color on cream than vice versa. Your choice. They're supposed to look hand painted so they don't need to be perfect. In fact, DON'T MAKE THEM PERFECT! That would be silly. They should have some character. We're going for a vintage look. Once again, I used the angle brush, freehand, to create the cream circles on the stripes.

Next, it was time for the numbers. I'm such a nerd, I even looked up the correct colors for each number on Wikipedia. Here's the breakdown:
1. Solid Yellow
2. Solid Blue
3. Solid Red
4. Solid Purple
5. Solid Orange
6. Solid Green
7. Solid Brown
8. Solid Black
9. Striped Yellow
10.Striped Blue
11.Striped Red
12.Striped Purple
13 Striped Orange
14 Striped Green
15.Striped Brown

I also printed a photo of my inspiration to reference the font. Using a fine tip black Sharpie marker, carefully write the numbers in the cream circle of each ball. Again, set that coffee down!

 Now comes the fun part. Take a screw or nail and bang, scratch, and claw the billiard balls to distress them slightly. I tried using sandpaper, but it resulted in more of a rub than a distress, so a screw it was!

Lastly, apply a thin coat of Modge Podge with the 1" brush to seal everything, deepen the colors, and add a teensy bit of shine. You can save a step by using Satin acrylic paint, but I just worked with what I had and what I had was flat paint.

See the difference? Sorry it's blurry. The extra shine really makes 'em pop. As you can see in the PB photo above, there is light reflecting off the surface, so the paint definitely isn't flat.

I want to make some more of these! Maybe in non-traditional colors? Maybe metallic or glitter??? Hmmm........

As I was saying, they were really easy to make. It took longer for the coats of paint to dry and clean my brushes than it took to paint, AND they were a fraction of the price of Pottery Barn's (if you take into account that you're going to use the craft paint for a million other projects, not just this one). On a side note, PB doesn't even carry these anymore.

Took these to my sister BEFORE Christmas! We're not supposed to be exchanging gifts anyway (oops), but I found a loophole. I gave them as a "hostess gift" for Thanksgiving. Sneaky.  I think she thought they were the real thing at first, which made me very proud. PB knock-off success!

~ Amber
P.S. These pics were taken in my home. My formal living room is back together after Justin finished the baseboards last weekend. Yay!  I'll post more pics of the finished room soon.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

25 Stockings & Tutorial

I know,  I know, I know! It's not Christmastime yet, but in order to have everything ready the day after Thanksgiving, us crafters gotta get craftin' NOW. I thought I'd start by showing my Stocking Advent Calendar from last season.

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When I was a child, our family almost always had a paper advent calendar with little doors that opened up to reveal the story of Christ's nativity. It's a tradition that was started by German Christians in the 19th century as the whole family anticipated one of the most important days of the year -  Christmas day.

Last holiday season, I had this crazy idea of making an advent garland with twenty-five mini stockings. I was inspired by a red and white felt one from Crate n Barrel. I didn't use felt, however, because that would have required spending money, which I did not. Everything I used for this project was 100% already in my craft room.

Here's what you need:

Bleached or unbleached cotton lining or muslin (I actually had some leftover white dupioni silk, so the back of my stockings are silk. Fancy, right?)
Full size mailing labels
Inkjet Printer
Sewing machine
Stitch Witchery
Ribbon or yarn (or both)
Sewing needle and white thread

The first thing I did was find a stocking pattern online from the Graphics Fairy and adjust the size. I can fit two stockings on one piece of 8.5 x 11 paper. I  found the wreath image on the same website. I used the No. 2 font for the numbers and chose a light gray to give it an aged feel.

Using Photoshop, I placed two stockings on the page, one with a wreath and one without so that my garland would alternate back and forth. Try to place the cuffs about 1/2 inch from the edge of the paper  (you'll see why down below).

 I did not make 13 different files; I simply re-typed the numbers on one page before printing, saving ONLY the stockings/wreath image for a template. I made the outline of the stocking very pale in color because I don't need it to show; it's just a guide. If you have Photoshop, you can totally hide the outline while printing the numbers. If you don't have Photoshop, you can easily do this in a word processing program.

To print on fabric, simply stick a mailing label onto the fabric, smooth it down, and cut around. The paper label gives the fabric stability so the printer will take it. Most printers print on the side facing downward so I fed my fabric-lined paper with the fabric down and hit print.

Note: You can reuse the mailing label multiple times before it's not sticky anymore. I probably only used 3-4 pieces for the whole project.

After printing out all the numbered sides of the stocking, I then printed the stocking outlines (they're really light colored, remember). Now, I know this is kind of wasteful, but it's so much easier to sew first and cut the stockings out after, in order to get uniformity and keep the material from bunching. That's why I printed the stocking outlines as a sewing guide. You can skip the second printing if you want to pin 25 paper stockings onto the fabric and cut them all out.

Take the material off the adhesive paper. Lay the numbered side face up, and place the stocking outline face up on top of that. Whatever is on the inside will be on the outside of the finished stocking. Pin the two pieces of material together. These are so tiny, I didn't line them. Fold down the top of the cuff about 1/2" until you get to the outline of the stocking,  then fold it again another 1/2",  and make a hem with Stitch Witchery. Turn the whole thing over and do it again.  An ironed hem means no sewing marks across the top of the stocking and it saves time. The hot iron will also seal the ink onto the fabric. Just make sure not to get the ink wet!

Next, using the stocking outline as a guide, sew the two pieces together. If you printed out both sides, the stockings should line right up. Trim off the access fabric to about 1/4 inch and turn inside out. Voila! Cutest little stocking ever. Only 24 more to go!

You'll need enough ribbon/yarn for the width of all 25 cuffs to fit plus however much you want for a bow. I made a bow on one side first, before cutting the ribbon to make sure I left enough.

Hand sew each corner onto ribbon with an x stitch or use miniature clothespins to clip them on. Fill with candy, small presents, evergreens, or the Christmas story. Voila!