Tuesday, May 6, 2014

the giving tree

i've always really loved the book The Giving Tree.  maybe it's because of the simple story and illustrations or maybe because it reminds me of my childhood.  i've just always been drawn to the message . . . give.

a few years ago, when we first laid eyes on the land for our new home i was immediately drawn to the beautiful oak trees.  these enormous trees had provided shade and homes to many animals for over 75 years.  i was excited for my kids to have trees to climb and swing from in their backyard.  after purchasing the property it was obvious to us that we were going to lose the main tree in the center of the yard as it would have been in the middle of our bedroom!  knowing that there was absolutely nothing that could be done to save it or even move it, i knew that i wanted to preserve as much history of the trees that i could.

i began my search to find creative ways to do just that.  i finally settled on two ideas: a table and a relief print, but first i needed to get my hands on some of the wood.

i hired a man from our church to come to the property and to cut two pieces for me.  one was tall enough for an end table and the other was a much thinner section to make a picture from.  as you can tell from the picture below, he isn't even cutting it out of the main section of the trunk.  this tree was so massive that it would have been incredibly difficult to get a good piece that we could work with.

even with cutting from a branch, the larger piece was so incredibly heavy that we literally had to roll it to the shed for storage as it was impossible for him to pick up on his own. 

after keeping it for a few months and letting it dry out we started to plan how we were going to make the print.  i had read on martha stewart's website about an artist who made beautiful relief prints out of tree trunks.  he sells them for thousands of dollars!  that's great for him, but this gal is on a budget and i knew that i could figure out a way to do it on the cheap.  (here is a link to martha's site which features the artist, bryan nash gill)

we set out to one of the best art stores in orlando, sam flax to get our supplies.  purchasing various sheets of paper in different shades and textures, ink, rubber roller, and flat press (that's my generic name for it since i don't know the technical term).  we also needed a blow torch which our friend generously lent to us. 

after renting a plane from the local tool rental shop and having zero success, we finally asked our builder (who is an excellent carpenter with literally every kind of woodworking tool imaginable) to plane the wood for us so we would have a nice flat surface.  luckily, he did this at no cost to us.  huzzah!  

finally, it was time to get going on this project!  we started by first sanding the entire surface.

then the fun really began and my husband got to using the blow torch!

 it was so beautiful to watch the colors of the torch and how quickly the light color of the wood charred leaving the smell of burning wood and blackness.  the burning made it so each of the rings was raised slightly so that they would stand out on the print.  we then cleaned the surface with a toothbrush and compressed air so there was no dust left on the wood.  this quickly became a tedious and somewhat fruitless effort as there were so many minuscule specks that we could never get all of them off.  

the final step was to apply the ink to the wood and hope that it didn't smudge when we laid down the paper.  

we tried many different tools to apply pressure to the paper . . . our trusty flat press, a spoon, the roller . . . in the end though it was our hands that worked the best.  all together we made eight different prints.  we hung them on a line in the garage and sat back and critiqued each one like we were hippies at an art gallery!  it was interesting to see which prints worked on which paper and with what pressing tool and technique. in the end, we finally agreed on our favorite and pitched the others.

eventually, i took it to joann's and paid to have a custom frame made.  this was somewhat pricey but worth every penny because the end result is awesome!  

i'm glad that my husband signed the bottom of the print.  after all, he did the majority of the work.  with his signature he also added a scripture which was perfectly fitting. 

  "They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." 

many many months have passed since the print was made.  this allowed the stump to have ample time to dry out completely and for me to figure out exactly how to proceed with making it into a table.  i had seen on pinterest some ideas of what could be done on my own.  i also found one that west elm sells for $200!

on a saturday morning i carved out some time to start on the table. i gathered the supplies i thought i would need and got to work.  

i wish i had taken pictures of how i began.  for about an hour i was chipping away at the sides and trying my hardest to get the bark off.  i was having ZERO success.  i swear that i was seconds away from throwing in the towel and rolling the stump to the curb, when i stood up and realized what an absolute ding-dong i was!  stupidly, i was going about it all wrong.  looking down at the top of the stump there was an obvious thick ring around the circumference.  i quickly grabbed my putty knife (i know, what a janky tool to use!) and hammer and gave it a few whacks when the bark came flying off in large sheets.  

so freaking easy!  in no time at all the bark was off and i was on to sanding.  after sanding it all i was still left with this ugly knot.  lucky me, my good friend has a variety of power tools and was happy to give me a hand sawing it off.

i then sanded and sanded some more.  i started with a medium grit sandpaper and gave it a once over before finishing it with a fine grit.  i then used what was left of the finishing paste from a previous project and waxed the entire stump.  finally, because i knew my husband was going to be worried about the wood floors (and honestly, so would i) i backed the entire bottom with some leftover wool felt from my daughter's halloween costume five years ago!  i used spray adhesive to adhere it and then trimmed off the excess.

finally i was done!  i am so thrilled with how it looks.  of course, i love how little i spent on these projects.  however, even more, i love the history and knowing that this tree, which was here for so many years before we were on the earth, will continue to give to our family. 

Project Cost Breakdown . . . 

tree = free!

relief print supplies = $45

custom frame = $100

sandpaper = $6

finishing paste = $0

felt = $0

Grand Total = $151

Sunday, August 4, 2013

once grotesque now a lovely desk!

do you ever buy something because you not only know it's such a good deal but because you also know that you can make it look a million times better?  well, that is exactly what i did . . . er . . . at least three years ago!  

while junking with my mother-in-law on a saturday in cincinnati, ohio, i came upon this old wooden desk for (gasp) only $10!  it even had a matching chair!  as soon as i laid my eyes on it i made a beeline to the owner and claimed it as mine.  i knew that it would be the perfect sewing/craft desk that i had been needing.  i immediately had big plans for her and didn't care how long it would even take to get around to it.  she would only be living in the basement anyway, so it didn't really matter.  well . . . that was until i moved her to my house in orlando where she now lives in the corner of my living room for everyone to see exactly how bad she was looked.  i had finally had enough of the grossness and decided it was time for a change.  besides, for the last eight months my husband and i have been building our next home and i need to get off my butt and get some projects done now before time runs out! 

recently, i've been seeing a ton of projects on pinterest that have used chalk paint and i was curious to try it out and see what it's all about.  i knew that this desk was the perfect piece to try out this new paint technique.  

enter my talented and crafty auntie.  i am lucky enough to have an auntie who not only is a wonderful confidant and friend, but also one that is super good at creating and making amazing things.  (you should check out her blog here and her cool etsy shop here)  i knew that she was just the person to go to for info on how to get this project started.  she sent me a detailed email with how she made her own chalk paint and then directed me to this blog for another option to try.  (this blogger is a gal after my own heart . . . i mean, the blog title says it all!  who the heck doesn't love nap time? well, except maybe my son!  naps are so wasted on kids . . . but that's a topic for another day and another blog.)

in the end, i pretty much followed what the blog said and purchased only a few things and i was on my way.  i already knew that i didn't want the rubbed off look so that was one step that i was able to omit from the start.  basically, the whole project couldn't have been easier!

i purchased a sample paint pot from lowes in a coral pink color, plaster of paris, a paint brush, and minwax paste finishing wax.  

in a throw away food storage container i mixed up the plaster of paris and water . . . approx. 5 Tbsp plaster of paris and 3 Tbsp of water.  i made sure to get rid of all of the lumps so it was a very smooth consistency (like thin pancake batter).  then i added it to the paint in a separate container.  i mixed it very very well.  

(note: do not try to add more dry plaster of paris into this paint mixture to make it more thick!  i made that mistake and ruined an entire paint pot.  i couldn't get the lumps out no matter how hard i tried and adding more water only made it a watery mess.  ugh!  make sure to mix the plaster first with water before adding it!)

after i mixed up the paint i got right down to applying it to my desk.  i did end up doing two good coats of paint since some of the brown was still showing through after my first coat.  

i waited approximately four hours between the two coats of paint . . . then i let it sit overnight before i was going to apply the wax.  

well, i had every good intention of doing the final step the next day . . . however, when i finally got around to reading the finishing paste label i read that it can cause birth defects in unborn children.  since i am preggo again i decided it best to instead beg my husband into helping me with this final step.  i am lucky to have married such a capable and nice guy!  he spent the better part of two hours this afternoon finishing it for me and i couldn't be happier with the end result.  

he told me that he tried to do a thin coat (per the directions) but that he didn't feel like it covered well enough so he kept adding wax until he felt it was coated to his satisfaction.  whatever, i say . . .  i'm just glad to have it finished!!  

here she is now . . . 

i can't wait to move this desk into my new craft corner in our playroom.  huzzah!

Project Cost Breakdown . . . 

desk = $10

plaster of paris = $7

three paint pots = $9 ($3 each . . . remember i had to pitch one that i ruined.  stink!)

paint brush = $2

minwax paste finishing wax = $9

knobs = $0  (from anthropologie . . . paid for with a gift card from my recent birthday!)

Grand Total = $37

i still have a crap ton of plaster of paris and minwax left so i will be able to really stretch out the value of these purchases . . . score!

so, what do you think?  i think it's a huge improvement that didn't take that much time or money . . . an extra blessing in my book!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

dress you up in my love!

lucky lucky me!  that is exactly how i felt when i first laid eyes on this . . . er . . . beauty.  one day last november, i had some time to kill before i had to do the school pick up so i decided to blitz through my local Goodwill.  as always, i started in the housewares department to see what treasures i could find before heading to the clothes.  i hadn't found much to get excited about and was getting ready to leave when i noticed this dress form off in the corner.  i immediately found myself racing through the store in case someone should get there before me.  i'm sure that my son (who was in the stroller i was pushing) thought i was just trying to make it a more enjoyable ride for him, but i knew that i was really a woman on a mission!

when i got to her, you can imagine the absolute joy i felt when i saw that they were only asking $12.99!  holy crapoli!  it was my lucky day!!  i've wanted one of these for as long as i can remember but they were always so much money.  i couldn't believe how little they were asking for something so great.   i quickly tucked her under my arm and started dragging her to the counter . . . not an easy task while trying to push a stroller.  fortunately, a good samaritan took pity on me and offered to carry it for me.

the sweet lady behind the counter could obviously see how happy i was about my find.  i told her that i had big plans for what i was going to do with my new dress form and she was surprised to hear that i wasn't going to use it for sewing.

for the past year my husband and i have been planning (and finally building) our new house.  i am especially excited because i am going to have my own closet that i won't have to share with him!!  i even have a color scheme and many ideas of how i am going to make it uniquely mine.  (thank you, pinterest!)  i've been on the hunt to find a dress form i could customize to put in this new space that would coordinate with the jewelry holder i made out of a giant plastic frame last year.  (if you'd like, you can read about it here.)  at last the search was over!

i didn't get started on the project right away, since i have two kids and a job, am building a house, etc. etc. etc.  i have been too busy and besides, ain't nobody got time for that!  however, i got an itch the other night to do a project, so i fished it out of the back of my daughter's closet and got to work.  

first i made a crude drawing of the form and labeled each piece on the back to coordinate with the drawing so i could remember how it should be reassembled.  i also took pictures of the inside and how it was screwed together.   


i then went to Ikea and bought my fabric . . . followed by a trip to Home Depot to get a sample pot of paint (which i matched to the chevron fabric on the jewelry holder) and gloss to spray over the painting, since the sample pots only come in flat and i wanted the finished product to have shine.  

when i arrived home, i lightly sanded all of the metal pieces and wiped them down to remove the dust before painting.  i ended up giving the legs and metal shaft about four good coats of paint while allowing ample drying time in between coats.  while i was waiting for paint to dry, i started recovering the individual form pieces.  some were definitely easier than others.  i would just keep pulling and stapling the heck out of it until it looked right.  it was very hard to get around the neck and shoulders, so the finished product is no where near perfect, but good enough for me.  besides, the fabric pattern is forgiving of imperfections so i lucked out there!  all together, the fabric portion took me about 2.5 hours.  it seemed like forever, but in hindsight it wasn't really that bad after all, especially when i look at the finished product!  

after the last coat of paint had dried overnight i started spraying the gloss.  make sure to be in a well ventilated area because the smell was terrible.  luckily we had a nice day, so the temperature made it so each coat dried relatively quickly (only about 20 min between coats).  in the end, i did four coats of the gloss to make sure every inch was covered.  finally it was time to reassemble her!!  i was glad i took such detailed notes because it was trickier than i thought.  

i am so so happy with how she turned out.  i love the fabric choice with the color of the base.  it really pops and looks cool next to the jewelry holder.  i can't wait to put her in my new closet!!

Project Cost Breakdown . . . 

dress form = $12.99

sand paper = $0 (leftover from another project)

paint = $3

spray gloss = $4

fabric = $12 (two yards)

Grand Total = $31.99   

Saturday, November 10, 2012

bye bye bracelet botheration!

like many people, i am constantly striving to de-clutter and get (and stay) organized.  while i'm willing to pare down and reduce how much stuff i have,  one area i really don't want to reduce is my accessories.  this has been a trend throughout my entire life.  i still have jewelry from elementary school!  and while my preferences have obviously changed . . . from jelly bracelets and plastic charms to spiked bracelets and dog chains to more recently a vintage and tailored collection . . .  the need for adequate storage has been a consistent problem, especially with bracelets!  you may remember my previous post about my jewelry board , but my bracelets have remained a problem until i found this . . . 

recently, while perusing pinterest, i came across this idea of how to store bracelets with a wire paper towel holder.  it is so simple and i knew would be very affordable so i quickly began my search.  i stumbled on this wooden one yesterday at goodwill.

not only was the price fair, but i knew that it would take very little sweat equity to change it into being display worthy.  as soon as i got it home, i got to work transforming it into the treasure it has now become.

first, i took it all apart, removing the small dowel and have saving it for future use.  then i filled in the hole with wood putty.  after allowing it to dry for a few minutes (i'm impatient!), i gently sanded all of the pieces. the final step in preparing for paint was to wipe off the dust.  easy peasy!

then i went about painting.  i ended up doing four coats of paint, allowing it to thoroughly dry in between each coat of paint.  finally, i gave it a very thin coat of polyurethane, since the paint i had used was a flat finish and i wanted glossy.  

after putting all the pieces back together i was done.  all together it took me less than 24 hours!!

i didn't pick a color that matches the room, but rather one that makes me happy . . . and that i already had on hand so i could save money!  i don't know what makes me happiest, paying so little for such a valuable storage solution or the fact that my jewelry boxes now close!

Project Cost Breakdown:

paper towel holder = $2

sandpaper = $0  (left over from another project!)

paint = $0  (left over from another project!)

polyurethane = $0  (left over from another project!)

Grand Total = $2  

Friday, May 25, 2012

pumped up kicks

i. love. pinterest.  i admit that i'm horribly addicted to it.  i don't even feel that guilty about it either!  

anyway, like most people, half of the crap i pin, i will never do.  let's be real.  i mean, how many birthday parties can be thrown, fingernails can be painted, and rooms can be decorated in one lifetime anyway!  sheesh.  every once in awhile though, an "easy" project comes along that truly isn't too time consuming or too much of a budget buster.  this leads me to last night's project.

i love the chevron zig zag pattern you see everywhere these days and i wanted to put them on a pair of shoes.  i had seen these on pinterest and was inspired.  

i like them, but i wanted mine to be a little bit different.  so off to walmart i went to find an inexpensive pair of white canvas shoes.

when i arrived home i gathered the supplies i would need for the project:

shoes (duh!)
acrylic paint 
fabric pen with ink that disappears with water
chevron template (i found a great printable chevron template here!) 

after cutting out the pattern, i fooled around with the placement until i found what i wanted.  

i ended up tailoring the template a little bit to the exact size of zig zag that i wanted.  as you will see, the lines drawn aren't perfect, so i had to fudge them once i got to painting.

then i carefully painted each zig zag with acrylic paint.  i really debated to paint the tongue or leave it alone.  ultimately, i decided to leave it be and i'm really happy with that decision! 

finally, i let it dry overnight.  this morning i felt them to make sure they were completely dry before dabbing the remaining ink lines with a damp paper towel. 

that's it!  fun and relatively simple to do chevron shoes. :)  but perhaps the best part of all has been how excited my daughter was about them.  she now wants a pair of her own!

Project Cost Breakdown:

canvas shoes = $5

acrylic paint = $1

fabric pen =  $0  (left over from another sewing project)

chevron template = free!

Grand Total = $6

Monday, January 16, 2012

window silhouettes

i'm not fond of exercising . . . and quite frankly, i'm a little leery of people who say they are! last year, i was determined to shed some extra pounds so i would get up early each morning and walk the neighborhood in westwood. i actually enjoyed the time to myself but especially loved mondays when people would discard potential treasures to the curb for trash day.

one morning i spotted some old windows propped up against a tree just waiting for the garbage collectors. i couldn't believe that these hadn't already been picked up by the local pickers! lucky me, these were only two houses down from where my parents live, so i could easily stash them to bring home later.

i've held onto these for well over a year now before finally bringing them to our home in florida and converting them to frames. here are a few pictures of the transformation.

i started by putting painters tape on the windows to eliminate additional paint to scrape off the glass.

then i painted the frames. i chose to not sand first since i wasn't sure if the original paint was lead based or not. i just intend to make sure my kids don't chew on them! :S i used the same paint from my jewelry holder project.

i don't have a picture of these next steps, so i'll just describe what i did.

i had silhouettes of my family from previous artwork (thank to my bestie who made them for me!) so i just traced them onto black cardstock and cut them out with a pair of fine paper cutting scissors. i splurged and bought a pair of these since i know i will use them again and again.

then i measured out white poster board and cut it to fit the inside of the glass frame.

after this i covered the board with fabric and taped it down on all sides.

i then taped the silhouettes onto the right side of the board.

finally, i used painters tape to hold it all together on the back of the frame.

check out the close ups first and then scroll down for the finished project. oh, and please excuse the glare . . . photographing these was a real pain in the glass! (sorry, couldn't help myself.)

finished! easy peasy and super cheapy!

Project Cost Breakdown . . .

old windows = $0
black cardstock = $0.50
white poster board = $2.40 ($.80 each for three)
scissors = $7
fabric = $8
hanging hooks = $1.50

Grand Total = $19.40! (sigh. i guess i could have saved even more money by using leftover fabric i already had on hand . . . but spending less than $20 isn't bad!)