Monday, August 22, 2016

Home Sign [Maryland Edition]

It's always sad when a friend moves away. One of my friends from my last job decided to give life in another state a try - and not just a short move away to Virginia like I did. She headed down south but before she left, I wanted to give her a token to remember her home state of Maryland.

I tried to find something to get on Amazon and came across all these cool wooden signs, pillows, and cutting boards that showed the outline of Maryland and the word HOME, usually with a heart for the 'o'. But, they were all either too expensive or would take too long to get here. So I busted out my trusty Silhouette and made something myself.

I found an outline of the state of Maryland that I liked (Silhouette tip - whenever I make my own images, I just Google what I'm looking for with 'coloring page' at the end. For example, 'Maryland coloring page'. The simpler outline of a coloring page makes it really easy for the Silhouette to find the edges you want).

I created the file and used half of a 5x7 card to cut it on. It came out like this.

Then I played around with some watercolors on scrapbook paper so she'd have options to choose from. On one side was red glitter (a color from the Maryland flag).


 On the other side, I did some watercolors.


I wasn't a fan of it so I made some other options on another set of 5x7s. A splattered watercolor: 

 And an ombre stenciled watercolor:

I gave her all four so she could choose which one she liked best. As a standalone, the first watercolor was my least favorite but as soon as I put it in the frame, I loved it.

I got this frame for a few bucks (with coupon!) from Michaels.

I thought it would look nice in her new apartment or at her desk at her new job. I wanted to make sure it was small enough so it wouldn't take up too much space.

This one was my favorite as a standalone and probably my least favorite in the frame. I think it was just too much white.

Which one do you like best?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Buffet Refinish

Oh. Em. Gee. It's a blog post! Can you believe it? It's only been seven short months since I last posted. So much has happened since then! I got my dream job after nearly eight years of trying, I moved to a new city and state, and I graduated from my master's program! Perhaps I'll write more about that another time but let's get into this DIY refinishing project I've been wanting to do for years that I finally got around to a few weeks ago.

Here you will see an old buffet my parents have had in the family room for years. It sat in the corner holding pictures and odds and ends and was always where we put pie on Thanksgiving. The piece came from my great-grandparents' farmhouse in South Carolina and is part of a larger dining set that I am slowly taking as I get room for it.

As you can see, this piece was in desperate need of refinishing. There were scratches and water marks all over it and even flecks of red and white paint on the side. The top was definitely the worst. It used to have a piece that attached on the back but the mirror on it broke and I didn't want to pay to get it replaced.

One weekend while I was home, my mom and I decided it was finally time to work on it. After reading lots of stuff online, we wanted to try to refinish the piece without stripping it completely. I read online that trying a gel stain would work best. We went to Home Depot and got Minwax Gel Stain in Hickory. It wasn't the exact color I wanted, but I wanted to get started on my project.

I cleaned it with mineral spirits and gently sanded it (and then sanded it again after my mom told me I did it wrong since I didn't go with the grain). Then we stained it...and I already wasn't feeling it. The stain looked more like paint. I don't, of course, have any pictures of the in-between process.

The next weekend, I headed back to my parents' house and my mom showed me the doors - one that was with the stain and one she had used Minwax Antique Furniture Refinisher on. I liked the one with the refinisher on it more because it made it lighter and you could see the wood grain better. So, we headed outside and used it on the entire piece.

The problem with the refinisher is it takes some of the stain off and the more you use it, the lighter the wood gets. Three-quarters of the piece looked better but the top of the buffet had this old, strange finish on it that was turning sticky and one side got too light and was this ugly yellow-brown. This was my first refinishing process and I was so bummed. The online tutorials made it sound so easy! Did I also mention the buffet is made out of multiple kinds of wood? Probably not the best choice for a beginner refinishing project.

Knowing it would be a while before I could make it back to my parents' house to work on it more, I gave my mom permission to keep playing with it. She ended up doing most of the work so I really can't even take 50% of the credit. She went over the piece with a combination of the gel stain and some Minwax Wood Finish in Red Mahogany 225 that she had on hand. With that combination, it came out the nice dark color I wanted, with a hint of subtle red richness.

She also polished the handles with Brasso because, apparently, they were brass. Who would have thought? I thought they were steel or iron or something but they were just really, really filthy.

Lastly, my mom covered the piece in Minwax Tung Oil Finish. My parents put the buffet in the back of the pick up and brought it over to my apartment and my dad and I pushed it in on a dolly. Apparently, that was a horrible choice because...

The wood on the top of the piece was apparently extremely soft and scratched ridiculously easily. There was lots of cursing between my dad and I when we turned it over and saw the top covered in scratches and dents in the wood. My parents left, my mom vowing to return the next day to find a way to fix it.

My dad had mentioned reading somewhere that you could use an iron to get dents out of wood so I Googled it and, low and behold, it's apparently a thing. Using an eyedropper, I dripped some water into the dent, placed a damp towel over the spot (we used a pillowcase), and then went over it with the iron on the highest steam setting, moving the iron constantly. We repeated as necessary until the dent was removed.

Our dents were pretty shallow but, by golly, it worked! We were afraid the water would mess up the stain but it didn't. Even though the gouges were removed, you could still see the lines where the finish was messed up.

Using a small paintbrush, we painted over the streaks using the stain...

And then wiped it off with a rag.

We went to lunch while we waited for it to dry. When we came back, it looked much improved but you could still see that there were dull lines.

My mom left and later that evening, I used another paint brush to paint the lines with tung oil which reduced the visibility even further. After 24 hours, I used tung oil on top of the entire top again.


Where are those streaks? Beats me! (my apologies for the bad pictures - unlike my last apartment, I don't get very good natural light)

Well, if you look very closely at just the right angle, you can see faint marks but I'm confident they will fade over time.

So, what do you do after you've spent all this time fixing and repairing a messed up buffet top? Cover it with a table runner, of course!

I found this at Target and think the colors and pattern looks really nice with my herringbone wall art.

I was surprised by how much I love the brass against the color of the wood. It makes it look fancy!

Just like my old apartment, I have a long rectangle that goes kitchen-dining-living and this piece sits nicely in between my dining room set and my couch.

Thank you to my mama for all her help on this piece! It literally could not have been done without her!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Monsters Inc Nursery Name Letters

Late last year, my friend and co-worker had a precious little baby boy. From the moment she told me she was pregnant, we began looking online for ways to incorporate a Monsters, Inc/Pixar theme into the nursery and saw a whole bunch of amazing items on Pinterest (like this and this). We really liked the idea of the letter names but when we looked on Etsy, the hand painted ones ran anywhere from $10-$20 per letter. She already knew she was going to name him Ethan so that could have run $50-$100! Sorry, bud, but no way!

She seemed to have confidence that together, we could draw them. I, however, did not (sorry). Weeks passed and we dropped the subject but my mind was still turning as I tried to figure out what to get her for a baby shower present. I decided to try to make them so I headed to Michaels and bought the wooden 12" letters to spell his name. I pulled up pictures of Mike and Sully and other Monsters, Inc characters on my computer and tried to free-hand them in a simpler, baby-friendly way.

Honestly? I don't think they came out horrible when I sketched them. At least, not Mike and Sully. However, I didn't have enough faith in myself to keep going. I thought even if I did manage to draw them decently, I would surely manage to fail when I began painting.

Prior to hand-drawing, I had wanted to use scrapbook paper to create the names but there didn't seem to be any Monsters, Inc scrapbook paper in existence. I was worried it wouldn't work if I just printed some images out. However, after I found this set on Etsy, I decided to give it a try because the price was good. If I failed, I'd only be out a few bucks. I downloaded the images and printed them on regular printer paper.

The color of my printer was a little off but I was pleased with how they came out. I spent a few minutes deciding how to arrange the sheets so there wouldn't be two Mike papers next to each other or two solid blue backgrounds.

I actually ended up going in and editing the third image with the doors in Paint because the way it was lining up with the H, no Mike and Sullys were showing up so I moved some of the doors and colors around and added more of them. Then I just traced the letters on the back of the paper, cut them out, and used Mod Podge to stick the paper on and seal it. I applied thin layers at first to prevent bleed through (which I had a tiny bit of with the M page). They came out super cute!

My friend was very happy with them and they are now hanging in Ethan's nursery, who finally joined us on New Year's Eve.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bless This Hizzle Custom Cross Stitch

Last May, my childhood friend got married. We'd been close friends since elementary school (so over twenty years!). For her wedding gift, I wanted to make her something special that both commemorated the exciting occasion, was personal, and incorporated her amazing sense of humor. She and her fiancee at the time were just wanting to save up to buy a place of their own. I knew nothing out there existed that was exactly what I wanted (well, I'm sure something existed on Etsy but I wanted to make it myself) so I decided to see if I could design my own cross stitch. I've never done anything like it before as all of my previous cross stitches (see here and here) have been kits. I like to think I was successful....

So, a while before I started (but knew what I wanted to make), another friend's stepmother was doing some cleaning and asked if she wanted a pile of cross stitch centered magazines. My friend didn't cross stitch but knew I did so she asked me if I wanted them. I said yes and took the pile and began to flip through them looking to see if there was a house in any of them. I found this one:

I liked the shape of the house but it was very small compared to what I was imagining. I got to thinking about how I could blow up the house and make it larger. On the opposite page was the cross stitch design.

I color coded it and transferred it to some graphing paper I had printed off (and made WAY too large). For every square on the original design, I colored in four squares on my graph paper. The design ended up looking like this:

To get the wording centered, I figured out how many columns of the graph each word would take up. For example, if the cross stitch was going to be 43 columns in width and the word was 21 columns long, I did (43-21=20/2=10). So, I would count off 10 columns from the left and start the word there. It ended up working pretty well!

I think I started the stitch in March or April. It should have been plenty of time to finish for May but, as always, life got in the way. Here is a quick progression of some pictures I took:

I made the cross stitch using all old colors from my previous cross stitches plus a random pack of thread I bought on Amazon (since I didn't have any greens).


I was initially worried about the gray in the roof but I think it came out just fine!

I made the writing in a combination of purple and orange as my friend's wedding colors were yellow, orange, and raspberry.

Then I framed it and gave it to her a little while after the wedding (I believe around August).

I am really happy with how it came out! I think it looks great and is the perfect, custom wedding gift!

Once again, congratulations to my dear friend on her wedding!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Let it Snow Banner

Today I'd like to share with you a quick craft you could make last minute before the holidays - a winter banner! It can say anything, really, but I chose "Let It Snow".

You will need:
-Canvas triangle banners (I got mine at Consumer Crafts)
-Styrofoam snowflakes (I got mine on clearance a few years ago at Michaels)
-Bakers twine
-Letter stencil
-Gold paint
-Paint brush, hot glue, hot glue gun, and scissors

I just figured out what I wanted my banner to say which was a mildly easy decision because I only had 9 of the little banner flags. I just tried a couple holiday phrases until I found one that worked. I stenciled the letters onto the triangles and after they dried, I hot glued them onto the baker's twine, putting a snowflake in between the words. Here is a close up.

It turned out super cute and I leave it draped on my closet door in my living room during the holidays.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season! I will be back in January to share a few other crafts I made this past year!