Monday, November 1, 2010

Pumpkin Topiaries

Thought I was a goner, huh?  No, no -- I just fell into a deep abyss of overcommitment at work and at home.  I'll finish that ottoman post one day, mark my words!

I understand it's a smidge late in the game to post this, but the colors are pretty (never again will I use nice words about burnt orange; my blood runs maroon!), and I consider this FALL decor rather than expressly HALLOWEEN.

These took about an hour to put together and were super easy!  They're made with those foam pumpkins from Michael's or wherever.  I got mine half off an eon ago.  I used bamboo skewers that I had on hand to hold them together.  They're painted with metallic pearl and a metallic gold-y/bronze acrylic paint.  I just used a little disposable foam brush to messily paint the ribs of the orange pumpkins.  And I cut a not-perfect circle out of a not-nice dish sponge and globbed the orange-ish spots on the white pumpkins.

I made a pair of these, and draped some Spanish moss over the edge of some old Grandin Road planters I had and never used.  These just wedge into the opening!  Easy peasy.  I wish I could keep them up year round!

Hope you all had a very happy Halloween!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How to Build a REAL, Furniture-Quality Ottoman, Part I: The Skeleton

This post has been in the works for, what, 8 or 9 months now?  It was certainly on my brain well before I set up my blog.  I had a tough time finding any directions on how to build an ottoman when I set out to construct mine last year, so I figure I'll share the love with the interwebs now in hopes that it'll help one or more frustrated souls!

So... shall we begin?

When we moved here 4 years ago, we were faced with furnishing an extra living space on limited funds.  We found a great CraigsList couch that has since died.  RIP CL couch!  You were comfy and high-end and oh-so-soft and I miss you everyday.

But this lonely little couch needed a comfy ottoman to go with it.  We scoured CL for awhile with no luck, and we (and by "we", I mean the munchkin and me because my husband has better sense than to go ottoman shopping with me) finally wound up at The Dump.  If you have no experience with The Dump, it's sort of like a Marshall's for furniture.  I found this, um, beauty there:

Never you mind the mess, the dog, the mismatched pillow, the laptop cord.  OK?

Now, before you get a poor first impression of my pitiful ottoman, it wasn't initially all torn up like this.  It made it a whole 18 months before it virtually disintegrated before our eyes.  Needless to say, I was less than thrilled at the quality of this piece.  it may have been from The Dump, but it still set me back $150!  All was not lost, though -- the ottoman had a nice, big piece of foam on top.  A piece of foam that was still in good shape.  Did you know that the price of foam fluctuates with the price of oil?  True story.  That's why foam has been so high the past few years.  But I digress...

Our craptastic ottoman yielded a very nice piece of foam that I knew I wanted to recycle and use in the new ottoman I had decided I would build.  I knew that would save me a nice chunk of change!  So off I went to search online for directions on how to make this happen... FAIL.  They did not exist.  So I set out to figure this one out on my own!

I decided to build a box out of plywood and 1x4s for my foam to sit upon.

I measured my piece of foam and subtracted about .5 - 1" from each of the measurements, and built a 1x4 frame with cross support to match those measurements.  I had a sheet of 1/2" plywood cut to the same size as my frame at Home Depot.  I screwed the plywood down to the frame.

It was a box without a bottom.  A bottom isn't needed for a project like this.  1x4s turned on their sides plus the single sheet of plywood makes for PLENTY of strength.  Here's the bottom view, to give you a better idea of how it all went together.  The piece across the middle gives it extra support.  Since the munchkin tends to bounce off the furniture when we're not looking, I figured this was a good idea.  Not to mention, I've packed on a couple of pounds since college, and we tend to use our ottomans as extra seating...

Now that the frame for the ottoman was built, I had to decide how I would attach the GORGEOUS legs I found for it.  More on those later.  I decided to chop up some left over scraps of wood (2x4s) to make blocks at each of the corners.  In each of these blocks, I drilled a hole to screw the legs into.  If you're following along at home, give some thought about the placement of the legs; you don't necessarily want to screw them right in the middle of the block.  You might want them set back from the edge more (or less).  And you certainly don't want the legs to stick out on the sides!


Pardon the batting laying on top; that will come later...

Next, I took a belt sander and knocked off all the sharp edges.  I learned from experience on a previous ottoman project (not a from-scratch one) that this is a NON-OPTIONAL step!  If you fail to make these edges very dull, you will feel them through your batting and upholstery, no matter how thick you lay it on.  So -- use that belt sander, bust out that router, use your power tool of choice.  Or use a big chisel.  JUST DO IT.

WARNING:  do not attempt the following steps without an electric stapler at a minimum, preferably a pneumatic stapler.  Using a manual stapler on a project like this is guaranteed to land you in a doctor's office with hand and/or wrist injuries.  For realz.  You can get an electric stapler for like $25 at the hardware store.

Now, you need to take some batting (I like this thick cotton upholstery batting; you'll have to get it from an upholstery supply), cut it to be about 6 or 7 inches wide (to wrap around both edges of your 1x4) and long enough to wrap around the perimeter of your frame.  Staple in place on the top and bottom of the box rather than on the face of the 1x4 frame -- if you staple in the middle of your batting, you'll get a big, ugly, uncomfortable dimple in your ottoman!  Also try not to overlap your beginning and end points too much, or you'll have one spot that's too puffy.  Not good.

Notice how the batting wraps underneath and is stapled along the underside of the 1x4 (above) and along the top side of the plywood (below)

Next, get your slab o' foam ready.  Can't you see it starting to come together?  I just sat mine on top of the frame so I could get a feel for what it would turn out to be, size-wise.  Swoon!

I told you our old ottoman wasn't good for nothin'!  That foam would've set me back quite a bit if I had to buy it new.  Probably not as much as the crappy ottoman did in the first place, but you know -- silver lining and all...

You'll need to find some nice, smooth batting as your final layer.  I chose king-size cotton quilt batting from JoAnn's, with  40% off coupon thankyouverymuch!  I doubled it over and laid it flat on the ground (on top of some tarps 'cuz I was working in DH's garage -- ick).  Place your slab o' foam on top of the spread out batting, with the top side of the foam facing down.  Then, place your frame on top of the foam, plywood side down.  Make sure it's all nice and centered.  Basically -- your ottoman guts should now be sitting upside down on your batting.

Next, you'll need to pull the batting up and staple it to the underside of your 1x4s.  Try to staple it as far back from the visible edge as you can to avoid puckering.  You'll have to kind of work with the batting to get it to staple well.  I like to start by stapling the middle of one side, then move to the middle of the opposite side, pulling tautly.  Then I'll kind of work my way back and forth on those two sides, making sure I'm also stretching the batting lengthwise as I go.  You've got to figure out what works for you here.  I've found it easiest to get all of the pieces secure with 6 or 8 staples before I go back and get crazy with my staple gun.  Can you see how much fun I have using the pneumatic stapler?

Keep going until your batting is fully secure.  Don't do anything crazy by trying to tuck and pleat the batting at the corners.  I never could do this and NOT have a lumpy result.  I stapled everything flat on the bottom and cut off the extra material at the corners.  Picture hospital corners when you're making your bed.  That vertical crease you make at the corner of the mattress is the line you want to cut on.  Be careful to leave enough that you won't have gaps, and cut enough that you won't have a big overlap!

After you've cut away the excess material, use some strong thread to hand-stitch the corners shut.  Yes, this looks kind of Frankenstein-ish, but that's one benefit of me choosing a somewhat thick fabric for this project!  No one will ever know, except for the two of you who read my blog!  BRILLIANT!

Looky there -- it's a completed ottoman skeleton!

And while you're working on part I of this project, you can also be working on staining or painting your ottoman's legs.  I found mine on eBay.  You need to put some thought into what height you'd like your ottoman to be.  Take into account your frame height, your cushion height, and your desired overall height to arrive at what size legs to order.  I found the best selection on eBay.  In fact, I consider eBay seller MegaSmitty to be one of my BFFs, and he has no clue who I am.  ;)  He was the only seller I found with the turned legs I had envisioned in my mind (thanks for ruining me, Montecito collection from Pottery Barn!), in an acceptable height.  I bought these beauties from him unfinished and worked my, erm, magic.  Truth be told, I'm too impatient for most staining projects, but these were a breeze.

Unless you are a masochist, you will want to buy legs with a double-ended bolt thingy already attached.  If you want to sound cool when speaking to carpenter guys, call the double-ended bolt thingies "hanger bolts".  You want legs with hanger bolts because a) they're easy as pie to attach to your project; b) you can hold on to the bolts while you're staining the legs to help maneuver them; and c) you can use scrap 2x4s with holes drilled in them as a stand for your legs while you're letting your stain dry.  I am not as dedicated as a lot of bloggers are because I wimped out on getting pics for you while I was staining; I didn't want stain on my camera!  What you do, though, is hold these by the hanger bolt with your non-dominant hand, popsicle style, and use a shop rag soaked in stain to wipe the stain on as you turn the leg by the bolt.  Have a fresh shop rag ready to go back over and wipe off any excess.  You'll get more even results by holding the rag sort of stationary and spinning the leg itself.

For deep stains like mine, you might have to do 4 coats to get it right.  But TRUST me when I tell you that four light coats are WELL WORTH THE EFFORT.  Don't try to make up for time by applying heavy coats of stain.  It is not a good look...

After each coat of stain, pop your legs into your homemade leg stand and let dry.  OH, and unless you dig having manly hands, use some latex gloves through all of this, for the love of monkeys!  Buy a box of disposable ones at the grocery or hardware store.  They're a must for me when I spray paint, too.

And there you have it!  The structure of your ottoman is now complete, and your ottoman's legs are well on their way to being beautifully finished.  Come back later in the week, and I'll show you how to upholster this thing!  ***UPDATE*** Yes, I realize I'm running behind.  SO sorry!  Will get post #2 up as soon as I can!!!

I'm linking up to Shanty2Chic's I Made it Without My Hubby party!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A sweet gift for a sweet girl

A co-worker of mine recently welcomed a new little girl to his family.  I thought I'd make a little something for her.

These all match, right?  : p

Actually, I made a trio of monogrammed burp cloths for her.  I absolutely love making these!  It gives me a chance to indulge my love of fun ribbon and for matching patterns.  Not to mention -- I love making things with my embroidery machine.  Best birthday gift I ever got!

So, first, a little tip for those of you who may be brave enough to try this at home.  You need to use a top layer on these, just like you would on towels.  I use Solvy from Sulky.  Any of the Solvy rolls will work; I usually go with what's cheapest/in-stock.  And never leave home without your 40% off JoAnn coupon!

 Can you see the plastic sheet on top of the cloth?
Here is the difference that plastic sheet can make.  If you click to make the picture larger, you can see how the stitches look all wonky on the one on the right.  The plastic layer keeps your stitches from sinking down into the loosely-woven cloth diaper.  Afterward, you can tear off the excess.  Also, it's water-soluble.  That's handy for getting all of the little pieces off.  If you look at the one on the left, there's a lot of Solvy left over in "Addison" that will be washed out.


Enough tech speak!  Here are the three cloths I stitched out:

Here is the first one with the cutest zebra ribbon you ever did see.  The blue on it is perfectly in between blue and purple.  Gorgeous!  I think this look is very sophisticated for a little girl. :)  The black and white ribbon didn't photograph so great.  It's just flat black grosgrain ribbon with flat white lines forming diamonds.  It's not sparkly or anything.

And here is the second.  I came across the little piggy ribbon at Michael's and fell in love!  If you're looking for whimsical ribbon, Michael's definitely has the advantage over Hobby Lobby or JoAnn's.

Memo to self: quit taking pics under your desk lamp, 'cuz flash is your friend!  AND do something about the moire pattern before you upload your pics...

Finally, we have the "A is for Addison" that I used in my top layer demonstration (because I messed up on the first one intentionally to teach you guys a lesson.  Yeah.).  The little girl's mom and dad are both rabid University of Alabama fans, so making a UA-themed burp cloth was a given for me.  I lucked out and found the "A" online for purchase.  It would've taken me an hour to digitize the image if I hadn't.  (digitize = embroidery speak for turning an image - a jpg or gif or bmp or something - into a file that your machine understands and can stitch out for you).  I also had to search 3 stores before I found the houndstooth ribbon.  I learned that houndstooth is a UA thing because a legendary former coach always wore a houndstooth fedora.

So, there they are.  Here they are all packaged up and ready to go.  If you spend a lot of time putting together a great gift, don't shortchange your effort by not packaging it well!


Now go make some babies so I can make some more of these, will ya?  ;)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Adios dining room... hello CRAFT STUDIO!

So... those of you who don't frequent my house, or our Wednesday night playdate dinners, or our Saturday morning gymnastics class probably don't know that I had been struggling with the decision to better utilize our dining room space.  We have a table that seats 6 in our breakfast room, and I don't really do fancy dinners (I can hear you snickering -- SHUT IT!), so our dining room was pretty much only used as the designated time out space for a certain 6-year old I know.  It was also the room I could walk through and AHHHHH at my lighted china cabinet each night, so I knew that whatever I did, I wanted to hang on to that element of a dining room.

I was fortunate enough to have a spare bedroom that my very patient other half let me have to myself to use as a sewing room.  I've found over the years, though, that I'm not prone to ditching the family for several hours at a time to go upstairs to work on my projects.

Are you seeing where this is going?

I decided to reclaim our dining room space and move my crafty stuff into it!  It's downstairs, where our family hangs out.  It's easy (-ish) for me to pop in, hoop something up on the embroidery machine, and walk back in to finish watching iCarly with the munchkin.  And I have done that.  Several times in the last few weeks.  Spencer and Sam are pretty funny, OK?

I had our china cabinet moved into our living room before my craft stuff invaded.  I know Martha would beat me down over this arrangement, but it works for us.  I think that lesson is SO important for people to take away -- your house is YOURS.  You need to make it work for YOU and YOUR FAMILY.  If that means combining your under-used living and dining rooms to make room for a well-utilized craft studio, then GO FOR IT!  You'll be so much happier in the long run.  Trust me on that!

I sold the dining room table and pendant light fixture on Craigslist (big love to you, CL!), and now it's time to get the room spruced up -- put together.  I bought a whole mess of fabric at the Hancock Fabrics on the southwest side of Houston.  If that's in your neck of the woods, they have the best clearance section I've ever found!  I'm in love with the colors, patterns, and textures of these fabrics, but I was unsure about using them in the craft studio... until today.  You see, the adjacent living room (and most of my downstairs, really) is decorated more in the red/tan color scheme with hints of green here and there.  My stash had a lot of green, which works, but also a lot of blues.  GASP!  It's decorating blasphemy to have adjacent rooms decorated in different color schemes, isn't it?!  Probably so, but whatevs.  I'm aiming to put french doors between the rooms eventually, and I'll add sheers to block the obscene view.  Like I said, decorate in a way that makes YOU happy!

So, I'm not going to give away ALL of my plans -- that would make for a very predictable final reveal, wouldn't it? -- but I'll throw you some hints of what I have in store for my craft studio.  By the way, the munchkin tells me that "craft studio" sounds silly, and she prefers "sewing room".  She hasn't tried saying it with a British accent and about 5 extra u's, though!  Swanky, eh?  ;)  Yes, I know I'm a dork.  So, here's your sneak peek.  Make of it what you will!

I really liked these red curtains, but I'm ready for a change.

A warning to you, Armoire:  nothing in this room is safe!

Did you spy this on the floor?  I think the picture above gives a truer representation of its color.

More fabric deliciousness...

Wow, the flash really washed these colors out:

These lovelies had me at, "Honey!  The Pottery Barn catalog came in the mail today!"  Mr. M hung them for me last week.  He's very good to me.  :)

I'll keep you posted as I finish bits and pieces in here!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

This may be my biggest achievement since childbirth...

I'm not quite sure WHY Blogger can't make it easy to add your own background graphics, but WHATEVER -- I have conquered the enemy! Let me recover from this monumental task, and then I'll get down to business with some REAL posts, m'kay? Thanks for your patience!

I am on a MISSION, y'all!

I'm tired of not posting on my blog because I can't figure out how the smurf to make my background work. I've had it, and I'm laying siege to my background tonight. I may end up in tears of frustration, but I'm going to give it my all! Wish me luck. I've got a couple of previously completed projects to post, and I've got a new one up my sleeve that I feel the need to drone on about...

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Just testing here...