A Countdown Pillow

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There is nothing like using crafts as a coping skill! Sometimes, you need to. And that is just what the 3 littles and I did this summer. My oldest daughter, Alexis Grace, (17)(and the littles’ big sister), went away for 2 weeks!! (To a summer Catholic Collegiate program.)  Now, for some, 2 weeks may be no big deal. But for us? HUGE? Remember; for me, my kids are not away all day, most days, at school. My children are all homeschooled. I’m not even remotely used to this. We’re together most all of the time, except for extra-curricular kind of events. On the other hand, it’s not like my oldest has never been away. She has, numerous times. In fact, she’s away on a regular basis. 3-4 days at a time, with no contact, when she goes on retreats with her friends. But 2 weeks…. . And FAR away.

It was a good thing. MANY very good things about it, that are now gifts for a lifetime for Alexis. But one being, we all (she and us!) needed this trial run of her being away from home for an extended period of time. Because she’s a senior this year!  Which means she’ll likely be off to college next year!  So, we all had to give this separation-thing a temporary go.

This was the big-first, and well, needless to say, the kids and I…were struggling. I figured about a day in, that it would be fun to come up with a project the kids could make, that we could use to ‘count down’ the days until Alexis came home.  And frankly, I needed a busy-project!  The trio brainstormed, and came up with a few good ideas!  But ultimately they settled on one of them:
a countdown pillow.
Something that would serve it’s purpose for us, but end up being a memorable gift we could give her, when she came home.
And so that’s just what we made.

01_a-countdown-pillow
Now, I am no seamstress. In fact, umm, <gulp!>, I have yet to truly learn how to operate a sewing machine.
However, I do have my mother’s old one. And I do have a husband who knows how to use it!
(See? When I say [Read more…]

A Wind Chime from the Seashore

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I have been working on some deeper – writing posts that should be published soon, so stay tuned for those. (You know how those freak me out, having to show my cards and all. I tend to be overly-private though, so trying to lighten up.)( Did I say this last year? lol)   But today I am just sharing with you a craft project that was a true labor of love. Or….I should rephrase that: It was labor, in the name of love.  This wind chime made with sea glass was a Christmas gift we all wanted to make for Michael’s mother/Grandma last year. I was so excited about it. It was only once we got going and invested time we didn’t want to write off, that we realized it was not going to be a quick gift-making project, by any means. But, it was a gift of love and so, it would be worth it.

01_sea-glass-windchime-craft Here it is all done. Photographed last winter, before packaging it up and shipping it off.
It’s an idea I actually borrowed from my always clever and creative fellow bloggin’ friend Angie of The country Chic Cottage.  When I saw hers, I just loved it, and thought it would make a nice gift for my mother-in-law who lives in Florida part of the year. In the end, I am sure Angie’s took a lot less time to make, because she managed to find some nice, big flattish pieces of sea glass to work with. And frankly, I just like hers better. All we could find were glass sea glass rocks; just bulkier and impossible to work with as her tutorial went. So we had to improvise. Big time. And thus put a lot more time into it. BIG TIME. 

02_sea-glass-windchime-craft The supplies needed were two embroidery hoops; a bigger and smaller one, lots of sea glass in various colors, jute string, E600 or some string glue, and in our case some silver-plated copper *wire and a set of needle-nose pliers. (I forget if the wire was 18 or 22 gauge; but it needs to be pliable enough to really reshape and work with well.)

My post here is not a tutorial by any means. I didn’t take photos along the way for that, as my hands were busy doing tedious work in late hours of the night. And I sure cannot tell you all about how we made it exactly because, for gosh sakes, it was last year!  My memory skills leave much to be desired. Such as, remembering things. And I struggle with recalling yesterday morning.  Anyway, no one in their right mind would take the time to make this lovely wind chime our way, with this bulky sea glass. So if you’d like to make one, I’d recommend finding big sea glass with big flat surfaces, and make it the way Angie did. Unless you just like the fine art wire-work on ours. 😉   I do think it adds some fancy.

03_sea-glass-windchime-craft We tied a knot everywhere we planned to put a piece of sea glass. But since tying on and gluing the rocks to the jute was not going to keep them secure enough, we used wire as well.  We took a long pieces of cut wire, laid each over the front of the sea glass (with the back being glued to the jute where the knot was), wrapped it around to the back, twisted it a couple of times over the knot placement, and brought both ends to the front again. Then using the needle nose pliers to create nice designer curls with the ends.

04_sea-glass-windchime-craft Now do you see those kinks in the wire, here and there?  That’s from tightening everything up to make the glass nice and secured, once it’s all wrapped and curly-cued. By taking the tips of the needle nose pliers, grabbing the wire in a suitable place, and giving it a little twist, we’d get this kink that gave it even more of an artistic element, and also made everything tighter.

05_sea-glass-windchime-craft We did actually really like the look of the wire work, since we turned it into art. But it was truly hours of work, for such a simple gift, that really did look homemade in the end. (Not saying that with any kind of pride.)   😉
As I said earlier, it was from all of us for Michael’s mother/my mother-in-law/the kids’ grandmother. (I wanted it to be really nice!) And it was a collaborative effort among us all. The kids went shopping with me and got everything we needed. They also picked out all of the pieces to use out of our batch of sea glass, and helped with other little tasks.  But Michael and I did all of the gluing, and especially the wire work, for 2-3 hours every night, until it was finished.  When all was done, it took so long, this Christmas gift for our loved one was belated!  When Michael happened to be talking to his mother on the phone, he told her that her gift was going to be late, because we were still working on it! 

06_sea-glass-windchime-craft She did receive it shortly thereafter Christmas, and called us with many expressions of gratitude. I think she realized how much work we really put into it, and she even convinced us that she loved it. 😉  I’m not sure it really chimes per say.  It takes a mighty wind for those rocks to hit each other. But when they do, it does make a pleasant and interesting sound. I just wouldn’t describe it as, you know, chime-y.  Of course, it’s also decorative for her deck or yard. We realize that some crafts are just going to come out better than others. We were going for something more like……well, like Angie’s!  But hey…..it was made with love, and received with love. And that’s always nice, no matter which way the wind blows.
Thanks Angie, for the inspiration!
~Laura

A Christmas Cards Display Idea

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 When the Christmas season arrives every year, and the cards start coming in the mail, what do you do with them?  Do you just put them in a pile and let them stack up? Or do you like to display them somehow, for all to see?  If you display them, how do you manage that? I bet you all have had some pretty creative ideas yourselves.

We’ve had a few solution ideas of our own over the years, for the Christmas cards we gratefully get in the mail. Way back, we just put them in a beautiful Christmas basket. That was kind of sad though, as we know many are really excited about their cards every year, and we’d hate for them to be hidden. Especially the ones with photos of kids and families, or the special notes.
We’ve also just tied a pretty ribbon across a beam in our main living area, and let them hang on that.
Getting more creative still, for a few years, we stood a white folding accordion door in the corner of the room, and the louvers (slats) worked beautifully for hanging cards. Of course, like with the string idea, the vertical cards hung horizontally. It was still a nice way to display everyone’s cards though. 

Last year though, I came up with a new idea, that I think we’ll stick with for some time. It’s very homemade and rustic, and I just love it.
Take a look . . . .

01_Christmas-cards-display-idea What do you think? 
It was actually just a long scrap of plywood we had on hand. (Repurposing at it’s best!).  
This one happens to be about 11″x 76″.   You can use any similar long board though.  You just want to be sure it is thin enough to be able to clamp clothespins on.

03_Christmas-cards-display-idea We also used some rough rope, in which I intertwined some thin satin rope around, just to add some pretty to the rough look.
The roping is mostly for decorative purposes, though. It will hold some horizontal cards well enough, but if it slides, it knocks other down. And that’s just frustrating.
I like the look of the clothespins, and it helps secure the cards of all sizes.

02_Christmas-cards-display-idea So this scrap board was painted white and then rough sanded. I didn’t put a lot of effort into that wood-finishing part at all, because really….I was hopeful that if enough people thought of us whilst filling out their Christmas cards, most of that board would be covered, anyway.  😉
The scrap blocks of wood (you see) on the back, at the top and bottom of the board, not only add stability to the board for it to sit well on the floor and lean against the wall.  There is a notch cut at the top and bottom of the board, for the rope to wrap around to the other side inset, and then there is hole through the block for the rope to go though and be secured to the other side. It sounds complicated, but it really is simple in design.  Sorry I forgot to get a pic of the back side for you. If you are confused and  have a question on this, go ahead and ask in the comments.
04_Christmas-cards-display-idea Completely optional tidbit:  I soaked my clothespins in tea water overnight, to try and antique them some. It worked; but honestly, it’s too subtle for the effort in my opinion. Maybe I did it wrong?
I think at some point I will take these clothespins, and revert to what always works beautifully for me; a touch of my Annie Sloane Dark Wax. Love-that-stuff!

05_Christmas-cards-display-idea To really dress up the top, I added these large rusted-looking jingle bells, hung with twine. I love jingle bells! 

CONSIDER THIS:  You could use this whole idea, and change the whole style of it depending on how you finish it and what you use as detail elements!
For example: paint a smooth new board with a clean white paint, omit the sanding, putty and paint your screw holes, and use a wide frilly ribbon down the board, with a big fancy bow at the top!

06_Christmas-cards-display-idea But the rustic, farmhouse look suits us just fine.

07_Christmas-cards-display-idea Yes, just another crazy idea, from our house to yours! 
If you love it, bookmark it! You could try the idea yourself this year or some other coming year. Or simply share it with your friends who follow you on your social networks.  They’ll love you for it.
  And hey, while your here, say hello, and share your thoughts.

Hope your homes are feeling a little bit of your Christmas love!
These are the little things that make any house, a home, for the ones you love.
~Laura

Reversible Fall toThanksgiving Home Decor Blocks Craft Tutorial

 I’ve got one last Fall-themed project to share with you this season, before I move on.
You may remember I shared these happy Fall blocks in this post, in which I was giving you a little close-up tour of my Fall mantels. I mentioned that I had made these blocks, that they were more versatile than they appeared, and that I would share why when I got to that project post.

Well this is that post!

01_Fall-Reversible-Decor-Blocks-Tutorial Here are the blocks already shown to you.   They were created to look well worn, long loved, and a bit old.
Just how I like everything.  :)

And shown here, are the blocks backsides . . . .
13_Give-Thanks-Reversible-Decor-Blocks-Tutorial I made the block to transition from every day Fall, to a Thanksgiving-themed message for those weeks in November.
What do you think?  Nice surprise? Good idea?  I was thinking so!

They are really simple to make.  I just found making these blocks fun and relaxing.
I tend to get a little Zen, working in my studio anyway.
So if you think you’d like to make some, sometime, I’m going to show you just how I did it, right now.

02_bare-wooden-block I started out with 10 blocks, just like these.
Well, actually, I started out with 8 blocks just like these. Then 9. And finally 10. But that is a frustrating story I’ll tell you about later on.   But the project took 10 blocks, anyway.
These simple wooden blocks come in various sizes; these are the 2″ blocks.   I got them at A.C. Moore’s. They are not available at my local Michael’s, anyway.
They are smooth and finished-feeling on 4 sides, except for what I considered the tops and bottoms.

03_brightly-colored-painted-blocks I chose my favorite Fall hues of acrylic paint, and painted them all. They did take two coats.

04 Next I had Michael cut two inch letters out of vinyl, and weeded out the letters.

05 After covering that sheet with transfer tape, I cut each letter block to size.

06 Peeling off the back, I then applied them well to a face of each block, one at a time with a squeegee, and pulled off the transfer . 
It was important to make sure the rough surfaces were not used. The vinyl would work as a mask.

07 I had a pile of scraps that looked like I had been working really hard, so I photographed it, and left it for awhile. :)

08_white-paint-on-paintbrush White acrylic paint and flat brush, ready to go.

09 All painted in.  I think it required two coats.

10 Before the second coat dried all of the way, I carefully peeled off the mask.
Now while painting them was rather enjoyable for me, these next steps are the part I really love to do….
11 But I didn’t really photograph those steps. :/  Sorry!   It’s easy enough to tell you about though. 
I’m talking about sanding and aging the blocks.
To sand, I used 100 grit sand paper on a sanding block. I use the sanding block because it keeps my sanding surface flat and hard, for my uniform sanding.  Also, it’s a lot easier on my fingers, which get torn up very easily.  Where do I sand?  I like to hit the surface, to wear that a little. But I really go at the edges and corners, where they would normally wear the most.
But after sanding, we are left with clean, bare new wood. Not good, for antique blocks. Right?
So next I rub around some dark wax, with an old t-shirt rag.  I-love-this-stuff! It really does age the look of the paint, and just dirty things up just right.
You rub it on and essentially, rub it back off to. While working not as hard to get it off, where you want to leave more.
Make sense?  The stuff is messy, as you might guess from that rag up there. And it stinks to high Heaven. But, somehow I don’t mind it much, working with it. It’s like the smell of creativity, at work!

Here’s a closer look at the effects of my sanding and waxing . . . .
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And now, my blocks all on display . . . .
13_Give-Thanks-Reversible-Decor-Blocks-Tutorial Ta-DAAA!!!  I was so happy not to have to put my blocks away, to make room for some Thanksgiving decor.
I’m already pondering making more block sets for other holidays and seasons. In fact, actually, I already have a set for spring (in a very different finishing style and size) I made last year and never shared. I plan to come spring though.
But, back to the here and now.

14_Reversible-Decor-Blocks-Tutorial Of course, you can set up your blocks, and utilize them in any way you’d like.  Here is another arrangement I played with.

Because it’s the details I worked so hard for (in a fun/playing sort of way), that make these blocks look like maybe one of our grandmothers passed them down to us, I couldn’t stop photographing them . . . .
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16 Ok enough of that. Now, you can skip this little story-paragraph if you want, right down to after the next photo.
But I’d like to explain the story of the 10th block:  For weeks, I only had 8, and then 9, blocks. Because that’s all there was at the store!  In fact the first trip, I bought none, because there wasn’t enough to spell what I wanted!  I needed 10 to do this project. I inquired though, and the lady assured me that if they were low, more was coming in the next day. So I returned the next day, and there were still only 8!!  So I figured…I need to buy those, so they be sure to get more! (Because supposedly, it’s all electronic.) 
Next trip, the bin there was still empty. I was desperate!! So I plopped down on the floor and pulled out all of the other sized blocks onto the floor, hoping to find some 2″ers  in the wrong bin.
And I found ONE!!  ARRGGG!!  So I worked with the 9 I had. I got those all done, and had enough to make my HAPPY FALL.  But I’d need that last one to complete GIVE THANKS.  
Finally, a new shipment of them came in, and I got my last block, which I did start to finish, all by itself, just in time. It was the “A” in THANKS.

What to do with the other side? . . . .

17 I made an exclamation point!  To use from then on, with my HAPPY FALL(!).  Because if you all know me, you know it’s worthy of an exclamation point.  I do love Fall, that much!

If you love what I’ve done here, believe me when I say, (if you have a vinyl cutter of any kind), you can do this!  And if not, other crafters will love you for sharing the idea! 

So go ahead and PIN the image below on Pinterest!

Reversible-Decor-Blocks-Tutorial
That’s a wrap for projects for this season this year. ( I think. 😉  )   Time to start thinking about Christmas!
Thanks for making my day, and coming by!  Hope you take a moment to share your thoughts, and say hello!
~Laura

A Custom Fall Decor Sign

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I was going through some scrapbooking supplies recently, when I came across a handy little quote book.  Naturally I took the opportunity to take a break from the big task at hand, to read through it, because I was sitting in the middle of an overwhelming mess.  One of the quotes I came upon expressed some of the many little things I so love about the season of Fall, and I was immediately inspired to use that quote as a custom sign for my home decor. The quote read:

Scarecrows, corn rows, pumpkins on the vine.
Leaves curl, wind swirls, Fall is right on time.

There was no credit to the quote, so I did an internet search.  I found the quote has been widely utilized, which tells me I’m not the only one this beautiful little phrase speaks to. I had just never heard of it before.  Still, I found no credit, or else I would feel compelled to give credit where credit is due! (It’s only right to, Folks.)  Whoever you are though, thanks for such a lovely expression of the picturesque moments of Fall, and for the inspiration!

Here is a look at the finished sign, and then I thought I would share the makings of it with you today.

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My mental vision of the sign was instant, really. There was no brainstorming session, although I did sketch out on paper the structure of the sign I was asking Michael, my husband, to build. Could I do these things myself? Yes, but why would a girl, when a girl doesn’t have to?  It would take me so much longer, and it probably wouldn’t come out as perfectly. Michael is happy to whip up these things for me in astonishing time, when I ask, and I say that with much appreciation.

01_ The 14 x 25″ sign consists of 10 2.5 x 14″ slats of wood, secured together on the back as seen above, with 2 little strips of pine

02_ Finish build, and ready to stain.

I chose a dark stain.
(Minwax brand; Provincial)

The lettering was laid out in design to have a line of text on each slat of the sign, with a spare slat at the top and bottom, for any artwork. 
The lettering was cut out and applied in vinyl.

My vision also involved some hand-painted artwork on the sign.  Oh, these grand ideas are always pulled off so very simply in our minds; aren’t they?  😉 
I foresaw pumpkin vines climbing all the way up the side of the sign, and many leaves, swirling everywhere.
But my physical execution of painting these things, proved to be a bit more challenging than I managed so beautifully, mentally.

04_handpainted-pumpkins While, after much effort, I don’t think my pumpkins came out too bad in the end, my vines didn’t climb quite as high and wild, and I acquired far fewer leaves swirling about, than I had hoped as well.  Still, I am happy with the simplicity of the final outcome. 

I’m also encouraged, because I realized when I was all finished with the painting project, that I really worked with a difficult medium.  They were acrylic paint tubes I had around and found in a baggie, but really poor and cheap quality.  They were very soft and clumpy, which really made it challenging to paint smoothly, and the paint application itself did not have any longevity for longer strokes.  Having painted with my more high quality acrylic paints on another project some days later, I really saw and experienced the difference, and I won’t make that mistake again.  I look forward to trying my hand at some more hand-painted work soon, with more cooperative paint, and I suspect I’ll have a more enjoyable time in the midst of it, with more pleasing results.

Nonethless, I do love my sign, and believe I will include it as part of our Fall decor for many years to come.

05_Fall-sign-on-mantels If you saw the tour of our Fall decor mantels post, you may have noticed the sign then. It was one of four handmade items included on the mantels.
Did you guess any of the others?
I hope this inspires you to try making some simple signs yourself, or purchasing some to include in your own home decor.
~Laura

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