Artsy Upholstery Makeover: The Painted Chair

I had wanted to do something with this particular chair for months and finally decided to be a little crazy and try painting the upholstery. But I didn't want to just paint it. I wanted it to become a piece of art. And I wanted it to still be comfortable to curl up in to sketch and read or whatever.

So, here's how I tackled it:

First, the upholstery had some annoying fabric pilling. You know those little balls of fabric that just look ugly. Well, I wanted to get rid of all of that and have a smooth "canvas". I grabbed some sandpaper and it was working well on "cleaning up" the fabric but was taking too long and too much effort. 
So I grabbed my rotary sander.
 I used a fine (220grit) sandpaper and sanded the entire chair (upholstery only). I used a fine grit because I wanted to be careful not to tear up the fabric.
I liked the wood the way it was, dark stain with a little distressed look to it so I left it alone.
 Then I mixed up my "secret ingredient".....a spray bottle with some of my favorite fabric softener and water (approximately 60/40 water to softener).

Working a section at a time I sprayed down the upholstery on the chair evenly to make it slightly damp. This did several things for me: it made the chair smell fantastic, it softened the fabric (that was already a bit softer from being sanded), and it helped the paint colors go on smoothly and evenly.
Not a big fan of the leafy pattern showing on the fabric....thankfully the abstract painting job covered it.
 I used a combination of acrylic paints (anything from little bottles of craft paint to some of my more vibrant hued artist acrylic paint tubes)
The colors showed really well on the ivory colored fabric but I did use some watered down white gesso as a primer in areas where I wanted lighter paint colors to show better.
 Notice I used a medium/large short stiff bristle brush on most of the chair. Easy to work with and helped me "scrub" colors into the fabric and into beautiful blends in the abstract design.

 I wanted the colors to flow over the chair as if it were one cohesive abstract artwork. So I lined up the cushion with the back of the chair to continue the colors onto the seat.

 I did the same over the arms of the chair, sticking with my original color palette throughout
 (the process took a few days to complete)
 I wasn't too worried about accidentally getting paint on the wood while I was working because it would easily wipe off with a damp cloth.
 When the paint colors were dry I came back with a fine grit sandpaper (this time by hand) and lightly sand over the upholstery to soften it back up. If any colors got a bit too dull from the sanding I touched them up with paint and then I sprayed a small amount of my water/softener mixture over the finished area.
*Repeat these last steps as necessary.
In the end my chair is vibrant and beautiful. It smells amazing and the fabric is soft and comfortable. I absolutely love it. And it's going in my art studio.
 *One last note: After this last picture I did go back and add an onyx metallic glaze over the wood when I was finished, and since it was a glaze the original wood color still primarily shows through.

I'm so happy I tried this and I will probably do it again at some point.

If you decide to turn an upholstered piece into a painted work of art I would love to hear about it and see the finished project.

DIY Mud Room Built-In

One of Jeremy's coaching buddies contacted us over the holiday break to see if we could do a project as a Christmas present for his wife. We texted back and forth discussing the details and ideas for transforming an old desk and bookshelf built-in area into a more useful Mud Room style built-in for their family of five. Something with bead board detail, hooks for backpacks and coats, space for shoes, some closed cabinets for storage and open cubby holes for exciting challenge for the designer in me and the builder in my husband! And a chance to create something special for a couple that we are blessed to call friends. Absolutely! We were in!

We took measurements and purchased supplies and on December 23rd while they were out of town we got up at 6am, grabbed our coffee and hit the road.

First. Demolition.
TIP: If it can be saved and re-used then take the time to remove it carefully. It's worth it. We saved several original trim pieces to use again on the new built-in. All we had to do was a little sanding and painting then trim if necessary and re-attach where we needed it.
 Look at that handsome guy hard at work.
 Sure wish we could have saved this bookshelf piece but it was built so tightly into the space we would have had to remove the door frame that you see over on the left to slide it out and we didn't want to risk damaging their walls. :(  Had to take it out in pieces and it didn't come apart nicely. So sad.
 A fresh empty space to build in.....
 All the sad bookshelf pieces.

IMPORTANT TIP: Working as a team we had an assembly line method going that made work much more efficient. Jeremy did the measurements (checking twice) and cutting. Then I would do any necessary sanding (with an electric sander), wipe clean, and prime all of the bead board, trim, and wood sections in the order that we were going to install them.
Priming: I use a good quality smooth foam roller doing thin layers of paint. The thin coat dried quickly and I was able to do a second coat on everything before it was installed.
 We were fortunate to have gorgeous weather so we had work stations set up in the garage and front yard/driveway areas.

*TIP: We did the cutting and sanding all outside and the painting in the garage. Didn't want any sawdust getting into my pretty paint job. ;)
TIP: Always elevate the pieces you are painting. I used saw horses, and cardboard boxes or scrap pieces of wood to lift the boards up off of the ground that way I could easily paint around all of the sides and edges without any paint puddling or stuff getting stuck to the surface it was sitting on. Run you paintbrush (when it doesn't really have much paint left on it) around and under the edges of the boards to catch and clean up any drips or runny paint.

 This is my favorite little electric sander. I think it's important, even if you think the wood you are using is "fine" to go ahead and give it an even sanding on the top and all around the edges. It really does make a noticeable improvement in how the finished paint or stain job looks and feels.

Then we get to installation.

Note: for those who want to know, we used 3/4" plywood on this project.

First, putting up a new top cabinet that will have two doors on the front. Here you can see my handyman hubs adding some extra nails into the support brace at the back of the cabinet. Now, you need to know that he has already screwed the support into studs so that it will be sturdy and not fall off the wall but my husband doesn't do a job half way. No sir. He builds things to last, and if you ever want to take this thing out it's going to require some serious demolition, because every piece is put into place like a jigsaw puzzle and is both glued and nailed or screwed, or all three! After that we must wood putty any holes, sand it smooth and touch up with caulk and paint. Oh yes. Is there any other way? Nope, not on this work team.

TIP: Measuring and double-checking measurements is super important!

I'm so glad that my husband is a stickler on this. I'm such a free spirit that in most areas of my creativity I estimate, guesstimate, go with my gut, or make it up....but not on these jobs. If it requires 12 and 5/8" then it needs to be exactly that not my guesstimation of around 12 and 1/2" or so "ish", you know what I mean.

In this next pic you can see we were working from top of the project down. There is another support board under the cabinetry and then the bead board below all the way to the floor. Bead board will also be installed on part of the side walls with finishing trim work.....but that gets added after the bench is in place.

For the upper cubby holes, I drew a simple curve detail that we will match on each of these boards. They will create the dividers. Since the upper cabinetry is deeper than the cubby holes the curve creates some interest in the transition from the top of the cubby opening down to the more shallow shelf space at the bottom. You will be able to see this better in later pictures after it is put together.

Using the router to create the finished edges of the two doors that we will install on the upper cabinet.

Working on getting the dividers spaced evenly and installed for three openings under the bench seat.

Now you can see in this next photo that the cubby sections have been added with their curved detail dividers. The bottom cubby sections under the bench seat are also complete with trim detail around the bottom of each to add stability and a nice finished look.
 At this point, precise measurements must be taken to cut the bead board pieces for the right and left sides of the wall area.
  Once it is nailed into place, some of the original trim that was removed during demo was trimmed to size and re-installed.

Adding hinges and knobs and installing cabinet doors.

 TIP: We added another support board across the back of the bead board, securely screwed into wall studs before putting up these beautiful large hooks. This way, we were able to screw the hooks directly into the support board and now the kids can hang their backpacks and coats without worrying that the weight of all those school books might yank the hook off the wall. ;)
  Work went smoothly and pretty quickly through the day.  Stopped for a sack lunch sandwich while paint was drying and then kept going....geez, my man is a slave driver, lol. By 1:30 am December 24th we touched up the last of each piece of wood and decorative trim work with a third or fourth coat of paint. Caulked every corner and edge of the entire piece and cleaned up our mess to load our truck and head back home. (BTW: no traffic jams to fuss with in DFW that time of night, so that was cool.)

 A closer look:

 We were pleased with the end results and so happy to hear that our friends were too when they arrived back home on Christmas Day to see it.

I hope you found something useful or inspirational in this tutorial and the tips provided. I know it didn't include exact measurements, but that is because it was made to fit a particular space and the measurements probably wouldn't be that useful to anyone I'm the one writing the blog and I'm the guesstimate kind of gal. If you need any measurements you'll have to take that up with the hubs. Thanks!

My Big Quilted Bag Tutorial

I go to the library....a lot.  And well, let's just say the stack of books my girls and I come away with each time has torn through and snapped the handles of more than a couple of bags. So I needed something big and sturdy.

Oh, I know what you're thinking. With over 500,000 books available on my Kindle why on earth do I need to lug around a giant bag heaped with stacks of paper books from the brick and mortar library.
I guess I'm just old fashioned that way. I do use my Kindle and other electronic devices....sometimes more than I think is good for myself. So, I like.... no I LOVE the feel and smell of an actual printed book in my hands. I love flipping through the pages, using my pretty little bookmarks and enjoying the slight sound of the pages turning. I like holding that thick novel in my hands after reading the last word of page five hundred and whatever and feeling a sense of accomplishment. Somehow those "vicarious journeys" as my high school English teacher called them, are not the same on a tiny lit up screen.

So, there you have it. The reason behind my latest sewing tutorial for my "Big Quilted Book Bag".

You can use yours for whatever you want, lol.

My first step was picking out two coordinating fabrics. 
Here are the winners. 

Then I had to come up with a pattern. 
I got the largest piece of drawing paper I could find in my studio 
(FYI: large papers that come on a roll are great too for making patterns on the cheap)

 Just in case you can't see the measurements well enough they are:

Bag width: 24"
Bag height: 16"
Strap width at base: 4"
Strap width at top: 2.5"
Strap length: 15"

*TIP: I folded my paper in half to draw the pattern before cutting out so that my straps would be perfectly symmetrical and in the right place.

You will need to pin and carefully cut out FOUR pieces of fabric.
Two of the inside color and two of the outside color.

And you will need TWO pieces of thin batting cut to fit the body of the bag.

After ironing I sewed a straight top stitch all the way around to give a finished detail (1/8" from edge). This also closed up the opening at the bottom of the two sides of the bag that were used for turning it right side out.

*** IMPORTANT: When I sewed the straps of the bag I left the ends of each strap un-stitched for later. 

Now that you have TWO complete sides to your bag, each with batting inside, you are ready to move on to the optional awesome "free motion quilting".

 - if you don't have this attachment it's ok, just "quilt" the piece together using a simple pattern of straight or diagonal lines. This is just to hold the batting securely in place. 

The pattern you create will also show on the inside of your bag. It gives a great texture and dimension to the finished project. I love that the fabric I chose already had such wonderful sketchy lines so even though my first attempt at free motion stitching was wobbly and completely imperfect it still worked great.

When I finished free motion quilting on both individual sides of the bag I was ready to put them together.

Pin them right sides together so that you see the inside fabric. Sew all the way around the body of the bag (1/2" seam allowance).

I wanted a "boxed bottom". I made mine 2.5" in on each side.
With the bag inside out, fold the side seam toward the bottom fold line until it makes a triangle. Then sew a straight line perpendicular to the side seam.

Finally, it is time to finish the straps of the bag.

Taking the straps from the same side of the bag. Tuck the raw edges in on one  piece to form a finished edge. Tuck the raw edge of the coordinating piece into the finished edge about 1/4". Then straight stitch across the joined pieces. *I went back and forth over it 3 or 4 times for a good secure finished seam.

Like this:

Here are a few close-ups on parts of the bag.

Now it's time to head to the Library to fill it up!

Air Dry Clay: Tiny Houses and Ring Holders

Air dry clay is so easy to work with and the possibilities of things you can make with it are endless. It is more expensive than regular clay but you don't have to have access to a kiln to fire it and if you use a 40% off coupon at Michaels the price is not too bad for making quite a few of these small projects.

The first was a series of Tiny Houses.
I rolled out a slab of clay about a 1/4" thick and used a thin metal ruler to cut into a series of irregular rectangles and squares. Then I trimmed off the tops in lopsided triangular shapes to create the roof lines. Super simple right. :)

Then I took round black magnets (the strong ones you can get in packages at Hobby Lobby or other craft stores) and pushed them into the backs of the houses so they sunk about half way in. (*cool side note here: I thought I would probably have to add some glue after they dried overnight but because the clay shrinks slightly it tightened up around the magnets and they were securely in place, perfect!)

Using something with a small rectangular shape (the end of a letter stamp, popcicle stick, chop stick...whatever) I made various little window indentions.

Let it dry overnight. Then paint with acrylic paints. Seal with clear acrylic spray.
Easy peasy.

I love having these on my fridge like a little community all together. :)

Then came the Ring Holders.
Oh the variety of designs you could come up with on this one!!!

I started these again by rolling out a slab of air dry clay roughly about 1/4" thick.
You could use cookie cutters to make the basic shape (probably don't use them again for food though)

I also used random things like the lid from a plastic baby food container for the shape of the rectangle ones.
TIP: I saved a ton of these plastic containers and glass jars and I use them for water cups and paint mixing contaniners all the time.

You will either want a concave design to set rings in or make sure you have at least one piece that sticks up to hold you rings.

On the pieces that stick up:
  • be careful not to make them too thin or flimsy, don't want them to break too easily
  • use the traditional score and slip method of attaching for security (I used a toothpick to lightly scratch the bottom of the hand formed piece and the place it would attach to and then added a drop of water to each to help them stick better when I pressed them together)
The relief images and text were created by gently pressing a stamp into the clay after I rolled it out into a slab and before I cut it into the shape I was going to use.

To make the pieces concave: I gently pressed the finished piece as it set on the inside edges of either the rectangular baby food container or a small round condiment cup and then I left them sitting in that position to dry.

Let the pieces dry overnight.

Paint with acrylic paints. *Allow your stamped design to show more by gently dry brushing paint across the surface.

Spray with clear acrylic to seal.

I know these weren't super detailed with lots of pictures but I hope they at least maybe provide some inspiration for little projects you can create using air dry clay.

I know I would love to try different little trays and things with some of the fancy cookie cutter shapes I've seen lately (like one I saw that was a teapot).....what would you try?

My Favorite DIY Art Journal

My bags are packed and I'm all ready to go jetting off half way around the world.
I leave tomorrow morning with a team of friends on a mission trip to Cambodia.

I wanted to share with you real quick the art journal I made to take on the trip.
Then when I get back I'll share some of the things I created inside the wonderful pages.

I started by gathering tons of differnt papers: scrap book pages for dividing sections, parchment paper for separating painted pages, vellum/tracing paper to separate other messy pages, recycled newsprint pages, watercolor papers (rough and smooth textures), black papers, brown papers, mixed media or all media papers, and actual canvas right off the roll cut to page size on my large paper cutter.

*All pages were cut to 8.5"x11"
Once I got them all sorted out in sections and an order I liked I used paint stir sticks to brace the pages and binder clips to hold them tightly together.
I painted several layers (5-6) of WeldBond glue on the edge letting it dry between coats. This forms a flexible binding and the pages can later be easily torn out with minimal or no damage.

I measured and created my own pattern to sew the soft book cover out of some very nice expensive fabric scraps left over from a job I did earlier this summer. I included a couple of pockets for my basic drawing supplies. The colors are gorgeous deep turquoise and chartreuse (the pictures don't do it justice). The inside is silky and the outside has a soft textured feel. The buttons are vintage (from my grandmother) and just happened to coordinate perfectly!
I used the same WeldBond glue to adhere the binding of the pages to the cover I sewed.
Sorry there's not more detailed info on the sewing as I just made it up as I went along, but I hope that this will inspire you to grab your supplies and create a special journal of your own.

I can't wait to sketch, journal, watercolor, paint, collage and more on these wonderful pages!

It was a DIY project I spent extra time on, but it is extra special so I'm very happy.