Crate Shelves and Custom Curtains, aka Success with Fabric Painting

A friend asked me to help with the nursery for her baby boy, due in just a few weeks! I’ll do a complete post on the nursery soon, but there are a couple of projects I thought I’d go ahead and share now.

crate shelvesFirst up, crate shelves! The nursery has a corner of “dead space” right by the door. It’s a small room and we wanted to make as much use of the available space as possible. I found these crates at IKEA (no, IKEA does not give me money to mention them in every other post, although I’d be pretty psyched if they did). Crates like these seem to be everywhere now, and are handy for all sorts of projects, but the IKEA ones seem a little sturdier to me than the ones I’ve seen at craft stores. Plus the large ones are only $10 a pop. I took five of them to their house and we played with the configuration until we found one that suited the space, and let them keep the use of the outlet in that corner. To mount them, I used these drywall anchor screws, plus washers, to give the relatively small screw heads a little more stability. The bottom crate (the one most likely to be pulled on at some point) got 4 screws; the others crate shelves 2got 2 each. And because they’re all mounted independently, if the little angel does manage to pull on one crate, the whole thing won’t come tumbling down, like a traditional bookcase. One thing to keep in mind – the IKEA crates have two slats on the bottom as “feet” for the crate, which would’ve meant a gap between crate and wall that would’ve diminished the sturdiness of the anchors. Solution? Flip the bottom over, so the slats are on the inside of the crate and countersink the screws when you put the crate together. (My friend’s genius husband came up with this.)

Next, the return of fabric painting. No, it wasn’t a long hiatus, since it was just in my last post, but this time, in an exciting twist, it actually worked! Huzzah! The color scheme of the nursery is gray, navy and white. The walls are gray and the furniture white, so I thought I’d bring some navy in by painting the curtains. I started with these Merete curtains (really, IKEA, fork over some of that sweet Swedish cash already). This project looked a bit more promising than the chair, because the fabric is a cotton twill – no real nap to it. I ironed (zzzzz) and laid out the curtain panels on my living room floor, with some heavy duty drop cloths underneath. Apparently, I buy the fancy drop cloths, according to my brother-in-law, but I hate sitting on plastic while I paint. Everything got taped down to keep Georgia from playing hide-and-seek underneath while I was working (jk, the tape totally didn’t stop her) and I started taping out the design. I wanted something geometric with clean lines. I considered stripes, but once I thought up the triangles, I really wanted to do that. To keep it from being all navy (and too dark for the room), I decided on a scattered design of triangles at the top, building to full rows of triangles at the bottom.

With a piece of cardboard as my template for the height and angles, I started taping with the 3M blue tape I always use for paint projects. Once, in a fit of extra cheapness, I bought the generic Home Depot HDX painter’s tape, and discovered it’s not much good for anything other than frustration and messy paint lines, and I’d always shied away from the more expensive Frog Tape. 3M blue tape was safely middle of the road (I expect that phrase will be on my tombstone). Unfortunately, after taping out a portion of the design, I realized that my trusty blue was not sticking to the fabric in a number of places, and I couldn’t make it. So I sprung for the Frog Tape, full of skepticism about its purported superiority, but oh man, it was worth it. Crisp lines galore! I taped out my design, used bits of my removed blue tape to mark the triangles I didn’t want to paint, and went to town with my roller and paint/textile medium mix. I used a 4″ roller, which was pretty easy to keep in the lines, although there are definitely a few blue triangles that I intended to be white, but after some overly exuberant rolling, had to become blue. I ended up using 8oz of Soho Mineral Blue acrylic and 4oz of textile medium.

Here they are hemmed and hung in the nursery!



An Adventurous Baby Shower

My friend Lizzie and I recently hosted an adventure-themed baby shower for our friend whose little boy should be here in just a few weeks. The main colors were red and aqua, with maps and hot air balloons thrown in. Lizzie made these swoon-worthy invitations:

el choffel adventure baby shower

I made decorations out of old maps. Austin has a great place called Recycled Reads, where the library sells off donated books, or books that have to be taken out of circulation. They also have a bunch of old, out-of-date paper maps. I scoured their collection for Austin maps, Texas maps and just plain pretty maps (good job, Colorado) and turned them into rosettes and pennant bunting.

Here’s a good tutorial for the rosettes. I used regular old white Elmer’s glue and some ribbon for my hanging loops. The pennants are triangles with an extra flap at the top that I glued onto twine.

I also made these light catcher hot air balloons out of old light bulbs. I loved the incredibly detailed ones I found on Pinterest, but the intricate lines are beyond my skill set, so I simplified. I sketched each pattern onto the light bulbs using a gold paint pen, with 6 lengthwise sections on the smaller bulbs and 8 on the larger ones, and varying where the horizontal lines and arches went, so that each bulb was unique. Then I colored in various sections using Sharpie brush-tip markers in red, blue and green. I’d never used these before – truth be told, I bought them because I could buy them singly at the craft store without having to buy a whole multi-color pack. Happily they were perfect for this project. They give a great amount of control and varied marker lines depending on how you apply them. The Sharpie ink actually looks quite pretty on glass. For clean lines, I went over my original outline with some gold paint and a brush (the gold marker worked… intermittently). To hang them, I hot glued a bead cap (similar to these) to the top of the bulb with a little twist of jewelry wire, then hung them on ribbons. If they don’t end up in the nursery, I think I’ll save these for Christmas ornaments!

Chinese Chippendale Headboard and the Challenges of Geometry

Oh man, I’m really excited to write this post. This is yet another project for my niece Audrey’s room redecoration. This is an idea I’ve had percolating for a while, and although it didn’t go quite as smoothly as I expected, because math, I’m happy with how it turned out.


I’ve always really liked this style – sometimes it’s called Chinese Chippendale, or lattice-work, or woven – and I’ve been looking for a project I could try it out on. Audrey needed a new headboard for her new bedroom, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. After seeing this post on a Chinese Chippendale railing, I’d found the pattern I wanted to use as my template. The railing post is incredibly detailed and the craft that goes into his work is way beyond my current skill set, so I modified the idea to something I could feasibly do.

IMG_1069The first step was scaling the design to a size that would be appropriate for a twin headboard. (A twin bed is 39″ wide, but I prefer a slightly wider headboard so it looks the correct size when a comforter is on the bed.) In this design, the negative space is as important as the positive. The empty square in the middle of the design is a dimension that’s repeated over and over – using it as a constant is what makes the wood pieces look like they’re continuous even when separated. Starting from the central square, since only right angles are used, you can work out the math of the whole design. I knew I’d want to use 1″x2″ boards, so I worked out the math of the design with a 4″ central square – too wide for a twin bed – then a 3″ square – too small. 3 1/2″ seemed to be just right. It was a little on the small side, so I decided to frame out the whole pattern with 1″x3″s instead of 1″x2″s. This gave me a design that was 42″ wide x 26″ high.

IMG_1049Once I had my dimensions decided on, I could start cutting. The rational thing would have been to bribe my brother-in-law to let me borrow his miter saw, but that would’ve meant waiting a few extra days, and I’m incredibly impatient when I’m in the throes of a new project. So I busted out my miter box and hand saw and cut the pieces manually. 1″x2″s actually cut pretty quickly, but I think I’ll ask Santa for a power compound miter saw anyway. My brother-in-law will be so jealous.



With everything cut, I laid all my wood pieces out in the design and… they didn’t fit. Two of  the large diagonal pieces were too short. I tried every which way to make the pattern work, but eventually I came to terms with the fact that I had mathed wrong. I went back to my plan and realized I hadn’t added in the extra length from the width of the boards themselves in that part of the pattern. Oh well. I got another board from Home Depot and cut the correct sized pieces. This time, everything fit together just like I’d intended.

IMG_1064I joined the boards together using wood glue and picture frame fasteners (like these) – the headboard would be mounted on a wall, so the back didn’t have to be pretty. To give the frame some strength, I added corner brackets at each corner. To hang it, I added heavy duty D-ring picture hangers to the top two corners. These would hang on screws and drywall anchors mounted in the wall behind Audrey’s bed.

With everything joined together and dry, I painted the whole shebang gray (in accordance with her new bedding and her string art sign and jewelry box). I’d originally planned to do a color-wash with the gray (diluting the latex paint with equal parts water creates a cool faux-stain) to let the wood grain shine through, but with gray, the color-wash just made the wood look weathered. Audrey’s new room is all pretty clean and modern. Weathered just isn’t the look for her. So I added another coat of paint for a fully gray headboard. Et voila!




Hung by my sister, who is very proud that she used the power tools like a big girl.

String Art Sign


As part of my niece Audrey’s room redecoration, I made her a sign with her name on it to go with her new blue and gray room. I came across this DIY string art sign idea while perusing Pinterest and it was perfect – the right colors and even the right name! It seemed like it was meant to be.

I used one of my favorite fonts, Lobster Two  IMG_1066from, and printed out large letters on my home printer (the largest – the A – ended up being 10″ tall). I used a 12″x1″ board, cut down the length to be just a bit larger than my letters, and painted it gray.

IMG_1070I cut most of the white space from my letters and placed them on the board, with a piece
of painter’s tape along the bottom edge to keep them in a straight line and the spacing adjusted unscientifically by eye.

I hammered in nails along the outside of the letters, making sure a nail was at each corner or turn in the letter. After the nails were in and my cat was thoroughly traumatized by all the loud banging (it takes a LOT of nails), I tore away the paper and tape leaving only the nails behind. Then I used embroidery floss, tying the end of one skein to a nail, wrapping the floss around the outside of the letters, filling in the letters with random patterns and tying the skein off before moving to the next letter. I used about one skein per letter, but two for the A. With some picture-hanging hardware on the back, it was ready to be hung!


Jewelry Box Refresh


Hello again! I’ve been slacking disgracefully on my blogging, but I’ve been wrapping up a bunch of projects that I’ll be posting soon. It’s pretty exciting. Today, a quick little project: updating a jewelry box.

I spent most of this past weekend redecorating my niece’s bedroom (pictures will happen, promise). She’s heading off to middle school next year, so my sister and brother-in-law wanted to give her a more grown-up room. Out went the pink and gold, in came aqua and gray – much more in line with her tastes these days. As we were moving her furniture out of the room to paint, my sister commented that she really needs a new place to keep her hoards of post earrings. I judge not her hoarding tendencies because (1) we all come from a long line of pack-rats and (2) this project was done entirely with leftover stuff that most people would’ve thrown away long ago. Hoarding has its benefits!


Seriously, where are their heads?

In my guestroom closet, aka the Closet o’ Crap That I Swear I’ll Clean Out One Day But Probably Never Will, I found an old jewelry box of mine. Nothing fancy, just an empty box with a little inlaid panel decorated with a couple of headless children and a goose. Standard stuff. (Inside, I found two sets of jacks, which I briefly considered keeping, but eventually decided to gift to my nieces and nephew – enjoy stepping on those, Megan!)



I love and unabashedly hoard Paper Source calendars. The prints and heavy weight make for great little gift boxes and, apparently, jewelry box decoration.

The panel was held in with two little clips that came out easily, and the inside was lined with some old felt that was falling apart, so I ripped that out. After painting the box gray, I needed something to replace the headless children and the lining – enter an old calendar and teal velvet leftover from the roll-top bar.




I traced the inlay panel on the calendar and cut out my square. Then I used watered downIMG_1056 Elmer’s glue to faux-Mod Podge it onto the panel. On the other side, I added a square of velvet.


I used basswood (leftover from the houndstooth table), spray adhesive and more velvet to make panels to line the inside of the box. Then I made the… I have no idea what they’re called… whatever you nestle your post earrings in between in a jewelry box. Those. I made those out of a dowel rod cut into segments, rolled in quilter’s batting, then rolled and hot-glued in velvet.


Apart from making something that satisfied a need and went with my niece’s new decor, I was pretty psyched that I did the whole thing without having to go to the crafts store once. Hurray for pack-rats!


Wall Art

I love fabric. Oh, spray paint is fun to hang out with and every now and then I flirt with woodworking, but me and fabric? We’re soul mates. I think everyone has that thing that they just *get* – my sister has it with food, especially icing and fondant for cakes; my mom has it with plants and gardening; my talented friend Lizzie has it with paper and ink. On and on. I’m sure some of it comes from familiarity and practice, but I like to think there’s a deeper connection there, something like finding that outlet for your personality in the physical world.

Huh, that got really weird and deep. I started writing this post because one of my favorite things to do with fabric is make wall art. My first foray into doing this was in my old apartment, and it came about as a solution to the conflicts between my love of color and my inherent laziness. I wanted color on the walls, but didn’t want to paint, because then I’d have to paint it back when I moved out. I mean, sure, I ended up living there for five years, but I didn’t know that at the time. So I bought 5 cheap 12″x12″ canvases and covered them in a bunch of fabric scraps that went with my living room furniture – a red couch and a green armchair.

For a post called "Wall Art", very few of these pictures feature canvases actually on the wall. If only I'd had the foresight to photograph these when they were actually hung up. Let's pretend I did it this way to be ironic or quirky or something.

For a post called “Wall Art”, very few of these pictures feature canvases actually on the wall. If only I’d had the foresight to photograph these when they were actually hung up. Let’s pretend I did it this way to be ironic or quirky or something.

Fabric wall art is a lot like making soup. Once you know the basic technique, the possibilities are endless. And the “technique” is so simple it’s hardly a technique at all. You need:

  • Canvases on wooden frames (beware: some of the cheapy ones are on plastic frames)
  • Fabric (this is a great use for remnants)
  • Staple gun

Cut the fabric to be about 2-3″ larger than the canvas.IMG_0995[1] Center the canvas face down on the wrong side of the fabric. Pull the edges of the fabric to back of the canvas and staple in place. The hardest part is the corners. I usually staple each side a few times, not getting too close to the corners, then I go back and pull the corner of the fabric back in a diagonal across the corner of the canvas and then fold down the two little flaps created on each side. Staple the crap out of every fold on the corner. Repeat for the other 3 corners and you’re done. Any excess fabric can be trimmed away.

Now we can get fancy. Fabric can look great on its own, but there are also so many variations possible. The original five canvases above were layered with a bunch of different fabric and ribbon, attached with fabric glue or extra staples at the back as needed. Make each canvas a standalone piece, as above, or have design cross all the canvases to unify them.

Add ribbon:


The pinwheel things are made from folded ribbon. Liquid Stitch is your friend!

Or ribbon and wire and beads:


The wire can be pushed through the canvas and the end bent to secure it.

Embroider letters:


For embroidery nerds: the letters are outlined in Hungarian Chain Stitch and filled with a long satin stitch. And spoiler alert: there’s a houndstooth table in this blog’s future.

Or birds:


I sketched the bird by hand, then scanned it into my computer and blew it up to the size I wanted, printed it and used transfer paper to add the pattern to the fabric. Maybe I’m weird, but I find it easier to draw things smaller. Once I have the proportions right, the computer can do the resizing for me.

This is currently up in my guest room. I embroidered the bird, then decided to add some more red by embellishing the print itself. I also added some upholstery tacks to each outside corner and middle top and bottom to help unify the three canvases.


Also, because I had a bunch of these left over from another project.

And if you get tired of one look, or want to update, take a flat-head screwdriver and pry out the staples on the back. New canvas ready to be recovered! The last set (the ikat print) is on the same canvases as the red and brown set above.

All the canvases I’ve ever used have been very light, so I usually just hang them with a nail in the wall and the underside of top edge resting on the nail. If you’re hole-adverse, they could easily be hung with the 3M Command hooks that can be removed without damaging the wall. Easy peasy color!