A Chair Makeover and Abject Failure with Fabric Paint

At some point, if I want to make a viable business out of my interior decorating work, I really should hone in on a few styles or techniques so that my portfolio has some sort of coherence, but right now, I’m having too much fun playing and trying out different ideas. My latest experiment: painting fabric. When my younger niece, Blythe, wanted her room redone, one piece of furniture really wouldn’t fit with her style, which my sister and I have dubbed “dramatic boho”. (It’s a thing now.) That piece was an armchair, given to her by family friends. It’s a surprisingly comfortable chair and the ornateness definitely went with the “dramatic” part of her style, but the color scheme needed an update to go with her new black, white and purple decor.

I asked my sister if I could try painting the fabric. (One of my favorite things about my sister is how she’ll let me experiment on her stuff, as long as she doesn’t have to actually do it herself.) I’d seen a bunch of tutorials on the Pinterest about how successful and easy and cheap this could be, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I knew from the start that there was a high risk of failure, because the fabric on the chair had a high nap, and that can be trickier with fabric paint. But, I reasoned, if it fails, I’ll just pull the fabric off and reupholster, so the only real risk was about $10 worth of acrylic fabric paint and textile medium. And, hoo boy, fail it did.

I spritzed the fabric with water, painted, sanded, painted some more, sanded some more, lather, rinse, repeat. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the seemingly innocuous beige fabric white. What’s more, the more layers I added, the more the fabric felt like an emery board, no matter how much I sanded, or how weird it was to need to sand fabric. Since this was intended to be Blythe’s reading chair, and not a total body exfoliator, this texture was less than ideal. When it got to the point of needing to buy more paint, I decided to invest in new fabric instead.

OK, maybe it wasn't entirely necessary to dismantle it COMPLETELY, but it was satisfying.

OK, maybe it wasn’t entirely necessary to dismantle it COMPLETELY, but it was satisfying.

I’d already painted the chair frame purple (I did it with acrylic paint because I was already buying acrylic for the fabric painting endeavor and I was too lazy to go to Home Depot in addition to the craft store), so with pliers, a flat-head screwdriver and brute force, I pulled off the welting, then the front and back oval panels, then the seat, then the fabric from the ovals and seat. I found a black and white damask print at Joann – I only needed about 2 yards total. Using the fabric I’d removed as a rough pattern, I cut out my new pieces and stapled them to their respective frames. The seat was a little tricky, because the foam sloped towards the back, but by tacking the fabric down in small sections, I got it to follow the gradation. The recovered seat got screwed back on. The ovals had been held in place by some straight copper needles that were very pointy – I’m sure there’s an actual name for them in the world of professional upholstery – but wouldn’t go back on. At this point, I was pretty tired, so I punted. I pushed the pointy, stabby copper spines flat or pulled them out (whichever was easier) then glued the ovals back in place with some E6000. The fumes were a welcome addition to my evening. Once everything had dried, the chair was finished!

IMG_1174

I haven’t given up entirely on painting fabric, but I would say that anything with a nap – velvet, boucle, chenille, corduroy, etc. – might not turn out the way you want it, so beware that you may end up having to reupholster in the end. And once you start painting, there’s really no turning back. Wow, that got really ominous at the end there.

Name Signs and Craft Fumes: Mod Podge and Alcohol Ink

In the true tradition of siblings, since time immemorial, what one has, the others want. So now that Audrey has had her room redecorated, her sister and brother want the same. Blythe’s room is in the process of getting a bit of an update, although not as dramatic as Audrey’s – she doesn’t want to change her wall colors yet. Carter (4 years old) has detailed his room makeover specifications as “make it lots cooler.”

As a starting point for both of their rooms, I decided to make them name signs, much like their sister’s. Of course, these kids have wildly different personalities, so everyone needed their own style. Plus, I just like trying new methods for making stuff.

Carter

As stated, Carter is 4, and like most 4 year olds, is constantly falling in and out of IMG_1111obsession with various cartoons and characters. I decided to incorporate his wide variety of interests by Mod Podge-ing fabric to cardboard letters.

I found all my supplies at Joann. The cardboard letters are 8″ tall and surprisingly sturdy. The fabric is novelty quilting weight, mostly from the licensed characters section of Joann. I got one half yard of each fabric per letter.

I traced my letters on the the back of the fabric, right side down, and marked a strip the IMG_1114IMG_1113
width of the fabric and a little wider than the depth of the letter. This gave me a long strip to wrap around the edge of the letter. (You could easily skip this step and paint the cardboard or leave it the natural brown color.) I put a layer
of Mod Podge on the outside of the letter, then wrapped the fabric around, keep one edge of the fabric strip lined up with the backside of this letter. This left me with some extra fabric on the front. I snipped any curves and corners, added Mod Podge to the front of the letter and pressed down the extra fabric. This ensured that no cardboard would peek out once the top layer was added.

IMG_1115IMG_1117To add the top layer, I roughly cut the traced letter out of the fabric, Mod Podged it down onto the cardboard, then cut away the excess fabric. At first, I tried cutting the letter out precisely but gave up on that pretty quickly – this way was way easier.

Once the underlayer of Mod Podge was dry, I covered each letter in an exterior layer to seal any loose threads. Because these bad boys are so light, we could hang them with simple 3M strips stuck to the backs. Now, when Carter decides that Ninja Turtles are passe, his “T” can be swapped out with whatever the new flavor of the month is. (Except I won’t change these every month. Maybe in a year or so. We’ll see how nice of an aunt I’m feeling.)

Yes, the C is out of line with the rest of the letters. Yes, I did fix it right away. Yes, it’s still bothering me that I didn’t retake the picture after I fixed it. From left to right: Star Wars, space, Batman, TMNT, airplanes, Spiderman.

Blythe

Blythe’s name sign was a tricky one to figure out. I knew I wanted to do something to match her more theatrical personality, and her room is definitely moving in a much less structured, more bohemian direction than her sister’s. But it took me a while to figure out just how to make anything that looked like “her”. I loved the look of alcohol ink crafts I found on Pinterest, and finally figured out how to incorporate that stained-glass-crossed-with-tie-dye look into something for her.

IMG_1119I started with this frame from IKEA and cut a piece of contact paper the same size as the
glass to create a stencil. I searched high and low for a font that was (a) fairly heavy, so there’d be enough space cut out to see the inks; (b) not too formal, because that is so not Blythe; and (c) not too fussy to cut out, so as not to tax my short attention span. I ended up using this gorgeous Splandor font for inspiration, adjusting it to not be italicized and tweaking some of the flourishes to fit her name.

IMG_1120IMG_1121

I measured two sets of lines as guides – one for the B and T and one for the rest of the letters, sketched them in, then redrew them with a Sharpie and a ruler to get the cleanest lines possible. I affixed the contact paper to the glass and used my exact-o knife to cut out the letters. (This probably would’ve been way easier with a Silhouette, but, you know, I’m cheap.)

IMG_1122IMG_1123

With the stencil in place, I could apply the alcohol inks. I made these (again, cheap) by pulling the ink reservoirs out of Sharpie markers and soaking them in little mason jars of rubbing alcohol (50% because that’s what I had) overnight. I tested out some different methods on some spare glass (thanks, hoarding!) and ended up with this method. Using an eye-dropper, I dropped one color of ink on a square of felt wrapped around a scrap of 2×4, then stamped it onto the glass in a sort-of random pattern. Repeat with additional colors. I ended up using purple, green and light blue. Alcohol inks are messy and fumey and stain like nobody’s business, but they do produce pretty and unique results. With my handy-dandy food prep gloves and plenty of ventilation, this part went surprisingly quickly and easily.

IMG_1124IMG_1128

After I pulled off the stencil, I decided to make the lettering pop a bit more by edging the letters with a purple paint pen. I also had some textured wall paper sitting around (waiting for me to ever finish the never-ending hutch), so I lined the inside of the frame to add some additional interest.

IMG_1125

Both were hits with their respective children, so all in all, success!

String Art Sign

IMG_1071

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 FontSquirrel.com, 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!

IMG_1074

LEGO Table IKEA Hack

Why hello there! For my inaugural post (which will surely be preserved forever in the IMG_0979[1]Library of Congress at some point), here’s a LEGO table made largely from supplies from the furniture-equivalent of LEGO, IKEA. This is a birthday present for my nephew who will turn 4 in a week. Hopefully, he doesn’t read my blog yet.

IMG_0970[1]

Supplies

  • IKEA Lack side table
  • IKEA Trofast bin
  • IKEA Trofast drawer slides (I went to the Returns counter and asked about these – they gave them to me for free)
  • IKEA Grundtal tins
  • 4 LEGO 10″x10″ baseplates
  • Magnetic knife holder (I had one in my kitchen that was not useful, so I repurposed it here. Similar to this.)
  • Small scrap piece of wood or trim, about 6″ long (any length will work)
  • Serious glue (E6000, Loc-tite, etc. – whatever you prefer/have on hand)

{All links are here only as a reference. I’m no where near having my act together enough to have affiliate links on this thing.}

IMG_0971[1]

After I put the legs on, I remembered “Oh right, pictures for the blog.” I’ll get better at documenting the steps.

Before putting the legs on the table, I flipped the tabletop upside down and glued the rails and wood scrap to the underside for the bin. I did this via the super-scientific method of putting the rails on the sides of the bin, applying glue to the tops of the rails, then flipping the bin over and adjusting the position before the glue dried. I used E6000 which gives you a little bit of time to scooch things before it sets (forever). With the bin placed where I wanted it – near one edge of the table, sliding longways – I also glued down a scrap of trim at the back of the bin. The gentleman this table was designed for is affectionately known as “Baby Hulk”, so I didn’t want the bin sliding all the way through the rails and out the other side (and possibly into the drywall – he’s very strong).
IMG_0982[1]After letting the glue dry, I attached the legs to the table per IKEA’s ever so helpful pictogram instructions and flipped the table right-side up. I screwed the magnetic knife rack into the side of the table opposite the front of the bin, and stuck the magnetic tins on. These should be just the right size to store minifigs and other small specialty pieces that always make their way to the bottom of the bucket (I’m looking at you, clear single bricks).

Finally, I glued down the 4 baseplates. This is where I aaaaaaaaalmost messed the wholeIMG_0978[1] thing up. Did you know that if you put two baseplates right next to each other, the bricks won’t fit on the seam? I do… now. For some reason unknown, the edges of baseplates aren’t quite wide enough to create the proper spacing when placed up against another baseplate. I used some spare LEGO bricks (or, more accurately, had my sister swipe some from her children) and connected the baseplates to each other. After positioning the 4 plates where I wanted them, I unconnected one baseplate at a time, added a bunch of E6000 to the back, flipped it over, repositioned and reattached it with the bricks. After all 4 were glued down and connected to ensure proper spacing, I piled the heaviest books on my bookshelf on top and let the glue cure overnight.

All done!

IMG_0981[1]IMG_0980[1]