Monday, June 27, 2011

Handmade Canvas Teacher Bags

What I love about blog surfing is that it indulges my penchant for love at first sight. I see something and I know I have to make it that second. Not "when I get around to it", not next week. Now, now, NOW! You could say I am a bit impatient, but I prefer to say that I am passionate about my art. I become consumed with the excitement of trying out my latest idea or inspiration. This is a good thing because it means things get done. This is a bad thing because I have a family that I am devoted to, a full time job, and an unpaid as chauffeur to the stars (the 'stars' being my kids!) so sometimes I have to wait and wait and wait for a chance to try my new obsession.

When the stars are truly aligned, I get an idea or find inspiration and I have a justifiable reason or opportunity to do it right away. When I saw these adorable bags on a guest post that appeared on Come Together Kids, I think I actually gasped out loud! GORGEOUS! I had three teachers that needed gifts this year so there's the justification. AND, school doesn't finish until June 29 here so I still had time to do it.

I searched everywhere for pre-made canvas bags but no luck. Lucky for me, I have a nasty slipcover habit which means I have a lot of dropcloth bits lying around. I love the feeling of dropcloth canvas, it's so soft. Nothing in this project was complicated, just time consuming. It would have been a fun afternoon project to make one but three bags took up a good chunk of my weekend.

First I laid out two squarish pieces of dropcloth canvas (I had prewashed it when I bought it). My pieces were 24 x 30. I took one piece and using a blue marker and red marker, I marked the lines just as Rachel did in her excellent tutorial. I wrote the teacher's names on at that point, but I would recommend doing that once it is in bag form, it makes it easier when you are attaching the straps and you don't have to work around the words.

When you do the printing, put some cardboard or plastic sheeting behind the canvas so you can write on it with permanent marker without it bleeding through to the other side. Rachel embroidered hers which is absolutely gorgeous, but I knew I would never have time for that. My 5-year old is not fond of printing and I didn't want him to feel stressed so I had him print each teacher's name on a piece of paper.

 I used transfer paper under his paper and traced over his printing, then went over the lines with a permanent marker on to the canvas. I used the marker cap to mark the outside of the circles on the left and filled them in with the marker, but I decided not to do it with the other two bags. I noticed that Rachel had the same experience with hers - I just found that it felt "softer" without the black circles.

Now, to make it into a bag - put the right sides together and sew along the the sides and bottom. Finish the seams with a zigzag stitch or whatever way you like. (dropcloth is a very loose weave and if you don't finish all the edges really well, it will disintegrate when you wash it, if not before).

To make the straps, I cut 34-inch strips that were 2 inches wide (4 per bag). Sew the long edges together with the edge of the fabric against the side of the foot rather than the usual 5/8" edge - you don't need to finish the edges. Turn the strap inside out, iron the straps flat and then overstitch along each side, just about a 1/4 inch in from the edge. This will keep the straps nice and flat.

Trim the ends of each strap very slightly and then finish those edges really well. I use a zigzag stitch and went over each end twice. Pin the end of the strap inside the front edge of the bag, two inches down from the top edge on each side and sew just inside the edges of the strap. the straps should be 30 inches long for a shoulder bag, but of course you can make them whatever length you want. Same thing on the other side - now it's a a bag!

I have my little artist create some quick art for each bag and transferred that the same way I did the lettering. Once the design was transferred, I went over it with the marker and we filled in the drawings here and there for a pop of colour! Give the whole thing a good ironing on the high setting to set the ink.

What I love about this idea is the simplicity and the warm fuzzy feeling you get from the nostalgic look of a child's printing on paper. It's such a brilliant, personalized gift for a teacher that captures the beauty of those oh-so-important early years.

I am already looking forward to next year because I get to make three more bags. Well, maybe I will buy the bags next year and stick to drawing the lines.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Everything New is Old Again

I discovered my love for refinishing furniture when I was 11. I found an old steamer trunk and a few cans of paint in the basement - I painted the body light blue and all the trim in white. I even redid the hardware with metallic gold paint (come to think of it, why did we have metallic gold paint in the basement?) Anyway, I dragged it up two flights of stairs to my room and put it under my window to make a window seat and I thought I was quite glamorous. Sometimes, I would prop the top open with my stuffed animals artfully arranged. If there had been such a thing as a preteen home decor magazine, I would have been a regular subscriber!

Over the years I redid a few pieces here and there but once I moved to Toronto and lived in a tiny house with tiny people, I didn't have the time, space or energy. I bought whatever was least expensive at IKEA including this corner cabinet for our 10 x 10 living room. It was made of wood, not melamine, the base fit in the corner, the TV fit nicely on top and best of all, I could lock the doors and prevent the tiny people from sliding a peanut butter sandwich into the VCR. I always thought the top part of the unit  was hideous and it stayed in the box until we staged the house to sell it and I needed to make the living area into a dining room.

When we moved from Toronto, the thing somehow ended up in my house and try as I might, I couldn't get rid of it - I would glare at it every time I walked by and had every intention of selling it on Craig's list when I took these pictures

Blog surfing one day, I spied a dresser repainted in Behr Pyramid Gold and was instantly smitten with the most gorgeous warm yellow. Once I become obsessed with a paint colour all unpainted furniture better run for cover... I bought a can the next day and the first thing to catch my eye was the corner hutch - makeover time!

I gave the whole thing a really quick sanding with a course sanding sponge being careful to sand every which way with varying degrees of pressure and no particular pattern. Then I slopped on the paint with an old brush paying special attention to the sides of the hutch to ensure there were some really nice brush marks and texture in there. Broad flat spaces need character and I like things to look hand painted. My house has light issues so I can't always get good photos of my furniture where it lives. I actually had to move it to the opposite side of the hall just to get enough light!

After one generous coat, I gave it 24 hours to dry and went at it with the sanding sponge. I don't usually use Behr paint, I find it peels when you remove masking tape, etc., but in this case, it worked in my favour. I also discovered that the parts I sanded changed colour and looked deeper. I have never seen that happen before but it really added to the old, worn look and I love it.

I wiped it all down with a microfiber cloth and then a generous coat of walnut stain, left it for a few minutes, wiped it down again and finished with clear water based varnish. This was in the days before I discovered wax, which is my new favourite thing.

And now? I love it! I love the colour and I love how the refinish brings the character to the piece that it never had. It actually has quite a bit of personality, it just needed to be coaxed out and now it brightens up the space and gives it warmth and light. Yay!

I moved it out of the dining room and up to the top of my stairs where the three kids' rooms are so we styled accordingly and here it is in all its yellow glory! I love that I could take something new and make it look worn in and comfortable. The best thing is that this hutch has a sister desk that is getting painted this summer and I will be sure to share.

My favourite part was styling the shelves. My 5-year old was on board right away and helped me find all the pieces including the sweet little wooden car we found in a thrift store and his beloved wheeled puppy and of course the baby photo of... guess who?

I love the colour so much that when I did my Numbered Staircase, I used it again. So, if you need a gorgeous warm yellow, grab yourself a swatch of Pyramid Gold and cast your eye around the house. Surely, you own something that would look better in yellow?

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Shoot for the Moon, Baby!

If you have read my Give Me a Sign post, you already know I love signs. I actually love all typography in any form. I am obsessed with fonts and I spend way too much time surfing for new ones. In fact, one of my favourite online games to play with my 9 year old son is Cheese or Font? Sad, I know... but admitting it is the first step.

The Lettered Cottage is one of my regular blog haunts. Kevin and Layla never fail to astound me with their gorgeous projects and designs and I was thrilled with their latest DIY Art How To Day. The PB inspired sign was gorgeous, manageable and just in time for a baby shower for a friend who is expecting a boy.

My husband helped me out with the building - we had 1 x 2s on hand for the frame but we tried three stores and couldn't find the fill-it strips that are shown in the Lettered Cottage post. I was stumped but my husband came up with the great idea of cutting our own! A 2 x 4 board for $2.50 was cut into strips somewhere between a 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch thick, 22 inches wide and about 30 inches long just because I liked the way it looked. Nail gunned it together, sanded it down a bit and raided my craft paint bin. Craft paint is a favourite of mine - I like the fact that you can buy a very small amount of paint in a wide variety of colours. I used it for the stripes and numbers in my Numbered Staircase and for my  Forgotten to Fabulous dresser. Really, I love all kinds of paint, I think if I worked in a paint store I would bring home stray cans like lost puppies but I have a LOT of craft paint and this year, I am determined to start using up my project supplies

I had planned on a light blue suitable for a baby boy but I settled on navy for a more timeless look as he grows older and doesn't want a "baby" vibe. One light, uneven coat of navy blue and let that dry, then gave it a good sanding all over with whatever sanding sponge was closest. I haven't tried my secret technique with any other kind of paint, but if you wipe the craft painted surface with a damp cloth or spray with a spray bottle, it sands off beautifully (you might need to rinse your sanding sponge a few times).

Alphabet stamps with clear plastic backing from Michael's (photo courtesy of google) The clear backing lets you position the letters perfectly each time - if the letter didn't stamp properly, I could just put it back down right on top of the first try. I am hatching a secret plan to make my own; if I can figure it out, I will be sure to share!

Now for the words, this is where I always get stuck. I have a slight, well actually massive indecision problem. Especially when I am making something for someone else. I got some ideas from the Lettered Cottage creation and an internet search and I even came up with a few on my own! Typed them out in capital letters on the computer so I could decide on the order and vary the lengths of the phrases. With my white paint, paint brush and letter stamps at the ready I dove in - brush on paint, position stamp, gently press down, lift stamp, repeat.  

Now, with the words in place

My kids were unanimous in choosing "DANCE IN THE RAIN" as their favourite and gave me thumbs up on the font. Brushing the paint onto the stamp makes it splotchy so I didn't distress the finished words - here are a few details


I was really pleased with the final paint look - it has a real denim feel to it! I applied a coat of furniture wax and buffed it up, making it feel even more worn in and soft but it didn't feel finished. It felt like it was missing something. I poked around and found some old painted wood bits that had once been on my flower boxes.

All it was missing was a bit of sparkle! Not too much but just enough to be a point of interest without overwhelming the point of the piece which is the beautiful words of wisdom. I chose to highlight my favourite phrase, "SHOOT FOR THE MOON" so the moon and stars were perfect. They were already white, I distressed them a bit and waxed them up - trusty glue gun in hand, they were positioned and attached within minutes. 

Done! I am so obsessive over tiny details and I think that's why I like the shabby, distressed, worn in look. The more scrappy it is, the better it looks. No worrying that the paint is even, etc. 

Too big for any gift bag, I wrapped it in brown paper and a full length of bright pink organza ribbon which the mom-to-be promptly tied around her belly and declared the gift to be "gorgeous". I got two orders for new signs right there at the shower - I think it was a hit!

And now, of course, each of my kids wants one!

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Project Fever in Full Force

I am very happy to be a Canadian girl. Most of my family actually lives in the U.S. (Atlanta, San Diego and Seattle). They were all born here but they've been in the States for years and years - I have made many, many wonderful trips to Texas and I even got to go to California and Georgia. Both my brothers are married to American girls and all their kids are American so I like to think that right beside the maple leaf stamped on my heart, there's a few stars and stripes too!

But, I live in Canada and that means winter. Lots of winter. It's only been the last couple of weeks that I can get outside and get on to some of my big projects. This summer's plans include pulling out the weed garden in the pool area and putting in the patio stones leftover from my patio installation two years ago. That way, we will be able to fit a table and chairs big enough so that all three of my kids can sit down at the same time, doesn't that sound nice?

I put the old patio set up for sale on Kijiji (like Craigslist) so that will make some room. I have to finish painting the gorgeous lounge chairs that my husband made for me last summer - we have a deal: he makes it into furniture and I make it pretty. Last year, I didn't quite get around to making these pretty - but I'm getting there - after I took this photo, I got about half way through (those slats are a real killer!)

And because we are moving our aluminum patio set into the enclosed pool area, I will need a new table on the patio, right? After careful consideration, I picked out the table I wanted, chose the paint colour and bought the paint - how does it look?


Ok, so I still have a bit of work ahead of me, but I am really looking forward to it. It rained today which set me back a bit, oh and that full time job thing gets in they way... but we're moving forward and that's all that matters!

And today, we settled on new colours for the house - we are getting the entire exterior repainted in Benjamin Moore's Monterey White and Georgian Green. We have been saving up for a long time to get it done; it's too big a project to do ourselves and the house really needs it - it's quite dreadful right now - I'm sure I will be getting Thank You notes from the neighbours!

I will be sure to share the finished projects...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

From Forgotten to Fabulous

What a great weekend! Of course, by great, I mean it rained all day Saturday so we finally got the spindles in on my staircase. If you have seen my Numbered Staircase post you will notice that while we have a lovely banister, there's just a big 'ol open space underneath it. It was like that when we bought the house and we didn't know how to fix it. But, since we have become super DIYers we have tackled all kinds of projects and this one has been on my list for a very long time. I have to prime and paint them, but I will be sure to share.

The really big news is that I finished what has to be one of my favourite projects of all time. Last Monday I shared that day's curb find. It was badly broken on one side, painted in a hideous combination of baked beans brown and silly putty beige and it weighed a ton. May I present once again for your viewing pleasure... The Ugly Brown Dresser... brace yourselves, it's pretty bad.

Ugh. What's the complete opposite of "swoon"? I knew I could get the paint off, and fix the side but what really stumped me were those strange panels on the front. I really had no idea what to do with this baby. The very next day when I was blog surfing I found Sarah's Treasure Chest - it could be my dresser's long lost sister! Sarah's is stunning and I loved what she had done with it but I was still stumped. I just kept staring at those panels and it finally hit me - I would make them the highlight of the whole piece. 

I started by stripping off the paint. I try to avoid sanding wood whenever possible (other than distressing of course!) Sanding takes off the patina that builds up over time and makes wood look and feel old and authentic. So I got out my large can of Circa 1850 Paint & Stain Remover - I apply it with an old paint brush, let it do its thing (you will see the paint start to bubble up and peel) and then scrape it off. I collect the scraped off paint in a pie plate and toss it into a plastic bag. I only ever strip furniture outside so I wait all winter to get back into refinishing mode. I have tried the eco versions of paint stripper but with a real hit and miss result and if it's a miss, the paint doesn't come off and the stripper is almost impossible to remove. So I generally stick with the 1850.

The paint was old and crispy so most of it came off pretty easily - I discovered that the dresser had one been painted white and the front panels were green. The white was very cooperative and came off nicely, the green? Not so much. I didn't worry about it too much since I was planning on completely covering the piece in a creamy white paint.

Though I was planning on painting the dresser, I wanted all that brown and beige paint off - it was oil based and glossy and would have been hard to cover nicely, Also, all the nice detail on the piece was almost completely filled in with three coats of paint. The 1850 took everything out nicely and I used an old sandpaper sponge to brush the remnants out of the grooves.


I love the curve detail on the top drawer! All three drawers have a working lock mechanism intact and the top two drawers have the brass inset in the keyhole. No keys though - lucky I don't own anything valuable...

So Saturday afternoon, spindles are done and I am dying to get back to that dresser. I knew I wanted a creamy white all over but I didn't have any on hand. I mixed up a bunch of my old craft paint to a creamy white and headed outside. Funny thing was, when I sat down to start painting, I couldn't do it. 

The beautiful warm wood was calling to me. I knew I didn't want to leave it natural but I couldn't imagine it all covered up. I started to picture something found in the basement of an old French bakery and I wanted it to look really worked in. 

I settled on a light coat all over with a dry brush technique, finished the piece, let it dry and then came back to give it a gentle sanding  in all directions until I was happy with the look.

The handles it arrived with were cute, but too small and I didn't want anything to distract from the final look. I had a set of knobs that I picked up at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore 

and I painted those with the same creamy white colour, with a bit of bright green brushed on and antiqued with a bit of brown paint - I put a coat of wax on top to give it a lustre.

Now, for the best part - remember when I said I was picturing an old, working piece of furniture with the front panels as the focal point? What is more attention grabbing than chalkboard paint? I brushed on one coat with an old brush and as soon as it was dry, used a fine sandpaper sponge to distress it - hello old green paint! Every time I send one of my kids to get something out of a drawer they ask, "which drawer?" so I thought my idea was very inspired indeed! I had originally planned to paint on the words and distress a bit, but then I realized that was silly - this way I can use it anywhere I want for years to come...

I used Minwax clear furniture wax - this was my first time using wax and I am totally smitten. I love the finish and it gives it the perfect amount of lustre without an all-over sameness - very authentic.

My house is light-challenged so I wasn't able to get a shot of it where it lives now - right in front of my bay window in the dining room - but here it is! Abandoned on a curb, she turned her life around in four days and is now very well loved and living a better life in my dining room.

And I love her so! I am absolutely thrilled with the way it turned out. It's really almost like a thick stained look rather than a painted look, but I love the way the old paint patches show through ...

 ... and that green paint peeking through the black is divine.

Free dresser, old craft paint, $2 worth of paint remover, $1 worth of furniture wax, and $1 for the knobs. I would say the total project cost is about $4.

I don't know the history of this piece but I know her future will involve me staring at her adoringly!

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