Looking for a fun way to display your favorite Instagram shots? Visit A Beautiful Mess for my step-by-step tutorial on making Instagram Votive Candles with DIY photo transfer!
Looking for a fun way to display your favorite Instagram shots? Visit A Beautiful Mess for my step-by-step tutorial on making Instagram Votive Candles with DIY photo transfer!
Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MyWayToVeg #CollectiveBias
Looking for a way to stand out in the lunchroom crowd? I've been seeing a lot of blog posts lately featuring bento bags, cute little lunch sacks that tie shut from the top. Bento bags are Japanese in origin, inspired by the fascinating art of Furoshiki. Similar projects are used to wrap gifts and to hold or transport things in and around the home - in the most beautiful way possible!
Believe it or not, these ethereal clusters of amethyst are actually made from soap! The first time I saw this technique being used was in a DIY video on Youtube. I was totally mesmerized, and knew that I was going to have to try it out.
By the way, these soaps have been a big hit with everyone I have gifted them to. They make excellent holiday or birthday presents, and making them in six bar batches makes them super easy to stock up on.
While this project can be a tad time consuming, the method is surprisingly easy, and very forgiving! The crystals actually look better when they are cut a little differently every time so you don't have to worry too much about keeping your technique consistent. You can just slice away - happily embracing any imperfections.
If you'd like to see this project in action, check out this video tutorial from mimi'z world on Youtube.
If you are able to work with a double-boiler instead of the microwave, that inexpensive piece of equipment will make this project a whole lot easier. Because this is a layered soap, the melted soap you are working with may harden between steps. The double boiler makes keeping the melted soap warm a breeze, and allows you to reheat it gently. Microwaves can also make soap feel dry and brittle - especially when the same base is melted over and over.
Amethyst Soap Gems
Shop the Project:
- 2 pounds Clear Melt & Pour Soap Base
- 4 teaspoons Lavender Essential Oil, divided
- up to 1/2 teaspoon Purple Mica
- 1 1/8 teaspoon Silver Mica
- Rubbing alcohol in Mini Sprayer Bottle
- Circle Soap Mold
- Heatproof Measuring Cups
- Double Boiler
- Cello Bags
- Dice 1 1/2 pounds soap base and melt in double boiler on stove top or in microwave using short, 30-second bursts.
- Remove soap from heat, let stand 30 seconds, then add essential oil. Stir slowly until oil has combined.
- Fill six soap molds about 1/3 of the way up with soap. Spritz soap with alcohol then let stand for 2-4 minutes, or until the top has formed a thick skin.
- Pour about 1/2 the remaining melted soap base in a heatproof measuring cup. Add small pinch of purple mica and small pinch silver mica. Stir well to blend. Pour the mixture between the soap molds - leaving about 1/3 of space. Spritz soap with alcohol then let stand for 2-4 minutes, or until the top has formed a thick skin.
- Add about 1/8 teaspoon purple mica and 1/8 teaspoon silver mica to remaining melted soap base. Stir well, then pour into molds - topping them off. Spritz soap with alcohol then let stand for 2-4 minutes, or until the top has formed a thick skin. Transfer to refrigerator and chill soap for 30 minutes or until completely hardened.
- Turn hardened soaps out onto a clean cutting board and use a sharp knife to slice the bars into 1/2 to 1 inch rectangles. Make sure to cut so that each rectangle shows 3 layers of color.
- Slice the tops of each rectangle at random angles to give them a faceted and pointed shape. This forms the crystals. Reserve the shreds of soap cut from the and mince them into gem dust.
- Clean out the double boiler, chop remaining soap base and add it to the pot to melt. Once melted, add the remaining essential oil and silver mica and stir well.
- Pour melted soap base into six soap molds. Spritz with alcohol, then immediately begin stuffing the molds with soap crystals and gem dust. Fill each mold as much as you can. The more crystals each soap contains the more sturdy the finished soap will be.
- Allow the soaps to cool and harden completely before removing them from their molds. After they are removed, wrap them in airtight cello bags or saran wrap to keep them from sweating.
Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CreateWithCommand #CollectiveBias
The warm colors of autumn make it the perfect season for handmade decor. Natural materials, like leaves, branches, and acorns make for classic yet compelling subjects - especially with the addition of a little creativity.
This project uses gold and gray craft paint to embellish simple paper leaves. The result is a simple, but modern looking piece of artwork that adds a touch of wistful autumn spirit to its surroundings.
I used paper leaves because here in Austin we aren't blessed with much colorful foliage this time of year. Paper leaves are also a bit easier to work with and come in bright, predictable colors!
If you have them handy, I highly encourage the use of natural leaves for this project. They do tend to be a little more fragile, but their natural beauty is utterly magical and totally worth the extra effort.
If you are using natural leaves, try to pick ones that are thick, small, and sturdy as they will be the easiest to work with.
Autumn Leaf Mobile
- 1 10-inch wooden embroidery hoop
- 1 skein cream/gold yarn
- 1 spool cream colored embroidery thread
- Eight leaves (real or paper)
- Gold craft paint
- Gray craft paint
- 1 wooden bead
- 1 3m Command™ Small or Medium Wire Toggle Hook (or Command™ Ceiling Hook)
- Paint the tips of your leaves with gray and gold paint. I used gold on half of my leaves and gray on the others.
- Wrap embroidery hoop tightly with yarn. Start by fastening a tight knot to the hoop, then wrap the yarn tightly around the hoop, finishing with a second knot at the end.
- When the paint on your leaves has dried, use a mini hole punch to punch two holes in the top of each leaf. If you are using natural leaves (or fragile paper), place a tiny piece of clear tape over the area before punching your holes.
- Cut pieces from the spool of thread in the following lengths: 28", 25", 22", 19", 16", 13", 10", and 7". (8 total.) Tie one end of each thread to a leaf.
- Tie the other ends of the strings to the hoop at 3" intervals. Snip off any extra thread from the mobile.
- Cut 3 20" pieces of thread from the spool. Tie the threads to the hoop at 8" intervals, spacing them as evenly as you can. Thread the ends of these threads together through the wooden bead and tie a loose knot to bind them together.
I used 3m Command™ Brand Hooks to hang my mobile. This was a really perfect brand for me to partner with since I truly do use their products all the time.
I love how 3m Command™ Brand Hooks and Strips allow me to re-invent my decor without damaging my walls. This way, I can change up decor for every season, or whenever the mood strikes me.
If I'm feeling creative and I want to craft up a new piece of wall art, a seasonal garland, or feature a favorite photo, I can quickly re-position anything on the wall to make room. Using damage-free 3m Command™ Brand products makes switching up my home's look an easy and painless process.
The best part? No spackle, no touch-up paint, no damaged walls!
- Choose a spot to hang your mobile. I used the outer edge of a floating shelf to suspend my mobile over a dresser. Use a wall hook to hang it as I've shown here, or use a ceiling hook to suspend your mobile from the ceiling.
( Keep in mind that 3m Command™ Brand Hooks work best on smooth, finished indoor surfaces. )
- Clean the area you wish to place your 3m Command™ Brand Hook and adhere it to the surface using these instructions from 3m.
- You may need to wiggle the bead up and down a little in order to make sure your mobile is level. Adjust as needed, then enjoy!
I shopped for this project at my local Target. Truth be told, a good deal of our autumn decor was not made by hand, but in fact purchased at Target. Their seasonal stuff is dangerously cute. You can find a huge assortment of 3m Command™ Brand Hooks and Strips in the home improvement section at Target.
How are you decorating your home for autumn? I'd love to see what you are working on! Share your photos with me by email, or by tagging @MaryMakesGood on social media.
Need some ideas for dressing up your place? For more great content, please visit CreateWithCommand.com.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for helping support Mary Makes Good!
Decorating for fall is so much fun. Truth be told, it's my favorite season when it comes to decorations. I love the warm colors, the mellow spicy scents, and the natural themes of autumn. Leaves, feathers, turkeys - fall festivities really line up with everything I already adore. That makes working on seasonal art projects fun and easy.
Another thing that helps keep fall crafting simple is a good craft kit. I picked up this set of wooden garland and a package of foil transfers on my most recent Target run thinking they would be just right for a quick crafting session. The wooden feathers are already cut, sanded, and ready to go - all prepped and ready for color.
Shop the Project
I used sponge-tipped markers to color my feathers in a pretty sunset ombre pattern. This same technique could be achieved with watercolor paints as well. Colored pencil, crayon, or tempera paint could also be used to color this garland, but the effect would look very different.
To get the graduated tone you see here, just start with the lightest color (in this case that would be yellow) and color in about 2/3 of the feather. Apply the next deepest shade (orange) to the bottom half of the feather, overlapping some of the yellow. Use you fingertips or a cotton swap to blend the colors a little while the ink is still wet. Last, apply just a small touch of your darkest color (red) to the very bottom of your feather. Again, blend the color a little before it dries.
The last step in decorating the feathers is applying the foil transfer. This kit from Target is very easy to use. Just cut from the transfer sheet using a pair of scissors, remove the paper backing, then lay it (sticky side down) over the wooden feather. Rub the transfer with a popsicle stick, then gently peel away the plastic. You'll need to remove any excess foil from the edges or hollowed out portions of your feathers. You can do this by rubbing those spots gently with your fingers.
String the feathers onto one long piece of twine to create a garland. Or, you can make individual hanging ornaments by cutting the twine into 5-inch pieces and tying the pieces of string to individual feathers. That's a great way to make holiday gifts or gorgeous place cards for a holiday table.
Even little Charlie got in on the decorating fun. I think I might like his feathers best of all.
CC has always been an inquisitive child, but lately his curiosity has really taken off. He inspects everything with such scrutiny. When he discovers anything resembling a switch, button, or dial he becomes obsessed. Scott and I decided to create a little busy board for him so that he could push, pull, turn, and jingle to his heart's content. We bought a large circular hunk of wood to use as the base, then filled it up with odds and ends from the hardware store.
The hardest part was probably drilling out hollows for the light switches to sit into. Otherwise it was just a matter of drilling small holes and screwing in screws. We cut small pieces of wood to create little doors complete with tiny hinges, knobs, and fasteners. I hid stickers behind the doors to make opening them up a bit more fun.
All in all we probably spent too much on the project - around forty dollars. In hindsight, we could have saved a bit of cash by using a plain piece of plywood for the backing or picking up more of the hardware at a dollar store. We did get one portion of the project for free though. It turns out that the key-making station at Lowes has a whole box full of dud keys that are free for the taking! We picked out four keys from the little collection of misfits and added a forgotten spare from a former car that we had lying around to give CC his very own keychain.
Did he like it? You bet he did. He liked it so much that he had to check out every inch, including the underside. After flipping it over he began dragging it around the room to use as a wobbly surfboard-step stool combo. He's crafty alright. Our next step will be attaching this sucker to the wall.
Would you like to make your own busy board? This is a great project because you can really go any direction you like with it. You can include the gizmos that your kiddo would like best and keep the rest as fancy or as simple as you like. Here are some links to help get you started. You can also check out my Busy Board Pinboard on Pinterest for more ideas.
Disclosure: I was compensated by Minted.com for sharing a review of their retail site. As always, my words, ideas, opinions, body, soul, etc. are my own.
I've discovered that having a child means being surprised on a daily basis - not just by random shrieks or mystery wetness but by how quickly these tiny humans become aware of the world around them. It seems like every day CC does something that I had no idea he could do yet.
For example, he began showing an interest in artwork when he was just a few months old. It started with a glossy stare at a colorful print, then later he became so excited by certain pictures or photographs that he would wave his arms and coo or chuckle. These days he can spend minutes (these are like hours in baby time) gazing at a picture in a book, tracing every line on a page and smiling when he finds one that is especially compelling.
Our friend, Tara, gave us a painting she made of a chimp before CC was born and it is by far is favorite piece of art in the house. He loves to rub his little hand over the chunky texture of the paint.
He seriously can't get enough of that chimp. He's similarly enthralled with every other piece of visual art in the house - so much so that I've had to move anything framed with glass or made of ceramic that his ever-growing arms can reach. The thing about kids and art is that it isn't enough for them to just look. They want to touch too. Some might even say that they need to.
I was really impressed when my sister (who blogs over at Scissorina) recently installed a miniature kid-friendly art gallery in my nephew's room. Sarah chose some prints and photographs that she knew he would love - including some artwork made by CC and a family portrait - and then framed them in simple frames made of wood and plastic. By removing the glass she made the pictures safe for the rough treatment of toddler hands, and sturdy enough to withstand all of his curiosity and appreciation.
The folks at Minted.com contacted me recently to see if I would like to try out some of their beautiful products which include prints, stationary, photo gifts, and even fabric by the yard - all featuring artwork created by independent designers. Many of their products can be customized too so you can make prints, cards, and party favors with your name on them. They even have a gorgeous line of wedding and party invitations.
After browsing their site, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to furnish CC with a little art gallery of his own. I picked out three prints for his room and personalized each of them. Minted.com's limited edition framed prints start at just $29.00 and use plexi-glass - a big plus if you are decorating a child's room.
Tips for Sharing Art With Little Kids
- Make It Safe - Avoid using frames with glass or breakable embellishments. Instead, choose simple sturdy frames with plastic to cover the print - or just remove the glass from a traditional frame. Artwork on canvas is a great option too. Use Command Picture-Hanging Strips instead of nails and metal hardware to hang the artwork and do your best to mount it flush to the wall. There is a great tutorial on this method of picture hanging here.
- Hang Art at Eye Level - Most of the time artwork is hung at the eye level of an adult. Try hanging the artwork where your child can enjoy it - at their eye level, two or three feet off the ground.
- Choose Artwork Your Kids Will Love - This might sound obvious but it is very easy to get caught up in the fun of interior design and forget that this particular project is about engaging your kid. Children tend to be drawn to colorful images with plenty of contrast and well-defined shapes. It can also be fun to look for artwork that reflects your child's interests. CC is obsessed with cats so I made sure at least one of his prints featured cute kitties. Kids also love to look at faces of people they know. Adding a family portrait is likely to delight your little one.
- Invest In Art That Grows With Your Child - If you'd like to keep the same artwork hanging for years try to avoid buying pieces that are overly babyish. Look for artwork that would appeal to both toddlers and older kids.
Another really fun option is to forgo buying prints and make your own art instead. You can even include your little ones in the project. Check out my Sharing Art With Little Kids Pinterest Board for tons of great ideas. Here are a few to get you started:
Scott and I picked up an unfinished dresser from Ikea for the nursery recently and decided to dress it up with a little paint and fabric. This project was pretty easy, taking just a few extra tools and materials to transform a plain piece of furniture into something more unique. Here's how we did it.
Upholstered Ikea Tarva Dresser
A few notes on the materials:
Lay out the pieces of the dresser on a large tarp or piece of cardboard. (We used the packaging from Ikea as a work surface.)
Mix one tub of paint with an equal amount of water, then use a rag to rub the color onto the bare wood. This technique is called white-washing, and you can learn more about it here. Paint all of the wooden parts of the dresser, then let them dry. To darken the color, repeat with a second or third coat of paint.
When the paint is completely dry, lay the fabric beneath one of the drawer fronts. Lay the fabric right-side down, and the drawer front inside-up. Use a pencil to trace the shape of the drawer front onto the back of the fabric, and mark the knob-holes with the pencil as well.
Set the drawer front aside, then cut the fabric about 3 inches outside of the lines traced from the drawer front. Repeat this with the rest of the fabric, cutting one panel for each drawer. Punch small holes into the fabric for each knob hole.
Set the drawer front back onto one of the panels of fabric, then use the staple gun to adhere the fabric onto the drawer. Fold the fabric under before stapling to avoid fraying. Be careful not to cover any of the grooves or holes in the drawer piece. You'll need those to be accessible during assembly.
Assemble the dresser according to the directions from Ikea. If you are using fancy knobs, simply install those instead of the wood ones when the time comes.
If you end up with drawers that are too thickly covered, they will stick. You can fix this, but it's kind of a pain in the butt. You'll need to remove the fabric from the bottom of each drawer front, then sand down the bottom edge of the drawer by 1/4 inch or more. Then, re-attach the fabric and try fitting them in again.
We are still waiting to add a few big things to the nursery, like curtains and a new mattress, but for the most part, we are awfully close to having it finished. I thought it might be fun to share a few shots of the details here while we are waiting for the last bits to come together.
This is the mobile that we have hanging over Babeleo's crib. It was the first thing I purchased for the nursery. I found it on Etsy, from a really neat artist who creates pretty things from driftwood. Check out Sunset Driftwood on Etsy to find more mobiles and art pieces.
The map in the background is a small one that I salvaged from my Travel Themed Baby Shower. I have dreams of replacing it with a much larger print, then tacking it with map pins for every place that our family has traveled.
I hung this teddy bear beach print toward the foot of the crib. This print hung in my own room as a child, as well as all of my sisters' rooms. It's from the Teddy Bear Shop in Newport, Rhode Island. I'm not sure if the shop exists anymore, but it was a favorite when we were kids. We spent summers in a little cottage on the beach back then, so this print brings back some really marvelous memories.
Above the print are my homemade Prayer Flags. They share some of my favorite Buddhist prayers and quotes from the Dalai Lama. In the corner is another seagull. My bestie, Melissa, bought me this mobile as a shower gift, and I love it. It's also from Etsy, from a shop called Mobile Art.
A little more Etsy art, this candle holder came from another shop that I am totally enamoured with, EarthSteps. In addition to the pretty mermaid and dolphin on the front, the back features a quote from my childhood hero, Jaques Cousteau. "I am the sea, and the sea is me." And just in case you were wondering, this candle holder contains an LED tealight - no pyrotechnics in Babeleo's future.
The little ceramic Earth next to the candle is one of my very favorite handmade posessions. My sister, Heather, crafted this little globe in art class way back when, and I have loved it ever since. The best part of the piece is hidden. It opens up to reveal a shiny molten core in red glaze. I am not 100% sure how it ended up in my posession. I may have stolen it. I'm certainly not in a hurry to give it back.
While I'm pretty sure that Babeleo is 100% clueless when it comes to fine art, I decided to add a little portrait of one of my own favorite artists to the room. I printed a coloring sheet of Frida Kahlo's portrait from the internet, dressed it up with some crayons, and displayed it in a frame that I scored from a recent trip to Goodwill. Fancy!
You can spot another tiny DIY project just below the frame. I covered the light switch plate with some travel themed craft paper leftover from my shower. Scott Bobleo thought this was pretty cool and asked me why all of our light switches weren't so well dressed. Good point, Bobleo.
This little collection of prints and shelves displays some of the international tchotchkes I've been collecting. There is a little pig from Peru, a cowbell from Switzerland, and a golden rooster from Taiwan. Up top are two scuba diving figures from my own childhood keeping watch over a giant Chinatown goldfish.
The story of Ping the duck, a print of Babeleo's own Chinese Zodiac animal, and a poster from the Willie Nelson Heartbreaker Banquet are all here to complete the slightly strange collection. I have to admit that it doesn't exactly scream "baby", but it does share some of my favorite memories of exploring our world. Since Babeleo is brand new here, I thought that might be nice.
Because I am a weirdo, and I love weird stuff, there had to be a certain element of weirdness involved in this room. My opportunity came along after my sisters sent me home with six cute animal jars from my shower. I cleaned the dill pickle popcorn out of them pretty fast, then set about finding tiny things to fill them with.
Each jar contains a different theme of tiny toy. One jar has sea creatures, another has mini kewpie dolls. There is a jar full of tiny paper flags, another with dinosaurs, etc. and so on and so forth. Scott thinks it's creepy. He's probably right.
But we also have some normal toys. The basket is filled with homemade softies, including the fabric beach balls I made and the cute bunny teether we got from Scissorina. Next to the basket is an adorable ABC Abacus from my friend, Mad Betty, and some classic plastic toys passed on to us by another blog friend, Elizabeth from Local Savour.
It's all coming together. I'm looking forward to sharing the rest with you soon. We've got a hacked Ikea dresser, DIY picture frames made from stock molding, and my Mom's custom made curtains all coming soon. By the time we get around to sharing the finished room there very well may be a baby in it.
As our budget gets pulled tighter and tighter, and Babeleo's arrival creeps closer, I'm being forced to rethink a few things when it comes to decorating our nursery. I had a truly lovely list of gorgeous handmade decorations going on Etsy. Several months ago, purchasing those pretty things seemed totally reasonable. Now, however, reality has reared her obnoxious head, and is making me realize that we just can't afford to blow a bunch of money on prettying up a baby room.
I had a "waaaaaah" moment there, but soon remembered that I am a very crafty person. Why on Earth would I need (or even want) to buy those things from other artists when I could make similar versions myself? Most of the things I had my eye on were very simple, after all. Beautiful, no doubt, but also totally re-creatable.
The first thing I decided to tackle was prayer flags. I'd had my eye on these, and these. So pretty! But how would I add words or pictures to my flags? Screen printing? Hand painting? Fabric stamps? After a quick look through my crafting stash I discovered three sheets of printable fabric. Hallelujah! This stuff is PERFECT for this kind of a project.
I hopped on InDesign and whipped up six little flags to print out on the three sheets of paper. I "borrowed" some illustrations from the internet, then downloaded two pretty handwritten fonts from Dafont.com (I used Dawning of a New Day and Sunshine in My Soul.) If you are looking for a good resource of Buddhist artwork, check out the Buddhist eLibrary.
I combined each picture with one of my favorite Buddhist prayers and quotes from the Dalai Lama. You could easily customize this project to suit any kind of sentiment or spiritual belief you like though. Bible verses, song lyrics, or famous quotes would all work nicely on prayer flags.
Next, I rummaged through my fabric stash to find six small pieces that looked nice together. I picked a few different quilter's cottons, and one random green knit. I also used some satin ribbon, a handful of jingle bells, and a little bit of embroidery floss.
How to Make Prayer Flags
I started by printing out my fabric. I used InDesign to make printable PDFs, but you could use any kind of Word or document program that you are comfortable with. Just make sure your page is formatted in a landscape position so that you'll have enough room to make two flags on each sheet. You can download a copy of the PDF I used here: Download Prayer Flags
After you print the fabric, cut out each flag individually. Try to make sure each one is well centered on its little rectangle.
Now it's time to cut the fabric for the back of the flags. Each flag needs two layers of fabric. I cut each flag at about the same size, a few inches wider and longer than the flags I had printed. Give each flag an extra two inches on the top so that it can be folded over later. I cut each of my flags into 8" x 11" rectangles.
Use an iron to adhere the printable fabric to the top panel of your cut fabric (according to the instructions that come with your fabric). I used the cotton setting with no steam to attach my printed fabric. After they cool, run a zig-zag stitch around the printed fabric to make sure it's totally secure. Using a contrasting colored thread also makes the flags extra pretty.
Lay the top and bottom panels of fabric for each flag together, wrong sides in, right sides out. Use the zig-zag stitch (or a serger, if you are so lucky as to have one) to bind them together. Again, I like using a contrasting thread for this part. Stitch all the way around all of the outer edges.
Fold the top edge over by about an inch, with the folded fabric on the back of the flag, the straight stitch across the bottom edge of the fold, leaving a good sized hold for you to thread a ribbon or cord through the top.
Get yourself a nice long piece of ribbon or flat cord, then thread it through the top of the flags. Run an inch or so of straight stitch over where to ribbon sits inside each flag. This will help stop them from moving around on the ribbon. Leave at least few inches between each flag, and be careful not to let the ribbon twist.
After all of the flags are attached, cut four six-inch lengths of embroidery thread. Use the thread to tie the jingle bells in the spaces between the flags.
Now hang your flags somewhere lovely! Here they are in Babeleo's room. (...which is coming along nicely. Don't you think?)
Our second bedroom has been used as my office and craft room since we moved in. About a year ago, we had a roomate move in to our third bedroom, so this room also started serving double-duty as a guest room. The room is changing purpose once again, and will soon become a nursery. I'm pretty excited about its current transformation, so I thought I'd share some of our plans and progress up to this point.
After our roomate moved out at the beginning of last month we started shuffling things up to make room for Babeleo. My office moved to the loft/den upstairs, and the guest room returned to its old home in the third bedroom. Moving all of this out and re-organizing it elsewhere was no small task, but we were fueled by nesting instincts and made pretty short work of it all.
How We Picked Our Flooring Material
We were left with a fairly bare room painted in grayish blue with a cream-colored carpet. The carpet had seen better days, and considering that this will be the child of two allergy-prone people, we thought swapping out the floor for wood would be a good idea. Which kind of wood flooring to use became quite the debate. Seeing as I knew pretty much nothing about flooring before this project, this was mostly a debate between my husband and himself, though I was often called in to mediate.
Having grown up in the Northeast, Scott and I both love wood floors. As pretty as they are, they can also be really expensive and somewhat difficult to install. Besides looks, another benefit of a real wood flooring is that you can refinish it in the future. When you consider the lifetime value of real wood, it might actually be a better investment longterm. However, if you are on a tight budget, like we are, that might not be an investment you are prepared to make!
After some serious deliberation, we went with a floating laminate. Specifically, we used Allen & Roth Laminate Flooring from Lowes. These are basically particle board slats topped with wood veneer. They lock together, and come pre-padded, which saved us a bundle on glue and padding, which we would have had to purchase with other kinds of laminate floors.
We waited around for a good amount of the stuff to go on clearance. Flooring gets returned pretty often, and it's frequently damaged. By seeking out damaged boxes we were able to save about 30-40% on the cost of the floor. Of course, we had to buy extra boxes of flooring to account for the damaged boards in each pack, but even with that cost in mind, the numbers landed in our favor.
Once we had our flooring we were ready to get to work. The first thing we needed to do (after cleaning out the room) was to remove the old carpet. In some parts of the country you can pull up an old carpet and find original wood floors beneath. This doesn't happen very often in Texas, and certainly not in houses that are less than thirty years old. We weren't surprised to find a bare concrete floor beneath the carpet and padding. That being said, I highly recommend checking before running out to buy a bunch of laminate. You never know.
After removing the carpet, Scott Bobleo used a couple of huge levels to check the floor's shape. If your floor is too un-level, you may need to pour down a special base to even it out. Luckily, our floor was level enough to skip that step. One step we couldn't skip, however, was giving the flooring forty eight hours to acclimate to our home's humidity. It's a good thing that Scott knows what he's doing, because I never would have guessed that such a thing was necessary. Apparently, if you don't give the flooring time to expand or contract to your home's climate it can cause the floor to buckle, crack, and junk up after installation. That could be a very expensive mistake.
How We Did It
On Sunday we were finally ready to start laying the floor. Before I describe that process, here's a quick list of things you need when installing a laminate floor:
We started by sweeping out the room really well, making sure not to trap a ton of dust and lint under the flooring. Next, we rolled out a tarp of plastic sheeting to cover the concrete floor. This stops moisture from seeping out of the concrete and into the wood. Draping a huge piece of plastic across a floor sounds easy, but getting it flat, cut properly, and sized properly was no piece of cake. I highly recommend using masking tape to anchor the plastic in place as you spread it out. You'll want to push the plastic up the wall by at least an inch on every side. (You'll cut it down to fit behind the trim later.)
Once the plastic was down, Scott started in on the biggest part of the job, laying down the boards! He placed spacers against the wall, laid down a board, and then used the mallet, spacer bar and block to tap each board firmly into place. Leaving those spacers is another important step that may not be obvious. Wood expands and contracts with changes in humidity, so it's important to leave a small space around the edge of the floor to allow for those changes. The gap gets covered later by trim. Who knew!
Scott spent all day tapping in those boards. As he went along he had to cut boards down to size with his tablesaw to make sure everything fit just right. He also used his undercut saw to make extra room under the door jams and door trim, another step I didn't see coming! As Scott went along it occurred to me that laying a floor is a lot like solving a jigsaw puzzle. Only with a floor it isn't very easy to go back and fix your mistakes. It's important to think ahead and create a strategy for how you will cut and lay each board, especially around closets and doors.
Gracie made herself a nice bed out of the extra sheeting. Oh, simple dog, you're so easy to please.
With the boards all in place, Scott cut away the extra plastic sheeting, removed the spacers, and installed the trim. A quick coat of paint later, and the floor was finished!
How Much It Cost
All in all, this project cost us a little over $200 including materials, tools, and extras. If you are thinking about laminate flooring, there are less expensive and more expensive types out there, so be sure to shop around and find the kind that suits your home and budget best. There are even types of laminate that can be refinished!
We are actually getting pretty close to finishing this up. You can see in that last photo that I re-painted the wooden shelves using a white-washing technique. We've already collected most of the furniture we need. We scored a great big blue Ikea Dresser and a pretty white glider from Craigslist. Scott's sister gifted us a crib (thanks, Jenn!), we bought a small unfinished dresser new from Ikea to paint, and just this weekend we picked up a chindi rug for 50% off at World Market.
We still have a closet to hack into a changing station and some touch-up painting and patching to do on the walls, not to mention adding all the little decorations that will make the room more special. My Mom has offered to make us some curtains, and I have been racking my brain on the easiest way to create an ottaman for my nursing chair. (Ottamans are expensive, y'all!)
In addition to all this, I've been keeping busy by sewing play mats, toys, and other little baby-sized things. We don't really NEED all of these things, but I suppose these projects all help make the waiting easier.
I shared some of my design plans and inspiration recently on my baby blog. You can check out that post if you are curious about where we'll be going with the room. I'll also be updating this blog with our progress as it all comes together. It's a good thing we have two more months before Babeleo arrives!
I've been on a real tear lately. I can hear my sewing machine panting for breath, begging for a break. Not a chance, Husky. It's time you earn your keep! Besides, sewing has been a lot of fun recently, what with all the cute patterns and pretty colors that I finally have a good reason to work with.
The only trouble with my recent pace is that I'm starting to run out of things to make. A child can only have so many play mats after all, and there is certainly such a thing as too many stuffed animals. The kid hasn't even been born yet and their collection of toys might be reaching capacity. (We're gonna need a bigger box.)
You can see here Exhibit A, a trio of fabric beach balls that I made using a free downloadable pattern on the Purl Bee. These little cuties were very quick to sew. I stuffed them with hi-loft fiberfill and fashioned homemade jingle balls inside each of them. I was very proud of how this project came out, but Scott Bobleo was less enthusiastic.
"Our kid is gonna have some weird stuff.", he says.
What a piece of work.
He repeated this irritating sentiment after I showed him this little pair of baby shoes I made. Aren't they cute? Comfy looking too (a factor which I feel is mega important when it comes to baby clothes). I made these little shoes using a pattern from Meet Me At Mike's by Pip Lincolne, one of my favorite recent library finds.
Have I mentioned how incredibly awesome the Austin Public Library is? It's like a big 'ol bottomless treasure chest. If you don't have a library card, you are missing out big time.
And here's a little peak at what is surely the last play mat I will make for a while. I swear I'm done. Scout's honor. I just couldn't resist that dinosaur fabric. In a moment of weakness I bought a yard at JoAnns, resulting in what is this baby's umpteenth fluffy blanket. This kid is in no danger of ever being cold or directly on the floor.
If you didn't notice, this blanket's theme is a nod to Dr. Who. Dinosaurs in outer space!!!
Looky what happens when you sew too much. Rouge bobbins get tangled up in your car keys.
I made Babeleo a gift on Valentine's Day, the first of what will probably be many many stuffed toys that this little one will recieve from their Mama. I may not be great at making clothes, but I'm pretty handy when it comes to stuffed creatures. It's been a while since I took on a serious 3D project like this one. I'd almost forgotten how tricky it can be to get everything lined up just right.
Besides a few puckers here and there, I'm pretty proud of how little Chubsy Whale came out. I stuffed the heck out of him so that he'll be nice and huggable. (Tested that out a few times already.) I also installed three jingle bells inside of him to make him just a little bit more fun. I've been meaning to order some real noise makers for stuffies, like rattles and jingle balls.
For now, I've been making due with regular jingle bells and Easter eggs. By stashing the bell inside the egg, it keeps it ringing at full strength. If I were to put a naked bell inside the stuffy it would mute the sound quite a bit. Pro tip: tape the egg shut to help make sure it doesn't crack when it gets played with later.
I used a pattern from Akiko Kunst. You can find it here, but be warned that the pattern does not include directions. It took some head scratching for me to figure out exactly how to put this guy together. Luckily, the author has a few finished whales in her Etsy shop. I used these guys as clues, and with a little luck I managed pretty well.
I've been keeping the librarians busy lately by checking out copies of every cute baby sewing book I can find. This pretty little project came from Handmade Beginnings by Ana Maria Horner. I didn't go with a jingle ball for this stuffy. Instead, I filled the bottom of the chicken with bean-bag filler, giving her a nice hefty seat. My favorite thing about this stuffed animal is that it's interactive. Lift the wings up, and you'll find six tiny chicks that attach with velcro wings.
Pretty darn cute, don't you think? I suppose a chicken isn't the cutest or most exotic animal out there, but they are plenty lovable in their own right. You could certainly make this pattern cuter by choosing more whimsical fabrics. I went with batik in an attempt to keep things gender neutral. The pattern itself was very easy to follow, which made what might seem like a daunting project relatively easy. I added the little red bit on top of her head myself. Like the wings, I quilted the piece with a piece of scrap batting to give it some sturdiness.
You can see a little peek of the nursery coming together in the background in these photos. We scored a big blue dresser off of Craigslist which fits our ever-growing collection of second hand baby clothes very nicely. We've got a ton of 0-3 month clothes, a good amount of 3-6, and then a sparse collection ranging from 6-18 months. After our shower next month I think we'll have pretty much everything we need.
As for everything we want, well that's easy: ten fingers, ten toes, health, happiness, and an easy delivery.
What is whitewashing?
Whitewashing is a really easy painting technique that allows you to apply sheer color over bare wood. Before you get started on your project, make sure that the wood you are painting is as naked as possible. You may need to sand the wood down before you start painting.
Check out my Whitewashing Pinterest board to see some examples of gorgeous whitewashed furniture:
What kind of paint do I use for whitewashing?
Any water-based paint will work for whitewashing, but when it comes to furniture, I like to use latex paint with a satin finish. This is the same kind of paint you would use to paint the walls inside your house, and it comes in a rainbow of colors. I usually purchase sample sizes of paint from Lowes for these kinds of projects.
Which colors work with whitewashing?
While the traditional color to whitewash with is white, you can use this technique with pretty much any color of paint. Bright colors will give you a more sheer effect, while whites and pastels will provide a little more opacity. Dark colors need to be watered down very well in order to achieve the desired effect. Experiment with different colors on different projects to get a feel for how each color performs.
You can learn more about whitewashing, and learn about alternative techniques by checking out the following blog posts: