DIY Nursery Artwork

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I don’t know about you, but my craft projects are often fraught with stress and frequently don’t turn out the way I envision them, especially when I’m figuring them out as I go.  So, I was tickled pink that this one turned out just the way I wanted it to, and even more so because I made it for one of my oldest friends who is expecting her first baby.

This was inspired by one of my favorite quotes on motherhood: “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body” (Elizabeth Stone).  I think this so perfectly explains how I feel when I look at my kids: like my heart has left my body and has become this precious little person who I love more than I can say.  Every hurt they experience feels like a wound straight to my heart, and every joy and accomplishment makes my heart leap.  P&G aired a brilliant commercial over the Olympics that captured this.  I’m not a crier, but I cried (like ugly cry, gasping for breath cried) when I saw this.  It’s so good.

Alright, go get some tissues for that running mascara and then we’ll move on to the artwork tutorial!

First, I shortened the quote slightly and typed it up in Publisher.  (Microsoft Word would work fine, too; I just prefer Publisher because it gives you more freedom to move the lines around.)  I have lots of fun free fonts I’ve downloaded for projects; a quick Google search will find you tons.  I made a text box the size of my canvas (in this case 8×8), set the fonts as closely as I could to what I wanted, and changed the sizes so it emphasized the words I wanted.  Then I printed it out so I’d have a guide to know how large to draw the letters.

My friend is doing a jungle themed nursery, so I found some cute elephants and printed them off on plain paper (I  made the picture 3×5 inches).  You could do absolutely anything; just find a picture or silhouette with a simple outline and print it off.  I made sure that everything would fit nicely on my canvas and then started in on the lettering.

First I very lightly drew in the letters free-hand with a pencil.  I used my printed fonts as a guide, and wrote “Heart” in my own handwriting because I wanted it to have a touch of myself in there.  Then I went back over them carefully with a fine-point Sharpie.

Next, I taped on the pictures of the elephants.  This was the part I was unsure about.  Online tutorials gave complicated instructions for using transfer paper, vinyl, projectors, stencils, etc, but I decided to try my idea first.  I got a twin-tip Sharpie and used the ultra-fine felt tip side to trace the outline.  I went very slowly, hoping the ink would bleed slightly through the paper onto to canvas.

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Once I’d traced it, I carefully peeled it back, and voila!  An outline!  I left one piece of tape in place so that I could put it back on for touch-ups without worrying about it moving.

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After I had the faint outlines, I used the marker side of the Sharpie to darken the outline, then carefully colored it in.  I free-handed the heart in the middle, went back for touch ups, and I was done!

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It took me a while to complete because I wanted it to be perfect, but I LOVE how it turned out!  And now my mind is spinning with all the fun things I could put on canvas with this technique.  (I’ve been wanting to make art with our wedding vows, for example.)  I’d like to find an archival-quality marker if I try this again, since in retrospect I wonder if the Sharpie might yellow slightly over the years.  But, I’m sure it will last as long as their baby’s nursery does, and when they’re ready for a big girl or boy room they can swap it out.

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I’m so happy with how this turned out, and even happier to have such a wonderful friend who has been a blessing to me for more than 15 years.  I can’t wait to meet her sweet little one!

Do you have a favorite parenting quote?  Please share below!  Is there a quote you’ve been wanting to turn into artwork for other rooms in your home?  Have you found a technique for putting pictures on canvas?  If you give this project a try I’d love to hear how it turns out!

Upholstered Headboard with Nailhead Trim Tutorial

Our bedroom has been in great need of some design TLC for years now.  I’ve had lots of ideas swimming around in my head for an old-Hollywood-chic style redo with lots of silver, white, and grey; maybe something like this or this.  But it all hinged on finding a silver comforter, and I just COULD NOT find one I liked and could afford, so our bedroom has sat in a rather ugly, unromantic state for several years now.  Until one day the stars aligned, and I finally found one!  Once that central piece was on the bed, all the orbiting things I wanted to redo not only stuck out like sore thumbs, but were finally worth doing!

I’d been drooling over upholstered headboards with nailhead trim, and since they cost approximately one arm, one foot, and your firstborn child, I decided I would make one myself (said the little red hen).  I spent moooooonths on Pinterest and google researching how to do it and trying to screw up my courage, and that shiny new comforter finally provided the extra push I needed to take a deep breath and give it a go.  Here’s what we did.

First, I used blue painters tape above our bed to help myself picture how tall and what shape I wanted it to be.   We wanted to be able to read in bed, and I really wanted to be able to nurse in bed when baby arrives, so we made sure it was taller than our heads when we were sitting on the bed.  We left the tape up for several days to make sure it was what we wanted, then measured: it was about 56 inches high in the center.

Painters tape to help decide on size and shape

Painters tape to help decide on size and shape

I looked online for “standard” width measurements for a queen-size headboard, and found they varied between 60-64 inches.  The bedframe is 60 inches, but since we have a poofy comforter, I didn’t want the headboard to look too narrow behind it, so I decided to add 2 inches on each side.  One very important thing to consider at this point is whether you want to have legs on your headboard or hang it on the wall.  I really didn’t want to gouge huge holes in the wall, so we opted for legs.  If you want legs on yours, make sure to look at how your bedframe is designed to attach to a headboard so you make sure the width is compatible with your frame!

So, our base measurements were 56 inches high by 64 inches wide.

Next, decide what shape you want.  This project would have been easy-peasy if I had wanted a square shape, but of course I fell in love with this “Cavendish” shape.  The curves made this project A LOT more difficult, but if you’re in love with a non-square shape, take heart—it is possible, even for someone with zero carpentry experience like me!

Then the question of fabric came up.  I knew I wanted white, but with dogs and kids I was terrified to do a fabric that might stain.  I could just see doing all this work building it and then having it ruined with a big spot in the middle of it that I’d never be able to wash out.  I LOVE leather furniture with nailhead trim, so I went to a bunch of stores looking for a soft, high quality faux leather in pure white that would be easy to clean.  I ended up choosing a “marine vinyl” because it has a strong backing, and if you’re using nailhead trim you need something that won’t tear easily.  Marine vinyl fit that bill; I just had to look until I found one that was soft and looked like leather, not a cheap diner seat….

So, here is the materials list:

  • 4×8 foot sheet of 15/32 (half inch) thick plywood ($33.97)
  • 2 1/4 yards white marine vinyl ($22.94 after 40% off coupon from Joann Fabric)
  • 2 1/4 yards of 8oz cotton batting ($14.31, also from Joann Fabric using 40% off coupon)
  • 30 x 70 inch sheet of 2-inch medium density upholstery foam ($28.70)
  • 7 packs of smooth nickel nailhead trim tacks ($13.93)
  • Wood screws
  • Wood glue
  • Rubber mallet
  • Jigsaw
  • Electric carving knife
  • Clamps
  • Cardboard
  • Staple gun

Total: ($113.85)

That’s still a decent chunk of change for a DIY project, but to put it in perspective, most of the ones I looked at online were in the $500.00-$800.00 range!

To create a template for the curved shape, I flattened a cardboard box and sketched one side of the curve, then held it up above the bed to get a good look at it.  This step is really important; I was surprised how different it looked above the bed and made several changes before I liked it.  Once I was satisfied, I cut it out, lined up the edge of the template with the center of the plywood and traced one side, then flipped my template over and traced the other side (this ensures it is symmetrical).  Save this template, as you’ll need it later for the foam.

Tracing the template for the top curve, with my trusty sidekick Knightley.

Tracing the template for the top curve, with my trusty sidekick Knightley.

I wanted to use foam to make it extra cushy, but since the nailhead trim isn’t long enough to go through two inches of foam, I had to make a frame on the outside of the plywood to nail the nailheads into.  (If you don’t want nailhead trim, you can just have foam go all the way to the edge of the plywood and skip the frame.)  My foam was 2 inches thick, so I decided to make the frame 1.5 inches thick to give it a smoother look.

(In retrospect, I don’t think I needed foam this thick; in fact I wish I’d used thinner foam and more batting so we’d “sink in” a little deeper when we sit against it, rather than it being so firm.  I’d probably use 1 inch foam if I did it again, and maybe low-density instead of medium.)

I could have bought 1 inch thick MDF to build the frame out of, but I was really trying to save money on materials, so I decided to use the extra plywood for the frame.  I wanted the frame to be three inches wide and 1.5 inches thick all around to give me plenty of room to nail the nailhead trim into.  Since the plywood was 1/2 inch thick, we needed two more layers to make the frame 1.5 inches thick.  My brilliant husband is quite good at math and spacial reasoning, so he figured out how to cut the plywood, and this is the result.  I know it looks bonkers, but let me explain.

The cuts we made in the 4x8' sheet of plywood

The cuts we made in the 4×8′ sheet of plywood

First we asked the hardware store to cut the plywood to 64 inches wide.  Then, they cut the remainder into ten 3-inch wide pieces.  These were for the legs and the sides of the frame.  To make the curved parts of the frame, I used my template to trace the curve onto the top of the plywood, then moved it down three inches from the center and traced again, then did that again so it looked like this:

Cut lines for the top of the frame

Cut lines for the top of the frame

Next we broke out the jigsaw.  I have an irrational love of power tools, but I confess I’m a little scared of them, especially ones with sharp blades that could cut off my fingers.  But, once I made my husband do the first cut and saw him manage to keep his fingers intact, I got brave and gave it a go myself, and oooooh was it fun (insert maniacal laugh sound effect).

Once everything was cut, we layered the two curved top pieces onto the top of the plywood base.  They were each 1/2 inch thick, so combined with the back it made the frame 1.5 inches thick.  We glued in between each layer and used wood screws (screwed from the back so the screw heads wouldn’t get in the way of the nailhead trim) to secure them together.  Then we sanded the top with a power sander to get it smooth.  Being our first tries with a jigsaw, our cuts weren’t perfect, so we did a lot of sanding.  It still wasn’t perfect, but you can’t tell in the final product.  (Whew!)

The beginning of the frame that will surround the foam

The beginning of the frame that will surround the foam

Next, we layered the side/leg pieces on, two on each side.  The legs were (of course) longer than the plywood base, so the part where they hung off the base was only one inch thick.  To fix this, we cut another piece for each leg to make the legs 1.5 inches thick all the way down.

You can see how the legs were thinner than the rest of the base, so we put one more 1/2 inch strip on top here so it was all 1.5 inches thick

You can see how the legs were thinner than the rest of the base, so we put one more 1/2 inch strip on top here so it was all 1.5 inches thick

Then we laid another two pieces on the bottom of the frame between the legs, gluing and screwing them together from the back to the front.  One note: we wouldn’t have needed to go to all the trouble to build the frame if I had either not used foam or not used nailhead trim.  But, those were both important to me, so we went for it.

And voila: a headboard with a frame!  Just to be sure, we set it up behind the bed to make extra sure that it fit and we liked it before we started cutting the foam and vinyl.  The legs were a little longer than we wanted, so we cut 2 inches off the bottom of each.  This made it 56 inches high in the center (the upholstered part was 41 inches tall, plus 15 inch legs).

The headboard with the frame to nail the nailhead trim into

The headboard with the frame to nail the nailhead trim into

Sketch of the measurements

Sketch of the measurements

Next we cut the foam to fit inside the frame.  My husband again did the math for the foam, which was longer than we needed but not tall enough (there was pretty much zero chance of me figuring out that a 30″x70″ sheet of foam would fit inside a 64″x56″ headboard minus a 3 inch border, but Mr. Math Whiz had no trouble with it).  So, first he laid it longways and cut it down the middle from top to bottom, then turned those pieces vertically.  This made it tall enough, so then we just trimmed off the top into the curved shape.

The foam sheet was wider than we needed but not tall enough.

The foam sheet was wider than we needed but not tall enough.

He cut it in half....

He cut it in half….

Then rotated them so they were vertical

Then rotated the halves so they were vertical and trimmed to fit

I used my cardboard template to trace the curve for the top, then cut it with an electric carving knife (like you’d use to carve a turkey).  I had read that it was impossible to cut the foam smoothly with scissors or a knife, so I borrowed an electric knife from a sweet friend, and I was SO GLAD I did!  It cut the foam perfectly.  I tried to cut one area with scissors and it was a disaster:

This is how it looked when I tried to cut with scissors instead of the electric knife!

This is how it looked when I tried to cut with scissors instead of the electric knife!

I’d bought a spray adhesive to stick it to the plywood, but it didn’t hold.  Next I tried hot glue, but again it wasn’t strong enough.  In the end, our cuts were exact enough that it stayed without glue anyway. Even though the frame was 1.5 inches thick, it still looked like a big drop from the 2 inch foam (on top of 1/5 inch thick plywood) to the frame, so I cut off the edges of the foam at a 45 degree angle to make them look smoother under the fabric.

Big difference between the foam and the frame

Big difference between the foam and the frame

So I trimmed it at a 45 degree angle so it would have a smoother look

So I trimmed the edges at a 45 degree angle so it would have a smoother look

Next, we laid the batting flat on the floor, then laid the headboard foam-side-down on top of it.  Starting with the top center, I pulled the foam over the top and stapled it.  You want to pull it tight so it hugs the curves without wrinkles.  I did the top, then the bottom, checked for wrinkles, and then stapled the sides and trimmed the excess.

The back, with the batting stapled and the excess trimmed

The back, with the batting stapled and the excess trimmed

Then we laid the vinyl on the floor right-side-down, laid the headboard batting-side-down on top of it and repeated the pulling and stapling process.  This took two of us: one to hold it tightly in place and one to staple.  I stapled the bottom first so that I could pull the top tight around the curves.  We found the easiest way to make the curves smooth was to pull the center of the curve tight, staple, then pull very tight and staple out to the edges of the curve.  This took a lot of time, checks for wrinkles, and hard pulling.

Lay the fabric/vinyl on the floor and the headboard foam/batting side down, then pull it over top and staple

Lay the fabric/vinyl on the floor and the headboard on top of it with the foam/batting down, then pull the fabric over the top and staple

The we flipped it over and—wonder of wonders!—we had an upholstered headboard!  But of course we couldn’t stop there: it was time for the nailhead trim.  First we had to decide how far apart to space the nailheads.  This picture is of them placed with the center of the tacks 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, and 1 inch apart.  We decided we liked them 3/4 inches apart best.

Spacing options

Spacing options

I was really worried about getting them straight, so I tried some tests on the bottom first, since it would be hidden by the mattress.  (Keep in mind, if you are using vinyl you cannot remove the nailheads or you’ll see the hole, so make sure you test in a spot that won’t show!)  You can buy nailhead trim kits where the nailheads are connected in a strip and you just nail in every 5 nails, but I thought these looked more DIY and less high-end than when each nail is separated, so I opted for individual nails.  I measured 3/4 inches apart and made an indentation with a nail to mark where they should go, then hammered the nailheads in with a rubber mallet (rather than a hammer, which might dent/scratch the nailheads).

To my dismay, they looked completely crooked.  I pulled them out and discovered that the nailheads were bending as I hammered them in, which made them appear crooked even though the holes were in a straight line.  I tried again and again, but could only get about 1 in 5 to go in without bending.  They just weren’t strong enough to pierce the plywood.  I was CRUSHED, since the nailhead trim was my favorite part of the plan, but I knew having them completely crooked would drive me bonkers.  What to do?  Collapse in a sobbing heap and relegate this DIY project to the category of epic failure?

This was the point where my wonderful, loving, servant-hearted, knight-in-shining-armor husband came to my rescue before I completely melted down into a puddle of crying, dispairing, DIY-failing wife.  He found a strong nail that was slightly thinner than the nailheads and—if you can believe this—measured, marked, and then drove the nail into every.single.hole where I’d need a nailhead.  Then he pulled the nail out again, and I followed behind him and hammered the nailheads into the holes.  It worked PERFECTLY.  He spent HOURS doing this for me and completely wore out his hands hammering the nail in and then yanking it out with pliers.  That, folks, is LOVE!

Hubby used a yardstick and a nail to mark where each hole should go

Hubby used a yardstick and a nail to mark where each hole should go.  If you look carefully you can just see the nail marks

I did not use the nailhead trim on the bottom, since it would be hidden by the mattress anyway.

Then, we carried it into the bedroom and placed it behind the bed.  We decided not to attach it to the frame, since with the mattress pushed against it it’s not going anywhere.  And here you have the finished product!

Done!

Done!

So pretty!

So pretty!

Here you can see how thick and comfy it is

Here you can see how thick and comfy it is

I love, love, LOVE it.  It will pop even better someday when we have our own home and can paint the wall behind it a moody, romantic grey (maybe something like this), but I still think it’s pretty spectacular.  I also love it with the sunburst mirror, which I found while we were building the headboard.  I’d been looking at them for months, but they can easily run several hundred dollars, which was definitely not in my budget.  So I went to a craft store to look for materials to make one, and saw this beauty.  Thanks to a sale, a mismarked price tag, my most pleading/pitiful expression and a gracious store manager, I scored it for $22.50!!  Probably less than the materials would have cost me to make one.  I’ve never been so excited–except maybe when we hung it up above our gorgeous new headboard.

Love the nailhead trim and sunburst mirror together

Love the nailhead trim and sunburst mirror together

I still have tons more ideas for the bedroom makeover, like to paint the wall grey and stencil it like this gorgeous room from Centsational Girl’s blog, and to paint our orangy wood dressers something like this or this, and find more ways to add some old-Hollywood-glam sparkle here and there, and….  My husband looks tired and pitiful every time I start talking about all the projects I have in mind.  🙂

If you want to try your hand at an upholstered headboard (which I recommend!) here are some other blog posts that I found helpful:

Running from the Law‘s tutorial (good explanation of how and why to do the frame)

Chic on a Shoestring’s tutorial (good list of things to consider before starting)

Centsational Girl’s tutorial (I love her design style!)

Design Sponge (great video tutorial for all you visual learners)

So, what do you think of it?

Done!

Now, on to the next project!

Shimmery Leaves Painting

Shimmery Leaves Painting

Shimmery Leaves Painting

We recently moved into a new apartment, and I’ve been working on the riddle of how to decorate a new space with the same pictures, curtains, etc that I’ve collected over the years.  We’ve moved six times and lived in three states in four years of marriage.  I’ve moved ten times since I graduated high school.  That’s a lot!  And of course, every new space brings a challenge of how to make things that were purchased for one situation work in another (and the challenge of resisting the urge to completely redecorate…if I only had the money for it!)

When we toured this apartment the manager kept pointing out how it had a huge alcove over the fireplace that would fit out huge flatscreen TV.  My husband and I just laughed to ourselves, since our “huge” TV measures all of 23 inches!  When we moved in, the valiantly tiny TV looked hilariously pitiful in this five foot by five foot alcove, and I knew I had to do something to distract from it.

We didn’t have any artwork big enough to fill the space, so to Pinterest I went!  I had pinned this lovely Branches Wall Art by Lemon Tree Creations ages ago, and decided it was time to make my own version.  Our living room is blues and browns with some green accents, and somehow developed a leaves/trees theme in the artwork, so I thought this would complement nicely.

The branches stencil is from Cutting Edge Stencils.  It’s not cheap, which is why this lovely pin sat on my crafts board so long, but my wonderful family gave it to me for a Christmas present!  (If you’re a friend and want to borrow it, let me know!)

Lemon Tree Creations used reclaimed wood for their art, but a) I didn’t have any, and b) I wanted a lighter look for my piece to go with the dusty blues we already have in the living room, so I picked up a large canvas at Michaels.  With a sale and a coupon it came to less than $13!  Score!

For the blue background I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old Violet that I had left over from painting Bear’s Ombre Dresser.  I have used this paint in so many projects, and I love it!  I mixed it with Old White until I got a dusty sky blue color, then painted the entire canvas.  While it was still wet, I took just a dab of each color and, without mixing them together, dipped my almost-dry brush in them both and streaked it on in a few places, blending just slightly.  This gave the blue more dimension, and gave the background a bit of a windy feel.  I forgot to take a picture at this point, but you can see it in the other pictures.  I then let it dry overnight.

For the leaves, I bought Martha Stewart metallic craft paint in Brushed Bronze, Champagne, Pure Platinum, and Mother of Pearl.  I did a test strip and decided the bronze was too dark, but I liked the others.

Metallic paints

Metallic paints

First, I off-set the stencil and used the darkest color, Champagne, to stencil.  I used a repositionable spray adhesive on the back of the stencil, but it was too weak to hold it on the canvas, so I just made sure to work in tiny areas and hold it down carefully.  When stenciling, you want BARELY any paint on the brush or foam, otherwise it will leak under the stencil.  I always get impatient and use too much paint at first…don’t follow my example!

First color on
First color on – you can see the “windy” looking blue background, too.

I waited overnight for this to dry, then positioned part of the stencil on the bottom and used the Platinum. When this was completely dry, I centered the stencil and used the Mother of Pearl.

And voila!  Here you have it!  The metallic paints really give it dimension—different leaves stand out better depending on the light and where you’re standing, which gives it a feeling like the leaves are actually shimmering in the wind.

From straight on you can see all the colors

From straight on you can see all the colors

Shimmery

Shimmery

Love the dimension

Love the dimension it has from different angles.

One note, if you are going to do a piece with metallic paints, make sure it will hang where there will always be some light on it, because without it you won’t be able to see the leaves at all from some angles.  Thanks to Lemon Tree Creations for the lovely idea!  Be sure to check them out—they have great DIY ideas!

Ombre Dresser Tutorial: Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

The dresser in Bear’s room was sweetly given to us by my husband’s Grandmother when she moved to a smaller apartment.  It’s a wonderful piece: solid wood, from a quality maker, I love the lines of it, and it reminds us of her.  The only problem was that the finish didn’t go well with the rest of his furniture.  I’d contemplated refinishing it, but we refinished some nightstands from the same set and it was a nightmare—the finish was incredibly hard to sand off (even with a borrowed power sander), and I didn’t have any place outside our new apartment that I could do the sanding and staining.

Dresser Before

I’ve been hearing for a while about this revolutionary paint called “Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.”  It’s not chalkBOARD paint designed for writing on; what makes it unique is that you don’t need to do any prep work before you use it.  No sanding, no priming, just paint.  Also, it’s very low VOC, so you can paint inside, which is a big plus when you have a toddler to keep an eye on.  I’ve always been kind of a dark-wood purist so I was hesitant to paint it, and I also worried about “ruining” an original.  (Clearly I have watched too much Antiques Road Show.)  But, then the dresser got scratched up in our recent move, and I realized that the important thing is that we enjoy the atmosphere of our home and the things in it.  And that it was a little ridiculous to worry about possibly depriving my descendants of a priceless antique in…three hundred years.

So, when I saw this ombre dresser done by a friend at Lily Field Furniture, I knew I had found my inspiration!  (You must check out her site—she has such an amazing eye and her pieces are absolutely lovely!)  I am obsessed with ombre—to me it is the perfect combination of beauty and order, which is why I color-coordinate everything I can.  It just makes me feel peaceful and happy!

Annie Sloan gives tips for how to mix colors to create different shades, so I thought it would be perfect for making the ombre colors.  I chose Old Violet for the base, and Old White to make the ombre colors.  The first coat went so quickly—all I did was wipe the dresser down and start painting, and it stuck!  Amazing!  It was also very low fumes; I was able to open the windows in our enclosed patio off the living room and have Bear in his pack ‘n play right inside.

First coat on in no time flat! Zero prep work!

Next I had to mix up the colors for the ombre effect.  I labeled five bowls with the color ratios I wanted, starting with 5 parts blue and 1 part white, then 4 parts blue and 2 parts white, etc.  I was really glad I labeled them, because it would have been easy to mix the colors up as I went along!  I just used a plastic spoon to measure it, adding one more spoonful of white and one less of blue to each bowl.  Six spoonfuls of each color ended up being more than I needed, but I was afraid to run out because I knew I’d never get it exactly the same color if I needed more!  Today I found a blogger who recommends using a baby dropper to measure it.  What a brilliant idea, and much more precise than spoonfulls!

The five colors I mixed to create the ombre effect

The most time-consuming part of this project was trying to paint perfectly straight lines between colors, which turned out to be pretty much impossible.  The panels were made to look like there are five drawers, but there are really only three, so I had to free-hand the inside lines.  If it weren’t for that, it would have gone super quickly.

The drawers

I wasn’t really planning on this having an old, distressed look, so I did two coats to completely cover the old finish and let it dry overnight.  To my surprise, when it dried the top drawer looked like this:

Crackling on the drawer!  Gasp!

I was rather distressed, since I wasn’t planning on distressing it (see what I did there??  Haha), but I decided to go with the flow and let it have the character it apparently wanted to display.  Especially since some people spend lots of effort trying to get furniture to look like this!  I’m sure this had nothing to do with the paint, although the chalk paint is designed in the first place to give an older, kind of cloudy/chalky effect as though the piece has been well-loved for years.  If you want a pristine “new” look it’s probably not the right finish, but I ended up loving the cosy, aged feel it gave, and the crackling from the old finish just added more interest!

Soft (clear) wax

The next step was what I was the most intimidated about: waxing.  Annie Sloan sells a clear wax and a dark wax you use to seal the finish.  You can use either one; the dark wax makes the piece look older and more antique, but you have to do a coat of clear wax first, so I figured I’d do a clear coat and see what I thought before I spent the money on both.  While we’re speaking of money, I should mention that this paint is pri-cey.  It’s $40 per quart, plus $25 for the wax.  I coughed and sputtered the first time I saw that!  But, thankfully, my birthday was coming up.  🙂  And the pay off for the price is not having to do any prep work or breathe toxic fumes.

You probably don’t really need to see the wax on the brush, but I like seeing my pretty ring, so it’s going in. 😉 Didn’t he do good??

Anyway, back to waxing.  There’s a brush designed for it that looks awesome, but again I didn’t have the extra money, so they said you can also use an old paintbrush.  Ideally you want one with firm bristles but a soft tip.  It should be firm enough that you can really work the wax into the wood, but soft enough to spread it evenly.

It was easier to apply than I expected; it’s soft like Crisco, and all you do is dip the brush in the wax and brush it on in a circular motion, working it into the wood.  Do a thin coat, and then wipe off the excess.  One tutorial said it’s like hair conditioner: you put in a small amount, your hair soaks up what it needs, and then you rinse out the extra.  I think I put the first coat on too thickly; next time I’ll spread it thinner and rub the excess off better.  As I waxed, I noticed some little lumps and was worried I was doing something wrong, but they disappeared when I wiped it down.

If you look close you can see the wax going on (right side).

They recommend that you put on one coat of wax and let it dry completely before distressing, so I let that coat dry for about six hours.  It was still a little bit tacky, but I was impatient so I distressed it anyway and it worked fine.  All you do to distress is take sandpaper (I used 150 grit) and rub the paint off in places where furniture would naturally wear, like edges and corners.  Supposedly it is easier to distress AFTER you’ve waxed it once.  When I liked how it looked I dusted it carefully and added a second coat of wax.

As it turned out, I really liked the crackling and the little bit of distressing. Gave it more character!

While this dried, I worked on the hardware.  I liked the little knobs on the top drawer but not the others, so I bought new pulls.  Unfortunately, since it was an older piece the width of the holes drilled for the pulls was smaller than is standard now, so I only had two choices.  I didn’t find exactly what I wanted, but liked the end result more than I thought I would (more on that later!)  I wanted an oil rubbed bronze finish, so to make the new pulls match the old brass knobs, I got a can of “oil rubbed bronze” spray paint.  This is wonderful stuff!  I seriously want to go spray all the ugly builder-grade brass door knobs and off white light switches in our apartment.  If we owned the apartment I would!  (A friend did a tutorial on this, so you can see how it turns out here.)  I love the metallic texture; gives it a little more depth than just black.

Close up of the hardware, spray painted with oil rubbed bronze

Then, I let everything dry overnight again.  Siiiigh!  The worst part of the process was impatiently waiting for things to dry!  To my surprise, it was still a tiny bit tacky in the morning.  I wasn’t sure if that was because it wasn’t dry yet, or if I needed to buff it before it would feel smooth, so I went ahead and buffed it.  This took some elbow grease; I used an old soft t-shirt and rubbed it firmly in a circular motion.  The more you buff, the smoother and shinier the finish looks, just like on a car.  I think it wasn’t quite dry yet, and I’m guessing it would have been easier to buff if I’d waited another day, but it worked.

And that was that!  After attaching the knobs again, we moved it back into Bear’s room, and Voila!

After!

I absolutely love it!  The ombre reminds me of ocean waves and twilight, two of my favorite things, and I love it with his Classic Pooh Bear decorations.  I think it has just the right amount of whimsy for a nursery, but is grown up enough that as he grows I can change the rest of the décor around it and he (hopefully) won’t hate it when he’s 12.  Bear seemed to approve, too, especially since his favorite game right now is to move random objects to other rooms and “put them away” in drawers!  I’m really happy with how it turned out, and it gives the room a much more cohesive look.

Love him, up on his little tippy toes investigating. 🙂

Bear (and Rory Bear) approve!

Off with Rory Bear for their next big adventure. Isn’t he just too cute for words?

So, if you have an old piece of furniture that just doesn’t quite “go,” definitely check out the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint!  I think I’m in love, and now I’m eyeing everything in our apartment, wondering what else I can paint.  Look out!

Avoiding Psychological Torture (aka Jeans Shopping)

Jeans

Usually in the past when I’ve bought new jeans it hasn’t been because my old ones are worn out, but because the hem is frayed.  I’m average height, but the back hem usually drags a little, which means the hems get worn out long before the jeans are.  See exhibit A:

Oh, what a horrible way for a favorite pair of jeans to die.

I can’t stand the ratty look, so I used to buy new ones once the hems were shot.  This, of course, usually required hours and/or days of psychological torture as I went to store after store trying to find a pair that didn’t make me feel fat, fall off my hips, fit everywhere but in one spot, display the color of my underwear (or worse) whenever I sat down, have strange bedazzling/rips/acid wash, cost a fortune, give me a muffin top, pool around my ankles, look dated, give me camel toe, or require liposuction.  This search usually ended with me curled up in the fetal position in the corner of a dressing room on top of a two foot pile of rejected jeans, weeping like a baby.

Last year I decided something MUST be done to stop this cycle, or I was going to need serious therapy.  So I tried an experiment and was surprised how well it worked: I used clear nail polish to paint the very tip of the hem.  It binds the fibers together and if the hem drags now it rubs on the nail polish barrier instead of wearing down the fibers.  It works great!  You only need to paint the very edge–don’t make it too thick or the hem will be stiff.  I re-paint it on every few months if I see it’s wearing off, and it is making my jeans last so much longer!  Jeans are usually one of the most expensive clothing items I buy, so I’m thrilled that mine are lasting longer.

These are the maternity jeans I bought last year.  I wore them for about six months, and they look almost as good as new!

Tada! These are in such good shape, I’m saving them for pregnancy #2. Too bad they’ll undoubtedly be out of style by then….

When I come up with a solution for having to buy new jeans because of weight gain/loss and jeans going out of style, I’ll be sure to post about that, too…

Update October 20, 2013: It is now almost exactly two years since I first posted this, and this same pair of jeans has been through two pregnancies and two “postpartum-nothing-fits-yet” eras.  And behold, the hem!

IMG_6759crop

Still not frayed!

Still in great shape two pregnancies later! Now the shape of my stomach…that’s another story for another time.  *wink*