Frosty Striped Vases and Pom Pom Flowers

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Neon seems to be the big thing these days.  While I’m not the hugest fan of neon colours (having grown up in the 80s and 90s when it was overused and used badly), I do like what designers are doing with it as an accessory colour.  I like the pop of these striped vases here, and the ombre finish of these ones here.  So I thought I would try out the effect of the rubber bands and the ombre, but with a different colour more suited to the taste and decor of the person to whom I am giving the things.

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I cut a bunch of glass bottles I had lying around down to size and ground down the sharp edges (for my tutorial on cutting glass see here). You can of course use any glass you have lying around, vases, tumblers, stuff you pick up from the thrift store.

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Before I really got into it, I thought I might do a test, first, on a piece of glass I wasn’t intending to use.  I have learned from many, many, MANY mistakes to always test a new effect first.  And you know what?  I hated it.  From a distance, I guess it was okay, but up close you could see all the places where the paint had bled under the rubber bands and/or peeled off as the elastic was peeled off.  I checked around the internet and it seems that others have had this problem as well, so I gave it up for lost.

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I am, however, still a fan of the IDEA of the rubber bands, at least, and I’ve become quite proficient at frosting glass.  I still have a jar of Velvet Etch left over from last Christmas’s present run, and while I don’t like it as much as Armor Etch, it’ll do perfectly for this project where I just want a light touch.

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So.  Take your glass.  Take a bunch of rubber bands, of different widths, and slap them on your vases, however which way you would like.  Mine are rather haphazard, which will go well with the fact that this etching cream likes to leave huge swaths of unfrosted glass behind.

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Then, wearing goggles, gloves, and a ventilator, slather on that etching cream (for my tutorial on etching glass see here).

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Leave the stuff on for the appropriate time, and then carefully rinse it off, making sure that your rinse water is mixed with some form of base (like baking soda) to neutralize the acid before it eats your sink.  Exercise caution when pulling off the rubber bands, as they tend to spit bits of acid at you if you snap them off too quickly.  Slow and steady wins the race here.

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Now you can stop there, and just enjoy your vases as they are.  Or you could add a touch of whimsy so your receiver can put them to use right away: add flowers.  Fresh flowers are pretty expensive in these parts, and in the winter months it’s unlikely that they’re going to be locally sourced, so most of the people I know hem and haw over the idea of wasting money on a fresh bunch of flowers that will last only a few days and has come from who knows where.  Silk flowers are all right, but I find they get dusty really quickly.  But if you take flowers to the abstract, and make them from paper or fabric, I think they have a bit more pizazz.

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These ones I made from pom-poms.  Now, there’s a bunch of ways to make pom-poms floating around the internet.  The most popular method for trendy crafters seems to be the practice of wrapping the yarn around your fingers a million times and then simply tying that bundle together in the middle.  While that is certainly the quickest way, I find you end up having to cut off a large amount of excess yarn in order to make your pom-pom anything close to spherical.  The pom-pom method I used when making my touque-tastic tea cozy may take a while, but it’s worth it in the end.  What comes out of it is almost perfect from the get-go, and you can be happy with just a little bit of trimming.

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I modified the method a bit, in that I cut a slit in my paper double-donut and then folded back the edges of the slit.  This way you can run your winding yarn through the slit rather than having to feed it through an increasingly smaller hole.  Of course, you can’t keep winding around and around on this one; once you reach the edge of the slit you have to turn around and go back in the other direction but the results are more or less the same.

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These pom-poms I made from various tail ends of wool I had lying around.  Some I made really tight, some loose, and I wasn’t too careful about trimming them too precisely, because I wanted them to look natural (or as natural as flowers made from pom-poms can be). That one in the front left looks kind of like a wool celosia (brain flower).  Or we’ve just made a visit to Whoville and Dr. Seuss sent us home with a bouquet.

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Then you just need to find yourself some twigs that are to your liking.  If you feel around in your pom-pom you can usually feel the loop of yarn holding everything together.  If you give your stick a careful shove and get it inside this loop, the tension should hold it there.  If you’re worried about it falling, add a dab of hot glue.  The bonus of not gluing, however, is once you tire of the arrangement you can pull the pom-poms off and use them for something else.

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Then you arrange your “flowers” any way you like.  Like all in one big vase:

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Or in three small ones.  Whatever floats your boat.

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The T-Shirt Ring

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This is a cute little last-minute stocking stuffer idea from Homemade Ginger.  You can do it with either hot glue or a needle and thread, and make all sorts of nifty floral accents.

What you need is an old cotton t-shirt, or any other jersey material.  The Pie wore this shirt for Hallowe’en.  He dressed as Peter Parker, the alter ego for his hero Spider-Man, so he just needed to paint the collar of a red shirt to look like he was hiding a Spider-Man costume under his street clothes.  So while he painted the top, I’m just going to use the bottom.

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You’re going to cut the hem off the bottom, and cut several circles out of the main fabric.  You’ll also need a circle of felt, about the same size as your circles.  If you’re making a ring you’ll want the circle to be relatively small, whereas if you were making a brooch then the circle will be a bit bigger.

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Take a pencil or toothpick or the end of a paintbrush and jab it into the centre of one of your fabric circles.  Scrunch it up around the paintbrush or whatever.  Put a dab of hot glue on the tip of that.

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Stick the circle onto the circle of felt.

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Repeat, sticking the circles close together, until you’ve filled up the felt.

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Trim the result with scissors for tidiness.

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To make a bracelet, measure your finger with the t-shirt hem and cut off an appropriately long piece, with a bit of overlap.

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Glue the overlap down, then attach it, with the seam side hidden, to the felt.

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For a ring, simply make the hem loop a little smaller.

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For a brooch, and if you don’t have any of those handy jewelry backing pieces around, take a safety pin, cut two slits in another circle of felt, and slide it through so the working pieces are exposed.

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Glue that to the other piece of felt.

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That’s it.  Easy and fun.

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Uncharted 3 Upcycled Jewelry Cabinet

Last year for Christmas, Rusty gave the Pie the collector’s edition of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.  That’s a videogame, for those of you who don’t know.

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Anyway, the collector’s edition came in this huge sort of armoire/chest thing, and contained, in addition to the game itself, a 12″ figurine of Drake, the main character, together with a reproduction of his necklace, a thong wrapped around a ring supposedly belonging to the explorer Francis Drake.  It was pretty cool.  And once I saw the chest, I knew that we couldn’t throw it away, because it was so well made it would HAVE to be useful for something.  I lugged it home from Ottawa, as carry-on on the plane.  It made me grumpy at the time.  I like my leg room.

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So I’ve been staring at it for the better part of the last year, trying to figure out what to do with it.  With its magnetically-sealing door and its little flocked drawers, it pretty much cries out to be a case for some form of treasure, possibly a jewelry box.  In the end, that’s what I decided to do with it.

I’m going to make a sweeping assumption about my readership here and say that you probably don’t have a collector’s edition of Uncharted 3 lying around your house, so that you can easily reproduce what I’m about to show you.  If you do, then by all means, go for it.  But if you don’t, let this give you some inspiration to upcycle or recycle some other, pretty box, into something both functional and stylish.  For example, in my closet at my parents’ house I have stashed a wooden packing crate that held the wine my cousin Lindz brought us as a wedding present.  Some day I’m going to turn it into something epic.

But back to matters at hand.  For all its structural integrity, this box is still essentially made out of cardboard, so I have to be very careful in my assemblage and dis-assemblage of it not to mess it up.  And in order to decorate it properly (enough so it looks better than my usual half-assed attempts and I can give it to someone at Christmas), I am going to have to use every ounce of my limited artistic skills and patience.

First I’m going to outline my plan for you and then we can see how well I managed to carry it out.

At first I considered removing the decorative feet and top of the box and flipping it onto its back.  It would make the box easier to store, but it would negate the usefulness of those wee drawers.  So upright it was going to be.

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Then I was going to remove the feet and top anyway, just for cleaner lines, but then it occurred to me that I could use the top to hide evidence of my construction, so I should leave it on.  And if I was going to leave the top on, I should probably leave the feet on.  So the structural appearance of this cabinet would remain the same as it was.

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Now, my plan was to screw some small hooks into the “ceiling” of the cabinet, from which one could hang necklaces.  I would put a dab of hot glue on the screw end when it came out the top, and then hide the evidence by putting the top of the cabinet back on.

For earrings, I would remove this mesh piece of cardboard from the door and replace it with a larger piece of metal wire mesh, carefully glued in place.  I would have to make sure that there was room for the door to close with it in place.

And of course I would paint the whole thing.  I’m thinking a sage green, with lighter green and ivory elements, and perhaps a touch of black (because the flocking inside the drawers is black).  So that’s the plan, as it stands.

And, like my idol Hannibal from the A-Team is wont to say, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

First, the disassembly.  Using a box knife, I carefully cut off the top of the chest.

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And I did my best to peel off the filigreed game pouch from the inside of the door.  It was a rough job but I wasn’t too concerned, as that would be covered over later with the earring holder.

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I pulled out the drawers as well.

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Now for the messing-about. Part of my plan included putting little hooks inside both drawers to hang bracelets and other smaller things, just to keep them from getting in the way.

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I wasn’t planning on using the adhesive that they came with. I was going to use hot glue. I also cut off the little end bits of plastic left over from when I broke them off their holder.

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Then I painted them. I made them black so they would hide against the flocking inside the drawers.  It took a couple coats of acrylic to fully hide the white.

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I cut down the front of each drawer so that you could see inside more easily.

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Then I started to paint everything. I was working with acrylic on a smooth surface so it took a few coats to make sure everything stuck. I had considered lightly sanding the cardboard before I began but I didn’t want to risk damaging it. So I just used a lot of paint.

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I used Mod Podge to glue a piece of paper over the rough bit on the door. I wasn’t too concerned about the wrinkles. The whole thing would be covered soon anyway.

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Screwing in the hooks for hanging necklaces turned out to be a snap. I just eyeballed where I thought they would go, and that ended up working out just fine.

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Some hefty daubs of hot glue ensured that they wouldn’t come sliding out again.

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This is how they look from the useful side.

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Then I cut a hole in the base of the top of the box, to accommodate the glued parts of the hooks. Then I just glued it in place and there we were.

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Now here’s where I hit my first (and really, my only) real snag. I had thought there would be enough room in the drawers for them to slide in and out even after painting. That, however, was not true. You can see here the damage done to the paint after I shoved a drawer back in and then had to wrestle it out again. Not good.

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But an easy fix, really. First, I glued the hooks in place inside the drawers.

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Then I cut down the front of the drawers even further.

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Then I simply glued them in place inside their spaces, so you couldn’t pull them out anymore, but you could still access everything inside them.

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I had originally wanted some sort of wire mesh for the earring holder on the door, but I couldn’t find any that suited my purposes. I still had plenty of those wooden sticks leftover from my coffee stirrer wall art, however, and they would do just fine.

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I used hot glue to make a little lattice arrangement out of them, which I then painted silver. That nut you see there, which I also painted silver, is going to serve as the handle to open the cabinet.

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With the main structure of the cabinet completed and the initial painting done, it was time to consider the embellishments.

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I wanted to make a nice little border around the door to echo the shape of the box itself, but I wasn’t sure how the acrylic would take to having masking tape stuck to it. So I tested it on the back first, and left it there for a day.

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It seemed to be okay so I went ahead and masked out the front.

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Then I painted in two parallel lines, one in ivory, one in silver.

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I pulled the tape off before the lines were dry, to make sure that I wouldn’t pull off more paint than I wanted. I went a bit too fast at the end and lost a corner — the hazards of painting on a smooth surface, but nothing a touch-up wouldn’t fix.

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While waiting for the touch-ups to dry, I glued on the door knob.

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Then I stuck in the lattice.

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And also some felt squares to go on the feet.

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When it was all dry, I sprayed it with a couple coats of spray varnish. The stuff I used is designed to go on artists’ canvas, so it was ideal to go over the acrylic and dried really fast.

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And that’s it, it’s done.

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I put some of my own jewelry in it so you can see how it will work. I don’t own any earrings so I hung the lattice with brooches instead.

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Those hooks hold up well.

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Plenty of room in the former drawers.

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And the doorknob holds strong.

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If I didn’t have too much jewelry to fit the thing I’d keep it for myself. I am so pleased with how well it worked out.

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And you can still see the copyright information on the bottom of the box, just so you remember its roots.

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And yes, it has occurred to me that now I have to lug it all the way back to Ottawa, carry-on on the plane and everything.  The price we pay to make our families happy …

For a dramatic juxtaposition of the before and after shots, look no further:

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His & Hers Key Hooks

His & Hers Key Hooks

I love making useful things out of other things.  Especially when you can personalize it so you know that no one else has anything quite like it. This monogrammed key hook is a gift for a friend of mine.

The wood I found in the garage.  I needed to saw off the crooked end to make it straighter.  Little did I know that I am incapable of sawing things in a straight line.  So it’s just as crooked, but in the other direction.  But now it’s QUAINTLY crooked.  On PURPOSE.

His & Hers Key Hooks

The vintage-style brass initials, as well as the little crow with verdigris, I got from Dime Store Emporium’s Etsy shop.  What a neat place!

His & Hers Key Hooks

This aluminum plate I found on the street.  Conveniently it had been pre-weathered and pre-antiqued by the tires of passing cars.

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These hooks I got at Wal-Mart.  Not everything can have such glorious beginnings.

His & Hers Key Hooks

Now you want to lay everything out beforehand, just to prove that you have a plan.  Having a plan is good when you don’t have any spare parts leftover if you should happen to mess it up.

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After I’d cut the wood and sanded it baby-bottom smooth, I added hanging hardware, right off the bat.  I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t damage or disturb any of the front stuff, which was why I did it first.

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Then I wanted to stain it.  I had the option of three colours of Distress Stain, and one of India ink.

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I thought I’d try the stains out first on another piece of wood, to see how they looked.  This was a good idea.  See?  I’m planning ahead again, not just winging it, which seems to lead to trouble sometimes.

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I ended up going with the blue stain, and just doing the face of the wood.  Let that dry.

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Then I used black acrylic paint around the edges.  Let that dry.

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Then I screwed on the hooks. I had to use my world’s oldest drill to get the holes started for me, though.

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But the screws went on and looked really good.

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Then it was a simple matter to whip out the glue gun and hot glue the metal pieces into place.

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And it turned out better than I thought it would, which is always a bonus.

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Crayon Rainbows, on Canvas

Crayon Art

YARRRRRRR!  We be makin’ ARRRRRRRRT t’day, matey!  It’s also International Talk Like a Pirate Day for the Pastafarian religion, and I *may* have recently watched the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies in a row.  Also, I live in Newfoundland, where people tend to talk like pirates on a daily basis.  It’s also the anniversary of the night the Pie and I went on our first date.  Eight years have gone by since that night, and so much has changed in our lives.  Crazy.  Tonight we are going to make ourselves a nice dinner and cozy up with our favourite orange, black and white wedding present, the inimitable Grenadier St. James.

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In the meantime, however, why don’t you sit down and make yourself some pretty?

I saw a picture on Flickr of my cousin and his son making this particular project, and I thought it was so cool that I should try it on my own.  Then I discovered that this stuff is ALLLLL over the internet, especially Etsy, these days.  I’m no trendsetter, obviously.  Even so, I’m going to add to the plethora of posts about it, so that you can see it, Ali-style.

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Now, I’m being a real keener and starting my DIY Christmas gifts really, really early this year.  So I’ve pretty much taken over the dining room as my craft central, especially as now there is a large bed in my former office work space.

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For this project you will need some crayons (go with Crayola, it seems they melt the best), some glue (I used hot glue), a blank canvas (I used two small 5″ x 7″ ones, stacked, but you can use cardboard or wood or whatever you have on hand), and a hairdryer or other focused heat source.  I hear tell of people using paint strippers for this, but you really don’t need anything that hot.  Oh, and you’ll need newspaper or a drop cloth or something to protect the surrounding area from flying hot wax.

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For my first attempt at this, I thought I would go with a straight rainbow, before I got too fancy.  Plus I know someone who really loves rainbows, and this would make a nice little present.

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I started with the basic colours of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet, and I laid them out on my canvas.

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Then I filled in the gaps with other colours in the spectrum.

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If Crayola has colours called things like this:

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Then why are they still naming colours like this?

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Then the question was, should I lay them out with their colour names facing up, or the Crayola logo facing up?  The Pie told me to go with the logo, because after everything is melted it will be easier to see than the smaller names.

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Then we glue.  I used hot glue on the crayon, and I only put it on the top half.  I wasn’t sure how it would deal with the melting wax, and I figured that most of the melting was going to go down on the lower half of the crayon.

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Then I used hockey tape to temporary secure my two canvases together.

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And I leaned it up against a shoebox (full of stuff, for weight) on top of my drop cloth and newspaper.

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Then I started in with the hairdryer, on its hottest and highest setting, focusing pretty closely on the bottom ends of the crayons.

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You can see how the wax tends to fly a bit.

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It took a while to get them started, but once they got going, they really got going.

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I liked how the wax crept around the sides of the canvas, and I wish I’d had a bigger one to work with.

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Let the wax cool and harden.

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Then you can hang it up, any which way you would like!

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Rack’ Em Up!

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This idea comes from Man-Made DIY, who, in turn, took inspiration from another designer. I love how the internet works.  I made a further spin-off of this when I made the jewelry stand for my niece.

This is a hat rack/coat rack/anything kind of rack made from fallen tree branches.  The wooden frame is made from old boards we scrounged out of our tipsy garage.  Don’t tell my landlord.

The branches came from fallen trees on that construction lot near our house.  You might remember that we cut down a bunch of saplings there in order to build our wattle fence (which I still haven’t finished, sorry).  These branches were ones that had already fallen due to hurricane-strength winds, or ones that were part of trees uprooted in the construction process.  So no trees were harmed in the making of this project.  Well, no trees were harmed by US, at least.

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We made two large racks, one for my dad and the other for Mrs. Nice.

First we cut up the planks we found in the garage, into 2 20″ lengths and 2 8″ lengths for each rack.

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With difficulty, we screwed them together.  The wood was pretty warped, so one one of the racks it came out a little crooked.

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Then we sprayed them black, because the wood wasn’t particularly interesting, visually.

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Then we cut lengths of branch to fit inside the rack frame.

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After sorting out what looked good where, we screwed those in as well.

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I later sprayed the top and bottom of the racks again to hide the screw marks.

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A finishing touch was a rusty bolt glued onto my dad’s.

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And some shells for Mrs. Nice.

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We left off hanging hardware because we weren’t sure where they were going to hang them.

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They look pretty good, all things considered.

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Functional, too.

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Packing Crate Jewelry Stand

Packing Case Jewelry Stand

This project was a spin-off of a spin-off of a spin-off (which I will be posting about later).  I figure at this point it counts as my own idea.  Especially since it turned out so well!

This is a Christmas present for my elder niece.  A little while ago, I gave her all my earrings, because I can’t wear them anymore.  So I figured I would build her something to store/display them, along with any other jewelry she has.

So for this project, I had everything I needed on hand, though I did purchase my very own hot glue gun for the event.  It was definitely much smaller, easier to hold, and less burn-y than the one my dad has.

Packing Case Jewelry Stand

You will need several straight-ish sticks, with protruding smaller branches.  It being windy season here in St. John’s, these were easy to find.  I also had a swatch of vintage-style lace that my mother gave me when I was studying at home last year.

And I found these segments of wood in the dilapidated shed in my backyard.  I’m pretty sure, due to their thickness and the fact that one of the pieces has part of “St. John’s” written on it, that it’s from some packing crate from some time ago.  I scrubbed off the cobwebs and left them to dry overnight.

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Then I sanded off all the rough bits.

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You will also need some nails or screws to keep your wood together.  I have this jar of copper clouting nails that belonged to my great-grandfather (you can tell, because he labelled it).  I like the colour of the bright nail heads, plus the thinness and the tapering of these particular nails means they won’t split the wood grain as much as a regular nail.  But they’re pretty much just large carpet tacks, so I have to keep in mind that they’re not that strong.

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So first I hammered together the basic frame of the crate.  Now, I don’t have a vise, or any clamps.  So I’m using my knee.  Clever, I know.

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I like the studded effect of many nails.

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Cut the lace to the size of the frame.  The lace is how my niece will hang up her earrings, and will provide a nice background for the rest of the stuff.

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Using hot glue, fasten the fabric to the frame on all sides.

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Trim off the excess.

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Add another line of glue and fold down the raw edge.

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So here’s the front.

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And the back.

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Now I’m going to add a few more pieces of packing crate to the back, you know, to make it look a bit more like a packing crate.

Packing Case Jewelry Stand

Now to add the sticks.  Trim them to fit the inside of the frame and fix them in place with hot glue.

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Keep going until you’re satisfied with how it looks. Here it is, in the setting sun.

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And the back.

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And with some of my jewelry on it.

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A brooch stuck in the lace.

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Even a wee branch for rings.

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I hope she likes it!

Packing Case Jewelry Stand