Rustic Pencil Holder and Homemade Pencils

Rustic Pencil Holder

I saw this about a year ago, and I remember thinking at the time that it was such a simple yet elegantly nifty project I would have to make it sometime.  What better time than the present?

Pencil-Holder 27

I wrangled a log out of the mildewed pile in our dilapidated excuse for a shed and got to work.  You can of course use any form of windfall or anything you find lying around.  I’d love to try this with driftwood, if I still had my beach handy.  As it was a pretty long chunk of wood, I figured I’d make three pencil holders, just to spread the love amongst my Christmas gift recipients.

Pencil-Holder 1

I also thought I might make them slightly angled, so that all the pencils or pens could be viewed from one side, instead of them all being on the same level. So I sawed them accordingly, in varying thicknesses.  Actually, the Pie did most of this because I took too long.  But we didn’t really try too hard to get things level or straight — the crooked adds to the charm, and I swear we did this on purpose.

Pencil-Holder 22

And then the bark, which had been sitting and drying out over our kitchen heater for two months, just peeled right off so easily.

Pencil-Holder 23

Pencil-Holder 24

I used a butter knife to get the thinner inner bark off.

Pencil-Holder 25

Now you drill your holes.  I used 3/8″ and 1/2″ drill bits, to accommodate skinny and fat pens and pencils. You know, like the fat ones you pick up from the bank or that you get in swag bags at conferences and stuff.

Pencil-Holder 30

You can space them out evenly or put them in randomly, whichever floats your boat.

Pencil-Holder 31

To make sure that all your holes are uniform in depth, use a bit of tape around your drill bit to mark how deep you want it to go.  When the line of the tape touches the wood, you’ve gone far enough.

Rustic Pencil Holder

In addition, if you are pursuing an angled approach, make sure that your drill is going in perpendicular to the surface upon which the wood is sitting, not perpendicular to the surface of the top of the disk.  Although I suppose you could do that, too, if you wanted your pencils to stick out at an angle.

Rustic Pencil Holder

Then I sanded, to smooth out the edges and to make the top nice and even.  You don’t want splinters in something you’re going to be touching all the time.

Rustic Pencil Holder

I stained one of them as well, again for kicks.

Pencil-Holder 32

Pencil-Holder 33

Pencil-Holder 34

To go with the pencil holders, I thought I would include some pencils I made myself.

Pencil-Holder 35

Pencil-Holder 36

I got the idea from here, but modified it so it was easier for me (because I found this actually quite difficult).  You need some 2mm pencil leads, the kind that go into architectural drafting pencils (also known as clutch pencils).  They tend to come in small plastic boxes of 10, and you can find them at art supply stores or on the internet.

Pencil-Holder 2

Then you need some thin paper.  I used a combination of newspaper flyers and origami paper for this, with the cheap newspaper on the inside and the nice origami pattern on the outside.  Cut the paper into squares that are the same length as the leads, which is usually about 5″.

Pencil-Holder 8

Take a paint brush and some glue and paint some onto the edge of one of the pieces of paper.

Pencil-Holder 9

Lay your lead onto the glued surface, just a little bit from the edge.  Fold that extra part over the lead and tuck it in.

Pencil-Holder 10

Now start rolling, carefully, putting even pressure on both ends of the lead.  You want the paper to be tight around the lead but you don’t want to put too much pressure on it that the lead breaks.  I definitely broke a few.  And go slowly, so you can make sure that the lead rolls straight in the paper.  Many of my pencils came out crooked and had to be trimmed later.

Pencil-Holder 11

When you reach the end of the paper, add some more glue and fasten the edge securely on your roll.  Repeat with more paper until you get to the thickness you like, with some nice patterned stuff on the outside.

Pencil-Holder 12

Put some glue on the outside, just to seal it all in.

Pencil-Holder 14

Allow your pencil to dry, then trim the pointy end of the pencil with a knife or a pencil sharpener, and you’re all set.

Pencil-Holder 21

Rustic Pencil Holder

Rustic Pencil Holder

Three-Dimensional Name Plate

3D Name Plate 26

I was perusing Not Martha a while back and she was talking about a company called graypants, which specializes in products made from recycled cardboard.  While that is totally cool and I am behind that all the way (someday I will make/buy these gorgeous scraplights), what struck me about this in particular was graypants’ company sign.  It was the company name, carved out of several sheets of stacked cardboard.  My first thought was that is so nifty.  My second thought was I can do that.

3D Name Plate 11

So I did.  With my nieces’ names.  I get these sheets of cardboard stuffed into some of my book orders at work as packing material, so they were a good (and lightweight and small, thereby mailable) surface to work on.

3D Name Plate 6

First I picked fonts to work with.  They had to be easy enough to cut out of cardboard, but also with enough difference in them to sort of semi-express my nieces’ very different personalities.  Hard to do in a font.

3D Name Plate 1

I printed the names, in their respective fonts, out and from that created a stencil on card stock for each. This was easily done by flipping the name over and tracing it in pencil on the back.

3D Name Plate 2

And then flipping it onto the card stock and tracing it again on the front.

3D Name Plate 3

Which left a faint pencil outline for me to cut.

3D Name Plate 4

3D Name Plate 5

Then I got to work.  Tracing the outline of the name twice onto each cardboard sheet, I carefully cut it out with an Xacto knife and some very small scissors.

3D Name Plate 7

3D Name Plate 8

This is definitely the most time-consuming part of the whole thing, and is tricky if you’re working with large or dull scissors.  I regretted my choice of that G early in the game, but kept going because it looked good.

3D Name Plate 9

I made each name ten layers thick, and glued the layers of each letter together with Mod Podge, which I think is my new favourite substance.

3D Name Plate 10

3D Name Plate 14

Then I took some acrylic craft paint and coloured in the sides of the thing, just for visual interest.

3D Name Plate 18

And then I painted the surface of the letters in a slightly different colour, mostly to hide my accidents when I failed to colour inside the lines.

3D Name Plate 20

Then I glued all the letters to each other, in the way that they best fit in terms of a glue-to-surface ratio. I used hot glue to stick the letters to each other, just for security.

3D Name Plate 21

I left off hanging materials, because I’m not sure what the girls will want to do with them and so I wanted to give them some leeway.

3D Name Plate 23

But I think they turned out rather well. The girls can put them on their bedroom door, their wall, or their desk — whatever they want!

3D Name Plate 25

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.

DSCN3486

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.

DSCN3488

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.

DSCN3490

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.

DSCN3489

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.

DSCN3493

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.

DSCN3492

I pulled out the drawers as well.

DSCN3495

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.

DSCN3500

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.

DSCN3502

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.

DSCN3503

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

DSCN3510

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.

DSCN3512

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.

DSCN3514

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.

DSCN3520

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

DSCN3525

This is how they look from the useful side.

DSCN3522

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.

DSCN3529

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.

DSCN3515

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

DSCN3518

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

DSCN3526

DSCN3531

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.

DSCN3533

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.

DSCN3551

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.

DSCN3553

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

DSCN3554

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.

DSCN3560

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

DSCN3572

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

DSCN3583

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.

DSCN3585

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

DSCN3586

Then I stuck in the lattice.

DSCN3591

And also some felt squares to go on the feet.

DSCN3589

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.

DSCN3609

And that’s it, it’s done.

DSCN3625

DSCN3627

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.

DSCN3636

DSCN3639

DSCN3640

Those hooks hold up well.

DSCN3642

Plenty of room in the former drawers.

DSCN3644

And the doorknob holds strong.

DSCN3646

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.

DSCN3645

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

DSCN3648

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:

DSCN3486

DSCN3626

DSCN3488

DSCN3645

Autumn Leaves Bouquet

068

When I saw this post on Design*Sponge last fall I absolutely itched to try it out.  I love autumn, and having grown up near Gatineau Park, I have learned to appreciate the beauty of watching a large forest slowly turn from green to a million shades of yellow, orange, and red.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t really happen in St. John’s.  In the autumn here, we have green leaves on the trees, and then we get storms like Leslie, and all the leaves fall to the ground and go dry and crunchy and brown almost immediately.

053

So when I knew I was flying back to Ottawa for a weekend in September, I came determined to carry out this simple project.  The problem is that even in Ontario it’s too early for most of the trees to have made the change.  Cait kept me updated with leaf reports leading up to my flight, and her reports all said the same thing: the leaves are all green, dude, it’s not going to work out for you.  As I flew into town, however, I could see a few orange and yellow trees dotting the Greenbelt, so I knew that with a bit of searching, this thing could happen, despite Cait’s protests.

050

So one afternoon, after Teedz and Tego had made it to town, Tego and I took a stroll in the nearby park to see what we could come  up with.  Lo and behold, there were two big old maple trees whose leaves had just started to turn and fall to the ground.  They weren’t totally orange or red, but the splashes of green I think added to the character of the thing.

046

We started gathering, picking up maple leaves of different sizes and shapes.  You need probably 10-12 maple leaves with stems for each flower, plus a variety of thin, relatively straight sticks to use as stems.  And floral tape, which you can buy at any craft store.

047

You start with smaller leaves at the centre and get bigger as you move outwards.  Take a relatively small leaf and fold down the centre and two outside points towards the middle of the leaf.

056

This gives you the basic shape for a petal.

057

Roll that tightly up to form your “bud”.

058

Now take another leaf, fold down the points, and wrap it around your bud.

059

Keep repeating that, rotating the flower the whole time so it looks natural, until you get something that is a size you like.

060

Tego and I found that if we weren’t careful our buds started to stick out past the reaches of the other petals, so you want to make sure to keep that sucker tamped down inside.

054

When you get something you like, pinch the bottom of the leaf where the stems are and start wrapping it up with floral tape.  Take one of your sticks and lay it at the base of the flower and keep wrapping, taping the stems to the stick.

051

We learned that floral tape is not actually sticky.  It sort of relies on tension to stay stuck to stuff, so make sure that you pull it tight.  We found that once we got to the end, if we wrapped the tape several times around itself tightly enough it wouldn’t unravel on us.

052

We kept on until we had a full dozen, then Tego trimmed the sticks so they were approximately the same length — you don’t want them exactly the same or the bouquet will look weird, but you don’t want them to be radically different either.

055

Then we tied it up with ribbon and gave it to our cousin as a hostess gift.  Everyone thought we had bought them at some fancy craft fair, and were super astonished when they found out that we’d made them ourselves during a walk in the park!

071

As they are, I think the leaf bouquet will last about a week or two, depending on the freshness of the leaves themselves.  If you want them to last longer (if, as Cait suggests, you have an autumn wedding coming up and you need time to make a large quantity of these suckers), then you can dip each flower individually in gel medium (which you can get at art or craft stores) or even spray the bejeezus out of them with hair spray or another form of lacquer and they should last you several months.

067

I’m also interested to try this with non-maple leaves to see if I come up with a different shape.  I will let you know if anything comes of that.

073

***EDIT, 30 January 2013***

The florist who supplies the flowers at work did this to dress up a bouquet. Very nice, don’t you think?

IMAG0726

Make Your Mail Literate

Card Holder

When I saw this project on Curbly a while back, I thought it would be the perfect gift for one of the older members of our family to keep cards and pictures and memories fresh and out in the open.

Card Holder

It’s a very simple trick.  You take an old hardcover book (again, being a law librarian, I have tons of these), and working in batches you fold all the pages in the book in half towards the spine.  You can use as many pages as you want in each batch (you want enough that the fold will hold itself but not too much that you have trouble folding it).

Card Holder

Use a bone folder to get a sharp crease.

Card Holder

It gets harder to get a good fold the further in you are in the book.  You really need to jam the edge of the page towards the spine as hard as you can.

Card Holder

Card Holder

When you hit your last section, fold the pages in the opposite direction, so that all the edges are tucked inside.

Card Holder

And then you’re done.  It can hold all your mail that needs to be looked at.  It can be a compact way to display holiday greeting cards or letters from friends.  It can also act as a photo stand so you can look at your whole family in one go.

Card Holder

Then I decided to dress it up a bit.  I used newspaper to cover the covers of the book and stuck a roll through the spine to protect it and then spritzed some copper spray paint on the page ends.  This way you can still see the words on the pages, but they have a gilded appearance.

Card Holder

Actually, it looks kind of like a heat sink for a computer.

Card Holder

Then I masked the edges of the covers.

Card Holder

And used chalkboard paint on the white part.

Card Holder

Card Holder

So now it’s also a message board as well as a mail holder.

Card Holder

Not a bad little organizer for a book and a bit of paint!

Card Holder

The Pleatherversary

Pleatherversary

Holy crap — we’ve been married for three years now.  When did that happen?  (As an aside, happy first anniversary to Jordan and Brian of Project: Nest!)

We haven’t really put much emphasis on our wedding anniversaries so far.  The Pie and I agree that they will probably only become more significant to us when the number of years we have been married is greater than the number of years we were together before we got married (which is five, if you’re counting).  So until then, our real anniversary is still the night of our first date, which was September 19th, 2004.

After nearly eight years together, we’ve faced down our share of financial, emotional, family, scholastic, and health problems, and we’re stronger for it.  We know that we can assemble a barbecue (and/or IKEA furniture) without fighting, and that I am way better at folding laundry than the Pie will ever be.  For his part, he has really good taste in dogs, and Gren is the best wedding present we could ever have hoped for.

Lazy
I mean, come on. Even with his legs in the air and looking ridiculous he’s still the awesomest.

Because of our current financial situation (broke-ass students), we have stopped exchanging gifts on birthdays, Christmas, and special days like this.  Instead we spend time together and cook the other person dinner.  In the interests of having something to blog, and because the traditional gift for a third anniversary is leather (doesn’t THAT sound kinky), I decided to break that rule and give the Pie something practical that I upcycled from something else.

He recently bought himself a new tablet, the Asus Transformer Pad, and it’s a real beauty of a machine.  Not the cheapest machine either.  So I thought I would make him a little sleeve to slide it in for protection.

Pleatherversary

I have this jacket.  It’s not real leather, but it’s pretty convincing.  I bought it at Value Village a few years ago (surprisingly, it was my mother who pressured me into the purchase).  I think it’s really neat, but it’s one of those items of clothing that I always feel very self-conscious wearing.  Plus it jingles every freaking time I move.  And the Pie was always a bit jealous of it, anyway, because it made me look like a badass female Wolverine.  So now he can have it.

Pleatherversary

Because I’m doing this in secret, I have this lovely ancient text on social science field research methods standing in for the size and the shape of the tablet when the Pie leaves the house and takes it with him.

Pleatherversary

I’m measuring everything around that, and of course I’m not being scientific at all.  This is less of a DIY post and more of an inspiration to you to upcycle stuff you like into other stuff you like.

Pleatherversary

I could also only work on this on Sunday nights, when the Pie was out playing Street Fighter with his buddies, so my pictures aren’t all that great.  Sorry in advance.

I had lots of ideas involving using bits of zipper and pockets to make it look way more badass but then reality broke through my manic mind and told me that I wasn’t that good at sewing so I should keep it simple.

Pleatherversary

The first thing I needed to do was dismantle the jacket, which involved taking out the lining and cutting along the seams of the pleather.

Pleatherversary

And the elbows had this annoying fuzzy stuff sewn in that took forever to remove.

Pleatherversary

I used the back of the jacket as the main part of the tablet sleeve, as it was largest and flattest.  I kept the bottom end of the back for visual interest, as you can see these two snaps here.

Pleatherversary

I debated between these two linings.  I originally wanted something less than geometric because I knew that my sewing and measuring skills would make sure that fabric with straight lines showed all my mistakes.  But the other fabric I had that would have worked wasn’t quite right for this particular project.  So I went with the lines.

Pleatherversary

First I reversed the outside and the liner and sewed them together in a big rectangle with one open side, and then I flipped it inside out.

Pleatherversary

Pleatherversary

Then I turned up one end and sewed the thing into a pocket.  I also installed the bottom snap while I was at it, which meant I had to make sure it would line up properly later on.

Pleatherversary

I still need a flap to make the sleeve into a sort of envelope, and I want to make use of these big white stripes.  I was originally going to do two stripes coming together to form a chevron in the centre but then in my mind that looked too much like a ladies’ clutch purse and I didn’t think the Pie would like that very much, so I’m just using one set of stripes.

Pleatherversary

It actually took two attempts to cut the triangle flap so it fit properly on the pocket.  I wasted the other sleeve by cutting it too small.  I hope it will come in handy for something else some other time.

Pleatherversary

I got lazy and didn’t add any extra lining fabric on the flap, other than what was already there, so you can see it ends rather abruptly right at the snap.

Pleatherversary

But there you have it — it fits the tablet perfectly, with room to spare on the side for the charge cord, if desired.

Pleatherversary

I can definitely see myself picking up other leather jackets in thrift stores, just for the ability to use the fabric itself.  Maybe the next thing I make will be a little more genuine in that respect.  I guess that’s something to consider for anyone who likes to upcycle — second-hand clothing is not just for wearing.  Where else are you going to get such awesome fabrics for cheap?

Pleatherversary

Heeere, Piggie Piggie!

Heeere Piggy Piggy!

Isn’t this cute?  I made it for my new baby cousin.  I have another one in the works for Doodle’s new nephew, but I didn’t get it finished before we went to Portland so I will just have to mail it.  I also didn’t finish Atlas and Krystopf’s blanket before their wedding, either.  Seems deadlines are not my thing this summer.

Heeere Piggy Piggy!

Also whenever I hear the word PIG I think of that scene in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure when Napoleon is at the Ziggy Piggy restaurant and he finishes off that mammoth sundae and the servers present him with a special badge and they chant “zeeegy peeegy, ZEEEGY PEEEGY, ZEEEEGY PEEEEGY!” and then they oink a lot.

I love eighties movies.  Fashion, movies, politics … all those things really sucked in the eighties.  But the movies?  They were choice, as Ferris Bueller would say.

This is a Martha Stewart pattern, and I followed her instructions here.  You may remember the stuffed chicken I made from this same project a while back.

Heeere Piggy Piggy!

This one was a little trickier to sew than the chicken, what with all the limbs and all.

Plus there were pipe cleaners involved.

Heeere Piggy Piggy!

And I stuffed it with scraps of felted wool instead of cotton batting.

Heeere Piggy Piggy!

And I think I messed up the ears.

Heeere Piggy Piggy!

But it’s cute, right?  You might recognize the pattern of the wool from the “keystone” in Doodle’s afghan.

Heeere Piggy Piggy!