Thursday, July 21, 2011

DIY Stencil Tutorial

As you can probably tell, there is no rhyme or reason for my blog posts at this schedule, posts are anachronistic (yep, I learned that one this summer with my students in our ACT word of the day challenge.  Go ahead, look it up.  You know you want to.) and chosen by no apparent theme.  But that's life right now, being torn in 80 directions because I have so many things I'm interested and would love to do or make, but not enough time in the day to make it happen.  Instead I end up with partially finished projects, before I get too busy or distracted by something else.  Tomorrow is the last day of my summer job, which means that I'll have four full weeks off before school starts.  Even with our vacation and weddings to attend, I should be able to have relaxation time AND project time!  My plan for August is to finish lots of projects.  Finishing should be the best part, right?  Those little touches that take it from decent to great?  Like filling nail holes, caulking and painting baseboards?  Too bad that by the time I get to that point I'm sick of the project.  But, back to my goal:  finish.

For today, however, I simply browsed through iPhoto and found a project I have pictures of, but haven't written about yet.  The lucky winner?  Stencils!

Almost two years ago, right after Dylan bought this house, I made window coverings on my new (well, new to me, but handed down from my grandmother) sewing machine.  I had some experience sewing, but had never tried to make a roman shade before.  I looked up several tutorials, and the dining room window was the first one to be given it's very own, custom-made roman shade (say it out rhymes!).  But after making three more for the living room and one for a bathroom, my first efforts were no longer something I was impressed by.  Over time my method improved, my measurements became more precise and accurate, and I developed a different way of creating a roman shade.  Unfortunately, that is not what this post is about (because I totally forgot to take pictures!).  This post is about how I took $1.50/yd white fabric from Walmart and made a geometric patterned roman shade.

  • plastic pocket folder (don't get the 3 prong kind)
  • craft paint
  • cheap craft roller (mine was $.50 at Walmart and has helped on two projects)
  • time and patience
  • spray adhesive (I used the Elmer's brand)
  • pattern for stencil
  • exacto knife
  • plastic cutting board
First I found a few patterns online that I liked and printed them off at a size I thought would be good.  I cut off the pockets on the plastic folder, laid it out flat, and used packing tape on both sides to cover the holes.  I taped the pattern to the plastic, and used an exacto knife to cut out the stencil.  I didn't take pictures the first time around when I made the Moroccan pattern for the curtain, so some of the pictures below show a zig-zag stencil I made later.  A bit of advice before you begin cutting:
  1. Make sure you think through your design what part will be painted and whatnot because you may need to leave connectors strips that you'll later have to paint in with a paintbrush.  In the example below (the second stencil I made) I ended up cutting out about half of the connector pieces because the stencil was strong enough without, but I wanted to make sure.
  2. Before putting the blade to the folder, "x" out the area's that you want to cut out, because it's much easier to do this at the beginning than later when you're in the midst of your project and realize that you've screwed up.
  3. Leave at least an inch or two around the border, or you may have to tape around the edge to keep your stencil together.
Once your stencil is cut out, you are ready to start painting!  I did this the next day, because as much fun as I had on this project, it did take some time.  I bought a large bottle of brown craft paint (I don't remember the name) at Walmart and a smaller white bottle, because I wanted it a bit lighter.  I had to mix paint several times, and just guessed at the ratio, but I think it turned out looking pretty consistent.  I mixed the paint on a paper plate, gave the back of the stencil a quick spray with the Elmer's adhesive spray (put newspapers below to protect from over-spray and be warned that this is stinky stuff!), stuck it to the middle of the curtain (I made it ahead of time so that the thread and everything would be painted for a seamless look), and used my roller to lightly roll over the stencil.  I was really careful the first time around, but I quickly learned that the stencil and spray glue combination was tough against the fabric bleeding under, so I could just go to town rolling.  The few places this occurred I just blended it in with an artist's paint brush we had on hand.
When I had to move the stencil I gave it a couple of minutes to dry before I moved it and rolled again, but I was kept busy painting in the areas that I had to leave for the structural integrity of the stencil but really wanted to be painted.  It didn't take long and it was actually very soothing to be working with my hands.  It didn't hurt that I was also watching the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice (for probably the 15th time, at least).
As you can see, the outcome wasn't perfect, so if you're super obsessed, this may not be the route for you.  As much as I like perfection and staying inside the lines, it's the imperfect parts of this shade that make me like it more, because I made it from scratch and it has more personality than if I had used store-bought shade or even store-bought facbric (well, store-bought pattern, I guess...I certainly did not make the fabric!).

I let it dry overnight, and the following day inserted the dowel rods into the pockets I had sewn into the back before stenciling, stapled it to the 1x2 board, and screwed it into the wall.  While it can be a bit over powering when the shade is down (we have huge windows!), I still like it, and it's usually up anyway.  Here's a finished picture (sorry for the low quality.  These pics are all old...since taking these, I made up my mind that I was going to become decent at photography, so I'm slowly stepping up my game, turning off the flash, and turning it to manual mode).
Do you see how great the pattern looks when the blind it up?  It is perfectly centered!  Lucky coincidence.  I doubt I could have done that if I'd tried!  It's been several months since this project, and I still feel good every time I see my new shade!  Maybe I'll have to do a tutorial on making roman shades soon...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Busy Weekend!

Whew!  What a great long weekend!  I wish every weekend we had three days off.
I realize it's been awhile since I posted, but I'm caught up in that beginning of summer flurry of activity.  In the past four days I've:
  • played sand volleyball three times
  • stained (times 2) the two side tables I've been working on
  • polyurethaned (times 4) the side tables
  • had a lazy Sunday (didn't wake up in the late afternoon though...well, I guess I did from my nap)
  • helped Dylan install hardwood flooring (we're through the kitchen and the end is in sight!  Photos coming soon.)
  • celebrated our 1 year anniversary!
  • weeded the raised beds so I can finally put in all of the awesome plants that are dying for real soil
  • cleaned the inside and outside of our house
  • hosted a bbq, complete with almost any yard game you can think of, two cute baby chicks, cuter babies and kids, and friends
Needless to say, it was a productive but fun weekend!  Hopefully soon I'll get my booty in gear and get some pictures up.  I think I've been procrastinating on "now" pictures because our house is in the middle of a couple large-ish projects and everything is kind of a mess.  Guess that's how it goes with DIY home projects, though!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lamp Redo

Today I'm going to share a project I did last fall.  I almost always forget to take before or during pictures when I get into a project, but for once with this project, I remembered!

Last summer and fall were full of not only home improvement projects, but trying to decorate a large house on a dime.  I had been looking for matching bedside lamps for our guest room to replace the mis-matched and undersized lamps I had put there as placeholders.  I didn't really want to spend much money, though, especially on a room that is rarely seen.  One day as I was walking through Salvation Army, I came upon two of these babies, for just $1.99 each.  Sold!
Even though they were outdated and not my style in their current form, I already had an idea brewing.  One, spray paint the base of the lamp.  For sure.  Two, was there any way of turning the long, ugly shade into more of a modern drum shade? I know I could have bought a new drum shade at Target, but at $20 a pop, I wasn't ready to spend that kind of money on our guest room...and that didn't even include lamps.  A month or so before this project I had picked up some fabric at Joann's (I have no idea on the name or cost), which would work great for this project and tie in the colors I'd decided to use in this room.

Unfortunately, this is the part where I forgot to take pictures of the process of transforming the shades, but basically it went something like this:
  1. Measure 11 inches from the top of the shade and use a utility knife to score through the shade all the way around.
  2. Tear the metal band off of the former bottom edge of the shade (now cut off) and hot glue it to the new bottom edge of the shade.
  3. Cut fabric to size for the shade.  Since the shade wasn't perfectly cylindrical, I used some craft paper to first make a pattern, which I then copied onto the fabric.  I knew the width of the fabric would be really close to the amount I'd need to go all of the way around the lamp, but because of the pattern, I was able to save a lot of fabric from the trash can that I know would have ended up there had I guessed.
  4. I hot glued one edge of the fabric to the lamp to make sure it didn't move, then used Elmer's spray adhesive to secure the fabric all of the way around the shade.  To close off with a nice seam, I turned under the fabric before gluing.
At this point, I had this shorter drum shade.
To finish off the edges, I bought some wide bias tape and hot glued it around the top and bottom of the shade.  After spray painting the base with Rustoleum paint I had on hand, I was left with two newer looking lamps.
Sure, it involved more time than buying shades at Target would have required, but I like the colors and pattern of the fabric on the shades, not to mention that every time I look at these lamps, I get that happy I-did-that-myself feeling.  Total cost? $4 for both lamps and shades, $6 for fabric, $0 for spray paint (we had it), $2 for bias tape.  That makes it $6 for each lamp!  Not bad, not bad.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fine Line House Tour: Part 1

Before pictures are always a good place to start, right?  In the first post, I showed you a picture of the outside of our house.  While it looked great from the outside, the inside was another story.  It's  therapeutic for me to look back through these pictures.  Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in how many things there are left to do and forget how far you've come. 

Back to the tour.  Here's the outside of the house when Dylan bought it back in the summer of 2009.  Despite the overgrown bushes and the evergreen trees that were planted too close to the house, it looked nice.
Now for the inside.  Entering the house from the side door (on the right in the picture above), you enter the breakfast nook.  Back then, the breakfast nook was a definite contender for the most disgusting room in the house.  Old, stained carpet, tons of shutters on the windows, outdated and faded wallpaper, drop ceiling, office-building fluorescent lighting...there was so much going wrong in there.  In the picture below you can see the side door on the left.
Walking straight in the side door and crossing the breakfast nook would get you into the dining room.  I couldn't find any true before pictures, but this one is pretty close to a before picture, aside from the wallpaper that we had already torn off.  This picture was taken from the doorway that leads to the kitchen.
This kitchen has been the bane of our existence, but we'll get into that more later.  For now, let me just point out the carpet.  Who puts carpet in a kitchen?  I'm certainly not a clean enough cook to be able to keep a kitchen carpet nice!
Walking down the hallway from the kitchen we pass the 1/2 bath, which is small, only barely enough room for a toilet and sink.
Continuing down the hallway we arrive at the study, which faces the backyard.  The study is a tiny room, only about 10x10 feet.  It could have been the green-stained wood paneling or the water-damaged ceiling, but this room felt very oppressive.
Next we come to the front entryway.  This picture was taken from the front door.  To the right there is a door that leads to the dining room, and the door on the left leads to the hallway that passes by the study and 1/2 bath and eventually arrives in the kitchen.
If we turned left from the entryway we would enter the living room. Aside from old stained carpet, this room was the nicest room on the first floor, in part because it had been painted instead of wallpapered, so it was a quick day project to get it where we wanted to make it liveable.
And that brings us to the end of House Tour: Part 1!  Next up is a tour of the upstairs rooms, then we'll check out the backyard, shed, and garage.

Looking at these pictures, I can't help but wonder why we went for it with this house in the first place!  It had great bones to begin with, but I don't think either of us realized just how much work it would take to bring it back to its glory days!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Hi!  I feel a little do you start a blog?  First off, my name is Ashley.  Last May I married Dylan, who is handyman extraordinaire.  
Seriously, Dylan is amazing.  He gets stuck doing all of the dirty (but necessary) jobs in the house, while I get to do the fun stuff.  The year before we got married he bought a seen-better-days foreclosure in the middle of nowhere, Missouri.  Here's an exterior shot, which doesn't look too bad (aside from the overgrown bushes) but the inside was a whole other story.
Even though I didn't live in the house at that point, I still spent a LOT of time working on the house, scraping layer upon layer of wallpaper off of most of the walls, just to prime and paint over and over and over again!  By the time he proposed, he was sure we'd make it for the long haul...I mean, if I stuck with him in spite of spending 4 hours scraping layers of western-style wallpaper out of a stuffy and humid 4x6 bathroom until my fingers went numb, we could take anything, right?

This house has been an amazing opportunity for me, as I've always liked crafting things.  When I first discovered wedding blogs as we planned our wedding, and later home DIY blogs, I realized what I'd been missing out on for so long!  I've found tons of places where I am inspired daily to take on new and exciting challenges and stretch myself as a creative and thrifty person.

So here I am.  My first blog post.  I'm not sure how long this will last or how many people will willingly open themselves up to all of this chatter, but I'm excited to get this out of the way and get on to the good stuff!  I've been "saving" up blog post ideas for over a year, and am glad to have this outlet.  I've learned so much from the blogs I follow, especially from the comments people leave, and I can't wait for this to become a place that documents all of the learning experiences Dylan and I have in this house!