Easy Christmas Napkins

Gorgeous and Easy Christmas Napkins — deck out your table!

Holiday Napkins The Tamara Blog copy

Super Simple Christmas Tree Napkins

Easy Christmas Tree Napkins -- The Tamara Blog

I love an easy craft that has big impact, and these Christmas tree napkins really fit the bill. They’re super simple to make, are customizable and so beautiful!

Easy Christmas Napkins, The Tamara Blog

My mother is a crafter, kitchen wiz, and fabulous fiber artist. She made most of the clothes I wore growing up – the really cute ones, anyway.

When I was 13, she gave me a pattern and fabric, showed me how to thread a sewing machine, and taught me how to sew, a skill for which I’m eternally grateful. Mom’s favored fiber method these days is quilting, and she makes some beautiful ones.

A few Christmases ago, she handed me a pile of these napkins that she had recently whipped up, and off I went to set the table. So many beautiful fabrics, and the design is so simple, by the end of dinner I knew I had to have my own and wanted to share the design. You’ll need a sewing machine to make them, but even if you’re a beginning sewer, this is a perfect project to start. Your friends will be so impressed!

For the fabric, I headed to the quilt shop. Quilt stores have the best selection of prints. Look for “fat quarters,” as they work great for this craft.

Easy Christmas Napkins, The Tamara Blog

A fat quarter is a special piece of fabric, sold already cut, that usually measures 18” x 22”. In quilt shops you’ll often see fat quarter bundles grouped into beautiful combinations. If you can’t find fat quarters, just buy ¼ yard pieces of material.

When choosing fabrics for this project, select one green, or tree-style design per napkin, and one complementary design for the opposite side.

To make the Christmas tree napkins, you’ll need:

Fabric – 2 styles per napkin

Ruler or drawing compass

Fabric marking pen or pencil/chalk

Thread

Sewing machine

Needle (for hand finishing)

·      Fold the fabric in half, right sides together, so the piece is 18” x 11”.  (If using standard cut fabric, just fold along the short side. You’ll have half-circles at the end, instead of full circles that need to be cut in half.)

·      On the fold, or long side, mark the center of your circle.

Easy Christmas Napkins, The Tamara Blog

·      Measure the width of your fabric piece, this will determine the size of your circle.

·      Using the ruler or compass as a guide, mark a semi-circle on the wrong side of the fabric.

Easy Christmas Napkins, The Tamara Blog

·      Cut along the marker line, then, cut the circle in half along the fold. (Omit this step if you’re using standard fabric.)

Easy Christmas Napkins, The Tamara Blog

·      Use this first circle as a pattern for cutting others.

·      Continue cutting remaining fabrics until all are cut and matched up.

·      Sew together semi-circles with ¼” seam allowance (right sides together). Take care to make sure corners are well defined with stitches. Stitch all the way to the edge to ensure sharper points.

Easy Christmas Napkins, The Tamara Blog

Easy Christmas Napkins, The Tamara Blog

·      Leave open 2” space for turning.

Easy Christmas Napkins, The Tamara Blog

·      Turn circles right-side-out. Tip: Use a pencil or fork to help make the corners sharp.

Easy Christmas Napkins, The Tamara Blog

Easy Christmas Napkins, The Tamara Blog

Easy Christmas Napkins, The Tamara Blog

·      Press each napkin and slip-stitch closed the open space.

Easy Christmas Napkins, The Tamara Blog

To present the napkins, start with the non-tree side facing up. Fold over about half way, then back, then back again. Adjust folds as needed.

Easy Christmas Napkins, The Tamara Blog

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Green Scroll Napkin - The Tamara Blog

As you can see, these beauties can be made to be formal or whimsical, depending on your fabric choices. And they don’t have to be exclusively Christmas decorations. The trees could be made in fall colors for Thanksgiving, or white and green to be used all winter long.  Use your imagination, and enjoy!

Winter White Napkin - The Tamara Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 


Super-Fast DIY Valentine Candle with Printable Water Slide Decals

All right. Let me be candid. My inspiration sometimes comes late in the game. So here I am, just a couple days from Valentine’s day, and I don’t have a gift. Are you in the same boat? Good news: Here’s a beautiful, easy and quick craft you can make in just a few minutes.

I Love You Candle -- The Tamara Blog

Are you familiar with water slide decals? They were kind of a mysterious thing in my childhood, and I loved them. Today the decals come in custom-printable paper, so you can make your own beautiful designs!

Here’s what you’ll need to make this customized candle

  • Glass Candle, 6 to 8oz. size
  • Water Slide Decal Paper — for laser or Inkjet printers (I used inkjet)
  • Polyurethane Spray Sealer (Minwax, Krylon)
  • Scissors
  • Glass of Water
  • Paper Towel

Water slide decal paper can be found in art supply stores (my Blick store carries it), some craft stores, and of course, online. If you don’t have any, I recommend buying some right now, and having it on hand for future projects!

I’ve created a single sheet with 9 decals on it, in 3 colors, you can download it here: Heart Love Candle Decals. (In the pic “je t’aime” is misspelled. It’s correct on the printout!)

Decal Sheet-- The Tamara Blog

Thanks to the Graphic’s Fairy for the hearts!

Print according to your decal paper’s instructions. Mine is for inkjet printers, and the instructions state to print with “best” resolution and selecting “glossy photo” paper. Once printed, spray two coats of spray sealer over the printed page. (This prevents the ink from running once you place the decal in water.) Allow the sealer to dry completely between coats, usually 20 to 30 minutes.

By the way, I didn’t count the waiting-do-dry time in the project, figuring you could be reading a book or something else during this time. 😉

 

Cutting Decal

Trimmed Decal

Cut the image from the sheet, and trim close to printing.

Immerse the decal in a cup of water for 45 to 60 seconds.

 

Into Wter

Decal in water

Decal comes off paper

After 45 seconds or so, the decal will start to slip away from the backing paper. At this point, carefully remove the decal and paper, and slide the decal onto the candle glass.

Decal and paper

Onto Glass

Smooth out any wrinkles or bubbles with your fingers.

Using a dry paper towel, dab away any excess water, checking again for pesky bubbles. Smooth with fingers if necessary.

Look carefully for bubbles

Allow to dry for half an hour or so, and your gift is ready to give. No stress, just an easy, beautiful and personal Valentine!

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If you would like to construct your own word designs, the link for the Graphic’s Fairy will give you the hearts. The font I use is “Academy Entraved LET.”

I have two lovely friends who have fantastic candle companies… check them out! The candle in my pics is from Gwendolyn Mary.

Gwendolyn Mary Candles and Andrea Schroder Candles

And finally, if you’re looking for a great Valentine’s Day food gift, check out my Chocolate Truffle Spoons. They’re so good! (If I do say so myself.)

Truffle spoon on rose

Happy Valentine’s Day! xxoo

 


Thanksgiving Craft — easy, beautiful, Stitched Place Cards

Oh, how I love the autumn. It’s my favorite time of year, and not just because of all the eating and drinking. Though you might not believe it, even here in sunny Southern California the leaves change and the weather gets crisp.

Stitched Place Card -- The Tamara Blog

I have a “thing” for leaves. Friends call them “my motif.” Some people love hearts, some suns or fleurs de lis… I love leaves. They’re natural, beautiful, readily available and ephemeral.

I have been tutoring a young girl in sewing the past few weeks, and came up with this idea after my first class with her. I had her sewing on paper to practice, and realized that the results were pretty versatile and well suited for paper crafting.

Stitche Place Card

So for this easy craft, I combined leaves and paper. Here is all you need to make these lovely place cards!

Score and fold cards, if necessary.

Scored cards

Punch or cut leaf shapes from patterned paper. I use between 3 and 5 leaves per card.

Leaf cut outs

Use a glue stick to lightly stick the leaves to the card. Take care not to use a large amount of glue, as it will gum up the needle.

Sew cards

Once all the cards are glued, sew to secure leaves.

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Using a swirly stitch pattern suggests wind-swept leaves.

Stitched place cards

Hand write names or print on computer, cut out and glue onto cards.

Cute Stitched Place Cards, The Tamara Blog

Stitched Cards

Leif's card

Stitching on Paper

The Tamara Blog -- Stitched Placecards

Think of the possibilities for all types of cards… perhaps a Christmas gift follow-up is called for? Stay tuned, and have happy holidays!

 

 


“Shirt” Gift Wrap a Bottle for Your Man – Father’s Day, College Grad, Birthday, Any day!

 

Here’s a quick, but super-handsome method to wrap a bottle for a man.

Caution: Don’t use one of HIS shirts for this one, or your gift may be received in a less-than-welcome fashion.

You’ll need:

One long-sleeved dress shirt (makes two bottle-wraps!)

Spray starch

Rubber band

1-1/2” wide ribbon

Scissors

Iron the shirt sleeves and cuffs, use a little bit of spray starch to really make the finished product look perfect.

Place shirt on table, lay bottle on sleeve, with the top of the bottle about 1” below the edge of the cuff.  Measure about 4” below the bottle’s bottom, and cut sleeve off.

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Turn the sleeve inside out, secure the bottom with a rubber band.  Place bottle inside the sleeve to verify you have the right length.

Slide rubber band close to the bottom of the bottle, as shown.

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Once you’re satisfied with the height of the sleeve, remove bottle and cut away excess fabric. Turn sleeve right-side out, and insert bottle.

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Note: If you’re giving a bottle of wine or champagne, the punt at the bottom (that’s the dent in the base) will accommodate the gathered fabric. If you’re giving a flat-bottomed bottle, you’ll have to sew the fabric, to minimize the ‘bump’ on the underside.

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Add tie-ribbon to bottle, using the four-in-hand knot. It’s pretty easy, find out how to tie it here:

http://www.wikihow.com/Tie-a-TieShirt Bottle Wrap

Adjust tie and “collar,” trim ribbon-tie if necessary, and present your gift. Works beautifully for a wine bottle, but equally good with a nice bottle of scotch, fancy flavored vinegar, even aftershave!

GREAT TIP: Reserve remaining shirt fabric, cut into squares, and make into sachets for him. Fill with lavender (great for repelling insects, not too girly-smelling). Other unisex scents include peppermint, citrus and cinnamon.


Three Chairs, One Bench – Upcycling for Earth Day

Three Chair Bench

Earth day is coming up so I was inspired to do a little upcycling with a project that has been brewing in my brain.  The end result is beautiful, the process easy, and it can prevent a bunch of ‘junk’ from landing in the landfill.  And if you are creative, you can spend almost no money!  It’s a bench made from three chairs.  It requires only basic tools and simple skills, and here’s what you’ll need to make it.

Three ugly chairs become one beautiful bench!

You’ll need:

3 chairs

Bench base material – planks or solid wood

Tools – drill, saw, sander, file

Primer

Paint

Hardware

The Three Chair Bench can be done in lots of variations, and often the chairs you have and the place you want to use your bench will dictate the design.

Gal with a jigsaw

A mention about power tools… this project can absolutely be done without them — a hand saw to cut the bench seat, a coping saw for notches, sandpaper and a screwdriver are all that are needed.  But, if you haven’t before, give power tools a try!   In making this bench, I used a chop saw, a jigsaw, a sander, and drill.  I know that power tools can intimidate some, and if you don’t have easy access to them, the prospect can make you want to stop before you begin.  My advice:  Don’t let them intimidate you!

“If you want to control someone, all you have to do is to make them feel afraid.”
Paulo Coelho

A healthy respect, yes, but fear not the tools.  They are, by definition, there to assist you.  So use them, and remind them that they work for you.

First, the chairs

It’s easy to find cast-off chairs – look in your attic, you might find some gems.   Ask neighbors if they have old college-era furniture they have squirreled in the back of the storage unit, or you can check out garage sales, flea markets and thrift stores.  Your chairs can be all the same style, all different, or a combination of the two.  I had two inexpensive, pine Ikea dining chairs and a weird metal upholstered chair.  They happened to all be rather angular, so fit together nicely.

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Now for the seat

Decide if your bench will be used outdoors or indoors.  If outdoors (as mine is intended), decking planks are a perfect choice.  Again, leftover materials were used, from the deck-building project lefovers of a friend.  Deck boards are made to be durable and resistant to weather.  I was lucky, in that my friend’s deck had been constructed from ipe – a Central- and South American- grown hardwood.  Ipe  (pronounced “ee-pay”), also called Brazilian Walnut, is the ‘rock-star’ of outdoor woods.  It’s resistant to rot, bugs and water.  It is very hard and very dense – 368% harder than teak and 40% heavier.  It is the wood used to create the famous Atlantic City and parts of the Coney Island Boardwalks!  Ipe will turn silver after several years of outdoor use, and because of its properties, doesn’t require any protective finishing.

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(If you want to know a little more about ipe, look here.)

You can also create your bench seat from a solid piece of wood – a slab of hardwood, plywood, butcher block counter-top material, etc.  If a solid piece of wood is used, create a template from cardboard to help visualize the finished size and shape.

Arrange chairs, paying particular attention to the spacing between them.  When mine were laid out, I didn’t like the jumble of legs in the center, so decided to remove the front legs from my middle chair.

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This particular chair’s construction required simply removing the back from the seat/front legs section.  Since I knew I was also going to remove the seats, this made the disassembly quite easy.  Depending on the design of your chair, you may cut off the front legs, remove the seat and legs from the back… or leave it all intact.  You choose!

Removing the chair back

Once satisfied with the chair arrangement, measure the overall length of your bench.

Measurement Screen Shot

Because my center chair wasn’t free-standing, I made a brace to mark its placement, to help keep the outside chairs at the proper distance.

chair brace

Next, decide the overhang measurements for the side and front of bench.  Cut bench seat to size.

Notching the back board

For a more finished look, notch the bench seat around the chair’s uprights.  Use template to transfer markings to wood, or use a square.

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Measuring notch

Measuring depth of notch

Transfering measurement to wood

Cut the notches using a jigsaw. Dry-fit the seat to make sure everything fits properly.  Make adjustments.  If necessary, file or sand the raw edges.  Sand other edges to soften any sharp sides.

jigsaw

Cutting cross mark

Filing notch

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Painting

For best results, sand, prime and paint.  I used 120-grit sandpaper then a second pass with 220-grit.  Next, I sprayed on a coat of primer.  Since my bench is intended for outdoors, I applied three coats of exterior paint.  Always follow manufacturer’s directions on the paint cans for drying times and when to apply additional coats.

Primer coated chairs

Assembly

Once paint is completely dry, arrange seat planks, making sure all boards are set properly.  From underneath, use a pencil to transfer chair placement onto deck boards.

Marks for chair placement

Chairs in place

Remove seat planks, and arrange upside down on workspace.  (I highlighted my pencil marks with tape, to make them more visible)  If the back board is notched, make sure that the plank hangs over the table edge far enough for chair upright to fit and not scrape workbench.

Place chairs onto the boards, aligning chair edges with pencil marks.  If using hardwood, drill pilot holes for seat screws, using existing chair holes as guides.  Be sure not to drill through the deck boards.  To prevent over-drilling, use tape to mark drill bit depth.

Securing screws

Attach boards to chairs with screws.  For an outdoor bench, use stainless steel hardware, it won’t rust or stain if the wood gets wet.

Because my center chair was only a back, I created this brace to keep it from pivoting on the bench seat.

Brace on center chair

Underside of bench

Turn over your creation and enjoy!

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Before

Three Chair Bench

Other tips:

If your bench is made for indoor use, consider making a cushion or pillows.

Hardware stores and lumber yards often will cut wood to size, sometimes for free!  Additionally, they also rent power tools.

Occasionally lumber yards have scrap piles… dig around to see if you can find some good deals!

Wooden palates can be another source of cheap/free wood.

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Sugar Egg Tutorial — Diorama, Panorama, Sugar-rama!

 

Panorama Sugar Eggs Tutorial

I’ve been making these sugar eggs since I was a kid… in fact, I still have one that I made back then!  It’s a bit faded, and my kitties licked off the frosting in a couple spots, but I’ve kept it all this time, because I love it.

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The origin of the panorama – or diorama – egg is unknown.  Some folks say they’re German, some say they hail from Italy, others claim they possess Ukrainian or Russian roots.

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An interesting article from 1987 (!) on the subject can be found here: http://bit.ly/10eDYbq   Another, from the New York Times, notes that while current commercial eggs must be entirely edible, early models had paper scenes inside.  http://nyti.ms/14AcxOL

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No matter their provenance, I adore these little sugared gems.

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A few years ago I made some eggs that were more modern and updated, using bold colors, whimsical themes.  They were fun and festive, and something I could keep out year-round.

Sugar egg... ladies with hats.

Sugar egg… ladies with hats.

This year I wanted to go back to the traditional Easter sugar panorama eggs.  They’re classic, beautiful, and have a particular charm.

Materials Needed:

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Egg molds – found in craft stores, cake decorating shops – I found mine at Marshalls.

Cornstarch

Superfine sugar

Meringue powder

Water

Food coloring

Spoon

Cookie sheet

Royal icing (recipe below)

Piping bags

Scissors

Candies

Shredded coconut

Sugar eggs:
4-1/2 C super fine sugar
2 tsp. meringue powder
3 Tbl. water

Place sugar and meringue in a large mixing bowl, whisk to combine.  Add water and mix with electric mixer or spoon.  If you are coloring your eggs, add color to water.  For light pastel eggs — which work best for light diffusion — use only 1 or two drops of liquid food coloring.

Mix until well combined, knead with hands if necessary.  Keep an eye out for meringue powder- or color-lumps, which sometimes form.  Work them into mixture with fingers, if necessary.

Making the Sugar Egg Shells:

To prepare molds, dust lightly with cornstarch.  This will help the sugar release from the mold.

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Mound sugar into molds, and press firmly against the sides and bottom, creating a thin shell — about 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick, depending on the size of the mold (with a larger mold, thicker sides).

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Straighten the edges by running your finger along the rim.

Using a spoon, cut out a ‘window’ in the narrow end of the sugar eggshell.

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Gently turn eggs out onto a cardboard square, and place onto a cookie sheet.

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Remove plastic molds.

Bake at 200 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Allow shells to cool.  If the insides are not hard, return to oven with inside exposed for another 15 minutes.

After shells are set and completely cool, decorate with royal icing.

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Royal Icing:
4 C powdered sugar
3 Tbl. meringue powder
1/2 tsp. clear-colored extract — almond, lemon, etc.
1/2 to 3/4 C warm water

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat sugar and meringue powder until well combined.  Add extract and water, beginning with 1/2 C.  Beat on medium until thick and glossy, and stiff peaks form – about 5 to 7 minutes.

Consistency can be adjusted by adding more water or sugar, depending on use. Color as desired.

coconut grass

Colored Coconut Grass

Place shredded coconut in a glass bowl, add a few drops of green liquid food coloring.  Stir with a fork for several minutes until the coconut is the desired color.

Assembling the Eggs:

Pipe a layer of green icing in the bottom of the egg (the side with a flattened surface).

Stick decorative items into the frosting – chicks, bunnies, flowers, etc.  If they start to lean, use q-tips to hold in place until the icing fully cures.  Before the icing is dry, sprinkle with green coconut.

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When the inside is perfect, pipe a thick line of icing along the edge of the egg.  Place the top on the egg, and press down.  Remove any excess icing with your finger.

Embellish the exterior of the egg using cake-decorating tips, covering the seam and opening edge with a decorative piped line.  Attach flowers or pipe designs on the top.

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Allow the egg 1 hour to dry completely.

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Tips and tricks:

Royal icing is like sweet cement… once’ it’s cured, It’s not going anywhere.  And it smells much better than it tastes.

Meringue powder in the sugar-mixture makes the eggs super strong.  Some people recommend filling the mold completely, curing for some time to create a shell, and then scooping out the interior.  I tried this method several times, and never had one survive.  With the mold-and-press method I describe above, I didn’t have one fail – and I made nearly 40 shells!

The eggshells can be made weeks ahead, stored in a dry place.  Don’t throw them away if you get tired.  Store them well and you may be able to complete the eggs next year!

Interior shapes can also be made days in advance – I piped bunnies, chicks, flowers and carrots onto parchment paper, let them dry and stored them for use later.

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Candy -covered almonds look like giant eggs inside your diorama!

I collect little pretties – tiny ornaments, small silk flowers, stickers, etc. year –round.

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Enjoy, make something beautiful, and Hoppy Easter!
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DIY Mirrored Dresser

Photo: Pottery Barn

MIrrored Dresser

I’ve been infatuated with these mirrored furniture pieces since they started popping up a few years ago.  Fabulous in an art deco boudoir, and equally welcome in a glitzy dining room, mirrored furniture expands and brightens a room.  I’m not one to succumb to trends, and perhaps this could be a tad trendy, but oooh… it’s so pretty!  The price tag to purchase, however, is prohibitive.  The really beautiful ones start at $800 and go up into the thousands.  Tack on shipping (usually $130 and up), and that’s one pricey piece.

My dresser on set at Home + Family.

My dresser on set at Home + Family.

I wanted to see if I could come up with something cheaper and more pride-worthy on my own.  Truth be told, it’s a VERY easy project.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Used or new dresser

Sander (belt sander, oscillating sander, etc.)

Sand paper (for hand-sanding nooks)

Spray Primer – I used Rustoleum Rusty Metal Primer

Spray Paint – I used Rustoleum Bright Coat Metallic Finish in #7718 Chrome

Mirrors cut to size

Gunther Mastic

Knobs

1” round mirrors

¾” acrylic gems

Hot glue

I started with a furniture search.  I began at Ikea, and if you’re looking to make something that has a more modern feel, you can find great dressers there.

I wanted a piece that had a little bit of character – moldings, turned legs, edge work – something that would make my dresser look a bit more interesting.  Craig’s List was my destination.   I found several candidates, and one winner within a day.  Here’s the before.

It was advertised as a “shabby” piece, was covered in several layers of paint, and some of the veneer was chipping off.  I chose not to fix this, because I wanted it to still look a bit worn.  If you want your piece to be closer to perfect, fill any chips with wood putty before painting.

As with most paint projects, the keys are preparation and patience.

Sand any surfaces that will be painted.  An oscillating sander makes quick work of this.  I sanded my entire piece in less than an hour.  I sanded in two passes, the first with 150 grit (coarse) and the second time with 220 grit (medium) sandpaper.   I also took just a bit of paint off of the surfaces that would be covered in mirrors, just to be thorough.

Next, prime.  Since I wanted to use a metallic finish spray paint, the manufacturer recommended a “stops rust” primer.  Even though I was painting wood, I paid the extra 2 bucks for the heavier primer paint – designed for metal surfaces – because that was what was suggested by the paint experts at my hardware store.

Follow the directions on the can of primer, and give your wood surfaces a primer coat.  After it dries the recommended amount of time, move on to the paint.

This metallic paint is so cool!  It’s nothing like the silver and gold spray paints of days of yore.  It takes a bit of practice to get right, but really looks amazing.  Test on a piece of scrap to figure out how thickly and how close to spray to your piece.  The can recommends 10” to 16” distance from your subject.  I found that this application gave my finish a ‘mottled’ look, not the shiny appearance I wanted.  Start further away on your test surface, and then move closer to figure the best coverage for your surface.

In the end, I put 3 coats of paint on my piece.  My dresser took about 24 hours to cure completely, and looks really beautiful.

There were the problems.  A few times, my paint went on too thickly and I got drips.  Best not to touch them while wet, but wait for the drips to dry, rough up with 000 steel wool, and repaint.

Paint Drip Tamara Twist

Mirrors.  You can use acrylic mirror.  It’s not as ‘sparkly’ as glass, but it’s cheaper, lighter-weight and easier to work with.  But because acrylic is not as hard as glass, it scratches easily.

Glass mirrors are simply prettier, so that’s what I wanted.  Measure your dresser, head to the glass store, and place your order.  I recommend getting your glass pieces cut slightly smaller than actual dimensions (subtract 1/8” from the width and height,) so that the edges don’t scrape.

I used ¼” thick mirrored glass, with a standard polished edge, and ¼” holes drilled for my knobs.  (Note: Apparently drilling holes on glass is very tricky, so be prepared for your glass company to charge you anywhere between $2 and $10 per hole drilled.)

I changed the placement of the holes on my dresser drawers, so I used the mirrors as templates to drill the holes in my drawer fronts.

Mirror installation.
Once the paint is completely dry on your surfaces, you can attach mirrors.  Gunther mastic was the adhesive recommended by my glass store.  Whatever you use, be sure that it is formulated for use on mirror – some adhesives can actually strip the mirroring off the back of glass.  Apply dollops about the diameter of a quarter (or in stripes), making sure that you are at least 3” away from the mirror edges.  Press the mirrors in place, add spacers at the bottom if necessary, and brace or weight while the mastic cures.  Follow manufacturers instructions for curing time, but definitely wait at least overnight.

Once the mirrors are in place, add knobs.  Pretty glass knobs retail anywhere from $6 to $20 each, which busts my budget.  I opted for a DIY version.

These knobs cost .98 at my hardware store.  Add 1” mirrors ($1 for 12), and acrylic gems ($2.25 for 20) and I had these pretty knobs for $1.18 each!

Another embellishment option was these adhesive rhinestones.  They come in 3-packs for around $3 or $4 a package.  Just stick and you’re done.

Quick tip:  Don’t buy colored crystals!  Use a sharpie marker to hand-color the stones whatever color you like in custom hues!

Here’s my finished dresser.   It’s perfectly suited for a 1940s glamour-décor bedroom, or as a sparkly complement to modern clean-line designs.

All in all, my project cost around $300.  Not cheap, but FAR better than paying retail.  It’s beautiful, up-cycled, and I made it myself.  Definitely a pride-worthy project.


Coffee Table Ottoman — Upcycling a Flea Market Find

I got this idea when my sister (who recently had a baby) mentioned that she needs a new coffee table.  It appears that sharp corners and edges are no longer allowed in her soon-to-be-toddler-ful house!

I decided a coffee table-ottoman was the ticket.  I’ve got sewing and upholstery skills, but you don’t need them for this project.  Not counting waiting for the paint to dry, the whole process takes less than an hour.  No kidding!

Here’s the coffee table before:

It was a truly hideous thrift store find — I paid FAR too much at $29.99.  And, had I waited a day, I’m sure that I could have gotten it at half off, but I was in a hurry!  The table had a wood-grain formica top, real wood legs, and a peeling plywood apron.  It was partly covered with sticky gold spray paint, and had dark stain under that.

Tools and supplies needed:

Sand Paper

Staple gun and staples

Upholstery needle

Cover-able buttons (I used Dritz Half Ball Cover Buttons)

Upholstery twine

3″ to 4″ thick upholstery foam, cut to table top size

1″ thick batting

Upholstery Fabric

Paint or stain

Hammer

Drill with 3/8″ bit and screwdriver bit

Scissors

Steps:

First, plan where you’ll place your buttons on the finished ottoman.  To help me visualize, I used quarters, as they were about the right diameter of the buttons I wanted to use.

I originally was going to have 14 buttons, but then after seeing the table with quarters on top, I decided 11 was better.  Once you like the layout, measure to make sure your quarters are equidistant.  Trace around the quarters with a pencil.  Remove quarters and drill holes through the table top in the center of the traced circles with a 3/8″ drill bit.

Remove the top from the apron and legs.  Usually only a handful of screws hold it.  Set the table top aside.

Sand the areas you’re going to paint.  You’ll have to determine how extensive the sanding needs to be.  For example, if the stain is dark, and you plan to paint the wood black, you probably only need to ‘rough up’ the stain — give it teeth, as woodworkers say — so that the paint will adhere.  If you’re going from dark to light, you may need to sand down to the bare wood and use a primer coat.  Don’t skimp on the prep — your beautiful paint job could peel off or cover unevenly if you don’t spend the time.

Handy tip:  When sanding of the legs, wrap your sandpaper around a pencil or pen.  This makes it much easier to get into the crevices and details.

Once your piece is sanded, wipe it down to remove any sawdust.

Paint or stain.

Let’s talk fabric. Use upholstery fabric for this project.  Apparel fabric is not sturdy enough to stand up to pulling and stapling.  You might even consider using “outdoor” fabric.  It’s even hardier, is made to stand up to the elements, and will clean up easily after spills.

To determine the size of your piece of fabric, take the dimensions of the table, add the height of your foam and batting x 2, add enough to each side so that there is plenty of fabric to staple under the table’s apron.  My table was 18″ wide, and the foam and batting about 4.”  I cut my fabric to 38″ just to make sure I had enough to work with. (Length of my table was 45,” fabric was 60.” I would have made it longer but that’s all the store had.)

Cover buttons.  The button kits come with great instructions.  Just hook your fabric over the teeth on the button top, add the cap and press.  It takes a little bit of patience, but you can do it!

Place the foam on top of your table.  Add batting (In the video, my batting is in 3 pieces — that’s just what I had around the house, no other reason.), and mark the center.  Mark the center of your fabric with a pin, and drape over the foam/batting while lining up the centers.

Thread a button with upholstery twine and insert the ends in upholstery needle.  Stick the needle through the center of the fabric from the top and feed through the hole in the bottom of the table.  Remove needle and tie a knot in the twine.  Pull the twine taut — simultaneously pressing the button from the other side, and staple twine to the underside of the table.

Turn the table over and begin stapling the fabric in place.  Start by placing a single staple in the center of each side to tack the fabric to the table.  Now your foam and fabric are secure and won’t slide while placing the remainder of staples.

It appears as if I’m stapling near the table edge, but my stapler is opposite the older models. Here I’m actually stapling close to the selvedge edge (white border).

Start on the long sides of the table and staple from the center out, pulling the fabric taut as you go.  Watch your fingers!  Staple within about 6″ of the corners, then work on the short sides, in the same manner.

To finish the corners, use a sort of ‘gift-wrap’ fold.  Pull the fabric up the center, then fold the sides toward the corner, stapling as you go.  This is the most difficult part of the process, but if you take your time, it eventually works.  Don’t be afraid to remove staples and re-fold if you don’t like how the corner is turning out.

Next, re-attach the top to the legs and apron with the screws you removed.  If fabric covers the holes, just screw through the fabric.

Finally, install the remaining buttons.  Handy tip: So that you don’t have to ‘fish’ for the hole in the table top, I thread my upholstery needle eye-first from the underside of the table through the foam, then through the top of the fabric.

The eye end of the needle takes a bit of coaxing to penetrate the fabric on top (be careful not to snag your fabric!), but I find this method much easier than searching for the holds in the table through inches of foam.  Knot, pull and staple the twine to the underside of the table.

Trim any excess twine or fabric on the underside (remembering that no one will ever see this… you don’t have to be super tidy!), and your coffee-table ottoman is finished!


Towel Art — Clever Towel Origami

Usually only seen in fancy hotels or on cruise ships, towel art is a great way to make bath time fun for little kids, a thoughtful greeting to guests, or a special way to let your college-aged children know you’re happy they’re home.

Here are a few examples of towel art – or towel origami – that I’ve learned to make.

I’ve looked through numerous books, at YouTube videos, and spent a fair amount of time just folding towels to figure out some of these designs.  Look here and here and here for links for simple animal folding instructions.

But some of the most basic folds are my favorites.  To make these cute dishtowel cupcakes, simply fold the towel lengthwise in thirds or quarters — so the towel is 3 to 4 inches wide.

Starting on one end, fold up the edge in a triangle — the way you would begin folding a flag — so that it sticks up slightly above the towel fold.  From there,  roll the towel in a spiral, slightly pushing the center up.  This way the tip of the cupcake is raised.  Secure with a straight pin if necessary, add a birthday candle, and tie with a ribbon.

They’re perfect for a shower or housewarming gift.  If you want to add a little extra, place the cupcakes in a coffee mug or ceramic ramekin.  So cute!

This next gift idea is the easiest of all.  Roll dish towels in spirals, stack, insert a dowel for stability, pin and tie with a ribbon.  Insert spatulas, whisks and wooden spoons, perfect present.

And finally… baby washcloths spiral folded, placed inside a bath towel.  Peas in a pod… a beautiful gift for a new baby.

What a thoughtful and unexpected way to present towels!  Enjoy!

On the set of the Hallmark channel’s Home + Family.


Wonderful White Glue — Alternative uses!

It’s official.  Official in that I had it put on my new business card:  I’m a Craft Maniac.  Not news to anyone who knows me, and I’m proud to be one.

Like any proper “maniac,” I do delve into certain subjects with more-than-average interest – some of the fruits of that ‘delving’ can be seen here on the Tamara Blog.  But I digress.  Speaking of delving, let’s examine the humble white glue.  We’ve been familiar with it for decades, and honestly, with all the ‘adhesive technology’ that has popped up in the last few years, plain ol’ Elmer’s is still my go-to-glue.

So exactly what is it?  White glue, sometimes called carpenter’s glue, wood glue, school glue — among other things — is actually Polyvinyl Acetate, also known as PVA glue.

It’s used widely in crafts, woodwork – hence the name, ‘wood glue.’  I’ve even read that PVA can be used as a coating to protect cheese from fungi and humidity.  Hmm.  I’m not so sure about that one.  While PVA glues don’t emit harmful fumes, the glue is toxic to ingest.  So, if you have a childhood taste for paste, this is one glue you don’t want to eat!

Aside from the paper, leather and wood binding properties of the awesome adhesive, here are a couple of lesser-known non-craft uses for wonderful White Glue.

THE WONDERS OF WHITE GLUE

Fabulous beauty trick:  White glue can be put on your face in place of those expensive blackhead remover strips.  Check to make sure you’re not allergic to the glue, and then simply apply to your bad-skin prone areas.  Smear on, let dry, and then when it’s dry, gently pull off, and come away with super clean skin. (Caution: like when you use those strips, your tiny hairs will come off too.)   For me, it even works better than the drugstore strips, and it’s custom sized!

Relieve the ouch:  So you’re opening the mail, and get a paper cut.  Dang those hurt!  Grab your bottle of white glue, and put a little drop on top of the cut.  Let it dry, and you’ll have a barrier that will keep out dirt, seal out air, and dull the pain until it heals, and the cut won’t crack open again.

Another ouch:  It’s also great for removing splinters – just put a dab on top of the splinter, wait for it to dry, and peel it off.  Splinter comes out with the removal of the glue.

Glam:  Finally, you can mix a little watered down glue with food coloring and glitter, and use for dramatic hair streaks that also have some structure.  Use sparingly, as a little goes a long way.  But the look is so cool.  And, when it comes time to wash it out, make sure to soak hair well in warm water before shampooing.

So there you have it… enjoy some new uses for white glue.  But before I leave you, can anyone tell me why glue doesn’t stick to the inside of the bottle??  (Kidding… It’s a rhetorical question.  But it does make you think!)