Thursday, March 28, 2013

constellation embroidery

Inspiration Pin, here.

Piece of painters' tarp + embroidery hoop + dye + plastic zipper bags (perfect for dyeing a small amount of fabric)

Dyed fabric, ready to stretch in the hoop after ironing

Stretched and stitched with antique silk thread (French knot tutorial here)

The back.

And now it's ready to be a birthday present for one of my favorite ladies. I wonder if she'd guess it's for her? ;)

Thanks for reading!

p.s. you can make these photos larger just by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that, clever you.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

thrift finds: campaign dresser and yellowstone pennant

The bedroom is in a transitional stage (urgh, the walls . . . look away . . . LOOK AWAY!), but I wanted to share this vintage campaign-style dresser and Yellowstone National Park pennant I picked up at an estate sale a couple of weeks back. The dresser came with a mirror, too, though I haven't found a place to put it yet.

The dresser set somehow survived until Sunday and I put in a bid on it, since there were no other takers. To my surprise I won (it was too low for what the dresser is worth, but I couldn't justify budgeting more), and eventually we made the decision to get rid of my husband's old 1990s oak veneer dresser and put this one in its place. 

I cleaned up the dresser and papered the drawer bottoms with old nautical charts, but otherwise, I'm waiting on making changes or updates.

I've seen a lot of painted or refinished campaign furniture on Etsy and Pinterest, but I kinda like the speckled wood stain. Link up in the comments section below if you've seen a campaign furniture makeover I need to see before making up my mind.

I love the pennant a ton. It's screen-printed wool felt and probably dates to the 1940s. The only way it could be better is if it were from Glacier (where we visited this summer).

Eventually, I'll get the walls replastered, primed, and painted and I'll give you a look at the finished room . . . but honestly, a foot on all sides of these photos is kind of a disaster area right now, so it'll probably be awhile.

Thanks for reading! Any unexpected thrift scores of your own lately? Do tell! I love following your (non-spam) links to look at pretty stuff.

p.s. you can make these photos larger simply by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that, clever you!

Linking up to:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

the inventor's supply kit

I was recently looking for a couple of birthday presents for two sweet kids in my family. One, a girl turning eight, is very artistic. Arts & crafts kits for kids her age (especially those targeted at girls) are pretty easy to find, and I'm told she loves these things. I found two (onetwo) I thought she'd adore and wrapped them up in a pretty fabric sack I'd made (tutorial coming soon).

The other, a boy turning eleven, was harder to shop for. He's also creative, and has a particularly curious mind when it comes to engineering gadgets and finding out how stuff works. This always impresses me about him.

It's somewhat difficult to find a ready-made kit for someone like him. A lot of science-y kits (even the more expensive ones) cheap out on the supplies, or only provide enough for a limited number of experiments one time through. I don't think that's the best way to encourage the kind of experimentation that engineering and inventing require. Obvious answer: to make an Inventor's Supply Kit of my own invention.

As a pre-internet kid, books were where I always found my answers when I was little. So I found a couple of books I thought would inspire a ton of ideas in his mad-scientist head, and collected a bunch of stuff he'd need to do most, if not all, of the projects in the books. Ta-da! Instant kit.

Well, I mean, not totally instant. You know me. I had to make it look "legit". I also reused one of those nice shipping boxes with the red interior that came with a photo book from MyPublisher, and made some graphics and wrapped everything up in brown paper (reused packing from a box someone shipped me) with stickers and striped tape. But mostly instant.

The first book, Kinetic Contraptions, requires hobby motors, which are pretty cheap from on-line retailers until you add in shipping costs. I headed to the thrift store and bought a couple of cheap motorized cars someone had donated. Then I disassembled them and salvaged the motors (full disclosure: the Mister helped loosen some crazy-tight tiny screws). As a bonus, this also yielded a supply of tiny screws, several wheels and axels, gears, and an LED lighting and speaker assembly, all of which are harder to come by than hobby motors.

Some kids would appreciate the opportunity to do the disassembly themselves, but I didn't want to leave any obstacles between the recipient of our gift and the projects in the book. Better, I decided, to give him raw materials to build with from the ground up. He can always pull apart old toys later to salvage more parts if he wants to.

Most of the other supplies came from the dollar store or were pretty inexpensive elsewhere. Here's a list of what I put in the kit (also printed on the graphic inside the box lid):

• 2 hobby motors (from RC cars)
• 1 speaker/light assembly (from an old RC car)

• assorted tiny screws
• straws
• bamboo skewers (with the sharp points cut off; I'm creative, not crazy)
• 4 film canisters (from a bunch of rolls of camera film I picked up for my old-timey 35-mm at the thrift store)
• assorted RC car wheels
• wire (leftover from another project)
• 8 AA batteries (the book recommends dollar store batteries, since things are bound to be left connected accidentally, and good batteries drain just as well as cheap ones)

• 36 spring-clamp clothespins
• 3 D batteries (see above)
• 2 spools of electrical tape
• 250 plastic-coated paperclips (which can always be stripped down if the project calls for it)
• 12 binder clips
• spare gears and wheel axels (from old RC cars)
• brads and decorative metal gears
• glue sticks
• rubber bands

I also used a part of a roll of striped orange paper tape from Target's stationary aisle, reused some brown kraft packing paper, and printed some labels on some label paper.

If you find yourself wanting to make one of these kits for a scientist or inventor in your family, I can totally send you a PDF of the graphic for the box top (for personal use only, of course, not for resale). Just send me a message via e-mail or in the comments field below and I'll hook you up!

Thanks for reading!

p.s. you can make these photos larger simply by clicking, but you probably already knew that, clever you!

Linking up to:

Thursday, March 7, 2013


The day I brought home my kiddo from the hospital, the trees were already blooming. "Hello!" they seemed to say.

Oh man, I'm so ready for spring to be here. My front door is, too.

(You can get these plaques with bark on at Michael's Crafts. I freehanded the letters, then nailed on a picture hanger and hung it with some string {so it wouldn't cover the peep hole}).

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

hometown tourist: salvage works / solabee / boys' fort

We took the kiddo up north to Stumptown last weekend to visit OMSI, and when he'd tired of watching paper cups fly and making little foam balls hover in mid-air, we packed him back into the car and shuffled him off to my little dreamland of the day.

When you see Paul Bunyan, you know you're getting close. 

Yes, my idea of a good time was visiting Salvage Works, which now shares its space with Boys' Fort Furniture  and Solabee Flowers and Botanicals (they do weddings!). You can see your intrepid blogger reflected in the window below . . . and now I'm gonna link this post to Amy over at While Wearing Heels, whose photo challenge of the month was to photograph your reflection. Bam! Two with one blow.

You can probably guess as to the nature of Salvage Works. They sell architectural salvage, house parts, and assorted oddities. And they dress it up so that the place looks and smells (and costs) boutique. Boys' Fort and Solabee help with that, though it's at times difficult to determine where one venture ends and the next begins, they're all so integrated. 

For example, we have here a gorgeous cabinet with drawers full of hardware and . . . succulents.

A wall built with reclaimed timber sports a vertical wall planter made of old coffee cans; more barnwood planters fill the desk.

Because all three businesses operate so symbiotically in the front area of the store, I think it'd be better for you if I just show you some vintage + green eye-candy and give you a scavenger hunt list.

To Find:
*antique green house/plant stand full of plants
*stump used as a low stool/table
*whiskey barrel
*vertical wall planter made of reclaimed wood

To Find:
*vintage mail slot
*1970s lamp
*oleo margarine trough . . . er, bucket
*old trophy
*painting of Vincent, called Vincent, by a local artist
*really old trunk
*tupperware canisters

To Find:
*an arrow made of reclaimed wood
*an old stool
*a stained concrete floor

To Find:
in this wall installation
*grape crate from the Coachella Valley
*Anglo roast beef crate
*a shout out to San Francisco
*a Scotch Whisky crate

To Find:
*a yardstick photo frame
*turquoise dishware
*fake fruit
*old yearbook photos

To Find:
*drawer pulls
*face plates
*a well-loved glass display cabinet

As usual, I missed taking snaps of some of my favorite things inside, like the labelled cabinet full of drawer hardware, a leaning pile of huge reclaimed timbers,  and a rolling stool made with a stump and some casters. Some day I'll get the hang of this blogging thing, readers, and you can say you knew me back when I sometimes still resorted to phone camera pictures and sometimes neglected to document the good parts.

Oh heck, let's do a little scavenger hunt outside, too, shall we?

To Find:
*really BIG chain
*creepy head watching your every move
*fabulous cabinet full of tools (?)
*stack full of singleton drawers and wooden crates

To Find:
*a "staff only" sign I totally missed
*a "detour" sign that someone else hit . . . possibly with a truck
*dart board
*coal buckets

To Find:
*oil can
*$1 license plates
*sign that either reads "she said" or "shed sale" (I'll never know, and it's killing me, Smalls)
*more wooden crates

To Find:
*old red orchard ladder
*army green lockers
*two cast iron bathtubs
*vintage bikes
*spoked metal wheel 

To Find:
*a good reminder
*old shovels
*assorted grates
*the word "schmick's"

They also have a decent-sized reclaimed lumber yard which the weather (and lack of flat bed truck) kept us from exploring, but we mean to take a closer look should we visit again.

So let me tell you the best thing about this place: the really sweet ladies running it for the day. I can't imagine better spokespeople for their businesses. 

The woman from Solabee was headed out on a quick delivery, but paused at the door as we were entering to see if she could answer any questions or offer any help on her way out. She swore she'd be back in a snap before pointing the guys toward a pile of vintage Fisher-Price for the kiddo to paw while I wandered around.

I think Terry was the name of the knowledgable, helpful, and friendly woman at the Salvage Works counter, who directed me to all and sundry and helped the mister pick out a surprise t-shirt for me. When I came back through with a fistful of purchases (two little succulents, two old coat hooks, and a letterpress card with Paul Bunyan on it) she told me all about the fabulous Hidden Portland project Carye Bye (the card's artist) runs. Carye also runs a bathtub museum. (You can file that little bit o' knowledge in your "Weird Portland" drawer.)

Summary: Put it on your bucket list of places to visit in Portland if you're interested in really lovely modern botanicals, vintage finds repurposed and reused, or the raw materials to DIY. It's not as big a heaping heap of supplies as you'll find at my perennial favorite stomp (Bring), but more a carefully curated collection of treasures big and small, and a really enjoyable place to spend some time exploring and imagining possibilities.

Thanks for reading!

p.s. you can make these photos bigger just by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that, clever you.

Friday, March 1, 2013

robot party favors + treat sacks

Time for more robot party fun! Today, I'm going to show you the party favors we put together for the kiddo's third birthday party. (You can find the robot cake post and a piƱata post here and here.)

The favor bags are really simple. You'll need some silver-colored bags with handles, and some of this paper tape from the stationary aisle at Target.

I also used the circles I cut out of the party invitations (post coming soon!) cut in half for the eyes.  No tutorial required, just some glue dots (for the eyes) and scissors.

I had planned to use googly eyes on these, but some of the guests were under three years old. You can make all of your bags look the same if you want; I made each of our robot favor bags different.  Fun and smiley!

We left the bags mostly empty except for these sticker sheets from Amazon and some robot erasers from the Dollar Tree. (Several of the kids tried to eat the erasers [thinking they were candy] so I'd nix them if I had it to do all over again.)

The kids collected other favors for their bags during the party, like these wind-up robots we found at Eugene Toy and Hobby locally. You can find them in a local toy store too, I'd bet, or you can get them on-line (I'd skip the wind-up robots at Oriental Trading Company though. We'd ordered a box and half of them were missing pieces or didn't walk, and the rest broke really easily. Ditto the replacements they sent.).  

I made this silver-glittered Play-Doh using some party packs of Play-Doh I picked up after Halloween. 

I made the silver color by mixing the following colors with silver glitter and dividing into five containers: 2 white, 1 black, 1 green, 1 purple. 

To finish them off, I taped each one with the paper tape and labeled them with a fine-point Sharpie.

To make the robot candies, I found a robot candy mold  and cast three different recipes: gummies (using this recipe from Skip to My Lou; you can see the blue mix cooking in that photo above), chocolate butterscotch, and chocolate peanut butter (both by melting chocolate chips with either butterscotch chips or peanut butter chips).

I designed the packages in Adobe Illustrator, and stapled everything together with green staples.

The jelly bean packages were easier. I bought mixed beans in bulk and separated out the yellow/green/blue ones.

If you want a copy of the PDF file so you can print your own wrappers, leave me a comment below or send me an e-mail, and I'll get a copy to you.

With most party themes, there's a way to mix handmade and store-bought party favors to maximize budget and really personalize. The trouble I ALWAYS have is knowing how to plan my time well so that I'm not frazzled by the time the party rolls around.

Any time management tips? How do you narrow down party ideas and decide what to leave out?

Thanks for reading!

(p.s. you can make these images larger just by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that. clever you!)