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by Wiley

One auspicious morning, I saw this beautiful desk (along with a “FREE!” sign) out on my neighbor’s curb.

I was sure someone would snag the desk before the day was done, but when I got home that evening, it was still there!

With my Mag-Lite in tow, I went to investigate. The desk was missing a slide-out tray but seemed awesome otherwise; it had plenty of storage space and was built to last. Feeling a bit like a creeper skulking around the neighborhood at midnight with my flashlight, I stealthily removed the drawers and carried them to my garage. It took six trips.

I left a note letting my neighbors know I’d take the rest of the desk home once I rounded up the troops. The next evening, Walt and Fiona and I lugged it into the backyard.

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to just clean it and use it immediately, or repaint it. My least favorite part of furniture makeovers is sanding and priming, and I wasn’t sure if I was willing to do the prep work to repaint the desk. Then I read a Design*Sponge tutorial about Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I learned that chalk paint (which is different from chalkboard paint—paint that you use to create a blackboard-like surface) can be applied to just about any wooden surface without having to strip, sand, or prime the wood beforehand. It leaves a velvety finish and is good for projects where you want a shabby chic/vintage/antique look.

I decided to give it a go. Even though Annie Sloan products are expensive (1 liter of paint: $38; 500 mL of wax: $28) and the brand is hard to find, I thought the money would be worth the time I’d save not sanding and priming.

In all, I worked on the desk for two days (one day to clean, one day to paint). It really could have taken just one day, but I drove to San Jose twice because the store was out of wax the first time I went. I hope this tutorial will inspire you if you’re considering a furniture makeover of your own!

DAY ONE: WASHING THE DESK

Supplies

  • furniture cleaner
  • steel wool scouring pad (0000)

The desk was originally covered in a thick layer of grime. After vacuuming the desk, I scrubbed it with a cleaner then hosed it down and let it try in the sun. (I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you soak your furniture in water. But since it was a very hot day, I knew the wood would dry quickly.)

DAY TWO: PAINTING THE HARDWARE

Supplies

  • screwdriver
  • knobs
  • screws
  • spray paint

After removing the knobs, I spray painted the hardware in a navy blue color. Easy-peasy!

DAY TWO: PAINTING THE INTERIOR

  • paintbrush
  • primer
  • interior paint

At this point, I decided I wanted to compare the “prime then paint” process with the “chalk paint only” process. Since I already had some primer and paint samples from past projects (and since I didn’t want to use too much of the costlier chalk paint), I decided to prime and paint the inside of the drawers.

I painted the drawers with a coat of primer…

…then topped that off with two coats of a light aqua-colored Benjamin Moore interior paint.

Priming and painting took several hours—and the primer/paint smell was strong, even though I was working in an open garage. About mid-way through the process, I wished I’d just stuck with chalk painting the whole thing!

DAY TWO: PAINTING THE EXTERIOR

Supplies:

  • paintbrush
  • chalk paint
  • clear wax
  • rags

Now on to the fun stuff!

I painted the desk’s exterior in “Coco,” a gray/brown color to complement my dresser. The paint applied thickly, dried quickly (in just half an hour), and did not smell nearly as much as the primer and traditional interior paint. It also provided great coverage, so I ended up just painting one coat (with plenty of paint left over for future projects). Overall, I think the chalk paint is definitely worth considering if you’re contemplating a furniture makeover.

After buffing the table with clear wax, my buddies and I managed to get the behemoth desk into my room. (The whole process involved a lot of guesstimating, experimenting, maneuvering, and door removal-ing.) Then we celebrated with beers, brats, and giant pretzels at a local German beer garden.

All in all, a great weekend!

by Wiley

For a newbie sewer like me, the more visuals, the better!

This weekend, I used Etsuko Furuya’s “Scooter” fabric to make a small bag for a friend who’s traveling abroad this summer.

The bag’s pattern is based off of the “Velcro Pouches” chapter of Lotta Jansdotter’s Simple Sewing for Baby book. The book has a ton of cute product shots but is fairly text heavy, with few (if any) instructional diagrams for each project.

I made some adjustments to Jansdotter’s pattern and have rewritten simplified instructions. After the jump, you’ll find step-by-step pictures of how you can make a travel bag of your very own!

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Read the rest of this entry »

by Wiley

Beebe + BunBun = 2GETHA 4EVA!  A good friend from work recently moved on to greener pastures. As a going away gift, our team gave her adoption papers for BunBun, a jack rabbit puppet that Beebe adored and kept propped up next to her desk. As part of Beebe’s gift, I made a felt carrot for BunBun. Here’s a quick craft project you can work on for the veggie-lover in your life:

Supplies

  • orange felt
  • green felt
  • needle
  • thread
  • pinking shears (or fabric scissors)
  • polyester batting
  • optional: sewing machine
Directions
  1. Sew squiggly lines on the orange felt. No need to be precise!
    carrot1
  2. Fold the felt in half then sew a carrot-shaped line down one side. Trim outside the line.
    carrot2
  3. Flip the fabric inside out, then stuff the carrot with batting.
    carrot3
  4. Cut leaves out of the green felt. Cut a slit through the middle of the leaves .  I opted to create Sideshow Bob-like leaves with pinking shears.
    carrot4
  5. Stuff the top of the carrot through the slit in the green felt. Gather the felt then hand-stitch the leaves and carrot together.
    carrot5
  6. Ta-da! You, too, can create a carrot faster than it takes to say, “What’s up, Doc?”!
    carrot61

by Wiley

This morning, I got a story on my Facebook newsfeed from a new mom:

<my friend>: Found a use for all the frozen packs of bm sitting in the drawer of our freezer – ice pack for the injured.

It turns out she was talking about breastmilk…but you can imagine all the horrified comments that resulted from the post! (Turns out my friend had never heard of the other poopy meaning for “BM.”)

Anyway, party planning’s in full swing here at Quizzical Creatures. Preparations for another baby shower are underway and, taking Pedro’s lead, I built a friend a (diaper) cake.

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If you do a Google image search for “diaper cakes,” you’ll see a lot of cute cakes made of rubber band-ed diapers. However, there was a dearth of rubber bands in the house, so I experimented to see if there was a way to make a cake without this key component. This easy-peasy tutorial will show you how to fashion a cake using just three simple ingredients!

diapercake1

diapercake2

diapercake3

diapercake4

diapercake5

diapercake7

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You can decorate the cake any way you’d like — with treats interspersed between the nappies, with ribbons, etc. This particular cake will be Noah’s Ark-themed because my friend’s having TWINS!

by guest writer Walt

[editor’s note: Walt’s been gone for the past two months. (Boo!) But he’ll be back next week. (Yay!) I like hanging out with him because he’s one of the funniest people I know, and he also never ceases to surprise me. Here, in his words, is a description of a wonderful gift he made last fall…]

I decided to make a craft project for Wiley’s birthday. She likes books, especially decorative ones, and she usually keeps her clock in the bathroom because it is loud enough to keep her awake at night. So I thought a book clock would be a good gift. The first attempt ended in failure. I found some instructions online that suggested using parts from a simple wall clock that you can buy at Target or Wal-Mart. The result, in my case, was a cheap and broken clock.

It turns out that you can buy clock kits at a craft store. These contain the electrical and mechanical bit, a shaft for the hands, the hands themselves, and some clock-face numbers. You can attach them to ANYTHING, and then that thing will be a clock. It’s like magic. Piece of driftwood? No problem. Slice of leftover pizza? BAM, it’s a clock. A Waverly Novel, Fireside Edition, was a piece of cake. By which I mean that it was really easy to make into a clock.  You could also use the kit to make a literal piece of cake into a clock. But I didn’t try that.

I decided to incorporate the glass and rim from the dismembered clock as part of the packaging, so that I could wrap the completed clock.


(pic from Walt’s blog)

I wrapped it up with a touch of Toy Story, and drove over to Redwood City to terrify and annoy Wiley.  That was fun.  After a while, though, I decided to give her the clock, too (since I was already there).

We were glad to find that this clock movement doesn’t make much sound at all.  I also promised to make a similar design in a wristwatch, so that Wiley could take it with her everywhere.  I think I’ll use Anna Karenina, or an unabridged dictionary.

Editor’s note: Walt went to a used bookstore to look for a used book to use. Even though he was just looking for a book that had an old-fashion-y look and feel, the book he walked out with was apropos: The Fair Maid of Perth by Sir Walter Scott. (Perth was the name of the street I lived on when he was making the clock!)

by Wiley

Last weekend, the postman delivered a very special package that had left the United States, got caught up in a whirlwind romance with a femme fatale during a choppy transatlantic cruise, made a few poor life choices while backpacking across Eastern Europe, then boomeranged back to the East Coast (to mend a broken heart or to flee from the Polish popo, most likely). At least, that’s probably what happened because otherwise we’re not sure why it took the U.S. Postal Service a month and a half to deliver a Priority Mail package from Alabama to Florida.

Walt’s Grandmommy meticulously cross-stitched this stocking and sent it off from Alabama to Florida last December. 40 days and nights passed (how very biblical!), then Walt’s momma received the cross-stitching, made the beautiful green stocking part, and mailed this very sweet gift off to me here in California. Along the way, a thoughtful elf filled the package with goodies, including several Moleskines and four of my favorite pens (Pilot G-2s, if you’re wondering). It was a January miracle!

Here’s my lovely and much-loved new stocking:

All kidding aside, I’m a big fan of the USPS. I really like going to the post office, decking out packages with fun stamps, and checking out the new selections. I also really like visiting the USPS website to learn more about the stamps that I’ve purchased. (I’m beginning to see why I can never quite seem to finish all the things I want to do each day…)

The day that the package arrived in Florida, I had happened to visit my local post office. (Mailing an envelope to China was only $1.05!) Here are some Garden of Love stamps I picked up during the trip:

I don’t really collect stamps…or I’m more of a temporary collector, at best. I eventually end up using the ones I get (over a period of several years). Here are two favorite sets that are almost gone. You can figure out how old they are by their prices. (It was only last year that the USPS made all first-class stamps “forever” stamps, rather than putting a value on each sticker.)

Who will be the lucky recipient of the highly coveted Storm Troopers stamp? It could be YOU! 😉

by Wiley

Our dear friend Caleb got a cool new job in Texas, so Walt and I wanted to send him off with a memento to help Caleb remember all the good times he’s had in the Golden State. Caleb’s had plenty of good times at his favorite restaurant EVER, so we thought this gift might be appropriate. (During his last month here, Caleb ate Pluto’s almost every day and cataloged the experience on Facebook.)

Walt hand-stitched the lettering and I machine-sewed the rest of this alien salad creature thing:

If you ever want to give Pluto’s a try, here are Caleb’s tried (and tried and tried) and true recs:

My favorite salad was a fruity Chicken Caesar — mixed greens, HOT chicken, DOUBLE
croutons, Parmesan cheese, walnuts, pears, strawberries, carrots; three scoops of dressing. I also often got garbanzo beans (somehow theirs taste much better than those that I’ve found in random salad bars like Whole Foods), grilled fennel, fried onions, and raisins. Right at the end, I discovered that red onions go really well with this salad. Over time, I had started to switch to balsamic vinaigrette (to try to marginally increase the healthiness of the above salad), in which case, I’d go with more savory things like grilled red peppers and olives when they had them.

Don’t forget — DOUBLE croutons!

Every spring, the de Young Museum in San Francisco hosts “Bouquets to Art,” a week-long exhibition where floral designers from around the world use fresh flowers and foliage to reinterpret the museum’s signature pieces.

I recently helped plan the decorations for Heather’s South Bay baby shower and, while brainstorming ideas, I remembered this amazing exhibit. I thought it would be cool to reinterpret Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss using paper flowers. That project is still a work in progress but, as a result of that goal, I took up paper-flower making (with the help of the book Making Paper Flowers by Laurie Cinotto — a book that, for some reason, only seems to be available at Barnes & Noble brick-and-mortar stores).

Laurie’s book included a whole section on crepe paper, where I learned that not all crepe papers are created equal. I also learned that one of the few U.S.-based purveyors of high-quality German crepe paper was right under my very nose!

Castle in the Air is “a studio for the imagination” that’s located in Berkeley’s 4th Street district. The small shop is overflowing with specialty stationary, supple leather journals, gorgeous lino prints, and whimsical displays like  19th-century marionettes and papier-mâché mannequins. Upstairs, there’s a small gallery and a backroom workshop for classes. The merchandise isn’t cheap — but, for the most part, the products also aren’t things you’d be able to find at your run-of-the-mill Michaels or Jo-Ann. The store has a quirky sensibility and an extremely well curated selection of craft supplies; after I walked in, I immediately sensed that a lot of thought and heart went into planning the shop.

After making flowers with the kind of crepe paper you can find at party stores, I decided to test the waters with the German stuff. I visited Castle in the Air one Sunday to check out their selection of heavyweight crepe paper. The colors available were a lot more muted and nuanced than what I’d been working with (e.g., “pineapple” and “coral” vs. “yellow” and “pink”), and I could definitely feel the difference in texture and quality. As I spoke to the proprietress about colors, she offered to take me to her (amazing!) back room so that I could see the full selection.

Earlier on, I’d already visited the upstairs gallery and had been blown away by the exhibit. So when the owner took me to the back room to show me the rows and rows of gorgeous paper stacked up all the way to the ceiling, I felt lucky to get a backstage pass to the inner workings of such an awesome local shop.

The image below is a picture of a photo that was in the newspaper that was in the gallery. (Phew!) Berkeley artist and self-proclaimed vegan taxidermist Aimée Baldwin uses the German crepe paper to meticulously handcraft life-sized birds:

Some of Aimée’s fine-feathered friends in the upstairs gallery:

Anyway, back to the baby shower. The party’s hostess said the party’s theme colors were coral and aqua. (The baby’s nursery is based on Heather’s Anthropologie vase, which Jirat also happened to own and let me borrow as inspiration for the party decorations.)

These chocolate butterflies were made with red Wilton candy melts and a silicone insect mold.

I made these felt mums for Ingo’s bridal shower last year, and the bunting was made using the process outlined here.

Here are flowers made out of thin crepe paper. The material is easy to work with, has a lovely translucence, and is quite inexpensive.

These blooms are made with the heavyweight German crepe paper. The material is stretchier and more durable.

These flowers are made with supplies that came in the B&N kit. I definitely recommend the book for anyone who wants to make their foray into flower making!

[editor’s note: Wiley wrote the title of this post; Ingo’s not patting herself on the back! 🙂 ]

by Ingo

I decided to make terrariums a theme for my wedding centerpieces and wedding invitations.   Terrariums are awesome- they are portable, pretty and you can put all sorts of weird things inside (like plastic dinosaurs!).  In order to make these centerpieces as economical and sustainable as possible, I spent a good 6 months covertly stealing plant cuttings from neighbor’s yards and restaurant windows.  By the time the wedding rolled around, all of my pockets were filled with a fine layer of dirt and a few dead forgotten succulents.

Succulent terrariums are pretty easy to keep alive.  They really only need enough sunlight so that they don’t get “leggy”.  The non-succulent terrariums took a little more trial and error.  I basically planted whatever plant I found, watched it die, then replaced it, then watched it grow mold, then replaced it.  Eventually some things stayed alive!  There are a bunch of really good terrarium tutorials out there so don’t do what I did.  My head was wedding panic crazy so I threw things together, but now I wish I had followed instructions more closely since they have a propensity to grow mold when the top is closed.

I hollowed out a lightbulb and stuffed some dried billyballs and reindeer moss inside.  It was a dangerous experience that included a few splinters of glass barely missing my eyeballs.  You should try it too!

The crab shell was collected in Aruba during our last destination wedding shoot.  The smooth wood piece was collected in Tahoe during our annual snow boarding trip.  See?  Stealing from other people and from nature is way better than buying.

Now… wedding invitations.  The project started out with the wise decision to make something simple since people are going to throw them out anyway.  Then somehow I got really ambitious (crazy wedding brain) and decided on abnormal sheet dimensions that could not be cut with a traditional paper cutter.  Then I wanted to die.  Then I decided I was going to send out Evites instead.  Then Jerry nursed my brain back to health, and I finished the project.

These bad boys are printed with a combination of Lino-blocks and Gocco Machine.  I hand-sized and mounted three linoleum pieces on masonite and carved three blocks:
1. off-white layer (the jar)
2. light pool layer (stuff inside the terrarium)
3. brown layer (all the lines)

Then I cleaned off the light pool paint on block#2 and only inked a portion of it red, to create the red accents.
Then I cleaned off the red paint and inked a portion sage green to create more accents.
THEN, I hand painted in some of the lighter red/orange accents.

Each block has to be individually inked and pressed for each print, which was very time consuming.  Each print had 5 ink blocked layers and one hand painted layer.  And I made 90 prints, which comes out to 450 separate inkings and printings!
After all of my prints dried for the 6th time, I started to gocco in the text.  I used two colors, the same pool blue and an off white. A hurdle that I encountered was that the oil based gocco paint dried extremely light on my kraft paper, even after 2-3 separate applications.  I emailed Yale a frantic panicky email with tears in my eyes and she responded with the elegant solution of using my water based linoblock ink (that’s why I am so glad she’s my partner!).  For all you gocco-ers out there, you don’t need to use the expensive gocco ink!  As long as the ink has some thickness to it, you can probably use to for gocco.  Oil based inks probably work better because they don’t run as easily as water based ones.
Here, a fancy looking squirrel holding up a sign for the address:

I can with complete certainty say that it was because of these invitations that I am still backed up with work I didn’t do last summer.  I shake my fist at you horrible beautiful lovingly crafted invitations!

-Ingo

by Wiley

Deck the walls with this Christmas garland…with a little help from WonderUnder, an iron-on adhesive. Here’s how you can make your very own festive felt banner:

Supplies

  • WonderUnder (sold at your local fabric store)
  • 1 sheet of red felt
  • 2.5 sheets of white felt
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Pencil or marker
  • Scissors
  • Letter stencils (I printed out letters from my computer, but you could free-hand it)
  • Ruler (optional)
  • Pinking shears (optional)
  • Damp towel
  • Small hole punch (optional)
  • Ribbon
Directions
  1. Make Your Own Sticky-Backed Red Felt. Cut out an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of WonderUnder. Put the red felt onto your ironing board, then put the WonderUnder (rough side down) on top of the felt. Use a dry, hot iron to press the adhesive onto the felt for 10 seconds.
  2. Create Your Letters. Cut out your letter stencils, then use a pencil or marker to trace the reverse image of the letter onto the Wonder-Undered side of the felt. Cut out your felt letters.
  3. Cut Out White Felt Squares for the Background. Use a ruler and pencil to draw out evenly sized rectangles from the white felt. (I created six rectangles from each 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of white felt.) Use pinking shears to cut out rectangles with zig-zag borders.
  4. Adhere the Red Letters to the White Rectangles. Position each red letter so that it’s on top of a white felt rectangle. (The Wonder-Undered side of the red felt should be touching the white felt.) Put each square onto the ironing board. Cover up the squares with a damp towel. Iron on the letters (medium-high heat) for 20 seconds. (Tip: From bottom to top, here’s what you should have: ironing board, white felt, Wonder-Under, red felt, damp towel, iron.)
  5. Assemble Your Banner. Use a small hole punch or scissors to create two openings at the top of each white square. String ribbon through the holes, then display your finished banner over the mantle!