How I’m Transforming Our Garage

Good morning!

If you’ve been following me on Instagram (I post in my stories on the weekends that we work on this) you know I’ve been working hard on cleaning up/cleaning out our garage and moving it from just a work space to a more inspiring and “pretty” space, both for me and for my customers.

I’ve been leaning a bit more minimalist in our house lately, pruning away things that I don’t need or use that are just cluttering up my time and my life. That mindset—exactly what it means for my family and I–has been taking shape over the past few months, but it’s been hard to get there when it comes to business stuff. I had so much in the garage that I was saving for a certain project or idea that I was going to get around to “someday” that it was getting in the way of the projects that I was really excited about and really taking away my motivation to create what I really wanted to create.

I had to realize that in the same way I get overwhelmed “at home”, I was also getting overwhelmed “at work”–I had too many possibilities and not enough time or space to get them all done. I had to let things go or I wouldn’t be able to make the progress that I wanted to in my business or in making the garage look the way I wanted it to.

So here’s the big, scary, “before” (it’s actually not as big and scary as it truly was because I took photos way after I initially started. So look at this but imagine it being a lot worse):

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See that gray washed pie crust table in the middle of the photo all the way to the left? This is what the garage looked like when a customer came to pick that one up. Not great, right? I’ve been running into that situation all summer, though, and I really wanted to create a space that I enjoyed more and that would be more inspiring to me and to my customers.

That’s not to say that I didn’t struggle with this move. For a long time, I really wanted a retail space. I was saving for it for awhile, even. Then goals changed a bit, as they do, and that dream got a little farther away from me. But this kind of pushed it’s way in, and then I would lay in bed and think about how much of a step back this dream was from that one. I almost felt embarrassed about it–who has a store in their garage? Who is going to come and shop in my garage that’s freezing half the year and kind of unpleasantly hot the other half? What about torrential downpours, when the roof leaks a tiny bit in that one spot and water soaks into that one corner? Primarily, though, it just looks a little dark and dingy and, well like a garage.

I played around with my Etsy backdrops for a long time, but they were almost all too small for me to take photos of the increasingly larger pieces that I was creating. So the first step on this journey was to throw up some curb find scrap wood and do a white wash over most of it.

 

 

The photo with the shutter shelves looks all right, but obviously this one with the dresser makes it obvious that this solution wasn’t quite what I wanted just yet. Still, it took me probably two years after I first put up this backdrop to upgrade to this (keep in mind, this is just about one half of the north wall of my garage):

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So much better, right? I used 1′ x 6′ common pine boards with a white wash over them. It actually ended up being a couple of different white paints over the course of the whole project, because, as you know, I have paint everywhere (literally in places I didn’t know I had), and most of it is at least half used, so rather than buying new paint, I pretty much just used up what I had. I don’t know about you, but I get a real sense of satisfaction when I get to throw an empty paint can away. I’ll admit, this is kind of strange, but it’s true.

Speaking of paint, I so should have taken pictures of this corner (the one down below) and what it looked like before, because it was an absolute disaster. I basically had these makeshift shelves that were loose boards supported by 2 x 4’s that weren’t exactly even and definitely weren’t that great to look at. Then I found this beauty one night during a particularly fruitful curb shopping trip:

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This has been my paint can corner for a long time, and before the 2 x 4 shelves, there was a metal cabinet there. The latch on that cabinet never worked properly, and so the door was always swinging open and getting in the way, and the shelves on the inside were too narrow for much more than two cans of paint each, so a lot of it was stacked in the bottom and it just wasn’t that convenient (or pretty).

When I found this piece and Dan measured it and discovered that it fit in this space perfectly and had amazing storage, I was pretty much over the moon. Charlotte was also very excited because this thing was filthy, and before I could wash it, it needed to be sprayed down with the hose to get rid of the first layer of grime. Charlotte’s favorite way to help me is by spraying things down with the hose (painting is a very close second). I really wanted to paint this, but I knew I wasn’t selling it, and I’m always hesitant to paint a piece for myself that I know I’m just going to using in the garage. I compromised with myself and used some paint that I didn’t love (obviously not Annie Sloan–I love the color here but not the finish, for my normal pieces, anyway), and it made such a difference:

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There’s something about seeing my paint cans all lined up like this, out in the open but organized and ready to be used, that is really inspiring to me. I don’t feel like I have to clean up before I can start working. There are three shelves hidden underneath, too, where I stashed my boxes of sandpaper, my box of trash bags, some cleaning supplies, and my basket of shop rags–you know, the less inspiring stuff (all of which used to be just out on my workbench, always in the way and never organized).

We had these big light hoods up in the rafters that were leftover from the previous owners:

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Dan did a little poking around in the rafters and discovered that they weren’t hooked up to anything, which makes total sense, since the electrical in our house has always been a scary jungle of wild cords that go nowhere and connect to nothing but are ominously marked “live” and are constantly appearing out of nowhere from places that we thought we’d checked years ago. It’s a real fun circus over here when it comes to potential fire hazards. Anyway, just to be safe, of course, he turned off everything for about an hour and pulled all of these down for me.

In addition to making it a lot more open and less cave-like, I sold the hoods on Facebook later than night, which helped us purchase the next round of common boards for the walls. I love it when that happens.

Back to the north wall. Here’s the before and after:

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I apologize for the second picture being so dark at the back–I’m fighting the shorter days now. I’m also in the process of pricing a window installation back there to let in a lot more light–I’ve always wanted to put another window in for the extra light and also so that I can see and hear Charlotte more easily when she is in the backyard playing.

One of the things that is back there in that very dark corner is this cabinet (it’s probably going to move across the garage and onto the workbench when that wall is done, but I haven’t totally decided that yet):

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I wish I knew more about this piece. It’s super old and handmade, from what I can tell. When I have better light, I’ll take some photos of the inside so you can see the way that the shelves fit in there. Seriously, so cool. I bought it at an estate sale for about $17, which I still can’t believe. It locks, and it seems like it was made to go on top of another piece. I’ve taken it to a few shows and almost sold it a couple of times, but I’ve never been able to get rid of it, and maybe that’s a good thing now. I’m currently using it to store the props and the little things that I use for my Etsy photos, and, like the paint cabinet, it’s really nice to have a place to store these things where I actually enjoy looking at them and can easily find and pull things out.

Previously, they were either scattered all over the garage, stored in random crates, or, most recently, sitting on a shelf all jumbled up and stacked in such a way that I couldn’t really find anything efficiently at all. It’s always felt like a waste to me to put so much time and effort into the space that I’m working in–I could be using all of those resources to work on more pieces–but it’s honestly made such a difference so far, and I’m barely halfway done. I’ve always enjoyed working out in the garage but now that it’s actually pretty and a lot brighter out there, I’m enjoying it so much more. I can’t wait for my window to be installed and to finish up the back wall and I’m so excited to take the final photos and share how my Christmas sale went with you!


How do you feel about your work space? And does anyone else out there sell out of their garage? I’d love to see your photos! Let’s connect in the comments.

Talk soon,

Jessie

 

DIY Upcycled Bathroom Shelf

Good morning friends!

We were up north in Bellaire for the entire week of the fourth this year which was super fun. It’s really starting to become a tradition since Dan’s birthday is on the third and his company considers that one of his holidays. So two holiday days in a row, one vacation day, and two half days working remote meant that we could stay all week!

What did Charlotte and I do while he worked those two mornings, you ask? I think you know.

Shopping up north is extra fun because I don’t get to go to all of these places as regularly as I do the ones downstate, so I don’t usually mind if Dan has to work a little when we’re in Bellaire, because I love working, too, and if he’s working, I can work!

On Thursday morning, Charlotte and I were driving around looking for a garage sale that we never ultimately found, but I did spot these babies on the side of the road, and I picked them up! I love garbage day.

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They are super solid and heavy, plus dove tailed at both ends–perfect for an up-cycling project! Dan used to roll his eyes and ask crazy questions like “What are you ever going to do with those?” He knows better now.

I didn’t have a solid plan until I was browsing at my friend Shelly’s store (definitely head there and hang out for a bit while you’re waiting 2.5 hours for your table at Short’s the next time you’re in town) and picked up a little tub of chalk paint and some antique glaze. Then I started seeing shelves. Of course, drawers made into shelves isn’t an earth-shattering concept–I’ve done it a couple of times already–but I still thought it would be fun.

I wanted to share a quick tutorial featuring my drawer shelf, Shelly’s Shabby Chic Paint in Refresh, and her Old Town Paints Antique Glaze.

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The first thing I did was add some hardware to the back for hanging. I use these mini D-rings for most of my shelves because they are easy and pretty sturdy.

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I just wiped this one down with some warm water and Murphy’s Oil Soap. I don’t usually do a deep clean or any kind of prep work if I’m going for a vintage look or using glaze, since if a stain or spot shows through the paint, it only adds to the look. This particular piece didn’t seem like it was going to be a problem anyway–it’s usually the more cherry looking woods and stains that start to come through the paint in places, and since most of this piece was still the natural wood, I wasn’t too concerned.

coverage for Shabby Chic Paint in Refresh

Again, because I was doing the glaze and going for a more rustic and imperfect look, I didn’t go crazy with coverage or perfect brush strokes, and I only did one coat. You can see from this photo that there is some opacity in places. This was my first time using the Shabby Chic Paint, and while I loved the color, the paint went on more like latex than typical chalk paint, and it definitely felt shinier and more like latex to the touch once it was dry. I haven’t used the Old Town brand in a few years, but from what I remembered, I felt that way about their paint as well.

I’m used to working with Annie Sloan’s paints more than anything, and I’ve gotten used to the way that they dry, so for me, working with this paint would have been more challenging on a bigger piece (on something this small it hardly matters what you use, which makes a project like this the perfect experiment for a first time DIY’er). I don’t know how to describe it exactly, but this paint almost seemed to slide if you tried to go back to a section and add more paint or take some away. If I had been doing a second coat, this wouldn’t have mattered, but since I wasn’t, it was a little frustrating not to have the ability to play with it just a bit more.

Because I hadn’t used it before and it seemed like the drying time was a lot slower than I’m used to with Annie Sloan, I just let it dry overnight before trying the glaze.

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Shelly warned me that the glaze dried super fast, but I was still not prepared for just how fast it dried! I used an old sock of Dan’s that was inexplicably already in the garage anyway, since that was what she suggested (instead of using a brush). You can see how just in the time that it took me to do one side, the very first application dried before I could get enough on the sock to blend it in to the second one fully. It definitely took some time to get used to it, and it made me curious to try another glaze that was maybe a little easier to work with. Once again, I’m really glad that I didn’t try to use it on anything bigger the first time.

I think it’s so fun that there are all these different products to experiment with–I am always excited to try new techniques, and I love the way that the upcycled Refresh drawer shelf turned out!

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I put the two blue shelves in my Etsy shop, along with the rest of the plain drawers that I picked up. I had been thinking about switching up a few things in my bathroom, and for a bit I added one of the au natural shelves to the wall above my towel bar (as pretty as the blue is, it doesn’t really go in there color-wise).

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For awhile I was picking up these insulators super cheap at garage sales. I thought they were interesting and fun, but I didn’t really know what to do with them–kind of like my obsession with apothecary bottles. Mostly they just ended up in my basement, but I figured I would pull them out for awhile and stick them on  my new (old) shelf. I picked up a succulent from the Rochester Farmer’s Market mid-July, and a little antique Hall dish to put it in from the July Utica Antiques Market. I’m thinking about layering in some white and wood frames behind the other pieces to give it a little depth. Really, the last thing I should be thinking about right now is a tiny space in my bathroom, since the mattress is still on the floor of the bedroom and the TV is sitting on an ugly unpainted side table since I sold the buffet that I did have it on…


What projects are you working on and what did you think of my little shelf? Is it something that you’d have fun doing, too?

I’d love to see your projects! Tag me on Instagram @itsjessforton or comment below. Have a great week!

Jessie

Up-cycled Radio Shell Wedding Card Box

Ok ladies. How many of you have things that have been sitting in your garage for months (or years…ahem) that you keep meaning to get around to but are maybe also slightly intimidated by?

My hand is in the air right along with you. I’ve been toting this rusty, busted up radio to shows with me all summer (and listening to my husband tell me to trash it every time he saw it or moved it). I pulled it out of an old house in Utica when Charlotte was a baby, and my ideas for it have gone through several revisions in my head.

Until Christina needed a card box for her wedding last month, however, I had no motivation to actually get it finished. And, of course, I waited until basically the last minute (the Monday before the event) to get it done. I took plenty of photos along the way, because there was no way that I wasn’t sharing this major triumph with all of you.

Here’s my vintage radio shell upcycled into an adorable wedding or shower card box:

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This piece was disgusting. I’m talking it was caked in several layers of grime. The house where I found it had been basically abandoned for twenty years, and everything in it was really, really dirty. I’m pretty sure that there were various animals living in it when the grandson finally got around to cleaning the house out and putting it up for sale.

Most of the radio’s guts were long gone, and what was left was really rusty and basically impossible to salvage. To be honest, when I saw this thing laying in the front yard of that Utica house, I probably should have just left it there, but I was drawn to the shape and the details on the front—there’s just something so romantic about an old radio to me. So I tossed it in my van and saved it from being trashed.

Fast forward three years.

The first thing I did was spray it down with the hose to wash the first layer away of dirt away. I still ended up with several rounds of super dirty rags before it approached some semblance of being clean.

I used my jigsaw with a metal blade to get rid of the guts of the radio before the final wipe down.

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There were obviously some sharp edges left over, but the screws holding this metal ring in place were still there, which made a future step much easier than I thought it would be–more on that later. I left the sharp edges for now, since I wasn’t messing around inside the radio much. I figured I’d sand them down a bit later, or else tape over them if they seemed too threatening.

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I had to glue a few of the little pieces back on, and then I gave it a few coats of Rethunk Junk in Cotton. I know what you’re thinking—no Annie Sloan? Girls, I’m loving Rethunk Junk right now for certain pieces, and this was one of them. I also used this paint on my newly redone kitchen table and some of my chairs, and I love the cleaning product, paint and sealer, especially for a piece like my table, which gets a lot of traffic every day.

With Annie Sloan, I really feel like these old pieces with the deteriorating finish are going to bleed really bad through lighter color paints like Old White, but the prep product for Rethunk Junk seems to sear all of that stuff away pretty well. There is a small brown spot on the front of the radio that came through the paint, but I distressed it in that area and it doesn’t really show up super dark. I might do a compare and contrast post for these two paints at some point in the future, because there is a lot more that I want to say, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

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For the card slot, I drilled a hole in the top of the radio and then used my jigsaw again to cut a rectangular hole across the top of one side. What the photos don’t show is that, like a dummy, I did this while the paint was still wet on the other side of the box…yeah, that’s right. I’m a total spaz. I would just say that I was so excited to finally be putting this together that I just couldn’t help myself, but really, it’s probably that I just wasn’t thinking. At all.

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I used my jigsaw to cut a piece of wood for the back, and then cut that piece into three pieces for the top, the side, and the door.

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Remember how I said that the little metal ring on the inside still had the screws in it, and how they weren’t rusted past recognition? That made it super easy to remove the bits of old fabric that were still hanging on around the edge of the speaker, cut a little circle of this vintage lace that I’ve also had for years, and then put the metal circle right back over it to hold the new fabric in place.

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Now that it’s over, I have no idea why this project was so intimidating to me. It could be that I didn’t really have much to go off of when I was putting this together–I couldn’t really find a tutorial or a photo for inspiration anywhere, like I often do when I’m up-cycling or building a piece for a customer.

I was surprised at how smoothly the whole thing went, too–I didn’t really hit a snag like I often do with other projects, and the metal ring made what I thought would be the hardest part into what was actually the easiest part.

The card box fit in perfectly with the rest of the decor–it was even more adorable than I thought it would be. The last thing I did was use my Cricut to make a Kraft paper and twine “cards” banner for the front of it.

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I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the box now that the wedding is over. I halfway want to keep it, but honestly, what am I going to use it for? The occasional wedding? Every party that I ever throw from now on? My practical mind is telling me that I should just list it in my Etsy shop and let it go, but my emotional mind is telling me that I’ve held on to it this long, and worked so hard on it, and that I’ll probably use it again someday…

Decisions, decisions.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me about that project that you had (or have) sitting around for years before you finally got around to it. Why did you wait so long? How did it turn out? Was it easier or harder than you imagined? Did you do it for yourself, or for someone else, and do you still have it today?

Thanks for reading!

Talk soon,

Jess

 

 

DIY Vintage Suitcase Craft Show Display Piece

Hey friends! I’ve had so much fun with this series, and I want to shift just a little today to talk about a recent display piece that I finished for my craft show booths, upcycled from a vintage suitcase. Still in the vein of craft show how-to’s, but a little more specific, I suppose. Booth design seems like it should be a huge thing for me, but I struggle with it, especially with all of my big pieces. I just want to paint furniture and throw it in the booth (and then carry it back out)–and I don’t always think carefully about my booth or table design. I’m always trying to get better, though, and designing small elements like this suitcase display is one of them.

I’ve talked a lot about how I hate having little pieces scattered all over my furniture, and this summer I’ve been trying hard to come up with unique ways to display my smaller items so that the furniture in my booth doesn’t have to serve as a prop for my other pieces.

I really like the way that this piece helped to showcase some of my smaller items, and I’ve been positioning it right at the back of my tent in an effort to draw customers into my booth and get a conversation going. People almost always ask about the journal covers once they’ve noticed them, and it’s fun to talk about how much I love books and creating art out of old, forgotten ones. It’s rare for me to pass up a bookshelf at an estate sale without at least looking it over, and I’m a huge sucker for antique books.

It’s been a while since I’ve created a piece specifically for display—in fact I want to say that the last one I designed was almost four years ago, when I first started doing shows. I didn’t build that one—my brother did—but it was a tall lattice frame that we used to hang wreaths and signs on. I can’t remember when we stopped using it, but it might be time to figure out how to get that piece back in the rotation. I’d love to be able to display my MI signs more effectively.

Anyway, on to the DIY vintage suitcase display:

 

I picked up this handmade wooden suitcase at a killer estate sale in my mom’s neighborhood earlier this summer, and I had it for sale at a couple of vintage markets before I decided that I was going to keep it and use it for something awesome. The display I created with it worked out really well at Sterlingfest, and I was super excited for how I’d be able to use it for the rest of the year’s events, as well.

There are several small items that I make using upcycled vintage books, and I’ve been wanting to showcase them somehow for a while now, so I went in that direction with this display piece. I wanted to try and get my keychains, necklaces, journal covers, and coasters all in one spot.

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This suitcase looked like it was made in shop class or something, by M. W. H. in 1977. I was going to paint the whole thing, but I didn’t really want to cover this up, because it feels kind of special to me, and no one is really going to see this side of the display anyway. So I left the outside as is. The inside still needed to be painted eventually—I wanted it to be bright and clean so that my items would really stand out against a neutral backdrop.

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The first thing I did was attach some hooks to the top of the skinny side and to the top of an old chalkboard sign I had left over from a baby shower I styled last year. I would have just painted a chalkboard section on the inside of the suitcase lid, but it wouldn’t have been smooth enough, because the top and bottom of the suitcase was made from an old piece of paneling or something, and it has these deep grooves in it:

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I almost rethought this project when I realized that my original vision for the chalkboard section wouldn’t work, but I actually really like the fact that the chalkboard sign is a separate thing. I think it adds a little more dimension to the piece, and it’s a lot easier to change the wording of the sign mid-show if I never need to if I can just unhook the sign and leave the rest of the display set up. If the chalkboard was painted on the back of the actual suitcase, it would be a lot more awkward to try and change it (with any kind of legible writing) without laying the whole thing down flat and totally disrupting the booth.

DIY suitcase diaply

I put another row of hooks in a line under the chalkboard sign for the key chains and necklaces. The paneling was pretty thin, so I just screwed them in by hand. The first few poked through the front of the suitcase, so I had to feel out how far to put them in without pushing through to the other side every time. I didn’t use a ruler or anything to make the line of hooks perfectly straight, which I probably should have done, but hey, nothing’s perfect, right?

shelf inside suitcase display

On the deeper side, I knew I wanted to do a shelf for some of the coasters at the top, and then leave the bottom for the journal covers. I didn’t buy anything special to make the shelf—I just used a scrap piece of molding that I had sitting around on my workbench. I put a couple of screws in from the sides for that, and then I was pretty much done with putting it together the way I wanted it.

The inside needed a few coats of Old White in order to be fully covered, so that took a couple of days to dry. My garage was so full of furniture ready for Sterlingfest that I couldn’t really work on big pieces anyway, so I had to spend my time getting little things ready. I was also working like crazy on my fairy wands, if you remember.

Here’s the photo of my completed and stocked DIY Vintage Suitcase Display:

upcycled suitcase boutique display

During shows, I also prop a second chalkboard under the key chains with the individual prices of these pieces, since I don’t usually bother to tag all of my smaller items, and I add two more hooks on either edge of the inside lid for the necklaces, since the chains for those are too long to hang on the same hooks as the key rings.

I love making the vintage dictionary coasters using the large engravings of insects, flowers, and plants, but I never sell as many of those as I do the Michigan map coasters—I don’t think I’ve ever done an event where I haven’t sold out of those. I’m always on the lookout for vintage and MI maps when I go to estate sales—just another one of my obsessions, I guess.

This piece is ideal for almost everything except the coasters–that top shelf is just too small to hold anything other than two sets, so I still end up having to pile the coasters around the bottom and to the side of the display, which is mostly fine. I’m almost to the bottom of my current box of tiles, so maybe once my current inventory runs out, I’ll take a break from making them for a while so that I can figure out a better display.

Thanks for reading, friends! Have a great weekend!

Talk soon,

Jessie

 

DIY Fairy Wands

 

Today I want to share my latest distraction/obsession/way to avoid the more mundane aspects of being a creative entrepreneur. I really should have been working like crazy last week to finish up some bigger pieces for Sterlingfest. Instead, I obsessively made these fairy wands for three days. It’s what I love and what I hate about being a creative entrepreneur all in one crazy fun activity.

I struggled to title this post, because it’s about more than just DIY fairy wands. I thought about calling it “DIY Distraction,” or “Why I Love What I Do,” or even “What I do When I’m Avoiding ‘Work,’” but I figured a focus on the DIY would be easiest to start off with.

I also struggled with this post a little bit because it almost seems off-brand (more on that in a later post), but the truth is, it might just be what pushes me to expand what I do a bit more. On the surface, especially to me, that sounds like the worst thing ever because I feel like I already have way too much going on, but I think more children’s items in my particular style have the potential to really round out my products in an organic way.

I love making children’s items. Remember how I didn’t get into the DIY home décor stuff until I was married with a house? Well, I never thought much about children’s items until I had a baby. Then I started making all of this stuff for Charlotte—car seat snuggly, baby blankets, bibs, burp cloths, hair bows, painted nursery furniture—and it was all so adorable and lovely that I made a bunch of it to sell at shows and in my Etsy shop.

My baby line did really well, too, but for some reason, I got tired of the items almost as soon as they were made. I hate having little items scattered all over my larger pieces—it always makes me feel like I’m saying to my customers “here, focus on these little things,” when what I really want to showcase is my furniture. Smaller items are important at shows—if there is something small that a customer can pick up and hold in their hand, even if they don’t buy it, the chances are they’ll stay in your booth longer, and the longer they stay, the more likely they are to buy something, place a special order, or at least sign up for my email list. So the little items are super helpful–I just don’t want them piled all over my bigger pieces. Hopefully this display we’ve been working on will help with that this summer:

 

Anyway, what you’re really here for is DIY fairy wands, right? Sorry about the detour we took getting here.

The seed of this project appeared with the advent of the Rochester Explorer’s Club, which Charlotte and I signed her up for during Sidewalk Sales this year. I love downtown Rochester, as you all know from reading my About page, and I feel like they are always coming up with awesome things for the community to do. The Explorer’s Club basically consists of an adventure guide that has a bunch of suggestions for activities (a little like scouts, but less involved), and you go around town collecting badges for each activity that you complete.

One of the first ones that caught my eye was sponsored by Haig’s jewelry store (incidentally, this is the jewelry store that made my wedding ring for me, so that’s fun), and the activity consisted of designing and making your own fairy wand and then bringing it in to the store to cast a spell and claim your badge. As soon as I read it, I got inspired with this project—I knew it was something Charlotte would love doing and could help me with most of.

I already had a bunch of wooden dowels in the garage leftover from some chalkboard signs I made for a baby shower last year that would be perfect for the wand part. I let Charlotte pick out a color for the wand first, and set her to work painting that. I have this little bucket of paint samples in my paint cabinet, and she’s always pulling that out asking to help with projects, so I let her pick one from there, and she of course chose blue. Perfect for a fairy wand.

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The next thing I did was go through this amazing bag of vintage fabric scraps that I bought at a garage sale earlier this summer (it was supposed to be listed on Etsy as craft supply by now, but I’m sure I’ll get there). I am a sucker for fabric, friends. I can’t resist an adorable vintage print. I’m not even a huge sewing person—that is just not my gift—but I buy SO. MUCH. FABRIC. At least I know my limits with it, and I know what I can do. In this case, I knew the star on top of the fairy wand needed to be made from one of these gorgeous fabrics, sewn and stuffed to give it a little dimension. I could do that.

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I pulled out a bunch of fabric in blues and let Charlotte choose which one she liked best. While the stick part was drying, we went inside, found a star outline online, and printed it out to use as a pattern. Charlotte did some coloring while I cut out the two stars and sewed them together, then I put her back to work getting the stuffing in while I pulled out my HUGE ribbon collection. I’m the kind of sick freak who saves the ribbon and rope handles off shopping bags, so I have a lot of ribbon (though I have a lot less after making 45 fairy wands!!). It’s basically a disaster.

Once the star was stuffed, the stick was dry and we put the whole thing together. I used hot glue to attach the star to the top of the wand, wrapped two skinnier ribbons around the wand underneath it, and then tied a larger ribbon underneath the star over the two skinnier ones. I probably should have secured the bow and ribbons with a bit more hot glue (lesson learned for the later versions), because after about 30 seconds of what passes for spell casting when you’re three, the bow had already come halfway undone. By that time, of course, she was way too attached to it to give it back to me to fix, so I just had to wait until she got tired of it to fix it. Luckily, we got a good picture before the unraveling happened. Look how proud she is:

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Thanks Rochester Explorer’s Club. Seriously, though, I was just as giddy. It was a super fun project and I wanted to do more. Like, forty-five more. Which I did over the next three days. The only thing I changed about the subsequent wands was the size of the star—I felt like I made the one for Charlotte’s wand a bit too small, so for the next 45 wands I just made it a bit bigger—about four inches across, which ends up being more like 3-3.5 inches when it’s sewn and stuffed.

Since I didn’t take step by step photos when we were making Charlotte’s wand (totally didn’t anticipate this becoming a thing, friends), here are some step by step photos of different wands throughout the process:

Step 1: Cut and Paint the Dowel: The wand handles are 1/4” dowels cut to about 19” long. I used chalk paint for the wand because I have it and I love it and I’m trying to use some old stuff up, but obviously anything would work. I like the idea of staining them, too, for a more woodland fairy look–maybe for the next show. Dark stained wood with white fabric and ribbons?? Get out. So pretty. If you do one like that, leave a photo in the comment or on my Facebook page for sure. I want to see it!!

Step 2: Choose a Fabric and Cut Out Your Star: I just doubled the fabric, pinned the pattern to it, and cut it out (see above links for the star I used. I copied and pasted it into Paint and adjusted the size until I was happy–again, the star was about 4″ across when I started sewing):

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Step 3: Sew the Star Together: Right sides together, begin sewing at about the middle of one of the arms of the star—you want the opening you leave to be right in the middle of two of the points, so make sure that you start with the end in mind. I back-stitched a couple of times at the beginning and the end, since I was turning this inside out:

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Step 4: Turn the Star Inside Out and Stuff: I used the eraser end of a pencil to help push the star points out gently, and just regular Poly-Fil to stuff the stars:

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Step 5: Attach Star to Wand with Hot Glue: I folded the edges of the star under as best I could to conform with the rest of the seam, and then stuck a little dot of hot glue inside, twisting the wand as I pushed it in to spread the glue around the whole opening, and then pinching the fabric against the wood to hold it in place until it cooled:

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Step 6: Attach Ribbons: I liked the look of the three ribbons, but this is the part where you can really get as crazy as you’d like. When I cut the skinnier ribbons, I just made sure that they weren’t the same length, and that they weren’t exactly centered when I put them together, either. I liked the imperfect look for these. When I tied the larger ribbon on, I did the same thing—I made the thicker ribbon a bit shorter than the other two, and if the two sides ended up the same length, I just trimmed one slightly:

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Part of the reason I went with three is because I had a lot of ribbon to use up, and part of it is that I like odd numbers for things like this.

Here’s my fairy wand display ready for Sterlingfest 2017:

Vintage Fairy Wand DIYHandmade Fairy WandsFairy Wands DIYDIY Fairy Wands

Pricing these was a little hard for me, because I got really attached to the different fabrics and designs as I went. I’m also a sucker for vintage lace and trim, and as I developed this design, I broke out some of that, as well. I get paralyzed sometimes when it comes to using some of my materials—my thought is always, Is there a better project that I could have used this on? And the answer is, probably, but who knows when that project will come along and what I might find in the meantime? Basically, self, chill out. It’s just pink floral vintage trim. It’s not brain surgery.

When I asked Dan about it, he was like “Yeah, I’d pay $5 in a heartbeat for one of those for Charlotte.” I was shocked and a little offended for half a second, but I followed his suggestion. While he’s not my ideal customer, Sterlingfest, in particular, is a family event, and dads are likely to be involved in the shopping on their way to doing other activities with their kids.

The pricing strategy ended up working out really well–I put the wands out in front of the tent on the kids table I had on display (until it sold on Friday, anyway) for Sterlingfest, and it was the perfect height for getting them right in front of the kids. I had a few teenagers even look at them and purchase a few, which I maybe should have expected, so that was really fun. The mason jars with the wands sticking out were the only small items I put out on the furniture–the rest of the small stuff was in the back of the tent on our display rack and checkout table.

The wands were inexpensive enough that most parents didn’t think twice about picking one up; as an added bonus, I could easily give them away to kids whose parents bought bigger pieces from me, which was really fun, too.

I hope you have a lot of fun making your own DIY fairy wand! Let me know how it turns out in the comments, and if you have a project you’d like to share, email me at metrodetroitmaker@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Talk soon,

Jessie

DIY Farmhouse Chalkboard Mail Organizer

 

Hey everyone! Today I want to switch things up a little and offer you an easy thrift store DIY that is one of my top sellers in my Etsy shop—people LOVE these and they are so simple to make. I’ll give you the steps in an easy to follow format along with the tips I’ve discovered as I’ve redone over 60 of these in the past three years. I just went back through my shop to count how many I’ve sold there—I told you they were popular!

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These three slot mail boxes don’t generate a lot of interest sitting on the thrift store shelf, but I am always super excited to find them because I have a simple redo that takes them from dated to farmhouse fresh. I usually find them at garage sales and thrift stores, priced anywhere from $0.25 to $3.99.

Step 1: Wash your piece. I use a mixture of hot water and Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean all the furniture and wood projects that I do. The mail boxes are kind of annoying to clean because of all the little crevices, but cleaning is an important step, especially when you’re about to use white paint. Dirt, grease, and other debris show up really easily under the white so I give these things an extra good scrub. Always let your piece dry completely before applying paint.

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Step 2: Apply white paint.  It might seem silly to use Chalk Paint on smaller pieces, but I like Annie Sloan’s paint so much that I literally use it on everything—I used to be a lot more open to trying new paints and products, but I’m so super in love with her brand that it takes a lot now for me to branch out and actually pick up a new product. I won’t say I don’t do it, but I will say that nothing comes close to her paint. I’ve even used it on the cupboards in my laundry room, and they still look amazing four years later.

If you haven’t tried AS Chalk Paint and you don’t want to buy a huge can for a small project like this, it does come in sample sizes, and those small guys will give you enough paint for 2-3 of these projects (at least). Sounds like a good excuse to open a bottle of wine and have a little DIY mailbox painting party with a couple of your friends! I buy mine at Nada and Co. in Royal Oak, but if you’re in Macomb County, you can also get it at Country Comforts in Romeo (at the Frontier Town shops).

Anyway, back to the project. I always start with a very light coat using a natural bristle brush for my projects, and these are no different. Chalk paint dries very quickly, so once you’re done with this coat, go watch an episode of Gilmore Girls and drink some more wine. By the time it’s over, you’ll be ready to check the progress. You should be good to go for your second coat (depending on the look you want and how dark the wood is, you may want to do three coats for full coverage—I find that AS Old White and Pure White often take 3 coats to make me perfectly happy, especially on dark wood).

Step 3: Wax the mailbox. Once the paint is dry, I wax the mailbox at this point. Wax helps to seal the paint and protect the finish against grease, moisture, and fingerprints. I use AS clear wax, but any clear furniture wax will do. Side note: “natural” is not the same as clear (Minwax has a “natural” shade)—it will yellow the paint a bit. It’s still a good look, and I sometimes use Minwax’s natural furniture wax, but just be aware that the paint will look slightly yellow.

Once upon a time I didn’t wax the mailboxes at this point—I used to do the chalkboard paint next—but waxing after the chalkboard paint is dry means having to be really careful to keep it off that chalkboard area so as to avoid gumming up that surface and making it impermeable to the chalk, which defeats the whole purpose. I probably did about 45 of these things before figuring out that waxing the mailbox first was way easier.

I let the wax sit overnight and then buff it with a brush or cotton cloth before moving on to the next step. The brush you see in the photos is my buffing brush—this is another product that it took me a long time to invest in, but it’s seriously so much easier than using a cotton cloth.

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Step 4: Tape off the chalkboard squares. I put tape along the top edge and sides, and then usually use another small piece of tape or two to help me space the bottom piece, like so:

Press down hard on that tape—make sure you get out any bubbles around the edges!

I’m using pretty skinny tape here, so I used two pieces to help space the bottom edge. One of the reasons why I wait until the wax has cured slightly is that applying the tape to a freshly waxed mailbox tends to make the tape bubble, which will make the next step harder.

Step 5: Paint a square of white over the tape. Get that white paint on one more time, making sure to drag that brush along the edges very carefully.

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This is my trick to avoid seepage of the chalkboard paint—the white paint acts as a seal, getting underneath the edges anywhere where a tiny bubble might be lurking, waiting to ruin your project with ragged edges. Once this layer of paint dries, you should be able to achieve crisp lines all the way around your chalkboard squares.

Step 6: Paint your chalkboard squares. Using a foam brush or roller (this helps the chalkboard paint lay a little more smoothly than the chip brushes do), get two coats of Rustoleum Chalkboard Paint on top of your squares (in this photo, the paint looks streaky because I’ve only done one coat so far). I’ve tried a couple of different chalkboard paints, and this one is my fave:

Step 7: Remove the tape. This one might seem like a no-brainer, but just be careful with it. I’ve tried to take all the tape off at once, and sometimes the edge of your chalkboard square can rip just a little bit—like so:

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Then you have to get out your detail brush and practice straight lines, which could be really difficult, depending on how much wine you’ve had by this point. I slowly pull the tape away from the paint, trying not to drag away from or towards the chalkboard, but instead to pull straight up.

Final steps:

  1. Distress (if desired). Even though the wax has already been applied, you can still remove paint with a fine grit sandpaper along the edges if you like that look. I pretty much always do this—most of my shop has the shabby chic look going on.
  2. Prep the chalkboard squares. I rub the long side of the chalk stick against the squares and rub the chalk in with my fingers to “season” it—this helps to prevent the first word you write from leaving an imprint that’s basically un-erasable later.
  3. Label your slots. For my product photos, I usually write in things like “mail,” “bills,” “coupons,” “misc.,” or “invites.” My trick is to use a thick pencil sharpener to sharpen my chalk stick so that the letters look like an adult woman wrote them and not a six year old child.

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You’re getting a sneak peek at the “studio” process behind my Etsy photos–I love using other vintage items to pair with my pieces, like the antique parts of speech art, skeleton keys, and letter bundles. I found an entire box of old, hand-written letters at an estate sale a few years ago, and there’s just something so romantic about them–I have no idea what to do with them except take beautiful photos!!


This project is one of my favorites because it’s so simple, the materials are readily available (it doesn’t usually take much hunting to find these wood letter organizers at the thrift stores around here), and the transformation looks amazing and fits perfectly with most farmhouse and shabby chic decor.

My customers have hung these in kitchens, offices, and pantries to help get the clutter off of their counters and into a more organized space, and they love the fact that this storage solution fits in wonderfully with a shabby chic or modern farmhouse look while being super practical at the same time.

If you’re not sold on the DIY version you can always take a peek in my Etsy shop (if you don’t see any there, just shoot me a convo and I’ll get working on one for you—I’m regularly sold out of these) and find this little guy (or one just like it). If you’re in metro Detroit, just let me know and I’ll give you a code for free shipping. You can sometimes get them at our shows, too—if you’re looking for one just send me a message letting me know which shows you’ll be attending and I can make sure to bring one or two along with me!

If this tutorial is helpful or if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below, and post your farmhouse mailbox DIY on my Facebook page or on Instagram using the #metrodetroitmaker. I’d love to see all of the projects and where you decide to hang them in your homes!

Thanks for hanging out this week! Talk soon,

Jessie