Paper Bag “Leather” Finish

Simple technique gives a coffee can an upscale finish

I’ve seen a lot up upscale Mod Podge posts on the blogs and Pinterest – really cool things like map covered dresser drawers and tables, and some stunning wall and floor treatments.

Personally, I remember this craft from art camp – tearing tissue paper or napkins and carefully gluing them around a glass votive candle holder to create a stained glass “masterpiece.”

I decided to use this technique to cover a coffee can I keep in my kitchen to keep my dollar bills. It’s my “rainy day” fund – whenever I end up any one dollar bills in my wallet, I move them into this can. This serves two purposes – 1) It means I can’t buy overpriced and really bad for you snack food at the candy machine at work and 2) those dollar bills add up.

This process is pretty straightforward.  I took a paper bag that didn’t have printing on it, and cut two 1″ wide pieces that were long around to go around the diameter of the can. I glued those even at the top and bottom to hide the can edges. Then I tore the bag into small pieces.

paper bag pieces for a coffee can leather finish

I crumpled up and smoothed out the little pieces to give them some texture. And then I realized I didn’t have any Mod Podge in the house. There is an ongoing battle on the Internet on whether you can just use watered down Elmer’s glue for this, and I’d say for a project like this, the answer is yes.

To keep from ruining a foam sponge, I went a messier route. I dipped each little crumpled piece into a tub of water, and then wrung it out. I then squirted a little Elmer’s on the piece, and rubbed the glue into the water into the paper. I then applied them onto the can, being sure to overlap enough so none of the can showed below. The glue is water based, so all the mess washed off my hands pretty easily.

I think because I used watered down glue instead of Mod Podge it ended up without the shiny finish. So while this was supposed to look like leather, it kind of looks more like cork. I like it, and my dollar bills are now living a classier life in my new decorative finished can.

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Easy Upcycle Sewing: Boxer PJ Shorts

I’ve brought up before that I’m not a serious sewist. I learned the basics in high school, and used the heck out of a one-yard skirt pattern the first year I had a real job.

But unlike paper crafting, where I will spend hours gluing on little bits or learning how to weave hot air balloons, my patience is kind of short with sewing.

With the gift of a good machine from Mom, I’ve started over. And I’ve been working the Internet reading and sewing along with several good beginner tutorials.

Free patterns are a big help, and I’ve also found that upcycling old shirts also boosts my confidence as I sew, since if I completely botch the project, I can cut it all into rags, which is what was going to happen to those shirts anyway.

I spied this cute little pattern for boxer PJ shorts over at Melly Sews, and after reading the directions, I knew it was within my skill set. It was the first time I had used a PDF pattern, but I have an awesome oversize printer at work, so I didn’t even have to tape the pieces together, I could print it full size.

I dug through my stash of Mr. SuzerSpace’s too-big T-shirts, and found two of the same weight knit. They were different colors, but I thought that would end up with a cute look.

I followed the easy directions, although as usual I ended up having to use my trusty seam ripper to undo a section that I sewed in the wrong order. Nothing wrong with the pattern – I just got a little excited at the progress I was making and forgot to stop at the correct edge 🙂 .

My plan with the two colors had some upsides and downsides. I like the alternating color blocks, but it left me with a quandary for thread color. I didn’t know “clear” was an option for thread until after I finished these, but I like the contrasting blue that I chose.

I also tried to take advantage of the fact that knit doesn’t fray so as to avoid the leg hem, just letting them roll a little as they wear. Unfortunately, I did not pay attention when I cut the pieces, so two of them are on the wrong side, which means they roll the opposite way from the others.

No matter – they fit, are super soft and comfortable. I will definitely be making these again.

 

Little Owls

Quick, kid friendly fall decoration

As soon as September started, it seems like everyone began posting Halloween crafts to Pinterest and and Pumpkin Spice Everything photos to Instagram.

Me? I’m not in that big a hurry to push on to October.

Fall is my favorite season, and I like to enjoy all of it.

A quick craft to start the month were these little owls. They tend to show a lot on Kid Craft blogs, but I’m not sure who decided only kids get to do the easy crafts.

These start with toilet paper rolls. Most of the instructions called for painting them with brown paint, but I rolled brown construction paper around them and glued that on tight. Once dry, I trimmed the top and bottom even with the tube. Crushing in the top forms the ears.

My Silhouette Cameo made quick work of cutting the circles for feathers for the body. I used up some fall colored paper scraps. I drew bigger circles to cut from white paper for the eye parts, and then smaller ones from black paper for the pupils. I set those up to cut with even smaller circles inside to give the eyes more expression – some I did right on center, some I did off center. I cut the triangle beaks with scissors.

Cut pieces to assembly little owls

A little quick drying tacky glue and three little owls are ready to sit on my entryway table. I’m thinking about doing a similar version but turkey style for Thanksgiving. I may give those guys some legs that stick out so they can hold placecards. I’ll let you know how that goes 🙂 .

Little Owls created with toilet paper tubes and construction paper | suzerspace.com

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Hot Air Balloon Garland

Up, Up and Away!

For August, I wanted a garland for my back window that was very cheery. There isn’t really a holiday associated with August, so it’s kind of a free form craft month.

I decided on a hot air balloon garland, and there were a ton of inspirational ideas out there. Most of them used the same folded and glued technique that I used for the Tulip Flowers mobile and the Paper Cactus. There’s nothing wrong with that, except I wanted to do something different.

So I kept looking, and found this super cute hot air balloon mobile. It was designed for a nursery, but nothing about it really screamed “baby” to me. What did stand out was the paper weaving technique, which is something I never had tried before.

And down the rabbit hole I went. This site is full of amazing creations, and the instructions, patterns, downloadable files and videos you need to make them.

I’m not going to lie – this wasn’t really easy. But it wasn’t impossible. It was just really amazing to me to go from these two flower/spider looking things …

Hot air balloon garland beginning cut file

To an actual hot air balloon!

Hot air balloon garland assembled balloons | suzerspace

There is no way I can explain how to do these better than the site does. Once you get one done the rest are pretty easy, but the learning curve is a little steep. So if you want to create these, I highly recommend you follow their instructions.

I do have a few tips:

  1. Watch the videos. before you start assembling. And then do the first one near a device where you can replay bits of the video so you can really see what you are supposed to be doing.
  2. Definitely use the paper clips as clamps to keep it all from unraveling as you go.
  3. I used tacky glue instead of glue stick for the gluing of that last row. It was easier for me.
  4. Consider assembling the basket before you do the weaving of the balloon. Here’s why – the basket is really fussy, and if you give it time to dry between the two parts that need assembly, it goes better. And if you have the baskets done, then adding the balloon on it easy. If you go the other way, if you are like me, you will be impatient to get the balloon finished and rushing the basket assembly means a crushed basket assembly.
  5. If you are going to create a garland out of these, poke holes and thread loops into the balloon BEFORE you add on the basket. I nearly cried when I realized that I hadn’t thought that step through and it was very difficult to get the loops in when it was all assembled.

I was really happy with my balloons when there we finished, and I made some quick clouds to go between them on my garland. For this, I did use that fold and glue technique to get the 3D pieces.

First I drew up a simple cloud. And in reality, I didn’t draw anything, I just kept making circles of different sizes until they globbed together to make a cloud shape. These need to be perfectly symmetrical side to side to work, so plan that out as you go.

Hot air balloon garland cloud drawing

Hot air balloon cloud drawing

Using the Pathfinder tool in Illustrator, I welded those together to get my shape, and then exported the file as a DXF format, because the standard version of Silhouette can’t work with an Illustrator file, but it can import the DXF file with no problem.

In Silhouette Studio I duplicated that cloud shape until I had nine on a page (each cloud requires three pieces), and then sent that to cut on some smooth white 80# cover stock.

hot air balloon garland cloud to cut

Once they were cut and weeded, I folded each one in half, and then glued two halves together for each cloud, and let those dry a minute before gluing (and wiggling) in the third folded piece.

hot air balloon garland clouds

Before I added in that last piece, I slid in a loop of dental floss to serve as the hanger for my garland.

hot air balloon garland cloud assembled

Once everything was dry, I strung them all on twine and hung them on my hooks the back window. Since that window faces the sun, it’s impossible to get a decent photo, so the feature shot at the beginning of the post is that garland on my dining room wall.

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Faux Fern

My favorite kind of houseplant – a paper one!

I really enjoyed making those paper cactus plants – partly because I like 3-d paper crafting, and partly because it’s hard for me to keep indoor plants alive. I’ll blame the northern exposure of my home (too shady in most windows), but really, it’s me. I’m very likely to over- or under- water plants.

So after I made those two desert dwellers, I decided to go the completely opposite direction and go for something more lush – a fern.

I’ve said it before – I’m just stunned by the availability of free cutting patterns online. Some are better than others, but it’s great to not have to reinvent the wheel every time I start a project. I found my fern file here.

Frond drawing for a faux fern

After I downloaded their file, I made a few adjustments. I added a little bit of length to the bottom so I’d have a more substantial “tail” to work with in my final assembly.

After choosing a few variations of green paper from my stash, I sent the first sheet to cut.

Cutting file for a faux fern

After weeding, I discovered a problem. The paper I wanted to use (the only paper stock I have that is green) wasn’t thick enough to bend gracefully like a fern frond. It just flopped over. Not in a cool fern-like way. In a sad, nearly dead plant way. Oh wait – did I just invent a new category of paper plants? 😉

On to plan B – double up the fronds. To get the thickness I wanted and the dimension it would need to look more real, I used two cutouts – one flipped over so the curves matched. I curled the individual leaves using my fingers, being sure to make the two versions be opposite so that I got full dimension from this trick. I used a thick line of glue just down the spine of the fronds, which let the little leaves still be curly, and the combination of the double thick spine plus the heavy glue gave me the bulk I needed for this too look good.

Paper Fern fronds for the faux fern
Close up of the doubled up fern fronds with curled leaves.

Assured I had a plan, I sent the rest of my sheets to cut. Toward the end, I resized a few fronds to give the plant a more natural look, making sure to cut pairs of anything I designed.

I switched up the colors of the top and bottom cutouts to give the plant more variation, and bent and glued them as I described above.

For final assembly, I played with the fronds until I found an arrangment that worked, and then used clear packing tape to group them all together at the bottom. I then wrapped a length of floral wire around that a few times, and then dropped that wire down into a toilet paper tube  which I cut a hole in near the bottom. I threaded the end of that wire out through that hole and twisted it so it wouldn’t come free easily. This construction doesn’t really result in a heavily anchored plant – if I was going to put this in a more high traffic area I’d have to rethink this part.

I dropped the whole assembly into a tall pot, and then filled around it with crumpled strips of grocery bag for the “dirt”. I used a few smaller accordian folded strips to cover the toilet paper tube so it isn’t visible.

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Oversize Daisy Decoration

Go big or go home with a paper flower for the door

July was a very hot month this year in KC, and August rolled in with some beautiful weather. Well, actually, we had two flash floods within days of each that did a number on our basement, but fortunately, I have a short memory for things like that 🙂

The improved temperatures mean we are outside again, working in the yard, bike riding and sitting on the screened porch, watching for the space station to pass over head at night.

For an end-of-summer tribute decoration for my door, I went with a big daisy. Going big is hard for me – I have a love of miniature things. But I’ve noticed my door decor always looks great on my work table, and then kind of disappears on the door itself, especially when viewed from the street.

So I tried hard to stay big with this one. Taking my cues from this project, I used the petal template and cut 10 big petals out of white paper using my Silhouette Cameo. The paper I used is 90# index, which is what we use at work to make index tabs from.  I added a scalloped edge to her template for the center, and cut that out of the yellow paper.

Petals and center for an oversized daisy decoration

I have a new tip for saving paper when you cut small items – pre-cut the paper to a size that is just a little larger than the artwork and save the rest for scrap. If you go the other way, and cut the small art and then peel the whole sheet off of the Cameo cutting mat, it may curl or tear, and then you can’t use it later for other small projects.

The directions called for folding the petals, which I did, and I was really amazed at the how that stiffened the paper, as well as the depth it gives the flower.

Because I was going to mount this on my door, I wanted it to be more sturdy the the backdrop in the original post, so I scrounged around in the glassware cabinet and found a couple of lids that I tried on for size to use as a pattern to cut a cereal box circle for backing.

choosing the size of the backer for the oversize daisy decoration

Once that was cut, I began assembling – I tested a few arrangements for the petals and then began gluing them down to the cereal box circle, using quick drying tacky glue. I used an unopened can of beans to weigh down the center until it dried.

When I went to glue down the scalloped centerpiece, I realized that it was too small for the look I was going for. I liked the look of that lid better, so I measured that lid and resized the scalloped circle to a little smaller, and recut it from the same yellow paper. Since I already had the first smaller one, I curled up the edges and then glued both of them onto the center of the flower. I used my trusty bean can again as a weight to help it dry flat.

While that was drying, I drew up a little (not too little, though) ladybug for an added decoration. I had already figured out how to draw a simple ladybug when I Sharpie painted my flower pot, so I just redid that in Adobe Illustrator. I colored the bug so I could figure out what needed to be cut from the black paper and what part came from the red.

a ladybug for the oversize daisy door decoration

Finally I used the Expand, Divide and Combine filters to work it down to just two pieces.

Parts to cut for the ladybug for the oversize daisy decoration

I exported that file as a DXF because the basic version of Silhouette Studio can’t work with AI or EPS files, but it can use the DXF format.

Cut file for the ladybug that goes on the oversize daisy decoration

Once those were cut and weeded, I used a glue stick to put the red part on top of the black, and then a blob of quick drying tacky glue to put the bug on the flower. I ended with a bumpy center from all the overlapped petals and probably using too much glue, but I’ve decided that was intentional (adding more depth to my 3-D project, right?).

I made a hanger from the fold tab from the cereal box, and then finally took down my July 4 wreath and spruced up my door for what’s left of August.

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Birds With Attitude

This idea came about when I was working on my Black Capped Chickadee garland. Because of their name, I just kept envisioning those birds wearing a backwards black baseball cap, but I couldn’t quite figure out how I wanted to turn that into a paper craft.

Several weeks later, on our usual morning walk, a neighborhood Robin kept running in front of us, looking back as if we were stalking him.

Side note: Why do birds do that? If I could fly, I would definitely do that instead of running. Although truth be told, I’d rather do just about anything than run 🙂

Mr. SuzerSpace made some comment about us being in the bird’s “hood” (if I remember correctly he flashed some fake gang sign to make me laugh) and now I had two funny (at least to me) bird ideas rolling around in my head, so it was time to act.

In Adobe Illustrator

I like to work in Adobe Illustrator because I’ve used it for years, but this could be done in any drawing program you are comfortable in.

First I browsed around on the internet for a good basic bird shape. I wanted something with very large details, because I was going to set these up kind of like layered paper dolls where the details created the different bird types.

Birds with attitude drawn as basic shapes in illustrator

Once I found a couple, I morphed it into something to use as my guide. I can’t really draw anything from scratch, but if I can see the shapes that are used to create something, I can draw them and put them together in Illustrator.

After I drew the basic bird shape, I drew in and colored the pieces that would be needed to turn one into a Red Robin and the other into a Black Capped Chickadee. For that one, I also added a backwards black cap.

Using the Pathfinder tools in Illustrator, I was able to create the cutting files I’d need to make the two birds. I exported this file as a DXF because the basic version of Silhouette Studio can’t use an Adobe Illustrator file, but it has no problem with a DXF format.

In Silhouette Studio

In Silhouette Studio, I set up my Design Page as 12 x 12, cutting with a 12 x 12 Cameo mat.

birds with an attitude cut file

In reality, I’m going to cut these pieces from 6 x 6 card stock, but this is a neat trick I learned where if you place your artwork on the Design Page grid carefully, and line up the paper to match on the mat, you can cut more than one color at a time.

paper setup to cut birds with an attitude

As you can see from my photo, if you are even more careful with your placement, you can use up scrap paper.

Final Assembly

After I cut all the pieces and weeded them, I layered them and glued them up with a glue stick. I glued each one of those down to a piece of white cover stock that was cut to fit the opening of two frames I already had.

Pro tip: Make artwork the size of standard frames so you don’t have to pretend like you are going to get custom frames made. I say “pretend” because I think most people are like me and while I have good intentions of getting things framed, the truth is if I can’t just grab a frame off the shelf at the craft store or Ikea, it is never going to make it onto the wall.

birds with an attitude pieces to assemble

 

I’m not a big fan of my own handwriting, so I cut the words for each in black vinyl and adhered that below the bird image.

birds with an attitude assembled

Once they were assembled I had my own custom bird artwork, perfect for hanging. I have them on my entryway hall, near a big mirror that has my paperclip feet birds perched on it.

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New life for old cushions

Simple sewing and a sale on towels upgrade an old glider

My former next door neighbor was a super lovely woman with an interesting life history. She also had a love of outdoor furniture, and I had asked her once where she had bought a particular set because I was looking for something similar for our screened in porch. She didn’t
remember, but several years later when she decided to replace that set, she gifted it to us.

Technically she said it was a loan, but we both knew she was never going to ask for it back.

The main piece is a glider, and it was probably built in the late ‘60s. It isn’t that cool vintage kind of piece, it’s just an old glider that had seen better days. Some scrubbing and some WD-40 fixed up the metal glider part, but the cushions were a whole other story.

The main fabric was stiff and scratchy, and they had bare spots from use and from where mice had burrowed into them when they were in winter storage.

new life for old cushions
Here’s a before look at one of the old cushions. And this is the “good” one without all the bitten off parts

My plan at the time was to replace them, so I threw an old sheet over them and we used the glider that season. At the end of the season I saw cushions go on sale and tried to find three that matched in the size I needed, and that wasn’t possible.

I repeated this scenario for, uh, 10 years. Didn’t mean to, just never remembered to do anything about it, or refused to pay the price for new cushions. I really don’t understand why outside furniture and accessories are so expensive.

At the beginning of this summer, Mom handed down a really great sewing machine. And I saw on another blog a post about how to make simple cushion covers. The technique didn’t really work for the cushions I had, but it got my wheels turning.

And then I saw this tutorial on making an envelope style pillow case, and I began to wonder if I could make something like that for my
cushions. Make cushion covers, not buy new cushions.

At the beginning of the summer, Target had a sale on beach towels. Boom! (that’s the sound the confetti cannon in my mind makes when a project comes together).

I didn’t use a pattern, but the process was pretty straightforward – sew two towels together on  the short end, right sides together.

Towels give new life to old cushions

Set the cushion on the new double long towel and overlap the top and bottom so the tucked in envelope portion would be invisible on the back. towels create covers that give new life to old cushions

I measured and pinned the sides, and sewed using the stripes as my guideline.

Envelope style cover made from towels gives new life to old outdoor cushions

 

I sewed double seams to make this extra sturdy. And while each cover is defective in it’s own way (I often lose track of right sides and seam allowances when I work), they are light years better than what was there before.

Towels sewn in an envelope style pillow cushion cover give new life to old outdoor furniture | suzerspace.com

Wrestling the cushions into the covers was also a little challenging, but it was worth it, because the finished look is great, and they can come off and run through the wash if needed.

And if they get super grungy or I just get tired of the color scheme, I bet Target has a towel sale again 🙂

Featured at Threading My Way

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Paper Cactus

Easy to make, even easier to take care of!

Paper cacti and other succulents have been all the rage this season, and for good reason. They are cute, unkillable and really easy to make.

I’ve pinned a bunch of these tutorials and then combined them all into two plants that fit my needs best.

Here’s how I made them:

In Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is my drawing program of choice because I’ve used it for years.

Before I could begin drawing, there was a little math. But don’t panic on that- the issue is I wanted these plants to fit two pots I already had, and it’s really not that tricky to get that to happen.

I measured across the top of the pot I wanted to use – the fancy math term for that is “diameter.” To make the plant sit snug in the mouth of the pot, I need the finished piece to be right at that measurement. If I made them smaller, then it would slip down into the pot and wouldn’t look real.

The cacti are made up of multiple folded and glued wedges, so I need to divide that diameter in half to get the measurement of the wide spot of each wedge.

 

Once I had those measurements, I drew half of a cactus piece. half a cactus for a paper cactus project

This I then copied and mirrored so that my two halves were exactly even. This is important when you fold and glue them. I welded them together to get rid of that middle line because I didn’t want it cut in half, I want to fold them in half to create a ball-like shape.

two cactus halves for a paper cactus

I repeated this process for my second pot (getting the measurement and drawing a different shaped cactus wedge). And then a drew up a little flower circle, using a similar process from this project.

cactus drawing for a paper cactus

Once I had all my parts, I saved the file, and then exported it as a DXF file, because the basic version of Silhouette Studio software can’t read an Adobe Illustrator file, but it can work with the DXF format.

In Silhouette Studio

Silhouette Studio is the software that Silhouette America provides for using with the Silhouette Cameo cutting machine. I set my Design Settings for an 8.5 x 11 sheet, cutting with a 12 x 12 mat, and then brought in my artwork.

cactus files to cut for a paper cactus

I’ll need 6 wedges for each cacti, plus one flower. I cut the wedges out of two shades of green paper for variation, and the flower out of hot pink for one plant, and a scrap of yellow for the other.

paper parts for a paper cactus

Final Assembly

Once I had all the parts weeded, it was time to assemble. Fold all the wedges in half, and then glue one half of one piece to the half piece of the next. Continue doing this until you have a ball shaped cactus using all 6 pieces. The last one is the trickiest to fit in – my tip here is to make sure the remaining section is really pretty dry before trying to work that one in. I use paper clips as mini clamps as I go, and I use either glue stick or fast drying tacky glue for this project. This is really similar to how the tulips were assembled in the Watering Can and Tulip Mobile.

assemble the paper cactus

I curled up the edges of the flower and used a dollop of tacky glue to adhere it to the top of the cactus. This adds a little pop of color, and also hides any of the corners at the top that might not have been glued together perfectly even.

paper bag dirt for a paper cactus

For my “dirt” I used scalloped scissors on a paper bag, and then accordion folded and then cut those strips up smaller to fill the bottom of my pot.

After these were finished, I saw a super cute, super punny flowerpot in my Pinterest feed, so I cut a similar saying out of black vinyl and adhered that to one of the pots for a finishing touch.

punny saying for a paper cactus

 

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Hand Painted Ladybug Planter

Another quick Sharpie upcycle craft

Buoyed by my success with my Happy Face Planter, I set about to use my new skill set (tracing shapes and filling them in with Sharpies!).

Ladybugs seemed a good choice for this craft, since they are basically a bunch of circles.

I traced a quarter and a dime onto a cereal box and cut them out with scissors. And then I cut out a pie shaped slice out of the quarter circle.

templates for the ladybug planter

Using a red Sharpie, I traced that shape onto my terra cotta pot. I didn’t even wash it, and I don’t care about the cracks. Switching to a black marker, I slid the dime size circle slightly downward into the big circle for the head, and slightly upward into the big circle to give me the guide for the reveal of the body. For the head and body parts, I didn’t trace the whole circle – just where it met the red one.

Outlined shapes for the ladybug planter

And then I colored them in. Just as with the Happy Face planter, you really only need a steady hand close to the edges; you can be pretty sloppy on the fill in area. I freehanded the swirls for the antennae. I let the red wing parts dry before free handing the little dots for the body.

I repeated the pattern mostly randomly around the pot, and now I have another cute planter for my deck.

 

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