Sewing machine cover

Every now and then I get bitten by the desire to go ahead and improve the heck out of something that doesn’t necessarily need it, but it looks tons better for the effort. After dealing with a few skirts with falling hems last week and figuring out my sewing machine has a blind hem stitch built in, I taught myself to use the stitch and got very excited by the results. Spending a few hours with my sewing machine always renews my enthusiasm for it (not that I am unenthusiastic about it ever, but I hate that the first step of basically any sewing project is measuring and cutting things, which I tend to have little patience for).

Patting myself on the back for such a professional mending job, I was all set to pack up my sewing machine and stow it back on the darling little sewing table Tim’s mom got me for Christmas last year, when it struck me how boring the white vinyl cover for the machine is. Honestly, it’s such a pretty little machine, robin’s-egg blue, a gift from Tim a few years ago after I’d repeatedly said that I wouldn’t buy one for myself, as I’d always feel guilty if I didn’t use it a particular amount. (This is not me planting a gift idea, this is literally how I weigh what I’ll purchase for myself. The algebra of whether I’m cool with the asking price vs the quality of the item vs how much use I expect to get out of it, it is some very complicated mathematics up in my head.) If I could let it sit out on display (and to entice me to use it more often), I would, but I know that ordinary dust can wreak havoc on the inner workings, so I dutifully pack it up each time I’m finished.

This time, however, the white vinyl cover just seemed so blah. I thought to myself how many lovely fabrics I have that are left over from projects and from the remnant bin at Joanns (my complex buying mathematics somehow don’t seem to apply to craft materials, when I will buy anything that strikes me, whether I can think of an applicable project or not) and eyed up the cover. It was basically a white box. Surely I could recreate it. Things get much prettier inside!

Origami celebration party decorations

A few weeks ago, we had a celebration for one of our nephews at Tim’s parents’ lake house. Caleb had completed treatment at St Jude’s and was back to living the healthy, active life of a kid his age after a long struggle with Leukemia. We were so excited to celebrate him and his strength with all of our family and friends.

My mother-in-law asked me to think about some decorations for the party. She specifically asked for a few banners to use by the front door and in the back yard. I racked my brain for a week or so, but everything I kept coming up with seemed to not quite fit him. A lot of cute banner ideas on the internet (and Pinterest) are a little bit girly. While I would love chipboard letters covered in German glass glitter, I knew Caleb wouldn’t be quite as excited.

Caleb is the kind of kid who really loves to make things with his hands, and had gotten into origami. He and his dad folded paper cranes to hang in their garage, a strand of which we’d used to decorate for Sandy’s retirement party. Once I got to thinking about origami decorations, I wondered if I could make the letters out of folded paper. I found an origami alphabet with folding instructions for each letter (I used the second alphabet on that page, because the letters seemed clearer). I cut some wrapping paper (the closest thing I had at home to simulate thin origami paper) to some different sizes to see which would be best for the banners. After trying it with a sheet of 12″ x 12″ scrapbook paper, though, Tim and I agreed that bigger was probably the way to go for legibility.

A lot of folded paper and surprisingly no papercuts inside!

DIY Logo Garland

While working on decorative and interactive projects for Sandy’s retirement party was super enjoyable, I figured they were not exactly what Tim had in mind when he asked me to do the decorations. I’ve never really been a crepe-paper-and-balloons kind of gal, but I racked my brains for something that said “party” more than what I had already planned. Because Sandy has studied, worked, and volunteered at such a variety of places, I thought it’d be cool to incorporate them into the decorations. I asked Tim to send me a list and I put together a garland from the logos to hang up.

It was pretty easy to do, though it took a bit of time. First I had to track down the logos through some Google Image searching. I looked for large-sized versions where possible, and it was a bonus if I could get ahold of the medical version of the logo (she’s worked/studied at a lot of schools of nursing). Sangamon State University turned out to be a bit of a challenge, since it was aquired by the University of Illinois in 1995, but I was able to determine what the logo used to look like from this picture and this campus newspaper (and for the record? my vote is for that midi-coat!) and recreate it in Adobe Illustrator. I had to redraw other logos as well, so they would print nicely, because I was only able to find smaller versions of a few of them. (One of the logos I redrew was for the Shalom Health Care Center, which Tim designed for his mom once upon a time.) Once I was armed with large enough versions of all of the logos, I laid out a page with 3″ circles with the logos inside and printed two copies of each logo.

There’s more inside, I was just getting a little wordy.

DIY Dry Erase Board

The next project I tackled for Sandy’s retirement party was closely related to the chalkboard that I made. I had seen a few homemade dry erase boards on various blogs that were so ridiculously easy that I had to try one. I knew I’d be refinishing a frame for the chalkboard anyway, so I decided to do a picture frame dry erase board at the same time, since I would have to clean the brushes anyway.

Click inside to read more. You can seriously do the main part of this project in 10 minutes.

DIY Framed Chalkboard

The first idea I came up with when Tim asked if I would do decorations for Sandy’s retirement party was a chalkboard for all of the guests to sign, like a guest book. I liked the idea of making things to decorate for the party that were somewhat interactive and/or could be reused. Tim reminded me that his mom’s aesthetic is essentially “lake-y,” since the party would be held in their beautiful lakehouse that they’ve spent the past six years renovating (Tim comes by his skills honestly, remember).

I had seen tons of tutorials for homemade chalkboards online and got some Martha Stewart Crafts Chalkboard Paint from Michaels when it went on sale, so I convinced my friend to help me hit up a handful of thrift stores in the Clintonville area, on the hunt for frames to make over. I found a handful to use (along with some other goodies that I’ll get to later) and with a can-do spirit (spiked with a hearty dash of trepidation), I launched into the project.

I get pretty crafty inside this post.