DĂ©coupage Vases (teacher gifts)

Happy New Year! I hope the first 20 days of 2014 have gone well for everyone 🙂 Like most people, we had a crazy-busy holiday season, and blogging was last on my priority list.  But I hope to post more frequently this year, because I have lots of projects to share and other topics I’d like to write about!

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I’m co-room-mom in both girls’ classes this year, and teacher gifts are one of my responsibilities. The norm at their school is to collect money from whoever would like to donate, and then get the teacher a gift card along with some kind of “handmade” project from the kids. Last year, the room mom in my (then) kindergartener’s class had each kid fill out a page titled “my favorite thing about Mrs. H.” and then compiled them into a book for the teacher. It turned out really cute, but I didn’t want to do the same thing again this year. You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to come up with an idea, especially for someone like me who likes that crafty kind of stuff, but I literally spent hours searching Pinterest (and the Internet in general) for ideas. I was under certain limitations, mainly that I had to come up with something that the kids could do (for the most part) at home – it’s not like I could go in and command control of the class for an hour to do a project.

I came across a vase that was dĂ©coupaged with magazine pictures, one chosen by each kid in the class. I liked that idea, but instead of using magazine pictures, I decided to have each kid decorate a small square of paper. I sent home a letter explaining this to parents, along with a pre-cut square of white paper, and an envelope to send it back in (along with any money they’d like to donate). I wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to return their square, in hopes that I would get the majority of the completed squares back by my deadline. (Believe me, I know how much of a pain it is to manage the mountain of paperwork, etc., that comes home from school!)

Most of the kids did return their squares within the next few days, and they were all so unique and cute. There were 5 or 6 kids in each class that didn’t return their square though, so I stopped into class one afternoon (with teacher permission) and pulled aside these kids for 5 minutes to have them decorate one.

Of course, procrastinator me waited until the night before the class parties to start dĂ©coupaging. My original idea was to use a planter (and put a houseplant in it), but when I went out shopping, I couldn’t find a square or rectangle planter that was the right size (It’s much easier to dĂ©coupage on flat sides, and I knew it would turn out better this way.)  I ended up buying tall ceramic vases instead.

The dĂ©coupaging itself was a bit puzzle-like. I knew how many square-inches of artwork I had, and had measured the vases in the store before buying them, so I knew that they were roughly the correct size. But it took some trimming white space to get them all to fit, and that resulted in some small gaps at certain spots around the vase. I ended up using small pieces of colored paper to fill in these gaps – going for a random, kids-artwork kind of look. I also dĂ©coupaged colored tissue paper around the top edge of the vase, and wrote the class year (in paint marker) on the bottom of the vase. I used several coats of Mod Podge applied with a sponge brush, and sanded lightly in between coats. I finished it off with a layer of waterproof glossy polyurethane sealant. The vases were left to dry overnight, and the next morning I picked up some brightly-colored flowers to put in them.

vases4

One thing I wish I had done differently is asked the kids to use colored pencils or crayons, because the squares done in marker smeared slightly when I applied the dĂ©coupage . (It may have also worked to use a layer of hairspray over these prior to applying the Mod Podge, but I didn’t have any on hand.) Other than that, I was pretty happy with how the dĂ©coupage vases turned out, and got lots of compliments from the parents who attended the parties where we gave the vases to the teachers (along with a generous Target gift card). Although I came up with the idea, I really can’t take credit though- the kids’ awesome artwork is what really made them great!  The teachers seemed to really like them too – one asked me “how did you do this?” and the other one sent home a note saying how much she would always treasure this as a reminder of her 2013-2014 class.

Now I have a few months to come up with something for their end-of-year gifts 🙂

vases2

vases1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For this project, I used:

Mod Podge CS11202 Original 16-Ounce Glue, Gloss Finish

(similar) 9in Matte Black Square Ceramic Vase

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Felting Fun

I realize the timing of this post is a little off, since most of us (myself included!) are thinking Spring (and not wool sweaters) but I’ve had it half-written for a while, so here goes.

This past winter I decided to try out felting (after seeing an awesome patchwork throw blanket in a magazine) and found it to be a really fun, easy, and versatile craft. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with this form of felting, you basically machine wash and dry wool sweaters, which (as you’d expect) shrinks them up, creating a thick, dense wool material that’s easily cut and doesn’t unravel, making it ideal for all kinds of projects. Both of my daughters’ teachers got felted wool projects as (part of) their Christmas gifts this year –

Felted wool wreath –

wreath

Felted wool business card/gift card holder –

card holder

(I also made myself one)

felt

Although I’m far from an expert on felting wool, I’ve been having fun with it for a few months now. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way 🙂

Be picky when choosing sweaters. Stick to those that are at least 80% wool. Still, I’ve had, by far, the best luck using 100% wool sweaters. While I’ve heard that other animal fibers will also felt well, that wasn’t true in my experience (I also had minimal luck getting merino wool to shrink up to the consistency I prefer). Keep an eye out for bright fun prints & patterns, but be aware that knits with “things” (animals, letters, etc.) may be rendered undecipherable by the felting process. I got my sweaters at thrift stores, almost all of them on “half-off” day (for $3.50 or so).

Don’t over-shrink. It’s fine to run a sweater through another cycle if it didn’t shrink as much as you’d like the first-time around. But do this with a bit of caution – I had a couple sweaters shrink too much, making the material too rough and almost wavy in texture.

Use very sharp scissors (or rotary cutter blade) These are kind of obvious, but since you don’t hem felted wool, it’s important to cut with a nice sharp blade for a clean edge.

Take advantagcupe of sweater parts. For example, in probably the quickest project I’ve ever done, I made this pencil cup by cutting off part of a  sleeve and sliding it over a tin can.

 

 

 

Hand vs. Machine Sewing felted wool. You can sew felted wood either by hand or using your sewing machine. I tried it both ways and strongly preferred to do it by hand. It’s very easy to work with, and I liked the flexibility of using colorful crewel wool or embroidery floss and various stitches to create different looks. If you do choose to machine sew your felted wool, in most cases you can just “smush” the edges of the pieces you’re sewing together, and use a zig-zag stitch to sew across the both pieces (use a ball-point needle for knits).

I got great info about working with felted wool, as well as neat project ideas, from the book The Sweater Chop Shop by Crispina Ffrench (totally genuine, non-affiliate, non-sponsored recommendation).

Decoupage Tray

Like the tile coasters, this is another project that you’ll see all over – a simple search will reveal endless ways to decoupage a serving tray. I found lots of ideas I love, but the mismatched patchwork version was my favorite.

I came across an old cookie sheet in a box of stuff I was going through and decided to give it a try. Of course, as I do with most of my projects, I jumped in headfirst without planning or preparing much at all. After washing the cookie sheet, I just started cutting out randomly-sized pieces of fabric and Modge Podging them onto the tray. After three coats of MP, I used an acrylic sealant to further protect it and add a glossy sheen.

I’m happy with how it turned out – I think it’s cute, and it’s hard and sturdy enough to actually be used. Although next time I’ll take steps to avoid fraying fabric and will plan things out so the fabric scraps don’t have to overlap (which gave it a bit of an uneven texture, and some pieces showed through others).

The tray (essentially) before

and after