Crafting | Making a wooden arrow from a picture frame

Things are looking up around here. At least in my upstairs hallway.

As I was hanging artwork there recently (you can read about it here), I decided I needed one more piece to stretch across the top of the wall. Maybe a sign of some kind, I was thinking. I checked the stash of projects stored in my basement to see if I had anything that was the right size and shape.

What I found was an old barnwood frame. It wasn’t exactly the dimensions I was looking for, but I loved the rustic wood and the mitered corners gave me an idea. Why not make an arrow out of it?

I cut off one of the long sides first, thinking I would use that as the shaft of the arrow.

Then I grabbed a yardstick and marked off six chevron-style stripes, starting at one of the corners that had already been mitered to a 45-degree angle. The stripes would become the feathers on the arrow.

I cut the feathers with a jig saw.

For the point of the arrow, I chopped off one of the frame’s intact corners.

Then I started putting the pieces together.

I liked the look of the arrow, but I wanted it to be a little bit longer…

…  so I scrounged around for another piece of scrap wood to use as the shaft. (The scrap wood is actually part of an old Christmas decoration that was in my “project pile.”)
I glued the feather and point pieces to the new, longer shaft with wood glue and let them dry overnight.

The next  next morning, I flipped the arrow over, drilled pilot holes and nailed the pieces together to make sure they were secure.
… except that when I took the finished arrow upstairs to hang it, I realized it didn’t really tie in with the rest of the pieces on the wall.

So I took it back down and put a quick, chippy coat of white chalk paint on it.
gallery wall
 Much better. 🙂

And the best part is I used up two of the projects from the stash in my basement in making the arrow. Unfortunately I keep finding great junk at thrift stores and garage sales, so my Subterranean Cache of Things to Transform will never get used up; but it makes me feel good to know it is getting pared down a little.

Building a frame for a canvas panel

After watching the first two seasons of “The Borgias” — and one episode of season 3 (because season 2 ended on a cliffhanger and I had to see how things turned out) — I decided it was time to stop procrastinating and start hanging some art on the wall in my upstairs hallway.

(I blogged about my ragtag art collection in my last post; click here if you missed it.)

Unfortunately, a couple of the paintings I wanted to hang weren’t even framed, so I had to take care of that before I could start pounding nails into the wall. I’ve never framed a picture before, but, as with most things in life, I was confident I could figure it out as I went along.

The first piece I wanted to frame was this large (30″ x 25″) oil painting of an old country church that I’d bought at a thrift store for a few dollars.

The painting was done on a canvas panel, and it was pretty beat up, especially around the corners. I wanted to give it a really simple, utilitarian frame — nothing fancy.

I had another painting with just the kind of frame I wanted to make, so I used that as a model.

To start, I dug a couple of spare 1 x 2’s out of the stash in my husband’s workshop and laid the painting on top of them to mark trim lines. My plan was to attach 1 x 2’s all the way around the back of the painting first and then use them to nail the frame onto.

I trimmed the 1 x 2’s with a jigsaw.

Then I flipped the painting over and attached the pieces to the back of the painting using wood glue. (My husband was doubtful that the glue would hold once I started hammering the frame onto it, but as he didn’t suggest an alternative way to accomplish what I needed to, I kept going — and, just to be safe, I doubled down on the amount of glue I was using.)

I let the glue dry overnight; then I flipped the painting back over again.

I dug through the husband’s stash of leftover wood once more until I found four pieces of lath that weren’t (too) warped to use as the frame.

I trimmed the lath down to size with the jigsaw, just like I did with the 1 x 2’s. Then I painted the pieces with some white chalk paint that I had left over from a previous project.

I lined the painted lath up to the side of the painting and drilled holes before driving nails in (to keep the wood from splitting). Then I crossed my fingers that the glue would hold as I started pounding.

It did.

Here’s the painting, all framed and waiting to be hung.

Tomorrow, I’ll show you the other picture I framed. And then hopefully, I’ll actually get things up on the wall someday and can blog about that, too.

Crafting | Tiling a tray with popsicle sticks

I bought this tray from a secondhand store a while back. (But it didn’t look like this then.)

The “before” picture of the tray is below.

 I loved the size of the tray…

 … and the dovetail joints…

… and the black metal handles. What I didn’t like was the Christmas scene. I wanted to use the tray year round, and the Christmas trees and holly looked a little odd when I was carrying it outside to the patio table or the grill in the middle of summer.

I decided to cover the offending seasonal scene with some wooden tiles made out of popsicle sticks. I already owned the sticks, and some of them had already been stained (for a previously abandoned project).


I measured and marked the sticks to cut them into small pieces for the tiles. Initially I tried cutting the sticks with craft knife. Then I switched to a guillotine paper cutter. Then I used a garden pruner. All were problematic.

Finally, I tried a sharp scissors. Sure wish I would have started with the scissors. I could have saved myself a lot of time and aggravation if I had.

When I had all the pieces cut, I painted the bottom of the tray black, just in case there were gaps between any of the pieces.

Then I stated dry fitting the pieces together.

I used a simple two horizontal, one vertical pattern…

… and mixed the light and dark pieces randomly.

It was kind of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

I was hoping the rows would fill out the tray evenly…

popsicle stick tray
.. and they did (with a few minor trims on the last row).

popsicle stick tray

When I was all done placing the pieces, I had to go back and glue them down, one at a time.

wood tiled tray

Evidently my cuts were not all precision accurate because there were lots of gaps between pieces.

wood tiled tray
The gaps made the perfectionist in me a little twitchy, so I had to break out the wood filler.

wood tiled tray
I smooshed the filler into the cracks with my fingers…

wood tiled tray
…and wiped off the excess with a damp paper towel. (Ah, so much better.)

popsicle stick tray
Then I put a coat of wax over the top of the pieces…

popsicle stick tray

…and the tray was done.

Here’s the before one more time.

popsicle stick tray

And here’s the after.

Making easy stenciled envelope pillows from canvas drop cloth

My sewing skills can best be described as “rudimentary.” If you want proof, just ask my long-suffering childhood 4-H sewing leader/mother. She tried her best to pass her seamstressy superpowers on to me with very limited success.

Nevertheless, I decided to blow the dust off  of my hand-me-down sewing machine recently to make new cases for the pillows in my living room.

envelope pillow
Luckily for me, envelope pillows are about the easiest thing in the world to sew. Four seams. No zippers. No button holes. No swearing at the sewing machine.

They’re even easier to make when you cheat a bit by starting with fabric that’s already been hemmed. And by “fabric,” I mean “canvas drop cloths from Menards.”

envelope pillow

See that finished edge at the top of the (above) photo? I strategically cut my fabric pieces so that part  would be on the edge of the two overlapping back pieces, so I wouldn’t have to hem them myself. Here’s a complicated drawing to explain a simple process:

Once I figured out how big to make my pieces, I started cutting.

envelope pillow
I made three pillows at once (and to complicate matters, they were two different sizes), so I ended up with nine pieces.

envelope pillow
When the cutting was done, I printed out numbers to stencil onto the front of the pillows. The numbers were larger than standard 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper, so I had to tile them together after printing.

envelope pillow
Next, I traced the numbers onto a sheet of freezer paper.

Freezer paper has some kind of magical properties that allow it to stick to fabric when you iron it, which is why I used it.

envelope pillow
After I had the numbers transferred, I carefully cut them out, creating a stencil.

envelope pillow
I lined up the stencil where I wanted it on my pre-cut pillow front.

envelope pillow
I decided to place my numbers a little off kilter so they’d be spilling off the sides instead of being perfectly centered.

envelope pillow
Once the ironing was done, I broke out some black paint. (Mixing acrylic craft paint with fabric medium prevents the paint from cracking after it dries).

envelope pillow
I know it looks like I’m just making a big mess, but, trust me, it will all turn out OK.

envelope pillow
After I was done painting, I waited a bit for it to dry and then started peeling off the stencil.

envelope pillow
This is always my favorite part: the big reveal.

envelope pillow
All that was left to do at that point was to sew the pieces together, with the right sides facing in (so the pillowcase is inside out and the seam goes on the inside).

envelope pillow
When I was done sewing, I turned the pillowcase right side out.

envelope pillow
Then I stuffed the pillow inside. Here’s the back, showing how the two pieces overlap.

envelope pillow
And voila. The finished pillows.

envelope pillow
It’s kind of hard to see in the photos (especially since one of the pillows appears to be upside down), but the numbers on them are 09-16-89, which, coincidentally, is the date my husband and I got married.


Assemblage | Building a robot companion

Meet Roger, the robot with a heart of gold.

Or silver. I made Roger a couple years ago. He’s got a lot of personality.

 He hangs out on my desk all day.

But lately, I think the old guy’s been feeling a little off. Like he’s empty inside.


Clearly, he’s lonely.


So I decided to make Roger a companion.

Building a robot requires high-tech, precision-calibrated instruments. Or a glue gun. And lots of  electronic components, computer parts and rusty Jell-O molds.

Luckily I had everything on hand.

Remember the scene from “Apollo 13” when one of the engineers at Mission Control dumps a box of gear onto a table and tells his co-workers that they have to build a square carbon dioxide filter that will fit into a round hole using nothing but the stuff in front of them or the three astronauts in the lunar module will die?

Yeah, this was nothing like that. But it’s as close as I will ever come to being a NASA engineer.

I sorted through my table of junk until I found the perfect chassis for my new robot: a mini-lantern.

I removed the handle and the base that would normally hold a tea light. Then I glued what looked like the foot of a furniture leg on top of the lantern to serve as the robot’s neck.

A silver mini tart pan became the head.
Three other gold furniture feet became legs.

With Valentine’s Day approaching, I thought it would be a nice touch to give the robot a heart.

After digging through my stash, I picked out two of my favorites and suspended them from a chain that hangs down inside the lantern and then winds around her neck like a necklace.

A couple of springs made bendable arms.

And two old sewing machine bobbins served as eyes. (I later painted them gold to contrast with her skin tone.)

My little robot was shaping up nicely, but I wanted her to look a little more girly, so I started crafting a tinfoil skirt for her.

Pleats seemed like a good idea at first, but during the model fitting, I could hear the Tim Gunn inside my head saying, “She’s looking a little matronly.”

So I scrapped the pleats and opted for a more youthful silhouette: fringe.

This time my inner Tim approved.

The Blue Fly/Macy’s/Piperlime Accessory Wall was full of options for head gear.

In the end, I sent my model down the runway in this rather futuristic-looking chapeau:

Project Robot

Yes, that is indeed a toilet paper runway.


Aww. What a cute couple. I think they were made for each other.

Now all that’s left to do is to give my new robot a name. As she appears to be a sterling companion to my little Roger, I was thinking maybe Joan. Or Mona. But definitely not Jane.

Suggestions, anyone?

Crafting | An old-timey clock shadow box

I found an empty white shadowbox at a thrift store before Christmas and wanted to put an assemblage of  old-timey clocks inside it.

After a quick internet search, I found some great vintage clock faces on creatingmyselfcreatively.

Then, after a somewhat longer search through the scattered cache of craft supplies and collectibles that clutter my basement, I found a stash of rusty mini tart pans and jar lids to use as frames.

I printed out the clock faces in sizes that matched the frames.

My favorite frame is the lid with the wire grid over it. It reminds me of the (literally) old-school gym clocks that had cages over their faces to protect the glass from wayward basketballs.

Mod Podge
I Mod Podged the clock faces onto the frames.

I “aged” the clock faces with some watered down brown paint and some old coffee grounds.

Then I put the clocks, a few silver and gold ornaments and some genuine faux snow into the shadow box. Unfortunately, the faux snow looked more like coconut flakes than snowflakes …

… so I swapped it out for some epsom salt, which makes much prettier (and more realistic looking) snow.