Bathroom remodel | A do-it-yourself farmhouse-style makeover

textured wallpaper being covered by tongue-and-groove pine

When I left off in my last post, our downstairs bathroom looked something like this:

white medicine cabinet

We had just tiled the shower — and it looked fabulous  — but the rest of the room was still stuck in a 1995 time warp. We wanted to update the room with modern materials but also make it look like it belonged in the vintage farmhouse that it actually resides in.

The first thing we had to address was the yellow textured wallpaper, which was covering a layer of blue plastic paneling. And the blue plastic paneling was covering a layer of very old, very cracked plaster. None of the layers was pretty.

reversible knotty pine planking

We’ve swallowed enough plaster dust in DIYs past that the idea of demolishing the walls and hanging new drywall didn’t sound all that appealing.

We figured it would be easier — and less plaster-dusty — just to cover the old walls with another layer: this time, tongue-and-groove pine planking.

walls with pine tongue-and-groove on the bottom and wider planks on the top

The boards we used were reversible, with narrow strips of beadboard on one side and wider planks on the other. We decided to use the narrow beadboard side vertically on the bottom of the walls and the wider planked side horizontally on the top.

textured wallpaper being covered by tongue-and-groove pine

This is the wall where the sink and the medicine cabinet normally hang. Jim took them down to install planks there. (The hole in the wall was already there; it had just been hidden behind the medicine cabinet. That’s where the vanity light hooks into the electrical system.)

wall in front of shower with pine planks installed

On the shower wall  we decided to use the wider planks. Just because.

trim around edges of pine planks

We covered all the raw edges with trim pieces.

cracks that need to be caulked

After we had all the boards installed, we painted everything white — it took three coats to cover and to get paint into all the nooks and crannies. (Let me tell you, beadboard is nothing but nooks and crannies.) Then when we were finally done painting, we had to fill in the cracks between boards with caulk. (And there were lots of cracks.)

Jim rehanging the sink on the wall

After painting and caulking, it was time to start re-assembling things.

As you may have noticed, this bathroom is really tiny. It’s about 6 feet wide by 6 feet deep — with the shower literally 3 feet from the door.

compact 20

Our old sink was a compact 20 inches wide by 16 inches deep, which was the right size for the space — plus, it was still in pretty good shape — so we decided to keep it.

sink with old-fashioned rubber stopper on a chain

The pop-up drain assembly wasn’t functional anymore, but that was an easy fix. We replaced it with a brand new old-fashioned rubber stopper on a chain. I didn’t know they even made these any more, until Jim brought one home after one of his many runs to the hardware store.


Like the textured wallpaper, the old medicine cabinet (which had a built-in Hollywood-style lightbulb strip at the top) also had outstayed its welcome. I wanted to replace it with a vintage mirror and put a black barn light above it. Jim wasn’t feeling the vintage mirror. He thought a medicine cabinet would be more “practical.”

low-profile white medicine cabinet

I may have treated him to one of my signature passive-aggressive eye rolls when he said that, but I let him get his way. Mostly so I could use it as leverage when it came time to choose a light fixture.

I’d been ogling black barn lights online for months before we started this project and had an entire Pinterest board full of them. I was willing to give in on the mirror, but the black barn light was non-negotiable.

red barn light from Home Depot

Here’s the light fixture I ended up buying.

red barn light installed in bathroom

You may have noticed it’s an odd shade of black.

Home Depot was sold out of black barn lights on the day I went to buy one. They had this red one in stock, though, and I fell in love with it on the spot.

red barn light above medicine cabinet

Apparently I’m fickle that way.

bathroom with white plank walls, red barn light, pedestal sink and subway tile in the shower

Jim actually liked the red barn light, too, so maybe I should have fought harder for the vintage mirror. Sigh.

Anyhoo, Home Depot sells this light fixture in their outdoor lighting department, not in their bathroom lighting department, but electric lights are electric lights. There’s no reason you can’t use an “outdoor light” in an indoor bathroom.

white towel with red stripes hanging on chrome towel bar

Our old chrome towel bars were still in good shape, so we re-hung them.

brown louvered closet door with small cabinet knob

Then I turned my attention to the closet door that I had been passive-aggressively ignoring because I didn’t know what to do with it. My original plan had been to paint the door black to match the black barn light I was going to buy. But when the light fixture ended up being red, I had to reassess the situation. My gut said I should paint the door red now, but the cautious part of my brain said a red door might be crazy.

bathroom closet with door open showing cluttered interior shelves

As I dithered about what to do with the the door, I decided to pull everything out of the closet to redo the inside.

cabinet shelf with dated blue and mauve quilt-square-style shelf paper

The 1980s called. They wanted their shelf paper back.

dated shelf paper being peeled off of wooden shelf

The wood underneath the shelf paper was pretty rough — but I figured a good sanding and a coat (or three) of paint would make it look like new.

bathroom cabinet with fresh coat of white paint on interior

Here’s the inside of the closet after it was all painted.

closet door on saw horses with a gallon of primer setting on it

And here’s the door, just as I was starting on the first coat of primer, which was followed by three coats of …

bathroom closet with red painted door

… red paint. Now that I look at it, I don’t know why I dithered.

close-up of brushed silver handle on red closet door

We bought a new handle for the door to replace the little knob that had been there before.

two open shelves above red closet door

We decided not to reinstall the upper cabinet door, which wasn’t so much a door as it was a piece of plywood with a handle on it. It didn’t match the lower door in style, and once I had the inside of the cabinet painted, I thought it would look better to leave the top two shelves open.

galvanized metal containers

I looked all over for baskets that would be the right dimensions for the shelves. The best option I could find were these galvanized steel tubs that were on Walmart’s website. They were sold out online, though, so I had to go store to store looking for them. I found one at the Beaver Dam store. Then I struck out at the Monona store, the Sun Prairie store and the Portage store. Finally I found a second one in Baraboo (and it was the last one they had left). Apparently these were a popular item.

small red bathroom garbage can

I had plenty of red paint left over, so I painted our old garbage can to match the door.

bathroom with white wood walls, subway-tiled shower stall and red accents

Here’s the whole room today. (Or at least as much of it as I could get in a picture.)

3/4 bathroom with yellow textured wallpaper, green shower curtain, pedestal sink and dated medicine cabinet with Hollywood-style lightbulbs at the top

And, as a reminder, here’s what it used to look like.

We still have to redo the floor. We just placed an order for black cement tile. It’s supposed to come in in the beginning of October. This will be our first time laying floor tile. If it turns out OK, I might blog about it. If it doesn’t, let’s just pretend I never mentioned it.

Thanks for reading. As always, let me know what you think. Unless you think my red barn light sucks, in which case you’re already dead to me, so don’t bother.

Bathroom remodel: Installing subway tile in the shower

lath on walls inside shower stall

Today’s post is about home decor, which, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know is a topic I don’t write about very often. If you’re wondering why, allow me to introduce Exhibit A: “My Downstairs Bathroom, circa 2017.”

3/4 bathroom before remodeling

About the only good thing I can say about the room is that it’s slightly less ugly at the time that this picture was taken than it was when we first bought the house 20 years earlier. Back then the walls were covered in shiny robin’s egg blue plastic paneling.

We wanted to pull the paneling down as soon as we moved in, but the plaster walls underneath it were cracked beyond redemption. In order to avoid a full-on, down-to-the-studs remodel (which we were already doing in several other rooms at the time) we decided to just hang wallpaper over top of the paneling and call it done. (I believe this is what technically is referred to as “a half-assed job.”)

The wallpaper was supposed to be a short-term fix, until we had the remodeling finished in the other rooms and had saved up some cash to tackle the bathroom properly. But somehow two decades went by and we were still living with that “short-term” solution.

shower stall with plastic shower surround

Then last fall a pipe sprang a leak, and we had to take down the plastic shower surround to access the plumbling in the wall.

cracked plaster wall inside shower stall

Here’s what we uncovered behind the shower surround. Those aren’t ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics you’re looking at; they’re dried glue trails. Apparently the DIY’ers before us wanted to make extra sure the plastic was adhered securely. They succeeded. That plastic put up quite a fight as we pried it off the wall and wrestled it to the ground. By the time we got it down, it was ripped and cracked and destined for Shower Surround Heaven.

We figured the ruined surround was a sign that it was time to finally get serious about making renovations. So after Jim fixed the leaky pipe, we pulled the crumbling plaster off the wall and made plans to hang subway tile.

lath on walls inside shower stall

Here’s the old lath that was behind the plaster. Pretty, right? Unfortunately, we had to remove it, too, so we could hang concrete backerboard.

concrete backerboard inside shower stall

Here’s the backerboard, partially installed. You have to use this stuff (as opposed to regular drywall) in places like shower stalls because it’s mold- and mildew-resistant.

Once we had the backerboard up, it was time to start tiling.

shower stall with seven rows of tile laid

When it comes to Cestkowski family DIY projects, our general division of labor goes something like this:

Things that require brute force and/or the use of power tools: Jim.

Things that require patience and/or attention to detail: Lisa.

Ergo, most of the project up until this point was on Jim. Tiling was on me.

subway tile with plastic spacers between

For the most part, I just worked from the bottom up, setting the tile in a “running bond pattern” so that every other row lined up. To ensure that the tiles were equidistant from each other, I wedged these god-awful spacers in between each one.

In all fairness, our spacers were probably no worse than any other spacers out there, but I had tiled once before — in our upstairs bathroom — and the tiles I had used then had bumpouts on their edges. The bumpouts made spacers unnecessary. I didn’t know how much easier that made the tiling process until I started working on this project.

shower stall in the process of being tiled with subway tile in a running bond pattern

The plastic spacers were my nemesis. Every time I would nudge a tile one way or the other, the nearby tiles would shift, and all of the spacers around them would drop to the floor. Then I’d have to bend down, pick up the fallen spacers and replace them before I could set the next tile.

I wish I could tell you I eventually figured out a way to stop the spacers from falling, but I didn’t.

shower stall with subway tile being hung

Despite the cursed spacers, I eventually made progress.

shower stall before tiling inset shelf

Jim helped out by trimming the tiles to fit in all the spots where I needed partials,  drilling holes for the spigots and shower head, and, most importantly, nodding sympathetically every time I went off on a profanity-laden rant about the evils of plastic spacers.

shower stall after tiling inset shelf

When I got to the inset shelf, I had no idea what I was going to do. Then we found this 12-inch-by-12-inch mosaic tile at Menards. It filled the niche almost perfectly.  Maybe that’s what these tiles are designed for? I don’t know. I could write a book, or at least a blog post, about what I don’t know about tiling.

subway tile with grout

Eventually, I got the tiles all adhered — hallelujah! — and it was time to grout. This was actually my favorite part of the process. There’s something really satisfying about smooshing grout into the cracks between the tiles and seeing what the finished wall is going to look like.

I was more than a little surprised to see how straight all my lines ended up. It almost looks like I knew what I was doing.

chrome shower head inside newly tiled shower stall

With the grouting complete, Jim installed a new shower head …

close up of hot and cold water handles in shower

… and new hot and cold water taps.

shower stall with white subway tile

Ta-da. This project was a pain, but we were very happy with the results. In fact, we were so happy with it that we decided to keep going with the renovations. More on that in my next post.

And if you’re interested in seeing what became of that beautiful lath that we pulled down, check out this post.

Makeover | Giving a dark, dated curio cabinet a new look

I had some leftover milk paint after last week’s jewelry box redo, so I decided to use it on a sad little curio cabinet I had stored away in my basement waiting for inspiration to strike.

curio cabinet before being painted
The cabinet was a thrift store find — although calling it a “find” might be a bit of a stretch.


1970s curio cabinet before being painted
It was dark. It was dingy. It was dated. Literally. There was a stamp on the back that read
“Enesco Imports 1979.

1970s curio cabinet before makeover


And get a load of the felt glued onto the back of some of the cubby holes. Ooo-la-la. 1970s chic.

wall-mounted curio cabinet redo
Fortunately, the roof section was separate from the rest of the cabinet, so the first thing I did was remove it. Then I pulled up all the felt squares and sanded off the glue residue left behind.

replacing curio cabinet handles
I took off the one handle that was still on the cabinet door. The other one had been sheared off previously. I wasn’t able to remove the portion of the metal screw that was still embedded in the wood.

replacing curio cabinet handles

So instead of screwing in new hardware, I had to glue a couple of wooden knobs onto the door. It’s not ideal, but it will do the job. The door isn’t going to get opened real often, and the knobs aren’t going to have a lot of stress on them, so I’m sure the glue will hold.

curio cabinet makeover by
Next I broke out the milk paint. Just like with the jewelry box I redid last week, I didn’t use any primer or bonding agent in hopes that the paint would peel off at least a little, leaving me with a nice chippy (faux aged) finish. But just like with the jewelry box, the paint didn’t chip at all. Maybe I need to invest in better milk paint? Or maybe I’ve just been using it over the wrong kinds of finishes?

curio cabinet makeover by Wisconsin Magpie
Except for the lack of chippy-ness, I have to say I’m happy with how the milk paint looks. It’s got a nice flat finish, and it’s a definite improvement over the original dark stain and felt.

decoupaging newspaper into curio cabinet cubbies
I decided to decoupage newspaper onto the backs of a few of the cubbies, because everything looks better with a little newspaper decoupaged onto it.

curio cabinet makeover
Then I decided the newspaper was too distracting, so I whitewashed it with a quick coat of paint. Now a hint of the type peeks out, but it’s very subtle.

I also screwed hooks into a couple of random cubbies, so I could hang things off of them.

white wall-mounted curio cabinet
Here’s the cabinet with the doors closed, all ready to be put to use.

curio cabinet makeover
With Valentine’s Day coming up, I rounded up some heart-shaped items, like this little frame, to put in a few of the cubbies.

milk-painted curio cabinet
These hearts are metal cookie cutters that I backed with newspaper-lined cardboard (proving once again that everything looks better with a little newspaper decoupaged to it).

milk-painted curio cabinet
I found this sweet heart-shaped lock in the bottom of a thrift store bin a while back.

white milk-painted curio cabinet

I also put a couple of keys in the cubbies. None of them fit in the heart-shaped lock, but they were the right size for the cubbies. I’ve had this rusty old skeleton key forever.

cabinet makeover with milk paint

This one has an old-timey skeleton key look to it, too, although it is definitely not old; it came from Michael’s craft store a couple years ago.

newspaper flower by Wisconsin Magpie

I filled some of the cubbies with newspaper flowers.
milk-painted curio cabinet

I blogged about making the flowers here.

white farmhouse-style curio cabinet
I filled a few of the other cubbies with some random treasures from around my house.

faux pocket watch

You might think this is a vintage pocket watch, but it’s not. It’s actually a lip gloss compact that I bought at Urban Outfitters about 10 years ago.

curio cabinet makeover by Wisconsin Magpie

Anyhoo, here’s the new, improved curio cabinet.
curio cabinet makeover

Anybody else have experience with Folk Art brand milk paint? If you’ve got any advice, leave a comment below. I’d love to know if there’s anything I can do to get it a chippy finish with it. Or what brand would you recommend?

Continue reading “Makeover | Giving a dark, dated curio cabinet a new look”

Makeover | Mini chest of drawers

white painted jewelry box

Here’s a little chest of drawers that I redid this week. (I think it’s supposed to be a jewelry box, but I’ve been keeping it on my desk to store office supplies in.)

mini chest before

This is what it looked like when I first got it. I picked it up for a dollar at a garage sale a while back. I thought it was a cute little chest, but I wasn’t wild about the orange-toned stain, which is why I decided to paint it.

mini chest makeover

Before painting, I wanted to distress the chest a bit to give it some character, so I added a few “wormholes” and scratches with a hammer and nails and then worked a little dark stain into them.

mini chest makeover with milk paint

I painted the chest with some white (technically, the color is called “Petticoat”) Folk Art milk paint. Milk paint is supposed to flake off if you don’t apply any bonding agent or primer, giving the piece a chippy/aged sort of look. Unfortunately, my milk paint didn’t flake. At all.

applying milk paint

After one coat of milk paint, the chest just looked streaky. And sad. In a non-chippy sort of way.

mini chest makeover by

So I applied a few more coats. The extra paint made the chest look better, but it also filled in all the wormholes and scratches that I had made.

mini chest makeover by

To make the holes and scratches stand out again, I traced over them with a pencil. I also sanded the corners of the chest (and a few other spots) and worked some stain into those areas.
mini chest of drawers makeover

Then I Mod Podged some newspaper onto the bottoms of the drawers.

mini chest makeover by
I brushed some watered down white paint over the newspaper to give it a faded, washed out kind of look and then added another coat of Mod Podge over the top to seal it.

mini chest of drawers makeover by
I liked how the bottoms looked so much that I decided to add newspaper to the sides of the drawers, too.

mini chest of drawers makeover by

Next, I dug through my stash of craft supplies until I found some label holders for the fronts of the drawers. The ones I had were the right size, but the wrong color.

mini chest of drawers makeover by

So I painted them with some black chalk paint.

mini chest of drawers makeover by

I nailed the label holders onto the fronts of the drawers and printed out some labels to go inside of them.

wooden organizer makeover by

Then I filled the drawers with office supplies and called the project done.

jewelry box makeover by

I didn’t get quite the chippy look I was hoping for, but I’m happy with how it turned out. I definitely prefer the white paint to the orange stain.

labels on drawers

And the labels are a great addition. No more blindly opening and closing each drawer when I’m looking for ink or tacks or a thumb drive.

wooden chest makeover

The newspaper sides are a sweet little detail, too.

milk painted jewelry box

Makeover | Decoupaged jewelry box

Here’s my latest makeover project: a jewelry box.

decoupaged jewelry box

Here’s what it looked like when I found it at a thrift store:

exterior before
The grey pleather and the plastic handles were a little sad.

interior before
But when I opened the box up and saw the beautiful blue velvet interior, I knew it had to come home with me.

jewelry box handles
I figured I’d decoupage over the pleather and see if I could find replacement handles, or at the very least, put a fresh coat of paint on the old ones.

idea-ology tissue paper
When I dug through my crafts cache to see what I could decoupage over the box, I unearthed this roll of idea-ology tissue paper that I had bought a few months earlier just because I loved the design on it.

painting before decoupaging
I basecoated the box with white paint to make sure the grey pleather wouldn’t show through the semi-transparent tissue paper. The blue inserts popped out easily so I was able to get paint into all the nooks and crannies inside.

basecoated jewelry box
I decided to remove the white plastic handles to make the box easier to decoupage.

jewelry box handles
Most of the pegs on the backs of the handles broke off as I pried them out, so I wasn’t going to be able to reuse them. I wasn’t sure at that point what I would use for replacement handles, but I figured I’d cross that bridge when I got to it.

decoupaging with tissue paper
 In the meantime, I started decoupaging.

decoupaging with tissue paper
I used watered-down Elmer’s glue for decoupage medium, painting it onto the box one side at a time, wrapping the paper around the corners as I went along.

smoothing out wrinkles while decoupaging
 I used a plastic scraper to smooth out wrinkles and bubbles.

jewelry box decoupage
The drawer was the last piece I decoupaged.

replacement knobs for jewelry box
 I couldn’t find any replacement handles with the pegs the right distance apart to fit into the holes in the box, so I ended up having to use some screw posts I found at Menards.

replacement knobs for jewelry box
I didn’t like the silver color they came in, so I painted them before I screwed them into place.

new knobs on jewelry box
 The black knobs match the box’s new vintage/industrial vibe.

jewelry box makeover
By the time I had the last piece of tissue paper adhered, my glue bottle was empty, so I finished the box off with a couple of thin coats of matte-finish polyurethane for protection.

jewelry box interior
Here’s what the jewelry box looks like now when it’s open.

jewelry box blue interior
Here’s the bottom drawer opened.

jewelry box blue interior
 And here the box is filled up.

jewelry box blue velvet interior


Makeover | A new look for an old chair

chair makeover
Old, unwanted chairs have a way of finding me. This one was waiting for me on the curb outside of my son’s apartment building in Milwaukee.

chair makeover
Here’s what it looked like when I found it. The hunter green was a little dated, but otherwise the chair was in great shape, so (much to my son’s embarrassment), I threw it into the back of my Jeep and took it along home with me.

chair makeover
I gave the seat a quick once over with a sander to get some paint spatters off it. I didn’t try to sand it down perfectly because I wanted it to have a kind of worn, uneven finish when I was done with it.

chair makeover
Then I grabbed the darkest color of stain I could find in my basement stash. When I opened the can and saw it was a hardened glop — grrr — I grabbed the second darkest color of stain I could find (Varathane American Walnut) and applied it to the seat.

chalk-painted chair
After that, I dug out some leftover black chalk paint to cover the hunter green parts. When I realized my chalk paint was also a hardened glop — apparently it’s been a while since I’ve done any painting or staining — I mixed up a homemade batch (a little bit of water, a little bit of plaster of Paris and some black latex that was thankfully still in a liquid state).

chalk-painted chair
My homemade chalk paint was a little on the thin side, so it ended up taking three coats to cover all of the hunter green.

chair makeover
 After painting, I started marking out diagonal lines on the seat.

chalk-painted chair
 Here’s what the final grid pattern looked like.

chalk-painted chair
 I put a dab of black paint in the middle of every other diamond.

chalk-painted chair
Then I started filling in the marked diamonds. I used painters tape to make sure I had nice, crisp lines to start with, but I ditched the tape after the first coat because it was slowing me down.

chalk-painted chair
It took three coats to get full coverage on the diamonds, too.

chair makeover
(Next time, I’ll use less water when mixing my own chalk paint.)

polyurethane over chalk paint
To protect the paint, I gave the whole chair a couple coats of matte finish polyurethane.

chair makeover

Makeover | Chalk-painted suitcase

train case makeover after
Here’s a little train case I picked up at a thrift store …

suitcase makeover before
Except when I bought it, it looked like this …

suitcase makeover before
Cute little case, right? Except for the tragic 1990s floral tapestry.

suitcase makeover before
I like to use old suitcases for storage (because a shelf full of vintage suitcases is much nicer to look at than a shelf full of Rubbermaid totes).

chalk painted suitcase
Although this suitcase didn’t qualify as “vintage,” I liked it, and I thought I could neutralize the grandma-y flower print with …

chalk paint
… black chalk paint. (IMHO, a little black chalk paint makes everything better.)

chalk-painted train case
I spritzed some water onto the case first, so the paint would go on a little thinner and work itself into the weave of the fabric.

chalk-painted train case
Then I started painting.

chalk-painted train case
I didn’t worry about taping anything off. I just cut into the edges as carefully as I could. I got a little paint on the suede trim and the hardware here and there, but it wiped right off with a damp rag.

suitcase makeover
Here’s what the case looked like after the first coat. It was a little splotchy and some of the flowers still showed through.

train case makeover
So I just kept  spritzing and painting until all vestiges of the flowers were gone.

train case makeover
 Honestly, it’s impossible to tell that the case was painted.

It looks like it always looked this way.

suitcase makeover
Here’s the inside. The lining was already grey and in great condition, so I didn’t have to do anything to it …

chalk-painted suitcase
… except fill it with stuff.

painting a suitcase
So, one last time: Here’s the “before” …

chalk paint
… and the “after.”


Makeover | Twine-wrapped dog and cat

twine-wrapped dog and cat
 Meet my two new pets.

They’re much less trouble than my two old pets.

twine-wrapped dog and cat craft project
I found them at the St. Vincent de Paul Dig ‘n’ Save. (The new pets, that is. The old ones were also someone else’s discards, but that’s another story.)

craft makeover with twine
The Dig ‘n’ Save is pretty much The Island of Misfit Toys for castoff junk. The items that languish on the shelves at the regular St. Vinnie’s stores get hauled to the Dig ‘n’ Save and dumped into big bins to be sold by the pound.

 What doesn’t sell there gets thrown out.

I couldn’t let that happen to these guys.

craft makeover with twine
Because how can you turn your back on a one-eyed dog with blue nostrils?

craft makeover
 So I brought them home and decided I’d give them a makeover with some jute twine. To begin, I painted the grey dog tan, which was the closest color I had to the twine.

covering a paper mache dog in jute twine
 Then I started wrapping the twine around his legs, holding it in place with clear craft glue.
covering a paper mache dog in jute twine
 Once I had the dog’s legs covered, I moved onto his body.

covering a paper mache dog in jute twine
I’d do as many full-body wraps as I could. On the spots where I couldn’t wrap the twine all the way around, I’d just fill in the holes with individual short strings secured with craft glue.

 covering a paper mache dog in jute twine

 The body was the easy part. The face and the tail were a little tougher to figure out. It felt like I was doing a jigsaw puzzle — except that I was creating the puzzle pieces as I was going along.

covering a paper mache dog in jute twine
For the face, I started by wrapping the twine around his ears.

covering a paper mache dog in jute twine
When I moved onto his muzzle, I decided to paint his nose black and leave it exposed.

covering a paper mache dog in jute twine
I wrapped his eyes, from base to top, with plans to attach button-type eyeballs later.

covering a paper mache dog in jute twine
For his tail, I wrapped the points from base to tip.

covering a paper mache dog in jute twine
Then I filled in the main part of the tail by wrapping all the way around it where I could and filling in with individual strings where needed.

covering a paper mache dog in jute twine
Once I had the dog all covered, I moved onto the cat.

covering a paper mache cat in jute twine
 Since he was mostly black to start with, I decided to paint out his facial features. I figured the black basecoat would melt into the shadows if there were any gaps between jute strands.

covering a paper mache cat in jute twine
I felt kind of mean covering up his face.

covering a paper mache cat in jute twine
 Here he is all painted.

covering a paper mache cat in jute twine
I started the wrapping process with the ears.

covering a paper mache cat in jute twine
Then I moved onto the cat’s neck and worked down his body, wrapping and glueing as I went.

covering a paper mache cat in jute twine
When I got down by his legs, I pressed the twine into all of the bumps and indents and waited for the glue to get tacky before winding around a new row so the twine would stay in place.

cover a paper mache cat in jute twine
It was a little tedious to have to keep glueing and pressing and waiting for the glue to dry, but I liked the finished look.

cover a paper mache cat in jute twine
For the tail, I wrapped the twine all the way around where I could. I cut short strands to fill in the base of the tail and anywhere else there were big gaps.

covering a paper mache cat in jute twine
I did the cat’s face a lot like I did the bottom portion of his body. I just wrapped the twine all the way around, pressing it into place and glueing it as I worked my way up from neck to ears.

covering a paper mache cat in jute twine
 Here’s the cat all wrapped.
covering a paper mache cat and dog in jute twine
They both needed eyes yet …

craft project
… so I pulled out my collection of random metal pieces. (I live close to a junk yard and always find these little pieces laying on the side of the road when I’m out walking.) I painted four of the circle pieces black, using acrylic craft paint.

covering a paper mache dog in jute twine
The two small circles became the dog’s eyes.

covering a paper mache cat in jute twine
The two larger circles became the cat’s eyes. I wanted his nose to bend around his head, so I used black craft foam for that.

dog and cat craft project

Don’t they look much happier now than before?

Makeover | Painting a quilt square chair

painted Ohio Star quilt square chair
Here’s my new Ohio Star quilt square chair.

fixing a broken chair
Here’s how it started. It may have been a curbside rescue. If I was the sort of person to pick up other people’s trash. Which apparently I am.

One of the spokes holding the legs together was missing, so I bought a dowel that was the same diameter.

replacing a missing spindle on a chair leg
I chopped the dowel down to size.

chair makeover
Then I glued all the pieces together and let them dry.

chair makeover
Once the chair was stable, I sanded it down with my little Mouse sander.

chair makeover
My original plan was to stain the chair.

painting a wood chair
But then I changed course and decided to paint it instead. With chalk paint. Which will stick to anything. So I could have totally skipped the sanding step.

chalk paint
I painted the whole chair with the black chalk paint.

chair makeover
Here’s what it looked like once I had the first coat on. It doesn’t look bad from a distance, but it needed a second coat. But first, I wanted to put the Ohio star design on the chair seat.

making a quilt square design on a chair seat
The chair seat was 14ish inches deep …

chair makeover
… and 16ish inches wide.

Ohio Star quilt square design
With the seat being wider in the front than in the back, I decided the easiest way to center a square on it was with my tried-and-true eyeball-it-and-hope-for-the-best method. So I cut a 12-inch-by-12-inch pattern out of newspaper and just kept moving it around until it looked more or less centered.

Ohio Star quilt square design
I traced around the pattern with a white colored pencil.

chair makeover
Then I measured and marked every 3 inches and used a straight edge to connect the dots…

chair makeover
… which left me with a 4×4 grid pattern that was more-or-less centered on the chair seat.

chair makeover
Using a straight edge again, I drew diagonal lines from corner to corner in the squares.
Here’s the final grid pattern with the diagonal lines added.

chair makeover
To idiot-proof the painting process, I wrote a “W” on every triangle that I wanted to paint white.

painting a chair
Next I cracked open the white paint jar. The paint had separated so the top looked like an oily mess.

painting a chair
A little bit of stirring with a popsicle stick made it nice and creamy again.

painting a chair
I pulled my paintbrushes out of storage …

Ohio star quilt square chair
… and started filling in the triangles.

painted chair
It was looking pretty good.

Ohio Star quilt square chair seat
When I was done, I stepped back to admire my work. Hmmm. Apparently my plan wasn’t as idiot-proof as I’d initially thought.

painting a chair with chalk paint
Fortunately the paint was still wet when I realized my mistake, so I just wiped it off with a wet paper towel and tried again.

Ohio Star quilt square chair
Much better.

chalk painted chair
Then I erased all of my white lines …

Ohio Star quilt square design on chair seat
… and gave everything (black and white) a second coat of paint.

quilt square chair seat
I did a little hand sanding with some fine grit sandpaper to distress the edges.

antiquing a wood chair
I had some antique wax leftover from a previous project that I used to finish the chair.

antique wax
I applied the wax with a soft cloth, and wiped off the excess.

painted chair
After the wax dried, I buffed the chair with a clean cloth.

distressed Ohio Star quilt square chair
Here is the finished piece. Proving once again the old adage that one man’s trash is another man’s Ohio star quilt block chair.


Makeover | One old bedspread becomes four pillowcases

patio cushion pillows

After buying new cushions for my patio furniture this summer, I had these old pillows left over. They didn’t match the new cushions, so I didn’t want to use them on the patio, but they were still in good shape, so I didn’t want to throw them out. I figured I’d hang on to them for a while and wait for inspiration to strike.

Calvin laying on patio cushions

In the meantime, I “temporarily” tossed the pillows on the dining room floor one day, where Calvin promptly discovered them and claimed them as his own.

Calvin laying on patio cushions

Calvin’s two favorite things in life are soft cushions and sunny windows, so finding one in such close proximity to the other made his day. And his next day. And his day after that… Fortunately for Calvin, I didn’t have a plan for the cushions yet, so they stayed on the dining room floor for quite a while.

Calvin laying on patio cushions

Finally, months later, I read a post on Censational Girl’s blog called “Easiest Pillow Covers Ever,” in which she made envelope pillows with ONE piece of fabric. She’s probably not the first person in the world to invent the one-piece envelope pillow, but it was the first I’d heard of it. Whenever I’ve made envelope pillows before, I’ve always used three pieces: one for the front and two that overlapped in the back.

As someone who loves the idea of sewing but who possesses only rudimentary sewing skills, I was giddy with the possibilities. If I did the math correctly — unfortunately my math skills are roughly on par with my sewing skills — I figured this new one-piece method would involve approximately two-thirds less sewing.

old white bedspread

In a fit of inspiration, I remembered an old nubby bedspread that I had bought at a thrift store a while back even though I didn’t have a bed to spread it on. At the time, I just loved the texture. Now I knew what I was going to do with it: cut it up into one-piece pillowcases for Calvin’s pillows.

clipping buttons off of patio cushions

In a rare moment when Calvin wasn’t around, I picked up the pillows and snipped the buttons off of them. Then I laid the bedspread out on the floor to start measuring and cutting.

Calvin laying on pillows

I had barely gotten started when he showed up and proceeded to move from whichever pillow I was attempting to work on to whichever pillow I was attempting to work on. He’s helpful that way.

Calvin sitting on pillow

Fortunately, I knew his kryptonite: dangly tape measures.

cutting bedspread into pillowcases

After successfully luring him off of the pillows and onto the other side of the bedspread, I measured out the pillowcases. I wanted the pieces to be the same height as the pillows but about six inches longer, so the fabric would overlap in the back.

cutting bedspread into pillowcases

I measured, marked and cut the pillowcases.

bedspread pillowcase

Then I wrapped the cases around the pillows to make sure they would fit. When I was confident that I had cut the pieces to the right size, I turned the fabric inside out and marked with pins where I was going to sew.

how to sew a bedspread pillowcase

All I had to do was hem the raw edge and then sew seams across the top and bottom. Easy peasy.

sewing a pillowcase out of a bedspread

Or at least it would have been if my assistant didn’t keep coming back and sitting on my work surface.

sewing a pillowcase out of a bedspread

Eventually I got all the pieces up off the floor and ran them through my sewing machine.

bedspread pillowcase back

Once I had the raw edges hemmed and the seams sewn, I turned the pillowcases right side out, and I was done. Here’s the back.

bedspread pilllowcase front

And here’s the front.

bedspread envelope pillows

When the cases were all sewn, I stuffed the pillows inside.

bedspread envelope pillows

Each case looks a little different because I used different parts of the bedspread for each one.

bedspread envelope pillows on couch

I put the pillows on the couch for now. I haven’t decided if they’ll live there permanently or if I’ll put them on a bed. Either location will be an improvement over the dining room floor. (And look: Calvin found a new sunny window to lay in.)