Handmade Gifts Holiday Decor

DIY 4th of July light up Bracelet

I love wearing things that light up.  I’ve made and attempted to make a variety of light up jewelry and costumes over the last few years.  Some (like my festive light up Christmas sweater have been successful) and others have just been frustrating.  However, I have found some really awesome sewable LED lights and battery holders by Adafruit.  They have made my wearable tech endeavors so much easier.  So, easy in fact that I have successfully introduced similar activities to my middle school science classroom. This would be a fun 4th of July project and the bonus is that you will be able to locate your kids when the sun goes down and the fireworks come out.

The light up bracelet in action

Supplies Needed for DIY 4th of July Bracelet:

How to make your own 4th of July light up bracelet

  1. Start by downloading and printing the template from above. Then cut out all of your felt pieces.
  2. Place the battery and the LED lights on your main bracelet band. Be sure that the positive symbols for the LEDs are all pointing the same direction and that the battery is oriented so that the positive end of the battery is on the same side.
Place the battery holder as shown and then the lights with the positive end pointed the same way.

Gluing down the lights and battery holder

  1. Hot glue the battery holder and the LED lights into the locations shown. Note the lights should be glued face down in order for them to shine through the felt fabric.
  2. Glue the Velcro in place for the battery holder (see the right picture above). Don’t worry about the Velcro for the bracelet yet, as that will need to be sized for the wearer’s wrist.
  3. On the side opposite of the battery and lights hot glue on the stripes and star. If you place the star over the center light, it will light up when the circuit is turned on.

Sizing the bracelet

Front view of bracelet (the back has all of the circuitry).
  1. You can also go ahead and size the bracelet at this point too. Wrap it around the wrist and allow it to overlap 1-2 inches and cut off any excess fabric.
  2. You can use hot glue to secure Velcro to both sides of the bracelet to create a secure connection. I added two sets of Velcro. I attached one fuzzy piece to the short edge of the inside (circuit side) and another fuzzy piece to the opposite short edge but on the outside (pretty side).
  3. Then I placed the matching “hook” side on top of the fuzzy sides, wrapped it around my wrist overlapping the ends and marked where the “hook” side should be and then hot glued them down.

Sewing the circuit for you light up 4th of July bracelet

Sewing down the battery with thread going through negative hole
Make several loops through the hole marked negative and then knot the thread.

A few words about circuits and LEDs: LEDs are directional lights, which means they won’t work if you don’t attach the negative side of the battery to the negative end of the bulb. In addition, you need to make sure you don’t create a short circuit. A short circuit is created by crossing your negative and positive “wires” (in this case conductive thread).

  1. Cut a piece of conductive thread that is twice as long as the distance between your battery and your last LED bulb (If you are a novice sewer, give yourself extra). Thread one end of the thread through your sewing needle. Do not tie a knot in the other end.
  2. Take the thread and loop it 4-5 times through the positive hole in the battery and then tie it off.
  1. Sew towards the positive side of the first LED light. As you sew do not go all the way through the felt. Just barely catch the fabric to keep the conductive thread all on the same side.
  2. Loop the thread through the positive side of the first LED light 3-4 times. Then sew in the same manner to the second light, loop the thread, and then go to the third (always going through the positive side).
  3. After you have reached the third LED, loop and then tie off thread. Your positive side is now complete.
Completed side of electrode
When you get to the last LED, loop and then tie off thread.
  1. Cut a new length of conductive thread and complete steps 1-5 for the negative side.
  2. When you are done, you can add a dab of clear nail polish to all of the knots to keep them from coming undone.
Completed circuit with lights on
This is how you completed circuit should look.
  1. Now, slip the battery into the holder (you should be able to see the positive side of the battery when you are looking at the battery holder).
  2. Flip the switch on and your bracelet is ready to go!
Red, white and blue felt bracelet with star
You are now ready for some fireworks!

Trouble Shooting your circuit

So, I made several of these and despite the logically correct circuit, I had some trouble shooting I still needed to do. One thing I discovered it that my Amazon purchases were knock-offs and not all of the battery holders worked. I recommend you order straight from as it will save you some time. You can also order the LED lights from there, but my Amazon purchased ones seemed to work find. Here are some common mistakes that can cause your circuit to not work:

  • Not wrapping the conductive thread through the hole enough times or wrapping too loosely.
  • Having a long tail on your knot that crosses over the oppositely charged side of your circuit.
  • orienting the lights or the battery the wrong way.
  • If you want to get more tips or learn to sew more complex projects, you should definitely check out this website.

DIY Home Decor

DIY IKEA Hacks – painting laminate

So, there was a point in my life when 90% of our home furnishings came from IKEA.  It was the only furniture that we could afford that was also reasonably stylish.  Over the years we have slowly upgraded most of our IKEA furnishings and I have done some DIY hacks on others. But alas, I had a few laminate IKEA pieces that I hadn’t redone or thrown out because they were just too handy. I had planned to buy replacements, but then there was the quarantine. With plenty of time on my hands and lots of paint in my basement, I decided to attempt a laminate DIY IKEA hack. While I have done DIY IKEA hacks in the past, this is the first time I attempted to paint laminate.

My latest DIY IKEA hack was on this Aneboda nightstand. I’m pretty sure I bought it because the price was right for the functionality, but I’m pretty sure I never loved the look.  While it still remains functional, I still don’t love the look. The only reason I didn’t redo this piece before was because I was convinced that I couldn’t paint laminate, turns out, I was wrong (which happens more than I want to admit).  You CAN paint laminate! With some careful prep work, I transformed this nightstand into something that adds character and charm to my bathroom. 

Supplies Needed for your IKEA Hack: 

Optional Supplies:

How to do a DIY IKEA Hack on laminate furniture.

I took out the drawers and took the handles, legs, and faces off the drawers.  While this step is not critical, it definitely made sanding and painting easier and it was not as hard as I thought it might be.  I didn’t take everything apart as some websites advise you to do, I just took off the parts that would help make my job easier. Tip: If you do take it apart, take pictures of which screws go with which holes.  That will make it easier to put back together. 

Prepping the furniture

  1. In order to keep the paint on your laminate furniture, you’ve gotta rough it up.  Lightly sand all the surfaces you plan to paint with 220 grit sandpaper. Keep your sanding light. You don’t want to gouge the surface. 
  2. Completely wipe down and with a lint-free cloth dry the piece.  Make sure there is no dust left to muck up your paint job. 
Painter’s tape on drawers
I just put painter’s tape around the edges of the plastic insert.

Priming and Painting the furniture

  1. Time to prime! I used a small roller and did two coats of primer (allowing it to dry in between each coat).  I taped the edges of the drawers where I intended to put the contact paper, but I didn’t worry about taping anything else. 
  2. After the primer dried, I rolled on my topcoat.  I went with an interior white with an eggshell finish.  I used this because I already had it in the basement and while many will argue that each shade of white is unique and brings a slightly different feel, I didn’t want to go to the store and I’m trying to whittle down my paint collection.
IKEA aneboda nightstand after two coats of primer
This is two coats of primer on the nightstand. I didn’t worry too much about the inside as it will never show.

Adding the finishing touches

  1. As I allowed everything else to dry, I spray painted the handles and the feet a lovely vintage gold.  I used to hate gold, but I’ve been finding myself wanting to spray paint everything gold lately. It gives a nice pop of color and seems to always look classy.
  2. Before the protective topcoat went on, I went over some of the fine details of the drawer with a small paintbrush.  I had unfortunately let the paint get too dry before I took off the painters tape and ended up with a few places where I had ripped the paint off.  You should NOT wait for the paint to completely dry before you remove your tape.  I’ve learned this lesson before (many times), but always seem to forget.  If the paint is tacky it tends to rip up the adjoining paint and not leave a clean line.  Important tip: Remove the tape while your paint is still wet!
  3. Let everything dry for at least a day and then add the Min-wax clear protective coat.  I added just one layer, but add more if it is a heavily used piece.
  4. Allow it to dry again for at least 24 hours and then put all the pieces back together.  
IKEA aneboda nightstand after primer and topcoat.
This is the almost finished piece. Still need to add the contact paper.
  1. Optional Contact Paper: My nightstand had these translucent plastic windows that I hated as I could see disorganization behind them.  So, I added this delightful contact paper.  There are many birch tree patterned wallpapers out there, but this one was only $12 instead of $30 or $40. Tip: If you get impatient and add on the contact paper before the paint is fully cured, you may end up scuffing the paint.  If you do that, just use a small paint brush (like really small type used by artists for painting pictures) to touch it up. 

Looking for other DIY furniture ideas? check out our mid-century modern side table.

IKEA laminate furniture makeover

DIY Home Decor

Science Nerd Gallery Wall

I love a well done gallery wall and I love unabashed nerdery.  However, I do realize that my love of animals, insects, and other natural oddities can be a bit over the top for the general public.  So, I turned a corner of my craft room into my own personal science gallery wall.  The best part is that it was inexpensive home decor project, as I have been collecting my items over the years.  The key to creating my science gallery wall is that I always keep an eye out at second-hand stores for books and frames that have potential to be repurposed as thrifty home decor.

The best part is that this microscope still works!!

The microscope on the shelf came from the old codger (aka my Dad) when he was working on a house and the homeowners were throwing it out.  So, if you do like nerdy things, you can’t be too in the closet about it, as you won’t have others keeping an eye out for spectacular finds for you.  The insect collection I got when I worked at a museum and they were clearing out old collections and I got a whole box all about bugs! You could make your own insect collection, if you aren’t too squeamish about killing insects. Personally, unless it is a mosquito (or a termite) I try to avoid intentional insecticide. So, enough chatting, read on below to get tips on creating your own nerd gallery.

Top ten Nerd Gallery tips:

  1. Keep an eye out for old books! They have the best pictures, especially old scout handbooks.
  2. Scour your local second hand stores for nice frames.  Don’t worry about the color as you can spray paint them.
  3. Do you know anyone that works at a museum? A school? A library?  Let them know what you are looking for as you never know when closets will get cleaned out.
Moth and Insects in resin
I scored these when a museum I worked at was cleaning out the archives!
  1. Hit up your local flea markets. Keep an eye out for unusual things like wood carvings, feathers, old weather instruments (just be wary of thermometers with mercury in them!)
  2. Yard Sales and estate sales have so many possibilities! 
  3. Do you have older relatives that might need help cleaning out a basement or an attic? I remember when I was younger that everyone seemed to decorate with owls.  I thought it was odd, but now I’d love to get my hands on that owl lamp my old neighbor had. 
  4. Take a hike! No kidding.  I have found some really cool fossils and rocks in my wanderings (just double check the park’s regulations before you take anything).
  5. Make nerdy friends! I had a friend that had his Ph.D. in lightning physics and he gave me a fulgurite-which is sand that has fused because it was struck by lightning.  It is awesome.  I had another biologist friend that gave me a horseshoe crab exoskeleton.  Also, really cool! 
Horseshoe Crab and Fulgurite
In the front is the fulgurite in all its glory and in the back is the horseshoe crab exoskeleton.
  1. For free printable plant images check out the USDA’s special collections.
  2. If you are looking for animal diagrams or cool line drawings check out the Biodiversity Heritage Library.  You will need to be a little patient with your searching, but they have some really cool stuff!

So, that is it.  I hope that this might inspire you to embrace your inner nerd and proudly display your nerdery in all of its finery. 

Nerd Gallery Wall
This small corner brings me so much joy, as it proudly displays my nerdery for all to see.
Handmade Gifts

Scrap Heap Monster-a project that will eat up leftover fabric!

Many of us have leftover fabric scraps, but I save the scrappiest of scraps.  Seriously, I will save the smallest bit of something because “you never know”.  Well, after accumulating lots of fabric scraps that were too small for any real pattern and in the need of a last minute Christmas gift for my then two-year-old nephew, I created the scrap heap monster. This is a great project for using leftover fabric. While you can download the pattern I created here, the idea of the scrap heap monster is that you don’t need a pattern.  Does it have one eye? Two? Three? I don’t know, it is up to you and your leftover fabric to decide.  I’ve made lots of different versions and honestly the most fun part is that no two are ever the same.  I’d love to see your version of the scrap monster.  Happy scrappin’!

Supplies Needed:

Materials needed to make scrap fabric monster
  • Leftover Fabric (fleece, flannel and woven cotton all work well
  • Felt
  • Polyfil
  • thread
  • Scissors and sewing machine

Cutting out the pattern:

  1. Print the pattern linked here or create your own based on the materials you have.
  2. Cut the body from the largest piece of fabric. I typically fold my fabric in half and then cut both body pieces at the same time. It saves time and then I know they are the same size.
  3. Cut out all of the facial features out of felt. I recommend felt because it is sturdy doesn’t fray and comes in lots of colors and I usually have lots of scraps of it laying around. The only facial features that I don’t cut out of felt are the eyelids. I typically do them out of fleece.
  4. Cut the legs out of the fabric of your choice. I have used both quilting cotton and flannel. I like to have the legs have a fun pattern that is different from the rest of the body.

Sewing the scrap heap monsters face:

  1. THE FUN PART! Sewing on the face.  Place the face parts on the right side of the fabric. Play around with the layout.  You’d be surprised how tiny things like adjusting the size or location of a pupil can really change the feel of your scrap monster.  Don’t be afraid to make up your own face features and mix and match.  Once you are happy with it, pin everything in place. Note: I put the horns on mine to get a sense of everything, but you will pin them later!
scrap fabric used to create the felt face on the fleece body
Pin everything but the horns down!
  1. Sew the face parts starting with the eyes.  I use a zigzag stitch with contrasting thread around the eyes as it gives a more whimsical look, but a straight stitch will also work. (Tip: if you aren’t confident sewing with a zigzag stitch, practice first on a scrap to get the cadence right, experiment with the length and width until you find the stitch you want – another great use for scraps). For the pupils, you might want to do a straight stitch as it is less likely to show.
  2. If you are doing eyelids, sew them on after the pupils are done.
  3. For the mouth, just sew a straight line across the flat edge. 
  4. Lastly, sew the heart with a zigzag stitch all the way around.

Sewing the scrap heap monsters legs

  1. After the face is done, take the rectangles that you created for the legs and fold them in half so that the two long edges are together with the right sides facing each other.
  1. Starting on one of the short sides near the folded edge, sew straight across using the edge of the presser foot for the seam allowance.  When you get 1/2” from the corner, leave the needle down, but lift the presser foot and pivot the leg so that you can sew up the long edge.  When you get to the end of the long edge back stitch to keep the opening from getting bigger when you stuff the legs.  
  2. Turn the leg right side out.  I find using a chopstick is helpful and I make sure that I really push out the bottom corners. Once the leg is right side out, stuff it with polyfil stuffing. Repeat Steps 10-12 for the second leg. 
  3. Place the face on a flat surface and then position the horns (or ears) pointy ends down and place legs so that the toes (the end that is sewn shut) are facing up.  If the legs are longer than the body, you may need to fold and pin them back to keep from sewing over them. 
  4. Place the body back over everything.  Be sure that if your fabric has a right and wrong side, that you place the right sides facing in.
  5. Carefully pin everything in place.  Pay special attention to pinning the legs and the horns. 

Finishing your scrap heap monster:

  1. Now it is time to sew around the body.  Start about a third of the way up from one of the bottom corners.  You will need to leave a two inch opening so that you can turn your monster right side out.  I usually mark this section with two pins on each end of the opening, perpendicular to the seam and then one pin in the middle that runs parallel to the seam to remind me to stop sewing. 
  2. Carefully sew all the way around your monster (again using the edge of the presser foot as the seam allowance).  Stop when you get back to the pin that marks the opening. I like to start and finish with a backstitch to ensure that my opening doesn’t get larger when I turn my monster right side out. 
  3. Turn the monster right side out and use a chopstick if necessary to push out the bottom corners.
  4. Stuff your monster to your desired level of fullness and then, either machine stitch or hand stitch the opening closed (a blind or ladder stitch works well). 
  5. Yay! Your scrap monster is done and, hopefully, it has eaten up some of your scraps!
Just look at all those bits of scrap fabric eaten up by these scrap heap monsters!

Looking for other projects to use up leftover fabric? Check out this zipper pouch with a heart cutout!

DIY Home Decor

DIY Mid-Century Modern side table

I love the look of clean lines with mid-century modern furniture.  However, anything that says “mid-century modern” automatically goes up in price by at least $200.  When my husband and I were looking for bedside tables, we wanted something small that wasn’t too fussy.  It only needed to hold a lamp, our phones and maybe a book.  Whenever we found something we liked it would be several hundred dollars. Of course, multiply that by two because we wanted a matching set. All of the posts I found online for DIY mid-century modern side tables, required tools we didn’t have. I also discovered that hairpin legs weren’t that cheap. We needed a solution that was under $50 for each table and didn’t require extensive building skills.  I’d almost resigned myself to a mismatched pair, when the hubby stepped it up with a clever Target and Ikea hack.  We used an unfinished wood toy bin from target and bike hooks from IKEA. These DIY mid-century modern side tables are so simple that you can have zero building experience and make them look fantastic!

Supplies List

Steps for finishing wood box:

  1. First lightly sand with a fine grit sandpaper (220 works well).  Wipe off all dust with a damp cloth and allow to dry completely. 
  2. Follow the directions for the prestain (you can skip this but the stain will go on more even with this step).
  3. Apply stain following directions on can.
  4. Apply at least two layers of the polycrylic protective topcoat—If you like to have a glass of water next to you at night, I’d maybe go with three layers to really protect the wood. 

Steps for Bike hooks turned hairpin legs

  1. As you are waiting for the stain and top coat additions to dry you can work on the legs.
  2. Remove the plastic tubes on the hook toss them or squirrel them away for some future unknown use.
  3. Lightly wipe legs with either steel wool or the sandpaper.  You just want to lightly rough it up to make sure the spray paint stays.
  4. Wipe down with a damp cloth and allow to dry completely. 
  5. The trick to a good spray paint finish is patience (not always my strong point).  You need to do several coats and allow it to dry in between.  Apply the spray paint at least 8 inches from the legs and keep it moving to avoid drips.
  6. Do as many layers as needed to get satisfactory coverage.

Putting it all together

  1.  After everything is dry, place the legs on one of the short ends of the box screw them in with wood screws that aren’t too long.  My screws were somewhere between 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch.
  2. You can double check by holding the leg up to the edge of the box and lining the screw up.  It should be long enough to go into the wood at least halfway, but not come out the other side. 
  3. Congrats you now have your own DIY mid-century modern table that is functional, fabulous and frugal. 
DIY sidetable

Looking for other DIY furniture ideas? Check out our IKEA nightstand hack.

Mid-century modern side table