DIY Home Decor DIY Outdoor Decor

DIY Garden Owl using old CDs

I planted raspberries two summers ago and have been immensely proud of their success.  Granted, raspberries are pretty hearty and I haven’t had to do much but prune and fertilize.  However, the neighborhood birds have noticed the free buffet in my yard.  In previous years, I have covered them with bird netting, but that made it hard for me to harvest the berries.  After some research, I decided that I needed a garden owl to scare them away.  I could have bought one of those plastic owls . . . but I’ll be honest . . . they scare me too.  So, I decided to do a DIY Garden Owl to scare off the birds.  During my Google research, I found that birds are very visual animals and that reflective surfaces also scare them away.  Apparently, I could just hang CDs throughout my garden and that would do the trick.  However, my heart was set on an owl guardian to watch over my berries and there was no turning back.  So, if you’re also in need of a cute DIY Garden Owl, read on!

Supplies Needed:

  • ¾ inch plywood (mine was at least 18”x12”)
  • Jigsaw
  • Rust-o-leum Vintage Gold spraypaint
  • Minwax pre-stain, Minwax stain, and Minwax polycrylic finish
  • Paint brushes or paint sponge brushes
  • Four old CDs
  • Contact Paper (or other coated paper for creating a stencil)
  • X-acto Knife and or a utility knife
  • Sandpaper (80, 150, 220)
  • Two large rubber bands or fishing line 

Creating the pattern

I created a cardboard pattern of one side of the owl and then flipped it over to create an identical second half. I traced a bowl to create the circle in the center where the CD will go.   

Trace the pattern onto the wood. I actually wanted my owl to have a slightly bigger butt then it would have if I exactly mirrored the pattern.  So, I angled the pattern out a little to make the bottom half larger. 

Cutting the wood

I cut the hole in the center before I cut out the silhouette.  I started by drilling a hole slightly larger than my jigsaw blade on the inside of the circle. Then I put the jigsaw blade in and began cutting.

Next, I cut out the owl silhouette.  Because the plywood was ¾ inch and the outline had some sharp turns, I cut away the outside pieces rather than trying to cut it out all at once.  Some of the turns were so tight that it may have snapped my blade. This was slower, but I think cutting away the outside in small sections was the safer method.

Owl cutout unsanded
Don’t worry, your owl cutout will be rough until you sand it.

I then drilled in the holes that I would use to hang the CD.  I cut lines at an angle to the holes to loop rubber bands through. Alternatively, you could just drill the holes and use fishing line or wire to suspend your CD.

Sanded DIY Garden Owl
This is the sanded owl with the holes for attaching the CDs.

Finishing touches on DIY Garden Owl

After you cut out your owl you will need to sand it beginning with an 80 grit sandpaper, followed by a 150 then 220 grit. (If you are new to sandpaper, the smaller the number the coarser the grit.  Start with the lowest number and then work your way to the bigger number.  For a wood project, 220 is usually considered a good finishing grit). 

You don’t have to make any features on your owl, but it is much cuter that way.  You could just paint or seal it and call it a day.  However, I wanted mine to also be my garden buddy, so it needed a face.  

Trace your owl onto contact paper. Then use different sized glasses to trace circles for the eyes.  I found that the bottom of a shot glass was perfect for the pupil and then a juice glass for the inside of the iris and a larger drinking glass for the outside.  I then made a diamond shape for the beak and free-handed the wings and eyebrows. 

So, I had not intended to do a spraypaint over the stain, but my first attempt at staining the face went wrong and so I just fully stained one side.  I actually like both looks, and am pleased by the accident. 

Adding the face:

How to stain the features on.

I used minwax pre-stain on both sides of my owl before beginning. If you are staining the features, it is easiest to stain in sections.  I divided my owl into thirds.  Cut out the tail part of the contact paper with your Xacto knife.  Then carefully laid it on the wood cutout.  Then using an old rag and very little stain I rubbed it on the tail and then wiped with a clean rag.  My stain was dark enough that I didn’t really use much wait time.  The key to not ending up with bleeding of the stain under your stencil is to not oversaturate your stain rag.  I then pulled off the contact paper and moved onto the other sections. 

How to paint the features on: 

Because I had messed up on my first attempt at staining the features, I stained one full side in a dark walnut stain.  After it had fully dried (24 hrs), I placed the full stencil on the cutout. 

I then used painters tape to cover all of the edges and inside of the center hole.  I taped it really well and just before I spray painted it, I made sure that there was a good connection with the contact paper around the face.  This part gave me the most trouble as far as sticking.  A glue dot or some double-sided tape probably would help.

After it was all taped up, I did two coats of the gold spray paint.  I made sure that both coats were very light to minimize any paint running under the stencil.  Before the paint dried too much, I carefully removed the stencil and the painters tape. 

Sealing your DIY garden Owl:

So, this step is key even if you decide not to put any facial features on your owl.  This owl is going to live in my garden and face all the sun and rain that the mid-Atlantic has to throw at it.  I gave mine 3-4 layers of a clear-gloss polycrylic seal.  I used a 220 grit sandpaper to lightly sand between each layer and then wiped off all the dust before adding another layer. 

Constructing the CD spinner:

You could just hang a CD in the center and I think that would work.  However, I wanted to create sort of a paddlewheel effect.  Because my CDs had a sticker on one side and I didn’t want to peel it off, I started by gluing to CDs together with the reflective sides out.  Then I took a third CD and carefully scored down the center on the side with the sticker (I didn’t go all the way through).  I then folded it back on itself so that the reflective sides were out and I superglued them together.  I did the exact same thing to a fourth CD.

Next, I glued the two folded CDs to my center CD to create sort of a paddle wheel shape.  I did this one at a time and fully allowed the first to dry before adding the second.  I had to prop it up on paint cans to add the second one. 

Once the CDs have dried, use fishing line or rubber bands to attach them into the center of your owl. Then you need to find a spot to hang your owl creation.

Putting up your DIY garden owl

It is best to hang your owl high in a place that an actual owl might be. Garden scarecrows work best if they don’t stay in the same place. I have two or three places that I plan to rotate my owl through. While this can be a bit of a pain, I’ll just do it when I’m watering my garden. Vegetable gardens take a lot of work anyway (at least mine does). I’m pretty sure that this will just be one point in a many-pronged strategy as I combat the vermin that are after my produce.

DIY Home Decor Handmade Gifts

DIY Empty Toilet Paper Roll Bee Wreath

I love bees.  They pollinate our gardens, make delicious honey, and they have some serious grrrrl power action (most bees are female—the male bees (called drones) mate and then kick the bucket). I wanted to add some bee decor to my home without it looking like a second grade classroom.  So, much of the bee decor I’ve seen is a bit too cutesy for me.  Looking around my house for possible materials, I found my bag of empty toilet paper rolls.  You may be wondering why I have a bunch of empty toilet paper rolls . . .  Well I teach science and honestly, empty toilet paper rolls are the best building material for hands-on projects.  They are free and can be used in soooo many ways.  Anyway using my toilet paper tubes, hot glue, spraypaint, and some cardstock, I made this awesome honey bee wreath. 

DIY honeycomb bee wreath
The wreath also looks great as a window hanger! And . . . No. . . that is not real honey.

Supplies for DIY Wreath: 

Making the Toilet paper roll honeycomb

I wanted the wreath to have hexagons like actual honeycomb. However, if you want to save yourself a lot of time, you could just keep them round. If you are doing that, just cut each tube into three or four equal “honeycomb” rings. 

To make honeycombs, start by scoring (a light cut that doesn’t go all the way through) a straight line down the tube using a ruler and an X-Acto knife. Then repeat on the opposite side.

Your tube should now lay flat.  Measure the distance between the two cuts and divide by three.  For most of my tubes that was ⅞ of an inch.  Measure that distance from both edges and make two more score lines on that side of the tube.  Then turn the tube over and do the same on the other side. Once all score cuts have been made, fold the tube at each cut to get the hexagon shape.

Next, cut your tube into three or four even rings.  I used the width of my ruler as I wanted all of my honeycombs to have the same thickness. Each tube made three honeycomb rings. 

Cut the honeycomb rings from score tube
Cut 3-4 rings from each tube. I used the width of my ruler as a guide.

Making the wreath: 

Lay out the tubes into a design that is pleasing to you.  I went for a hexagon shape with some open spaces.  I do think a solid shape would be the sturdiest. Hot glue the hexagons together.  Make sure to really push each piece tight to minimize gaps.

Fill in any gaps with hot glue.  Tip: dip your finger in a little water and then you can mold the hot glue before it hardens and not get burned or have it stick to you. 

Spray paint your wreath.  I did two coats of yellow all over and then I dusted it with a final coat of gold.

Spray Paint toilet paper tube wreath
This is two coats of yellow. I then added a final dusting of gold spray paint.

Making the Bees: 

While I waited for it to dry, I used an X-Acto knife to cut out the honeybees from black cardstock.  I taped the printed out bee to the top of the cardstock and then cut through both layers.  I did not cut out every little vein in the bee wings but varied up which parts I cut out for each one. After cutting out the bees, cut out the bee body from a contrasting color (one body per bee).  Glue the body behind the bee silhouette cutouts. Download a Free-BEE silhouette template at the bottom of this post!

Cut out bee silhouette and body
Glue the bee body behind the silhouette (I used a glue stick).

Finishing touches on your DIY Toilet Paper Roll Bee Wreath: 

After the wreath has fully dried (at least two hours) you can add some hot glue honey.  I recommend you practice this on some scrap tubes first.  While holding the wreath upright, add a small puddle of hot glue to the bottom front of one ring.  Wait 10-20 seconds and then tilt it slightly forward to form a drip.  If the drip looks like it is going to fall, dip your finger in water and then support the drip until it dries (the water will keep the drip from sticking to you).  

I wanted my honey drops to sparkle. So, I added some mica powder.  This is the same stuff that gives makeup its shimmer. You could also just use gold eyeshadow. Just add it using your finger to the dry glue.

Next, glue your bees to your wreath.  If you plan to put it on your door, add a few coats of a spray polycrylic protective finish.

I hot glued two coffee stirrers to the back of mine to give a little more support at the top.  To add the hanger, use a hole punch to make a hole on either side of the wreath and then thread some cord or yarn through it.  Tip: If you don’t have any pretty cord, you can take handles off old gift bags and they work perfectly.  I just twist tied mine together to make it long enough. 

DIY toilet paper roll Bee wreath
A fun DIY wreath to celebrate summer!

Looking for other DIY home decor projects? Check out our IKEA nightstand makeover.

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Handmade Gifts Pet Projects

Easy Fishy Cat Toys

I made these DIY fish cat toys as a gift for a friend with new kittens.  They were super easy to make and used up the scraps from another project.  Sewing the fish right-side out makes this fast and easy. 

The final quirky cat fish toys

The materials list is pretty short:

  1. Scrap fabric – cotton, heavy felt and upholstery fabric are all good choices
  2. Thread – your stitches will show so choose a color that matches, coordinates or contrasts as you like. I chose colors that matched the fabrics, but alternated them so that each fish had a thread color from one of the other fish. 
  3. Scrap felt, fleece – for catnip pouches and stuffing.  I like using pieces of fabric to stuff animal toys because I don’t have to worry about fiberfill stuffing coming out and being toxic to or choking the animal.  At worst, they will pull out a piece of scrap fabric that is too big for them to eat, and you might find a slobbery wad of fabric on the floor. 
  4. Dried Catnip
  5. Paper, paper bag, etc. for template
  6. Scissors, Pinking Shears (optional)

I started with laundered fabric scraps. You want to make sure no sizing chemicals are left, that might cause harm to your furry friends.  

I drew a fish pattern on a paper bag, which I used for exactly one fish before I realized it was too wide for the rest of my scraps.  I had initially planned for all of the fish to be the same size and shape.  But I had my heart set on using up those scraps, so I adjusted on the fly and ended up with different sizes and shapes. 

Once I cut out my fish bodies, it was time to work on the stuffing.  I’ve had commercial cat toys before that shed catnip all over the house.  I didn’t want to do that to my friend, so I took a little left over fleece and made little pouches to stuff the catnip into.  This also gave the fish a little “body”.  I wasn’t exact about the size or shape of these pouches.  Just snipped a few scraps, folded them in half and sewed two sides, making sure to back-stitch the ends so they didn’t come undone.  Once I had a bunch of little pouches I stuffed them with catnip.  After you’ve stuffed all of your catnip pouches, sew closed the final side of your pouch, again backstitching the ends to make sure they stay closed, these will be treated roughly, so you want to make sure the catnip stays inside.  Insider tip: After completing my first pouch, I made a whole fish and tossed it to my cats to see how they would react.  I wanted to make sure that the fleece wasn’t so thick that they wouldn’t smell the catnip inside.  They pounced immediately and I could tell it was working. 

Once all of my inner pouches were done I placed my two fish halves right sides out and began sewing.  I used the side of my presser foot for the seam allowance and started sewing at the tail, up and around toward the head.  I lifted the presser foot and adjusted the fabric as necessary to sew around the curves, and make clean corners.  

Sewing the fish cat toy closed.
Stuff the fish, while it is on the machine, after sewing halfway around. This saves you from having to pin and sew around the whole fish while it is stuffed.

I sewed around the fish until I was just past the head.  Made sure my needle was down, and lifted the presser foot if necessary.  Then I stuffed the pouches of catnip into the heads and bodies of the fish.  I also cut little triangles of the fabric to stuff into the tails and added some strips or small pieces wherever I thought fullness would be necessary.

Adding fabric to cat fish toy tails
I didn’t want these to be fully stuffed as my cats like floppy toys, so that’s the design I chose.  You can just as easily stuff them as full as you can, while still being able to get the presser foot back down and maintaining your seam allowance. 

Once stuffed, I finished sewing all the way around the fish. 

Sewing around the cat fish toy body.

I finished off the edges by fraying them, or using my pinking shears, to give them each an individual look.

A lovely cat fish toys for your cats or a friend’s.
A bit of leftover ribbon tied around the tails completed the gift.

Looking for other projects to use up scrap fabric? Check out these cute scrap heap monsters!

Handmade Gifts

DIY Zipper Pouch with Heart Cutout

So, I picked up this adorable narwhal flannel on sale at JoAnn’s last season.  I did not know what I planned to do with it but it was too cute and ½ off.  So, I bought a yard (I wish I’d bought two).  The Narwhal fabric went well with some pink fleece I had on hand. I planned to use both for my DIY zipper pouch, but the problem was I wanted to feel the fleece, but see the Narwhal!  I also didn’t have enough of the fleece to fully line the pouch.  So . . . I did a DIY zipper pouch with a heart cutout that allows you to pet the soft fleece as you gaze at the Narwhal’s smiling face. 

If you have made a simple pillow before and have gotten down your straight stitch, then this zipper pouch is an excellent project to push your skills to the next level.  There is not a pattern per se as you are just measuring squares of fabric.  You can size down or size up your pattern to suit your needs. Now on to making your DIY zippered pouch with a heart cut out.

Materials needed:

  • Two 8×10” rectangles of fabric for the bag outside
  • Two 8×10” rectangles of fabric for the bag lining
  • One 4×4” Square of bag outside fabric
  • One 4×4” Square of fleece for inside of keyhole heart
  • One 8” zipper (or cut your dimensions to your zipper length)
  • Thread in coordinating color

How to sew your own zippered pouch with cutout heart:

Part 1: Cutout Heart

  1. Cut a heart out of paper and trace it on to the back of your small square of the outside fabric. 
  2. Carefully, place that fabric on top of one side of the large squares of the bag outside fabric.  Place them right sides together and pin the small square one to two inches from the top edge (the edge where you plan to put the zipper).
  3. Sew around the heart that you drew and then cut away the excess fabric.  Clip the inside curve of the heart and clip as close as possible to the thread without cutting it (see picture).
  1. From the backside of the large fabric reach through the heart hole and pull the corners of the small square back through the hole and iron flat (see picture).  Now admire your work!  Good job!
  1. Next, on the back side of your large square with the heart cutout, place your fleece fabric so that the fuzzy part is poking through the hole (for some fleece’s this won’t matter, but mine was only fuzzy on one side).  Carefully pin it in place and then with a coordinating thread sew your way around your heart.  I take it nice and slow and in order to get the curves, I stop my machine with the needle down, lift the presser foot and pivot the fabric to get my corner smooth. 
  2. If you want to at this point, you could just turn this into a little pillow with a fuzzy cutout heart and skip the zipper and the bag (because you’ve already learned a new skill and I believe in challenge by choice).

Part 2: Adding the Zipper to outside fabric

  1. Pin your zipper to the top edge of the bag with the zipper front facing the fabric front.
Zipper pinned to top of bag.
Pin one side of zipper to top of bag. Front of zipper should face the right side of the fabric.
  1. Put the zipper foot onto your sewing machine, and sew along the top edge.  If you haven’t sewn a zipper before, here is a great tutorial on using one. Tip: After I got halfway, I left the needle down, removed the presser foot and then slid the zipper to the other side of the needle to make it possible to sew all the way to the end. 
  2. Press the zipper and the fabric open (see photo below). Place the second square of fabric on top (right sides together) and then pin to the other side of the zipper and sew. It can be a little tricky to figure out how to arrange the fabric under the presser foot.  You can see in the picture above how I did it.  Tip: Start with zipper half open and at the halfway point remove zipper foot, move the zipper past the needle, then replace the foot to keep sewing to the end.

Part 3: Attaching zipper to inside lining of fabric

  1. Arrange your bag so that it looks like the top picture and then place the lining fabric right side down on top (it should be facing the wrong side of your exterior fabric).  Align the top edge of the lining with the very top part of the zipper (see picture).  Pin and then sew the lining in place.
  2. When you’ve finished sewing the first side, you should be able to unfold the lining and see the zipper teeth neatly sandwiched between the exterior fabric and the lining. 
One side of lining attached.
You should now be able to see the teeth of one side of the zipper neatly sandwiched between the outside fabric and the lining fabric.
  1. Place your bag on a flat surface so that the layers of fabric are in this order: Exterior fabric pretty side up, exterior fabric pretty side down, lining fabric pretty side up (see picture below).  Now carefully lay your last lining fabric on top of these layers, lining up the top edge with the other side of the zipper.  Pin it in place and then sew it. 
  2. When you finished with that, you should be able to lay your bag out and see all of the pretty sides are visible and all of the back sides and stitches are hidden. 
  1. Optional: before you move to the next step you can top stitch your zipper.  You can see how I did it in this photo.  I actually like how it looks either way. Just know, that this seam will be seen in your final bag and therefore you will want it really straight.  It does help with preventing fabric from getting caught when you zip the bag up. 
Topstitching Zipper
This is how I topstitched zipper. I removed presser foot halfway to slide zipper past before replacing it and continuing on.
  1. Trim any layers that may no longer be square.  Sometimes, even with our best efforts this can just happen. 
  2. Lay your bag out like a butterfly, where the zipper is the body.  Line up with the lining facing the other lining and the two exterior fabrics facing each other.
  1. Pin it in place.  When you are pinning by the zipper you want the teeth of the zipper to face towards the lining (see picture above) on both sides.  This will make sure it can zip properly. 
  2. Mark a two inch opening on the bottom of the lining that you will leave open.  Start on one side of that opening and then straight stitch around the edge with about ½ seam allowance all the way back to the other side of your opening. Trim corners.
  3. Push the bag though that opening and turn the whole thing right side out.  Make sure you really push out the corners. 
  4. You can either do a blind/ladder stitch to close the opening or machine sew it.  Finally give your bag a final press and then stand back and admire your work. 

Looking for other projects that use up scrap fabric? Check out our scrap heap monster!

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