Inspired by Anthropologie Eiko

About a year ago, I fell in love with this dresser:

This picture was taken in the house of Kristen from Restored Style.  And I wanted it.  Bad.  I researched her technique  for achieving the look, and in a nut shell, she took an old dresser, painted it, didn’t love it, stripped and sanded the paint off and got down to the raw wood.  And then what happenned was, in her words, “we uncovered some lovely tiger wood”.  Check out this post to see some glamour shots of that lovely tiger wood.  After I drooled over her good fortune to stumble upon such a unique and awesome raw wood – I decided, with a heart full of delusion, that there must be some tiger wood waiting for me in our house.  All I had to do was uncover it.  I know.  You can probably already guess how this will turn out.  But like I said, heart full of delusion. I decided to refinish – or more accurately, unfinish – Jeff’s childhood dresser:

He retrieved this dresser from his parents house and we’ve had it in New Jersey for a couple years.  Under my direction, he painted it white.  And it looked pretty good.  But after surviving a year in a ‘bachelor pad’ and the move into our house, it was looking worse for the wear.  The paint especially on the top surface was chipped and had rings from where he had set cold drinks.  Plus, we all know there was some bad ass tiger wood under that paint waiting to be released.  I just needed to strip the paint.

I started with the drawers, and on day one, I furiously sanded, drunk with excitement to get my first glimpse of the glorious tiger wood.

“What the HELL is this? Pine??” Yeah, I said that out loud.  I was disgusted.  I was lied to.  And screwed out of my tiger wood. (Sidebar: I have no idea if that’s pine.  I can’t identify woods. It just sounded good in my fury).  Realistically, I don’t really know why I thought my dresser would just magically turn out exactly like hers.  I didn’t even do any research to find out what the odds were that my furniture was made of tiger wood.  I’m guessing it’s not that likely.  But for some reason, I convinced myself it was going to happen.  The heart wants what it wants.  Sigh.  Oh well, at least I came up with a back-up plan.  My new inspiration was the Anthropologie Eiko Cabinet:

Now that I had moved past delusional aspirations, I knew that I wasn’t going for something that was a dead ringer of this $1,900 piece.  I’m using the words ‘inspired by’ – basically I planned to use a few different colored stains to create a similar, multi-shaded look.

First I had to finish removing all the paint from the dresser.  Which took a couple hours.  Sike! It took an eternity.  Seriously, refinishing a piece of furniture has to be a labor of love or you will never survive it.  Especially if you are removing paint, because Spoiler, the paint does not particulary want to be removed.  I took my time and did a chunk each day over the course of a few weeks.  I could have accomplished it faster, but it’s pretty mind numbing work and I only had so much patience for it.  Jeff loved that I took my time doing this.  Loved it.  He was so happy to wake up every couple days and find a different drawer mysteriously disappeared from his dresser, and all his clothes from that drawer piled on the floor.  It was his favorite thing that happened all year.  You’re welcome, my love.

For the paint removal and to get down to the raw wood, I used a combination of techniques.  I started by using paint stripper and then sanding by hand to remove any leftover paint that didn’t come up with the stripper.  But after about the third drawer, I realized it was much more effective to just skip the stripper all together and go at it with our orbital sander using 80 grit pads.  It still took a fairly long time, but it was definitely faster.  Oh and, here’s a word to the wise on orbital sanders  Don’t go for the cheapest one on the block, especially if you’re going to be doing extensive amounts of sanding like this project.  I started out using our $25 Black and Decker sander, but about 60% into the project, that little beast went rogue.  I don’t even know what happened.  All of the sudden it got – oh about 2000 times louder – and the head started spinning at the speed of a stealth jet.  Seriously, my hand got too close and it ripped the skin off my knuckles.  Needless to say it wasn’t working properly, so we invested in this Porter-Cable sander for about double the price.  I definitely think it’s worth the extra money, considering how quickly the cheaper version crapped out.

For some of the corners and crevices that the orbital sander couldn’t reach, I had to bust out a scrapper and the hand sander

The paint in these corners and crevices was the most stubborn to remove and the process almost broke my spirit.  But finally, finally, it was time to stain.  Now before I explain my next step, I need to insert a big disclaimer.  I knew from the get-go that my finished product was meant to look old, unfinished, distressed, aged, etc.  Because of this, I did zero research on proper refinishing techniques.  I am sure there are certain steps that need to be taken in the sanding/paint removal process if you are hoping to re-stain the wood and end up with an even, new looking finish.  So don’t follow my instructions if that’s your end game.

I decided to stain the frame of the dresser all one color – Minwax Special Walnut.  And then do the different colored stain look on the drawers only.  As I expected, even though I only used one color on the frame, the wood accepted the stain differently, so it naturally began to look distressed with varied shades.  I applied the stain in sections, and only let it set for about 30 seconds before wiping it off.  I applied a second coat if I wanted it a little darker.

Those blotchy pock marks are an enigma.  Those areas for some reason essentially refused to accept the stain at all.  But fortunately, they only showed up on one side of the dresser and the top and I learned to live with them.

To stain the drawers, I bought 3 stain colors, but only ended up using 2 (both by Minwax).  One was the same color I used on the frame (Special Walnut) and the other was Ebony.  To get different shades, I simply left the stain on for different amounts of time.  So even though 3 drawers may have been stained with the same color, I could make them all look different. And on one drawer, I even layered one stain on top of the other.  Pretty wild, I know. Finished product coming at ya now:

I’m extremely happy with how it turned out.  And upgrading the hardware really brought the piece together.  I got these at 50% off from Hobby Lobby:

In closing, here’s a close-up of my favorite drawer.  Methinks I see an air of tiger wood in the bottom half. Dreams do come true.

Image of Kristen’s dresser from here.



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Smiles Are Just Jack-O’-Lanterns Waiting to Happen

That’ll make sense later, I promise.

One of the main reasons the fireplace fix-up became a priority was because I was itching to get to the stage where we could install a mantle.  Which means I wanted to decorate the mantle.  There’s just something about a fireplace mantle that makes you wanna get all seasonal with your décor.  So after I finished white washing the brick , we put up the mantle (details to come at a later date) and finally I had my opportunity.  There was only one small issue.  Decorating a mantle is hard.  At least for me.  It falls into that category of staging a book case or an accent table…it’s hard to find that perfect balance of decorative items placed in just the right positions and proportions to look cohesive and stylish. I especially found the 94″ length of our mantle to be a challenge.  That’s a looong stretch of real estate to fill up.  I tried my hand at it during the summer, but never really hit the sweet spot.  But once fall rolled around I decided I could get inspired by the autumn-ness and take another stab at it.  You’ve already seen step 1 in my previous post:

The round mirror was the first piece I placed up there that really worked for me.  It’s from Ikea, and I love the touch of metallic, and the tone on tone softness it brings to the space. The blue vase/orange stem combination was inspired by Better Homes and Garden, they featured an almost identical look in the September issue and I became obsessed with recreating it.  I picked up the vases at Hobby Lobby and Ross, and the dried flowers actually came from the grocery store.  The twig pumpkins are from Target (years ago), which brings us to the barn star.

My sweet, sweet, sweet barn star.  Did you know that I love barn stars and I don’t know why? It’s true.  There’s just no denying it. I have been looking for an inexpensive metal/tin barn star for possibly two years.  I’ve even plotted to take a wooden barn star from Michael’s and spray paint it to look metallic – which may or may not have worked.  But luckily instead, fate stepped in 2 weeks ago and presented me with a whole shelf of barn stars at Homegoods. It took all of my strength to not by 20 barn stars and OHMYGOSH I blacked out – what’s happening?? Am I still talking about barn stars??? (clears throat) Let’s move on.

I got this far and stood back to survey my work

I like it.  Is it changing your life?  Probably not.  It definitely could be more complex.  But it’s sort of hitting that spot for me where I find it effortlessly well styled.  I often look at other people’s decorating and think to myself “Wow, that looks so good yet SO SIMPLE at the same time.” Which then always reminds me of that scene from The Office where Dwight says “Michael always says K-I-S-S.  Keep it simple stupid.  Great advice…hurts my feelings every time.”

Anyways, once I was happy with the top of the mantle, I decided to add some flair to the under carriage.  I wanted to do some sort of cutesy DIY garland, so I took to pinterest for ideas, and ended up finding this jewel. Love it. Sold.  I picked up a bag of pine cones from Michael’s and got my spray paint on.  In the interest of using what I already had on hand, I decided to paint the cones white, metallic silver, and cranberry.  Great idea in theory, except when I was done, I wasn’t feeling it.  For starters the metallic silver looked almost identical to the white pine cones.

As you probably can’t tell, the one on the left is silver and the one on the right is white.  Besides for that issue, the cranberry pine cones just weren’t adding enough contrast.  They were sort of blending into the brown of the mantle.  It was obvious that I needed to go back to the drawing board, so I gave into the original design and picked up some yellow spray paint for my second go ‘round.

Oh yeah.  Much better.  To string them up, I knotted a small piece of fishing line around the middle of each pine cone, then tied the line to a piece of twine.  I was all pleased with myself and ready to show it off to Jeff, who sweetly mentioned – as only a husband can – that it looked like a smile.

At first I didn’t get what he meant….and then I saw it.  And then I couldn’t unsee it.  So I draped the garland in the middle and wah-lah:

Now we have a toothy jack-o’-lantern smile.  But it’s ok. I’ve made peace with it.  It fits the season, right?  Also you’ll see that I added our fireplace screen to help camouflage the stained firebox bricks.  I originally wanted to paint those bricks black like so:

But long story short, I think we’re going to buy an insert and convert this puppy to gas in the near future, so I didn’t want to waste my money on the heat-resistant paint (which can be found here if you’re interested).  I think the screen does a decent job for the mean time, and with the addition of some candles, we had a full blown ambiance situation on our hands.



Image of fireplace with painted black firebox from here


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Casually Pretending it Hasn’t Been FOREVER Since My Last Post


So I’m kind of hoping we can just gloss over the fact that it was 2010 the last time I posted. Or just agree that yeah, I got busy and left the blog for dead, but now I’m back with new material, and some much more extensive projects.  I’m no longer a renter so we’re talking room gutting, wall-knocking down shenanigans.  Speaking of no longer being a renter, I guess that pretty much kills, you know, the entire concept of a blog called apartment fever….oops.  I’ll probably have to address that at some point so I’m not a fraud, but instead let’s just jump right back into it.  Coming off of my previous post almost 2 Christmas’ ago, we’ve time traveled to present day…I’m a married, pregnant home-owner with a seriously ugly fireplace.

That picture was taken right after we moved in, as evidenced by all the bins and the collection of random items surrounding the fireplace.  Let’s get a little closer..

For some reason that picture cracks me up.  I feel like I was trying to convey chaos and negativity through a reckless camera angle.  Not unlike when infomercials show clips of what life is like before their product, and the camera’s all shakey and black and white and everyone is terribly miserable and freezing because they don’t yet have a giant blanket-robe with arm holes.  Anyways.   We all agree something had to be done about the fireplace. Trust me, you do, even if you don’t.  It’s my blog, and I’m allowed to assign opinions.  But first, I’d like to clarify..I actually love me some exposed brick.  In fact, it had been a dream of mine to one day own a house with an exposed brick feature.  I know, I dream big.  But, in our house, and within the vision I have for how I want this room to look, our exposed brick wasn’t working.  It wasn’t industrial-chic,  it was aggressively red, soot covered, dirty and generally heavy on the eyes.  So I set out to paint it.  You’ve probably seen before the quite popular method of a nice even coat of white paint.  Many bloggers have done it and I think it looks swell.

But, I decided to go in a slightly different direction and white-wash the brick for a fresh yet still subtly aged and distressed makeover.

Pretty sassy, am I right?  My first step was to try and find someone who has already done white-washing, and done it well.  I found Frugal Farmhouse Design, and decided to follow her instructions.  Per her advice, it’s actually a really, really simple project.  All you need is 50% water, 50% latex paint.  She recommends using a warm-toned paint, instead of off the shelf bright white, and  someone in the comments of her post offered up some specific colors, so I didn’t even have to second-guess what  an acceptable ‘warm-toned white’ would be.  Please and thank you.  My choices were (all by Behr) Cottage White, Antique White, Linen White, and Swiss Coffee. I picked Cottage White, and only had to buy a quart for the whole project (remember, half paint/half water).

To prep my brick, I gave it a quick clean up with some water and a scrubby brush, followed by a once over with the vacuum hose to remove any debris.  Then I prepared my paint/water mixture and got down to business.  Oh and I used what can only be described as the cheapest paint brush imaginable.  I think I got it at Home Depot and tops it cost a nickel.  Seriously, I think the bristles were made of hay.  But I knew it wouldn’t matter, considering the abuse it was going to take, and especially since I was going for an imperfect finished look.  The project was extremely easy, with barely any technique involved.  I basically just tackled the painting in small sections, applying varying amounts of coverage.  All the grout lines got heavy coverage with no distressing, since they were already gray and I had a feeling they’d probably stay pretty gray no matter what I did.  For the bricks, I painted about 4 or 5 (left to right) at a time, and randomly picked some bricks to look solid white, some to look more of a sheer white, and some I actually dabbed with an old towel, to get a spotty, gradually distressed effect. Every once in a while I would stand back to survey my progress and make sure I was getting a nice overall balance of different paint coverages.  This first brick I tackled was in an inconspicuous spot, so I could make sure I was 100% happy with the finished look.

I was, so I set Pandora to 90’s R & B (duh) and got to work on the rest of this floor to ceiling beast.  And that my friends, is pretty much the whole story.  In the interest of more time-traveling, I’m going to show an after picture that skips a pretty huge step in how we got from here:

To here:

As you can see, the step I skipped is the installation of a wood mantle.  But we’ll get to that in due time, along with the seasonal fireplace styling (which is about half done in the above picture). You are required to ignore the cavernous eye-sore that is the fire box.  Also the surrounding wall/ceiling/carpet colors.  I know all those neutrals aren’t really popping against each other.  The carpet is old and disgusting and what we inherited from the previous owners.  But we have plans to rip it up and install dark wood flooring in this room (very soon!) so I’m sure that will make a world of difference.  The paint color situation makes me sad because it’s carried over from the adjoining hallway and I looooooove it everywhere but against the fireplace. But I’m not even considering repainting until this room is more finished, I’m hoping the floors will be the difference needed to make it work.  Anyways, for now  focus on the brick..

Let the glorious white wash over you (see what I did there??  2 years of no blogging, but still got it!).

Image sources: White painted fireplace from here, white-washed wall from here.


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The Christmas Eve Eve Post, or Introducing Laura’s Corner

I’d like to introduce a new segment here at Apartment Fever: Laura’s Corner.  Yes, that title is completely unimaginative and lame, but I decided to embrace its campiness.  What Laura’s Corner means for you is that one of my very best friends, Laura, is going to be popping in for regular guest blogging sessions.  And just so you know, she’s more talented and accomplished at DIY and decorating than I’ll ever be.  So prepare yourself, becuase she’s got a ton of wisdom to share.  We’ll kick things off with a nice little Christmas craft.  Probably my last Christmasy post (tear).  She kind of just dives in without a proper introduction or conclusion…I was going to draft one up for her (we plan on co-writing her posts) but ehhhhhhhh.  It’s Christmas time people.  What can I say?  I’m busy.  I think we can do without the formalities.  Laura, take it away………

My family is coming down for Christmas this year and I knew I had to step up my holiday game.  Normally, when it’s just me and my husband, we whip out our 4 foot tall pre-lit fake tree about 2 weeks before the big day; put on some Christmas music and throw the ornaments up.  I have a hard time really getting into holiday decorating because I hate the idea of working hard to make something look beautiful and then taking it down a few weeks later.  Also, growing up, my mom replaced practically every item in our house with something Christmasy.  Reindeer art and Santa pillows were put up and their replacements were stored away.  As I got older, I realized how much space it took up to store an entire house of Christmas decorations.  I vowed to never go that crazy.  I certainly appreciate when other people do I just can’t do it myself. 

This year I knew I would have to do a little more than our random hand-me-down decorations and our sad little tree.  So, my third grade mind went straight to PAPER CHAINS! 

Off I went to Hobby Lobby (my favorite crafty store).  I bought 11 pieces of Christmas scrapbook paper, a paper cutter, and a long string of silver beads.  Then I went next door to Ollies (much like Big Lots) and bought 3 packs of silver garland in 15 feet lengths and some silver bows. 

I cut the paper into strips of about an inch and a half wide by seven and a half inches long.  Then I precut about 200 pieces of tape and got to work. 

You know how it goes… make the strip into a circle, tape or glue it then link the next piece through that circle and repeat until you have a glorious Christmas strand!

I weaved the silver garland in and out of the paper chains.  I hadn’t planned on doing this, but I couldn’t find any double sided Christmas paper and I didn’t want the white insides to be noticeable.  And tada… an INSTANT CHRISTMAS decoration!  You can throw this around your tree,

Hang it from your curtain rod,

Loop it above your fireplace, wear it as a sash… the world is yours!

Annnnd I’m back.  Told you there wouldn’t be a proper conclusion.  My favorite thing about the paper garland project is how she hung it vertically on the tree…I nevr would have thought of that.  Stay tuned for much more of Laura’s Corner…trust me, if you could see her house, you’d be excited.  Merry Christmas everyone!!


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Mulling It Over

I think universally we can all share in the conundrum of what-to-get-the-coworkers-for-Christmas.  If you’re lucky, you work somewhere that helps you out, with either a Secret Santa or a generic gift exchange like Dirty Santa.  If you’re unlucky (like me), you’re left with 10 or so separate people, and asking yourself: what can I give that is gender/age neutral, not too expensive, interesting/unique (hopefully not something they’ll just throw away), and thoughtful.  That’s a tall order.  Of course there are some tried-and-true favorites; candles, lotions, Starbucks gift cards, etc.  But this year I really wanted to come up with something a little crafty (having found new confidence after my successful PPP) and a little DIY.  Oh yeah and something different, a gift that maybe they’ve never received before.  I finally came up with an idea which I pulled together this past weekend.  And just so you know, as far as coworker Christmas gifts go, I nailed it.  There.  I said it.  I can’t even feign humility, because I’m pretty proud of what I came up with.  Here’s the details….

I decided to make my own mulling spices.  If you’ve never mulled, it’s basically a mixture you add to wine to make a warm, festive Christmas explosion in a mug.  That’s the only way I can describe it, it’s so delicious.  Williams-Sonoma usually sells a tin of mulling spices around this time of year, which I’ve tried and enjoyed.  But I thought it would be a lot cheaper to make my own, so I went on the hunt for a recipe.   I was looking for something simple, with not too many ingredients, and a recipe that didn’t include anything like orange or lemon zest.  Since I didn’t know how zest would hold up as far as shelf life.  I finally found the perfect recipe, which you can view on this fine lady’s blog.

Since presentation is everything, I also wanted to find some sort of cheap accessory for my mulling spices.  I came up with a few ideas but ultimately settled on a coffee mug.  I went to Michael’s hoping to find some Christmasy but not too cutesy options, and hit the jackpot. 

Yeah, they’re not Christmasy, but I’m ok with that.  The gift itself is very festive and these mugs were just too good to pass up.  I could do without the cheesy inspirational words, but otherwise, they’re sort of cool and in the style of urban outfitters, no?  They’re a bit quirky, which fits my taste perfectly.  And you know I couldn’t walk away when there was a vintage key involved

Wanna hear the price?  You’ll die.  ONE DOLLAR. Each.  Like I said, too good to pass up.  After Michaels I went shopping for spices.  Cue a huge shout out to Badia

If you don’t know already, you should be buying your spices in the international foods aisle (where the Mexican food is like tortillas and refried beans).   Badia spices are SO CHEAP it’s ridiculous.  I got probably 50 whole cinnamon sticks for $3.49, whole allspice for $0.89 and whole cloves for $2.15.  I would’ve probably spent $20 (or more) if I had shopped McCormick in the baking aisle.   Badia, I salute you.

For assembly, I readied my packaging details,

And made each person’s spice mix individually (I gifted 12 co-workers total).  First I mixed the sugars

Then transferred the mix to one of my x-small clear gift bags (also purchased at Michael’s).  I sprinkled in the whole cloves and allspice and finished with the cinnamon sticks on top. 

I nestled the bag into my mugs, twined her up and added some homemade gift tags along with recipe instructions.  Voila!

Pretty cool, right???  I love the way the cinnamon sticks are perched right on top, they look so rustic and seasonal.  I tried to get a close-up while fighting with the glare on the plastic.  Spoiler.  The glare mostly won.

So that’s my story morning glory.  Here’s a price breakdown:

Spices (including sugars) – about $10
Gift bags – $4.99
Mugs – $12
Twine and gift tags – free

Total: $26.99 or $2.25/person (for 12 people)

Oh and here’s the directions I included in case you’re interested (the instructions from the blog were lame, so I came up with my own).

           Mulled Wine Hot Toddies

  • Empty  mulling spices (contents of bag) and
    4 cups cranberry juice into a sauce pan
  • Stir to dissolve sugars, and bring to boil
  • Reduce heat to simmer and add 3 cups
    Burgundy or Pinot Noir wine
  • Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 
    minutes, or up to a half hour (the longer
    you simmer, the more spice-infused
    your wine will become)
  • Ladle into mugs, taking care to avoid
    any of the whole spices (or strain
    the spices out before serving)

Serves 8

If you’re thinking about adapting this idea for your friends in the workplace, here are a couple alternate ‘packages’ I considered: a bottle of Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw would be a nice compliment to the spices.  And since it’s only about $3 a bottle, it still won’t break the bank.  Another option, if maybe you only have a few people to buy for and you’re willing to spend a bit more, would be to give the spices along side a nice pair of gloves or a scarf.  I thought it would be cute to attach a little message like “Some gifts to help you stay warm this Christmas, on the inside and out.”   If you want to go for mugs like I did, check out Michael’s, but also try your local grocery store.  I’ve heard that some around here have been selling wintery mugs for a quarter each. 

So what do you think?  $2.25 per person, with the thoughtfulness of a homemade gift that is both unique and full of Christmas spirit.  Can you beat that with a stick?  No.  The answer is you can’t.

**Update – I forgot to mention that I did recipe-test my Mulled Wine Hot Toddies, and can confirm deliciousness.


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Trimming the Tree

Two posts in one day?  Two CHRISTMAS posts in one day?  DOUBLE CHRISTMAS.  What does it mean?????

Normally I have a very modest, almost Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  4 foot in stature, sparse and fake all over.  Not that I have a problem with fake…I graduated to a big girl tree this year, and it’s fake as well.  It’s also came pre-lit, which um hello — where have pre-lit trees BEEN all my life??  I know, the answer is, everywhere, and everyone has one.  But this was my first, so I’m basking in the glow of how awesome this concept is. 

Of course I wanted to keep the blue/red theme going, especially on my gorgeously lit, tall drink of water tree.  But, I didn’t want to go out and spend a ton of money on new ornaments.  Luckily, I already had a bunch of blue ball ornaments from previous years.  So that was half the battle.  To bring in an equal amount of red, I headed to Walmart.  I picked up a 99 cent 4-pack of red bulbs, and 4 – 88 cent packs of these:

Good ol’ Bob’s Sweet Stripes Candy Sticks.  I’m sort of obsessed with them.  I love the retro look so much that I find myself using them as vase fillers, as part of centerpieces, or in this case, as an quick and easy DIY ornament:

I had a hunch that with a little twine (twine!) would be the perfect tool to take them from candy to tree decoration.  And I was right,

Here’s the look at the full tree, which I think looks merry, bright, and on theme.  Plenty of blue AND red, and I only spent $5. Ho-ho-ho.


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I’ll Have a Blue (and red) Christmas

My first idea to bring the blue/red Christmas color scheme to life was a homemade pillow to sub in for this one:

Which sits in my entry hallway.  I wanted something crafty and etsy-looking….with an appliqué Christmas flower.  The problem is…I’m really not very crafty.  I can’t even sew.  But I hatched a plan to skin that cat in a different way, and it began with two $3 placemats from Target.  The whole placemats-as-pillow-covers thing has been done before, on many other blogs, so in no way can I take credit for that genius.  Nor do I wish to take credit for my first attempt at this method, because…well, I blew it.  You see, it turns out my plan was ill-conceived.  To create my pillow, I decided to put one placemat on top of the other, and use bonding (hemming) tape to seal three edges.  Then stuff my cover and bond the final edge.  Things were looking good at first, I easily bonded my left, right and top ‘seams’.   I filled the pillow with pillow innards and attempted to secure the last seam.  No dice.  Once the stuffing was inside, it was basically impossible to hold down the two edges of the placemats neatly and straight, and even more impossible to keep them (again, neatly and straight) in position when trying to iron the bonding tape.  Every attempt came up with extremely sloppy results, and I eventually threw in the towel.  It was not to be.  Here is a picture of my end product – which to you may not look that bad, but trust me, it was a sad sack.

Notice how I tucked under the entire bottom edge – which was to hide the fact that it was full of bubbled spots and sections that weren’t even bonded together.  Also the poinsettia (which I’ll explain later) is an illusion, just set on top, not attached.  Sad.  Sack.

So after this fiasco and failure (which may or may not have included a near-tears melt down wherein I snapped to Jeff –  because obviously this  was mostly his fault – “I can’t do this!  I have these ideas but I can’t execute!”  Why hello there, drama queen!  Nice to see you.) I walked away from the problem and let it marinate.  Until a few days later when it hit me – envelope closure.  You know what I’m talking about – when a pillow cover has a slit in the back for inserting the cushion instead of going in through an edge.  Ah yes, an envelope closure seemed like just the ticket.  Now, obviously I wouldn’t be able to create a true envelope closure.  Normally there would be a bottom flap, with a longer overlapping flap.  But I figured that I don’t really need for the back to look perfect.  Since this is a strictly decorative piece (displayed in a spot where it never gets moved) as long as the front looks kosher, then nobody needs to know what’s going on around the corner..

Woops!  Too soon.  Let me back up.   Here’s how the reboot of PPP (poinsettia pillow project) went down.

1.  Iron both placemats. 

2.  Place on top of each other, and insert bonding tape between them on each side.  Make sure to put the bonding tape as close to the edges as possible.  Follow bonding tape instructions to iron and secure. 

3.  Pick which side will be your back, and pull at the fabric in the middle, so you’re sure to only lift up one of the placemats.  Cut a slit through the back placemat, top to bottom. 


4.  Insert a spare pillow or other pillow stuffing that you have on hand. (Although having tried both, stuffing it with an actual pillow works best.  Which makes sense…a pillow that’s already a pillow will give you a nice pillow-y inner structure.  Got that?)  As you can see (above), I simply put the pillow I already had in the hallway inside, on undercover duty.

5.  Smile like the Grinch as you behold your dirty little secret.

6.   Think about how weird and manic Christina’s Grinch smile was.

7.  Flip over and tada!  Placemat to pillow transformation = complete. 

8.  Add appliqué or desired flourish.  I used a safety pin to fasten.

To assemble the appliqué poinsettia, I cut out three layers of felt – I used felt because I was going for that uber-crafty look.  Obviously other fabrics would also work.  After I had a leaf layer, and two petal layers, I used bonding tape between each to join together.

For the middle (stigma?) I picked up some random doo-dads at Michaels. 

I truthfully don’t know what you’re supposed to use brads for (see? A crafty person would know that), but I loved how I could easily press one through the felt and then open it’s backing to secure:

And here’s the product of round 2:

Homemade crafty pillow?  I did it.  It’s a Christmas miracle.


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