Thursday, April 18, 2013

Faux Vintage Letter Tiles (A Wall Art Project)

I first got the idea for this project from this post I found via Pinterest.  I liked the idea of Scrabble-esque tiles as far as being able to intersect our names, but I realized that what I really wanted was old signage or letterpress letters.  I found some fantastic letters online but at $5 a pop, they quickly went out of my price range.  As the idea for the wall ruler started to come to fruition,  I decided I could just make some letters.  That way I could get the size and style I wanted and the cost would be significantly less than I had found.  Spoiler alert--it only ended up being about $.62 cents a tile!
But...whew!  This project had a hard time getting off the ground.  Seriously.  The first day I had begun to work on it, I stepped into a bed of incredibly ferocious and angry fire ants.  I happen to be mildly allergic to those so that pretty much put the kibosh on anything for the rest of the day.  Then on the day that should have been installation, A fell and I thought he might have broken his nose.  It's scary to see that much blood come out of your child's nose, but he's fine today and has no swelling or bruising, so I think we're okay now.  Once I was able to work on this, it was relatively painless and most of the work comes in the planning.
I don't know if this would work with just any combination of names.  We happen to have enough repeating letters in the right places.  You could also do this with words.  The only thing I think you really need to keep in mind are that you don't want to incidentally spell other words when joining them together.  For example, I could have put Aidan next to Colin and they could have both used the Ns in my name, but then I would have also been left with "CA", "OI", "LD" and "IA".  Clear as mud?  If you've played Scrabble, then it might make more sense and hopefully the photos will help as well.
The first thing you're going to need to do is figure out a layout.  I found that the easiest way to do that was with graph paper.  Once I found a layout that worked, I just counted the tiles I'd need and headed to Hobby Lobby.  My original thought was for 4x4 wooden tiles, but once I saw them in person I realized that would be way too big.  A 2.5x2.5 would have been perfect but they don't sell those.  Then I found these 2.5x3.5 inch rectangles.  I hemmed and hawed over them for a while, but realized that they would probably actually be the best thing to get me that old signage look.  And at $1.47 for a pack of 4, they were very reasonably priced.  I ended up buying two extra packs, just in case I messed up.  There are no craft stores in my town, so I didn't want to mess something up and have to make the trip again!
The next step was to determine exactly how I wanted the letters to look.  When I was a little girl, my great-grandpa used to take me to the co-op.  I guess nowadays we would call it a feed and seed store.  I even got a pet baby chick from there (country girl represent!).  Anyway, they used to have all kinds of handmade signs and individual letters.  So I wanted to sort of combine those two ideas.  The font needed to be really plain so I just grabbed a set of stencils from my craft supplies, but if you wanted something else, you could certainly print out the letters and draw them on like I explained here.  I just lined the stencil up and drew the letter on.
Then I colored it in using a permanent marker.  I connected the lines to make it look less like a stencil, but whatever floats your boat!
Then I let the permanent marker set up for a bit and then stained the tiles using the same Minwax Early American that I used on the wall ruler.  I brushed it on with foam brush and then wiped up the excess with a paper towel.  These were very smooth and thin so I didn't sand them.  They also sucked up the stain very quickly so your should probably plan to wax on, wax off wipe on, wipe off pretty quickly.  One coat would have been just fine but I went back and brushed a second coat on a few just to make them not look so uniform.  And here are the tiles after they'd been stained.
After letting those air out for a night, I put all the tiles in the layout that I'd decided on.  I had also picked up some wood strips while I was at Hobby Lobby.  They are essentially lattice strips cut into three foot lengths.
These were used as a sort of "skeleton" to attach the letters to the wall.  I placed them on top of each name, trying to figure out the best placement.  There was no real scientific method to this.  I really just tried to have the least amount of piecing.  Once I determined that, I cut all of the strips slightly shorter than the necessary length.  This furthers the illusion that the letters are floating on the wall and gives you a little bit of wiggle room in your placement.
At this point, I also wrote the corresponding name on each strip and drew in where the names would intersect.  I measured it both lengthwise and widthwise and found the center.  I then went to the wall and found the widthwise center and marked it.  Then I measured how far down I wanted it to start and then marked the center there too.  Once I had center marked, it was as easy as hammering each strip in with a finish nail on each end, making sure to keep it level as I went.  I have paneling under this paintable wall paper so the strips are actually really secure.  They're also really lightweight so even if one falls off the wall at some point, it should be okay.
You may notice that two words are missing here.  D fell asleep and since this is right outside her room, I decided to proceed with the next step and add those in after she woke up.  Just pretend those words are there!  HA!
Then I just started hot gluing the letters on.  Yes...I said hot glue.  Like this...
You'll notice that the letters are centered on the strip.  At this point, I might have squealed.  And possibly petted it.  I plead the 5th though.
Putting the letters on took practically no time.  In less than 15 minutes it looked like this:
And then three hours later (that girl napped a long time today!) it looked like this!

Kids love personalized things.  The boys keep walking past this and smiling.  They even showed D her name, so now she smiles when she walks past it too!  I feel like it needs something using the "R" in "Barry" to balance it out.  I'll be thinking of a word and will update if I think of something.  ;-)

  • Wooden tiles
  • Permanent markers
  • Stain
  • Foam brushes
  • Paper towels
  • Lattice strips
  • Finish nails 
  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Hot glue gun and sticks
I had everything on hand except for the wooden tiles and lattice strips.  My total for this project was just about $25, but may run you slightly more depending on your finishing choices and what materials you already have.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them here or click the Contact Us link on the sidebar!


Monday, April 15, 2013

Watch Us Grow! A wall ruler to measure the kids...

Moving past the sad sack post about the damage to the playroom (whomp, whomp, whomp), I been working on a cute, easy, useful, and sentimental project for the hallway.  I've always envied people who live in their houses forever and have the markings of their children's heights on the door frame.  When our oldest was born, I saw a very sweet giraffe growth chart and planned to DIY it one day.  Fast forward 12 years and there is still no very sweet giraffe growth chart anywhere in our home.  I guess it's a good thing though because, hold on this will blow. your. mind, kids grow up.  Yeah, whodathunk it?  And in this bleak forest known as adolescence, giraffe growth charts are not cute.  Neither is that pre-teen angst but I digress.  About, oh, I'd say a year ago, I pinned a growth chart on Pinterest that looked like a huge school ruler (click here for Dear Lillie's version and here for 517 creations' version) and I was in LOVE!  It's completely moveable too, so even though we don't ever plan to move, we could take it with us if we ever decided to.  That would have been helpful as renters many moons ago when Lil B was born and we were living in a small apartment.
 The first thing you'll need is a super cute assistant with chocolate around her mouth.  Check!
Then you'll need
  • 1-1"x8"x8' board (I like pine for reasons I'll go into in just a second) 
  • Sanding block or sand paper
  • Paper towels
  • Yardstick
  • Pencil
  • Permanent markers (I prefer Sharpie brand in the fine tip)
  • Stencil or printed numbers
  • Stain
  • Sealer
  • Foam brushes
  • Drill
  • Screws (Wall anchors if your not going into studs!)
The first thing you need to do, is cut your board to length.  If you have baseboards, you will need to accommodate for those.  That meant my board would need to hang at least 5 inches off the ground.  I went with 6 inches.  From there I measured what I thought would look best on the wall and decided that I wanted it 6 inches from the ceiling also, which meant that my board would measure 7 feet but my ruler will measure 7.5 feet.  Hopefully that makes more sense as this goes on!  I had Barry cut the board to 7 feet in length.  Then I gave it a good sanding and wiped it down with wet but well wrung out paper towels.
While I was waiting for that to dry, I went to the computer and printed out 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in a font and size that I liked.  I went with Imprint MT Shadown (it's a pre-installed font, at least on my PC) in font size 350 and I set it to only print the outline. 
Next, I took my yard stick and measure off every foot, making sure to remember that my 1 foot line only needed to be 6 inches from the bottom of the board.  I ticked all of those off and then went back and drew them to three inches in length.  Then I ticked off every inch, making those lines one inch and extending the lines to 2 inches long at every half foot.


Here's the reason I prefer to use pine.  For one, it's readily available in my area making it cost effective.  For another, it's soft which makes it perfect to distress.  It also makes it easy to trace something onto it and then paint it, reducing the need for carbon paper (which is absolutely NOT readily available in my area!).  All I did was eyeball the placement of each number and, pressing down very hard, trace the outline of each number and was left with a nifty impression!

At this point, I just went over all of the lines with the permanent marker and traced the outline of each number and filled it in.

I know some people are scared of stain and I have no idea why.  Maybe it's because I grew up in a home with a father who believed painting wood furniture was one of the seven deadly sins so there's really no mystery in it for me?  I believe staining a piece is more art than science.  Once you understand how stain behaves, it's really easy.  I'd rather stain than paint, to be perfectly honest.  I wanted this piece to look aged, so I went with Minwax Early American.  It's got that sort of old oak patina to it.  You can buy small cans of stain for about $5, so if you aren't convinced in the store by the tiny little swatch, bring it home and slap it on a scrap board.  That's also a great way to figure out how many coats you need to get the desired color and a way to practice if you've never stained before.  I prefer to stain with foam brushes, but some people prefer to rub it on with an old cloth.  Hey, whatever floats your boat!
I shook the can up really well (the pigment settles so either shaking or stirring it is vital!), opened it up and then dipped my brush into it.  I put it on kind of sloppily, heavier in some parts, lighter in others because I wanted it to look used.  When I stained the furniture in D's room, I went very carefully and smoothly because I wanted it very uniform.  I stained the edges first and then the front of the board and immediately went back and wiped off the excess with clean, dry paper towels.  I let it sit for a few more minutes and then wiped it down with more clean, dry paper towels.  I didn't take a photo of this step because I didn't want to get stain on my camera but if you practice, you'll get the hang of it.  And if you want it to look old then you really can't screw it up.  You have to wipe the excess stain off.  It won't dry for the most part and then you're left with a gunky mess.  NOT COOL.  Follow the manufacturer's instructions if you need to do a second coat.  Some recommend a light sanding or buffing and some don't.  You're almost at the finish line now, so don't screw it up by not reading the directions!  I didn't need a second coat, so I just let it dry and air out overnight.
I almost always use stain with polyurethane built in so that I can skip the sealing step, but they didn't have the Early American with poly in stock, so I bought a spray on top coat.  I gave it a couple of coats, following the instructions for dry time between coats.  After that was dry, I let it air out in the sun for several hours and then in the playroom overnight until it wasn't smelly.
To install, I measured 6 inches from the floor and predrilled holes for the screws.  I had planned to countersink the holes and then fill them in with plugs, but I found some screws with rounded heads that I wouldn't mind seeing (and they sort of lent to the "this has been around forever" look) and attached the ruler to the wall, putting the screws straight into the studs so that it's nice and secure.  That's a two person job, so make sure you have some help!
And ta-da!  It's done!  I didn't even have the drill put away and the kids wanted to be measured, so I guess it's a hit!

This project costs around $20 to complete!  As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them here or click the Contact Us link on the sidebar!


P.S.  If you're not feeling industrious, Dear Lillie and 517 creations sell these in their shops.  You can click the links in the earlier text to get there.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A (Hopefully) Minor Setback in the Playroom

When last I left you, I was proud of my shiny new playroom.  Something happened a couple of days ago that made it a little less shiny.
I was in my bedroom and I heard our furbaby Hank bark.  He's a bassett hound mix that we adopted from the shelter and he's finding his "hound dog" voice right now, which means he sometimes barks just to hear himself do it.  He was crated at that moment, but didn't act upset.  My cell phone rang (and later I realized my home phone had rang also but I left it on the dryer--who does that?) and it was a friend from high school.  Her church does a tent revival every year in an open field across the street from our house so I didn't find it odd that she'd be calling.  I answered the phone and she said, "Someone hit your house."  The words didn't make sense.  It's like if I said, "That grass is pink," and you'd go, "HUH?". that.  She repeated it and said that she was walking over so I opened the front door and I see her coming across the street and to my left is a car with its front bumper around the corner of my house.
I called 911 for the first time ever in my life and told them what had happened.  We live in the country but along a state highway.  I'll say this, I no longer worry about the response time for emergency services.  Within a minute of hanging up the phone, a sheriff's deputy, ambulance, and VFD first responders had arrived on scene.  Within another minute, two more guys from the VFD, another sheriff's deputy and state police were here.  Of course, Barry's working out of town, so I did the only logical thing a grown woman could do at that point--I called my mommy and daddy.  HA HA!  None of us were hurt, and the people in the car were being cared for, although they weren't injured either.  I really just wanted my dad to come over and tell me that my house wasn't going to fall in on me.
It was at this point that things kind of went downhill for the driver. I found out that immediately after she hit the house, she attempted to start the car back up and presumably continue driving, but she didn't seem to be coherent enough for that to be a conscious decision.  My neighbor, whose yard she had plowed through before our house, took her keys from her and gave them to the state police officer.  After listing some really potent medications that she was on, the driver was detained and handcuffed on suspicion of DUI.  I sincerely hope that once they got her to the hospital, the found that she wasn't impaired in any way.  If you're a regular reader or if you are a real life friend of mine, you know that my sister Danielle was killed by a drunk driver (you can read that post here) so someone choosing to drive while impaired has already made its mark on my life.  Thank God no one was injured or killed.  My neighbor's kids play in their front yard.  My kids could have been in the playroom. 

The damage appears to be minor.  The driver hit the corner of the house and if you'll remember from the interior sneak peak I showed here, we left the brick columns up, so that's actually what she hit, and the brick columns are surrounded with Hardiboard, which is supposed to withstand hurricane force wind.  Se was not going all that fast by the time she hit it either, thanks to her taking out the neighbors fiber optics box first.  We'll have to assess the damage more thoroughly when Barry gets home but all accounts are that we'll just have to replace the trim boards. 
Here are photos of the damage.  It really could have been so much worse.  Here's the front of the house.

And from the side...

Take a step back and it doesn't look too bad.

Next project--concrete wall around the house?  Moat maybe?  HA!  Sometimes, you've got to laugh to keep from crying!