DIY Home: Front Door Wreath for Under $10

DIY Front Door Wreath
A simple, versatile front door wreath for less than 10 bucks? Sounds pretty good, right? It’s possible–and it’s easy!

A few weekends ago, we decided that our front porch needed a sprucing up. So we got hanging baskets of flowers, replaced the cushions on the loveseat and chairs for something more colorful, and added complementary throw pillows. Those things are not inexpensive. The finishing touch was a homemade wreath hanging on the door. And it cost me less than $10 to make.

All I needed was a wreath form (I bought mine at Walmart for $7–it’s the flat foam kind and it’s 15″ in diameter, but there are many varieties to choose from) and some scraps of fabric from my stash. I chose four batik-y fabrics and cut them into 1.5″ strips, maybe about 12″ long. There’s a lot of leeway here. Choose whatever fabrics match the season, your house, your personal taste…whatever! Then, all I did was sew the strips, small end to small end, with a quick pass on my sewing machine. You’re essentially making one REALLY long, skinny chain of fabric strips. I made a pattern with my colors because I’m a Type A personality, but it can also be random. Remember to turn your fabric ends right sides together so that when you don’t see the stitching from the front. Doesn’t even need to be perfect stitching because no one will see it. I really guessed at overall length here–it’s based on how large your wreath form is and how tightly you’re going to overlap the fabrics. But don’t despair, if you come up short (and I did), you can sew another chain and then attach it to the last one on your wreath.

Next, I anchored one strip to the wreath form using a couple straight pins from my sewing basket. I anchored it on the back of the form so that it would be hidden. Then I wrapped the fabric around the form, overlapping my fabric about half the width of the strips (personal choice). When I got back to the beginning, I anchored the last piece using one last pin to secure it to the back of the form so no one would see it. Finally, I took a larger piece of one of my fabrics (approximately 2″ x 14″) and fold it in half lengthwise, right sides together. Then I sewed along the edge and pulled it right side out, making a flat tube of fabric. I used this as the hanger (see picture–I just put it on the wreath and folded the top edges into themselves and stitched). I found a suction cup in our junk drawer and attached that to the glass in our front door. This wreath is very light, so it doesn’t need much to hang. You could also use a regular wreath hanger or a Command hook.

That’s it!

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DIY Home: Train Table Redo

Train Table Redo
Have an old train table in your house that barely gets any play time? We did! So how about a redo for less than $10? Let me tell you how I did this at my house last weekend.

My son has a KidKraft train table that came with a whole set of tracks. He loved it for about a year, but recently has not played with it so much because he’d rather build his own tracks on the ground than use the pre-made set. So, I was left with this big table taking up space in his toy room for nothing. But the thing he really did like playing with was his airport sets (he has two). The airport sets are rather large, so they used to stay in the closet until requested.

Last weekend I thought about how I could create more space in my son’s toy room to leave the airport sets out (since he plays with them so much). It dawned on me that the top of the train table, while having a specific scene painted on it (see BEFORE picture), is a completely open canvas if you turn the table top over. I went to Home Depot and bought a roll of black “faux leather” contact paper for $8. I know it’s supposed to look like leather, but to me it looked like black pavement, which is exactly the backdrop I needed to create an airport.

I just took the top of the train table off, flipped it over, and covered it completely in the contact paper. Then I put the table top back on, layed down the airport runway poster that came with one of the airports, and put both airport playsets on top. It’s perfect! I think you could also use it as a race track, if you’re confident in your drawing skills (chalk would probably work). Or you could make a racetrack out of yellow Duck Tape. And the best part (besides it costing less than $10) is that it’s still totally usable as the original train table with just a simple flip of the top.

DIY Food: Insanely Easy Low-Cal Pumpkin Spice Muffins

pumpkin muffins
So this weekend, I made the most delicious, moist, low-calorie, low-fat muffins ever! I’d seen some posts on Pinterest with variations of the recipe, but after doing a bit of research and reading people’s comments, I decided that the simplest recipe was the best one. Here’s a list of ingredients:

  • Betty Crocker Super Moist Cake Mix (Spice)
  • Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin (15 oz. can)

That’s the end of the list. Can you believe it? And you don’t even need to measure anything! All recipes should be so easy.

Pour the dry cake mix and the canned pumpkin into a bowl and stir. It will be quite thick and will take some time to make sure all the cake mix has been absorbed. I used a whisk, but I’m sure you could just use a fork as well.

I lined muffin tins with liners and filled them each about 70-75% full. (This mix won’t rise as much as cupcake mix would.) I popped them in the oven and baked according to the cupcake directions on the cake mix box, until my toothpick came out clean. I was able to make 18 pumpkin muffins in total. I decided to put two muffins per sandwich size Ziploc bag and freeze them to defrost at will. I have one with a cup of tea when I need a pick-me-up in the afternoon.

I added up all the nutritional info from the ingredients and divided by 18, and here’s what I came up with for each muffin:

Calories: 97
Fat: 1g
Saturated Fat: 0.5g
Sugar: 11g

Trust me, they’re moist, delicious, and just sweet enough to feel like you’re cheating on your diet. If you are looking for a lot of flavor, you could add some pumpkin pie spice to the mix before baking.

DIY Home: Coasters, Coasters, Coasters!

coasters
I came across several tutorials on Pinterest before the holidays and thought that DIY coaster sets would make excellent gifts for neighbors, teachers, and friends. (I also made a couple sets for myself.) I should point out that, in my opinion, this is a very easy craft, but it’s time-consuming, and larger quantities are your friend. I suggest you make a ton at one time because you won’t want to go back and do this over again.

What I love about this project is that you can make it as customized as you’d like. I used scrapbook paper for mine. But you could use maps, wrapping paper, etc. But be warned to not use anything you print out on your home printer because the colors will bleed. Here’s a list of supplies:

  • 4.25″ x 4.25″ white bathroom tiles from Home Depot (I think they’re like 16 cents each…get extra in case you mess up)
  • scrapbook paper (or wrapping paper, whatever…)
  • paper cutter
  • Mod Podge (I got mine from Michael’s and used “matte”)
  • sponge brush
  • clear acrylic sealant (again, purchased mine from Michael’s)
  • roll of cork (purchased at Home Depot by the contact paper/shelf liners)
  • adhesive (I used original Tacky glue in the gold tube)

Note: The cork backing is optional. You could just get some felt and cut it up into small squares to glue to the corners of the underside of the coaster. I prefer to cover the entire bottom of the tile with cork because I think it’s safer for furniture.

I strayed a bit from the tutorials I read, but here’s what I did. I know it seems like a lot of instructions, but I promise it’s really easy!

  1. Cut your paper into squares. I used 4″ x 4″ squares so that my coasters would have a white border, but you could cover the entire top if you’d like.
  2. Spread out all your tiles somewhere you can leave them for a few hours. Spread a thin, even layer of Mod Podge over the surface of your first tile using a sponge brush.
  3. Immediately place your paper square on top, centering as best you can. You literally have like 1.5 seconds to slide your paper around before it sticks, so place it carefully.
  4. Repeat for remaining tiles, one at a time.
  5. Allow Mod Podge to dry (at least 20 minutes).
  6. Spread a thin, even layer of Mod Podge over the entire surface of your first tile (right over the paper that’s affixed there now). Go either left-right or top-bottom and remember which you do.
  7. Repeat with all remaining tiles, applying Mod Podge in the same direction.
  8. Allow Mod Podge to dry (at least 20 minutes).
  9. Spread a thin, even layer of Mod Podge over the entire surface of your first tile again, going in the other direction as the first round (if you did left-right before, apply the Mod Podge top-bottom).
  10. Repeat with all remaining tiles, applying Mod Podge in the same (new) direction.
  11. Allow Mod Podge to dry (at least 20 minutes).
  12. Spread a thin, even layer of Mod Podge over the entire surface of your first tile again, going in the same direction as the first round.
  13. Repeat with all remaining tiles, applying Mod Podge in the (original) direction.
  14. Allow Mod Podge to dry overnight. The coasters’ surface will be tacky now, but the sealant will take care of that.
  15. Take your tiles outside and lay them all out close together. I did this by placing them on a plastic trash bag in the backyard.
  16. Spray and even layer of sealant across all the tiles at once. Follow the instructions on the can for drying time.
  17. Apply two more layers of sealant, allowing time to dry in between.
  18. Once totally dry, cut cork or felt and glue to back of coasters.

I tie them up with pretty ribbon into sets of four. Good luck! Leave me a comment to let me know how they turn out. 🙂

ADVICE: If you stack your coasters to store them, slip some wax of parchment paper in between to prevent the felt or cork from sticking to other coasters. That may not apply to everyone, but I live in south Florida, and it’s hot and humid here. Better safe than sorry.

DIY Home: Pillowcases

pillowcases
This week, I sewed my first pillowcases. I was a bit intimidated at first, but thought, “How difficult can it be? It’s just a rectangle.” And if I can figure it out, ANYONE can figure it out. Here’s how to make your own pillowcases.

I had some 100% cotton fabric leftover from when I made valances for my son’s bedroom and playroom. He loves Richard Scarry characters (Huckle Cat, Lowly Worm, Hilda Hippo, etc.), and I was actually able to find fabrics featuring those characters. I had enough fabric to make two pillowcases: one with dark blue as the main fabric with an accent of light blue, and the other vice versa.

I began by searching online to find standard sizes for pillowcases. Here’s what I came up with. Standard: 20″ × 26″, Queen: 20″ × 30″, King: 20″ × 36″. Then, I realized that I just could have gone into my son’s room and taken his current pillowcases off and measured them. (Duh!) That’s probably a better way to do it, because if your current pillowcases are a bit too small or too large for your particular pillow, you can tweak the measurements.

Basically, for each pillowcase, we’re going to sew a big rectangle and a small rectangle together to make one huge rectangle, twice. Then, we’re going to set those two huge rectangles together, flip it right side out, and we’re done! Easy peasey. This is even easier if you have fabric that’s uniform (without a pattern running in one direction)–mine was not uniform, so it was a little more difficult, but it’s doable. These instructions assume a queen pillowcase and 1/2″ seam allowance, but you can adjust for whichever size you have.

Instructions:

  1. Cut two rectangles for your main fabric, 21″ x 26″. If your fabric has a pattern, make sure it’s running wide across the cut. Cut two more rectangles for your accent fabric, 21″ x 8″. Make sure your fabric is running properly, up or down before you cut.
  2. Iron all individual pieces. Pin one large and one small rectangle together along one of the 21″ sides, right sides together. Sew together, making sure to reverse stitch at the ends to secure everything.
  3. Repeat Step 2 with your other rectangles.
  4. Now we’ll put a hem on the accent fabric. I used a 2.5″ hem. Fold the accent fabric back 2.5″ and iron a crease. Sew your hem into place. I like to sew with the wrong side of the fabric facing up so that I can see the hemline I’m trying to follow.
  5. You should now have a rectangle that’s 21″ x 30.5″.
  6. I recommend re-ironing everything at this point. I also like to open the seam between the main and accent fabric and iron flat while I’m ironing the rest of the fabric. I don’t think this step is necessary, but it makes the fabric lay flatter. If you’re feeling really industrious, you can actually sew again along each side of the seam you just ironed flat, which would make your seam very strong.
  7. Now pin your huge rectangles, right sides together, accent fabric along the same side, and sew around three sides, making sure to back stitch at the beginning and the end. Leave the short side with the hem open for inserting the pillow.
  8. Trim loose thread, flip pillowcase inside out, and iron. You’re done with one pillowcase!
  9. If you’re making another and your fabric has a uniform pattern, you can just repeat the above instructions. If you’re fabric runs a particular way, here’s my warning (and I messed this up during my trial run). Remember that you’ll probably put the pillows on the bed with both open ends facing either out or in. That means you can’t repeat exactly what you did before. You’ll need to attach your accent fabric to your main fabric on the main fabric’s opposite 21″ side as your first pillowcase so that everything is facing the right way. Fortunately, I caught my error in the pinning stage rather than after I’d sewed something together.

Good luck! I’d love to see some pictures if you try this idea. Please email to carolyn@carolyncrowndesigns.com.

DIY Home: Kitchen Towels


For those who don’t know, I began sewing a couple years ago (for the first time in my life). I taught myself on my mom’s Kenmore sewing machine that was older than I am, literally. It basically had two stitches: forward and reverse. So when I got my fancy brand new machine for Christmas last year, boy was I excited! Since then, I’ve been trying to broaden my portfolio of sewing projects. I made all the valances for my house and I recently made my first tote bag.

And now, these adorable kitchen towels! I used THIS TUTORIAL. If you read closely, depending on your fabric, you may be able to make 4 towels from the fabric supply list. That’s what I did. I purchased 4 sets of fabric (main + accent) and was able to make 16 towels from that. I did need to order extra twill tape, per the instructions. (Note: Don’t do what I did and forget to purchase matching thread. Fortunately, I found what I needed buried in my sewing bin, but that was a total oversight on my part.)

Once you get the pattern down once, you can move quickly. I never have enough time, so I’m not above taking a shortcut or two. My shortcut for this project was that I chose fabrics that could all be sewn with the same color thread. That way, I didn’t need to spend time rethreading my machine and making bobbins. That worked for all but the black breakfast sandwich fabric. I made that the last one I worked on for the same reason.

So, two towels from each fabric set are Christmas gifts for my mom, my mother-in-law, my brother (the breakfast sandwiches, of course), and my son’s babysitter. The other pairs from each fabric set are going up for sale in the carolyncrowndesigns ONLINE STORE.

They really are cute and useful and would make a great holiday gift for anyone! Happy sewing!

DIY Home: Adventures in Tote Bags


First, allow me to give credit where credit is due. Here are the instructions and pattern that I used: HOW TO MAKE A SIMPLE REVERSIBLE TOTEBAG. There were lots of photos in the instructions, which helped me a lot. I’m a visual learner.

I had recently purchased a particular fabric for making Christmas presents but then decided wasn’t a good fit for its original purpose. But, I still loved the fabric and thought that using it to sew a tote bag (a Christmas gift for the woman who takes care of my son while I’m working) would be perfect! This tote bag is actually reversible, so (1) it’s stronger than a single layer and (2) if the outside ever gets stained, you can just flip it inside out and you have a new bag!

For those who don’t know, I have a disorder: I can never just take a pattern as it is. I always need to change something. In this case, I changed the size of the bag, remove the gusset corners, and, for reasons I still can’t explain, decided to use one strap (attached diagonally) instead of the standard two. But since this was my first time ever making a tote bag, I couldn’t wrap my head around how to get the diagonal strap affixed correctly between the outer and inner lining fabrics when the bag was inside out. To make a long story short, I decided to do two shorter straps, as I know the person I’m making it for will use it as a tote bag rather than put it on her shoulder.

So there you have it. Now that I’ve made a bag one time, I think I could figure out the diagonal strap. Maybe next time…what do you think?

DIY Home: Sequined Initial Wall Art


I think this craft is so fun and so easy, and it’s really inexpensive, too. This would look really cute in a child’s room, and you could even color-coordinate by purchasing packages of sequins in individual colors.

Here are my instructions. All you need is cardstock in your choice of color, glue (I used Original Tacky Glue in the gold tube, available at any craft store), and sequins. If you’d like, you can download my template HERE. There’s a page for every letter, and you print on 8.5 x 11 paper then trim along my outline to make an 8 x 10 page, suitable for framing. Make sure you print out at 100%.

Instructions:

  1. Print out the letter(s) you want on cardstock. We need to use cardstock because we’re going to use a lot of glue, and cardstock is strong enough to support it. Be sure to print at 100% so that when you trim along the box, you’re left with an 8 x 10 page, which will fit perfectly into a standard 8 x 10 frame.
  2. Now apply the glue. I did a section at a time, starting with the outline (go a smidge outside the lines so that the lines won’t peek through the sequins along the edge) and then filling in.
  3. Next apply the sequins. (I bought a pack at Michael’s for $3 and it’s enough to do 3 of these projects.) I don’t have a technique, per se, but I do have a piece of advice. Try to separate and fluff the sequins in your hand before applying because they tend to “nest” in the package. I sprinkled them onto the glue like I was sprinkling (a lot of) shredded cheese onto a pizza. Pay attention around the edges, as you may need to place a few by hand to cover up the outline of the letter.
  4. Continue to fill in the entire letter, section by section, until complete.
  5. Let dry overnight. I recommend putting something heavy on each corner of the paper, as paper with that much glue tends to curl.
  6. The next morning, hold up to a window, and any spots you’ve missed will become obvious. You can fill those in by hand with individual sequins. Note that when you hold it up, and loose sequins will fall off as well, so you may want to do that in an open space you can vacuum easily. After filling in any bare spaces, allow to dry 24 hours.
  7. Frame and hang! (Note: since this artwork is three-dimensional, look for a frame whose clips may allow for some give.)

This would also make a great baby gift for new parents. If you know the color scheme of the nursery, you could coordinate (you can purchase sequins in individual color packs instead of the big bulk package like I did).

DIY Home: Simple Window Valance


 
When my family and I recently moved into our new home, we quickly realized two things: many of our windows are not a common size and we have a LOT of windows.

Unable to purchase pre-made valances, I decided to take things into my own hands and sew my own (the sample is one of the 4 valances in my office). I’d recently learned to sew and had even more recently received a beautiful new sewing machine for Christmas…and so began my adventure. Slowly at first, but once I developed a process, things moved quickly. I was able to make 20 valances in under a week, sewing only in the evening.

Below are my instructions, including one amazing time-saving tip (I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with that one!). You can also download the template and instructions HERE.

Instructions:
In this example, let’s assume you want your finished valance to be 24” wide and 12” tall and that you are using a 1” curtain rod. These initial measurements will vary based on your window and rod size.

  1. I recommend hanging your curtain rods first. Once they’re up, measure the distance between the brackets so you know exactly how wide you need your valance to be. This is especially important because we’re making a flat, tailored valance, not one that’s oversized and bunches up, allowing more room for error. In our example, we want the finished width to be 24”.
  2. Cut your fabric (I used medium-weight home decór fabric) 2” wider and 3” taller than what you want your finished valance to be. In our example, we’d cut a piece of fabric that’s 26” wide by 15” tall.
  3. Flip the fabric over so you’re looking at the wrong side. We need to create a 1” hem on the left, bottom, and right sides, and a 2” hem across the top, which will become the pocket for the rod.
  4. I use tailor’s chalk, but you could even use pen or pencil if you’d like, provided the mark won’t show through to the front of your fabric. Here’s the tip that will save you a lot of time: Draw a line 2” in on the left, bottom, and right of your fabric. Draw a line 4” down from the top. Then, fold your fabric to meet your chalk lines rather than pinning and measuring over and over again. Do the left, bottom, and right hems first. Fold your fabric in to your chalk lines. The chalk lines are 2” in from the edge, so when you fold in, you’re creating a 1” hem. Pin in place and iron creases.
  5. Sew left, right, and bottom hems in one pass.
  6. Remove from sewing machine and fold top down to meet the appropriate chalk line. Pin in place but do NOT iron to crease. Stitch across the bottom edge of the fabric you just folded down, close to the 4” chalk line. You’ve just formed the rod pocket!
  7. If necessary, feel free to line your curtains. I didn’t in my house because a) I didn’t have time and b) I didn’t think it was necessary. I was only going for looks, not actually trying to block out light.

If you try this out, please email a photo of your finished valance to carolyn@carolyncrowndesigns.com. I’d love to see!