Monday, September 28, 2015

Ugly to Awesome: Transforming a Thrift Store Picture Frame

Well, hello there! This poor old sewing blog is so dusty and lonely, ironically because I've been sewing....a lot. Phew! I have sewn about 30 skirts, 5 dresses, a dozen bow ties, 3 roman shades and a few random things in the last 3 weeks. In addition to that, I made a much-needed sign for my craft show set-up. I could have gone with a commercially made one, but let's face it. They aren't very 'artsy' or creative, and rather boring. So! I had a plan! My plan hinged on finding the perfect frame at the thrift store. It had to be the right size, and the right look. Are you looking for that 'perfect frame' too? Here's what I can tell you:

In my experience, here is the breakdown of frames you will find at the thrift store at any given time:
  • 62% cheap, plain frames with no detailing. Some of them are even made of styrofoam masquerading as wood. Gasp! These are usually full of a) inspirational quotes, b) awkward family photos, or c) pictures of stenciled geese and hearts. And nothing shouts 1990's more than a good duck stencil.
  • 36% decent frames with more detail, nothing spectacular but interesting. These are usually filled with a) amateur paintings of the Southwest, b) impasto paintings of flowers, or c) Thomas Kincade prints. 
  • 2% frames with character. These frames usually contain a) Great Uncle Harry's painting entitled 'Deer in the Field', b) a Bob Ross-esque painting of 'happy trees' or c) a faded print of a famous painting
So you know you will have to weed through a lot of junk to find a gem. Even then, it will probably look hideous. Like it should hang above Aunt Martha's velvet floral couch held over from the 1960's. Don't fear! I will show you how to make it great!

First things first, the frame. You know when you watch some trash to treasure show and the designers say things like "oh, this dresser has good bones"? Well that's what you're looking for: good bones. Look for lots of detail in the molding. Fine art frames (ones made in a frame shop) are sometimes even made up of several frames nestled together, and you can take them apart and paint them differently if you please.

Here is the frame I found:

Eek! It's pretty ugly, right? Heavy, dark...

...and that print...oi! Now here's where its like ripping off a bandaid. You might feel guilty for tearing someone's masterpiece out of the frame, and suffer from angst about what to do with it once you take it out. Just take that bad boy out. Unless it signed by Rembrant himself, chances are it's worth about 2 cents and you shouldn't feel guilty over giving it a proper burial. In your trash can.

Moving along, now that you have your empty frame, carefully go over the back and make sure to pull all the staples out with a pair of pliers. Otherwise you're liable to impale yourself. Once you've done that, go over the whole frame with a dry cloth. You want to remove as much dust as possible. Now here's the part where a legit painter would tell you to prime it. And you can, if you're feeling fancy. But in my opinion, picture frames hang on the wall and don't usually get touched so there isn't a high risk of scratching. Once you've wiped down your frame, take it outside. Prop it up on some blocks or buckets or whatever, so it is off the ground and ready to paint.

Now, on to spray painting! I know there are a lot of rules for spray painting, but (you'll be so surprised) I don't really follow them. In this case, following the rules will not get the same affect. To get the shabby chic, vintage-y feel, you have to do a crappy job of painting. Spray lightly, but don't try to spray evenly. Intentionally miss a few spots, because this highlights the design of the frame and makes it look old and full of character. Keep spraying until you get the desired look. I am sometimes a bit heavy handed with the spray paint, and because of that it gets a little cracked as it dries. This is good! It builds character, which incidentally is what my dad told me would happen by driving the most embarrassing gold station wagon EVER. But I digress. Spray your little heart out, miss some spots here and there, and then let that puppy dry. You can always touch up as needed, but wait and see. You might like it just the way it is! Another way to highlight the details is to use a glossy paint. If you already have non-glossy paint laying around, here's a clever trick for adding some shine: spray a coat of spray lacquer over the painted frame. Spray lacquer is the bomb, and it will look just like you used glossy paint in the first place!

When you are done, add some colorful/awesome/funky artwork or in my case, chicken wire, and you're ready to hang it up! (The letters I used are from 'Piggy and Dirt' on Etsy)

I have also written about distressing frames here, and here.....and here. Some of it is redundant, but a lot isn't. So go, find some inspiration!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Farmer's Market!

 Last week I did my first Farmer's Market. It was my first 'show' since the days of yore when we sold rag dolls and button dolls at craft fairs with Mom. That was also back in the day when my siblings teased me mercilessly for sewing. Ahem.
 I think I've upped my game a little since then. Friendly plastic and paper rope are no longer in vogue and I've moved on to bigger and better things. I think. I was pretty nervous about signing up for this, but I knew it would be a great way to get my feet wet without a lot of investment. That and I had friends breathing down my back, harassing me to sign up. Ha!
The booth set-up is really fun, and I felt like I didn't have enough time to really think it through. I have tons of ideas for booth set-up and props now...for someday down the road. I also got a Square card reader, which worked beautifully. If you sell things, this is a great thing to have! I believe my two larger sales were only made because I could take credit cards. I found out how friendly venders are, and was able to help the lady next to me with her tent, and she helped with mine. That was nice! I felt my inner-Dad kicking in, thinking about how I can better and more compactly transport everything next time.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Meriweather Lewis Outfit

 Well, hello there, rusty old blog! I've been sewing like crazy, which has left me no time to blog aobut sewing. Go figure. Recently I had an opportunity to make something for my boy! Boys are tough to sew for, especially after they get past the toddler stage. When he asked me to make him a buckskin tunic for his Meriweather Lewis project, I was ready for it! I wish I had taken a before picture, because this outfit was made from an unlikely source.

A few months ago, a friend offered me a pile of clothing to up-cycle and I knew that a particular suede suit coat would come in handy. I cut it apart at the seams and laid it out flat to see what I had to work with. Due to seam placement, I had to get creative but it worked! Barely! I cut the extra pieces into strips and cut the fringe from them. The construction is pretty rough, but I knew it would only be worn a few times, for the Wax Museum at school, and for dress up at home.

He also wanted a tri-corner hat and I am proud to say it was his idea to modify an old felt cowboy hat. I used an upholstery needle and thread to tack the brim up in three places, and voila! A tri-corner hat. It goes nicely with his neon orange shirt underneath. Very Meriweather Lewis. :)

P.S. The pants were left over from his Daniel Boone outfit from a year or two ago. Can't believe they still fit!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Colorful Owl Skirt

 I am working on a custom order for Easter dresses for two sisters. When they came over to be measured, the older daughter saw this owl fabric in my stash and fell in love with it! However, it doesn't exactly shout 'Easter dress!' so her mom asked if I could make her a skirt out of it instead. Yes! Any excuse to sew something funky and colorful. And the pockets? I love them. This is the same pocket style I used on my kids' aprons, and it transitioned perfectly to the skirt. The waistband is extra wide, soft elastic and it was pretty easy to work with. Fun, fun! I'll post pictures of the Easter dresses later on. They are turning out super cute, and are going to some very adorable girls! :)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Dress To Shirt!

I had a customer ask last week if I could make a shirt version of this dress in a size 3T. Why yes, or course! I loved the idea and it was one of those 'why didn't I think of that' moments. I raised the waist line to make it an empire waist, and shortened the skirt portion to make it a tunic-type top. I love it! Wouldn't it be adorable with leggings?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Listen To The Fabric

 I'm going to go out on a limb here and say something crazy: fabric talks to me. Sort of. I just stare at it for awhile and figure out what the fabric needs to become. I love picking fabrics, putting unusual prints together, and making bold prints work on small projects. I would pretty much be terrible at production line type work, because I am not even sure what the finished product will look like until I'm done.
 Take this dress, for example. I cut out the outside a few weeks ago, but never quite decided what to line it with. Today I made my decision, but i still didn't know what it needed to give it a little extra pizazz. I sewed up the bodice and decided on.....rick rack! Don't be hatin'. I haven't used it in like...two weeks. Which is a very long time for me. This fabric has a bit of lavender which needed to be played up, and the rick rack fit the bill. On another dress, I might add piping or a flower or two. I just go with the flow, man....
 Then there's this bow tie! I love this fabric and it needed to be made into a bow tie. Not the most exciting project, and sadly I couldn't figure out how to add rick rack without making myself look like a crazy person. Oh, too late you say? ;)
What about you? Does fabric talk to you, or are you one of those super organized people who plans everything out before they start?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cigar Box Pen Roll

 I was recently asked if I was interested in a custom order for pen rolls. I love figuring out new projects so I said yes. The customer collects vintage fountain pens and wanted two pen rolls to keep them in.

Most of the pens were the same size, but a few were larger and needed to be accommodated. You can see the flap-less slots on the left. After creating the prototype I sewed up the pen rolls using a double stitch to make the stitching more decorative. I have a love-hate relationship with decorative (contrasting) stitching because if you do it right, it looks awesome. If you screw up, it's ten times more noticeable. I am happy to say I didn't screw up!

Each pen roll fits nicely inside the cigar box the customer provided. I lined the bottom of the box in charcoal gray felt, and now the pen collection has the perfect place to live!