Category Archives: DIY

What Can I Make With Burlap Coffee Bags?

About a year ago, Z and I were in Omaha at a lovely little roastery called A Hill of Beans who not only roast delicious beans, but sell the leftover bags for something like $3 apiece.

Having known each other most of our lives, Z doesn’t bother arguing with me when I buy craft supplies that I have no immediate plan to implement. It’s a wasted effort. Even if I use it a year from now, mark my words, I’m gonna use it. Probably.

Rather than keep the poor bags in storage, I decided it was finally time to do something with them, but what? I took to the Internets for inspiration.




I decided the easiest thing to implement (read: without having to go buy a sewing machine) would be similar to Meg’s beautifully simple wall-hanging method (from her blog Radical Possibility), so I got started on flattening my own coffee bags in order to iron. And then this happened.

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Moxie doesn’t always fall in love with something I’m working on, but when he does, it’s adorable. He spent an entire afternoon lying on these, so I decided I needed to gift him one. I grabbed some jute and an insanely large decorating needle (used for upholstery, these are no joke). And yes, I already had all of these things, because crafts.

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Despite how things look when  people post tutorials online, working with jute and burlap isn’t what I’d classify as easy. You have to be able to apply your basic home-ec sewing skills, and you have to pull really, really hard sometimes. After Moxie chose his favorite, I got to work stitching up the open end of the bag, then folding over the excess to stitch it down. Knot the jute however you deem acceptable. It doesn’t have to be perfect, because it’ll be flipped in the end.

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My little dude loves his new bed. I love that I can use the coffee bags as an example when I need to justify a “Maybe I’ll use this someday” crafting purchase to myself.

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Make a (Huge) Watercolor Tapestry for $20

I pinned this picture from Photowall and vowed to come back to it when I felt like spending the money to order an insanely huge wall mural and have it shipped from the UK.

 

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It’s been a year.  I finally had to admit that I would never feel like it. But then the DIY Gods spoke, and I saw an artist named Tate creating this beautiful canvas at Anthropologie.

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I asked him what he was working with, and he said it was just a canvas dropcloth that he picked up at a hardware store, along with some fabric dye. I thought, “I could do that,” and so I did. Here’s how.

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I grabbed fabric dye at Wal Mart for something like $2 per package, and a canvas dropcloth at Ace for about $10 (note, you should place a plastic dropcloth underneath so as not to stain the floor) and got to work.

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Using one color at a time (mixed in a 7-11 Big Gulp cup) I made a loose pattern with the dye, and was sure to spill frequently (I wanted some of the color to run together).

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I let it dry in the sun, and here in the desert that took about 10 minutes. Then I took it inside, ironed it (though not all of the wrinkles wanted to come out of this thick canvas) and flipped it over to hang it over the bed.

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I loved the reverse side of the canvas with its subtle, unintentional look. Plus, the muted colors complement our (gross) beige walls better than the dyed side.

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And of course, Moxie approved.

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This project is one of those “I can’t believe I waited so long to try it” types, and at just under $20 and an hour of work, I love the simple nautical touch it adds to our room.
(Note: we are not people who make the bed, except for this picture. You have just witnessed something very, very rare.)

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It’s seriously cheap and just as easy as it looks. Give it a whirl!

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Can I Paint A Grill?

My rule about Craigslist finds: If I can clean it, paint it, or put it outside, it’s okay get it from Craigslist. If it’s fabric, alive, or requires the use of a crane, I cannot get it from Craigslist.

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Do a lot of people have cranes? I just have a hatchback.

I don’t haunt the free section of Craigslist, but occasionally I take a peek and look for my next re-purposing project. When I saw the curb alert with my future grill, I immediately jumped in the car and picked it up. Crazy? Yes. Necessary? Yes.

Parked in the suburbs and wheeling a filthy grill into my car, I had no idea if I could actually clean or paint it. I assumed I could, but I felt really creepy standing in front of a stranger’s house while I tried to Google it, so I took it home and hoped for the best.

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The good news is that everything (though dirty) seemed to be intact.

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All of the fixtures worked, the hardware seemed relatively new, and there were no unintentional holes.Still, this was one of those projects that made Z narrow his eyes and wonder if he married a crazy person. “How did you get it in the car?” he asked.

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Very quickly and very awkwardly.

Sanity in question, we began the cleaning process.

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Whether we could make this part work was the deciding factor for continuing, and with lots of soap we deemed that yes, this grill could in fact be sanitary enough to prepare food.

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Though it actually looked really nice once we got all of the dirt off, I still wanted to paint it. We walked into Ace and as it turns out, people actually paint grills all the time. My question was not a new one, and the attendant looked at me like I was asking if fish could swim.

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One can of the black heat-resistant paint covered our whole grill (and we had some leftover).

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With spray paint, it’s better to do a few thin layers than one gloppy, runny layer, so have patience if you attempt this at home.

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You want a nice, even finish so it appears shiny, especially if you have to photograph it for your blog.

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And if your neighbors wonder why you’re taking pictures of your grill, just stare right back at them with a creepy grin on your face. That’ll teach them to leave you alone.

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We love sitting on our patio and firing up the grill, and it’s even better knowing that we didn’t have to spend $80 on a comparable one. Always, always look at what things could be (not just what they are) and be willing to get your hands a little dirty. You can get all kinds of things for (almost) free this way.

Total project cost: $6 for paint
Total time investment: 2 hours

Can you paint a grill? Absolutely. And it will be glorious.

(If you can’t wait for porch weather, it’s beautiful in Vegas right now. Just sayin’.)

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An (Indoor) Early Start For Your Garden

Most people think about gardening after the farmer’s market opens, and really they just buy some natural soap and realize it’s way too late to grow shit. My lettuce will never be that lush, but this soap is gluten-free.

It’s freezing in most of the country right now, but luckily there is indoor prep so your plants will actually be worth a damn by the time you want to eat them, and your planters will be decorative and ready to implement.

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First things first: start your seedlings now. This gives them time to grow into a real garden by summer. If you’re the type that kills a lot of plants, I recommend the “salad bowl” method, where you grow multiple types of lettuce, which will eventually grow in a large container (I went with whiskey barrels). Container gardens work at any altitude, you don’t need much space, and lettuce doesn’t have a lot of demands. You can cut the lettuce leaves and they grow back all summer. Not bad for a few $1 packs of seeds! (Note: if you’re in the Midwest, try tomatoes, potatoes and carrots for other low-maintenance plants)

 

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(Picture is from three months of growth) If I had my life to live over, I would not have grown Swiss chard when we were in Colorado. It gets huge and you can’t possibly eat it fast enough. The spring mix was amazing, considering one container of organic mixed greens is $7 at Whole Foods. Growing your own pays for itself a dozen times over.

Second, pretty up your planters. Nice pots can run you in the $50-$100 range, so I found a way to make mine more appealing without defeating the cost-effectiveness of growing my own food (we bought flowers from a nursery, then saved the free pots. They even gave us extras to start our other seedlings). I took Mod Podge, some Ikea fabric, and a touch of twine and ribbon.

 

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I’m so happy with the way these turned out that I’m hesitant to ever buy fancy pots ever again. I love the canvas-wrapped look, and that I can change them as my tastes change.

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The total cost of this project was about $10 (about a yard and a half of fabric, and I always have Mod Podge on hand).

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Spring is just around the corner, and these indoor projects can give you hope until it finally arrives. I should also note that you can reuse these pots every year, or keep them indoors during cold months for continuous growth. Show me your pictures on Instagram when you start yours!

 

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Easy Weekend Project: DIY “Floating” Shelves

We didn’t realize that “high ceilings and lots of windows” really meant “your shit is going to look way too small in this place.” We chose to look past the impossibly high ceilings and wall-to-wall carpet because we love our town home’s abundance of sunlight, the lofted office, the breakfast bar and the open, airy feel. Nice tradeoff, eh?

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But seriously, we are having a pretty hard time finding art that’s the appropriate scale. We’re trying.

Everyone has that wall, that one wall, and here was ours:

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I looked into purchasing a painting to cover that non-functioning light switch (seriously, wtf) but narrow, tall, awkward-shaped art is somewhere in the $200 neighborhood, and I didn’t feel like investing that much money or time for the sole purpose of hiding a switch.

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I had some leftover 1 x 4s from some tables we made, and I decided to put them to use and make a faux-floating shelf. Why not make an actual floating shelf? Honestly, the hardware for this method was cheaper, and required fewer tools to install. All I had to buy were a couple of “L” brackets  (I already had the wood and stain).

First, the outdoor part. I used my leftover walnut stain and some pretty badly damaged end pieces, which I think adds to the charm (note: you can get these at a discount at Home Depot if you ask nicely), along with a couple of 1 x 1 dowel rods that I had cut to size to be flush with the shelves. You don’t necessarily need the dowel rod “lip,” but I wanted my shelves to function as magazine racks.

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Once your wine is done- I mean, the stain is dry, you can move indoors for the gluing process. I added a couple of nails (not pictured) for good measure.

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Hang the brackets on studs (you can position your shelves around them) upside down so the shelf’s contents hide the bracket.

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Arrange your artwork/magazines to hide the brackets (and that fucking light switch), and you have yourself a sturdy, almost-free floating shelf.

Total cost: ~$20 if you buy all the products new
Total time: 1 hour of actual work + overnight drying

I can now rest easy, and/or move onto other absurdly tall walls. Stay tuned!

Sig1

Party’s Over, Now Clean Up Your Life.

No one ever makes a new year’s resolution to get more organized, but everyone should. Now that the holidays are over and you’ve (hopefully) put your tree away, it’s time to assess the damage. Having a streamlined, organized home can help you arrive on time (no more ‘Where are my keys/shoes?!’ moments), get more done, and perhaps even sleep a little better (less clutter, less stress).

You might say I have OCD. I say I take pride in a functional home. Tomato, potato.

The thing is, I don’t spend hours every day cleaning my house. I just set myself up so that the place stays nice, and that, my friends, is the ticket to a streamlined home.

Not all of us can afford professional organizers, and if you’re like me, you’re never going to pay for a California Closet. At least, not until Sallie Mae has her way with us for a few more years.

So I’ve compiled a couple of cheap (or free) ways to tidy up the place and make your life a tad more efficient, even in small spaces. No more digging through the junk drawer that has become your life, or wondering where the hell the scissors are. Here are a few of my favorite methods.

1. Rethink Your Recyclables.

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I cut the top off of this spinach box to contain the contents of the junk drawer, separating them from important documents. You can also use these to store scarves, etc. when you’re not using them in the summer.

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We always end up with an abundance of beer boxes. They’re perfect for under-sink storage. We store Moxie’s dog brushes, treats, and medicine this way, and it’s easy to grab when we go on road trips with the pup.

2. Look at What Things DO, Not Just What They Are.

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I actually found the above tie rack in a closet from three apartments ago, and then I stole it. Those previous tenants had no idea that it would be one of my most useful possessions, or that it would actually be used to store jewelry. See that star holding the earrings? That’s an old box lid that I repurposed.  Below, I use a belt holder to hang dresses and camisoles. Easy peasy.

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3. Display Your Storage In a Creative Way.

We moved in and realized our kitchen had two drawers. Two. Sometimes your utensils just have to be part of the design. This vase was a thrift store find, and we use it to keep cooking utensils handy.

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4. Look Up, and Store “Like” Things Together.

Again, I was so excited that we found a place that I forgot to notice that the kitchen couldn’t accommodate our stuff. I am She Who Gets Rid of Things, so the fact that our stuff didn’t fit means this kitchen is, in a word, miniscule. Luckily it had a gap between the ceiling and the cupboards, so we filled it with displayed storage. I love having fresh flowers, so I wasn’t willing to part with our vases. By putting clear glass and chrome-painted items together, this method looks intentional, which is what you’re going for with displayed storage.  (The spray painted antlers and branches are just for looks. We have no use for those.)

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5. Think of How You Use the Space, and Go From There.

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I’m not sure how much my in-laws will appreciate a picture of their outdoor/utility closet on the internet, sorry guys. But it does serve to demonstrate all of the aforementioned methods. By thinking about how the space was used, adding recyclables (a cut-open shoe box), and maximizing the vertical storage with like-items, they’re now able to use the space to dress/undress for skiing and they can store things they don’t need all the time (vacuums, winter gear).

Alright, muchachos, go forth and clean up your spaces. I’ll be here if you need support (or empty beer boxes. Seriously we have a ton).

 

Take Care,

Cassie

DIY Gift Card / Coin / Seed Envelopes

Favors are such a classy touch for any party, and I wanted to give something to my wedding guests to thank them for sharing our day with us.

But the koozie has been done to death, and nobody gives a shit about bubbles. I wanted something unique, useful and personal that I, Cassie, would actually want in my home.

The catch was that I needed it to be almost free, even with enough for over 100 people. I decided on handmade coasters (with wood from the forest we were married in) and wildflower seed packets with a happy wish from us.

The coasters, which I’ll talk about in a later post, were easy and cheap (and handled mostly by Z), but the envelopes were a problem. Why the hell are tiny kraft envelopes so expensive?

To do this cheaply, I knew we’d have to make them, so after some trial and error, I devised a method for creating our own out of some beautiful scrapbook paper (I bought a whole book for about $10 at Hobby Lobby).

Here’s how I did it!

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What you’ll need to make your own envelopes:

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  • Scissors
  • Mod Podge
  • A paint brush and water
  • Scrapbook paper in your favorite design
  • A coin or gift card envelope template (I used this one and modified it)
  • Some good music and a friend or two (this is tedious stuff if you’re making 150 of them)

First, we traced my template onto our scrapbook paper and started cutting. Since it’s thicker than normal printer paper, this became our new template.

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Second, I folded up the bottom flap and put glue on the side that would touch the other flaps.

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Then I folded the first flap over and added Mod Podge (again, to the part that will touch the other flap).

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Added a quick brush of Mod Podge to the outside to keep it all together.

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Let them dry, then stuffed with a nice little message before I put in my wildflower seeds (a mix that I got at Menards for about $6).

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The finished product looked so beautiful on our tablescape (these last two photos are by Hooton Images, more of their amazing work here), and they were a huge hit with guests. I’m glad I made extras, because people were asking for more!

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Overall project cost: Less than $20 (includes craft materials and seeds)
Time Investment: 1-2 hours for two people to make 150 envelopes

Using these handmade gift card envelopes as seed packets worked wonderfully, and I know I’ll be using this technique again for the holidays. Or just all the time. Who doesn’t need a bunch of gorgeous tiny envelopes at all times?