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Monday, August 7, 2017

Etsy Dorm Shopping Under $25!

It's that time of year again and I was thinking you might need a couple of cute things for the new dorm room.  Look no further than Etsy, your marketplace for the truly unique.  While I don't make things for cute dorm rooms, I have to plug my own Etsy store, Pretty Pretty Cindy for the cutest baby stuff!  Click on the titles below to see the Etsy listings. Ready for the best part?  All of these items are less than $25!!  You can also find them (and so much more) on my Pinterest board Dorm DIY or College 

Personalized State Laundry Bag

Bathroom Organization

LED Lights

Bed Caddy

Custom Dorm Door Sign

Shower Caddy

Dorm Sweet Dorm Pillow

Clothespin Push Pins


Cellphone Stand

Dry Erase Frame

Have a great school year!


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Chalk Paint Furniture

Last weekend I did something I have been afraid to attempt for over 25 years - I repurposed a piece of furniture!  To understand what a big deal this was for me, you have to know that 25 years ago I spent an entire hot summer day with paint strippers and varnishes and my bad painting techniques (which have not improved much) and ruined a lovely little cedar chest of drawers with a horrible paint job.  But last weekend I painted a piece of furniture I love and I am so pleased.

The secret?  Homemade "chalk" paint.  Repurposing and distressing old furniture is a hot trend now and when I was in the Midwest I noticed my sisters were creating some really cute pieces out of old beat up furniture using Chalk Paint.  I did not use the branded chalk paint, but made my own.  I have heard wonderful things about Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint, but I just wanted my own specific color so I decided to make my own.

Here's the good news for people like me who are intimidated by this type of project:  There is little to no preparation time and you can easily finish a project in several hours (with down time in between).  Chalk paint is EASY to make and use - no special equipment and very inexpensive.  By making your own chalk paint you can create any color you want.  And, best of all, you need minimal skills!

Here's what you need:

First, you need flat latex paint in the color of your choice.  I used Behr Marquee in a sample size and had plenty left from these two samples.  I also found that buying in the sample size was much cheaper than buying by the quart (even if I had used that much).  Make sure your finish is flat or matte.  I also used Plaster of Paris (buy the smallest amount you can find because you won't need much).  I didn't really want to change the wood top much, so I just used a Danish Oil in a Golden color.  I used Polyacrylic water based product for the finish - again be sure to get a matte or satin finish instead of a high gloss; fine sand paper (although you might need a more coarse grit if you are going for a more distressed look); an ordinary paint brush, cloth rags and a container to mix the paint (I just used a throw-away plastic paint liner). 

To create your own chalk paint, mix 1 part Plaster of Paris to 3 parts paint.  I mixed my Plaster of Paris with a little water first.  You're looking for a consistency slightly thinner than pancake batter for your Plaster of Paris/water mix.  After you mix it with your paint, stir well until is completely mixed.  Because your paint now has a plaster in it, it "sets" very flat and quickly.  Essentially, you are putting a layer of paint on top, so there is no stripping or complicated preparation.  You can also use this on real wood, pressed wood or even laminate furniture. 

I used a damp cloth to wipe away any surface dirt on the table before I started.  At this point I made a critical decision to do minimal sanding on the table top before applying the Danish Oil.  In retrospect, I could have thoroughly sanded the top because as you can see, the wood is gouged, scratched and stained.  Being shellshocked scarred from my last furniture stripping attempt 25 years ago, I just did some minor sanding.  I was really pleased with the final product, but if I want the table top to look new, I will definitely have to go back and sand it down more.  Using a lint-free rag, I applied the Danish Oil to the sanded tabletop (after making sure to wipe off the sanding dust with a damp cloth).  One of the major problems I had all those years ago was using too much product, so I would recommend using the oil (and the later step polyacryllic) sparingly.  I think it's better to put on multiple thin coats than big globs.

Once I finished the top, it was on to the painting.  This was just too simple.  I used small amounts and multiple coats, applying with the brush and making sure to allow each coat to dry in between.  Using chalk paint, the "between coats" time is pretty short because it sets up quickly.  Here's a couple of pictures through a couple of coats:

Once you have the color coverage you want, let it dry and then you can distress the wood.  Being a scaredy cat conservative, I chose to do minimal distressing on the piece.  I like the color of the paint.  You can use heavier grit sandpaper and do techniques that involve dark waxes and fancy brush strokes, but I chose to use a fine sandpaper and sand the edges.  That gives a bit of a worn look and allows the color underneath to show through.  I even purposely sanded the paint on the medallion to look more worn.  Don't forget to thoroughly wipe off any dust created by sanding.  Again, I was going for a very minimal distressing.

Notice how flat the color is?  This is where the last step comes in.  With chalk paint, you will need to apply some type of finish or your paint will scuff easily.  The Annie Sloan Chalk Paint process comes with waxes for this purpose, but when you use waxes you need to periodically reapply.  I chose a water-based polyacryllic mixed with water and applied very thinly in multiple coats.  While I wanted to protect the paint and get a little shine, I didn't want to use a messy oil-based polyurethane.  Applying a watered down (1:1 polyacryllic to water) finish in thin coats gave me a lot of control to see the final finish without a yellowy glow.

Starting on one side, I gently wiped the finish on with a lint-free rag.  You need to keep moving in one direction across without going back.  You can see in the above picture on the left side of the drawer what happens when you go back over a place you just applied - a bit of smear.  I used small amounts and 3-4 coats of the thinned polyacryllic to get the finish I wanted.  Once source I read about polyacryllic noted that the water-base pushes the wood grain out.  You can sand very lightly between coats of finish, but again, be sure to get any dust or dirt off before you apply more polyacryllic.  I also used the same finish on the top of the piece over the Danish Oil.  Take your time to get the exact shine you want. 

The great thing about this process is the ability to get the look you want because the materials are so forgiving.  I couldn't be more pleased with the final product and look forward to trying this again! I won't even have to wait another 25 years!


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

DIY - Upcycling Denim Cowgirl Skirt Costume

I originally wrote this post five years ago, but wanted to repost with updated pictures.  My first attempt at costume making through upcycling!  I highly recommend it!

I've seen a lot of projects where people alter or upcycle used items, but I've never tried it.  Last week my husband had his church music camp where the kids performed "Jonah's Druthers".  It was a cute show set in the Wild Wild West.  I offered to get costumes for some of the girls and headed out to Goodwill.  I found this cute long denim skirt in a junior size 13/14.  It just had a little white spot near the ruffle.

I wasn't completely sure how to do this, but quickly decided I was NOT going to cut the side seams.  Instead, I took the girl's waist and length measurements and started by cutting the length to equal the length provided plus two inches for an elastic casing.  I measured from the bottom (to keep the ruffle intact) and cut off the top.  This was a little scary and I'm not sure I would recommend this way if it weren't for the ruffle.  The reason is that I was left with an even bigger waist to fit a size 8 girl.

Shockingly, it wasn't nearly as hard as I expected.  I made the casing by folding the top of the skirt to the inside and sewing a casing 1 inch wide.  I didn't completely close the casing, leaving open about 2 inches in the back so I could insert the elastic.  I used 5/8" elastic and a safety pin to thread it through the casing.  This is normally my least favorite part, but this time it was a breeze.  I just had to make sure the elastic didn't twist.  One I was done I pulled the elastic 4" shorter than the waist measurement and sewed the ends of the elastic together in an overlap.  I tucked it into the casing and sewed it up.  I then topstitched the top of the skirt, stitching a little into the top of the elastic so it wouldn't twist in the casing.  Voila - done!

It made for a really twirly long denim skirt and this little cowgirl loved it!

Used skirt = $4.99.  Time = less than 1 hour.  Satisfaction for two people = priceless.  I like upcycling.


Patriotic Berry Dessert

I know I'm a bit late for the Fourth of July, but there is still plenty of time this summer for cool desserts.  Strawberries and blueberries are plentiful and it's so easy to create simple, yet yummy summer desserts.  My daughter gets the credit for this one, and we put it together in a very short time for a big family crowd.

Pound or angel food cake, sliced
Fresh strawberries
Strawberry glaze
Fresh blueberries
Cool Whip

Chop strawberries into small pieces, reserving one whole strawberry for each serving slice.  Mix the chopped strawberries with strawberry glaze.  Slice pound cake or angel food cake loaves into thin slices.  Take a slice and spread the strawberry mixture over one side, adding a layer of whipped topping before putting another slice of cake on top.  Put a large dollop of whipped topping on the top of your cake sandwich and sprinkle blueberries and a whole strawberry on top.  That's it - easy!

These desserts are easy to make and freeze in advance, and they sure please a crowd on a hot summer afternoon!

Have a great summer!


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A (Reluctant) New Look

I've been writing Straddling the Gap for over six years.  I have lots of posts with recipes and patterns and craft projects.  I have lots of posts of places I have visited and family events.  I use lots of photos.  I've been on vacation all this week and returned to write about a dessert recipe my daughter and I created, only to find lots of these:

When I started writing this blog, I was hosting my photos with, you guessed it, Photobucket.  That included a photo pattern that was the background for my entire blog design.  UGH.  If you haven't heard about this scam, for years Photobucket has been hosting pictures, most of which were subsequently used on blogs, Ebay, Etsy and other sites requiring photos.  They have always provided URL links (in several formats) for each photo, so 3rd party hosting was ALWAYS part of the appeal.  This week, without warning (at least to this 10+ year customer), Photobucket decided to change a free service to a $500/year service.  What?!?  So, if you are visiting older blog posts (mine or others) or just older websites, you might be seeing a lot of this image.  (I still hope they will change their corporate minds and I will find a pretty picture of a magnolia here someday.)

I decided maybe it is time for a new look, so I did a quick reconfigure of my blog template.  I wish that was the only thing needing a fix.  Unfortunately, some of my content included pictures hosted on Photobucket that I now must manually retrieve, download to my computer and upload to Blogger.  I was actually pretty surprised, because I haven't visited this Photobucket account in a long time and haven't been using it for more recent posts.  So, I will be updating a lot of classic posts and reposting them.  While I really don't want to go through this process, maybe it just proves that not everything lasts forever on the internet.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sew Practical - Decorator Dishtowels

About a week ago I told you about the terrycloth I bought that just didn't make the grade for my baby burp cloths in my Etsy store.  I already made some simple dish cloths, but I really wanted to try some dish towels.  You can find plenty of DIYs on dishtowels, but I had only a few simple requirements - a generous size of about 15" x 26"; and because of the quality of the terrycloth, finished edges to prevent fraying.

For each towel you will need:

Terrycloth  15" x 26"
Cotton Fabric  6" x 18"
Contrasting fabric for bias tape.  I used a home decorator fabric, which is slightly heavier weight.

Position the cotton fabric on top of the terrycloth about 4" from the bottom.  The cotton piece should extend beyond the edges of the terrycloth 1 1/2" on each side.  Fold the long edges of the cotton piece under 1/2".  Press and pin down.  Topstitch in a contrasting color thread, or use a piece of ric-rac or other trim over the edge or peeking out from under the cotton fabric.

On the short sides of the cotton piece, fold 1/2" under, and then fold a 1" hem to the other side of the terrycloth and sew on the opposite side.  

Next, create the 2 1/2" wide bias tape.  There are many tutorials on creating bias tape, but the main thing you need to know is that cutting fabric on the bias is just cutting on the diagonal.

To combine the bias strips, sew at right angles and then trim:

Apply the bias tape around the perimeter of the dish towel, including over the areas of the cotton fabric.

And there you have it - pretty decorator dish towels!


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

DIY Nursing Pillow

Before I start, I should say I sell these Nursing Pillows in my Etsy store, Pretty Pretty Cindy.  If you would rather make your own, this post will tell you how to do it.

Materials Needed
1 Piece Cotton Fabric 13" x 24"
1 Piece Minky Fabric 13" x 24"
Sewable Velcro (approximately 6 inches)

I was making several pillows while taking pictures for this tutorial, so if you were seeing whales and suddenly see elephants, you're not confused.

Place the two fabric pieces right sides together and PIN, PIN, PIN!  (While the cotton fabric in this picture looks like it is right side up, it is NOT.)

Minky is notorious for sliding, so the more pins, the better.  Sew around the perimeter with a 5/8" allowance, leaving approximately 3 inches of the fabric open on one of the short ends so you can turn it inside out.  Before you turn it inside out, press the seams.  (DO NOT iron the minky side.)  This is very important on this piece because it helps it keep its form.  Turn the pillow inside out and press the cotton sides again.  This is what you should have so far.  Note the hole at the bottom.

Stuff the pillow with fiberfill.  Don't fill the pillow because you won't be able to fold it over and still get your arm inside.  Stuff it loosely and keep folding it over your arm until it is a plump, firm pillow when folded.  Hand stitch the opening closed.

On each short end of the pillow, topstitch 2 inches from the end.  It doesn't really matter whether you sew onto the minky side or cotton side of the pillow, as long as your bobbin thread is the same color.  I usually like to sew on the cotton side because my bobbin stitches don't always look as nice as I would like and the minky side is more forgiving as the stitches are not seen as well.

Now for the sadistic fun part.  Be sure to use Velcro for sewing because the adhesive Velcro will really do a number on your needle.

Cut three segments of Velcro 1 1/2 to 2" long (both the soft sides and hook sides).  Using an empty bobbin or other similar sized round item, trace a rounded end on each end of Velcro and cut.  This makes a more attractive piece.

Rip the Velcro pieces apart.  In the 2" space at the end of one side of the pillow, place one of the soft Velcro pieces on each end and one in the middle, like this:

Sew around the edge of each piece of Velcro.  You want these securely fastened.  Then, place the hook side of each Velcro piece together with its match already sewed down on one end of the pillow.  Fold the pillow over the minky side so the 2" spaces on either end line up.

For each Velcro piece, hold the pillow in place to match the sides together and carefully tear the Velcro pieces apart.  I use my thumb and forefinger to pinch the hook side of the Velcro to it's corresponding location on the other side, but you may want to use a fabric pen to mark the intended location on the other side of the pillow.

Sew each hook side down.  Sewing the hook side of Velcro can be a little tricky.  Try to stay on the thin outside edges of the pieces where there are no hooks.  Once you get all three hook pieces in place, fold the pillow and match them with the soft Velcro sides.  Slide your arm in for fit.  

And there you have it!  A soft, portable nursing pillow that keeps your arm cool and covered in soft minky while supporting baby's head for breast or bottle feeding.  It's so portable and when your baby outgrows it, the pillow makes a great travel pillow.  It is machine washable, just fluff it back into shape after drying.

Again, I have plenty of designs for these pillows already made at Pretty Pretty Cindy, and I am happy to consult to find the perfect fabrics for you if you don't see something you like.  I welcome custom orders!  I don't generally charge more for custom orders and I can usually get a nursing pillow made and shipped in a few days.

Whether it's for your baby or a gift for someone else, nursing pillows are pretty AND practical.