Adventures with Upcycling: Dining Room Table

Table restoration project

The table after it’s all been cleaned up. The oil, dirt, ink and everything else has been removed. It’s just the drill holes left that really mark it 🙂

So…for the last three years I’ve been eating my meals at an upcycled pink princess table. It’s beautiful, has white wooden legs, and matching white wooden chairs.  It is, as Goldilocks would say, ‘just right’. Of course, things being an issue of perspective, it’s just right if you’re aged 18 months to 4 years. As an adult, it meant sitting on the cold ’70s vinyl flooring which isn’t too bad in summer but was a pain in the arse in winter.

Over time, this requirement to sit on the floor (or perch on a low plastic foot stool) began to understandably pall. This was assisted by the fact that Miss 3 is very tall for her age (currently around 103cm) and prefers to stand / be in movement when eating (depending on what kind of sensory / ASD day she is having). The princess table had suddenly become a bit inadequate for her.

The quest began to try and find a table that would fit into our teeny tiny kitchen on our teeny tiny budget achieved by selling some old gardening stuff out of my parent’s garage. I lament my country’s lack of IKEA as I probably could have found something brilliant there! I scoured websites and secondhand listings for something that couldn’t really be bigger than 75cm square. It looked like I wasn’t going to find anything that would fit the space and our budget.

They say God moves in mysterious ways. Apparently, this includes ancient formica tables who’s retro orange perfectly matches the ’70s lino.  Driving along with Miss 3, I spotted an abandoned table by the side of the road not far from home. It would be exciting to suggest it had been shot up in some kind of Wild West saloon; the reality (based on the dirt and oil) was that it had been based in someone’s garage workshop before being deemed a waste of space.

One’s man’s waste is another man’s treasure (and other such common sayings). By dint of great effort (and demonstrating to Miss 3 the importance of perseverance, grit, and treating the car like a giant jigsaw puzzle), it was eventually carried home. More jigsaw puzzling finally squeezed it into the kitchen.

After the initial wipe down, it’s had multiple cleanings with Jiff, water, fly spray, and antibacterial spray. It looks much improved and the old wooden chair in the bedroom with clothes dumped on it, although a bit rickety, fits it just right. It turns out there’s a matching one, in unknown condition, squirreled away in the back of my parent’s garage; Mum had rung about it only this morning so it’s a happy coincidence to find a table to go with it!

I have to say I’m quite fond already of this dinged up orange table; it’s faced it’s challenges and come through as a survivor – just like us. It also allows me to sit with my laptop and a cup of tea while supervising Miss 3 in our rickety fenced little lawn; I don’t have the words to express what a dramatic improvement this is to sitting in the , doorway with a blanket wrapped around me to avoid shivering in the breeze!

I’m open to suggestions on how to proceed with the table. It’s clearly suffered some water damage underneath and I wonder how best to preserve it. I thought I’d set the dehumidifer running tonight. I wonder whether to get some sort of wood stain or polish to rub over it, or whether I should paint over it?

Thoughts?

Table restoration project

The under side of the table has clearly suffered water damage.

Table restoration project

Hmm, what to do about the underneath?

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How to make an easy and cheap instrument at playgroup (Musical Maracas)

Making musical maracas

Making musical maracas

Making musical maracas

Making musical maracas

What you need

  • Paper plates (small).
  • Felts, crayons, paint, stickers etc.
  • Wooden beads, sea shells, bells etc.
  • Stapler.

Directions

  1. Help your children to decorate the outside of the plates (don’t forget to write their names on!).
  2. Fold the plate in half (like an empanada) and staple along the edges. Leave a gap at the top.
  3. Hold it upright with the gap at the top. Help your children to drop beads, bells, shells etc. inside their musical instrument; one big toddler sized handful will be about enough.
  4. Staple up the gap, put on some music, and shake!

Note: This is a great activity to do on a rainy day or with a playgroup. For younger toddlers choose larger items to put inside and play with under supervision only; i.e. keep choking hazards in mind.

Making a magical felt crown

Easy sewing projects - making a felt crown or tiara!

Beautiful glittery felt crown

Making a beautiful glittery felt crown or tiara is an easy sewing project. You can do it all in an afternoon either hand sewing or using a sewing machine and glue gun. Toddlers will have fun choosing all the colours and decorations! Older kids can be supervised to make this themselves 🙂

Materials

  • Felt
  • Buttons
  • Chalk / dressmaker’s pencil
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Optional: glitter
  • Sewing needle / sewing machine / glue gun

Directions

  1. Using your ruler and chalk, draw a pattern on the felt. You need the crown / tiara + two rectangles for straps. The straps bed to be long enough to tie at the back of your child’s head.

    Measure, draw, and cut your fabric

    Pieces of felt cut out for the crown

  2. Let your child choose decorations for their crown. You can choose whether to handsew buttons on (stronger) or hot glue gun them. Sprinkle on done rainbow glitter for extra magic! (The glitter will stick to the felt, at least for a while).
  3. Sew the straps on each side. You can either use a needle or a sewing machine.
  4. Ta da!

    Finished felt crown

    Beautiful crown ready to wear!

 

Making a drawstring bag

 

Making a drawstring bag

Making a drawstring bag for marbles

Making a drawstring bag is a fun and easy project to do with kids! I still remember the soft nubby green cloth of the drawstring bag of marbles my brother and I shared as kids. I wanted to make something similar for Miss 3 and gaining access to a sewing machine at kindy seemed like a great opportunity.

There is an easy project to follow in this book by Jane Bull, My Sewing Machine. I didn’t think to look so I actually designed my own project for this bag. My daughter’s sensory sensitivities mean she doesn’t like being in the same room as the sewing machine when it’s operating but she likes looking at the sewing book and she liked helping me with the pattern, cutting, and pinning.

Making a drawstring bag (for marbles)

Materials

  • Paper, sellotape, pencil
  • Fabric
  • Cord or ribbon
  • Ruler
  • Pins
  • Chalk / fabric pencil
  • Scissors (paper, fabric, pinking)
  • Safety pin

Tip: Shop around to find good prices for fabric. Sometimes you’ll find fabric in unexpected places – I bought a giant polyester fleece blanket for NZD$3 / USD$2. It was perfect for making a drawstring bag for marbles (though I wouldn’t use it to make a dress).

Design

I made up a design template using paper, scissors sellotape, and pencil. I could see there were two different ways of approaching the bag and decided to have the fold at the bottom and seams up the sides; this results in the cord being on on two sides (instead of one) which I thought would be easier for Little Miss.

Making a paper template

Making a paper template for the drawstring bag

Once I’d worked out the design, and order of sewing seams, I transferred the template into the fabric. My fabric pencil didn’t work on the fleece but chalk did 🙂

Fabric cut and pinned for the drawstring bag

Fabric cut and pinned

I kept my seams about 1.5cm from the edges, allowed plenty of space for the cord, and made sure the fabric was ‘wrong side’ facing out (not as important with this fleece but good practice).

Sewing the bag

I made sure the threads were all set up and then my sewing order was:

  1. Sew short end (for cord).
  2. Sew other short end (for cord).
  3. Loop silky cord through safety pin. Miss 3 loved helping wriggle the silver fish (safety pin) through the ‘tunnel’. We did that on both sides and then I tied the loose ends.
  4. Sew each of the long sides. I started with a curve at the bottom and then went up to the drawstring (enough to just go over that seam but not go over the cord). Then I turned the fabric around and did a small zig-zag back to reinforce.
  5. The nice thing with this fabric is that I didn’t need to hem or worry about fraying like I werewolf with cotton. I did use the pinking shears to cut the bottom corners off (being careful of the curved corners I’d stitched).

    Drawstring bag sewn (wrong side facing out)

    Inside the bag

  6. Turn bag right side out!

    How to make a drawstring bag!

    Drawstring bag for marbles

Bag of marbles

Next week we can go on a treasure hunt expedition to buy marbles for the bag we made!

Make your own rainbow crayons!

Making rainbow crayons.jpg

Making rainbow crayons

Have you ever seen those PinInterest posts where they talk about how easy it is to make your own crayons? They tell the truth! These are a great idea for a special & personalized gift, or as favours in homemade christmas crackers (bonbons), or just because it’s a rainy day!

Ingredients

  • Silicon mould tray
    • Be careful to choose one that can go in the oven.
  • Crayons
    • This can be a great way to use up spare crayons or crayon ends.
  • Optional: glitter & sparkles!

Directions

  1. Break your crayons into small pieces (i.e. adult thumb nail); you may need to use a knife.
  2. Pop them into the silicon mould. Have a think about what kind of colours you want (i.e. rainbow? ocean theme with various shades of blue & green?)
  3. Add sparkles & glitter shapes if you want.
  4. Bake in the oven at 200’C. Keep a close eye on them as you only need it in there until the crayon has melted into a thick liquid (i.e. you’re not trying to get it to bubble & boil).
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  6. Pop out of the moulds and have fun!
Rainbow heart crayons.jpg

Rainbow heart crayons

Hint: Wondering what to use the silicon mould tray for afterwards? It’ll probably need to get relegated to your arts & crafts box (rather than cooking in the kitchen). The good news is that it’s great for paint!

Silicon moulds as artists easel.jpg

Silicon moulds as artists easel

How to make hanging hand towels

 

Toddlers love becoming independent and however they phrase it, what they’re thinking is along the lines of ‘Me do! Me do!’.

At meal times, Miss 2 is understands that when she’s finished she needs to wipe her face and hands with a wet bamboo cloth (although sometimes she’d rather I chase her giggling into the lounge). I’m also teaching her to wash her hands before meals and that hands get washed after using the toilet (not that she has shown the remotest interest in potty training).

She already thinks washing hands is a fun activity because it means playing with water (and poking at the taps, the plug hole, and trying to splash water on the floor) but drying hands is still very parent-led. I thought I would make the idea more attractive by making Miss 2 her own hanging hand towel and putting it right where she can reach it.

The first step was putting up some no-damage removeable hooks in the bathroom. The next step was looking for some towels that would hang easily. The problem is that most towels aren’t designed to hang easily (especially not off little hooks) and with a toddler in tow and limited budget, I don’t have the luxury of searching through stores. The solution, therefore, was to make my own!

I found some gorgeous large-sized adult face cloths at Kmart in attractive eye-catching colours. I found some ribbon in the craft box and selected some large buttons from my Bag-of-Buttons. The trick is to cross over the ends of the ribbon, place the button on top, and then sew through cloth-ribbon-button. Make sure that everything is nice and sturdily attached.

It’s a cheap way to make something practical, eye-catching, unique, and still washable! Plus toddlers love little accent features (like buttons, ribbons, applique etc.).

How to make a new hat unique

 

If your toddler is anything like mine then getting them to wear a hat in the summer can be an ongoing mix of pleading, resignation, determination, and liberally applying sunscreen lotion.

I was delighted recently to find a wide-brimmed toddler hat in the clearance bin with an adjustable tie that goes underneath the chin (a style reminiscent of primary school children). Being on clearance, all of the patterned hats or ones with cool designs had sold out (apart from extra, extra small) so the challenge became to add some personalised touches that might tempt her to wear it.

The felr cupcake (and remnant feathers) was from a superhero mask we made last Halloween at a playgroup (and only recently destroyed in a fit of toddler pique); all it needed was a few new rhinestones glued on. The felt was infused with months-old glue that made it extra-strong and durable but also meant it bent a needle in the first attempt to attach it to the hat:

wp-1485534147628.jpg

 

Necessity is the mother of invention. The solution proved to be sewing the cupcake to a button and then sewing the button to the hat.

The butterfly was rescued from some fairy wings that Teddy had been wearing. They had finely reached the point where the gauzy fabric had detached from the framework and they needed to be chucked but not before the butterfly was saved with hazy thoughts of using it for ‘something’. Then along came the hat and Voila!

I wish I could say that watching me lovingly spend an afternoon creating Miss 2 her own unique, personalised, hat was sufficient to enamour her with the idea of wearing a hat whenever she’s outside. It hasn’t. On the otherhand, she is rather fond of the hat and will wear it substantially longer than any hat that has come before. I’ll take what I can get!

Renovating a children’s bookcase

 

Using Resene testpots of:

  • White: Half Alabaster White
  • Pink: Suzy Q
  • Purple: Gypsy Queen
  • Green-blue: Hope

The journey

How to store toys is one of those conundrums that parents frequently face. The solutions also tend to change as they grow and change.To start with she had something that looked a bit like this:

toy-storage

The problem was that ours was cheap, not particularly well made, and the fabric boxes didn’t balance particularly well. It was fine when she was young because it was so light and small that I wasn’t too worried if she should accidentally tip it over. By the time she was over two it was annoying her sufficiently that she’d just dump the storage boxes on the floor and leave them there but ignore the storage shelves (it was also so light that she could move it or tip it over just ’cause). Note: It is now proving far more functional as a shoe rack.

I wanted something a bit more sturdy and multi-functional that would serve her for several years (or longer). I had thoughts of getting a bookshelf. The constraints were that it needed to fit her existing toy boxes, needed to fit under her window (i.e. in the available space),  it needed to be cheap, and I needed to be able to transport it in the boot of the hatchback. Those requirements required both aesthetic flexibility and patience. After a couple of months I found a cubbyhole-style bookshelf in a secondhand store for $10. It was too tall but this simply required a change of perspective (i.e. flipping it onto it’s long side).


I also wanted something in her room that was a bit more colourful and personalised for a change (we rent so decorations are limited). We headed into Resene’s to discuss options for painting the bookself. Now, unfortunately, it’s MDF particleboard covered in a laminate veneer which means that the professional advice is basically not to paint it (because it will peel off) or spend a whole lot of money on base paint, coloured paint, smoother, and sealant. The white base paint (500ml) alone was going to be $30.

It’s easy looking at beautiful pictures on PinInterest to assume that everyone is enormously successful on their first attempt; this is not one of those stories (or it sort of is but with a caveat).

I decided to persevere (really, peeling paint!?, a sales tactic surely!) and spent a grand total of $9 on testpots. This was achievable only because I take advantage of free testpot offers whenever I can, had 2-4-1 vouchers to use, and had a half testpot of purple paint at home. It also would have benefited from a third testpot of white paint but c’est la vie.

The project

I put a plastic playmat outside on the grass and took advantage of a sunny afternoon ( a Dora the Explorer DVD also ended up being a necessary tool after the first hour). I did a white base coat, using Half Alabaster White, over the entire bookcase (apart from the back) and flipped it once I thought the first long edge was dry. I then did a single coat of coloured paint in each of the cubbyholes. I used Suzy Q (pink), Hope (blue-green), and Gypsy Queen (purple); I note that Suzy Q and Hope are from the same colour palette and there was a lovely light purple that would have matched better but I already had leftover Gypsy Queen from another project.

Once it was dry I added more coloured paint to achieve a good colour consistency but kept a small amount of each colour back in reserve in case touch ups were needed in the future. I also eyed up the white edgings trying to decide if I wanted to get those all perfectly white. I decided that I quite liked the organic look of the colours bleeding towards each other and did it deliberately while painting (and added to it afterwards).

After it had a nice long dry in the sun I lifted the bookcase only to have big strips of white paint peel away and partially stick to the plastic mat. Turns out that plastic laminate is problematic after all. I had to peel more paint off that side in order to tidy it up;  on the bright side it also peeled off the mat easily and was easy to ball up and bin. I carried the bookcase inside onto lino and carefully repainted the ‘bottom’ side.

Once it was thoroughly dry it went into her room on carpet where it seems to be sufficiently cushioned to be surviving happily. It looks really lovely and she adores it so for the price it was worth it. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend more money on the paint though – it’s a bit of a gamble as to how long the paint will last as it will scratch off the laminate pretty easily. Thankfully she doesn’t know this so there’s no reason for her to actively try! I do love the colours though 🙂