Sunday, July 12, 2015

Seasonal Wordplay

Sometime in January (or maybe it was February), I started on a cross stitch project. Or rather, four cross stitch projects. I ran across this book at Hobby Lobby and snapped it up quick, knowing I would do all four projects in the book.

(Available for purchase here at the Herrschner's site, and, of course, you can search for it on Amazon.) There are four designs inside, one for each season.

I started with the spring flower and immediately ran into an issue. I simply do not like stitching an abundance of yellow on white fabric. As an overall design, it would be okay, but I wanted the words in the design to stand out, so yellow on white wouldn't do. This led me to choose different colored fabrics for each design; pink for spring, blue for summer, tan for autumn and purple for winter. Again, I ran into an issue. The yellow looked worse on pink than it did on white, so I changed the pink fabric for green. Better, but still not good. (I know, I know, pictures to demonstrate how they looked would be so very illustrative right now. One of these days, I'll get my act together.) So I took my customization to a new level and switched out the yellow floss for purple. Yep, you heard me. Purple.

The flower looks blue here, but trust me, it's purple. I have flowers in my garden that are purple with orange centers, so I don't feel that my color choices are unrealistic.

A summer sailboat next, and except for the aforementioned fabric color choice, I stuck with the original blue and red floss.

Here's autumn with its tan fabric and gold and orange leaves. (I think this is my favorite of all of them.)

And finally, a winter snowman.

Also, somewhere within each design, you'll find my initials and the year, so I'll always know when it was created. Always sign your work, people!

These projects contained a LOT of quarter stitches, which are a pain, so I did all of the elements that required quarter stitches first, then did all the backstitch elements. Also, the winter snowman has French knots in the arms, which were also a pain because I hate French knots more than quarter stitches. But I can also say I thoroughly enjoyed doing these and I can honestly say they were easy because the majority of each project consisted of backstiching. Plus, they were just plain FUN!

I went with identical square frames for each project so as the seasons change, I can hang each one in turn in the same place on my wall. I plan the same seasonal switchout with my next project, Five Seasons of Quilts:

I'm starting with the Fall quilt in hopes that I'll finish it by fall. I'll try--seriously, I promise--to take pictures in progress so you'll see how it's going.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Gnome Garden

Aaaand here we go again with another Pinterest-inspired project!

Perhaps you are like me and envy those crafters among us who can take four or five random items, add some hot glue, glitter, ribbon, and paint and voila! Instant fabulousness.  I am not one of those. However, I have found that I can develop ideas better if I have something to inspire me, rather than try to come up with one all on my own. Thankfully for people like me, places like Pinterest exist to inspire us. This project was inspired by this post. This post has a number of cute ideas based on flower pots, and I have plans to use another one soon. I will, of course, post it when it's done.

First, here's the picture that got me going:

My mother was a professor of Gnomology* at Frankfurt University when we lived in Germany in the 1970's, and I made this with her in mind. I have a small pot of succulents in my back yard in a small planter that was never going to be their permanent home, and this post inspired me to make the change. So I headed off to Wal-Mart and purchased a large terra cotta plate and five small pots, along with one small aloe vera plant. A visit to one of my local garden centers netted a mushroom house, a pair of courting gnomes (you'll understand when you see them a bit later), and a small bag of smooth river rocks.

First, I hot glued the mushroom house to the top of one of the pots.  The back of this house has an opening, and I filled the pot with white rocks to weigh the piece down, otherwise it might topple over in a strong wind.

Then I nestled two pots (numbers two and three) and put one of my existing succulents inside it.

Next, the aloe vera went into pot number four.

Another succulent went into the fifth pot, which I deliberately tipped on its side.

Now, even though I say I don't have a lot of "original" creativity, every now and then, a spark will ignite a small fire. I had one succulent left but no pot to put it in. Plus I wanted to highlight my pair of gnomes somehow. The aloe vera came in a cheap plastic pot and I tried using that for the third succulent and placing it in the center, but that didn't look right. I tried turning it upside down and placing the gnomes on it, but that made them too tall. That's when inspiration said "cut down the height of the pot." So I did! I cut the pot in half, hot gluing the gnomes to the underside of the bottom half, and using the remaining ring (the upper half of the pot) as a planter in the very center for the last succulent.

Add soil to disguise the cut pot under the gnomes, add river rocks and--say it with me now--voila!


Terra cotta saucer (12") - $6.47
Terra cotta pot (4") x 5  - $3.85
        $0.77 each
Aloe vera plant              - $2.98
Mushroom house           - $14.99
Courting gnomes           - $4.99
River rocks                    - $2.99

Total cost:                        $36.27

I already had the three succulents and the necessary soil to plant them (plus the glue gun), so those costs aren't included.

*Not really :) Although she used to know a lot about them, and for a little while actually convinced one of my sister's boyfriends that it was true.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Tiered Painted Flower Pots

I'm back with another gardening project! Inspired by this Pinterest post, I started by choosing the location of my tiered planters. My back yard is already planned out, as are my two front beds. My porch, however, has nothing. So I chose three locations to place these tiered planters. I decided two locations would have three stacked planters, and the third would have only two stacked planters since it would be on top of a small shelf.

Because the front of my house is brick, I wanted to stay away from warm colors, such as reds, beiges, and browns, so I chose a pastel blue, purple, and green. There are a number of different formulations of spray paint out there, and I wanted something that would cover evenly, and would withstand the weather. I did make a mistake in that the purple (Gum Drop) is a gloss and the other two (Island Splash and Sea Glass) are both satin, so I kept them to a satin/gloss/satin pattern. You'll see what I mean in a bit.

I went with basic terra cotta pots in 14", 10" and 6" sizes, along with saucers in 10" and 8". I chose saucers that were wider than the pot circumference simply because that is my preference. You can choose saucers that fit more snugly if you choose.

I placed the pots on a tarp and started spraying. It's important to follow the directions on the spray can for best use. A heavy spray will cause the paint to drip, so light strokes truly are recommended---yes, I'm speaking from personal experience! It's better to take the time and make several thin coats than one drippy one and the end result is much nicer.

You can see the smallest pot in the top photo has only a bit of paint on it, and you can still see terra cotta peeking through the Island Splash on the saucer in the bottom photo. These pots took three thin layers of paint, with a fourth touch-up spray here and there. I let each coat dry (30 minutes plus) before the next coat, and then overnight after three coats, with the touch-ups occurring the next day.

In the middle of this pot, you can see the reason why thin coats are important! I was able to cover the darkness of the drips with another *thin* layer of paint, so it turned out all right. The spray paint manufacturers advocate thin coats for a reason!

If you choose, you can finish off the pots with a layer of clear sealant. The pots in my Pinterest-inspired post are decorated with white polka-dots. Had I done them, I would have used a sealant, but since I chose not to polka-dot, I opted out of the sealant. This decision may or may not come back to haunt me by the end of the summer...we'll see!

Soooo....starting with the largest pot, I added a layer of soil. If you have spare rocks or pieces of brick or even extra mulch laying around, they could be used as a filler instead of all potting soil. You will need enough soil for the plants' roots to grow into, however, so I personally chose to go all soil.

 Leaving a couple inches of clearance at the top, I placed the next smaller pot into the first, positioning it against the back edge. I removed a little soil so they would nestle nicely.

 Flowers next. I wanted each layer to have different flowers, so pale pink snapdragons here. I threw soil into the purple pot so it would be handy as I filled in the gaps in the blue pot. The flowers need room to grow, so I limited this level to only three snapdragons.

More soil in the purple pot, and dark red dianthus join the party.

The flowers I chose for the green pot filled it perfectly, so there was no need for extra soil. And here it is, on the porch! One down, two to go. (okay, okay, I can see the rust showing through the white paint on the railing. it's on my list.)

The largest and smallest pots are satin finish, and the middle is gloss, which makes the finish choice seem deliberate. Up close, you *might* notice the different finishes. But at a casual glance, you'll never see it. So it's really not an issue.

Here are the other two that I completed. One is the same as the first, with different flowers...

And the third only has two, because it is on top of an iron shelf.

And that's it!

I can't say I'm super thrilled with the results, but I do like them. They are a bit plain, so perhaps with some decoration, I'll like them more. Polka dot?

(heh-heh...sorry, but this was all I could think of every time I typed "polka dot.")

Pallet Garden Update

Just wanted to post an update to my pallet garden project. Here are the flowers one month later, growing beautifully. You can still see the painted slats, but they're quickly being overtaken by the flowers. The pot in the front left have dianthus and the one in the front right have three succulents that almost died but are making a comeback. There are a few weeds in the center of the patch of ground, but the grassy-looking ones in the very front are bulbs that should flower in the next few weeks.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Pallet Garden

Spring has finally decided to stay here in Virginia, so I'm turning some of my creative endeavors toward my garden.

Two years ago, I decided it was beyond time to work on my garden, and turned a bland space into...well, not exactly a showplace, but the beginnings of a showplace. I laid out flower beds, added borders and plants, did some sprucing up here and there, and even freshened up the front porch. I'll post those pictures another time.

A little more than two months ago, I found a posting on Pinterest and knew I had to try it. Here's a link to the original post: "Make a Pallet Garden in 7 Easy Steps." I do recommend reading over the directions, but I will admit that I didn't follow them to the letter on this project.

I started with the pallet. If you check around, you should be able to get one for free at garden centers, home improvement stores, or just about anywhere. Go ahead and ask - they may be glad to get rid of them! We ordered a portable dishwasher about six months ago which was delivered on a pallet. I kept the pallet just in case I found a use for it. When I found the Pinterest posting, I knew I had found it. I was doubly lucky because one end of the pallet has a block of wood blocking off one open end. If you go hunting for one, try to look for that feature.

The Brightnest/Hometalk web sites (the origins of my idea) show the pallets in their natural state. I, however, wanted something colorful, so I spray-painted the slats different colors. I had all of these colors already, except the blue, which I found on clearance at Wal-Mart.

Because the wood was so weathered, it wouldn't absorb the paint evenly. That bothered me at first, but the more I looked at it, the more I decided I liked the somewhat antique-y/weathered look, so I moved on to the next step, which was to let the paint dry overnight.

The next day, I took the pallet out into the yard, closer to where I would eventually install it. I laid it face down on the ground and began to cover the back with landscape fabric. I had some left over from some work I had done two years earlier and was glad to have found something to do with the remainder.

Using a staple gun, I secured the fabric to the top, stretched it to the bottom, and began stapling. I made the fabric taut but not tight since the fabric can tear, and stapled every inch or so. I wanted to make sure the fabric stayed in place. (One commenter in the original posting suggested nailing plywood to the back to keep soil in, which is a good idea, but I didn't read that until after I finished the project, so I didn't do that.) The fabric was maybe four inches too short to cover the entire back from side to side, so there are two layers to make sure both edges are covered. Then, for good measure, I did a third layer going in the top/bottom direction (which, of course, was the perfect width).

I trimmed the edges with a utility knife and turned it over. I purchased three bags of garden soil from my local garden center and poured two of them onto the pallet. I gently brushed the soil into the open space between the fabric and the painted slats.  This left the top two slats with no soil. I would take care of that in a bit.

I did not pack the soil tightly for several reasons: one, I only bought three bags of soil: two, I was afraid packing the soil tightly might cause the fabric to bulge and perhaps tear on the backside: three, I reasoned that water will travel easier through lightly packed soil. That final reason may come back to haunt me as the weeks go by--watering will pack the soil somewhat so I may have to add more later on.

I stood the pallet up and positioned it along the back fence. (Um, okay, I'll admit, I positioned the pallet before adding soil, took this picture, then laid the pallet back down on the ground to start filling it. But this is where the pallet went when once the soil was added. I apologize for not taking more pictures, but once I got into it, I just couldn't seem to stop until I was done!)

With the soil in place, I started adding plants. I went with a variety of pansy called Viola in solid blue, solid yellow, purple and orange, and purple and white. I wanted the flowers' colors to stand out against the pallets' colors, so the solid yellow went into the gap between the green and blue boards.The next gap got the purple and orange violas. For the next slat, I decided to mix up the solids, so I mixed the solid yellows and blues. The next slat got the purple and white violas.

At this point, I started adding soil from the third bag to fill in the rest of the pallet. I added enough to reach the final slat, then added the blue violas. On top of that, I added the remaining soil. In the gap at the top, I planted the final six violas.

I did end up "borrowing" soil from one of the empty flower pots currently in my garden, so four bags of soil would have been optimal. An extra bag would have filled that gap and allowed me to pack the soil a little bit tighter, with soil left over for other plantings in my garden. I just didn't feel like going out to purchase that fourth bag.

And that's it!

Breakdown of Costs:

Pallet: $0.00
Paint: $1.00
Landscape Fabric: $0.00
Garden Soil: $6.99/bag x 3 = $20.97
Violas: 1 flat (3 plants per cell, 12 cells per flat) = $26.99

Total cost: $48.87 plus tax.

Yes, I could have held costs down a bit by waiting for soil and flowers to go on sale, or go to one of the national home improvement/garden centers. However, I like to support local businesses when I can, and my locally-owned garden center carries a huge variety of plants and vegetables, so that's where I like to shop.

I like the results so much, I may make another. I have another spot in my back yard where a pallet would look nice, but it will wait until a bit later in spring. The area in front of this area has bulbs blooming, and I do not want to damage any of them by trying to muscle a soil-heavy pallet over them. If I do it, I'll definitely post pictures.

Thanks, Pintrest!