Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Finishing the New Border

I am calling our new front flower bed border officially complete and I couldn't be happier with it.

When I left off last, I had not even finished laying paver blocks. I finished that up on Saturday (after running to Lowe's to buy 125 more while they were still on sale). Initially the plan to was to just redo the border on the front of the house and someday continue it around the side to eliminate the need for edging there as well.

However, I found that I enjoyed the process so much that I wanted to continue around the side as well.

Next up was laying down landscape fabric over the grassy areas that were soon to be flower beds and laying mulch over that. The final step was to add sand in between the paver stones to help stabilize everything.

On some sharper curves, I had large gaps between stones. I didn't have the capability to cut the blocks to fit these spaces, I used some of my coarser grit sand to fill those larger gaps first.

 After that, came the fine grit. I used play sand. I found it easiest to scoop some from the bag into a smaller bowl for transport. Then I dumped some onto the blocks and used my hand to spread it around and work it into the cracks.

I smoothed everything out as much as I could.

Then Cait (who helped me with this last step this morning) followed behind me and used a small brush to sweep away the excess sand. She described this as "extremely satisfying."

You can see the difference between swept (on the bottom) and unswept (on the top).

 Then we were done!

Here's another shot where you can see the difference the sand makes.

 And here are some gratuitous finished shots!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A New Front Border

When we moved into the house, the front shrubbery had no border at all. A few years ago, in an effort to add some visual interest, I added a simple border with some paver stones that I found at Lowe's for 52 cents a piece.

 It served its purpose, but lacked substance and was very difficult to mow around.

So when I saw this pin on Pinterest, I knew I wanted to do something to beef it up and solve the having to trim around it problem. The same pavers I had used before happened to be on sale this weekend for 33 cents, so I got all over that.

I quickly discovered that digging up grass is a lot harder than I imagined it would be, but I broke up the task by doing a short trench, followed by the much more enjoyable task of laying some pavers. It was probably less efficient to do it this way, but it kept me from getting worn out with digging. Once I got a trench dug, I smoothed out the dirt and broke up any big chunks, then put down landscape fabric, followed by some regular old sand. We happened to have 4 bags of it that spent all winter in the back of my truck for traction, so I used that.

At first, I skipped the sand step, but realized that was a mistake. It helps tremendously in levelling all the pavers. This is where you can imagine me struggling to drag a wet 70 pound bag of sand around the house.

I'm altering the course of our new border. You can see above the old border's path in the background, along with the new one in front. The decision was made mostly from an ease of mowing standpoint, as it was always difficult to get the riding mower around the lilac bush.

That's as far as I got today, since, despite the weather forecast calling for a 0% chance of rain, I kept getting soaked by it.

Once the border is finished, I'll dig up the grass in the newly incorporated flower bed area and mulch it. I hope to finish things up on Saturday and have some finished project pictures!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Paper Flower Bouquet

I feel like this is turning into a wedding blog, but with only 5 months (FIVE MONTHS!) left until the wedding, that's pretty much all I've been working on.

I decided a long time ago that I didn't want to use fresh flower bouquets because of the ridiculous expense. I searched around on Pinterest and tried a couple different paper flowers, until I came across this coffee filter peony tutorial. I loved the look of them, and unlike others I had tried, these were very easy to make.

I left the peonies white for my own bouquet, but for my bridesmaids, I wanted orange. I tried a couple methods for dying the coffee filters, including kool aid and food coloring, neither of which gave me the intense color I wanted. After doing some research online, I decided on Rit fabric dye in Tangerine. This is the same dye I used on my Toms. I followed the directions for dying paper on the Rit website, which involved microwaving the paper in a bowl with the diluted dye. They also have a really handy chart that tells you how to mix dyes to get the exact color you want. My shade of orange happened to not require any mixing.

I actually completed this step last fall, and they have been sitting around ever since.

When I finally decided to get on that, I collected my supplies.

I got the floral wire at Michaels. I liked it better than bare wire because it looked more like a natural stem. You'll need ten filters for each flower, 5 large and 5 small.  I'll get to that in a moment.

Start by folding a filter in half four times. I do 2-3 at a time to speed things along. Then cut a notch on the inside corner.

 Unfold once, and round the edges into a heart shape. To make my 5 smaller filters, i just cut off more from the edges.

Once you have your 10 filters ready, cut off a length of floral wire, about 12" long. Bend a small loop on one end, then push the non-looped end through the center of one of your small filters, and pull it up to the bottom of the loop.

Squirt a little glue at the center, then pull the filter up around the wire loop and twist. You will get glue all over your fingers.

 Continue adding your small filters and twisting. I like to randomly alternate the direction I twist.

Once you've add the small filters, do the same thing with the large ones.

I like to fluff the petals a little at this point. Then wrap the bottom with floral tape. I really hate floral tape.

 I repeated these steps five more times for a total of six flowers. This makes a small-ish bouquet. I wanted a thicker stem/handle part than what the floral wire alone would create, so I bought a 1" dowel rod and cut it to 9" in length. I arranged the flowers how I like them around the dowel, then taped them together with duct tape. This is easier said than done. I found it easiest to get the flowers sort of close to how I wanted them, tape them down and then bend the wire to arrange them from there.

Now obviously it's not looking so hot right now. Which means it's time to forage outside! I took my pruners and clipped some sticks out of various bushes and shrubs. You're looking for something no thicker than a drinking straw. I wanted mine to be very "natural" looking (i.e. not perfect and uniform) so I cut a variety of thicknesses from several different plants.

Cover the dowel all the way around until you can't see it anymore through the sticks, then tape them in place.

Next, you want to cover over the stems with ribbon. Just wind it all the way around, overlapping some each time. Fold under the end and secure with hot glue.

From here, trim the ends of the sticks so that they are all of a similar length. You might think you're done, until you look at the bottom of your bouquet.

Use the pieces you trimmed off and hot glue them to the bottom of the dowel rod to hide it. Now you're done! Pat yourself on the back.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dying Toms

I decided a while ago that I wanted to wear Toms during my wedding (along with the rest of the bridal party). I wanted them to match the orange of the ties and bouquets, but the Tom's website don't currently offer that color. I decided I'd get white and take a stab at dying them. David and I just got ours in, so I decided to use them as a test run.

I figured if I was going to ruin anyone's shoes, I'd rather them be my own. Also, since they won't be in the same dye batch as the bridesmaids' and groomsmen's they might not end up the same color, and it would look more intentional for ours to be different than for one groomsman to have a different color than the rest.

I followed this tutorial. I covered the bottom sole, inner sole and the tags with painter's tape, then started to cover that with clear packaging tape. I ran out the packaging tape half way through, so I used duct tape to finish.

I used Rit liquid fabric dye in Tangerine. I was going for a really intense color, so I used the whole bottle of dye in a 5 gallon bucket, which I placed in the bathtub. I filled it about half way full of really hot water, then dunked in the shoes.

I left the solid canvas shoes in for 8 minutes before pulling out one and rinsing it in cold water. I wanted to make sure the color wouldn't lighten too much when rinsed. It didn't, so I pulled out and rinsed the other one, as well. The crochet shoes didn't seem to be absorbing the dye as fast, so I left them in for 30 minutes.

A few notes on things I plan to do differently when I dye the rest of the shoes: the clear packaging tape came right off while soaking in the dye. The duct tape did stick, but the painter's tape alone did a sufficient job of protecting the parts I wanted left un-dyed, so I don't think another layer of tape is necessary. 

In fact, the painter's tape stuck a little too well to the inner soles. When I peeled it off, it pulled out the sole and peeled off some of the text that's printed on the sole. Next time, I won't bother taping this part at all for four reasons: it didn't prevent the leather from getting wet, actually damaged the shoe by pulling out the sole, no one will be able to tell if the sole is dyed when the shoe is being worn, and taping that area was the most tedious part. 

Also, I will wear gloves next time. My hand is going to be orange for many days.

Since it was raining outside, I used hooks to hang the shoes inside the bucket I used for dying. This preventing orange-tinged water from staining my bath tub, and kept the shoes out of the water that dripped off of them. 

As you can tell, most of the dye rinsed out of the crochet shoes. I'm assuming whatever type of material they are made from just isn't as absorbent. I don't hate the color they ended up as, but I will throw them in the dye when I do the next batch to see if they become any darker. 

You can see a few spots where dye got on the outer sole. Not a big deal to me.

And the tags stayed white!

Chico and Chubby made sure things didn't get too rowdy while I was photographing the finished shoes.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

DIY Wedding Hangers

Our focus is slowly shifting to the basement, which we've been working on in spurts for the last 4 years.

There's not much to report, as we haven't really accomplished anything (besides Cait smashing the old fireplace surround with a sledgehammer) so I'm stopping in with a wedding update.

I wanted to make those adorable name hangers for mine and my bridesmaids' dresses, but I didn't want to pay much for them, as I strongly dislike paying for things that I can make myself. After reading this tutorial, which I found on Pinterest, I decided I'd try my hand at making them.

I got a pack of 5 wooden hangers from Bed Bath & Beyond and a spool of 16 gauge wire from Home Depot. I then used needle nose pliers to bend the wire into letter shapes. If I was unsure of the best way to form a certain letter, I just googled "wedding hangers" and found an example that had the letter in question. My first attempt was not so pretty.

Not the worst thing ever, but definitely not a finished product. Once I got going on my second one, I really started getting the hang of it. Once I was happy with how the name looked, I drilled holes in the hangers and hot glued the ends of the wire in place.

Not too shabby, I reckon!