Thursday, June 26, 2014

An Ethnic Soleil Dress

I've been sewing up a storm for my kids' wardrobe next summer. I know it's a full year away, but I like to be prepared! OK, I guess in this case I like to be very prepared. I was that girl in college who immediately started working on a term paper the day it was assigned, just so that I could take my time and be done with time to spare. I've always envied those people who could work the night before a deadline. That's just not me. Apparently I need an entire year lol.

My goal (for the first time ever!) was to make as much of my kids' summer wardrobe as possible. I always make pieces here and there to fill out their current wardrobe, but this time, I wanted to tackle making an. Entire. Wardrobe. Times two. A lofty goal, but one I was pretty excited about.

With two wardrobes looming, I needed some good patterns, and the Soleil Dress by Selvage Designs came to mind immediately.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

In Search of the Perfect Strawberry

Every summer in Pittsburgh, we look forward to strawberry picking season. There's nothing quite like hunting for the perfect, plump strawberries among the rows of fresh strawberry plants.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

We're back!

Hi again! It's crazy/fun to be writing again after a six month long hiatus, but sometimes a break is just the thing you need to recharge your crafty batteries. If you read our signing off post in January, and then saw our post last Friday with our first project in six months, you may be wondering what in the world we are up to. (And if you're just joining us, please check out our About Us section to learn more about what it is we do here :)

Here's the completely honest truth, guys: we overextended ourselves.

We started this little crafty space of ours in August of 2012 and were SO excited to be creating together. Shannon and I have always loved to create, so when I moved here to Pittsburgh, it only seemed natural to start a blog together and create together. "They"  ("they" being the big bloggers that have thousands of followers and endorsements, which we certainly are not) say that you're supposed to be consistent with your blogging (not a bad thing at all), so we set a schedule and committed ourselves to blogging 3 times a week. This was working well for us and after we had been blogging for awhile, we were completely thrilled to be invited to be contributors on a friend's blog. Then another invitation came along. Then a third. At the time we thought we could balance it all, and we did for awhile...but it took its toll.

After several months of creating projects for our own blog and three others, on top of balancing families and jobs, we found ourselves with no free time and no energy. And  let me tell you, it's extremely difficult to find inspiration when you feel like your creativity has been completely tapped. I personally found myself becoming increasingly short with my kids and, as a stay-at-home mom, I felt like I was failing at my primary job. Shannon was feeling equally stressed with trying to balance a full-time job and husband, then trying to create projects when she could find a spare minute.

It was time for a break.

We took the past six months off with no expectations. We agreed that the blog would be here if we decided to start again, but if not, that was OK too. Then, we did whatever we wanted. I didn't touch my sewing machine for 2 months. It felt SO good to reset. Out of the blue last month, we were contacted by Michael's  asking if we'd like to contribute posts once a month as part of their Michael's Makers program. Shannon and I talked, and decided that we were ready to take on blogging again, casually for now, because we honestly do love to make things and share them with you. Our experience contributing to other blogs has been invaluable, and we both walked away learning so much and being so grateful for those opportunities, but we also learned our limit.

So what now? At this moment, you can expect a minimum of one post a month that we will be sharing as part of our partnership with Michael's, and additional posts as we feel inspired (and maybe a little redesign a la Shannon if you notice the new graphics :) We know you guys have better things to do than read about a project that was half-heartedly put together, so by casually blogging, it means that Shannon and I will both be able to create and share things with you that we genuinely love. At times, it may be a project. Other times, it may be peeks into our personal lives or a round-up of things we love. But just know that through it all, we have appreciated all of your kind words and support because we're still figuring things out. And that's OK.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Michaels Makers: 1 Crate 2 Ways

This June, we've partnered with Michael's to get the word out on their new online shopping! Want to make something but have a hard time finding inspiration? You can now visit and browse a variety of different project by clicking on the "find a project" tab. Once you've chosen what project you want to make, simply click "add all to cart" to have all of the items needed for that project shipped to your doorstep. Don't you love easy? Oh, and did we mention free shipping for orders over $50? More money in your pocket for more projects ;)

Shannon and I browsed the projects and thought it would be fun for each of us to put our own spin on the stained wood crate project found here. Wood crates are SO versatile and can be made into anything under the sun.

IDEA #1 - Jen

For my take on this project, I decided to turn a wood crate into an organizer with built-in planter to give my crafting space a little extra zip (and clear up some of the clutter!)

Click here to visit Michael's and easily add the crate, paint, and paintbrushes to your cart. All supplies for this project include:

SUPPLIES: wood crate, Martha Stewart multi-surface paints in chestnut brown and pea shoot, paint brushes, jigsaw, drill, 150 grit sandpaper, compass, measuring tape, plant in a planter with built-in drain tray.

First, grab your potted plant and use your measuring tape to measure the circumference of the area (in centimeters) that you want to fit into the hole that you will be drilling into your crate. Remember, anything below where you measure will be sticking through the hole, so don't measure too far up. I went about 1 1/2 cm from the bottom, and my circumference was 14 cm. A nice round number.

Now, you're going to have to do some math to figure out how to make the circle that your planter will fit in. And if you just groaned a little, just know that math was my least favorite subject in school too, so I feel your pain. Take your circumference in centimeters and divide by pi (or 3.14) to get your diameter. Take that number and divide by two to get your radius, which is the length from the center of your circle to the outside.

For me, my measurements were: 14 cm (circumference)/3.14= 4.46 (diameter)/2= 2.2cm (radius). This is the length that I am going to make my compass so that I can draw my circle. Got it? Ok, let's do this!

Now that you know how big you need to make your circle, you're going to mark where you want your circle to go. Rather than setting my crate on its side and having more space lengthwise, I decided to set my crate on its end and put my planter off to the left (which was more visually pleasing and provided more surface area for display on top.) This also provides more stability for the plant.

Since I now know the circumference of my circle, I eyeballed it and made a mark in the upper left side of my crate based on my measurement, but if you'd rather be more scientific about things:

ONE: set your crate on its end.
TWO:  measure the distance from the edge of the crate to the edge of the crate's handle and draw a line marking the center.
THREE: measure the other direction and make a mark in the center.
FOUR: where these lines meet is the center of your hole.

FIVE: adjust your compass to the radius measurement you got above (for me it was 2.2 cm.) Set your compass point on the mark you just drew, and then trace your circle.
SIX: here is your finished circle. Yay!

SEVEN: now get your drill and drill a starter hole close to the edge of your circle. This will help you make your starting cut with your jigsaw.
EIGHT: use your jigsaw to cut around the circle you drew.

NINE: place your planter inside your hole to make sure you're happy with the size. Make additional cuts as necessary if you'd like a larger hole.

TEN: paint the outside of your crate with the chestnut brown paint and let dry. Paint the inside with the pea shoot color.

Now I have a pretty little organizer with built-in planter to add some fun to my crafting space! I love how it's both functional and decorative. It also gives me an excuse to show off my trinkets like the gems I got while gem mining in Asheville, NC 3 years ago, the embroidery hoop I made from this tutorial (PS it's a free pattern), or the fun silver feather book ends I got while estate saling.

I love how the bottom of my plant peeks out inside the crate. Maybe I should paint it in a different shade for a fun pop of color? The Martha Stewart multi-surface paints really are fantastic. The colors are really rich and smooth (and they have fun names like "Wedding Cake" and "Cloud"). I watered the brown down a bit before painting to make it look more like a stain and so that the natural grain of the wood could shine through. Love.

The perfect addition to pretty up my crafting space!

IDEA #2 - Shannon

As soon as this lovely wooden crate arrived at Chateau de Venanzio, the cats wasted absolutely no time in declaring it belonged to them.  Within minutes, Skilo was inside the crate clawing at the wood while Sparta was outside, swatting at Skilo, trying to get in.  The cats pretty much told me what I was going to do with this crate. Make them a bed.  **cue angelic choir accompanying grand revelation**

This may seem somewhat daunting because power tools are involved, but trust me... it's a cinch!  Building the actual bed took less than 20 minutes.  The hardest part was the painting/staining.  Here we go!

First up.. supplies!
  1. Wooden Crate
  2. Martha Stewart Satin Craft Paints
  3. Painters tape (I ended up not using this)
  4. Paint Brush
  5. Pencil
  6. 4 Legs with pre-installed hanger bolts (I got mine at my local hardware store for less than $2 each)
  7. Drill & Drill Bits
  8. Hammer
  9. Blanket

Next, set your crate on the edge of a table, letting the first plank overhang as shown above.  This is where you get to use your hammer!  Rest your arm/body weight on the top of the crate and use the hammer to knock off the overhanging plank.  Do this with the top 2 on one side.  It came off extremely easy, but if any staples stick to the crate, use pliers to remove.

To install the legs, I used a circle template as a guide.  I lined it up on the corners of the crate and marked the spot I wanted to drill, making sure the leg would not go past the edge of the crate.  To properly choose a drill bit, hold it against the hanger bolt.  It should be slightly smaller than the bolt to assure a tight fit when screwed in.  It's better to start off too small.  If the hole you drill isn't big enough, go one size up in drill bit.  If you start off too big, your leg will fall out and you'll have to move the location of your hole.  

Since the crate is made of pine, the wood is relatively soft and should allow the bolt to screw in easily if your hole is the right size.  Remember, you want it slightly tight to hold the leg in place.  You'll need to apply some pressure in this process.  

Voila! Pet bed!  Now it's time to make it pretty.  I used the Satin Martha Stewart Craft Paint in Acorn.  I wanted this to look more like a stain, less like paint, so I watered it down a bit.  Since Pine is so soft and porous, watery stains tend to run quickly.  To prevent feathering, start from the inside of the shape you are filling in and work your way out, allowing the wettest part to be the middle.  (Can you tell we like triangles over here at ESM?)

The finished product!  Just add a blanket or cushion and let your little ones make themselves at home!

It took Skilo not long at all to acquaint himself with his new bed.  He seemed quite pleased!

Sparta on the other hand... it was quite a process getting him to accept it.  He's the skeptic in our house... not very trusting of anything. Especially, wooden crates, apparently.  But, he finally realized this could work in his favor and had a minor meltdown from the excitement (see last photo).  He's our special cat. 

We couldn't be more excited to be part of such an amazing group of bloggers!  Talk about inspiring!  Make sure you check out all the other amazing projects from the Michael's Makers


*This post is in conjunction with the Michael's Makers blogging collaboration. All opinions are our own. You can find our full disclosure here.*

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