DIY Outdoor Coffeetable

In my last post I showed you my great big sectional process, and quickly realized that a sectional is not a sectional without an ottoman or coffeetable in front of it. You cannot lounge and worry where to put your drink. So today we conquer making the matching coffeetable. The sectional wasn’t exactly complicated, just big, and in comparison this project is one you could put together with your eyes closed.

Step 1
I’m taking a little bit of a short cut here since I’m using all the same materials, the assembly is done in the same pilot hole/wood screw way, and is still dependent on the measurements of your cushions that determined the size of your sectional. You don’t want a giant coffeetable and an itty bitty sectional, so you have to keep them proportional. If you have any questions about those items, refer to the sectional post.

Cut your 2 x 3’s to size. For this project you’ll need 4 pieces 36″ long, 6 pieces 30″ long, and 4 pieces 18″ long.

You’ll need to build two box shapes, each with a center support, that will become the top and shelf of your table.  Just sandwich three of the 30″ pieces between two of the 36″ pieces and screw it all together. And do it again for the other five pieces.

Step 2
Your four 18″ pieces are your legs. For this part it’s best if you break out the level. You want to make sure you don’t install the shelf lopsided. Line one of your boxes up flush with the legs by laying it all on the ground, screwing the pieces together, and then flipping it over. To install the bottom shelf it works great to lay it all on it’s side. Make sure that you leave a few inches of leg below the box so that nothing’s resting on the ground.

Step 3
For the top and shelves you’ll switch to the 1 x 3 furring strips just like we did for the sectional. You’ll need to cut 14 pieces 33″ long for the top, lay them out the way you want, and screw them into place.

Step 4
Then cut 10 pieces 19″ long for the shelves, offsetting them so there are five pieces on each side of that center support beam, creating two shelves. Screw down.

Step 5
Then it’s the regular old sand prime paint procedure.

Finished CoffeetableThe shelf design was a bit of an accident. I planned on making the bottom shelf solid just like the top, but I forgot I’d have to cut around those legs and that sounded like a whole lot of no fun. So I changed the design and I think it looks so much cooler! Happy Accidents are totally what makes it worth it.



Build a DIY Outdoor Sectional

Outdoor Sectional

So, I know it’s Fall now and everybody has moved on to pinning Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving tablescapes, but I just can’t let this project sit on my hard drive until next summer. It’s already been finished for months and months but between surgeries and fertility and recovery and the hellishness of the last year it never got the attention I wanted to give it. So I am going to stop waiting for perfection and just send it out into the world. Nobody reads things in order anymore anyway.

When we moved into this house I knew my backyard furniture wasn’t going to cut it. But outdoor furniture is EXPENSIVE!! Like, ridiculously expensive when most of it is plastic garbage anyway. But in this corner up against the house we had this huge paved area that was just begging for an outdoor sectional. I looked and I looked and when I could even find one it was over $10,000. Which is insanity. You can get a car for that much money!

I finally realized that the only way I was going to get the outdoor seating area living in my dreams was if I built it my own dang self. So I did.

Step 1

Everything starts with the cushions. I bought mine a couple summers ago now at end of season prices, which is so so so much cheaper than trying to make anything yourself. Cushions for patio furniture do not come in standard sizes, so you absolutely must have your cushions before you start sawing wood. You’ll need to base all of your measurements around the ones you plan on using if you expect anything to fit. Mine were 21″ square, which is what all the measurements I’m about to give you will reference, so if you end up with cushions that are not 21″ square, remember to change the math! I also used 2 x 3’s to make it look a little less like studs, to cut some of the heaviness out where I could, and to save myself some cash. Remember as you’re changing the math to always account for the width of the wood pieces you’re assembling. A finished 21″ wide is actually an 18″ piece sandwiched between two 2 x 3’s.

Step 2

Despite the size of the project, it really only consists of a few parts and is really manageable, even with my rudimentary building skills. The first thing to build is the frame. I made mine to be a corner sectional with a chaise lounge on one side. With your 2 x 3’s cut to the proper sizes, then it’s just drilling through the pieces to make a pilot hole, and following it up with a wood screw to secure it. With something this big and heavy, I like to use two wood screws in each joint.

Step 2 right

Right side cut measurements. Not pictured: another 18″ long piece I attached across the middle to offer some more support.

Step 2 center

Center cut measurements. Not pictured: Another 18″ crosspiece I added after I got a little further in the building process and realized I wanted it more stable.

Step 2 left

Left cut measurements.

But Tresa? I can hear you asking, Why aren’t the sides of your rectangle the same size? Good question. It’s because of how those joints need to line up for assembly. The exterior sides are longer because they don’t have to account for the width of the wood it’s joining up with. So you see in the back how the top side meets the back on the outside, while the bottom side butts up against the back? I needed to do that to get the sectional as long as I wanted it to be. If you’re changing the dimensions on this, don’t forget the width of the other piece next to it! I can’t emphasize that part enough, it’s so easy to forget you have a whole other 2 x 3 to make room for.


Step 2 detail

To make your sectional as long as mine, you could use a metal brace of some kind, but I designed it so that the sides of the sectional would seam that back together. Which is also why that back piece is 1/2″ longer than its mate across from it. It needs to overlap a bit to be able to screw into the 2 x 3 it crosses.

Step 3

With your frame built, now you’ll need legs. You need three of these little boxes. Two to go under the joints where the sides meet the back, and one to hold up the end of the chaise.

Step 4

And then you’ll need 6 of these d-shapes which are legs with back support. Cut an extra 38″ piece to create your corner piece.

Step 5

Lift the frame up onto the legs and attach with screws. In this picture you can see the crosspiece I added to make the frame stronger, the little box directly under the joint, and the corner piece. This is just one of your six d-shaped legs, but you add that second back piece onto the outer side of it to make that corner. You gotta have something for your back pieces to screw into.

Step 6

Now we just have to add the seat and back. I switched to 1 x 3 furring strips here. I cut 58 pieces 21″ long for the seat and installed those by screwing them directly into the frame. I didn’t bother measuring how much space was between each piece, I just eyeballed it to make sure that the pieces weren’t touching on one end and far enough to fall through on the other.

Step 7

The six back pieces on the right side are 84″ long, but on the long center section I wasn’t going to be able to make it all the way across with one piece, so I had to measure how long the pieces had to be to reach the leg they needed to screw into. You’re going to have to measure your own based on where that leg ends up, but in my case I cut 6 pieces to be 87″ long and 6 pieces to be 37″ long and attached them with screws into each leg’s back.

Finished Outdoor Sectional

After that everything needed a good sanding, priming, and a painting, and then I put all those cushions where they were destined to be. Of course, I also realized in a hurry that I can’t have an outdoor seating area with no place to put a cold drink, so I had to come up with a matching coffeetable. Instructions for that will be coming tomorrow.


Farmer Atticus

Tomato Picking

Since losing my little dreamhouse on Courage Street back in 2010, we’ve been renters. In the last five years we’ve lived in three houses that were pretty great, all things considered. And because we’ve had such good luck I haven’t been in a rush to re-enter the market. Plus, to be honest, I wasn’t ready to love again. I am such a home body – like, a literal agoraphobe – and a home is such an important symbol to me of the roots I long to put down and the safe place I long to create, that losing my first home of my own left a mark on me. (And of course there was the whole destroyed credit and no down payment thing that comes with having a foreclosure on your record. Curse you financial meltdown!!)

Our current house is just ridiculously gorgeous and great for us. We have amazing neighbors, Atti can use his wheelchair to get anywhere in the house, and this backyard. I mean. But it’s not ours. And I’m feeling those hunger pains again.

We went looking at a property last week and it was PERFECT. I can’t stop thinking about it. But they were asking A LOT because there were three houses on the parcel, and yet they were all trailers. To do what we’d want to do we’d have to tear everything down and build again, which would be great, except for the land being way too expensive for that to make any sense. But this land. I dream about it. Views of the mountains on one side, the valley on the other. Acres of rolling hills only ten minutes from Bear’s work. If only.

It might take us a whole other year to really get what we want because as God is my witness I’m never moving again. Bear keeps wanting to play conservative because he doesn’t want to be house poor again, I keep saying I don’t care if we’re house poor for a few years if it means that I never have to pack another box in my life. And I have my heart set on lots and lots of land. In part because I have big plans for a group home for gay kids who can work the farm to prepare for their future and save for college, but also just for Atticus. This kid is an outdoor kid.

When you spend your whole childhood in physical and occupational therapy, you get what they call “therapized.” He’s so used to being bossed around, picked up and lifted into position, told to do simple tasks that have no context, and eventually he’s gotten rebellious. At therapy he pretends he can’t stand or take steps, but at home, if there is a box of Cheerios on the counter out of his reach, he can suddenly master his body in ways I can hardly believe. It’s a constant battle to provide a reward or context that makes enough sense to him to keep doing the work it takes to move his body. And these days, it’s really hard to teach a kid to work.

But! If we had a farm! For a kid who loves playing outside so much every piece of clothing that goes on his lower body is ripped up from dragging against the concrete, whose back is as bronzed as the face of a cowboy but with a belly as pale as a lizard’s, who has callouses on his knees and his toes from the unique way he travels, on a farm, he would work.

Last night I told him that I would take him outside to pick tomatoes with me and we could send them to school for his teachers. He got so excited he jumped on my belly and giggled and refused to go to sleep. First thing this morning I got him dressed in his outside clothes as we sang about Little Atticus had a Farm and all the animals he would have and the tomatoes he would grow with a pick pick here and a pick pick there. We went to my little backyard patch and Atti – who you have to bribe to eat anything not carb based – ate every tomato that hit the bottom of the bowl. And then got entranced by “the little green ones” and picked tomatoes until he counted to 100.

He told me that the first animal he wants to get is a goat. And then a chicken so he can eat the eggs for breakfast. I want to get him a donkey he can ride around or pull him in a wagon. If we had a little donkey, he could take it hiking. Seeing how the world could open up for him in these old fashioned ways, I get teary eyed just thinking about it.

So for now we’ll have to make do with little tomatoes and wrangling cats. Because I am not settling for another house. When I move again, it will be for our Dreamfarm.


Reupholster a Kid’s Chair

Reupholster a kids chair

Reupholster a kids chair

Atti has had a fabulous but hideous chair in his room for the last few years and literally every time I go in there I twitch, looking at that cover. It’s faded and stained, and totally not hygienic. But the chair was just too perfect for Atti’s needs. It was just the right size for him, is easy for him to get in and out of, easy for him to sit in, and has sentimental value because it was given to us by one of Atti’s former therapists. Even if the chair was just like any other chair, I couldn’t bear to get rid of our reminder of Miss Margie. I had to rescue it from the crust of cheerio dust that had overcome it.

Click through for a full tutorial, including a coupon for a steal on fabric! [Read more…]


Great Ideas: Toilet Paper Holder

Toilet Paper Storage Solution
When I was a young teen I was visiting a friends house and was in the middle of using the restroom when I discovered there was no toilet paper. I had to shout across her house, her older brothers laughing at my predicament. The awkwardness that is the teen years coupled with that moment of embarrassment has seared the experience into my brain and made it so that I want my guests to never find themselves in similar trouble. But unless you happen to have a cabinet right next to the toilet, the storage solutions kind of suck. Baskets get wet, kids and pets make messes, and I have not managed to crochet a toilet roll cover that is retro cute and not just ugly.

This is a tall vase I found at TJ Maxx, and while toilet rolls will never be pretty, this vase manages to offer a skosh of elegance to a very inelegant object. The glass keeps it off the floor and away from any wetness, and tucked in behind the toilet it can even blend in until the moment it becomes necessary.

With unlimited money I’d have a cabinet installed. But $19.99 is a pretty great price to prevent lifelong embarrassment.


Crocheted Pillow Sham Tutorial

Crocheted Pillow Shams

My guest room is functional, but kind of sad looking right now. There’s not much going on in the way of decor, but I know where I want to go with it. Despite my super modern taste everywhere else, my guest room I want to look like visiting grandma’s house. I want it to be cozy and maternal and feel like you’re going back to childhood memories that aren’t even your own. So since there’s already a handmade quilt on the bed, the next thing to address was pillows.

Pillow shams make such a huge difference on a bed. I’m not a big fan of tons of excess non-functional pillows, but shams make the bed look inviting and have the added benefit of covering up your drool covered smashed down pillow you actually sleep on.

Crocheted Sham Tutorial Step 1
This is the easiest possible sewing project. No zippers or buttons to worry about, just an envelope closure. To really get the grandma look I used a vintage sheet (doubled for thickness) and cut three pieces. You need a front as big as your pillow, and then two back pieces each half the width of your pillow, plus about three inches. Add 1/2″ of seam allowance on each side. For the pillow I was using, the front measured 27″ long and 21″ wide, and the back pieces each measured 16″ long and 21″ wide. Hem one side of each back piece by folding it 1/4″ over twice and sewing down. Make sure that the side you hem will be the side that faces the middle.

Crocheted Sham Tutorial Step 2
Line the ends of the back pieces up with the front piece, letting the back pieces overlap each other in the middle. Pin in place and sew all the way around. If you’re using an easily frayed fabric like I am, it’s a good idea to zig zag or overlock stitch the edges.
Cut the corners off diagonally. This will make it so that you’ll get a sharper corner when you turn it inside out.

Crocheted Sham Tutorial Step 4
Once you’ve turned the sham right side out, you’ll need to add a row of stitches to add your crochet to. I did this with my sewing machine set to the blanket stitch, but you can also do it by hand.

Crocheted Sham Tutorial Step 5
For the crochet:
Row 1: single crochet (sc) evenly spaced around the sham in multiples of six. Just stick your hook right through that hole the blanket stitch Unless you have precision sewing skills you’ll need to use a little flexibility in where you place your stitches. Don’t stress about it too much, just work enough stitches so that the fabric can lay flat and do your best to get to a multiple of six. You can always fudge that part if you need to.

Crocheted Sham Tutorial Step 6
Row 2: Chain six. Skip 2, single crochet. *Chain 4, skip two, sc* Repeat around the entire sham except for when you get to each corner. There you’ll want to chain six to give yourself enough room to round the bend. Close with a slip stitch.

Crocheted Sham Tutorial Step 7
Row 3: *Chain 4, sc in chain 4 loop.* Repeat around the whole sham except for those corner pieces again. In each corner you’ll sc, chain 4, sc, chain 4, and then sc in the next loop. So each corner loop gets two of our pattern.

Crocheted Sham Tutorial Step 8
Row 4: Chain 4, sc in chain 4 loop, chain 4. *In next chain 4 loop, 2 Double crochet, chain 1, 2 Double crochet, chain 4. sc in next chain 4 loop, chain 4.* Repeat. Close with a slip stitch and weave in ends.

Crocheted Sham Tutorial
What a difference a couple of pillows make. This room still needs a lot of work, but it’s actually starting to look intentional now. Once I get some lamps in here and something hung up on the walls, I think this room might compete for where I usually sleep.


DIY Dollar Store Hanging Baskets

DIY Hanging Baskets

DIY Hanging Baskets

These hanging baskets can’t get cheaper and add a gorgeous pop of color to your front porch.

Hanging Basket Tutorial
Today I’m sneaking in one last summer project before I turn my attention to the changing seasons. This move has changed everything about how our family lives. We’re actually turning into outdoor kids. You guys, I have a tiny tan on my arms!

This house was SCREAMING for baskets full of plants to hang from the eaves. I could hear it begging every time I pulled in the driveway. But I have a whole lot of projects going at once, and I need a LOT of hanging baskets to get the look I wanted, and even with my sale mojo the cheapest price I could find was $15 a piece. The house might have wanted hanging baskets urgently, but I cared more about something to sit on outside.

So I did what every good crafter does. I hit the dollar store. For about $1.50 I got what I needed to make these baskets, and saved myself a freaking fortune. All you’ll need is something solid and somewhat stable, with handles on the sides. Just about anything will do. Before I found these I was going to buy a plastic punch bowl and just drill a bunch of holes.

Hanging Basket Tutorial Step 1
The first thing you’ll need to do is make a drainage hole where there probably isn’t one. I am so haphazard with my plant care I’m always either drowning them or starving them, and I have killed more than one plant (this year) by over watering without proper drainage. So learn from me, it’s not a step worth ignoring. Plastic is one of the easiest things to drill through, and I did this with just a regular old paddle bit.

Hanging Basket Tutorial Step 2

Cut two lengths of rope about six feet long, or as long as you need to get the height you want your baskets to hang from. Cross them in the middle, and then thread each end from the outside of the basket, through the handle to the inside of the basket. Stretch the ropes apart to give it a stronger base.

Hanging Basket Tutorial Step 3

Tie the two ends on each side of the basket together, and use the knot to hang from a hook. The end.

Dollar Store Hanging Baskets

For the last three months nearly all I’ve thought about is bringing our family life outdoors, and the projects I’ve been spending my time on reflect that. There’s still so much I want to do out there, but the seasons march on whether I’m ready for them or not. All the outdoor furniture living in my head will have to get to the back of the line. I’ve got Halloween to start thinking about.


Tutorial: Scalloped Bunting

Scalloped Bunting

Scalloped Bunting

Scalloped Banner
I confess I have a rather large snobby streak, and once something reaches a certain level of popularity, I go all hipster and turn my nose up at it. The pennant trend was one of my current objects of snobbery. For years now every craft fair I go to, every blog I visit, every party I attend, has different variations of the pennant banner. I get it, they’re adorable and they bring a ton of eye candy for very little effort and materials.

When I had this backyard space to dress up, I knew it was time to swallow my pride and cave to the cuteness, but I still had enough snobbery in me to try to do it in a way that was distinctly my own. So: NO PENNANTS! The answer, is scallops.

Scalloped Banner Tutorial Step 1
I haven’t seen anyone doing a scalloped banner, and that is probably because straight lines are so so so very much easier to cut. But that’s if you’re doing the cutting. In the wedding aisle they have these lovely little tulle circles all prepared for you in every season’s popular colors. I stocked up on a rainbow and grabbed some bias tape to make this project as simple as possible.

Scalloped Banner Tutorial Step 2

I layered a couple, or a few depending on the saturation of the color I wanted, folded them in half, and then secured them with a pin. They will be very wiggly, so it’s best not to go into this project with a goal of precision.

Scalloped Banner Tutorial Step 3

Sandwich the folded end of your circle inside the folds of the bias tape, and sew down. Yep. It’s that simple.

Scalloped Banner Tutorial

I hung my banners from an oak tree in our backyard using thumbtacks, but if you want to be able to tie your banner to something, just be sure and leave yourself enough ends on the bias tape. I made mine go from branch to branch in a bunch of different directions and I’m wild about the look. Atti swings on his swing and I drink my morning smoothie and we start every day with a little party.

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Tutorial: Full Length Jewelry Organizer

Mirror Jewelry Organizer
Moving to a new place means lots of new creative energy for me. There’s so many new projects on my docket I’d find it overwhelming if I didn’t love it all so much. All my old organization tricks have to be evaluated for the new space, new things need to be tweaked, and it’s a new chance to reevaluate everything. I’m having a ball.

This project has been keeping me awake at night for well over a year. Down there in my neglected sidebar list of crafty goals, this project is what I was referring to when I wrote Jewelry Organizer. But thanks to a post-move Ikea trip, I found the perfect solution to bump this to the top of the list.

I wear a lot of long necklaces – it’s the shape that flatters me the most. But they are a PAIN to store. They take up so much room and they are always getting tangled together. Whenever I see jewelry organizer tutorials I figure I must be a jewelry hoarder because my stuff could never fit in one of those tiny adorable boxes. I needed something serious, and full length. Which is when I had the idea to store them all behind a full length mirror.

Mirror Jewelry Organizer Step 1
This Ikea Stave mirror came with hinges for mounting and an open back my necklaces could nestle right inside. It’s like they saw me coming. If you don’t have an Ikea near you or they are foolish enough to discontinue this mirror, you could achieve the same effect by building a box on the back of whatever mirror you want to use. If you use recycled pallets I bet you could even do it for free. Mount it to the wall with hinges, making sure you hang it from a wall stud so it can support the weight.

Mirror Jewelry Organizer Step 2


Then you just need a bunch of cup hooks small enough to fit behind your mirror. These are 3/4 of an inch.


Mirror Jewelry Organizer Step 3


If you feel like breaking out a ruler and a level, you sure could, but I just eyeballed it all and screwed my cup hooks right into the wall, making sure I picked spots that allowed the mirror to close. Watch out for being too close to the sides or any support pieces.


Mirror Jewelry Organizer Step 4


Hang the necklaces from your hooks in a way that makes sense to you, and then close the mirror shut when you’re not getting dressed.

I’m so in love with this project. There is little in this world that makes me as happy as a great organizing solution, and with this one I also get to make my closet pretty with all the great necklaces I’ve made over the years.


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My latest Craigslist Finds

As promised, a tour of my best discoveries.

Vintage Armchair
This armchair cost me a whopping $15. The upholstery is stained, but it’s good enough to put off dealing with for awhile. Still, look at the bones!

Vintage Chair
This is not only a gorgeous Midcentury armchair, it’s a gorgeous Midcentury ROCKING armchair. And I got it for $30.

Vintage Couch
My Agnes couch, $80.

Wine cask table
This table was made out of wood used as a wine cask. Eventually I’ll give the base a fresh coat of spray paint, but I’m not touching the top. It’s marbled and stained in such a beautiful way. It was also kind of warped as the slats started to separate, but I screwed a couple of metal straps into the bottom and fixed that right up. It cost $40. The chairs came from a local thrift store and cost me $7 a piece. They’ll get new seat covers.

From that same thrift store I got these amazing little spindle legged side tables. Two of them for $24. These nestle up to the bed in the guest room.

Matching Mirror
This enormous mirror cost $15 and happens to nearly perfectly match this desk I got off of Craigslist back in Modesto. This also came from the same thrift store just around the corner. I walked in in a hurry and picked up the two chairs, two sidetables, and this mirror as quickly as if I was running to the grocery store for bread and milk.

Vintage Sideboard
Every time I look through the house I have a new favorite find, and this sideboard is currently leading the pack. This came from a little couple moving out of the area who brought me into their backyard to show off the wild turkeys. They asked if I needed help loading it into the car, and I waved them off saying I brought my big strapping husband to help. And then Bear walked in the house and the husband said, “Well goodness, he could probably carry this with one hand!” This just seems to be crying out, “I’m not cream and gold! I’m blue and gray! Save me!” Oh I will, little sideboard. I will.

I’ve gotten so many requests for my Craigslist tips that I’ll write up a post next week. You all just have to promise to stay out of my area.