Making and Crafts : Faux Birch Bark Wrapped Vases

November 23, 2011 08:02 by ehouston

As promised, I am back with the craft I had in mind when deciding to create the faux birch bark paper earlier in the week.  For our fall tabletop décor and Thanksgiving dinner display I made simple wrapped vases for some seasonal flowers.  I started with a base of, you guessed it, cardboard containers!  Yep, one oatmeal and two grits cylinders from my stash.


I just measured around the middle and the height of each container, adding a bit at the top and bottom to help hide what lies beneath.   I also added about 1.5 inches to the end for a nice overlap.  Marked those measurements on the faux birch bark and cut out the pieces.   A bit of glue and a jute ribbon and it’s Fineet-O!


As per usual, my helper was in full force.  He is always on hand and willing to lend some heavy equipment when our projects start to get tough. 

One thing to keep in mind when creating your faux birch bark AND when cutting it out for use, is that the scraggly ends of the paper look a lot like the scraggly ends of real birch bark.  Try to use these portions strategically in your project for an even more realistic effect.


I was able to use the wrinkled, scraggly ends on two of my containers as a focal point placing the jute bow right on top.


In the shot above you can see how I left about 1/8th of an inch of paper above the edge of the containers.  I just thought the faux bark made a better edge than the lip of the food cylinders.



These were quite easy to make and I think they create the rustic effect I am looking for in our tabletop display.  Oh yeah, you are probably wondering how I planned to add flowers.  I know you know, that I know I have told you before that I prefer the real deal to fake flowers, so some waterproofing was in order. 


I just popped a couple of Solo cups and an old vase into the faux birch bark containers.


Of course, if you are into faux flower arrangements a floral block glued down in the bottom would allow you to do whatever you like with your blooms.  I would recommend weighting the bottom with some marbles or gravel though, since they are pretty light weight and could get top heavy once the arrangement was complete.



These last two shots are just a sneak peek at where I am headed with the décor for the feast.  I will be posting on Friday with more on our homemade fall decorations, so stay tuned and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

Kitsch Krafts

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Making and Crafts : Faux Birch Bark

November 21, 2011 08:29 by ehouston

That’s right, I’m talking about birch trees again.  I know they are over-the-top popular right now, but I have always had a thing from them and I don’t care that they are being plastered on everything right now.  Birch trees are plentiful where I am originally from, so they bring a smile to my face and remind me of home when I see one.  What I am actually talking writing about today is birch bark.  so, there! 

(Image from Wikipedia)

I have been wanting to decorate with birch bark for the fall and since it can kill the tree to remove pieces of the bark I thought I might fake it instead.  Sir Google did not land as many tutorials as I had hoped.  None really.  Just a couple of sites that mentioned using wet paper and tissue for texture, and then some paint for the details.  So, with little instruction available I set out to see what I could come up with.

One online source used heavy watercolor paper and toilet tissue and the other suggested brown craft paper and wrapping tissue.  I chose the latter and even went a step further in frugality and cut open some brown paper grocery sacks to use as a base.  I liked the idea of using the brown paper over the watercolor paper not only because the expense would be less, but I thought the brown color would add more to the final product.  Also, after eyeing my watercolor pad I knew it would not be big enough for my final projects and the toilet tissue we use has little flowers “quilted” into each square.  I figured birch trees don’t have those sort of details, unless they grow in the world of Care Bears.  Although I didn’t expect this fake version to look like real bark, I was hoping for a fairly close second.

I started by cutting open the grocery sack so it would lay flat, and then tore the tissue into random widths.


For the first attempt I just tore up the tissue and did not pay much attention to the size of the pieces.  In general I would say they were about 1.5 to 2 inches wide.  For the second go around I decided to purposefully tear larger (2.5 to 3 inch) pieces and then much smaller and skinnier pieces.  I even managed to rip some of the skinny pieces into thin points at one end, which curled nicely once dry.



I even got a little help from my friend.  The next step was to slather watered down glue all over the brown grocery sack.  To prove how easy this project is (and to boost the cute factor) I included these photos of my Little Guy helping me tear and paint.



He was really quite good at the basic steps of this project and for a crankster 2 year-old cutting a record breaking 3 molars at once, I was impressed.  Of course, as soon as the “paint” ran out he had a total meltdown and we had to stop the project for some cuddle time.


After thoroughly coating the base paper I laid the torn tissue strips across the wet areas, adding more layers on top as I worked my way across the base.  Once I got to the opposite end I went back with some very watered down black tempura paint and added some of the details you see in birch bark.  I wet the area to paint and then pretty much just dragged my brush gently across the tissue, stopping periodically to add darker blobs to mimic knots in the wood.  I chose tempura paint because it was readily available since I use it with my son all the time, but also because it dries with a matte chalky texture, rather than glossy like acrylics. 


The photo above shows the two versions that I completed in a very short period of time (maybe an hour tops).  I worked across the bag lengthwise on the top piece, overlapping the tissue sheets as I went along to keep from getting any distinct lines from where the strip ends met.  The bottom piece was completed in the opposite manor, working across the bag widthwise.  I also experimented with the layers in the bottom piece.  From right to left, the first third has three large strip layers and then a top layer of thinner strips.  The middle section has two large strip layers and one layer of thin strips, and the very last third has one layer of large and then one of small strips of tissue.


The top piece in this picture was a bit drier than the bottom piece and shows more pucker and wave, much like real birch bark.


This last shot was just to show each piece with the bark patterns going in the same direction.  Because the one on the left is still a bit wet in this shot it appears darker, but I am sure it will become much lighter once it completely dries.

Just to recap, this is one of the easiest projects I have ever completed and the results look pretty darn close to the real deal.  A few tips to offer are that the tissue seems to disappear against the brown paper when wet, but will become very white once dry, so keep that in mind when layering.  Having some of the brown grocery sack showing through does add to the final look.  Also, try to overlap the tissue strips as you add them to keep from getting really dark, built up lines where each piece meets.  Adding thinner strips to the top layer adds more dimension, giving the finished product a more realistic texture.

I hope this helps anyone else out there interested in attempting to fake some birch bark.  I can’t wait to start cutting into this paper to finish up my Thanksgiving décor.  Whew! Just in time!  So, how are you guys decorating your spaces for the big Turkey day?

Kitsch Krafts

PS- I just entered this project in the Show Me What You Got! link party over at Not JUST A Housewife blog.  Go check out all the cool projects that are listed and add yours too, if you like!

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Pinterest Challenges

October 28, 2011 06:56 by ehouston

By now most of you know about Pinterest, the online “bulletin board” for pinning neat things you find while web surfing.  As usual, I have been slow to the game, but like most internet activities it’s a total time-suck.  If my laptop was up and running I would probably be able to do more Pinterest damage, so to speak.  Right now it is so infected that I can’t even open the browser without it slowing to a crawl so that a million pop-ups can load first.  I’m waiting for my tech guy (big HA!) to help me fix it all up.  With the popularity of pinning for DIY ideas many bloggers have started to submit challenges for themselves (and others) to make something they find.  The most well-known is probably over at Young House Love.  The challenge is to use the images as inspiration, or a direct plan for trying to knock-off something much more expensive, but way outside of the budget.  It’s a good idea, really.  At least it helps to get some of us away from the internet for a while.  ;o)  My few little pins so far have been more of the latter.  And, while I have not been interested in jumping on the Pinterest Challenge bandwagon yet, I did stumble upon something this past week to help change my mind.

Here is a recap of the circle of events to bring me to this place:

Months ago a friend of mine mentioned having seen an image of a wall with family photos arranged in a heart-shaped collage.  The first image to come to mine was that of an outline of a heart in photos pinned to the wall with thumbtacks, and it did sound like a really cute idea.  My friend said she liked it, but wanted something more permanent and would rather do one with small framed photos.  Later I realized the idea was to have a collage of photos making, not just outlining, a heart shape.  DUH!  Again, I thought it was a cool idea and then I promptly forgot about it. 

Fast forward a few more months and I’m sitting on my bed staring at the large blank wall that I have to look at every morning when I get up and every day as I pass through to the office.  I’m thinking to myself that I would really love to do a family photo collage of just the three of us, and wouldn’t this spot be nice to house it since it is such a large expanse of open space?  After these thoughts passed through my mind they were followed with a little laugh in realizing how FAR down the “To-do” list this wall and that photo collage would be.  Oh well, back to reality.

Over the course of the last few weeks I started noticing a large number of small wooden frames whenever I browsed at the local Sal. Army store.  I never have time to really look through them because stopping means the Little Guy, who is usually in tow, will begin rummaging crazily through anything within reach.  To avoid having to pay for broken hideous tchotchkes I usually take note and quickly move on through.  When I ran in to purchase the mini-hutch that is still drying down in the garage, after a second coat of stain, I took some time to look through the frames.  I was happy to see that many were wood and still had decent glass.  I was also happy to see that they were all $.99 and about half of what I wanted had mats too!  Score!  So the collecting started and I figure after a few more weeks I should have enough to put together a nice collage.

Then I was sifting through Pinterest and I found this image,

Pinned Image

Heart Shaped Photo Collage, I believe from the blog, Click It Up a Notch.

I had already pinned this image earlier,

Pinned Image

from Milly Bee.  And, the thought of centering our handprints and surrounding them with lot’s of fun family portraits had me over the moon!

So, I’m doing it!  I’m taking on a Pinterest Challenge.  Just me…lil’ ol’ me.  Hey, I’m gonna do it anyway, so why not make it a challenge?

I have the frame collection started, I just need to get the handprints completed ASAP, since The Mister is about to embark on a record breaking amount of work travel over the course of the next few weeks.  Yeah, we know, who makes people travel all over the country right during the holidays?  The company my husband works for, that’s WHO!

For my version I will be using mismatched frames painted out in white with black and white photographs.  At least I’m leaning toward black and whites right now.  I have a pretty good idea of what pictures I plan to use already since I have been wanting to do a family collage for a while, and once I figure out all the sizes I will need I can order up the prints.  I think the handprints will be white on dark gray paper with the Little Guy’s in red.  We will have to play around with that part. 

As per the norm around here at Kitsch Designs, I’m keeping this project on a retro sort of budget, collecting the frames from junk stores and sale racks over the course of the next few weeks.  The challenge ends the week after Thanksgiving, unless I somehow finish before that time and I will keep you posted on the progress over the next month.

Do you have anything pinned on your “To-do” boards that you would like to knock out over the next month with me?  Please share!

Kitsch Krafts

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Inspiring Read : GreenCraft Magazine

October 7, 2011 05:25 by ehouston

I came across this magazine today while browsing Joann’s and decided to grab a copy so I could take a little more time with the lovely images.


As you can imagine, with my love of textiles that headline “Vintage Fabrics Revamped” caught my eye.  It’s a pretty interesting concept.  The whole magazine is all about recycling and repurposing items.  Anything from castoff cardboard and paper being made into jewelry, to old linens sewn into new clothing.  There are lots of articles like this out there, but a whole magazine dedicated to the topic is quite inspiring. 

Do you guys have any projects you are working on right now that involve reworking something old and seemingly useless into something new and useful again?  Are you looking for a lot of neat ideas in one spot?

Check it out!

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Making And Crafts : Paper Mache Projects Via

September 21, 2011 05:21 by ehouston

I just had to share this project idea that I received through one of my email subscriptions to Better Homes and Gardens’ website.  As you may remember, last year I went crazy with the paper mache pumpkins, which I cannot wait to set out again this year. 


It’s one of those media forms that I always keep in the back of my mind as a solution to get something I want but cannot afford, since it really is so easy and inexpensive to work with.  Now, these project ideas from have me inspired to start tearing up some newspaper STAT! 

Papier-mache vase

Initial Vase from recycled materials

I have been admiring all the variations of faux taxidermy over at Etsy for years and have always wondered if it was a project I could tackle. I usually lean toward the fabric mountings, but paper mache might be the way to go.

Deer animal-head plaque

Paper Mache Deer Head

A deer and an elephant head, along with a jackalope and we will have our own version of a hunting lodge in no time at all!

Kitsch Krafts

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Making and Crafts : Vintage Scrubber Magnet Board

August 4, 2011 23:17 by ehouston

As you all know, I have been busy cleaning up and cutifying our laundry area.  The last few posts here and at Chic Tweaks have been more detailed descriptions of the vintage items I fixed up and used to decorate that space.  I just posted about the curtain and valance project over there, and earlier this week I let you in on where those storage boxes came from, here.  Now, I wanted to share the magic of crafting a magnet board from an old scrubbing board.  Are you ready?  It’s so amazing and you are going to want to run out and find a scrubbing board and make this for your home right away!  Here comes the details….hold on tight to your seat….

You take your scrubbing board, exhibit A….


Exhibit A

…and a couple of screws, preferably old looking ones to keep the vintage feel….


…and screw them into the sides in a sturdy area of the wood…


…and then tie a short length of rope to the screws.  Amazing, right!?! 

I know, way too easy.  Once you are finished with the really hard part of adding the rope hanger you can just loop it over a hook.  Or, in the case of our laundry room, you can drill a hole, push a 2 inch wooden dowel into that hole and glue a vintage button to the end for fun.  However, the best part of this whole project, aside from the finished piece, was really in making the magnets to go along with the magnet board.

First I gathered some of my favorite vintage buttons in colors I thought would sort of coordinate with the other colors of the laundry room.  Oh, and I bought a packet of magnets too.


Using needle-nose pliers I broke the backs off the buttons to make them as flat as possible.  This was messy and I would suggest eye protection.  Some of those old Bakelite buttons shatter in a most unexpected way.


I arranged and rearranged the stacks until they were perfect.  Then I used a hot glue gun to glue together the button stacks and then the stacks to the magnets.


I think the end result is pretty charming and now I can leave notes for myself, or The Mister, as a last minute reminder or cheery boost for the day as we walk out the back door.


For more information on this neat vintage find click here.



As the Columbus Washboard Co. says on their website, “May all your laundry days be warm and breezy.”

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Making And Crafts : Diaper Box Storage

August 1, 2011 07:19 by ehouston

Continuing the theme of creating something useful from discarded containers (remember the castle from last week?  Or, the hamper from last year?) I wanted to share yet another way I am using old diaper boxes.  You may have glimpsed the storage on the upper shelves of the laundry room in the pictures I posted Friday about that remodel in process.


There is one up there to the left side of the window and….


…another on the right side.

They are being used as storage for seasonal items; mainly our pool gear, towels, toys, swim diapers, etc.  This spot is a little far out of reach.  Even with all of my 5 feet 9 inches I can just barely pull them down, so I don’t like to put things I need to get to very often up that high.  I tried leaving the shelves empty and then considered just putting some plants up there as I did on the dryer (see shot above).  Plants always add something nice and fresh to a space, I think.  Since I prefer to use live plants I decided that trying to get up there to water them might lead to dead plants.  Just bein’ honest.  I’m lazy like that.  After some hemming and hawing I decided storage was in order and it  definitely needed to be for something I only needed to access once in a while.  Also, because this is an entrance into our home, albeit our private entrance from the garage, I still wanted things to be pleasing to the eye when you walked in.  We can’t hide the washer or dryer or the ugly plugs or water hook-ups.  So, I have attempted to make things decent in all the other areas.  I already had the little wicker baskets (from Target, of course!) holding our dog’s brushes, old collars, leashes, flea repellents, you get the picture and I wanted something similar.  Well, once you move past the itty-bitty sizes in those square storage baskets the prices really start to go up.  At the time I was looking I was seeing $40.00 plus dollars for each covered basket.  And, since this was not necessary storage, just “I want something aesthetically pleasing to fill the gap” storage I could not justify spending nearly $100.00 to make this far off area pretty.  Plus, I’m simply cheap.

Out with the cute matchy basket idea and in with the diaper boxes.  We only have what seems like a million of these things hanging around here.  You can’t open a closet in this joint without seeing a diaper or wipes box shoved in, either to store it for a later use or because it’s being used to store something else.  I know I’m not the only one…who’s with me here?  Can I get a Hallelujah?

If you want to make covered diaper box storage here is what you will need:

2 diaper boxes for one finished box (this project took 3 total)

Packing tape

Primer or light colored paint

Paper or fabric for covering the box (The amount will depend on the size box you are covering.)

Contrasting paper or fabric for covering the box top

Batting for the box top if you are using fabric

Glue (I used hot glue and a glue stick for convenience)

Utility knife


Pen or pencil

First, I pulled together two decent, non-dented or scrunched, 144 count sized boxes and a third that had decent top flaps.   Then I used the packing tape to close the top flaps of the two nice boxes.  You will want to take your time lining the flaps up and making the tape neat and tight because this will end up being the top to your finished box.


Next, mark a line about 1.25 inches down from the top of the box all the way around.  (Remember these measurements are for the boxes pictured.  You will need to adjust the measurements to suit your needs.)  I wanted to save the end handle space for my final product so I left a bit of room above the handle hole for stability.  I would probably go wider if the handles were not in play, just for visual balance later.  If you don’t want to use the handles, push the cutouts back into the sides, smoothing them out as much as possible and then cover both the outside and inside with the packing tape.  The goal would be to get the smoothest end panels as possible.  I just followed along the fold line and removed the flap completely.


Use the utility knife to cut along the line you marked all the way around the sides of the box.  Take your time in doing this and employ light pressure and several passes to get through the cardboard completely.  Going slowly here will ensure straighter, less jagged edges and no loss of fingertips.


Once you have cut through your line you will now have a skinny top and a nice little bottom.  Next, carefully remove the top flaps of the third box.  Measure and mark a line down the middle of the flap length and then cut the piece in half.  Now, mark a line about 1.25 inches from one of the edges.  Make two of these flaps for each box and set them aside for later.


Be smarter than me and prime over the cute little crawler and any other dark or bright markings on your box.  I just used some flat white wall paint that was leftover from the nursery project to hide the images.  Initially I thought the extra thick paper I used would cover the markings on the box, but after gluing down one side it became obvious that the little baby would be mocking me from high above as I folded pile after pile of laundry.


NOW, get out your paper or fabric and start covering your box!  I found this cool, white on white embossed paper at a local thrift store for $1.50.  It was an unopened roll from Hallmark and you know it was waaaaay more than a buck, fiddy brand new!


I just placed the box on the paper the same way you would when wrapping a gift, and did some quick marking with a pencil to know where to cut.  Once I had cut out the first piece I used it to cut three more.  This was after realizing one piece would go around one long and one short side of the box, with enough extra to turn under the edges.  This made for easy placement after rubbing a glue stick all over each side of the box.  By the way, I did not cover the bottom, but I did add enough along the top edge to wrap around the box lip.


(As you can see above, I had help during the early stages of this project.  Before nap time, someone was building things with his blocks and throwing them into the open box I was trying to cut and cover.  Yep, that is a super sharp utility knife sitting right next to his blocks.  Mom of the Year- right here!  YES!)

I cut a tiny sliver out of each corner before wrapping over the lip of the box.


Speaking of the box lip (I know you have been wondering) now is the time to get those flaps out that you cut from the top of the third box.  With the plain, brown side facing in glue the flap to the inner top edge of the long side of the box.  Use the line you marked as a guide to line it up with the top edge of the box side.  Then add the second flap to the other side


It should look like this….


…and here is a closer view.


There you have the pieces that will hold the top in place, also known as the lip of the box.  ;o)

Now, continue to glue and wrap the paper around the sides and edges of the box.  If you are using the handles, carefully make slits from the center of the circle cut out to the edges and then pull the paper flaps back, gluing them to the inside (see picture below).  At this point you will want to wrap the box top in either the same paper or fabric used on the bottom portion of the box or in a contrasting paper or fabric.  I chose to use plain dark brown cotton fabric found in my stash and I added a panel of batting to the top only.  Then I wrapped the the fabric around the edges and glued along the inside.  For convenience I used hot glue to hold all the paper and fabric edges into place.  This allowed me to keep moving with the project without fear of the edges coming loose or moving.  Which also meant I was able to finish this project in one afternoon while the Little Guy took his nap.


This is what you end up with.  Not bad for simple storage.  Even better that I owned all the supplies already, so it felt pretty free.  Yeah!  You can just barely see in the picture below, how the batting adds a little bit of loft and curve to the top of the box.  Because the top is so thin I felt like it needed something to give it a little more weight.  Especially with the dark color.  Now, when that band of brown catches my eye as I walk into the laundry area it appears to be more balanced with the bottom portion of the box.


Here they are again in their new homes.



Have any of you come up with good ways to reuse diaper boxes?  There are probably whole websites dedicated to this topic.  Hmmmm….maybe I will head on for some Googling now. 

oh, that sounds dirty, doesn’t it?  sorry….

Kitsch Krafts

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