My Glowing, Floating Christmas Tree

633 Comments »   Posted by gretchen |  Category:Christmas, Crafts, Home Decor

This year, we went for something completely different for our Christmas tree- something that isn’t very traditional, but puts off the warm glow that I love the most about Christmas trees.

This is an original idea that came to me in a flash after seeing a photo of a large and beautiful chandelier hung close to the ground. I bought a bunch of paper lanterns (about $68) and three short strings of white lights with white wire (about $10). I explained my original idea to Brian, which was to pile all of the lanterns on top of each other from the bottom up, but he suggested we hang it all from the ceiling. I loved that idea even more!

Putting the whole thing together was pretty simple:

We originally planned on using fishing line to connect all of the lanterns, but those sure can get tangled up with each other (and the lights) rather quickly! We used the fishing line just to suspend the top lantern, and the rest of the lanterns are just connected with paper clips! That made putting it together go pretty fast, with the benefit of all of the lanterns having equal spacing. The cord for the lights go down to the floor, so I need to wrap some more presents to cover that up.

I can see this being used in the entry of a bigger home at the holidays, or even in a store-window display (maybe a visual merchandising career is in my future?).

I really had a lot of fun putting this together, a huge part of which was just going through the creative process. I think I’m not the only one that gets so caught up in the daily stuff that I forget how wonderful it feels to be creative and make something with my hands.

Photos: Gretchen Lilly

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Winterized the Door

No Comments   Posted by gretchen |  Category:Crafts, Home Decor

The holiday West Elm catalog features the work of Dana Tanamachi, who I blogged about last January here. Page six in the catalog motivated me to decorate the front door for December:

Photos: Gretchen Lilly


Easy Bed Slipcover

No Comments   Posted by gretchen |  Category:Crafts, Home Decor

This has got to be one of the easiest sewing projects I’ve ever done- probably because it involves no sewing at all! I was looking to update the look of our bed and add a bit of storage as well. I was inspired by Nick Olsen’s work featured in House Beautiful last August- the upholstered headboard and the tip on lifting up the bed, in particular. You can see how our bedroom looked previously here.

I slipcovered the headboard and footboard with canvas drop cloths I found at Home Depot. I bought two drop cloths- one for the head and foot of the bed, and one to make a bed skirt (not photographed). I cut the drop cloths in half, and wedged the fabric between the mattress and box spring for the bed skirt. I draped the fabric over the headboard and footboard, wrong side out, and pinned in place with safety pins. Then I flipped the covers inside out like a pillow case, and draped over the bed!

The whole project cost around $40! Not bad for a whole new look.

Photos by: Gretchen Lilly

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This Cover

No Comments   Posted by gretchen |  Category:Crafts, Fashion

American Craft August/September 2010. This cover really made an impression on me when it came out last summer, and I keep coming back to it. American Craft usually has very striking, artistic covers, but this one stands out. I love how it conveys a story about one man’s contribution to society.

Father Andrew O’Conner heads up Goods of Conscience, which takes textiles from Guatemala and sews them up in the Bronx. All of the weavers and sewers are paid a fair wage.


Drawing it Out

No Comments   Posted by gretchen |  Category:Crafts, Inspiration


While I’ve always fancied myself a creative-type, I’ve always felt a bit embarrassed about my drawing abilities.  I mean, you’d get the point of what I was drawing, but things always had a cartoonish-this-isn’t-real quality.  The whole reason I took photography as my elective throughout high school is because I reasoned, “If you can’t draw, photograph.”

Anyway, my drawing self-confidence is way up, thanks to a fashion illustration class I’ve been taking.  I don’t know if it’s my teacher specifically, but when someone breaks down the drawing process, things just come together.  I know I have many hours of practice ahead of me, but just knowing that I can get my ideas down on paper has really gotten the creative wheels turning.


Bubble Lamp

No Comments   Posted by gretchen |  Category:Crafts, Home Decor



I just finished making this pendant lamp yesterday, and I’m quite happy with myself.  I keep forgetting it’s in my bedroom now, so every time I walk in, I get a nice surprise.  I’m really happy with how it looks, and not just because I made it.  It provides a lot more light than the last lamp we had in the corner AND it is helping my bedroom not look like an Ikea catalogue.  Don’t get me wrong, I really like the stuff they have to offer, I just want to avoid the too-much-Ikea look.

So, way back in March, Anna at Door Sixteen posted about globe cluster lamps, which led me to the directions on how to whip up this little number (designed by Jean Pelle) at ReadyMade.  Being the procrasinator I am, I first thought about making it, and then decided I did, in fact, want to make it, and then I procrastinated buying the supplies.  I bought all of the supplies over a two month period, and my procrastinator’s guilt finally took over, and I made the whole thing over two days.  A non-procrastinator could order the supplies online and have the whole thing made next week.  I like to spread my projects over a nine month period.

The directions are pretty clear, but here a few tips:

1. No one lists postal string by it’s width in inches.  Look for “medium” and “heavy” string.

2. If you don’t want wooden skewers taking up drawer space, look for a 1/8″ dowel at the craft supply store.

3. Don’t pay attention to the string lengths- cut all of your string at least a third longer than it says.

4. If you have access to a soldering gun, use it to fuse the wires.  Then keep your eyes peeled for white electrical tape.

5. Try to use a cord meant for a giant paper lantern instead of an extension cord.  Brian had one left over from college, and it came with a little switch on it AND little plastic loops for putting it through a ceiling hook.

Now that my attention is drawn over to this corner of the room, I’m realizing that it needs something on the walls… The decorating domino effect happens again.


Grocery Bag Art

1,353 Comments »   Posted by gretchen |  Category:Crafts, Home Decor, Travel


When we lived in Santiago a few years ago, trips to the Jumbo grocery store were an event I’d look forward to.  First of all, it’s more than just a grocery- they carry things like coat hangers and DVDs.  They also carry American foods like peanut butter and toaster strudel that were impossible to find anywhere else.

Brian saved a bunch of the Jumbo grocery bags, and they were just sitting in a drawer, when inspiration struck.  I decided that the adorable Jumbo elephant would look great next to the deer featured on my Adelaide Fringe poster.  I cut the logo off a bag and put it in a record frame.  When we moved into our current place, Brian reminded me that there were a few more bags, so I picked out a few more to frame.  We’re now greeted by a collection of happy elephants every time we enter our place.

Bonus photo:

The mayonnaise aisle at a Jumbo.  A security guard came up to me after I took this photo.



Lace Garland-Yea or Nea?

1,591 Comments »   Posted by gretchen |  Category:Crafts, Home Decor, Sewing

Livy at A Field Journal posted about this beautiful paper lace garland a while ago.  I finally got around to making it (sewing machine/ motivation issues) and put it up above the bed.  I’m not totally satisfied.  Should I make some more?  Should I put the garland somewhere else, and then put some sort of wall hanging above the bed?  I really like the garland itself, I just don’t know if it should go above the bed.




Bookshelf to Hutch Transformation


I think you’d be hard pressed to find a 20something who doesn’t have a particle board bookshelf in her apartment.  I think they’re so ubiquitous because real wood bookshelves are: a) expensive and b) tend to look like they were made by the Amish.  In our last place, we used our bookshelf to hold books.  We bought an Expedit bookcase from Ikea to hold our books and hobby supplies, so ye old particle board bookshelf was just sitting there.  I then came up with the brilliant idea of transforming it into a hutch.  I thought it would make our dining area seem a bit more obvious, as if the hutch is saying, “Yes, see, people eat here… my plates and various crockery are proof!”

To spruce up the old girl, I first took out the top two shelves and attached craft paper with double sided tape to the back.  I did kind of a crummy job cutting the top of the paper, so I’m on the hunt for some cute tape to cover up the jagged edge.  It is amazing how just some brown paper really gave the bookshelf some more depth.

I have these great dessert plates from Anthropologie that were a birthday gift from my sister a few years ago.  Sadly, they’ve just sat in my kitchen cupboards all this time!  I attached them to the back of the shelf with that putty you can use to put up posters.  I also made a little snake of putty that I put on the bottom of each plate to help them stay put.  They’ve been up for a few days now, and they’re holding quite well.

I found some clearance Amy Butler fabric (like $5 a yard!) to make the skirt.  I just did a quick sew job, as if I were making a little curtain.  A tension rod holds it up.

Now, the funny thing about all this is that with the exception of the desert plates, I don’t actually own any dishware worth showing off.  The antique radio (it still works!) passed down through Brian’s family seems to compensate just a bit.




All and all, the transformation cost about $10.   Anyone else have a cheap and quick furniture transformation?


New Martha Stewart Scissors

No Comments   Posted by gretchen |  Category:Crafts, shopping

I am the proud owner of two new pairs of craft scissors!  I stopped by Michael’s today, after reading on Decor8 that all Martha Stewart Crafts products are 25% off until May 23rd.  I’d seen Martha talk about her scissors on her show a few weeks ago, and this sale was the perfect reason to pick them up.  I got a pair of all purpose scissors (regular size), and a pair of precision scissors (small).  My mom taught me the importance of having separate fabric scissors, but I hadn’t thought of having dedicated paper scissors until Martha talked about it on her show.  Also, we just moved, and our regular old purple handled scissors have gotten packing tape gunk on them from opening up all the moving boxes.

They both cut really well, and you can adjust the tension on the blades (for cutting through thick paper).  I also wanted to get them because each pair comes with a plastic pouch that snaps shut AND a plastic blade cover.  I’m really looking forward to using the small ones on upcoming projects- I like the idea of making small, precision cuts on my collages.


As I said above, the sale is on ALL of her products- there were some really cute labeling stickers that I just may have to go pick up before the sale is over.