Salvaged Wood Frame Gallery Wall

I’ve been waiting a long time to get my beautiful salvaged wood frame collection up on the wall- 1.5 years to be exact! We never had the room in our apartment. These frames were given to us as a wedding present from my extended family in South Africa- my aunt and cousins found them at a flea market in Johannesburg. My sister got the same gift at her wedding, so it was a very special present. As a South African-born Canadian citizen, it means a lot to have a piece of South Africa in my home.

Salvaged wood frame gallery wall

Salvaged wood frame gallery wall

The hardest part of hanging my frames was figuring out what size to print the photos and how to crop them; the frames were non-standard sizes, like 20×15 cm (roughly 5.5×7.5 inches). Printing at 5×7 inches would have been too small for the frame, and printing at 8×10 would have changed the photo too much after cropping it to size. In most cases I just edited the photos in Paint.NET, adding borders so I could print at the larger size without changing the size of the actual photo, like this:

Bride and groom on the beach

I then played around with the selection size, setting it to the size of the window in each frame, so I could preview exactly how it would look (’cause I’m picky like that). I took it one step further and took a photo of how I wanted the frames laid out, and then inserted tiny versions of each photo to get an idea of where I wanted to put them all!

Gallery wall frame layout

I know, I’m a little nuts.

Once I had that figured out, I ordered the prints and then cropped them to size. I had to switch one or two of them, but for the most part it worked out exactly how I planned.

Cropping photos for gallery wall

Hanging them was a snap thanks to a tip I read online somewhere. I traced each frame on to newspaper to form a template and stuck the templates to the wall using masking tape, centering them on the frame I wanted in the middle. Once I was happy with how it looked, I measured the back of each frame to figure out where to put the holes, and marked this with an X on each piece of newspaper. Then I drilled right through the newspaper at each X. If you’re curious about the specifics, I used a 3/16″ drill bit for the holes, then tapped in a #8 wall plug (dry wall anchor), followed by a Robertson 1- 1/2″ screw. And I did it alllllllllll by myself, with no mistakes! If you follow me on Instagram @cathyatdeardiy, I shared this photo of the process a little while back.

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Here are a few more close up shots of the frames. Check out that stamped plaster, and the tiny flakes of different paint colours.

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[Photos courtesy of LilyCreek Photography and Art Studio]

I’m so happy to finally have our wedding photos printed and framed! (psst… more details on our wedding here)

Have you tried hanging a gallery wall? Did you eyeball it or were you meticulous like me?

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Making Invitations with Inkscape

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I have used Inkscape a lot in the past few months since learning how to use it for our wedding invitations. It’s a really versatile illustrating program that uses SVG (scalable vector graphic) format, which means you can resize images without losing resolution. Best of all, it’s open source so you can download it for free!

To get more experience using Inkscape, I volunteered to make the invitations for my nephew’s 1st birthday party. They featured a photo of him being adorable, a drawing of his favourite lion stuffed animal, and a fun paw-print design.

making postcard-style invitations with Inkscape

I thought I would share the steps I used to make them, because I know I was overwhelmed when I first started playing around with the program. With a few tools in your graphic design arsenal and a bit of patience, you can make something really cute in no time! The steps below are fairly basic and you can use them to make just about anything, not just invitations. I’ve also made posters and games for baby showers, not to mention all the stationary for my wedding!

Using Inkscape to Make Postcard-Style Invitations

Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert and there are probably shortcuts to some of the steps below, but this is how I learned/taught myself. I have emphasized the important steps with pink circles so you can easily follow along.

1) First I looked at lots of different layouts and examples of invitations on Etsy, Pinterest, and Google images to decide on a layout. I wanted it to print as a 4×6 photo so I kept that in mind. My sister wanted a lion theme and wanted to include a photo of my nephew on the invitation as well, so we worked from there. When I was ready to start, I opened up Inkscape and adjusted the size of the page. To do this, choose Document Properties under the File menu and set the width/height to whatever you want. I adjusted the size of the page to 4 inches high and 6 inches wide.

adjust the page size in Inkscape

2) Next I added some layers to work with. If you’ve never worked with layers, don’t be scared. Think of layers like a pizza- the dough is the background, the sauce and cheese form the basic layout, and the toppings are what make the design! You can name the layers whatever you like so that you can easily keep track of them. To add layers, under the Layer menu select Add Layer. You can always add layers as you go, and move images between layers by using the Shift+Page Up/Down keys. You’ll know which layer you’re currently working in by looking at the bottom of the screen (don’t pay attention to my layers in these images because I didn’t follow my own advice). You can move around between layers by clicking on the dropdown menu to the right.

adding layers in Inkscape

3) In the bottom/background layer, I added a rectangle to form the background of my design. Using the rectangle tool, make a rectangle the same size as your page. Once you have your rectangle, switch to the select tool (the one at the top that looks like a mouse cursor), and under the Object menu, choose Align & Distribute. Centre the rectangle on the page horizontally and vertically. If you want a white background like I did, this step isn’t really necessary. But it’s handy to do in case you change your mind later, then you can easily select the background and change the colour (I’ll show you how to change the colour of an object later).

aligning objects in Inkscape

4) Once I had the background,  I started forming the basic layout in the layer above. This included a photo of my nephew as well as a text background to break up the invitation into defined areas. First we’ll look at how to insert a photo: under the File menu choose Import. Browse to find the location of the photo you want (note that first you should have cropped and adjusted the photo in another program). When prompted, choose Embed. Your photo will look gigantic but we will take care of that next!

importing an image in Inkscape

5) Once I had the photo embedded, I resized it so that it would cover the top left area of the invitation. Select it using the select tool and make sure you have the aspect ratio locked so it doesn’t distort. Select inches as the units (or cm or whatever you want) and then change the size so that it fits nicely on your layout. You could also drag the arrows around the image once it’s selected to change the size, just make sure you have the aspect ratio locked first!

resizing an image in Inkscape

6) The next element of the layout that I put in was a background for the invitation text. You can use any of the shape tools to make a square, rectangle, circle, ellipse, etc. I wanted an irregular shape so I used the Bezier curve/straight line tool to form it out of line segments. Using your cursor, click and drag to draw a line segment and click again to finish it. Keep going until you have a closed shape, making sure to connect the first and last nodes (the end of each segment).  You can hold down the Control key while you do this to maintain more control over the angles. If you don’t get it exactly the size/shape you want, use the same steps you used above to resize the photo. You may want to unlock the aspect ratio if you want to increase the width or height only.

creating an irregular shape in Inkscape

7) Next I changed the colour of the text background. To change the colour of any object, select it with the select tool and click on any of the colours on the bottom of the screen to set the “fill” colour. Holding down shift and clicking will change the “stroke” or the outline colour of the shape. You can choose no stroke, the same colour as the fill, or a different colour as the fill. Note that you can also modify the style of the stroke, to increase the thickness or make it a dashed line, etc. If you want to choose a custom colour, choose “Fill & Stroke” under the Object menu, and set the fill/stroke to whatever you want. I decided to use the eye dropper tool to choose a shade of blue from the photo, so that it would be complementary. To do this, just click on the eye dropper tool and then click on any image that has the colour you want. The colour will be taken from whatever area is under the eye dropper.

changing the colour of an object in Inkscape

8) Once I had formed the basic layout, I moved to the next layer to add the text and other designs. To add text, use the text tool and choose the font and size. I used 2 different fonts for mine, one cartoon-y font for emphasis and a plain serif font for the rest. Note that you should be adding text one line at a time, ie. each line of text I have here is a separate object. This is important because it will allow you to change the spacing and alignment of the text as a whole.

inserting text into image in Inkscape

9) After forming the text, I played around with the layout using the Align & Distribute function. Select the background and all of the text with the select tool. Now you can align the text however you want, making sure that you have “Relative to” set to the rectangle so that the text moves and not the rectangle (I have “Relative to” set to the first object selected, so I selected the rectangle first and then the text). I then centered the text both horizontally and vertically on the rectangle. You’ll notice that I also have the first two lines of text grouped together because I wanted them to act like one object. To “group” text (or any object), just select the lines of text you want to keep together and then hit Control+G. You can reverse this by selecting Shift+Control+G.

aligning text and objects in Inkscape

10) Once all the important information was there, I could start dressing the invitation up. To add a fun text element like I did,  first use the text tool to add your desired text. Switch back to the select tool and adjust the fill/stroke of the text to whatever colour you want. To rotate it, under the Object menu, choose Transform. Under the Rotate tab, adjust the angle.

editing and enhancing text in Inkscape

11) To further enhance the text and make it look like it was popping off the page, I played with the font size. Switch back to the text tool and click anywhere on the text. Selecting one or two letters at a time, increase the font size moving from right to left. Don’t worry about getting the font size exactly right- move back to the select tool, select the text, then drag the edges of the box to make it the size you want.

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12) Next I added a shadow in a complimentary colour to the text for emphasis. Select the text, then copy & paste it. Select the copied text and choose whatever colour you like. Move it to the layer below by selecting it and holding down Shift+Page Down, and adjust the position until it looks right.

editing and enhancing text in Inkscape

13) Remember that I said we wanted a lion theme? See any lions yet? Well, it’s time to make one! I couldn’t find an image of one that I liked so I took matters into my own hands. It really wasn’t hard at all, and I am not skilled at drawing. I formed it by combining different shapes and layering them. Use the circle/ellipse tool to make circles and ovals of various shapes for the body, arms, legs, face, eyes, etc. Then use the freehand lines tool to make the mane (making sure you close the ends of the shape) and the whiskers/mouth/tail. Use the Align & Distribute function and group, move, rotate, and modify the shapes until it looks right. Move the shapes between layers as necessary by using Shift+Page Up/Down.

creating images using shapes in Inkscape

14) To finish the invitation off, I added some a paw-prints to fill in some of the white space. I could have drawn a paw-print freehand but I cheated and used the “Trace Bitmap” feature, which is really handy. To do this I found a paw-print clipart image online, then I imported it using the same steps as importing the photo above. Once your image is embedded, select it and under the Path menu, choose Trace Bitmap. Play with the settings until you get it right… you will have to adjust the values and options depending on how complex your image is. If it’s just a simple black shape like mine, you can use the same settings. Once it’s “traced”, the traced image will be right over top of the old one, so drag it to the side so you can see both. Then delete the original.

tracing objects in Inkscape

15) Next I copied, pasted, rotated, and increased/decreased the size to make a fun pattern! If you want a regular repeating pattern, you could play with the Clone feature under the Edit menu to create tiled clones. I also changed the opacity of the paw-prints so that it wouldn’t be too overwhelming- the brown colour was originally the same as the lion’s mane, but decreasing the opacity lightened it. You can set the opacity in the Fill & Stroke menu, or just choose a lighter colour.

creating a pattern in Inkscape

16) Now all you need to do is export your invitation and print it! Select the entire design- you can do this by drawing a big rectangle around the page with the select tool. Group everything by clicking Control+G. Under the File menu, choose Export Bitmap. This will export the file as a .png image. You can then convert it to a .jpg or another image format in a different program, like Paint.NET. I saved mine as a .jpg because I wanted to print it on photo paper- if you want to print it on paper or cardstock, then skip the export step and just save the file as a .pdf. Then print away!

making postcard-style invitations with Inkscape

Yay! I hope this tutorial helps someone else. Making your own designs is fun and gives you complete control over the colours and layout- the best part is, once you invest a bit of time to make a basic design, it’s easy to modify for different purposes. I’d love to hear from you if you use this tutorial and have any suggestions to improve it or clarify anything!

 

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Acetone Transfer Tutorial

How to make a custom wedding monogram print

Wheee! Every now and then I find a project that is simple, cheap, and turns out great. This was one of them. I had previously posted about using iron on transfers to make a cute framed print, but I’m not crazy about the glue left behind from the transfer. Then my husband told me that you could use a solvent to transfer laser printed images (I’m pretty sure his motivation was not entirely altruistic… I kept threatening to try the direct inkjet print technique and I think he was scared I would break the printer) and so I set out to try it.

Note: Only a laser printer will work for this. The solvent dissolves the toner, and then you rub the back of the paper to transfer the dissolved image on to an absorbent surface, like fabric.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Acetone or lacquer thinner* (I used acetone… we’re talking full-strength)
  • Small glass bowl for the acetone/thinner
  • Image printed on a laser printer
  • Material you want to print on, like canvas or burlap
  • Iron-on fabric stabilizer (optional, but it will keep the print from looking floppy)
  • Paintbrush
  • Fine-tip Sharpie marker for touch up (optional)
  • Burnishing tool, or a spoon in a pinch
  • Tape
  • Ruler or measuring tape
  • Iron
  • Non-porous hard surface to work on, like a baking pan

*use in a properly ventilated area, especially if using the lacquer thinner! As always when working with chemicals, make sure you take protective measures and use safely.

transfer 1_watermarked

1) Iron the fabric and figure out where you want to place the transfer. Tape it in place on all sides, and brush acetone over the image (the acetone will probably make the tape not stick super well, so be careful not to touch it and keep a hand on the back of the paper). If you have a large image, you’ll want to do it a section at a time, because the acetone will evaporate quickly.

transfer 2_watermarked2

2) Quickly burnish (rub) the image to transfer it from the paper to the fabric. Pay close attention to areas that are more finely detailed (like text). Stop burnishing once the acetone has evaporated.

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3) If you want to touch up any areas, re-apply acetone and burnish again- just make sure the paper hasn’t moved. Then, peel and admire! If the image didn’t transfer perfectly, you can cheat and use a fine-tip sharpie to fill it in.

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4) If using the fabric stabilizer, iron on the back of the fabric print. You could even hot glue it to a piece of cardboard. Cut to size for your frame of choice, and you’re done!

Compared to the iron-on transfer I did, it’s a little bit more faded. The transfer doesn’t go on with the same sharp, black lines. BUT there is no glue residue, and I like the faded look! It looks even more like a vintage grain sack this way.

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Love it! What do you think, any other ideas for what I could transfer next? I have a lot of acetone left…

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Whale Baby Mobile Tutorial

whale baby mobile tutorial from DearDIY.com

After I made the felt fishies mobile for my nephew, I was itching to try another one- and a good friend of mine just happened to be expecting. I am so, so excited to finally have it done! I have been working on it for about two months now, a little bit each day. And I must say it turned out as adorably as I was hoping.

She wanted a whale/beach theme for the nursery, so we brainstormed and swapped pictures of mobiles that we found on Etsy and Pinterest. Since she knew it was a boy, we went with navy blue/light blue/yellow for the colours. She pretty much gave me creative control (hope she doesn’t regret it!) and I opted to try to recreate this one that I found from the Etsy shop hingmade:

hingmade whale mobile

I made a few changes to mine from the picture above: I used an embroidery hoop to hang it instead of the crossbars, skipped the fins and the water spouts (except for a water spout on the centre whale), used a thin white ribbon instead of white string to hang it, and used 6 smaller whales on the periphery instead of 4 large ones. And I am THRILLED with how it turned out!

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I’m going to share how I made it, so you can make one too!

Whale Baby Mobile

Supplies you will need:

  • Felt in different colours of your choosing
  • Sturdy paper to print out templates
  • Pins
  • Thread to match the felt
  • Clear wax (optional but makes hand sewing easier)
  • Buttons for eyes, if using; or contrasting thread colour
  • Batting
  • String, yarn, or thin ribbon to hang mobile
  • Embroidery hoop (I removed the hoop with the screw and used the inner one, which I spray painted white)
  • Hot glue

Instructions

  1. Cut out fish and whale shapes from felt of your choosing using the templates below. You can scale them to whatever size you wish- my whales were about 4″ long and the fish were about 3″ long. You will need 14 whale shapes (2 x 7 whales) and 14 fish shapes (2 x 7 fish). If your felt has a “good” and a “bad” side, make sure you flip the template to cut out each side.
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  2. Match the two sides of each fish and fasten with a pin.
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  3. Using a blanket stitch, sew around the edges of the felt shape. I started just before the tail on the underside, so it would be easy to stuff both the tail and the body and my stitches to finish it would be hidden (note that the fish in this photo is upside down).
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  4. Stuff the inside with batting. Use a dull object to get batting into the fins (the eraser end of a pencil works great!). Finish your stitches to close it up.
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  5. Repeat steps 2-4 with the whales, but add buttons or stitches for the eye details to the felt pieces first before sewing together.
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  6. Using a canvas/leather or other sturdy needle with a large eye, thread the whales/fishes on lengths of thin white ribbon (I used pieces about 13″ long). Tie knots to anchor, if necessary. Attach each ribbon/whale/fish to the inner circle of an embroidery hoop, spacing them out evenly.
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  7. To hang the mobile, cut 2 long lengths of ribbon (I started out with pieces that were about 32″), fold both pieces in half together and tie a knot about 2″ from the folded ends to form a loop. This will give you 4 lengths of ribbon to use as follows: 3 to tie to the embroidery hoop and 1 to hang the centre whale. Adjust the lengths until the centre whale hangs where you want it-I was tying the ribbon to the frame at about 8″ from the centre knot. It was hard to take a good photo of this step so here is a pretty drawing instead:
    hanging the frame3
  8. Test out the mobile at this point by suspending it from the centre loop. If it needs to be leveled out, move the whales around until it is balanced. Once you are happy with the placement of the whales, put a small drop of hot glue on each knot you made.

And there you have it!

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Tip for hand sewing: after a few thousand tangled stitches and much cursing, I discovered the secret: wax your thread! I used some old dental wax from my braces days, rubbed a chunk between my fingers til it was soft, and ran it along the length of thread I was using about 4-5 times. It made a HUGE difference.

Other than that, this project just took a lot of time and patience but was fairly easy and cheap to make. I’m pretty happy with the cuteness:effort ratio!
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Pallet Wood Storage Box

In my wedding décor post, I mentioned that my husband and I had made a card/gift box out of old pallets. Now that its wedding duties are over, it works as a plant shelf, storage box, and cat fur collector!

pallet box 1_watermarked

There are some really cool things you can do with pallets. Just do a Google image search for “reclaimed pallet wood” and you’ll get tons of ideas. Another pallet project that I have in the (very early) planning stages is making a coffee table with one of my friends, kinda like this one

KSwoodcrafters coffee table

(from KSwoodcrafters on Etsy)

or this one

DIY reclaimed wood coffee table

(from house updated).

To make our storage box, we more or less followed this Instructable tutorial with a few modifications. The tutorial doesn’t include measurements, so you can decide how large you want to make it. I can’t remember the exact dimensions that we used… I think we decided on the size by lining up the boards and seeing what worked so that we could minimize the number of cuts we had to make.

Here is how you can make your own:

1) Find yourself some pallets! Check your local hardware/home improvement store or any transportation hub, like a trainyard. They are usually free to a good home. Now that I know where to look, I see pallets all. the. time. And I’m always talking myself out of picking more up, like a crazy cat lady who can’t stop adopting stray cats. Except with scrap wood.

2) Disassemble the pallets using a crow bar, and discard any broken boards. For a box around this size, you probably want 2-3 pallets depending on how many boards you have to discard.

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3) Remove any nails/staples from the boards. Make sure you wear work gloves and be careful,  they are probably old and rusty!

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4) Choose the straightest, sturdiest pieces for your frame. Measure and mark your cuts with a pencil.

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5) Cut your frame pieces to size. After we did this, we also ripped the frame pieces in half lengthwise so they would be narrower than the rest of the boards.

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6) Now you’re ready to assemble your frame! Make sure that everything at this step is straight and squared off, otherwise you might find that the boards are not straight when you assemble the sides of the box. Our frame does not look square, but the floors were actually just uneven. You will need 2 pieces like this, one for the top and one for the bottom.

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7) Choose pieces for the sides of the box. Play around with the layout, since the boards will have slightly different colours/weathering. Measure and mark with a pencil, then cut to size.

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8) Attach the corner boards of the box to the frame first.

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9) Attach the rest of the boards to fill in the gaps. You may have to trim one or two boards to get them to fit.

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10) Attach the corner trim from the inside. We also used narrower pieces for this step.

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11) Cut triangles from some of the scrap pieces for the feet of the base, and attach to the bottom edges of the boards.

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12) Drop in the base and attach to the feet. We used a scrap piece of pine board we had lying around for the base, but you could also make the base the same way the top is made below (then you wouldn’t need the triangle feet).

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13) All you need now is a lid! Lay out pieces lengthwise and then use perpendicular boards on either side to screw them together (from the underside).

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14) Attach trim pieces to finish off the top edges of the box. Use hinges to attach the lid to the back of the box. Before attaching the trim, you could also line the box with some fabric, which I’m thinking of doing eventually so that we can put throw blankets and such inside without worrying about snagging. My husband also attached some leather strapping so the lid could be held open.

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15) Once your lid is attached, you can have some fun with different styles of handles and clasps. We just went with el cheapo nickel finish ones from Canadian Tire but you can play around with some different ones to get the look you want (the Instructables tutorial above did some neat stuff with adding a rusty finish to the hardware).

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So there you have it! And to think that wood was just going in the garbage. I’d love to hear if anyone else has tried something similar… Have you ever repurposed something that was going to meet its maker? If you’re my husband, that time you rescued an oscilloscope from the dumpster and gave it a new power supply doesn’t count.

-C