I consider myself a crafty-ish person. I love to create and customize and transform. Plain black phone case? Blasphemy! A simple vase? It cannot be! My happy places are thrift stores and Hobby Lobby, my drugs of choice are glue guns and spray paint. One of my biggest character flaws is admiring something, turning over the price tag and scoffing, “Psh, I could make that myself.” I’m no Pinterest-level crafter, but I’m easily excited and often obsessive, so the thrill of a project gets me hooked, leaves me needing to scratch the itch. However, another character flaw of mine is overestimating my abilities, underestimating the cost, and just not even trying to estimate the time it would take to complete a project. My modus operandi often looks like this:
Step 1: Like something. Anything. It could be a wreath at Hobby Lobby, a craft from Pinterest, or a completely original idea. Either way, the seed is planted.
Step 2: Lie awake at night and allow all thoughts to be consumed by step 1. Food has no taste, birds have no song. There is only the empty hole inside me (or the blank wall in my house) which may only be filled by the completion of the project.
Step 3: Drop major hints to my understanding, patient, and forgiving husband. These hints include, but are not limited to: texts, Facebook messages, re-directing every conversation back to the potential project, and lying in the floor moaning.
Step 4: Curse the man who shot down the 24-hour craft store idea at 4am while simultaneously fantasizing about how much more improved my life would be if I could just jump into the project.
Step 5: Obtain the all-clear and run to Hobby Lobby. It’s go time.
Step 6: Spend 8 times the cost of the premade item that inspired the project on supplies alone.
Step 7: Come home and set down the Hobby Lobby bags.
Step 8: Forget about the project.
Step 9: Move the Hobby Lobby bags full of project supplies to the closet, stacking them on top of the other piles of Hobby Lobby bags full of project supplies. Note that 75% of the project supplies in these newest bags could have been found in the mound beneath, the Craft Idea Graveyard.
Step 10: Start all over at Step 1.
Okay, I don’t ALWAYS fall through. I really have completed several projects. Those have gone like this:
Step 1: Jump in with no measurements, plan of attack, or time estimate.
Step 2: Hope for the best.
Most of my ideas are really just creative holes to throw money into. But this knowledge – and the mountain of unused craft supplies – does nothing to deter me when an idea takes hold. I need a seasonal centerpiece and I need it NOW. So when I found a $5 side table and repainted it a few months ago, my husband was
shocked impressed and I was hooked. The high was too great and too short. I needed MORE. I looked around my home for an opportunity to take on an entirely too-big project that exceeded my experience and abilities, and my eyes settled on the dining set.
It was more than 10 years old, and had served us well. It was small and round, had a glass top that was easy to clean and hard to stain or scratch, and 4 chairs (which had, of course, been spray-painted by me many years ago). However, we are now a family of 5, with the youngest just about out of her high chair, and there was no room for a 5th chair at our tiny, trusty table.
I began the hunt.
Many, many late nights on Craigslist and countless unanswered emails later, I found a steal of a deal on the perfect table… but it came with 4 chairs. Me being me, I set back out, and months later found 6 chairs… as part of a set. We now had 3 dining sets in our home. THREE. 14 chairs. I combined the table from the first “new” set and the chairs from the second… but there was a big problem. The chairs looked like they came from a church office circa 1992.
This was it. My moment. My chance to tackle a big project with big results, to scratch the itch, to create and transform and emerge from a project covered in paint and glory. The chairs were incredibly detailed, but those features were lost in the darkness of the wood, so I decided to paint them. This is where you find out how basic I am: I painted them white. Well, technically, I primed them white. Twice. THEN painted them white. THREE times. I also ran out of primer. Twice. And ran out of paint. TWICE. Always one to overestimate my abilities and underestimate supplies, it took me and my 8-year-old three days to do this. Not only did I not buy enough primer and paint, I didn’t buy enough masks. Meaning, I bought zero masks. After watching his first few sprays, I sent the kid inside for the sake of his lungs and brain cells.
Fun fact: bird poop is also white. So while priming and painting outside, I occasionally discovered surprise lumps that had to be dealth with.
At this point, I was over it. I’d already invested about 4 hours JUST in DUSTING the chairs, cleaning them up, killing the spiders who had made a lair under the seats during their time in storage.
I was determined to do this project the RIGHT way. With the money we’d invested (even though I’d found killer deals) and the amount of use these chairs would get, I really wanted to put forth the effort and know I did my best. But dear GOD. 4 hours for cleaning? Shouldn’t the entire project have been finished in 4 hours?!
After dusting and cleaning and priming and painting and coughing and sweating and fearing that the neighbors could see me bending over in incredibly unflattering shorts at even more incredibly unflattering angles, they were dry. Finally, the time had come for glaze. This was the part I was most excited about. This was the moment when angels would sing and all those details in the chairs would come forth, like a hero emerging from battle, worn and glorious. Yeah, all those details. All. Those. Details. The thing about glazing that nobody tells you is how futile it feels. There’s the first “Oh, crap, what have I done?!” moment when you paint the suuuuper dark glaze over what you’ve just spent a month painting.
Then, once you’ve got an area good and covered…. you wipe it off. Yeah. After obsessing over every nook and cranny and carving, making sure every little detail is covered, you just wipe it off. Like it was no big deal, like you didn’t just pour your heart and soul into even strokes and hard-to-reach corners. You wipe it off and what’s left behind is meant to look accidental. And remember all those details? They all had to be glazed. They all had to be wiped. They all had nooks and crannies and carvings. Yet I pushed on. I tossed some crackers and fruit snacks to the kids and took about 6 more hours than I’d anticipated. Because it will always cost more and take longer than I think. Like pregnancy or road trips.
Being obsessive, I glazed the heck outta those chairs. If I’d spent this much money and this much time, they were going to look like it. (In hindsight, this isn’t the best statement, since I bought all of them second-hand.) I took the time to make sure the undersides of the chairs were evenly glazed, because what if the Queen came to visit and happened to select THAT chair to sit upon, and while her guards were patting it down they discovered the white, unglazed spots and confirmed the Queen’s suspicions that we are but peasants, confirmed her suspicions about America as a whole being lazy and unskilled, and the British tried to take us back? WHAT IF?! Onward I glazed, into the wee hours, because when you’re obsessive it’s near impossible to leave a project and come back to it later. 6 chairs, all highly detailed, all seeming to grow more than the standard 4 legs. Glaze and wipe, glaze and wipe. My body was sore, my stomach was empty, my bladder was full. Finally, at 5AM, they were done. I could rest!
Well, not exactly. They still had those movie theater seat cushions. I’m not a huge lover of color, and you already know I’m basic, so I chose a solid green. Honestly it’s a big deal that I didn’t pick beige or brown, like everything else in my house. Having spent more than I intended – financially and physically – there were a few weeks in between the completion of the glazing and the purchasing of the fabric. Really it’s a miracle I didn’t move on to another project and resign us to a life of those awful red velvet seat cushions. Not wanting to lose another minute, I jumped into re-upholstering the cushions last night. Now is a good point to share that I’ve never re-upholstered anything in my life. I can barely zip my jeans, I had no business handling this much fabric. When the adorably sweet woman at the fabric store asked me how much I wanted cut, I shrugged. Classic Jen, I hadn’t measured the cushions before purchasing fabric to cover them. At least I knew there were 6. Fortunately, when I got home and checked, there was enough fabric. I didn’t measure then, either. Just laid the cushions out and cut around, all willy-nilly. By now I was not concerned with what the Queen thought of my chairs. If she sat on a staple, then ‘Merica.
Finally, at 3:30 this morning, I finished. The last staple on the last bit of fabric on the last cushion for the last chair. Done. I did it! I completed a project, start to finish! It cost more, hurt more, and took longer than I planned, and after spending so much time so up close and personal with these chairs, I’m not sure I even like them anymore, but by golly my family is going to sit on these for years to come.
Obligatory “I was crafty so here are some close ups” shots”:
My takeaway: this stuff is hard. There are people who do this for a living (and don’t charge enough) who have a passion for it and the skills, knowledge, and experience to back it up. They are small business owners who will happily customize whatever you want in whatever way you want, and it will be done quicker, it will be done better. You can
sit on the couch and watch TV enjoy time with your kids while someone else sweats and fusses over your pieces. But I didn’t learn a dang thing, because I found a fantastic little vintage vanity and my husband is gone this week, so I’ll be priming that tomorrow.