Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Sam had a wonderful year in pre-K, so I wanted to do something special for the good folks took such great care of him along the way.

First was Mrs. S, his teacher. Mrs. S is that perfect combination of warmth and enthusiasm ideally suited for teaching. And she has the patience of a saint, which helps too, especially when dealing with a classroom of 4 to 5-year-olds. So when I heard her mention that she missed having a rocking chair in her classroom -- that in all her previous classrooms at other schools she'd had one -- I knew what her gift had to be.

I watched craigslist for a sturdy, inexpensive, rocking chair. It didn't take long before this little sweetheart came up. I happily shelled out $20 and brought it home.

This finish was in great shape, so painting it almost seemed inappropriate. But I did it anyway because I wanted to personalize it. Sam picked out fabric for a new cushion ($1.50 a yard), and together we decided to paint it black to match his fun jaguar print. I used scrapbook stickers to stencil the word "delphinium" on the back.

(Here's the story behind that: When we picked out seeds for our garden in early spring, Sam was smitten with delphiniums. (Unfortunately, none of the seedlings survived long enough to make it into the ground!) I'm not sure whether it was the word or the picture that intrigued him so, but for the next several weeks he mentioned them frequently, including several times at school. Mrs. S just couldn't get enough of his 4-year-old articulation, and said the word "delphinium" would forever more remind her of him. It seemed a fitting way to sign/dedicate/customize the chair without an ostentatious inscription like "Painted by Diana!")

If you view the pictures full-size you will notice the many flaws in the finish. I used spray paint, which bubbled up in several places where I hadn't sanded well enough to get all of the old varnish off. I couldn't ever get those areas smooth, even after sanding the bubbled areas and painting again. I also had some trouble distressing the edges. I like the lightly distressed look, but I found I had a hard time deciding where and how much to distress. (All the tutorials say "where the chair would wear naturally," but I still don't know what that means, exactly.) So I did some sanding and repainting and resanding.

Still, I'm pleased with the finished results. Mrs. S was too. She actually got a little teary-eyed, and said she'd never received a present like that. When she sat down, she exclaimed "It has that perfect rocking chair creak, too!" I bashfully admitted I'd tried to fix that (with some glue and finishing nails), but she said "Oh, no. You want that sound. It's perfect background noise for nap time."

I'm really glad she liked it.

My total for this project was about $25; $20 for the chair, $1.00 for fabric, another $1.00 for the cushion insert (from inside a $1.00 Salvation Army pillow), and $3.50 for a can of spray paint.

For her teacher's aide, Mrs. Mc, I made a bag in matching jaguar fabric and a set of jungle/zoo themed jewelry.

I'll admit the jewelry set was thrown together the morning of Sam's graduation, and I had my doubts about how it was going to turn out. But in the end I really liked it. I think the mixed metals and materials work well here. As an added bonus, most of what I used was from my purchased-on-clearance/handed-down-from-other-crafters stash, so my total material cost for the jewelry set was probably about $1.00. Add that to the 50 cents worth of material for the bag, and that's a pretty affordable gift!

Mrs. Mc was a little harried when Sam gave her the gift, so we didn't get to see her open it. But I hope she likes it too. I'll have to watch for her in the fall to see if I can catch her wearing it.

Speaking of harried, the gifts for Sam's bus driver and bus aid were thrown together in a hurry too. I had planned to bake a batch of cookies to take out to the bus stop for them, but decided the night before that was too boring. What good is a batch of cookies without a cute tote to deliver them in? So pulled out some fabrics from my stash and had Sam pick two.

He ended up choosing the same prints I used to make Arabella's purse (blogged here) last month. It was cute how specific he was; the polka dot pattern was for Miss K, and the flower print was for Miss Ashley.

I made the bags, two reversible totes with ribbon closures, in record time. I was so proud of myself when I finished and had them loaded with cookies a whole TEN MINUTES before the bus was scheduled to arrive. I was just taking them outside to photograph when the bus pulled up EARLIER THAN IT HAD EVER ARRIVED in my entire year of meeting the bus. So, no photos. But you can use your imagination: same style and size as the one for Mrs. Mc, but in Arabella's pretty black and white prints, and with a pink ribbon closure. Then imagine them stuffed with cookies and pink tissue paper, and delivered flower-side-out for Miss Ashley and polka-dot-side-out for Miss K. And that's how it all went down.

Since these purses were made entirely from material that had been in the stash for years, I'm calling them free.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009