Monday, April 21, 2014

The "Bleach Spray Shirt" Mulligan (Or, How I Learned Bleach Has a Short Shelf Life)

Bleach Spray Shirts

This blog is all about do-overs.  It's about the "oops" moments, learning from those mistakes, and trying again.

My attempt at bleach spray shirts fits riiiiight in.

My kids are nerds and proud of it. With a new baby on the way, I wanted to make the kids gifts that would be "from" their baby brother. I saw several pins for bleach spray shirts on Pinterest and thought that was a good way to go.  Add in some Dr. Who, and I would have the perfect nerd shirts!

I followed Practically Functional's directions for making a bleach spray shirt. The only difference is that I don't have a fancy stencil making device, so I had to improvise.  Here are the steps I followed:

1. Find an image online and print it on regular printer paper.
Supplies for bleach spray shirt
My printed image, T-shirt, X-Acto knife, scissors, and clear contact paper.
2. Affix the printed image on clear contact paper with some tape and cut around it with an X-Acto knife.
Make sure you have cardboard or something underneath the contact paper to protect your work surface.
Bleach Spray Shirts
I cut out the shape, then taped it to the contact paper.
Bleach Spray Shirts
Image taped down.
Bleach Spray Shirts
Cut through both the printer paper and the contact paper with the knife.
OR

2b. Cut out all parts of the image with scissors, trace around it on clear contact paper, then cut the contact paper with scissors, using an Xacto knife just for the hard-to-reach places.
Bleach Spray Shirts
After cutting out all parts of the shape, I traced around it on the contact paper and then cut with scissors, using an X-Acto knife for inside the "D."
3. Peel the back off the contact paper, and stick the contact paper to the T-shirt. 
I had two T-shirts, so I needed two stencils.
Bleach Spray Shirts

4. Fill a spray bottle with bleach.  Take a few practice sprays into a sink.

5. Put cardboard inside the shirt so the bleach won't seep to the back. Spray a couple squirts of bleach over the stencil.
Bleach Spray Shirts
My daughter's shirt.
6. Wait for the bleach to work.
Bleach Spray Shirts
My son's shirt... waiting for the bleach to work...
7.  Wait, and wait, and wait... spray some more... and wait and wait and wait....
Bleach Spray Shirts
My daughter's shirt started to change color slightly, but my son's shirt just looked wet.
Whaaaat?  I wasn't sure what was going on at this point.  My son's shirt was not changing color--it just looked wet. My daughter's shirt was only changing slightly.  At first, I thought it was because I initially had water in the spray bottle and thought maybe there was still water in the sprayer and not bleach.  So I sprayed some more, until it had to be bleach coming through.

At this point it occurred to me... can bleach go bad?  I didn't think my bleach was that old, but then again, I don't use it very often. I looked at the bottom of the bottle, and sure enough, I discovered it was several years old.
Bleach can expire
Yep, it expired in 2011.
A quick internet search revealed that bleach can in fact expire, and not only that, it does so in a relatively short amount of time. It has an effective shelf life of about 6 months, with 12 months being about the end of its usefulness. It chemically changes into salt and water.  So basically, I was trying to bleach my shirts with a solution of salt water.

8. Buy new bleach and try again!
Immediately I could tell a difference in the bleach. Not only did the new bleach smell stronger, but it was yellow in color. My old bleach was clear. Aha. Should have known.

9. Remake a stencil, affix to shirt, spray over stencil, but go easy!
I didn't spray much at first, but the sprayer was set to a very wide, light mist, so it covered way more of the shirt than I planned. So I had to go with it and sprayed the whole front of the shirt, hoping to make it look like stars in the galaxy.
Bleach Spray Shirts
Holy bleach, batman!
10. After the front dries, add a back stencil, if so desired.

Bleach Spray Shirts
I went a little easier on the back stencil.
11. Rinse in cool water, then wash.
If you used too much bleach, you may need to run it in the dryer before rinsing and washing.  Check out Practically Functional's directions for more details.

12. Enjoy your finished product!
My daughter actually liked my first attempt at her shirt, as it resulted in a slight greenish-yellow hue. I had to completely redo my son's shirt, as the old bleach barely left an outline of the stencil.
Bleach Spray Shirts
My daughter's shirt-- she liked it just like this!
Bleach Spray Shirts
Front of my son's shirt after the do-over.
Bleach Spray Shirts
Back of my son's shirt.
Now that I know what I'm doing, I may try bleach shirts again... especially since I have a new bottle of bleach that has to be used in the next year before it goes bad!

~Mulligan Mama

*Update*- Check out the T-shirt to Tank Top revamp of this project!

Friday, April 11, 2014

DIY Baby Gear- Cloth Wipes, Diaper Inserts, and Infinity Nursing Scarf


My working definition of a thrifty DIY project is one you can complete yourself for less money than if you bought it at the store or paid someone else to do it. Of course, you need to factor in your time, skill level, supply cost, willingness to learn, and tolerance for frustrating and bewildering outcomes. It's okay to buy it or pay someone else if your sanity is on the line! But, if you have the time and inclination, you can save a fair amount of money... especially if you are willing to let go of the idea of perfection and are ready to learn as you go along.

With a baby on the way, I decided my time and my mediocre sewing skills were enough to embark on some DIY baby projects. I calculated the cost before I began to make sure I was saving enough money to make it worth my while (and my sanity!). I used tutorials I found on Pinterest to guide me on my quest to DIY Baby Gear.  Rather than go through the steps of each project in this post, I have linked to the original tutorials I used for further directions. Here are three things I've made so far:

1. Cloth Wipes 
Since we are cloth diapering (or going to attempt it!), it only makes since to use cloth wipes. You can mix up a homemade wipe solution or just use water to clean baby's tush, and the wipes just go in the diaper pail and laundry with the diapers. I used this tutorial on Homemade Ginger to get me started.

I spent about $3 to make my stash of cloth wipes from flannel. Simply cut two layers of flannel to the size you want and stitch around the edges.  And when you start to worry that your stitches aren't perfect, remember that the sole purpose of this cloth is to wipe poo. Perfection not required!
DIY Flannel Wipes
Cut two layers of flannel to the size you want and stitch them together.
I also bought two packs of cheap baby washcloths for 98 cents each that I will also use as baby wipes. So for $5, I have our wipe stash ready to go!

2. Diaper Inserts
I tend to research things to death before I decide to do something, and cloth diapering was no exception. There are TONS of resources about cloth diapering online--YouTube videos, blogs, and informational sites from cloth diapering companies and distributors. It can be very overwhelming, especially when you haven't learned the lingo. (There are lots of good places to start, but here is one helpful website called Cloth Diaper Revival if you are interested in learning more about the "new" world of cloth diapering.)

I've purchased several different styles of diapers and will wait to buy more until hubby and I decide what kind works best for us. But one thing I've read over and over again, regardless of diaper brand, is that is helpful to have extra diaper "inserts" to help boost absorbency.  I bought a package of 3 microfiber inserts for about $11 to see what they were exactly, but then I found a tutorial on Journey of Grace on how to make my own.

I used an old fleece blanket we had that was starting to show wear in places, and I had a small stash of unused microfiber cloths leftover from when I bought some in bulk for household cleaning.  So, these homemade microfiber diaper inserts didn't cost me a (new) dime! Sure, they aren't white like regular diaper inserts, but again, they are going to be covered in poo, so not a problem.

DIY Fleece and Microfiber Inserts
Top- my three DIY inserts next to the store-bought insert; Bottom Left- the piece of fleece and the microfiber before cutting; Bottom Right- a finished insert, stitched around the edges.
3. Infinity Nursing Scarf
I nursed my two older children, and I plan to nurse this baby as well. I remember trying to toss a receiving blanket over my hungry kiddos for a little privacy, but as they got more coordinated, both kids would throw that blanket off in a hurry. Now that I'm older, I am not nearly as modest and will probably whip it out in public and polite company without batting an eye. But in the interest of sparing my older children embarrassment and lifelong humiliation, I thought I better have a few resources to "cover up" when feeding the baby.

I purchased some knit fabric with a coupon, so it cost me about $3. I followed the tutorial on Diary of a Mad Crafter for making an infinity nursing scarf; however, my scarf is really short when wrapped around my neck twice. I don't like having things so tight around my neck, so I wish it was longer. A few of the people posting comments had the same problem--the scarf isn't as long as it shows in the blogger's pictures, and I'm not sure why. The resulting scarf is 30 inches, so when it's doubled, it would only be 15 inches, which is why it hugs the neck. In any case, it gives me the basic idea of how to make infinity scarfs that double as nursing covers, and being a knit fabric, there is very little sewing involved. Hurray!

Infinity Nursing Scarf
Left- My length of knit fabric before folding and sewing; Top Right- Sewing the ends together; Bottom Right- Wearing the scarf double wrapped... it's a bit snug.
Infinity Nursing Scarf
The finished product draped just once around my neck, and then held out to show room for baby (and currently covering preggo belly).
So all in all, my mediocre sewing skills have saved me quite a bit of money, if all goes according to plan. (And I'm proud to report I only swore ONCE during all these sewing projects! Either I'm getting better at sewing, or these projects weren't too hard.) We shall see once baby is born whether my DIY efforts were worth it or not.

~Mulligan Mama

Friday, April 4, 2014

Refinished Thrift Store Mirrors... for Under $6!

Refinished Mirrors

If you've ever moved, you know that unpacking and settling in to your new home can be a long process. A really long process. Boxes sit unpacked for months... and years. You forget you even have boxes that are still unpacked! It also takes a long time to get a "feel" for the space and decorate it to your family's tastes. We've been in our house for about a year and a half, and many of the walls are still blank.

The hubby and I have decided we want to decorate with things that have meaning to us and are unique, rather than just put "stock art" up on the walls just to fill the space and match the decor. We have purchased pieces from local artists which we LOVE.  We get so much joy from the pieces every time we look at them.

But, we have a limited artwork budget, so that means filling other spaces with DIY pieces that are cheap but still unique and special. I've been wanting to try "distressing" and "antiquing" painting techniques on furniture but figured it would be better to start small to learn how to do it.

While my hubby was shopping for shirts at Goodwill, I was digging through the bin of pictures and picture frames looking for fun and distinct frames. To my surprise, I found two mirrors with solid wood frames. They were different styles and finishes, but it wouldn't matter since I would be painting them.

I got the two frames for $2 each-- $4 total.
Thrift store mirrors
Two mirrors from Goodwill for $2 each!
Steps I followed to refinish these frames:
1. Remove the mirrors from the frames.
Be careful as the edges might be sharp. I think the previous owner of one mirror cut it to size, so it gave me a slight cut on my thumb.  Ouch!

2. Lightly sand the frames with 220 grit sandpaper.
A fine grit will help remove the glossy finish and any gunk that has built up on the wood.  A heavier grit will start to change the shape of the wood, so be careful. You don't need to sand much.

3. Wipe and clean frame with water and gentle dish soap to remove remaining grime. Let dry.
This wipes away the dust left from sanding and cleans the wood so the paint will adhere.
Prepare the wood frame for paint.
Prepare the wood for paint- remove mirror, lightly sand, wipe clean, let dry.
4. Choose the paint.
This step took me some time, as I wasn't quite sure which colors I was going to use nor which technique I was going to try. I purchased some acrylic paint in Tuscan Red ($0.49) and metallic acrylic paint in Pure Gold ($1.29). I already had some antiquing medium and paint brushes on hand.

To choose the color, I trialed the colors on the back of the frames:
Trial paint colors on back of frame
Trialing Tuscan Red, Pure Gold, and Antiquing Medium on the back of the frame.
5. Choose the technique.
I first trialed one technique with the antiquing medium.  With antiquing medium, you paint your base color, let it dry, then put a light coat of the antiquing medium over the top. Then you wipe the excess off, leaving behind just a light layer that gives the paint an older look.
Antiquing medium
Antiquing medium
It wasn't the look I was wanting. So, I tried the distressing technique of painting one color of paint on the edges and prominent parts of the frames with the intent to paint the second color over the top, then sanding away the second coat for the first coat to show through. I decided to make the Tuscan Red the base coat and the Pure Gold the top coat. I went ahead and started on the front of the frame, knowing I could sand it off and repaint it if I messed up.
Attempting distressing
Painting the red on the edges, painting the gold over top, with intent to sand away the gold for the red to show through on edges.
It was immediately clear that this technique wouldn't work as I hoped, because the gold didn't cover the wood very well.  I wanted the wood to be completely covered, and it was going to take several coats of gold to hide it.

So, I ultimately went with an antiquing technique that is reminiscent of gold leaf with its iridescent shine over a base color. I painted the entire frame with the red.
Base color
Paint the frames a base color and let dry.
Once the red paint had dried, I painted a light coat of the gold over the top, working in sections of one side of the frame at a time. I painted on the gold, then wiped it off with a paper towel.  It left a gold sheen behind, but the red still peeked through.
Top color painted on and wiped off
Work on one side at a time. Paint on the gold and wipe off with paper towel.
Here are the steps broken down a little more:

Start with the dried base coat.
Tuscan Red Base Coat
Dried base coat.
Paint on the top coat.
Pure Gold Top Coat
Paint on top color.
Wipe off the excess paint.
Wipe Paint Off
Wipe off excess top color.
And that's it!

Once it dried, I added a second layer of gold in places to make it really shine. Same technique- paint, wipe.

6. Clean and replace the glass mirror.
The finished product-
Refinished Thrift Store Mirrors
You can't see the red peaking through in this pic, but it adds depth to the gold.

On the wall-
Refinished Thrift Store Mirrors
Looks great with our runner carpet. I have more ideas for the space... future posts!
Total cost for this project: 
Frames- $2 each
Paint- $1.78
Total= $5.78

Two mirrors that match our space for under $6, plus a good learning experience in the techniques of distressing and antiquing!

Things I learned doing this project:
1. Lightly sand wood to remove any glossy finish.  It doesn't require a lot of sanding, but it does help the paint adhere when the gloss is removed.
2. Test paint on the back of the frame. It's one thing to picture it in your head and another thing to actually see the paint on the wood.  Adjust your plan accordingly!
3. Make sure the paint is completely dry before applying another coat!  I got a little ahead of myself and slapped on some gold paint before the red was completely dry.  It smeared... lesson learned!
Let paint dry before second coat
Oops!  Let the paint dry before applying the next coat.  Patience, Mama, patience!
4. Paint may not behave like you think it will, so be prepared to adjust!  You can always sand and paint over.  Do-overs are always allowed!

Now that I feel more comfortable with the technique, I'm hoping to try out bigger projects... like furniture.  If I get brave enough...

~Mulligan Mama