Slow Progress

You would think that having lived in my house for several years now that I would have decorating and projects done. You would be wrong!! I’m probably one of the slowest project people that anyone has ever seen. At least The Engineer and I have taken advantage of the past few snowy weekends to get some linger projects decided on and moving on down the road to completion.

We’ve been working on getting the man loft upstairs completed for months. I do still have one cabinet to refinish, but the weather just hasn’t been cooperative for painting and staining furniture in the garage. Until the cabinet is done we can’t really put away the movies and gaming systems…or hang any of the taxidermy work on the walls, so it’s just been easy to leave the whole room a slight disaster area. We’ve made major progress this weekend though…..we’ve finally picked a paint color!

After months of collecting random paint chips and scrolling through Pinterest boards, we’ve finally nailed it down to 3 colors…..or maybe 4….it’s hard to say really.

I think we’ve decided on Olive Sprig…although all 4 are very similar..and minds could still change!

As you can tell, we pretty much have it sorted, just need to settle down on the exact shade of green we like. The Engineer would have preferred grey or blue but we had to let those colors go. None of the grey samples looked nice against the existing townhome beige. The room is so angular and open that somewhere the new wall color is going to have to butt up against the existing beige. The blues looked nice against the beige walls, but they didn’t do much to accent the dark wood, metal, and black concrete tones we have already in the room. Green is really where it’s at I think!

One loft project that we have finished up is refinishing my desk chair and mounting some floating shelves my Grandpa made. I guess at least my small corner of the loft is finished. The first step of my chair makeover was 2 coats of Annie Sloan Honfleur and some light distressing with dark wax. That was the easy part for me, just your standard rags to riches furniture rehab story! I decided to try my hand at recovering the cushion with some scrap hide, and that was really a bit of an adventure.

Happy to be reusing handmade, Peterson family heirlooms!

If your hide hasn’t been tumbled by the tannery to make it soft and pliable, you’ll have some labor to put into it. First, you’ll need to let it soak for an hour or two. I just put the hide in the bathtub with a few inches of water and let it hang out to absorb. This will make the hide seem soft, but at this point if you just let it dry it will go back to being as stiff as a board. To really help the fibers loosen up and plump, stash your wet hide in a plastic bag overnight. Get a good nights sleep, because in the morning you’ll have work to do!

Remove your hide from the bag. It will be damp, but shouldn’t be dripping. I left my bag and hide in the sink in case any water didn’t absorb and drain out….didn’t want any surprise puddles in the morning! If you need to stretch your hide to increase its size slightly, now is the time to do this. Mine was large enough already, but we did give it a bit of a stretch for good measure. Again, it was freezing in the garage and I didn’t necessarily have enough scrap wood laying around to build a large enough frame for the hide…..but I did have a rather large, and rather robust cardboard shipping box!!

Once your hide is stretched to size, you’ll need to do something to soften it. This is best done by beating or tumbling to mash and realign all the fibers. I wasn’t about the toss it into my dryer with small boulders, so I used the next best thing….a paint remover!?!? All of these tips and tricks were provided by a profession taxidermist…..so it’s gotta be the truth! I was told to just work it over the hide until it was soft. I used an African hide, and I’m here to tell you that some parts of it were so thick they never softened. We did the soak, stretch, and tenderize process twice….it’s still a very stiff hide, but it got the job done!

Beat until tender!

We decided to start the upholstry job with a slightly damp hide. The hide was never going to get evenly soft enough, especially because some portions were just so thick. This was extra unfortunate because there was no way we could align the hide on the chair cushion so that the thickest portions weren’t used. Momma Mishappenings was staying with us that night, and she has some fabric upholstery experience which was nice to have…because I had no idea what to do really!

We stapled the front side down first so that we could pull and put some tension on the hide. It quickly became clear that we needed to cut out some of the extra hide bulk in the corners so that they would lay nice. I wish I could tell you a specific shape or pattern to cut, but honestly I just sort of whacked out whatever bits and pieces we needed to make the corners lay nice as we went along. It doesn’t look overly pretty, but it fit and we did eventually get all 4 corners trimmed out and stapled down. At this point, we left the whole thing to dry out for a few days. The hide will shrink slightly as it drys, and we used that to our advantage. Some places that had seemed too big and loose tightened right up once it dried. There was one pretty bad bubble of extra hide on the front by one of the corners and I was pleasantly surprised to discovered it had totally disappeared once everything dried!

Once dried I was going to screw it back onto the chair frame, but it needed one final step. Even though we had cut the corners and tried to get them to fold nice and even, they still needed a bit of work. I used a hammer on the dry hide to beat and soften up any of the hard edges and bulk left in the corners. Anywhere the hide crossed over another piece of hide I gave it a pretty severe whacking. It really did help to form and soften up all the edges. I also added a few more staples and hammered them all in for good measure.

Carefully screw it back into the chair frame, and you’re ready to get stuff done behind your desk! You’ll have to screw up through the hide, so just proceed slowly and cross your fingers you don’t hit a staple. I didn’t, but that’s maybe just beginners luck. The hide was a bit stiff and crunchy the first couple times I used the chair, but it has broken in nicely. Also, I was worried about sitting on the hair, but it doesn’t seem to be shedding and doesn’t get misaligned if you’re moving around in the chair. Even if hair does start shedding, it should just add to the aged and distressed look!

Winter Has Arrived

It’s officially that time of year!!

  The wind, freezing rain, and snow have arrived and brought with them a sense of winter and Christmas.  The Engineer and I weren’t even planning on being home this weekend, we were hoping to go down to Momma MisHappening’s to spend the weekend trying to fill my turkey tag.  That just isn’t going to happen.  Nothing about sliding down an ice coated interstate for 80 miles and then sitting in a blizzard waiting for a turkey to waddle on by sounds like a good time.  So instead…..I shall be catching up on laundry and crafting!  I’ve got several craft projects I’m working on, and some I can’t share until after the holiday….but there is one I can share and maybe you can use for some Christmas decorating!

CRAFTING TIME IS HERE!  

(Best said in the Charlie Brown sing-song style) 

So, let’s say that hypothetically you’ve been hunting , and that those hunting trips have been successful.  Let’s also assume that you’d like to take a more nose to tail…I prefer snoot to toes….approach to using the animals you bring home.  Top that all off with seeing some expensive feather spheres and wreaths in shops about town (Here’s looking at your $70 foam wreath at Scheel’s :/ )….and you’ve got yourself a full blown holiday crafting project on your hands!

You may or may not have noticed, but pheasant feathers are frequently used in boujee arts and crafts.  I happened upon some expensive pheasant feather spheres while we were on vacation in Virginia, and instead of paying I decided I could make my own.  Nothing like some feather decorations for The Engineer’s upstairs man loft!  Sadly, the only pheasants that have made it home to me have already been cleaned and vacuumed packed breasts.  While delicious, pheasant breast doesn’t contribute a ton in the crafting department.  So, I used the next best option….duck feathers!  The ducks have been arriving at a fairly steady rate, so I’ve had my choice of some nice feathers.  They are a little bit more work then pheasant feathers, but they get the job done nicely.

To start, you’ll need to prep your feathers.  I plucked the bellies of 2 gadwalls and 1 northern shoveler specifically, but any variety you have that you think looks nice will work just fine.  I kept the species separate as they are slightly different colored, but feel free to mix if you like that look.  It would be better if you have some early season ducks before they become fully plumed and downy soft for winter.  

Duck feathers are very oily, and that oil can slowly degrade the feathers once they are removed from the ducks, so you’ll need to clean the feathers.  This is the hardest part of the project honestly.  I filled the kitchen sink with some warm water with a few drops of regular Dawn dish soap.  Place a colander down into the water, and slowly and carefully add handfuls of feathers and swish to clean.  Pull the colander up and rinse the feathers well with clean water.  

Now…..to dry the feathers……ugh.  I placed the feathers into grocery bags and then used my hair drying to blow the feathers dry.  You’ll need to maintain a firm….but not too tight so the air can’t escape…..grasp of bag around the neck of the dryer.  Also, make sure that the air hole you leave isn’t too large.  If it’s too large, the feathers will shoot up and out of the bag as they dry….which will lead to feathers floating all around you bathroom…….been there done that!  Honestly, this isn’t a great method for drying feathers, but it got the job done.  It’s annoying and VERY time consuming, but it works.  You’ll probably want to leave the feathers sit for a couple days and stir them occasionally to make sure they dry completely.

So fresh and so clean clean!

Now that everything is clean and dry, we can officially get crafting.  You’ll need to pick up a few supplies from your local craft shop.  Some good craft glue, tan or brown paint, a cheap foam brush or two, and some floral foam spheres of whatever size looks good to you.

Start by painting your foam.  If you can happen to find foam that is already dirt colored feel free to skip this.  I didn’t want to risk any of the green foam poking through so I gave them all a rough coat of paint.  It doesn’t have to be pretty or even, we are just looking for some camouflage here.

I recommend using a good tacky craft glue to place the feathers.  There are some cons to such a thick glue, but the pros greatly outweigh them.  You’ll want to start placing feathers from the center top and work down.  Begin by smearing a layer of glue on about the top third of the sphere.  Start layering on the feathers working in concentric circles around the sphere.  If you find that your feathers aren’t sticking, or if portions seem to be lifting, it might be helpful to put a tiny amount of glue on each feather before you place it.  I found that putting some glue on a foam brush and dragging the feathers carefully across it worked to smear on a very thin layer.

If the bases of your feathers are especially downy…or quill-y….you might want to gently trim them.  I ended up having to trim every single one of the gadwall feathers, they were just too fluffy.  It can be hard to cover up all the downy fluff, although if you don’t mind some fandom fluffy tuffs then just glue the feathers as they come.  

Every 3 circles around the sphere you’ll want to apply another ring of glue.  Use the foam brush to carefully dab on the glue.  You’ll want to be carful not to get too close to the previous row of feathers.  If you snag one it’ll pull bits of feather in weird directions, or maybe even pull the feather off depending on how recently it was placed.  Just use your finger or a toothpick to smooth the feathers back down, and if that doesn’t work just layer another feather or two on top.

Continue until you reach the bottom of the sphere.  You’ll end up with a quill end or two visible at the bottom of the sphere, but it’ll be alright….no one but you will ever even know.  Plus, just put that side down!  Let your spheres dry and then use them however the wind takes you.  Mine are destined to be nestled into a garland upstairs in the man loft!  I didn’t apply any sealant to mine, but depending on your intended use you might want to hit them with a thin spray coat of a sealant.  I wouldn’t recommend anything you’d need to brush on, it will just disturb the flow of the feathers.