Crafting & Art

Wanna See A Pregnant Lady In A Crib?

Boom, there it is.

Yes, this is a story all about how my life got twist turned upside down I made our little man a mobile. It’s kinda rustic (it’s made from a manzanita branch) and kinda modern (there are fun circles in a bunch of colors and sizes that hang down at different lengths) and most of all it makes me smile. Is it weird that hanging this actually made me feel more ready to have the little guy in my arms? Like “OK, the mobile’s up – now the baby party can start.”

Much like the mobile I made for Clara’s room (that one was comprised of little floral orbs made from wire, faux flowers, and glue)…

… this one was pretty simple to put together. Clara even helped!

First I dragged my decorative manzanita branch out of the storage room (what? everyone doesn’t have a decorative manzanita branch standing by? well, that needs to be remedied). It was sold by West Elm a few years ago, so it has been bleached and debarked and it’s nice and solid – so there’s no worry of anything flaking off like old bark and falling into the crib. I thought leaving it this raw color would be a nice counterpart to the colorful round disks I wanted to add. As for the dangly strands, I had two paper banners from Target that I picked up for $2.18 on clearance a few months ago without any earthly idea of what I’d eventually use them for.

Once the mobile idea popped into my head, well, they seemed perfect. Except of course they were colors/patterns that didn’t really fit into the nursery scheme thus far. But it wasn’t anything a little craft paint couldn’t solve. So I laid them out on a few old cereal boxes from our recycling bin and Clara had fun helping me paint them. They needed two coats to cover those patterns underneath, but it was pretty easy to get done – even with a wiggly three year old assistant. Mostly it was one of those we-both-hold-the-brush-so-we-don’t-get-paint-all-over-the-strings projects, but she has a lot of pride over the mobile she made for “her baby” and it was a fun thing to do with her.

While those freshly painted circles were drying, I realized they probably wouldn’t be enough to fill out the entire branch (even if I snipped them into smaller 25″ strands). So I broke out some white embroidery floss and decorative paper. Using a few round items around the house I traced multiple versions of three similarly sized circles to the ones in the pre-made banners onto craft paper in similar colors to the paint I used. For the smallest circles I used the base of the craft paint that was still out on the table, the middle ones were from tracing the bottom of another slightly larger bottle I had, and the biggest circles were from the base of a small cup. Then I just cut them out, making sure I had an even number of each.

The even number was important since I used them to sandwich my white embroidery string with some Aleen’s Tacky Glue. Just pressing them together over the string after dabbing them with some glue dots seemed to do the trick, and I spaced them by eye, using the spacing of the Target banners as my guide (those were around two inches apart).

I made each strand around 25″ long, just like the pre-made banners that I had snipped apart to make sections of that length. When everything was dry, it was time to tie them firmly onto the branch at different increments for a nice dangly effect. I hung the branch over the back of two chairs so there was room for my strands to dangle while I tied them on, and I just randomly spaced them so they were all slightly different widths from each other.

At this point Clara was over the project and happily putting stickers on the window nearby (that’s a really nice look from the curb, by the way), but Burger did mosey on over for a peek as I went.

On the topic of hanging things over a crib, we’re definitely paranoid with a side of neurotic. For example, in Clara’s nursery we hung a mirror over her crib, but we actually drilled directly through the frame in multiple places to secure that thing to the wall so tightly that even John couldn’t yank it off the wall – even though it was out of Clara’s actual reach.

So although this mobile weighs a fraction of a pound, we relied on three heavy duty brass plated plant hooks (they each support 10+ lbs and have extra long screws so we could be sure they were either hitting a ceiling beam – two of them did – or a heavy duty anchor that we added) along with extra strong fishing wire that’s almost invisible, so it looks like it’s floating. We just knotted the fishing wire to the branch in three spots that needed some support (both ends and the triangular middle branch area) and connected them to the plant hooks that we secured to the ceiling, directly above those points. And that’s how this pregnant lady found herself chilling in a crib.

I really loved this way of hanging it since it’ll always be out of baby’s reach (this method makes it really easy raise if we ever think it’s within grabbing distance – although once the baby is more mobile we’ll drop the mattress so it’ll be even further away).

It’s amazing how much sweeter the crib feels now. Like it’s saying “bring on the baby!”

Once we got it hanging there was a split second where I wished it was a little bigger, just to fill up that wall more, but it’s almost three feet wide and around 16″ deep and 25″ long, so if it was any bigger the function of it might hinder us since it’s a real-life 3-D object that’s hanging there (we feared we’d hit our heads on it every time we leaned into the crib if it were much bigger). So after staring at it for a while I’ve come to peace with its size.

John actually ordered two samples of Spoonflower wallpaper that he thinks could be fun to further fill out that wall between the built-ins (a complete surprise to me!) so maybe we’ll end up layering in some sort of interesting color or backdrop behind the mobile. It takes 12 business days to arrive, so I can’t wait to get it. Might be a total “nope that would look crazy” moment, or something that we’re both enamored with, so we’ll keep you posted. We’ve also talked about some sort of accent color with paint, just between those two built-ins, so we’re definitely open to seeing where this thing goes.

Either way, it’s pretty cool to see a room that used to look like this…

… looking more like this these days.

As for what’s left on the list in here, there are just a few outstanding items.

It’s nice to be in the home stretch! Both for this pregnancy (I’m still having morning sickness at 33 weeks) and for the room. Most of all we’re just excited to meet the little guy who’s doing the macarena in my tummy right now. I think he’s a very good dancer.

Oh and since a few readers have passed along an awesome tip about making sure to look at a mobile from below to check that it’s interesting from that point of view, here’s what the bun will see when he glances up. Little spinning slices of color and a nice branchy background. Although I don’t think his eyes will focus that high up for a little while…

I contemplated adding something facing him to the bottom of each strand (ex: a small animal-shaped piece of paper that would look flat from the side, but read easily from his in-the-crib perspective) but since his bedding has elephants marching all over it, I wondered if it might be more soothing to just see some dancing disks. We’re definitely open to evolving this little creation as he grows though. So if he’s really into some sort of creature (remember how much Clara got into worms and dragons?) I can work those in later. Just don’t want to stimulate him too much since it’s a spot for sleep.

And just because it might be more fun to see a grown man lying in a crib than a pregnant lady standing in one, there’s this:

Is anyone else making mobiles? Or putting the last few touches on a different room that you’ve been working on? What about hanging out in cribs? I’m telling you, it’s kind of a good time.

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Books, Toys, General Cuteness, and Narwhals

The bookcases in the nursery have officially been filled with board books, toys, stuffed animals, framed prints, and a few other random bobs and bits that I hope our little man will love feasting his eyes (and mouth?) upon. You know, in the case of those gummy blocks in the bottom right corner of this shot that Clara loved chomping on. Of course we still have a bunch of bigger toys, puzzles, and games that will probably get stored in baskets or some sort of cubby system in another area of the room, but it’s nice to have some fun kid stuff on the bookcases that’s easy to grab and gaze at.

This is the built-in to the left of the crib, which Clara helped me fill by offering up all of her baby books to “my baby” as she sweetly calls her brother on the way. She is well past the board book phase, so I was especially grateful that she wanted to hand them down as opposed to suddenly wanting to hoard them even though she doesn’t read them anymore. She even brought in a few of her stuffed animals that she thought he’d like (two gators and a monkey).

Obviously these shelves will evolve as he grows and we get more items just for him that are based on his interests, but I did grab a few boxes from Target, like the three-tone green one below. Just to store things like crayons, blocks, and other small-scale games that feel more organized when they’re corralled.

That crocheted cactus above makes me smile. Isn’t he cute? We bought three of them a while back at a holiday craft fair here in Richmond and I was so excited to break them out as some can’t-kill-it-if-I-try greenery for his room.

Here’s the bookcase to the right of the crib:

That three-toned tree was one of Clara’s favorite stacking toys when she was younger, so I was thrilled when she said she thought her baby would like it. She also dragged her blue crayon-truck out of a basket and said it was for the baby now (she’s more into markers these days, but the gesture was still pretty touching since she colored that herself a few years back).

She also picked out the mustached man-doll for him at a recent craft fair, so I lifted her up so she could do the honors of placing him on the shelf next to  a box of flashcards and a cute cloth covered photo album.

Another one of Clara’s “creations” for her brother’s space was this robot print that she colored a few years back (it used to hang here in our last house’s hallway). We were going through frames in the storage room together and she said “he’s going to like this one – can we use this one? I made it just for him.” Regardless of the fact that she colored it well before he was conceived, it’s the thought that counts, so onto the shelf it went. Along with a random teal oyster can that I found at an antique shop this summer (it feels like a cheeky nod to the whole barnacle nickname that Clara came up with this fall).

Besides going through old baby items and buying a few new things like those Target boxes, and the mustached man-doll, Clara and I also had fun making a little art project for the bun. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Norman The Narwhal. He’s FAR from a perfect specimen, but it was the sweetest project to do with Clara and I think I love him more for his handmade wonkiness than anything else. Dude has some serious character going on. So let’s file this under “made by a kid with a little help from mom for her baby brother.”

Here was our inspiration (which is nowhere near as wonky, and very charming indeed), and here’s how Clara and I had fun subbing in paper mache for a styrofoam ball, made the horn a different way, used buttons for eyes, etc.

1 & 2. First we picked up a small wooden craft plaque from JoAnn for around $3 with a coupon, and we had fun painting it white together.

3 & 4. Then we made waaaay too much paper mache (seriously, it was a comically large batch) by adding water to flour and stirring until it thickened up. Clara LOVED this part, hence the comically large batch. She kept wanting to add more water and more flour and “stir, stir, stir” things up.

5. Next we used some newspaper to make our narwhal face, which was essentially just sort of a rounded blob of paper squished up and covered with paper mache with a flat back so it could sit against the plaque. We used small strips of newspaper coated with paper mache over our ball of crunched up newsprint to get it as smooth as possible on the surface, but that’s sort of a relative term since it’s still quite a lumpy little face that he has.

6. We used an old wooden dowel that was about 5″ long to create the horn.

7 & 8. First I just wrapped it with painters tape (using more on one end than the other for that tapered shape). Then I covered that with yellow polka dot washi tape that I had on hand, just because polka dots are cute and our inspiration narwhal had some pattern going on with his horn. We used a coat of matte Mod Podge over the whole thing to keep the tape in place and protect it a bit more (Clara loves Mod Podge and calls it Pod Modge, which makes me think of Padma Lakshmi for some reason).

9 & 10. When the paper mache narwhal face was dry, Clara helped me paint it blue with craft paint. I also used Aileen’s Tacky Glue to secure a screw to the inside of the dowel of our horn, which we let dry for a nice long time.

11. Once our narwhal face was dry and the glue for our screw had cured up, we could screw it right in for that horned look. I even made a small pilot hole with our drill to get things started (Clara LOVES anything drill related, so this was a thrilling step for her as well).

Then we searched the house for some small round items to use as eyes, came up with some old pearl colored buttons, and drew a little smiling mouth with a sharpie as well as drawing some little black lines around the frame of the plaque. I did that while Clara watched and counted (she’d get to about 30 and then start over, which was pretty cute). And finally, we just used some black & white twine from the craft closet to create a little hanging device (one small picture nail easily holds this baby up).

Over the years I’ve been asked if I think obviously fake creations like these (or a ceramic ram head, or a cardboard deer head) might glorify the act of mounting an actual animal head. I’m sure everyone has different opinions about this (it’s such a highly personal thing) but I’ve thought about it for a while, and I don’t believe faux taxidermy makes any sort of pro-real-taxidermy statement. To me, it’s just like using faux sheepskins in our house instead of real ones, or how people might buy faux fur coats. Another example would be how animal rights activists like Stella McCartney will design things with faux leather (real leather = against her beliefs, but she’ll use the imitation to make a statement that there are great alternatives to the real thing).

Now I’m excited to start in on some other personality-adding details, like a pair of colorful curtains, and a large-scale mobile for over the crib. And of course we have a whole blank wall across from the crib to deal with, where we think we’ll add a cubby-type cabinet for toys with a changing table on top and our bike art hanging above it – along with a bold green closet door.

But going back to that “large scale mobile idea,” this is just some bad photoshop, but I have an old manzanita branch that I think could be fun with lots of colorful shapes hanging off of it at a ton of different lengths and depths.

So those are next on the list. What are you guys up to when it comes to bookcase-filling and art-making? Anyone else breaking out the paper mache? Clara kept trying to eat it, which was both comical and surprisingly ok (it is made from flour and water).

Psst- To see our nursery progress from the very beginning, here’s the planning and rug-buying post, the dresser-sourcing post, the wall and ceiling painting rundown, the first half of built-in building, the second half of the built-in project, and how we added crown molding and a homemade crib skirt.

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