Our First House

Feeling Sheepish (Part 1)

Ok, so you might think we’re crazy, but we always thought the sheepskin rugs that Ikea sold (especially the super cheap small sized ones that we always grab) were faux. Well, we recently had one of those duh moments when we noticed that the materials weren’t listed as acrylic or some other fabric and instead read: 100% sheepskin. Oops. We should have known- after all, they’re a Swedish company- but for some reason we always saw $99 sheepskin rugs and assumed those were the real ones and that the cheap $25 Ikea ones just had to be man made.

Now we know the faux or real sheepskin decision is an extremely personal choice (just like wearing fur, eating meat, wearing leather, etc) so this post isn’t about judging or debating that issue (to each his own!) it’s just about a faux sheepskin DIY project that we took on so we could happily pass our Ikea sheepskins on to a relative who promised to give them a happy home. It suddenly just felt weird to see Burger laying on the one that we had draped over the sofa but we didn’t want them to end up in a landfill (so handing them off to someone who would appreciate them seemed like the best thing to do). We actually took on two different faux sheepskin projects, so this post will detail one of them while the one this afternoon will detail our second adventure in faux sheepskin making (hence the “part 1″ mention in this post’s title). Let the fun begin…

First, we hit up a few stores in search of a super wooly shag rug on the cheap. We hit the jackpot at Marshall’s where we found a large 4 x 6-ish version for $39. We knew we could get at least two faux sheepskins out of it (which made them under $20 each- which was actually cheaper than the affordable Ikea ones) so we snatched it right up. The tawny eggshell color was perfect and the fact that it was convincingly textured and wooly looking made it more of a “perfect fit” along with the fact that the backing wasn’t that baby-doll-head-smelling grippy rubber, it was one of those woven fabric-backed rugs that we prefer.

Then we got to work making a life-sized template to dictate our new sheepskin’s shape, so we taped a bunch of pieces of paper together to get a nicely sized “background” and pulled up the link to the real Ikea ones which we used as a guide. It was as simple as sketching out a sheepskin-ish blob on our taped-together printer paper and cutting it out with a scissors.

Oh and here’s a tip: you can fold the paper in half vertically before cutting it out and just follow the pencil line on the exposed half of your sketch while it’s folded for a perfectly symmetrical result if perfection is you middle name. I actually didn’t go that route because I figured a little asymmetry never hurt and most sheepskins aren’t perfectly even on all sides anyway.

Next we just placed our new “sheepskin” template on the back of the rug and used a thin sharpie to trace around the paper cutout which left two sheepskin sized outlines on the back of the rug:

Then we did a test cut to see what would happen to the rug when we sliced through it. Our big fear was that everything would come loose and fall out (which we thought we might be able to remedy by using white duct tape to tape around the cut-out lines on the back of the rug before snipping to hold things together at the edges). But we were pleasantly surprised that no tape or other precautions were necessary and every slice was clean and no threads came loose even when you tugged on them after cutting. So then it was as simple as cutting out both of our sheepskin outlines…

… which left us with two pretty darn amazing little faux sheepskin rugs. We love all the soft creamy texture that the shag pattern adds, and of course we love that we made them ourselves. There’s always a bit of pride when you get to mention that you DIYed something, right?

Oh and do you see that little pile of fluff under the scissors? We gave the outline of each rug a little haircut to refine the shape and make them look more polished and clean (initially the shag had flopped a few directions while we were cutting so the outline wasn’t very crisp- but a few snips around the perimeter of each of our new wooly additions really cleaned things up and emphasized our intended shape.

Now this version of our DIY sheepskin is thicker and less flimsy than our second one (which we’ll be sharing this afternoon). So it’s not as easy to “drape” over the back of a chair for example (it’s a bit more structured, like a rug would be). In short: it’s much better served as an actual sheepskin rug (ie: use it on the floor as opposed to tossing it over the back of your sofa). Oh and you can make a much larger one for a bigger area with a larger rug (or just by not making two of them from one rug) so that’s another idea. When it came to our two little ones, we did notice that one of them looked great on our square ottoman in the nursery (which required it to be a lot less flexible than thinner surfaces like the top of a soft upholstered chair or sofa) so that’s where we decided it should live:

Isn’t the shaggy texture charming? We just love how chunky and tactile it is- you really can’t walk into the room without petting it.

And Burger LOVES IT! In fact sometimes we can’t find him and he’s in there sleeping on it in the sun. Maybe he can sense that no animals were harmed in the making of it? Either way, so cute.

Our second wooly rug will probably also live in the nursery (on the ground as an actual rug) so stay tuned for those details as we continue to cobble things together in there. Oh and remember how there was an extra strip of leftover rug on one end after we cut out both of our sheepskin templates? Well it was perfect for creating a bonus little textured lumbar pillow. So not only did we get two faux sheepskins for $20 a pop, we actually got two sheepskins plus an accent pillow for $39 total. Not bad right?

All we did was take that long piece of leftover shag and trim the interior edge so it was one long rectangle. Then we “folded” it in half to create a nice loop of shaggy texture. When it came to filling our fluffy DIY pillow, we actually looked no further than a few other rug scraps- so it really is made completely from leftover rug snippings. We love that we didn’t have to buy any batting or anything- and there was practically zero waste created by our entire project since we used it all.

Now we’re sure this next step will leave a few of you shaking your heads, but we’re work-with-what-you-have people, so we actually reached for safety pins to secure the left side of our makeshift pillow (which you see me holding together in the photo above). The great thing about the rug’s incredibly dense shaggy texture is that every single pin was completely obscured but it held things nice and securely- plus it’s super poke-free and safe since they’re buried so deeply in the shaggy texture that you’d literally have to go hunting around for them to find one and then would have to apply a ton of pressure to pop one open (which can’t be done by leaning on the pillow or even whapping someone in the face with it during a pillow fight). Anyway, so we used a few safety pins to connect our loop of fabric on the side and a few more along the top and bottom seams.

As you can see from this close up, they’re placed extremely close to the base of the rug so they don’t stick up and can’t be seen, felt or accidentally opened (they’re literally buried two or three inches “beneath” the dense shaggy fabric).

So unless you’re digging through the long fibers of the rug in search of one they’re completely undetectable. Gotta love a cheap on-hand solution like that.

We’ve been using the pillow for about two weeks now in our living room and we have yet to feel any “small metal nubs” when we lean back on it. And we especially love that it was a free little bonus so if at any point we want to revise how we connected it (and remove the pins) we can- but seriously, so far so good. And we love that we used every last scrap of our rug and got a little bonus decor item out of the deal.

So that’s one take on our faux sheepskin solution. Stay tuned for this afternoon’s post where we actually hunted down fabric and made a more flexible and drapey “throw-like” version. And those were even cheaper and easier so they’re definitely an anyone-can-do-it DIY project. Well maybe not anyone; Burger refuses to help but ironically can always be found enjoying all the fruits of our labor…

Sidenote: Is it wrong that we think he’s the best looking dog in the world? Seriously, he’s a knockout isn’t he? But enough about our heartstoppingly handsome chihuahua. Have you guys ever DIYed anything from a rug or altered one in some fun hands-on way (dyed it? spray painted it? used it to “upholster” something like a cube ottoman?). We’d love to hear all about your thrilling adventures in rug-customization.

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Nursery Progress: Let’s Reflect For A Bit

We’re back to share how we painted our $39 Marshall’s mirror so it’s a bit less upscale-formal (in black) and a smidge more playful and nursery-ready (thanks to a few coats of deep asparagus green paint).

It was a super straightforward process, although I’m not gonna lie- all those curvy openings definitely took me a bit longer to work around than a basic mirror frame would have. But it was totally worth it in the end. As in, I’d do it again ten times without a second thought. We just love it!

We were inspired by the deeper green tones in the leaves from our curtain fabric so the color that we decided on for the mirror was a nice deep-ish green tone called Behr’s Scotland Isle (we got it color matched to an inexpensive quart of Olympic’s No-VOC Premium Paint in a semi-gloss finish). We passed on using any primer since our mirror was already painted (not stained) so we didn’t worry about anything bleeding through (and we wanted to avoid the primer fumes if at all possible). But we did rough it up with a bit of high-grit (350) sandpaper before picking up a paint brush. Note: if you’re not prego and not making over a mirror for a nursery, you could easily use a spray primer like Kilz followed by a few thin and even coats of spray paint in your color of choice for a perfectly polished finished product- just be sure to spray in a well ventilated area because those fumes aren’t great for anyone- pregnant or not.

So as I mentioned, I passed on the spray paint approach and resolved to do the work with a small craft brush instead. I left my usual 2″ angled paint brush in our tool drawer and reached for a tiny less-than-one-inch brush from Michael’s from my craft drawer instead- just to get into all those nooks and crannies. Two coats, and about two hours later, I was looking at a gorgeously green mirror that appeared as if it had always been that color. Not an ounce of black paint bled through the paint or peered around the cut outs thanks to my tiny brush. Oh and I painted the mirror on a flat piece of cardboard to catch any drips and make it easy to spin around so I could access it from all sides (which was crucial to ensure that I didn’t miss any of the many edges that needed green paint to cover the black).

Then I sat back and let everything fully dry (I didn’t even attempt to hang it for 24 hours, just to be sure it was fully cured) and used a simple straight edged razor to scrape the small amount of paint that had dripped from the frame onto the round face of the mirror in the middle. Then we used two heavy duty anchors to securely fasten it to the wall in the nursery. We intentionally hung it across from the only window in the modestly-sized room to reflect lots of light and make the space feel more open and airy.

We love how the color works with the tones in our curtains. And of course we adore all the fun little shapes that it makes on the wall (that we’re sure the beanette will love to stare at). We especially enjoy the four little hearts around the mirror’s perimeter that we never even noticed back before we painted it green.

See how smooth our paint job came out just from applying two thin and even coats of latex paint with a small craft brush? Painting a frame or a mirror is really one of the most simple and rewarding projects that you can take on (how about painting a bunch of them in a bold punchy color and hanging them in a grid above your sofa?). Easy peasy. Especially if they’re less ornate than this guy.

So there you have our latest little nursery project that we completed with just one cheap-o brush and a quart of colorful semi-gloss paint. Oh and we should mention that we do realize that when the beanette gets bigger and eventually can stand up in her crib (even though we’ll be lowering the mattress at that point) hanging the mirror even more securely on the wall will be in her best interest. At that time we plan to screw right through the frame and into the wall (we can countersink, putty and paint the heads of the screws to hide ‘em) so the mirror can’t even be yanked off the wall by a hulking adult. Stay tuned for all those little childproofing adventures that we’ll take on as Baby P grows and becomes more mobile towards the end of 2010…

And before we forget, did you notice that we snagged an awesome aqua colored 100% organic crib sheet? We actually ordered two of them (we’ve heard that it’s easier to always have a spare on hand) and also grabbed two 100% organic changing pad covers in the same color. We love the pop of happy hue that it adds without being too busy (we considered some patterned options but realized that with the scrolly mirror and the printed curtains it might be a bit too much).

Best of all? After sleuthing out about twenty organic crib sheet and changing pad cover options, these were the cheapest and the color happened to be perfect- plus they even offered free shipping so we couldn’t have been happier. Not bad for $18 and $15 a pop respectively. Of course we did that thing where you cross your fingers that the color n the monitor is close to the real color, but as soon as they arrived we breathed a sigh of relief. Now we just have to pick up about a million other things (waterproof mattress cover, changing pad, dresser, side table, lamp, art, cloth diapers, toy baskets, etc). Not to worry, we’ll get ‘er done.

Psst- Wanna see our nursery progress from the very beginning? Here’s our painting post, our big shopping spree, our crib hunting rundown, our curtain-making tutorial, and our fun little chair search.

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