human behavior

DIY Lamp Makeover

Posted in Crafts by humanb on November 19, 2013


At more than 38 weeks pregnant, I’m still on a craft tear, but the clock is ticking for me to wrap up my nursery projects.

A lamp makeover was hardly necessary, but my husband kept complaining about my bedside lamp for some reason. I never really minded it, but it was quite plain. Moreover, it encroaches on the beginning of the nursery wall in the bedroom that we’ll share with the baby, so it could benefit from a bit of color.

As per usual, this project was only going to satisfy me if I could make use of materials that I already owned; and seeing as I had heaps of yarn left over from my nursery mobile, I resolved to use it.

Besides, a second yarn-related piece in the room would better ground the nursery mobile in the space, and provide further texture for a cozier atmosphere.

Like most of my craft projects, this one wasn’t original. I spent a good bit of time Googling “lamp makeovers” that used yarn, and found a recurring aesthetic idea…

lamp_orangered lamp_blueteal lamp_blueyellow

Painted bases and 3-toned horizontal bands of yarn were clearly the trend, and the shift from one colour to the next was universally handled with alternating stripes for added interest. I really hate being trendy, but I’m not so delusional or arrogant as to think that I’m immune from the influence of popular design aesthetics. I like the look of the shades, I admit. Would I have liked the shades ten years ago when they weren’t on trend? Who knows. But I was determined to mix things up – at least a bit – with my shade.

I don’t like the way the lamp bases are painted however – at least not the white ones. I’ve remained happily immune to the so-called ‘charms’ of painted white furniture, but you’ll find it everywhere and especially in nurseries. People seem to think that white paint makes furniture look ‘fresh’. But I think it makes it look cheap, with some exceptions.

Like past projects, this one was fun for the challenge of using pre-owned materials. I was limited in the colours of yarn I could use, and I was forced to work with a lamp shade with a much sharper angle, such that the yarn almost never stayed in place as I wrapped it around the shade. In the end, I resorted to using double-sided tape for every row, which worked like a dream.


I didn’t really have a colour or design plan as I worked…


I just stopped with one colour when it felt right, and switched to another, being mindful to start and stop along the shade’s primary seam. A dot of craft glue was used at the tips.


While the double-sided tape worked wonders as I went up the shade, the very top and bottom rows never did stay put without a final line of glue.


But in the end, the shade looked surprisingly tidy.


I was happy at this stage to call the project done, but my husband felt the base needed a coat of paint. Curiously, he suggested a dark grey – the very colour used in the example above – which he’d never seen. (That’s the strong and silent influence of trends for you.) But I’ve not been led astray in trusting his instincts yet.

As I was out of black acrylic paint, I had to make my own grey. And while I had every intention of making a true grey, I ended up with muted shade of blue. But what a happy coincidence that it so closely resembled the blue yarn that I’d used. Here’s the final result:


I’m still not convinced that the base needed painting, or that this was the best paint colour for it. And I acknowledge that the shade pattern is predictable. But I still like this lamp.

Of course, no one ever mentions or considers how these lamps will look at night, when the light is on.


Meh. Not so great. The light it gives off is pleasantly warm, but the lamp shade itself doesn’t look very nice with its colours so altered. But no biggie.


I’ll just admire it during the day. 😉



A Grown-Up’s Nursery Mobile

Posted in Art, Crafts, Home improvement by humanb on November 7, 2013

In March I wrote a post about my weight loss on the 5:2 Diet. I lost seven pounds in three weeks on calorie restriction alone, and had every intention of continuing my experiment when something unexpected happened.


Our baby is due in three weeks and we won’t discuss how much I weigh now. Sufficed to say, all weight loss experiments are on hold until December and I’ve shifted gears to more creative endeavours now that I’m officially on maternity leave.

My husband and I live in a 1.5 bedroom unit in Sydney, and as the second, smaller room serves as a very necessary study, the baby will share a bedroom with us. This means two things:

1) This boy will not be accumulating more stuff than is necessary given space constraints (and my resistance to gross materialism in general); and

2) Our bedroom will now have to harmonize the tastes of three different people to become something neither too adult nor too infantile.

In other words, no cartoon choo choo trains on the walls, but no more muted colours either.

After clearing the wall on my side of the room, I invested in the Grotime Turin Cot, a European space-saving crib considerably smaller than the standard, and bought an Ikea Hemnes Chest of Drawers to store our new roommate’s clothing and other bits and bobs.

That leaves the fun but challenging task of decorating a baby’s space in a grown-up’s room.  What better place to start than with a nursery mobile?

So that was project number one. A quick search of nursery mobiles yielded lots of delicate and cutesy (but boring) examples; just as much garish and clichéd kiddy stuff; and a smaller number of DIY, crafty pieces of varying appeal.

But one mobile featured on Pinterest stood out among the rest.


Glorious, simple, colourful yarn balls!

This one was deceiving, however, as it was more a long line of suspended balls of yarn than a proper mobile, and would not have worked nearly as well above a crib as it does in a brick-walled loft.

But the idea was a gem, and a Google search of “yarn mobiles” yielded plenty of other examples. Given my lust for upcycling, recycling, leftovers and used everything, I was delighted that I’d found a mobile whose materials I didn’t have to buy. I knew my mother would have plenty of scrap yarn from the crocheted hats and blankets she makes under the brand GaGa Originals.


So once my box of scrap yarn arrived from the US, I set to work. Thinking, that is. It took a surprisingly long time to decide how to tackle this project…

Which colours do I use? How do I make the balls? Do I make them different sizes or the same size? How do I hang the balls? How many balls on a string? How do they stay fixed on the string? What kind of string? What should the string hang from? How long and how wide should the whole thing be?

In the end, I was fairly happy with my choices.



But this project was more difficult to complete than it looks.

Choosing My Colors. My mother sent me more colors than I ultimately used, and four different types of yarn. I had hoped to only use the Lion Suede, with its soft, velvety texture (see the green, for example), but I found the palette too limited as I didn’t have enough, so I was forced to use the coarser yarn as well. After spending several days(!) selecting my colors, I realised the palette was still wanting for lack of any orange. Reluctantly, I hit the craft store and bought a ball of orange yarn of an entirely different texture from everything else. To my relief, it worked just fine and communicated nicely with the hair of my childhood Annie doll.


With only small amounts of my favourite colours, I had to find a way to make them stretch, so I decided to use styrofoam balls that I could wrap with the absolute minimum amount of yarn. Of course, that meant having to go back to the craft store to buy styrofoam balls. 😦

Creating the Yarn Balls. Having looked at a number of mobiles online that used balls of varying sizes, I decided the effect was interesting at the expense of elegance, so made all the balls the same size for my project.

Most of the tutorials online involved randomly wrapping yarn into or on to a ball. Only one tutorial advocated a single layer technique using glue. The effect seemed cleaner but proved impossible (for me) to execute.


Clearly, my craft glues were too toxic for the styrofoam, as they ate away at the darn things before I could get any yarn around them. When I tried a less toxic glue of weaker strength, I found it impossible to get the yarn to stay put or to stay clean. The green ball represents my abandonment of that technique for a simple wrap-around approach with a small dot of nontoxic glue to seal the end. Note the small dot of discolouration from glue on the centre orange ball pictured below. Once I’d realised how easy it could be, I finished the lot in no time.  😉


Threading the Balls. Initially I thought clear fishing wire would work best, creating a floating effect like in the brick-walled loft example. But my husband convinced me that it was an inappropriate mix of ideas and materials and that twine was a better partner to yarn than fishing wire or string.


Threading the balls was easy enough with an extra-large (and long) sewing needle. Securing the balls on the string was as easy as tying a knot in the twine before the next ball was strung, leaving roughly 3 inches between each ball for symmetry.


Suspending the Balls.  Most of the mobiles online suspended the balls from one or more wooden rings. After initially trialling a single wooden ring, I decided it looked too nursery-esque, and opted for the equally traditional but edgier wooden cross.


To create the cross, I chose the extremely lightweight material, balsa wood, which is remarkably easy to dent and score, but reliably strong. After staining the wood, I glued two pieces together, wrapped the centre in copious amounts of twine, and wrapped the four ends with blue Lion Suede. Before tying the strands of yarn balls to the cross, I scored its four sides where I planned to tie the strands.


The addition of a large ball suspended from the middle was an afterthought when I realised the project still seemed to be lacking something. I have my husband to thank for the suggestion that it be red, a colour I generally dislike, but acknowledge has a particular vibrancy.


The Finished Product. The end result is a mobile that I think can appeal to grown-ups and babies alike, with its simple forms, vibrant colour, different textures and nods to both traditional and contemporary elements. This mobile proves that art, craft and interior design need not be infantile to appeal to infants. There’s no reason that I know of why a baby would prefer a collection of cartoony stuffed elephants, half moons and owls hanging over his head instead of this.

Completing the Space. The abstract paintings on the nursery wall were painted by my two nieces a few years ago. They’re a bit too free-form to remain there, I think, but they’re fun place-fillers for a future project. The children’s book was written and illustrated by a family friend and will move when I make a proper home for the baby’s burgeoning library. The baby shoes were my mother’s from the 1950s and will remain there. And the Ikea chest of drawers is begging to be hacked, as soon as I figure out how to embellish it.

Whatever the final design, it will hopefully blend well with the rest of the room, while clearly defining the baby’s dedicated space. There’s still plenty to be done in terms of storage solutions, decoration and final placement of things.

But I reckon my old Annie is there to stay.


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