Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wooden Whale

Many antique shop signs were shaped or painted to give an idea of the type of business. I thought it would be fun to make a book store sign shaped like a whale. You just need a plank, pencil, sandpaper, paint, hanging hardware and a jigsaw for this project. Sketch your outline on the plank, cut with jigsaw, sand edges, and paint. I used a few light layers of dusty teal and dark gray to get a weathered look for my whale cut out.

I had a very sad moment when my whale's tail broke off! I was able to perform surgery with wood glue, a screw, and my power drill. The plank I used is a thick piece of hardwood my dad salvaged from an old building he tore down. It's probably about 100 years old, so it's not surprising it had trouble holding up to the stress of the jigsaw.

I love the character of the old wood; the cracks, gouges, and nails give it life. If you have a piece of old wood, you can use the imperfections as part of your design. The eye of my whale is painted where there was already a hole and nail. If your wood is new, before you paint it put some chicken wire or chain on top and hit it with a hammer to give some texture (practice on scraps first).

I originally planned to paint a shop name on my whale, but wasn't very happy with my mock up. I might paint it on a separate board and then suspend my whale underneath with eyebolts and chain, but for now she's happy perching above my back door.

I used some hanging hardware I had on hand to mount my whale. You can purchase kits very cheaply in the hardware department of Target or framing section of JoAnn's.

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the qute life!
~Susie Qute

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mushroom Garden Decorations DIY

Fly amanita (Amanita muscaria) is the cutest mushroom with its cheery red cap and jaunty white spots. A long time ago I bought hand-lathed mushroom yard stakes from a neighbor in England, but sadly lost them many moves ago. I don't have access to a lathe, and I was enchanted when I saw Twig and Toadstool's mushroom seat project from the 70s here on Pinterest. They use old wooden salad bowls and logs. I love bringing a bit of European charm to my suburban Ohio home.

As I don't have any little ones about, I decided to recreate my lost mushroom stakes, rather than make seating. The process is basically the same, but I use smaller "stems" and add a screw to the bottom so they will stand up on their own. I plan to experiment with other thrifted materials in the future since wooden bowls are hard to find. I think plastic bowls and cups, glass or ceramic bowls with candlestick or vase stems (using epoxy instead of screws), or anything vaguely mushroom-y would work. I'm trying to think of a way to make some that light up--maybe with an overturned vase for the stem.

Not feeling crafty or need a couple of bowls? I have toadstools and bowls for sale in my Etsy shop here.

Nitty Gritty

  • Wooden bowls in various sizes and shapes
  • Lengths of branches cut from 7-12" as desired
  • Red spray paint (or any color desired for mushroom caps)
  • Small can of white latex paint
  • Spray clear coat paint
  • 1" screws
  • 3-4" screws (use longer screws for looser soil)
  • Small artist's paint brush (about 1/2" wide) or round sponge stamp (for making spots)
  • Power drill with drill bits and screwdriver bits
  • Sandpaper or sanding block
  • Drop cloth for painting
  • Optional-white spray paint or 2" paint brush to paint stems white. (I left mine natural.)
  1. If you want to paint your branch "stems" white, do so first and allow to dry. I didn't do this first and the natural wood color just got lost in the grass and mulch.
  2. Wash your bowls with warm water and soap and allow to dry. Remove any stickers and residue. Sand bowls lightly and wipe with lint free cloth.
  3. I set my bowls on wooden stakes so the bottoms wouldn't touch the drop cloth.
  4. Apply several light coats of red paint, allowing to dry between coats. I used Valspar's outdoor paint for added durability. It took a long time to dry and remained tacky to the touch for longer than I expected, so I'm not completely happy with this product.
  5. Using a drill bit slightly narrower than your screws, drill pilot holes about 1/2" deep in each end of your stems. Drill a hole all the way through each bowl in the bottom center.
  6. Using the 1" screws, attach the bowls to the stems.
  7. Using the longer screws, drill them about one inch into the base of the stem. This will push into the dirt and allow your mushrooms to stand up on their own.
  8. Paint on white spots-try this on some other surface first to make sure you have the technique down. I dip my brush in the can of paint about halfway up the bristles, wipe off one side of the bristles against the edge of the can, put the side with paint on it against mushroom surface, apply slight pressure, and turn it 360 degrees. Another option is to use a sponge stamp for textured circles. You can make one by cutting a circle out of a kitchen sponge, getting it wet and thoroughly wringing it out, then dipping one side in the paint and lightly applying to your mushroom.
  9. After the spots have dried, apply a few thin layers of spray on clear coat to protect them from the weather.
  10. Stake in your favorite spot and enjoy!
I left some of my bowls the natural wood like the hand turned toadstools I used to have, and am quite happy with the results of those. I painted white ribs underneath those just for fun, and later decided to paint the stems white. These look fine alone but I like a grouping of two or more with a little garden gnome or animal statue underneath, or even Smurfs for some 80s nostalgia.

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the qute life!
~Susie Qute

The mushrooms shown above, and some plain bowls, are available in my shop at

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Simple Summer Pleasures: Paper Boats and Floats Garland

As I mentioned in my previous paper boat post, I've always loved the process of turning paper into something that floats ever since I read Curious George Rides a Bike. This time I followed the traditional pattern, but used them to make a garland for my dining room window. I used the excellent tutorial on Crescendoh's blog here. She has the same vintage atlas I do! It has maps, astronomical illustrations, data charts, and sociological information in addition to world maps so there are a variety of page styles to choose from in one book. You can buy one for $2-15 plus shipping online, or diligently check every thrift store you visit for a year like I did.

The boats were too plain alone, so I added paper spheres in two sizes, and cut little flags to thread onto the cotton rope, all using paper from the same atlas. I machine sewed three circles together to make each sphere. If you don't sew you can cut out twice as many, fold each in half and glue them together, then thread a cord through the middle, but that sounds like it will take forever, so even though I don't sew much these days, I whipped out 10 spheres in about 45 minutes from start to finish. I was very tempted to buy a paper punch from JoAnn's to make it go faster, but storage is limited in my little house. If you're not so constricted, you can see one here.

There is a pretty good sewn garland tutorial on Art and Whimsies' blog here. I will warn you that many sewing machines can't make "empty stitches" as she calls them (stitches without paper or fabric) without breaking the thread. If that's the case with your machine, just lift the presser foot, pull your thread gently to give a few inches between each sphere, then lower the presser foot and sew the next sphere. When your garland is finished, gently twist it a lot of times so the threads will twist together attractively in each section.

Also, you will probably want to adjust your stitch length to 3 or 4 (twice the normal 2mm length). Paper is slipperier than most fabrics and if you stitch too close together the halves will tear apart when you fan them out. Side note-use decorative machine stitches without any thread to make cool perforated patterns on plain papers and cardstock.

I was thinking of adding a second and third tier of bunting cut from more atlas pages, but sometimes I go too far and the effect is lost. So I stopped here and will wait a week before adding anything else.

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the qute life!
~Susie Qute

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gift for Thrift: Curb Alerts on Craig's List

I rarely drive out of my way for curb alerts, but there was one on a recent Sunday morning that sounded promising, and wasn't too far from my route to Jazzercise. Any time something is described as midcentury it's worth a second look. I knew they'd probably be gone by the time I arrived but it was worth a try.

Score! I scooped up three vintage aqua chairs and an octagonal side table. They're all in rough shape, but have good bones. The teal upholstery is probably beyond saving, but I'm going to try to clean off the paint splatters and grime. The legs need sanding and painting, and some of the feet are missing. I'm hoping to make two good chairs out of three ragged ones. The blond wood veneer is chipped, but I plan to paint it anyway, so I'll just use wood filler and sandpaper to smooth out rough areas.

Bonus-I've never driven on that particular road before, and across the street from my destination, I found two rickety plant stands and some nice wood from a broken crib on the curb.

I love free stuff and my garage has a designated future projects area where cruddy things with potential await new life. But once it's full, I cut myself off from bringing in more, or have a strict one in, one out rule.

I've heard a lot of negative, and sometimes tragic, stories about Craig's List over the years, and have had some weird and scary encounters of my own. If you're buying or surfing curb alerts from Craig's List or another source, be cautious. Always tell someone where you're going, and how long you expect to be. Meet in public places if possible. You know the drill.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep living the qute life!
~Susie Qute

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Simple Pleasures: Movie Night Popcorn Basket

I love the ease of microwave popcorn, but don't like reaching into a greasy bag. We usually use big plastic bowls but they hog up all the room in the dishwasher. Lately I've been using baskets from Dollar Tree (just $1 each) lined with a cloth napkin instead of a huge bowl. The napkin gets tossed in the wash and the basket goes right back in the cabinet after a quick wipe.

Thrifted baskets spray painted bright colors would work well if you don't have a Dollar Tree near you. When I was a kid mom always used wicker baskets lined with paper napkins. Of course she made popcorn in an air popper. I was thinking about trying an air popper, but the butter never used to get evenly distributed. Does anyone have a neat solution for nonhomogenous butter distribution issues? I'd love to hear about it.

In the meantime, I'm stocking up to get ready to rewatch The Lego Movie. Everything is awesome!

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the qute life!
~Susie Qute

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Crafty: Flip Flop Button Embellishment DIY

Flip flops are the quintessential summer footwear. They can be kicked off in an instant to enjoy warm grass, sand, or water on your tootsies. Even though they are basically disposable, I don't want them to look that way.

I bought a cheap gold pair of sandals from Target, but they needed a little more pizazz. I debated between vintage buttons from my collection, but a pair of brass owls from JoAnn's clearance bins won out. Grab any buttons you have on hand for mix-and-match fun, or pick up new buttons (don't forget to get a coupon from; they always have 40-50% off). This is a great kids craft since it only takes basic sewing skills.

I just added one central button on each, but you could add a row up each strap, string beads and sew them on, or even punch holes on the sides and add charms. If your flip flops have thick rubber or leather straps, you may need a thimble and pliers to force the needle through.

Nitty Gritty

  • Flip flops
  • Sewing thread (heavy duty or jeans is best, but you can use doubled up standard sewing thread)
  • Buttons
  • Scissors
  • Needle
  • Thimble (optional but helpful)
  • Pliers (optional but helpful)
  1. Arrange your buttons so they won't rub on your feet when you put your flip flops on. I almost sewed mine on too tightly and they would have been so uncomfortable!
  2. Thread your needle with one 24" length of heavy duty thread or two lengths of regular sewing thread. Tie a knot 3-4" from the tail.
  3. It's hard to describe sewing-I'll do my best but please look at the pics and feel free to comment/email if you're confused.
    Push the needle through one strap to the middle split of the straps, through the button shank (the loop on the back of the button) and through the other strap.
  4. Pull thread taut and wrap underneath straps, returning to the starting side. Tie a tight double knot to secure.
  5. Sew and wrap (but don't knot again) 5 to 6 times until button is firmly attached.
  6. Tie a double knot on the side of the strap.
  7. You can just trim the threads and secure with a drop of Fray-Check or super glue, but I like to hide my loose ends. I thread the needle along the back of the strap, never poking through to the top side, for a few inches, then trim the threads. I hide some on the left strap and some on the right, but you can try to put them all on one side if you like, and they'll all fit through your needle's eye.
  8. Repeat for the other sandal and you're finished. This takes 20-30 minutes once you have all your supplies at hand.
Thanks for stopping by and keep living the Qute life!
~Susie Qute

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Simple Pleasures: Free Croquet Wallpaper

We spent several years of my childhood in upstate New York. We had a nice big yard at one house and would often play family games of croquet, badminton, ping pong, and other classic past times. Dad would grill and mom would make potato salad or deviled eggs. We don't have much space so yard games aren't really possible here, but we broke out the croquet set during my recent trip to see my folks in New York state.

It always makes me nostalgic for those fun summer days stretching slowly into night, when we didn't have to come in until dark (or until the gnats drove us in if it was damp). As I reminisced, I thought summer fun would make a great theme for wallpapers or scrapbook papers. Here are the first installments in what I hope will become a series.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep living the Qute life!
~Susie Qute

Both are a 16:9 aspect ratio for widescreen monitors/tablets.
Click here for blue sky wallpaper shown above, or higher quality image via Social Wallpapering here.
Click here for green wallpaper shown below, or higher quality image via Social Wallpapering here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Simple Pleasures: Line Art Tutorial

I never liked coloring. I got in trouble in first grade for refusing to color a picture. When my teacher asked why I'd left it blank, I replied, "It snowed so everything is white." Drawing, on the other hand, has always been fun for me. I love the act of putting ink on paper, watching the smooth ribbons unfurl behind my pen.

I learned this line art technique in seventh grade. It's so simple, starting with one line, but rippling out in organic columns to fill any shape. I love the undulating patterns it creates. No two are ever the same, even if you start with the same points along the line.

Nitty Gritty

  • Pen, pencil, or marker
  • Paper
  • Object to trace (optional) 
  1. Trace an object like a cup, dish, or picture frame if desired. Or you can just fill up a page or 3D object. This works nicely on flower pots, vases, etc.
  2. Draw a meandering line across your shape or page. This is your base line.
  3. On either side of the base line, draw anchor lines. These lines dip in and touch, but don't cross, the base line in several random points. They can touch at the same points, or be different.
  4. On one side of the base line, repeat the curves of the anchor line in rows across the page. You won't be able to perfectly follow the curves, and each imperfection is amplified in the next row.
  5. Continue until you run out of room on the first side, then turn your paper and repeat on the other side of the base line. When spaces get tight, just draw as much as you can to fill the area you have left.
I used this technique to make a cover page for my son's baby book. He was born in San Antonio, Texas, so I used a page from an old atlas for my shape. I drew a pink heart around the city, then radiated outward from there. I think it's pretty, but personally I like the effect you get when following a line better, as shown in the top left photo.

This is also fun to do in rainbow colors, stripes of varying widths (random or repeats), and on clothes with fabric paint.

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the Qute life!
~Susie Qute

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ironic Altered Art Woodland Critter Greeting Cards

I found a set of 1970s vintage greeting cards at Savers thrift store near Canadaigua, NY during a recent visit to my family. I planned to use them as they were since they are lovely prints of north American animals, but they kept telling me they needed a little spicing up. When I noticed they were printed by the National Rifle Association, I was a little puzzled. So they're cards of beautiful animals to go out and shoot? It seemed a little ironic, so punk rock NRA deer happened, and the others quickly followed to keep him company.

I've bought many vintage notecards over the years and made slight alterations, but these are the most extensive by far. Most thrift stores have a stationery section near or mixed in with crafts. You can pick up old cards for a song here in Columbus, or raid your mom or grammy's stash. I used colored pencils to give these cards more personality. They'd be a great multi-media project with lace, buttons, etc.

Have fun with these designs, or you can buy blank and finished cards in my Etsy shop here. I enjoy thinking up snarky comments for the animals. Miss Bison is complaining to a friend about how hard it is to date when you're an endangered species.

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the Qute life!
~Susie Qute

Monday, June 2, 2014

Recycled Wood State Silhouette DIY

I fell in love with MilwaukeeUp's recycled pallet art as soon as my mom pinned it on Pinterest. You can see the Wisconsin silhouette here. I didn't have an old pallet, but my dad has a stash of planks from an outbuilding he demoed on their property in western New York. I made an Ohio outline for me, and I knew mom would be a little jealous so I made a New York silhouette for her. She LOVED it and immediately hung it in her bedroom (see last pic below).

This is a pretty basic project if you have beginner level carpentry and painting skills and equipment.

Nitty Gritty


  • Background paint (I used 3 shades)
  • Contrasting color paint for silhouette
  • Paint brush (2-3" wide)
  • Artist's paint brush (1/2" wide) for details
  • Piece of white chalk
  • Three equal lengths of planking (cut down from longer plank or buy at a lumber yard and ask them to cut it for you)
  • Two thinner pieces of wood to attach them to (equal to or slightly less than the combined width of the three planks)
  • Six screws
  • Picture hanging hardware if desired
  • Circular saw if cutting down longer pieces of wood
  • Power drill or screwdriver
  1. I set up the wood on sawhorses in dad's barn, set the kids to work pulling nails, dad finished pulling the bulk of the nails while I talked about alpaca fleece with mom, and then used a circular saw to rip right through them. The pieces aren't perfectly equal, but I think that's part of the charm. You could use planks of varying widths as MilwaukeeUp did in the original piece.
  2. Lay out your three planks side by side face down as shown below. Lay your thinner bracing pieces across the back slightly in from the top and bottom edges.
  3. I like to drill pilot holes with a drill bit slightly smaller than my screws to help prevent the wood from cracking. Start with the middle plank. Drill your pilot hole, then screw the bracing piece into the plank. Move to a side plank, drill your pilot hole, then add a screw. Move to the other side plank, repeat. Repeat for the second bracing piece.
  4. You can add nails as I did for extra reinforcement from the front or back of the piece.
  5. I used three colors of spray paint for the background to give it more depth and an aged look. I started with a light mist of charcoal gray, then dusty teal, white, and finally dark gray again. Don't forget the edges! You can also paint the back if you wish.
  6. Wait an hour or two for it to dry before starting your state outline. My mom had a sample of Valspar paint in a gorgeous shade of turquoise called Rushing Stream that was just perfect. She watches for coupons and gets one or two free each year. I drew the state shapes freehand in chalk, but if you're not good at that you can get an enlarged copy and make a stencil to trace. I painted the center of each state silhouette with a medium painter's brush, then added the edges and details with a 1/2" wide artist's brush. After it dried I gave it a second coat.
  7. A few touch ups and my painting was done. It just needs some hanging hardware on the back to be complete.
You can additionally distress your piece at any stage by sanding, hitting with a hammer, or putting chains or chicken wire on it and hammering them to dent the wood.

It would be fun to use these plank "canvasses" for all kinds of artwork. I think vintage inspired signs, silhouettes of famous people's profiles, or nautical themes such as anchors or mermaids would look great.

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the Qute life!
~Susie Qute