Let's Just Try It

a compilation of inspiration and creative endeavors of a mom and daughter duo

Category Archives: Interior Decorating

reCreation-The Art of Old Becoming New

I believe in second chances, don’t you? Opportunities to shine better than you shined before, to correct a mistake made in haste or to try just one more time to reach the goal you fell short of last time. It takes grace on the giver, and persistence on the receiver, but this is the seasoning of life.  People need second chances – why? because they have value  and potential.  No matter how tired, battered or worn out they might be.

Art imitates life, right?

recreate:  \ˈre-krē-ˌāt\

transitive verb
:  to give new life or freshness to : refresh
intransitive verb
:  to take recreation

In the early days (back when I was very young and very bored) my mom would give me old buttons, yarn and scraps of fabric to keep me busy on those long summer days. I can remember thumbing through magazines and pattern books dreaming of all the things that those buttons and scraps could become.  This was my “recreation”.

Perhaps because of these memories, I have a very hard time walking past “items of great potential” –  Beautiful stacks of cardboard, old pallets, holey jeans… they all sing with the tune of second chances.

So, what is a girl to do? ReCreate of course!
I have been cooking up several projects and will be keeping a journal of the process. Check out my new blog “CJ’s (re)Creations for how to’s, techniques and some items for sale

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Art By Putty Knife

This was definitely a classic “Let’s Just Try It” project!  A photo posted on Pinterest got my mind going, and a verse that I have always wanted illustrated were what got me going.  All it took was a big canvas with the right dimensions, a putty knife, Acrylic Gel Medium and my tray of acrylic paints.  One afternoon of joyous painting – it felt like the days when my mom would sit me at the table with fingerpaint – colour mixing and mashing…. so much fun!

This is how simple it is: Mix acrylic gel medium to give acrylic paints texture (or I suppose, use oils!). Use a paper plate as the palette – start with the lightest colour and load the putty knife-edge with the colour – stroke down for one, stroke to the side for the second. PIck up a bit of the next colour and stroke on the palatte to blend the colour slightly – continue working through the canvas, laying down the background. Work in the focal point (in this case, the tree).  Let dry.  Add leaves when dry.  (NB: the leaves consisted of a significant amount of gel as I wanted them to stand up on the canvas – I wasn’t entirely happy with the result – and definitely shouldn’t have worked on it at 10 pm!


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In true “Lets Just Try It” style – let me share what I learned….

  • A rough sketch of the elements of the painting can give direction for colour change as you go. It wasn’t entire a “fly by the seat of your pants” project.
  • Mix enough paint with the gel medium to get you through the entire painting. Matching mixed colours and gel is a difficult task – luckily this particular technique does not require exact match!
  • Edges are tough to tackle with a stiff putty knife – a softer, more flexible one would have been better
  • Blue tends to dry more transparent my end result was not exactly what I had hoped for as the overlapping of the colours were not disguised with the blue – of course I had to wait until it was dry to discover this!
  • Paint in the detail while the background is wet for a fun way to add tone to your detail. My tree trunk was painted with the same base colour, but when dragged through the wet background, picked up the light and dark elements.
  • Decide BEFORE you start whether you imagine a frame or not.  Sadly, I painted this on a stretched canvas, and have decided it definitely needs a frame…. I will have to seek professional advise about how to make that happen.
  • Finally, take your time on the final details!  I was so determined to finish in one day, that I got a bit sloppy on the leaves. It resulted in a slightly cartoonish looking tree.  Next time I will save the leaves for a fresh day, and spend time on some detail.

Heart Shaped Mini Wreath

Most times, it’s the little things that count.  The unexpected kiss on the cheek, the wink across the room, the help when unasked.

There is nothing nicer than leaving a little gift for someone anonymously, and this little heart wreath is a simple way to show those you love that you appreciate them. Leave them hanging on the door, from the car mirror or maybe even on the shower handle.  Depending on the size made, it would take no time at all to whip up half a dozen. They use mostly scraps or repurposed materials and cost almost nothing.


Medium Gauge Wire – (recycle an old hanger!)

A pair of pliers and a wire cutter

Masking tape

Scraps of fabric (left overs from sewing projects, old pillowcases, bits of worn out clothing)

Bits of Ribbon to hang with

Step One: Bend a small heart from a piece of wire.  Tip: start from the bottom of the heart and bend upward. Bend each side of the top of the heart by gently bending the curve around.  Perfection is not needed.

Step Two: Twist the ends of the heart together. If too long, trim shorter.  Tape ends with tape for safety. ( if the twisted section is too long, as it is above, trim with a pair of wire cutters. The tape will hold it together.

Step Three:  Tear strips from a variety of types of cloth.  The width required will depend on the size of wreath made.  For a 7 inch wreath, I used approximately 1 inch wide strips. If using very thick material, make narrower strips.

Step four: Cut the strips into a length that will make an easy hitch knot.  My sample was made with approximately 4 inch strips

Step five: Tie the strip onto the frame using a hitch knot. ( Fold the strip in half, forming a loop. Fold over the frame, insert the ends of the strips through the loop and pull tight.

Continue all the way around the frame pushing the knots close together and varying the colours and patterns.

Step Six: To finish the wreath, pull the ends of the knots apart from each other to give it a fluffed appearance.

Tie a longer length of ribbon in a loop and thread it around the wreath to form a hanger.

Ta Da! A cute little gift to brighten someones day!

* Options (I love options!)

Use a bigger frame and wider strips to make a really fluffy wreath

Use scraps of ribbon, or widely different textures of fabric for a beautifully diverse wreath

Hang a string of beads from the middle or the bottom – or a charm – or a bow – the possibilities are limitless!

Hearts-A-Plenty Quick DIY Wall Art

I love pretty things, but I love pretty things done quickly even more!
Our house has a very natural relaxed feeling – natural stone, putty coloured walls and wood.

I found a selection of woven wicker hearts at Mr. Price – my favorite budget hunting place. For R140.00 ($18.50) I got my creative juices flowing and came up with a great natural looking piece to hang over my bed. It fits perfectly with the apple green and brown – and has a little sentimental value with each heart representing one of my family.

I hung each heart at eye pleasing levels, knotted at the top with two small loops to create hangers. In less than an hour I had just what I wanted.

Arts and Crafts in Cash-Strapped Times

I am certainly not an historian and do not have a degree in Art – but after recently visiting a few of the worlds most amazing museums in Paris, I realized that it doesn’t take an art major to draw the conclusion that economic and social climate certainly impacts what is considered beautiful in the eyes of society.

Who doesn’t love beauty?

Here we are in a world-wide economic down-turn  – does that mean that we all must don grey and black clothes, let the garden die and line our lives with illustrations with images similar to a Charles Dickens’ novel?  Not a chance!

In fact, art has a way of picking up the spirits and brightening  the future – so let’s get busy!

“What to do?” you may ask…  “I don’t have money to decorate” you may say… Not to worry!

Art does not have to be a stodgy effort of oil and canvas – nor does it have to be a perfect example of skill. Art is what decorates our lives and gives beauty to the dark corners of our rooms. 

I am a recent Twitter convert – and while my husband loves to follow political stories, I prefer something more positive, so I have looked for posts on all things bright and beautiful. In my quest, I have come across  a few Tweeters who are sharing their amazing ideas for adding beauty using materials that are all ready on hand – giving a whole new perspective to the word “recreation”. Isn’t it true that those who love to create find it recreational? – and if you are using recycled or repurposed materials, you have joined the upcycling (or as I call it “re-creation”) movement. 

My head is spinning with ideas – some old, some new.

         How about teddy bears or place mats sewn with old denim jeans?  

    Wreaths or adornments made from book page roses?

  Lamp shades from old milk bottles?

    Garden art from old soda cans?

Here is a hint: A quick internet search of “upcycling” or “crafting with recycled materials” will give you an endless list of projects – and if you are a Twitter fan, look for posts from Trashthetic, Triftybydesign and Hipcycle for some daily inspiration.

And don’t forget to WATCH THIS SPACE for some of our efforts!

Quick But Warm Two Tone Lap Blanket – No Sew!

While I have basked in 91 degree weather today, my friends and family back in the States have endured a winter of note – snow, power outages and now flooding. In honour of them, I have spent my Saturday making some lovely warm lap blankets – perfect for an evening of book reading or television viewing. Come July, I’ll be ready!

It all started with a bargain R99.00 ($12.00) for four beautifully colour coordinated polar fleece blankets on sale at my local Pick N Pay shop. They are a little thin, but perfect for the project I had in mind.

Materials and Tools:
1) Cheap and ready-made polar fleece blankets, but fleece bought from the local fabric shop would be as good, if not better.
2) A pair of Scissors
That’s IT!

Step One:
Layer two coordinating blankets (or lengths of fabric) on top of each other

Step Two:
Cut slits through both layers – 8 or 9 centimeters deep, spaced 3 or 4 centimeters apart. It is important that the cuts are consistently the same depth.

Step Three: Starting at one corner, begin to tie a basic square knot, using the bottom blanket’s strip tied to the top blanket’s strip.

Tip: Don’t tie too tightly as this may cause puckering.

Work around the blanket until the top is tied to the bottom along all edges.

Extra scraps of fleece could be used to decorate the center of the blanket – imagine flowers cut and fastened with a big bright button scattered across the face of the blanket.

Decorating secret to make a big impact

I have  a decorating secret. When my house is looking a bit boring and uninspiring, I have a little tool that makes a BIG impact. And for very little money.

For the cost of a couple of printed pages, you can transform the appearance of any room of your home.

There is a little online software that will tile a low res image into a high impact poster.

And a little later, after I was tired of that- I transformed the space again (the window is the same – the dining area and living area are open plan),



Of course just not at the same time!  These little posters can really transform a space into whatever fits your fancy, from homeschool 1950s to 1980 Glam Rock. FUN!

The Rasterbator (awful name, I know) creates huge, rasterized images from any picture. Upload an image, print the resulting multi-page pdf file and assemble the pages into extremely cool looking poster up to 20 meters in size.

Sweet, right?

Garden Art – a little bit of whimsy

I don’t know if it was the ceramic statues of gnomes, deer and squirrels in my Grandma Peterson’s garden (my brother and I would go on safari, hunting for them among the blooms and bush) or my mom’s creative flair in dressing up her flower beds with old shoes and teapots, but I have always wanted to add touches of something to my garden beds. 

 In our current home, we have a lot of well established green – and not too much colour. The bird life is great, and that has brought a special kind of colour, but I am ready for some fun.

At the moment I’m busy getting a container garden going, but once complete I am planning on getting a few fun things put together to add a bit of flair and maybe even fantasy to my garden (or yard, for my northern hemisphere friends and family).

High on my list are items created from upcycled goods. I love garden markers made from old spoons,

       Staked flowers from recycled soda cans

– and I’m definitely going to find an old bowling ball and croquet ball and do a bit of mosaic.

It’s a good thing that garden art has progressed beyond clever arrangements of gnomes and squirrels, and that there is so much great inspiration to be had!

Special thanks to meiphemera.blogspot.com and stitchanddestroy.blogspot.com for their great ideas!

Canvas Cutlery

Who doesn’t love to just play at something? Other than a tole painting class I took years ago I have never had actual instruction – but it is so fun to play around with colour and shade and see what comes out. After trying my hand at a small canvas, I got a bit braver and pulled out some large meter high canvases that I had bought on sale. My dining room was woefully bare and I thought a giant set of cutlery would be fun.

Embracing my “rustic” (translate: imperfect) style, I found some great images online, printed them in an                 enlarged format (thank you Microsoft Publisher and your tile printing option!). I then transferred the designs       on the canvases with graphite paper – basic shape and outline, but not too much detail.

Initially, I had hoped to keep the high contrast of light and dark, so I started with a light fill in, building up the dark – but the effect wasn’t want I wanted, so I opted to do a darker background and highlight with lighter – it worked better on the spoon and kept the lines softer, which is what I liked

After completing the basic shapes and shading, I added a bit of detail with shading to show a bit of a simple pattern, then finished off the look of the canvas with the phrase “we eat” in languages familiar to many who have dined at my table – Hindi, Zulu, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Afrikaans and a few others just for fun. The text was once again printed by my computer, enlarged and transferred. I then used a simple round brush and a beautiful green colour to get a nice even script.

Spring Colour Inspiration

The smell of spring is in the air! I am completely infatuated with the warm, sweet air- and the sense of victory! Spring has finally broken through!

I have been oogling the fresh spring palette all weekend too.

These colours have been really inspiring me lately:

Spring Palette(original image by House Beautiful)

I adore the art in this image too! There is nothing better than pinks, yellows and teals for springtime!