Thursday, March 27, 2014

Crafting a Chicken Wire Nest

In my last post, I showed you my nest creations using chicken wire. Today, I’ll show you how easy these were to make.

I started with a narrow strip of chicken wire. The length and width are totally dependent on the size of nest you want. As I mentioned in the previous post,  I used 1/2" hex, as opposed to the common 1" hex you find in the big box stores. For my nests, I cut this strip 18" long x 5-1/2" wide, which produced a nest with 5-1-2" diameter.

I cut the strip purposely with “V” shapes on one side, and the straight twists on the other.

Using needle nose pliers, bend all the straight twist ends in half, crimping each bend as flat as you can. This makes a nice-looking soft edge, without the sharp raw twisted ends sticking out.

Next, squeeze together each diamond shape closest to these bent ends, making them as narrow as possible. This will create a natural curve to the bent ends side.

Using as thin and pliable a wire as you can find, thread the wire over and under through these narrow diamonds. No need for a needle, just use your fingers or needle-nose pliers. Just like basting fabric, take the two ends of wire and pull them tight, which will gather all the bent ends together in a tight circle. This will force the whole piece into a tent shape, so make sure the sharp, raw part of the bent wires is facing inside the tent. Twist your threading wire a few times, cut off most of the excess, then crimp the remaining threading wire into itself to hide the sharp endings.

Using some more thin wire, join the 2 chicken wire ends together, so the “tent” has no “door”. Once you’ve made sure they are threaded tightly together, now you can begin to sculpt your nest into a bowl shape. That’s the fun part. If you are concerned about scratching your fingers on the “V” ends, wear gloves.

Now that your nest shape is done, at this point, you can decide whether you wish to paint or rust your wire. Now is the time to do it, because if you do it before this step, you risk ruining the finish with all the handling.

Begin lining the inside with your favorite moss or filler, making sure you add a generous amount all the way up above the “V’s”. Once that’s done, start folding the “V’s” down over the moss, and pinching them tight. This will hold the top edge of moss in place.

You can add more little bits of moss to the top edge of the nest to keep it looking imperfect and natural, or pull up some of the moss strands you wired
down to fluff them up. That’s it. You’re done! There’s really no need to attach the moss/filler in the center bottom, unless you think it will be disturbed by a lot of handling. If this is the case, you will want it to be as invisible as possible, so either use hot glue along the bottom wires, or tack patches of the moss to the basket using the threading wire again.

You can apply the same shaping technique to make your own cloches. The tidy gathered end will then accommodate a finial or handle quite nicely. I think that will be my next fun project. I just can’t get enough of this stuff! I know I’m not alone here……:)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Elegant Chicken Wire Nest Creations

So now that Spring is here, I’m inspired to play with my beloved chicken wire again. While I do love chicken wire, it’s the size of the hex that really matters most to me. The smaller the hex, the more beautiful the design becomes, due to the added detail and wire for sculpting. Mine is ½” hex, but even smaller would be fabulous. Yes, some women need diamonds, but all I need is a plethora of DIY and Crafting supplies….:) I’m working on several designs, but this post I’ll show you bird’s nests. Nest #1…..

Chartreuse Reindeer moss wrapped up in chicken wire….

Filled with silver leafed eggs

With German glass glitter swirls (I used chunkier glass glitter because it sparkles more), spattered with Caramel alcohol ink to give them patina

And silver crinkly wire springing around them…..

And Yay to the Dollar store for stocking Styrofoam eggs, a dozen for a $1. It’s important to note that this is the smooth Styrofoam (like packing and peanuts), and not the rough kind in floral supplies.

Isn’t she tres chic perched on top of a vintage sugar bowl? Nest # 2…..

Aged excelsior wrapped in chicken wire…..

Filed with zinc-ish looking eggs (also Styrofoam) painted in grey, spattered with white, metallic Champagne, and brown paint

And spotted feathers tucked in….

Perched on top of this oh-so-fabulous, very aged vessel. I believe this is a sugar bowl also, and it’s the biggest I’ve ever seen. Quadruple Plate too. Old and gorgeous!

I accessorized the bowl with some chunky, textured chain, as the warm gunmetal finish gelled perfectly with the bowl’s patina. Just for fun, I made a cork tag, attached a zinc circle, and stamped it with Q & S 1862. (If you read my post showcasing the seed tray I chalk-painted, you’ll recall that I designed it with the words “Quality Seeds” and the year “1862”, as a fictitious seed company with its founding date.)

Since I can’t get that out of my head, I thought the tag could look like a cool antique fob of some kind. I think it looks wonderful next to the engraved monogram on the bowl. As for the aged excelsior, I have become addicted to ebonizing. It started with this Tiffany blue tool caddy I chalk-painted last year, and most recently the mercantile-inspired seed tray. It occurred to me that if you can age wood with this technique, then that means you could do the same thing with anything produced from wood, from shavings to paper. So of course after researching it, I found out lots of artists have been aging paper this way for a long time, to create Old World-themed books. Live and learn….:)

I wanted the texture of excelsior because it looked so authentic for a bird’s nest, but the cream color looked too new. (I could've used Spanish moss, but it was curlier than what I wanted.)

So after immersing a big clump of it into a container of tea, I scooped it into a tray, let it dry, then dunked it into my rusty vinegar. Again I scooped it into a tray, and let the ebonizing magic happen as it dried. (Save those foam food trays. After cleaning them, they make perfect crafting trays.) Now THAT looks old and weathered. Perfect! In the next post, I will show you how I built the nests! 

Linking To:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

An Attribute Only A Sentimental Junker Would Call An Attribute

So this is a short and sweet post. I rarely share the vintage treasures I come home with, but this one had a tiny, yet charming detail that gave me a warm fuzzy.

I spotted this chalkware fruit plaque at the thrift store, and was considering buying it. (Not a big investment, just a saturated market.) While I do appreciate the color and style, and how cheery it would look in a Retro kitchen, it was what was on the back that sealed the deal……

I consider this detail something only a sentimental junker would call an attribute. An original price tag from F.W. Woolworth for 33 cents. Call me crazy. Though perhaps some of you understand…..:)

In other news, I also picked up a seriously sweet (!) spice cupboard. I know all you Retro fans are about to curse me for this, but I think this is a perfect candidate for a chalk paint makeover.

After I finished the general store inspired-tray last week, I knew I wanted to paint more pieces in that style, and I think this cupboard is just the ticket!

I see so much potential in its good bones. It’s the next thing in line to paint, so I better get crackin’…….

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mercantile General Store-Inspired Garden Seed Tray

Well here’s the kind of post I’ve never done before. I just recently finished another chalk paint creation, and it sold before I even had this post written! I gotta say, this is the kind of problem I could get used too…..:) Plain old ordinary flatware tray.

This one had Germany stamped on the bottom. I really like the look of the old general store/mercantile box trays, that they used to sell garden seeds in. The ones I’ve found online have some fabulous graphics on the box labels. So in honor of those gorgeous specimens, I created this……

Fabulous chalk-painted, wooden organizer tray!

I have painstakingly hand-drawn and painted this gem, using the cheery color combination of red, green and warm yellow chalk paints. The green is a custom color I mixed inspired by Jadeite.

The words “Quality Seeds” are painted on the 2 long sides, and the short ends have “New York” and “1862”, for the fictitious company’s city and year it was founded. Why did I use “1862”? Because it’s a century before my birth year….:) Outer borders of the red background are lined in metallic gold. All painted areas have been heavily distressed and sealed with clear and dark wax.

I ebonized the interior and underside wood to give it a wonderful aged and weathered appearance, and has been left unsealed. Ebonizing is something I finally started playing with last Summer, and I’m having way too much fun with the process. You can find loads of tutorials on the web for ebonizing, but it’s not complicated. Just brushing black tea on your wood, letting it dry, then brushing on a vinegar rust solution that literally greys the wood before your eyes!

I had to do a LOT of sanding on this piece to reveal the raw wood. Looks are deceiving on some finished wood pieces, and it was way more sealed than I realized. The ebonizing won’t work unless it’s on the raw wood. You can see that some of the wood on this tray is grey, and some is still a honey-toned wood. I think the uneven tone gave it more aged authenticity. So my beautiful tray was only listed for 1 day, and sold. Ho Hum….NOT! But I am so attached to the general store concept, that I think I must must must continue to paint treasures with that theme. My next piece is a spice cupboard, so I definitely think that theme will work nicely. 
Off I go……

Friday, March 14, 2014

Gold Leaf, Glue Gun, & a Dollar Store Plastic Easter Egg

The sun is shining brightly here in Oregon. 
I do believe that means it’s time to be inspired for Spring creations. 
I think I can handle that!

If you recall, last year I created this elegant Easter egg, using a plastic egg, silver leaf, a glue gun, and alcohol ink. It is truly one of my favorite projects, and judging from the Pins and blog visits, my followers love it too!

I went to the Dollar store recently, to see if there were any interesting eggs to play with, and I believe I found some. These are faceted and transparent, and I knew they had potential.

Although this new piece is somewhat derivative of last year’s egg, it certainly is gorgeous and has no problem commanding its own attention!

I tried it first with just gold leaf and no hot glue design. While it is pretty this way and would be attractive with several in a display bowl, I really desired to show off the diamond details better with dimension.

What makes this super easy for the artistically challenged, is that you needn’t draw any designs beforehand. Just follow the existing diamond pattern with the hot glue. Easy Peasy!

And like the silver egg, I brushed on Caramel alcohol ink to give the gold a warm antique patina.

Although it wasn’t necessary, I sealed it with Gloss varnish to make it shimmer in the sunlight more.

As for displaying, the possibilities are endless. I picked up this exquisite little teacup at the thrift store recently, and it’s been longing for just the right display opportunity. I do believe I found it!

I have a stash of gold crinkle wire, and I knew this was just the place to use it. The faux grass adds crisp natural elegance. I placed everything in the cup in a temporary fashion, so the cup can be used for other projects. If you’re concerned about the design being disturbed, you could use florist foam and hot glue to hold everything in place. I have more eggs and metal leaf waiting in the wings, so let’s see what else I come up with! 

 Linking To:

Spring Thing Linky Party
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