Monday, 22 December 2014

Up-cycling a Vintage Suitcase: The Grand Battle

So I have never re-done a suitcase before, I have never even used a glue gun, it was one huge experiment that went pretty well I think!

About a fortnight ago I was walking to work in zombie mode, really not feeling it, having one of those kind of days, y'know, just bad. When I happened upon a pile of rejected stuff, suitcase stuff. Now I must admit I have a massive thing for old luggage, to the point where back home in England I have several finds from car boots still hanging out in storage (at one point I was banned from collecting any more....). My pride is a steamer trunk (£15 on ebay, a steal!). So, of course, I had a root through and found a lovely little suitcase (it is in the pic on the right not the left). Sadly all the others were beyond hope, otherwise the doctors bag would have been taken too. But frankly it stank and was kinda filthy so I had to rush to the store to buy some bin bags so that I did not dirty up the rather nice apartment I was working in that afternoon.

I just want to say it REALLY smelt. Carrying it home I was acutely aware of it. So I stuck it on top of the washer in the bathroom and plotted my next move (whilst my two roommates febreezed the hell out of the bathroom at regular fifteen minute intervals. I am not going to detail the ins and outs of the war, but lets just say it was A WAR. I can only assume the white stuff on it was mold....

In brief the onslaught went as follows:
1.Wiped the outside thoroughly with warm water with washing up liquid and French Ariel equivalent.
2. Had a go at the inside with it.
3. More febreeze than is possibly required.

Momentarily thought I had conquered it OH NO. Ten min later it came back through the febreeze.

4. Washed it again with stronger solution, more thoroughly then left it to dry for 24hours in a really warm room.
5. Still bad, it is suggested I use lemon juice, so I dilute some lemon juice and tree oil (because the latter is anti-bacterial) in a spray bottle and blitz the inside. Blitzed the inside with the solution and left to dry. This was a miracle- it halved the smell.
6. Repeated miracle step.
7. Read that cat litter helps, persuade a friend to give me some kitty litter, throw it in, close it up and leave it for a week. 

At this point it had been kicked out the bathroom on the grounds of being an annoyance, both in location and smell. Despite my claims of it being way better than upon its arrival.

I lived with it for a week, kinda got used to the smell, started coughing more, got paranoid it was the case, but by this point we had bonded... So I decided to gut it.

It did not look great. 

Gutting the top was hard because it had a pocket, so whereas for the bottom half I just ripped it out, for the top I had to attack with a craft knife. It felt GOOD. As I had been contemplating the drastic move over the weekend prior, I had popped to Ikea on our free Ikea bus (so happy to discover we have a free Ikea bus!), and bought some rather lovely entomological themed fabric for 5E a meter.

I was not prepared for how fiddly this was....

I measured the inside panels and drew out one huge panel that was the two long interior sides and the base, plus the two sides and cut these out to put aside.

I initially thought I would trace around the panel inside the lid directly onto the fabric, but when I pulled it away some of the card came with it and I was worried about the structural integrity of the inside, so instead I dug out some cardboard Amazon packaging and made a template from the original panel onto that.

I forgot to take a photo here, after I had cut out my cardboard panel I threw out the original rather gross one and stuck the fabric on with my brand new glue gun, pulling it taught as I went.

Then by hand I stitched up the lining for the bottom. It took a while....

Me making sure the side panels were level.

Then I placed it all in to see if it fit, it did. So then I started gluing.... HAHA It was messy.
I did the top first which was easy, glue and then press it in. The bottom was, uh, not so easy.

So I pegged the bits of leather that used to be attached to the lid out the way, then pinned part of the lining excess to the top edge of the suitcase- this was so I had something to work against. I started with the top right corner and glued that in place and then gradually worked around, taking special care with the corners.

Demonstrating the use of my new gun. (Or more helpfully doing a corner).

I found when it came to doing the top seam it was just fiddly and there was no way of escaping it. It helped to peg bits in place so I had something to work against, but no matter what this seemed to be a pain. I just took it bit by bit, putting hot glue on the suitcase and pressing the fabric in, then moving along, until I had done the whole thing.

Et voila! Fini. Looks good right? 

It wasn't perfect because it was rather warped so the lining isn't totally straight but for a first attempt with little practice at this kind of thing, I am quite proud. And ripping out the inside really helped. Ignore the incense, I will actually fill it with incense now and leave it closed a while longer whilst I ponder exactly what I am going to use it for...

Case closed. Haha. Battle almost over....

I have not quite finished it, I will probably put something on the exterior leather as it doesn't feel great after my attack. But as I am sat here writing this I can't smell the suitcase, so that has to be a good sign. 

Co-habitation may indeed be possible.

Let me know if you have had any suitcase/similar experiences. I am thinking when I finally get my others back I may do them up too...

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

DIY Christmas Decorations Pt. 1

So this is just going to be a short one, Christmas is nearly here and I wanted to give my friends a homemade present they would appreciate. Being that they are all in fairly new apartments (we are all expats in Paris) and that I have very limited finances, I was a bit stuck. And there is the perpetual problem of just because I like it does not mean THEY will... So after much brain wracking and making several things including these tea light holder (below), I settled on tree decorations.

As you can see the one on the left is much more Christmassy than the other, I was toying with ideas... I will do a tutorial of the tea light jars on the weekend as I have a lot of ideas for these (and I have been saving a lot of jars).

Who knows, maybe they would have preferred up-cycled jam jars now candle holders, but these are new friends and maybe I shouldn't experiment TOO much.

So instead I made TONS of these...

Really simple, I bought air dry clay and cut the shapes out using a glass (I am currently sans cookie cutters- this would have opened a whole host of options I simply did not have this time). Once I had the shape I ran my finger around the edges so soften them then got creative. I searched the cupboards for ANYTHING I could use to make imprints on them. I am lucky in that I live with an eccentric French lady who happened to be out at the time.... 

I mostly used the bottoms of crystal dishes and glasses (yes I know what you are thinking...) and the edges of her silverware. The crimpled edges that you can see clearly on the top two in the right picture were as a result of the bottom of a dish, the more ornate patterns were the same section of silverware I simply pressed my decoration into several times (they looked cute on a few blank ones around the edges).

I then made holes with a nail and stamped in the words. As you can see "Christmas" was too long, so I switched to French...! I tried coloured acid free distress inks on my letters, when they dried the colour was gone. My cheap black was deff best.

I did not even paint them! White and black is classic. I waited for them to dry for 24hours, then flipped them.

Once they were dry I added string. Just rustic ordinary string I had, which I love. This is the only one that remains now that I haven't given away for me to show you... Partly because it was a bad one haha.

After I split them up int sets of six or so. However I then saw my roommates tree and saw how glittery it was, so to make hers extra special, I attacked them with glitter:

The Paris ones did not really work, but I thought its squiffiness would make her laugh. In order for the glitter to stay I coated them PVA first, then glittered, then once dry I coated again in glue (this is all before adding the string).

Et voila! I made tags from recycled xmas paper from last year and some festive paper bags I found in a local craft store. I have already given out two packets and they were well received. I was pleased with the results...

Jam jar candle holders next up I think!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

I think it is good to make use of old things, found things and breathe life into the forgotten...

Yes this is me, nice to meet you. This is prob the most you will see of me....

For one reason or another I have always been thrifty, brought up in a household where nearly everything was salvaged somehow by my mother (given a lick of paint, some fairy lights thrown over it, a few blankets etc), I was taught from an early age how nearly anything can be re-used. But it wasn't until I learnt how to use a sewing machine that I really got into it, then there was no stopping me, we are talking fairy costumes, then corsets, then fox masks, strange ceiling sculptures and all sorts. I think she was a bit relieved when I finally left home. 

Students notoriously live on nothing and in ugly places, well I am not good with the latter, so while dragging sewing machines and suitcases of paint to uni was not really viable, I found other, TEMPORARY ways of combating the neglected student digs. THEN GUESS WHAT? I fled good ol' England and ended up in Paris, still a student, living in what can only be described as bizarre. The Rabbit Warren (affectionately dubbed by moi, truth be told there were a lot of problems and this made it sound a bit better..!), was made and furnished by all things found and up-cycled. I mean EVERYTHING. My bed was a mattress on some wooden pallets and my dressing table an industrial sized cotton reel -- I am guessing used for electrical cables. But you know what? It was awesome.

So here I am now, for reasons mostly involving not enough sunlight (there were not many windows in there), in a real flat in Paris. Though it is not my own and I yearn for my own space, but in the mean time I am slowly preparing by collecting and making little bits n pieces, because maybe, just maybe, I will get to move out, and when I do I will probably still be broke and I will be thankful I pooled all my know-how here to share with you all.

So watch out over the next few weeks as I post tutorials and pictures of all my projects. Eeep.

Ophelia x