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This is one of those weird projects that, while not the most beautiful, has sentimental meaning. Years ago, I sculpted a giant penguin in my college ceramics class. My penguin is slightly crooked (maker’s error), not exactly proportional to the actual penguin anatomy, and as a result of moving him from home to home, one apartment to the next, for the past ten years, he was also missing a beak and bits of his flippers. See?

Since we moved into this home five years ago, he sat in the hallway – then the bedroom corner – with his (most) broken flipper facing the wall. I could never bear to part with him, and with every new crack (largely due to vacuum cleaner bumps), I saved the pieces, knowing I’d eventually glue them back on.

Scott has never asked me to get rid of it, rather, he knew it held special memories (friends, college, and days upon days in the studio), so I finally asked him to help me give it new life. After a mini brainstorming session, he suggested we turn it into a planter – yes, a planter! I thought. (I mean, this is logical, right?) And with spring right around the corner in Chicago, we were craving a little greenery, and my penguin was the ticket.

The penguin is hollow, but its still a beast. It’s so, so heavy, and with a lot of patience, Scott used this tile bit and his Dremel to carve an opening on his hump-back. We covered the soon-to-be opening with painters tape, thinking it would cut down on the dust – but as it turned out, this was not the case.

We approximated the size for a 4″ planter (with a plant we’d already picked out at the hardware store), and an afternoon later – and a very, very worn down Dremel bit – we had an opening! (Eeks, look at all that dust!)

Once we knew operation-penguin-surgery was a success, I used gobs of super glue to piece him back together…

… then sprayed him with a coat of Krylon primer and Montana brand spray paint in the color “Hope.” (Funny, it’s sort of fitting!) We also re-potted our plant in a deeper plastic cup (we picked up a Slushee tumbler from 7-11 and drilled drainage holes in the bottom), but before doing so, I sprayed the rim of the cup in the same color. (Our penguin already had a “drainage” hole in the bottom; this was necessary for the firing process when he was first made.)

This was our first time using Montana paint, and we are fans. It’s super thick, completely weatherproof (it’s actual intent is for graffiti artists!) and went on with just one coat – but the extra-cautious side of me applied a second one for good measure. Once everything was good and dry (we waited overnight), I squeezed the plant cup into the opening, and voila! Penguin planter! Or, you know, Penguin gets a hairdo.

From the back, you can see the rim of our make-shift Slushee planter, but from the front, it’s mostly seamless. Most importantly, my penguin is fixed! It has a new life! There was hope for him after all (har-har)!

Our mini project found us rolling out the patio rug and putting our table and chairs back in place – the first time this year after packing it up before the holidays. For now, he’s sitting on the outdoor table, soaking in the rays, and we’re crossing our fingers we don’t get another frost before spring finally rolls into town.

It made my heart ridiculously happy to put an old, old college day project to use (as opposed to the boxes of prints and negatives hiding in our storage unit!), and here’s hoping he’ll be around for another ten years. Aw, nostalgia.

  • Hannah K - April 24, 2013 - 7:55 AM

    So sweet! I actually was just looking at aminal shaped platers on Etsy last week! We are ridiculously excited to be getting some warmer weather our way and have been looking forward to sprucing up our patio!ReplyCancel

  • Marti - April 24, 2013 - 9:07 AM

    I also use plastic cups from 7-Eleven as makeshift planters! They’re perfect when you need something tall and on the narrow side.ReplyCancel

  • Blair @ the fox and she - April 24, 2013 - 9:26 AM

    What a fun way to up cycle a special piece. He looks great and I love the colors you chose! I’m sure you’ll enjoy him over the upcoming sunny weekend (hooray for warm weather!)ReplyCancel

  • Jessica@CapeofDreams - April 24, 2013 - 9:28 AM

    He looks so much better now that he has all his bits back. I’m sure he is as happy as you to be outside.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - April 24, 2013 - 9:34 AM

    Marti, when we were stumped thinking, “where will we find a tall, skinny planter for CHEAP?”, we almost just stuck with the shallow guy our plant came in. But when Scott suggested the plastic to-go cups, I thought, GENIUS! We’ll definitely be putting that tip to use in the future again.

    Thanks, ladies!ReplyCancel

  • Courtney Out Loud - April 24, 2013 - 9:42 AM

    I love this! The planter is super cute and the fact it has meaning is even better. But the best is the slushing cup!ReplyCancel

  • Ashley@AttemptsAtDomestication - April 24, 2013 - 8:49 PM

    That looks so great! And it’s awesome that you were able to reuse something so sentimental in a practical, fun way!ReplyCancel

  • Barb @ FL Mom's Blog - April 24, 2013 - 9:04 PM

    I love what you did with the penguin! And the color is so spring! At least it didn’t get thrown out, and was able to be repurposed!ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Our Waldo Bungie - April 25, 2013 - 10:33 AM

    You are so stinking talented… seriously, it’s ridiculous.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - April 25, 2013 - 11:21 AM

    This is a lovely project. I love it because it’s nostalgic to you and those are usually the best kind of project.

    Plus that Hope colour is gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • Tina S. - May 1, 2013 - 10:19 PM

    He looks like a wise old penguin who walks the streets with a backpack, sharing his wisdom among those who know him.

    Love it.ReplyCancel

  • Kelly - May 8, 2013 - 2:03 PM

    Ahhh memories LOL!!! This is genius though!! Love it :)ReplyCancel

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While it seems that we may not be doing much around here besides Kim’s cloud-shaped bed making, I assure you, there is so much going on. A veritable whirlwind, really. And hopefully, this whirlwind will lead to our sooner-than-later goal – and yes, we’re bursting to share more, but this will come soon. Promise.

For now, I’m just happy to say that we got out of the house for the weekend (as opposed to our usual house-hunt to-dos that include signing away every right in our life) and went to the Vintage Garage!

While a it was a bit chillier than all of us in attendance would have liked (okay, it was downright freezing with the wind!), we had a great time perusing the wares of the 100-or-so vintage and antique dealers. I suppose this might seem obvious, but the once monthly pop-up shop is held – literally – in an Uptown parking garage, offering everything from dusty crates of vinyl records to lamps, lights, art, maps, fixtures and endless chairs.

We had issued ourselves a $20 challenge for the garage, including the $3/ea admission fee. We set the paltry budget knowing that anything we brought home could potentially have to be moved again in a month or so. (Again, more on that as soon as possible!) Surprisingly, we came home empty handed – despite spying a coffee table that dreams are made of – but we’ll hopefully be returning in the next couple of months with a slightly bigger budget – and looking to furnish a, um, different home (ugh, the teases!).

Our sad little budget aside, I’ve had a dream of owning a vintage tandem as long as we’ve been in Chicago, but our string of second story walk-up homes have rendered this an impossible task. So you can imagine my heavy heart when we had to pass up this 60 lb. bicycle built for two:

Mark my words; I will own a tandem by the end of this summer – nothing’s gonna stop us! Maybe not that beautiful Schwinn Twinn, but a beautiful old tandem nonetheless. It will be mine. Oh yes. It will be mine.

So, how was your weekend?

  • Shannon - April 22, 2013 - 8:28 AM

    What an awesome pop-up!! I wish there were things like this where I lived! Can’t wait hear more details about “the one”!ReplyCancel

  • Staci @ My Friend Staci - April 22, 2013 - 12:53 PM

    I love that it’s held in a parking garage!! How often does this pop-up happen?
    And thanks for sharing that The Darkness video… it made my morning.ReplyCancel

  • zandi - April 22, 2013 - 1:20 PM

    i love the vintage garage but its always just a bit out of my budget as well!

    also, whenever you guys move onto that next step, you should have another one of your big yard sales! (this coming from a completely selfish place as someone who lives in your neighborhood haha)ReplyCancel

  • Kim - April 22, 2013 - 3:04 PM

    Zandi, I know, we will REALLY need a big yard sale! We plan to purge our little hearts out! Not sure if our building sale will be possible since planning with the whole body can take a lot of time (and time is not on our side lately!).

    Although, perhaps we can hang on to our purge-stuff and force ourselves on the neighbors when a date has been selected (even if we’re no longer living in the building). Mwaha!ReplyCancel

  • Dave - April 22, 2013 - 4:19 PM

    Scott,
    That tandem is amazing! Was it reconditioned? That had to be a hard one to take a pass on!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 24, 2013 - 8:19 AM

      It was in pristine condition!ReplyCancel

  • Julia @cuckoo4design - April 23, 2013 - 5:43 AM

    That is so awesome and so much cool stuff!ReplyCancel

  • Jodi - April 24, 2013 - 1:26 PM

    ummm, this looks like the most amazing pop-up/flea EVER.ReplyCancel

  • dervla - April 27, 2013 - 10:04 PM

    ooooh love the old maps and vintage fans. I want to go there!!ReplyCancel

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I got a sewing machine! And for my virgin project on the new machine? Why, something for the pets, of course!

Now, you all are going to think I’m crazy, because this project is a new doggie bed for Jack. (He’s batting, what? 1 new bed a year? If only we were all so lucky!) After he ate the corner off his last bed during a bout of nervous excitement, his no-sew bed had seen better days. But this new bed, this new bed is shaped like a cloud! Only the best for our boy (and man, has he got us trained). Wanting something a little more unique than the regular square shaped beds of yore, we thought it would be sweet to see him nestled in a cloud, all cozy-like. Aw.

Originally, I had wanted to make a cloud shaped pillow just to have, but realizing that Jack’s bed would be next on the sewing agenda, I merged the two to make one monstrous cloud. And please, keep in mind that I am no sewing expert (and to be honest, I’d been downright terrified of all those strings and needles until I cut the crap and just took a class), but I did have a lot of fun making the puppy cloud. The bulk of how I did so is all about the zipper, all of which I learned in said class. So let’s do it!

Supplies needed for 36″ cloud
2 yards medium-heavy weight fabric
matching thread
6+ yards of fleece for stuffing
24″ zipper in contrasting color

Tools used
kraft paper (to make the template)
sewing machine w/ zipper foot
seam ripper
pins
scissors
scotch tape
pencil/marker
measuring tape
iron and ironing board

For those wondering, I used this fabric and zipper from Fabric.com. The grey material is super sturdy (but I would say it’s a lot lighter than the photo indicates), and I pre-washed it before starting on the project. The red zipper was just for fun – who doesn’t love a peek of color, right?

ONE. After doodling a few practice round of cloud shapes on a notepad, I sketched my giant cloud shape on a roll of kraft paper, being mindful of the size I had in mind (approximately 38″ on the straight edge and 34″ on the highest peak, leaving room for my seam allowances). I absolutely recommend using a template, so you can play with shapes before cutting into your fabric. Once you have your template, lay it on your fabric, then cut out your shape. I did something which I can only assume must be a huge no-no in the sewing world – I layered my fabrics and cut them both at once. (Eek, I know.) Because it’s not a symmetrical pattern, I did, however, lay them together so that the right sides were facing each other (the same way I’d layer them while sewing).

TWO. With the right sides of the fabric layered together, center the zipper along the straight edge and mark with a pencil where the zipper starts and stops. Pin along that edge, then sew your seam with a 3/4″ allowance, basting in-between the pencil marks that indicate the zipper. Backstitch at the start and stop of the zipper to make it more secure – soon enough, you’ll be using the seam ripper to take out those basted stitches (but not yet!).

THREE. Once that side is stitched, open your fabric so that the right sides are facing down, then pin your zipper in place over the seam – between those marks you’ve just made. Below, I used our empty coffee table to do this prep work:

FOUR. After you’ve pinned the zipper in place (making sure that your zipper lines up with the seam), bring the sides back together, and use a zipper foot to sew the first edge of your zipper to the seam. Remove the pins as you sew towards them, then repeat this on the opposite side.

FIVE. With your zipper now in place and your fabric open, pin through all layers of the fabric where your zipper starts and stop. Turn your fabric over, so that the right side is facing you, then put a long piece of scotch tape from pin start to end.

SIX. Remove the pins, and – still using your zipper foot – use this tape as a guide to then stitch a long and skinny rectangle around your (hidden, for now) zipper. When turning the corner with your sewing machine, make sure your needle is in the fabric, then lift the sewing foot, turn, and put the foot back down. Then continue your stitch as normal to get one continuous rectangle. (These are all very technical terms, don’t you know?)

SEVEN. With the rectangle stitched, use the seam ripper to free yourself from the basted stitches in the middle of the rectangle. You’ll find your hidden zipper in all it’s glory, now, unzip it!

EIGHT. Now that the zipper is done (and unzipped – you don’t want to stitch it in with no way to open it again!), lay the fabric back together so that the right sides are touching, and pin around your cloud shape. Then, swap back to the regular foot and carefully sew it up!

NINE. To get the curves looking nice and… um, curvy, you’ll need to cut V-shaped slits into the cloud seam allowances. Now, mind you, I didn’t know this until I flipped the cloud right side out, saw my puckered curves and panicked, so I used this tutorial as a guide – including her recommendation to press the seams afterwards. Doing so made all the difference.

TEN. After you’ve trimmed and pressed your curves (look at you go!), turn it right side out, then stuff it! I picked up 4 yards of clearance fleece from Fabric.com to plush up Jack’s cloud, but I really should have sprung for 6+ for our big pup. Of course the best part of stuffing the bed with cushy fabric, towels and old tees is the whole bed can be taken apart and washed properly. (We ended up using the 4 yards of fleece + several old towels – the same ones from his former bed.)

In the end, the cloud bed came in at 36″ along the straight edge and 32″ at the highest peak. Jack got a nice scrub-a-dub, then settled right in.

Are we certifiably crazy yet? Pet photos, paintings, pillows and (countless!) beds? Aye. And to all you sewing ninjas, please feel free to chime in and throw a few pointers my way. I’ve got the sewing bug – and I’ve still got a lot to learn! – but I’m ridiculously excited about it.

  • Hannah K - April 17, 2013 - 7:06 AM

    We don’t go through beds too quickly – but seeing how expensive they are (and not that cute!), I’m dying to try a dog bed. The cloud is so cute – what a fantastic idea. So cozy.

    And yes, you are pet crazy — but that’s what we love about you!ReplyCancel

  • jessie aucoin - April 17, 2013 - 8:38 AM

    Congrats on your first sewing tutorial! One of what I’m sure will be many more to come. Jack seems to like it too, which is all the thank you I suspect you need :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 17, 2013 - 9:02 AM

      Hannah, haha! We love your honesty. Bring on the crazy! Pets, pets, pets!

      Jessie, yes, a big thank you from Jack. One cloud lump for his back end, and the opposite cloud lump for his head. He’s finding it very comfy, he says!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda @ Our Humble Abode - April 17, 2013 - 10:00 AM

    That is so cute! And Jack sure looks happy to have a new, soft as a cloud bed. Congrats on conquering your sewing fears, zippers and all!ReplyCancel

  • Marlene @ Jade and Fern - April 17, 2013 - 12:00 PM

    Love it! Nothing wrong with being certifiably crazy when it comes to pets. In fact, I slightly distrust people who aren’t crazy about their critter friends!ReplyCancel

  • Jessica@CapeofDreams - April 17, 2013 - 12:14 PM

    I think I need one for myself. I have always wanted to sleep on a cloud. Plus my dog is black, and this would be covered in black fur and dirt off the floor in nanoseconds in my home!ReplyCancel

  • Heather {A Fire Pole in the Dining Room} - April 17, 2013 - 12:16 PM

    This is such a cute project! I never would have guessed that you’re a novice. (Of course, that’s coming from a fellow sewing novice. I think I made a pillow back in middle school home ec.)

    Thankfully Mojo doesn’t go through beds at such a high rate, which is good because we’re seriously considering this as her next one: http://www.savvyrest.com/products/organic-pet-beds/savvy-doggy (We bought the human-sized version and are in L O V E!!!) Spending that much on a dog bed might make us the crazy ones…ReplyCancel

  • Kim - April 17, 2013 - 12:35 PM

    Amanda, thank you! And now I find sewing quite addicting…

    Marlene: Agreed.

    Jessica, we think these would be so cute for us humans, too! Especially propped on the bed, right?

    Heather, now THAT is a great doggie bed. Therapeutic for our fuzzy friends! Three cheers for crazy!ReplyCancel

  • carrie @DreamGreenDIY - April 17, 2013 - 1:21 PM

    I realize that this is beside the point (LOVE the pillow and tutorial!), but – He. Is. So. Photogenic!!! Love it =)ReplyCancel

  • Kim - April 17, 2013 - 2:00 PM

    Carrie, thanks! He’s our handsome little dude.ReplyCancel

  • Emma - April 17, 2013 - 7:22 PM

    Sewing like a Boss Kim! So proud of you :)ReplyCancel

  • Kim - April 17, 2013 - 8:08 PM

    Emma, hahaha! Aw, you just made my day!ReplyCancel

  • Julia @cuckoo4design - April 17, 2013 - 8:08 PM

    He is so stinking cute. Love how he looks up at the camera.
    And of course the pillow is awesome too ;)ReplyCancel

  • Margaret - April 19, 2013 - 12:03 PM

    Loving the cloud!! I need to make one for Sydney. Nice and fluffy the way she likes it :) Jack is just way too adorable for words. I mean those ears, that button lip, those eyes, that pink belly peeking through on the last picture and of course the rump picture too…I die! Who doesn’t love a good doggie rump?! Hee!! Great job Kim!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 19, 2013 - 1:19 PM

      Margaret, thanks! Oh, we LOVE a good doggie rump. And his button lip – they’re ridiculous, and I must admit, I kiss them quite frequently (ew, but whatever!). Jackie says thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Janet - April 19, 2013 - 9:09 PM

    I want to hear if that bed makes it 6 months. My dog chews on zippers, I have been afraid to give him a bed with a zipper in it.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - April 20, 2013 - 9:43 AM

    Janet, oh no! Well we hope that doesn’t happen… Jack has never had a thing with zippers in the past (and they’re all over our home!), but with our history of dog beds, I’m sure you’ll hear about it if he decides to destroy it. :)

    So far, so good though!

    PS: And with the zipper being on the bottom, his bed gets extra life because we can flip it on either side. Win-win!ReplyCancel

  • kirsten - April 23, 2013 - 10:56 AM

    KIM! A cloud pillow for pups?! I mean, soooo cute! Loving that red zipper too. Sidenote: my friend Heather is head over heels in love with her portrait of her dog, Trevor. You did a BEAUTIFUL job. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - April 23, 2013 - 2:40 PM

    Kirsten, thank you! And thank you for thinking of us for that special gift :)ReplyCancel

  • Trude - April 23, 2013 - 4:02 PM

    If by crazy you mean crazy cute, then yes. :) I love it! Dante is big on beds with sides because Italian Greyhounds tend to curl up like cats, but if that weren’t the case I’d be all over this!ReplyCancel

  • carrie @ brick city love - May 1, 2013 - 11:47 AM

    That is too cute!!

    PS – cutting multiple layers at once is a huge DO in the sewing world. Why make more work for yourself? And putting right sides together was exactly the way to do it. Great job!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - May 1, 2013 - 11:51 AM

    Carrie, wahoo! So glad I did something right when it comes to sewing!ReplyCancel

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