DIY Christmas Card Photo Shoot

Last Christmas I decided to get a little creative and take photos of my munchkin for our Christmas Card. This is how they turned out (& how you can create your own shoot!).

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DISCLAIMER: I am very much an amateur and undoubtedly a professional will have quite a critiques. If you’re an amateur, too, this post is for you ūüėČ

EQUIPTMENT USED:
white sheets
white lights with a white cord (more is better!)
tape and/or tacks
iPhone camera (bonus: use a better one!)
heating pad (optional)

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SETTING THE SCENE
I knew I wanted the “glowing white lights” look. I made a quick google search, but wasn’t finding what I was looking for so just got creative on my own.

Picking the right room:¬†I chose to set up against a wall in a room with a window facing north…so there would be plenty of light, but no hard shadows. I think this is key! In these photos, the window is behind me so my daughter is facing the light. (This could also work in a west facing room in the morning, or east facing room in the afternoon.)
Tip: Don’t block the light with your own shadow

Setup: First, move the bed up against the wall, and make it with just the fitted sheet.
Then tape white lights to the wall (& wished I would have used WAY WAY MORE lights).
Finally, hang the loose sheet over the top of the lights.

You’ll have to fiddle with this a little bit. I found it easiest to use a little double sided tape throughout the middle of the sheet to be sure the lights were pressed up against the material and really showing through.

If you want, place a heating pad under the sheet where your subject will be to help them stay warm. Take a few practice shots with your subject, and tweak accordingly. Maybe you need to move everything to the left, maybe you need to squat down so the closet doesn’t show, maybe you’ll need to move the subject forward/backward whatever.

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THE SHOOT
Dress your babe & snap away! Just keep clicking. I use an app called PicTapGo to edit my iPhone photos; best $1.99 I’ve EVER spent. This app was recommended by¬†my wedding photographer, and dang. If you’ve seen those pictures you know she knows what she’s talking about!

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THE CARDS
Find your favorite online card maker I like mpix.com¬†(a recommendation from my brother’s wedding photographer for all prints & projects). They don’t leave a watermark on their cards…which I kind of like ūüôā

Address…Label…and SEND!

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Merry Christmas!

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Last Minute Halloween Costume: Scuba Diver Step-by-Step

Need a simple, last  minute Halloween Costume for your toddler?

Before I was even pregnant, I saw a photo of little trick-or-treat divers on Pinterest. The kids in the photo were much older than my daughter is now, but I had this realization this MIGHT be the last year we get to pick her costume!

{PLUS, She still uses a pacifier to sleep so I couldn’t resist the “pacifier regulator” …it’s my favorite part of the whole costume!}

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It’s simple.
It’s inexpensive.
It’s clever.

In full disclosure, these directions LOOK long, but that’s only because they’re thorough. Anyone can put¬†this costume together.

Go ahead and make your own!

WHAT YOU NEED

The Wetsuit: Solid black clothes. You can find these anywhere!
..and she’ll wear them again.

The BCD (vest):¬†(optional) Puffy vest of choice; Old Navy (comes in many colors; bonus…it was 1/2 off)
She’ll also wear this again.

The regulator (mouth piece)*: pacifier, black pipe cleaner, black porous soaker hose tubing
*you can get creative here and really use any sort of black tubing; pipe cleaner and the porous tubing were just what I found  first

The tank: empty two liter  bottle, sand paper, silver spray paint, black electrical tape, some sort of black chord- I used bungee cord, black craft paint

The Fins: Craft Foam Sheet (I grabbed the thickest I could find), sharpie

The mask: kids goggles (my daughter wore them like a headband instead of on her face)

DIRECTIONS

img_5078The Wetsuit: grab black clothes! done.

img_5079The BCD (vest): snag the puffy vest! done.

The regulator (mouth piece):
1) Wrap one piece of pipe cleaner tightly around the knob of the pacifier. Tightly twist the two “tails” together all the way to the end, making one “tail”
2) Measure out the porous hose tubing loosely from the middle of your toddlers shoulder blades to their mouth; cut.
3) Insert the tightly woven pipe cleaner (from pacifier) into the porous tubing. It will be a snug fit

The tank: 
1) Empty a 2 liter bottle; I chose a cheap brand with the traditional round look
2) Peel off the label and lightly sand the entire bottle
3) Spray paint the tank silver, let dry
4) Paint cap with with black craft paint, let dry
5) Wrap single piece of black electrical tape around bottle about 1/4 from top. This will line up in the middle of their shoulder blades. When looking for the best placement of tape, be sure they won’t bonk their head on cap of bottle
To attach to regulator: 
1) Twist black pipe cleaner around mouth of bottle (just like you did with the pacifier)
2) Insert the tightly woven pipe cleaner into the porous tubing. It will be a snug fit
To attach to child: 
1) Put vest on child
2) With one single piece of bungee cord, make a figure 8 going around both arms and criss-crossing between their shoulder blades…much like a backpack
3) Cut bungee at that size & knot
4) Using electrical tape, tape the criss crossed X bungee cord to the black electrical tape stripe on the tank

fullsizerender-13Fins (these will slip over ankle & sit on top of their shoes)
1) Find a template of flippers online and print or trace, OR freehand draw a fin on the craft foam. Be sure width of fin is slightly wider than the width of your child’s shoes. Longer is okay
2) Cut it out
3) Trace the existing fin on the craft foam, then cut out second fin
4) Cut small hold toward heel of fins so child is able to slip foot through. Be careful not to cut too closely to the edge so it doesn’t rip
5)Trace edges with black sharpie

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There you have it! Last minute, creative, simple halloween costume…

If you end up making this for your child, post your photos below!

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WEEK ONE RECAP: “Having a Martha Home the Mary Way” by Sarah Mae

It might not have been until 10:00pm on Day 7, but I am still on track after one week!
WEEK ONE RECAP of my experience reading Having a Martha Home the Mary Way by Sarah Mae.
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If it was just completing the reading/studying/MARY portion of this book, I’d probably already be done. It’s how I roll…I love to read and absorb knowledge,¬†often¬†at a pretty quick pace.
It’s that execution/follow through/MARTHA portion that always has me stumbling…and this pretty much rolls over into every area of my life!
{Amazing how different aspects of life roll over to each other. Nonetheless, I’m on track!}

Here’s how the study¬†works:
Each day there is a short 3-4 page reading on a life lesson. Maybe it’s about personality, or the author’s story with an applicable theme.

These quick pages are followed by the “Mary” portion of this study. Typically there is just 1-2 verses to reference followed by a short 2-3 reflection points. Sometimes these points encourage you to reflect on yourself along with the bible reference, other times it’s a place to make a list or schedule for the day.

Finally, the “Martha” tasks come. And now that you feel rejuvenated from reading & reflecting…you’re ready to tackle your house! Each task has a step-by-step process laid out in very BASIC bullet points.

I’ve learned a few things about myself in this first week of this book. The BIGGEST lesson I’ve learned is that I can be just as effective (if not more effective!) by doing smaller things all the time.

Generally speaking, I tend to be somewhat of an extremist; both my husband & I are this way. Either we’re not getting off the coach OR the entire house gets renovated in one day flat – haha. In terms of housework, this typically means the entire house is spotless and everything is crossed off the list OR everything is disheveled.

Clearly I need a little “smaller tasks all the time” mentality. {enter this study!}

This week, I’ve followed the execution portion step-by-step (even when instructed a different way than I’m used to…no matter how basic!) and guess what?! IT’S WORKING.

The one change I did make¬†from the beginning of the week is how & where I study the Mary portion of this book. In the beginning, I’d grab my coffee, settle in on the couch, get cozy and open my book. My coffee would barely be at a drinkable temperature before the chapter was over (because they’re short!), but I wasn’t done with my own “relax” time. You can see where this is going. I wasn’t ready to get up and move on to Martha section, which completely defeated the purpose of this study!

Now, I actually just open the book and my bible while standing at the kitchen counter. This makes it much easier to hop to it!

Excited to see what week 2 brings!
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“Picking Up” a New Book: Having a Martha Home the Mary Way by Sarah Mae (& progress calendar information)

I stumbled across this book on accident; an acquaintance on social media shared she just finished it and is happy with the way her home looks (& soul feels!) for the first time in quite a while.

It’s titled “Having a Martha Home the Mary Way” written by Sarah Mae.

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I was intrigued.

I run¬†my own business from home and have a standing joke with one of my partners that “Either my house is clean or my business is doing well…never both!” Haha- isn’t that the truth.

I wonder, though, if I could have both?

If I’m being COMPLETELY honest, I feel as though delegation of house cleaning will happen in the near future, but it’s not a reality yet so this book obviously caught my attention.

If I was going to do this, though, I knew¬†I’d need a calendar (read: instant gratification) to stay on track. There’s just something about those ‚úĒÔłŹs that get me excited!

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{Send me an email (alischroeder.fit@gmail.com) if you plan on reading this yourself someday & would like the PDF of my calendar. I am NOT selling this; I’d love to simply pass along a free resource that I think will work well for me.}

4 Day Bathroom Transformation

We’d love to completely demo our main bathroom and build it up from scratch, but it’s probably the LAST project on our list and YEARS down the road. We woke up one morning and decided to give it a fresh coat of paint and a little face lift to hold us over until that time.

It turned into: patching drywall, painting, adding fresh caulk, and coming up with a plan B when we saw what was behind the medicine cabinet. Here’s the story!

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My husband was gone a few days for work and came home late on a Thursday night/Friday morning…and with him he brought good news of a 4 Day Weekend!

Friday morning during coffee time, I brought up the idea of repainting the bathroom since we had plans to get a new shower curtain “soon” anyway (what he didn’t know is that I already sent pictures to my interior designer Aunt the day before to ask for suggestions!).

Here is what it looked like that morning:

(I really don’t like those sea¬†tiles!)

We took a Friday Family Trip to Bed Bath & Beyond and actually had boat loads of fun picking out curtains and mixing & matching accessories. A quick stop on the way home at Home Depot for paint and we got started!

The first thing that needed to go was the medicine cabinet. It was old & dingy and we didn’t really even use it. Our thought was to put a flat mirror in it’s place to open up the room a little bit more…per the suggestion of my Aunt ūüėČ

As it turns out…the tile was cut to go around the medicine cabinet and we had zero desire to customize a mirror to fit that spot. BONUS: We ended up getting a huge mirror that covered these awful fish tiles! It ended up being perfect ūüôā

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(goodbye sea tiles!)

Next project was to paint….and after taking everything off the wall re remembered there was a huge hole from where the previous owners had CAULKED on the hand towel hanger (yes, you read that correctly). Initially we just hung a clock over it, but figured it was time to make it right…and Robert was eager to learn a new skill anyway.

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Last thing to do was paint, hang the towels, and lay down a cute rug!

It took about four days from idea to complete — then another 3 weeks to actually hang the clock & photo. Ha!

Here’s the final result:

 

…and we honestly had a fun time putting this together!

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IKEA Hack Coffee Table

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You may or may not know that when I moved from Wisconsin to California, my dad drove out with me and all my stuff, then flew back. We made it to somewhere in Iowa and broke down. Yup! That happened… Long story short (I didn’t get my car in CA until 33 days later) we ended up transferring¬†everything from my car¬†into a rental truck¬†and going the rest of the way.

All items made the transfer EXCEPT (dun dun dun)….our coffee table!

It was a “beautiful” SOLID old piece my husband found on the curb during his college days. I cannot even tell you how many times that table has been danced on, spilled on, and dinged up. We kept¬†it, though, because it was a genuinely sturdy piece of wood with a ton of character, many stories, and GREAT potential fora refurbishing.

{I’m not even sure how, but through coordination of a few traveling nomads, it ended up back in Wisconsin and is currently being stored in my dad’s shop…going on 3 years now. SOMEDAY!}

Upon arriving in California, we lived without a coffee table (for way too long), then finally broke down and bought a $19.99 piece of black plywood from IKEA. It got the job done, but didn’t ever really “fit”…especially once we bought & moved into our home.

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Last November we kind of decided it would be fun to tackle a team project…the coffee table seemed like a no brainer!

I searched around for a little inspiration, and found these two tables:

I’m very happy with how it turned out! Here is a loose set of directions if you’d like to make your own.

Supplies:
‚óŹIKEA table (or any old table)
‚óŹtape measurer & pencil
‚óŹwood slabs (cuts & amount dependent on design desire; see directions)
‚óŹsaw horses
‚óŹtable saw
‚óŹdistressing tools (hammer, chisel, chain, wire brush, etc)
‚óŹsander
‚óŹdesired color stain (brushes/sponges/rags)
‚óŹwood glue
‚óŹclamps (at least 4 small & 1 large)
‚óŹpolyurethane
‚óŹpatience

1) Making Cuts
First, decide what you want your table to look like. What kid of wood? How far should the edges hang over?

We ended up deciding to go with 4×1 slabs, and chose pine-because I like the character the knots add- with the wood hanging over on each end (approximately 1/5 inches on the ends & 1 inch on the sides). This is completely up to you.

  1. Take a few measurements
  2. Do a little math
  3. Head to the lumber yard & buy what you need
  4. Make cuts yourself, or have them cut right at the lumber yard
  5. Lay slabs out across saw horses as if a table top.

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I then (spent way too much time) flipping, turning, and rearranging the boards to get just the look I wanted. We labeled the bottom to ensure they would stay in that order.

During this extensive flipping, turning, cutting, I decided to add a twist! (pun intended). Instead of both the top and the bottom levels of the table running parallel boards, I decided the bottom level slabs should run perpendicular with the top level. I like the dimension it added!

2) Distressing the Wood

I’ve never done this before! It was great fun. I was definitely way more “meticulous” than necessary – it is probably best to just go at it without thinking about it!

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We didn’t have a chain, otherwise I would have used that. Instead, I used a hammer, chisel, & wire brush. After seeing the end product, some of my favorite spots are the biggest gouges, which I didn’t know until after it was sitting finished and in my living room. Feel free to youtube a few videos on how to do this!

Here are a few of my favorite marks:

I would recommend sanding all the corners down so they’re somewhat curved, giving an older look.

3) Staining the Wood

Grab a color stain that compliments the rest of your furniture, and start staining! I prefer to use a piece of cotton (rag, old t-shirt, etc) over a brush or a foam brush, but any are okay. Apply generously, wait 24 hours, then do it again! Be sure to go over the ends and underneath; anywhere the wood will be exposed.

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4) Applying Wood to Table

{We started with the bottom level first to “practice” as any mistakes would be less noticeable}

  1. Clean the old table, sand the surface for maximum adhesive, then clean again.
  2. Line up the boards as desired. Take a few measurements to make sure everything is set, then double check it just one more time.
  3. Remove one end board, apply glue to the top of the table, line up carefully, then place board to desired spot on table.
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  4. Apply pressure being careful the board does not shift.
  5. Take the board next to it, apply glue to top of table and SIDE of board (that it will be touching), then press and hold it down.

  6. Continue and complete entire row. Repeat all steps for the 2nd level.

5) Applying Pressure with Clamps

Add clamps to ensure constant pressure is being applied for duration of dry time (see glue bottle).

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  1. Lay down a piece of cardboard on top of your table surface to prevent scratching.
  2. Lay a scrap 2×4 perpendicular across the top of the cardboard – we used two, one on either end of the table.
  3. Squeeze clamps on both ends of the 2×4 from top of surface to underneath in order to squeeze boards to table (see photo).
  4. In between these two boards, lay a large clamp (without a 2×4) perpendicular to the table boards. Squeeze clamp from ¬†one side to the other in order to squeeze boards together (See photo).
  5. Let clamps sit for 24 hours

6) Apply Polyurethane 

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  1. Using a foam brush, spread a coat of polyurethane over your table to prevent stains from every day use.
  2. Let dry for about 24-48 hours, then apply at least one more coat.

Move your new table inside and enjoy!

Here was our final team product!

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Is it a forever piece? Nah.
…but it was definitely fun to create and will certainly get us through the next few years.

Share your own hack in the comments!

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DIY Infinity Scarf

I made a few of these scarves as Christmas gifts last year- so simple!

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Supplies:
~2 yards of material
sewing machine
thread to match material
scissors
pins

Head to the fabric store to choose your fabric.
Good news! You don’t need to be an experienced sewer for this project. If you fall into the unexperienced¬†category, it’s probably safe to assume you don’t own a sewing machine (neither do I!) so just ask the owner of the one you’re borrowing for a quick 5 minute rundown.

I found it best to have a large flat space besides my sewing machine to work on. This piece of material is large!

Fold this material in half the long way…the HOT DOG WAY….with the INSIDE of the material facing out. In these photos the folded end is on the left, and the open end is on the right. Most material from a fabric store is cut very unevenly, so the goal here is to line up your crooked ends so all sides¬†are overlapping.

Trim excess fabric as straight as possible. This is easier to do with stripe/plaid patterns. If it’s not perfect- don’t sweat it! Scarves end up very wrinkly when worn and nobody except you will know ūüėČ

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Next, you’ll want to pin these edges together along¬†all three open sides as the photo below shows. The pins don’t need to be very close together.

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Drop your needle on the sewing machine at the folded end. Run your needed a little bit backwards toward the folded side to close up that hole, then run toward in a straight line all the way until the first corner. I’m pretty sure experienced sewers sew right over the pin; I pulled each pin out right before the needle reached them.

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When you get to the corner, you’ll need to turn the fabric. There is an easy way to do this without tangling the thread. 1) be sure your needle is DOWN in the material 2) lift up the “feet” of your sewing machine 3) turn your fabric 90 degrees 4) lower the feet. ¬†Continue sewing down the next edge.

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When you get to the next corner, turn your fabric the same way as before. This time, though, do not sew all the way to the last corner. Leave yourself roughly enough room to stick your hand inside the open slot.

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When you get to this point, you’ll cut the thread and remove the fabric from the machine.

Go ahead and trim up any edges or the sides that may be too far from your sewing line. Then trim the two sewed corners as shown below so they do not cause a bulge in the final product.

Stick your hand in the open space, and turn the entire scarf right side out. (There is no need to sew up the part you left open; it will close up in another step).

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Next, you’ll need to lay the piece very flat so the short edges line up as shown below. You can begin to see the scarf take shape!

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Overlap these edges and pin them together. I found it best to overlap quite a bit so it isn’t too “thick” along the seam. You can also overlap so your pattern meets up, if applicable.

Sew together. This section will definitely be thicker than the last; I found it best to slow down for a straighter edge. Again, scarves get very wrinkly so it doesn’t have to be perfect.

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You’ll want to drop your needle slightly inside, then move backward over the edge (just like the beginning). Come back forward and sew all the way to the end, running over the edge.

Lastly, try the scarf on, twisting one time.

Enjoy!

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A quick variation I also tried was two different materials. The only difference is that you’ll only need 1 yard of each. At the very beginning you’ll sew these pieces together along one side (be sure to “stack” them and then sew so there is a clear inside & outside edge), unfold so you have one large piece. Start back up at the very beginning by folding the entire piece in half the “hot dog” way.

Below is the united project- completely unfolded on the left and how you would wear it in the right ūüôā

 

Enjoy! Happy Scarfing!
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Spruce up the Laundry Space

I grew up in the Midwest where laundry rooms are all….INDOORS!

While looking at houses in Southern California, I was a bit horrified to see the first few had their laundry space in the garage. GASP! The Garage? Cars and saw dust and tools belong there…

After seeing about 30 houses and EVERY single house was the same, I accepted this as the reality of my new home. It’s still a little weird, but I’m getting over it…especially since I had some GREAT help making my laundry space feel a little cleaner with a quick spruce!

Laundry Room

Supplies:
Laminate Decorative Shelf (we bout a large one and cut to size)
Brackets (we used 6)
Track for brackets (we used 3)
Tension rods (we used 2; one for each “side”)
Regular Curtain rod (we used 1 for the back wall)
Fabric of your choice
Rug of your choice

Directions
-Measure out the area you’d like to close off
-Purchase curtain rods to fit; follow hanging instructions
-Purchase shelving to fit that space based on your preferences; follow hanging instructions
-Choose material; I’d recommend something BRIGHT and CLEAN feeling for this particular space (I chose ours from Joann Fabrics)
–I wanted a looser fit for my “curtains” so I bought extra material to create the wrinkly look.
–My mom sewed these; she chose to create multiple panels rather than cut slits around the shelving brackets.
-Grab a rug (this one was about $10 at Home Goods)

All in all- the total cost was $80.00 (this will vary heavily based on your material purchased for the curtains). For me, it was definitely worth it to spruce up my laundry space!

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Monkey Fist Nautical Curtain Rod- DIY

While choosing themes for the bedrooms, we decided that perhaps a nautical theme for our own room might be a little cliche. We did, however, decde this would be an incredibly appropriate theme for our guest room for our visitors who are coming to stay just a mile and a half from the sea. Right?!

I found these curtain rods at Pottery Barn, but wasn’t about to pay $90.00 for them….so naturally to etsy I went. I LOVE etsy…for two reasons.
1) Yay small businesses! You have my support any day.
2) Most of the time it inspires me to get crafty myself.

Much to my dismay, the price of this curtain rod on etsy was even higher than Pottery Barn! WHAT?! Aw man….$142.00.

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Decision made. I’m doing this on my own.

I trotted off to Michaels and bought 15′ of rope for $5.99….which is probably way more expensive than if I just had my husband go to a marina and buy it in bulk; oh well. Here’s the brand I bought; I ended up using about 1/2 the roll for one side:

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Luckily, the old homeowners left these pretty ugly curtain rods for us. Since I was covering up the ball on the end (and gold is totally fine in a nautical room) I spent a whole $0.00 on the rod. Feel free to shop for these on your own at a Ross/TJMaxx/Marshalls/Home Goods kinda store…it doesn’t really matter what they look like since you’ll be covering up the ends, anyway.

These two supplies (plus a knife to cut the rope) are all you need!

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The first thing you need to do is teach yourself to tie a Monkey Fist. I’d recommend going to youtube and just watching a quick 4 minute video on how to do so. For those who are too anxious and just want to keep going, here are the instructions and process as I tied my knot:

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1. wrap 3x loosely around fingers
2. turn 90*; wrap 3x outside #1
3. Turn 45*; wrap 3x outside #1 & inside #2
*Note: You can choose to wrap 4 or 5 times (instead of 3) as the Pottery Barn & etsy rods show above.

Be sure to leave the knot to be plenty loose as the curtain rod still needs to fit inside.

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Pick a loose spot for the rod, and carefully wedge the ball in there. Keep in mind you can always rotate the knob so the perfect side faces the outside of the room.

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Begin to tighten knot. Once you’re close to being finished, pull the edge of the top underneath the nearest “underpass” …simply cut and tuck inside.

Add your curtain, and hang! The finished product isn’t so bad (especially when you consider the money saved)! TADA!

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Have fun and keep me posted on your own projects!

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