Mar 202015

make your own canvas beach windbreak

Last summer we had a marvelous two week beach vacation planned at one of my very favorite spots to visit – Cannon Beach, Oregon. It’s a dreamy beach, miles long and extra wide so there’s plenty of room for walking, running, flying kites or building sandcastles. The only drawback is that it can get windy like most beaches, so before we went I made a large canvas beach windbreak to use while we were there. It worked great at blocking the wind, and also helped to add a boundary and a bit of flair to our beach ‘compound’ (we were there with lots of family members for a reunion and had a lot of chairs and gear that we actually left on the beach each evening – well above the high-tide line of course).

It might seem like summer is ages away, but spring is a great time to get a few projects done to help you have a great time at the beach this year. It’s a perfect project for the lull between Easter and Memorial Day. The whole project cost about $20 – much lower than the average beach windbreak costs retail (here’s one on Amazon) and I got to customize it myself.

canvas beach windbreak using canvas dropcloth To start, I purchased a canvas dropcloth from my local hardware store – look for the hallway runner size (mine was 4′ x 15′). The beauty of a hallway runner is that the edges are already hemmed so that saves a few steps. You could wash and dry it first, but since I knew I wasn’t planning on washing my completed windbreak I skipped that step. If you do think you’ll wash it sometime you’ll need to preshrink it now to prevent problems later.

Next I laid out the dropcloth on my front lawn so I’d have plenty of room to work (and because it was a beautiful sunny day) and figured out where the pockets for the posts would go. I decided on a post at each end of the windbreak and three in between for support.

make your own canvas beach windbreak

clockwise from left: (1) Lay out all of your support posts on the canvas, (2) Fold the edge over to make a pocket, (3) Pin the pocket closed with safety pins and then stitch the pocket closed for a durable finish.

I folded over each end and pinned it shut along the length to make a pocket to slide the post in, and folded over three more pockets equally spaced along the windbreak. I pinned the canvas using large safety pins just to make sure the pins wouldn’t slide out as I was moving the windbreak around and stitching up the seams. Make sure when you do this that the pockets are wide enough to hold whichever size post you use. I was using thick bamboo stalks because they were free from my yard (and because black bamboo just looks cool too) but you could use heavy dowels or lathe pieces from the hardware store as well.

A note about your supports: make sure they are long enough to fully support the windbreak PLUS have enough extra to go deep into the sand. For my 4′ high windbreak I used bamboo that was about 6′ long.

Next I stitched up each pocket using a sewing machine with a heavy-duty needle and heavy-duty thread designed for sewing canvas. You could probably skip the sewing portion if you used enough strong safety pins but I wanted to make sure that my windbreak was durable. I also stitched across the top of each pocket to make sure the beach windbreak didn’t slide down along the supports. Once the canvas is sewn, the windbreak is ready to use.

canvas beach windbreak with hand painted stripes

After I finished I wanted to add some paint detailing to mine.  I picked out a few paint colors and had samples of exterior house paint mixed up to paint some horizontal stripes.

Confession time: I can never get masking tape to work correctly when I’m painting straight lines (it always gets under the tape or smears) so I just traced lines in pencil using a 2’x4′ as a guide and then carefully filled in the lines freehand. There were a few mistakes but that just added to the charm I say.

make your own canvas beach windbreak

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Watercolor Paintings with Black Glue Outlines

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Sep 042013

Another one of our summer projects, inspired by a project from my daughter’s school art program – watercolors with an outline of black glue. This gives the picture the appearance almost of stained glass, and keeps the colors from bleeding over the lines. I loved doing this project and the kids did too! It takes a bit of prep work, but it’s worth it.

Start by preparing the glue. I used regular Elmer’s school glue for this and it worked fine – probably any white glue would work. Pour all the glue out of the bottle into a disposable bowl and add black paint. I used a liquid craft paint, but I think powdered tempera paint would work much better to keep the glue’s consistency. Once the glue is tinted black (it can look dark grey and will still dry black) carefully add it back to the bottle and put the lid back on.

Next sketch out the image you’ll be painting on watercolor or other stiff art paper with a pencil. Try not to use too many lines – now is not the time for careful shading. You’ll add shading and detail to your picture with the watercolor paint.

Once your picture is drawn in pencil, go over the lines with the black glue, using light pressure to avoid big clumps or blotches of glue. At this point you’ll need to let the glue dry, and depending on how thick and dark the lines are it might need to dry overnight.

Now comes the fun part. When the glue outline is dry, use watercolor paints to finish the image. You can see it looks great with vibrant or muted colors.

Notecards Made From Natural Found Objects

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Aug 222013
Ok, back in the saddle again. The summer’s winding down, most of our crazy busy days are over, and its time to start back up with this blog – I’ve been having terrible writer’s block, but I think the way over it is just to jump in and post something, so here goes!
We’ve done a few really fun crafts this summer, using new ideas courtesy of friends and school, and this one (the notecards above) was great fun and simple too. You start by going outside and collecting anything that looks interesting (the flatter it is the better – think leaves, flower petals, pine needles). The kids love this part – its like a treasure hunt for them. Give each kid a bag for collecting and see what they bring back. 
Next, prepare the notecards by folding a sheet of paper in half (heavier weight construction paper or card stock) and affixing rows of double sided tape to the front. You’ll get a different effect depending on whether your rows of tape are touching each other or have some separation.
Now comes the fun part – stick your found materials onto the tape in whatever pattern or arrangement you’d like. Once you’ve done that put a piece of parchment or waxed paper over the card and roll over it several times with a rolling pin to press the materials into the tape firmly.
Finally, to finish the cards take them to your nearby beach (or sandbox) and cover them with sand. The sand will stick to the exposed pieces of tape and not to the natural materials or the card, and you’ll be left with a lovely sandy background. If you’d like the cards to be more durable, spray them with an acrylic topcoat to seal everything down, and if you’d like them to be really durable, skip the tape and use a more powerful adhesive. However, if you do that make sure your sand is nearby so that it doesn’t dry before you get the sand stuck on. With our crew of 4 little ones, the tape worked easily and we were able to troop down to the beach to put the sand on with no problems.
Sep 142012

We took advantage of the beautiful late summer day today and headed to the beach for what will probably be one of our last beach outings of the season. While the kids played in the sand I picked up a small smooth piece of driftwood and sketched the landscape in front of me.

I should have put something in the photo for scale: The wood is about two inches long.

Beach Pebble Drink Coasters

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Apr 152012

The other day I was sitting on my bed reading with a cold drink when I realized I needed coasters for the bedroom nightstands. I still had a whole bucket of flat beach stones left over from the mirror I made so I decided to use them to make pebbled coasters. That way they coordinate with the mirror and are cohesive in the room.

I bought small round cork pads (for use under planters) and affixed the stones to them using a hot glue gun. In hindsight I should have painted them black or grey first because the cork does show through between the stones and on the edges.

I was concerned that they would be unstable for glasses, but the pebbles are surprisingly uniform and keep the glasses and bottles I tried out quite level.

Mar 042012

Last summer we spent a wonderful week on a family vacation at the Oregon Coast. The house we rented was right on the ocean, on a great beach with only one slight drawback – the 20 yards of rocks and beach pebbles between the steps down to the beach and the smooth sand. After walking back and forth over those rocks countless times during the week, I had an inspiration on the last day – to make a mirror ringed with the small smooth pebbles scattered among the larger rocks. I grabbed a handy sand bucket and started sorting through the beach pebbles, ending up with about half a bucket full. My plan was to use a round mirror and hang it in the bedroom as part of our master bedroom redecoration.

Tonight I finally got around to doing this:

I bought an inexpensive mirror from Ikea (it was under $15) and used a hot glue gun to attach the pebbles. Last summer when I was collecting them I had no idea how many I would need – turns out I needed 128 pebbles and after using those I still have about half of the beach pebbles left! I think this mirror will look great with the grey walls in the bedroom. Here are a few closeup shots to show some detail:

(Edited 3/26/2012 to add a shot of the mirror on the bedroom wall):

Mar 022012

As I was browsing Pinterest this afternoon, looking for something to do for today’s project, I came across this pin, which led me to this post on Wit & Whistle about pixel painting. The basic idea is to scale a photograph down to just a few pixels, and then paint the resulting image onto a grid using watercolors. What you end up with is an abstract of the image that retains the feel of the photograph. Here’s the original photo I used:

January sunset at Rockaway Beach, Oregon

I rescaled it to 11 pixels wide by 8 pixels high, and ended up using a grid of 1-inch squares – that just happened to be what would fit on the paper I was using (and made it super easy to draw the grid). Then I painted the image, square by square. Here’s what I ended up with:

I like it. The image is a little washed out and funky in spots because I scanned it instead of taking a photograph, so I think it looks better in person. It was a fun project and I’d like to try it again with another image. The only uncomfortable part is that since I don’t have a laptop, I had to sit at the computer desk to paint so that I could see the image on the screen and its not the best set-up. When I paint the next one I’ll have to figure out a better painting area. The other thing I’m thinking is – what a cool quilt this could make! That might just be crazy talk though! 
Edited 6/4/1012 – I made another pixel painting of a cafe sign in Red Lodge, MT.