Ikea Bar Stool Hack

phdikeahack2If there is one thing my wedding prep taught me, it is that everything in life can be improved with gold spray paint.

We returned home post-wedding to find a wonderful array of new grown-up furniture, glassware, cutlery, and cake stands awaiting us. Amongst the Pottery Barn adulthood, our student Ikea bar stools suddenly looked especially nineties. Ten years ago, before I developed my own tastes and sense of style, Ikea’s plentiful birch effect and dull chrome hardware worked—now it ruined the aesthetic. Being in grad school our budgets have not improved in the last decade, but thankfully my creativity has. Rather than replacing the stools we hacked them. From nineties drab, our Franklin stools are now more mid-century fab.

Tools Needed:

  • Ikea Franklin stools
  • Screw Driver
  • Sandpaper
  • Spray Paint (Krylon Gold Metallic)
  • Wood Stain (Miniwax Wood Finish in Red Mahogany 225)

phdikeahack3First, take the chair apart so that all wooden parts are removed from the metal frame.

Remove the black plastic foot rest. This is a little tricky as there are little plastic prongs inside which you need to break off before you can remove the foot rest. Rotate the plastic bar until you hear a snap—that is the sound of the prongs breaking off. Now prize the plastic bar off of the metal frame, (we used scissors at first to get some purchase).

Cover the black plastic feet with painters tape and then spray paint the entire frame, front and back, and also the brackets. It took a couple of sprays before we got totally even coverage. Leave the frame to dry completely.

For the wooden chair parts, first, sand them down to remove the existing varnish. Make sure you sand front and back, top and bottom, as all areas will be seen. Once you have a rough surface, apply wood stain with a brush in the direction of the grain. We did a couple of coats to get the desired dark finish and left the stain on for near an hour rather than the suggested twenty minutes. Remove the excess stain and leave the chairs to dry. It was humid, so our chairs took a good twenty-four hours to dry.

Finally reassemble the chair and enjoy your handy work.

This was a very easy project, especially as we already had all the equipment in the house. While, in time, we will likely want to get new furniture for our kitchen, these chairs work well in our current space. Proof again, that spray paint really is a girl’s best friend.phdikeahack4

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Our Wedding Invites

DSCN5978I love Black Friday. I love watching the sunrise over Boston as we return home at 6am after a night of shopping. I love turning on Christmas music for the first time, as our household maintains a strict no-Christmas music until after Thanksgiving rule. In its own way, I even enjoy the 2-hour journey to move the last 3 miles at the entrance to our local outlet malls. Black Friday is very much part of our holiday calendar.

This year, however, we did something we have never done before—a pre-Friday reconnaissance mission. Having received the Michaels’ Black Friday flyer in the mail, I found out the Heidi Swapp’s Minc machine was going to be a Doorbuster deal. The Minc is a foil applicator, akin to a laminator but instead it adds metallic foil to toner print. I have lusted after this machine for months—I watched it in action on YouTube, I read reviews of it on Amazon, and I daydreamed about how much better my wedding invites would look if they were foiled.

At half price, I could no longer resist the call of Minc. I was determined that it would be mine, and I knew other crafters would feel the same. Doorbusters are low priced, limited supply deals designed to entice customers into the store. To be victorious on Black Friday I realized I could not waste time the morning of—I needed to know the store layout in advance so I could make a beeline for the Mincs. And thus, a week before Thanksgiving we found ourselves in Michaels working out the best route. After four years together, my husband did not really even bat an eyelid.

The research paid off, Black Friday arrived and I joined the crowds outside Michaels. When the doors opened at 6am, in we ran. There was no messing about with Christmas décor, or getting distracted by the pull of adult coloring books—oh no, not me. As others fell by the wayside, I kept my focus, striding with purpose to the Minc machines at the back of the store. Victory was mine! As others ran around like headless chickens, I picked up my Minc and several packets of half priced colored foil. Eye of the Tiger playing in my head, I calmly strutted back across the store towards the checkout, fully appreciating how Rocky felt upon reaching the top of the steps.

The Minc is better than I could have ever imagined. I’ve invented wedding projects just so that I can foil things. Martha Stewart, patron saint of all things wedding, says that a logo gives cohesion to the day, so I’ve taken this as encouragement to add our initials to every item I can. And I have to agree, Martha, there is indeed an air of cohesion about our big day…

Rather than using a designer, I wanted to design all our wedding stationery myself. It certainly saved a lot of money, and I really enjoyed writing zero in the invite design column of my wedding cost spreadsheet. More importantly, apart from time the computer crashed and lost everything, and the other time that I missed a typo and had to begin all over again, it was a lot of fun.phdinvites8As we got engaged on the Cape, where hydrangeas line the beach paths, ice cream parlors, and whitewashed picket fences of wealthy Republican driveways, I knew I wanted to incorporate hydrangeas into our stationery. After image searching online, I could not find a hydrangea that met my approval, but I did find a rubber stamp on eBay that fit the bill. Once the stamp arrived I loaded it up with black ink, and scanned the stamped image at high resolution. After cropping and editing the image so that the background was transparent, I was ready for the designing.

For the invite design I used the online photo editor, picmonkey.com. It is easy to use, but I won’t lie, the invites took hours, and if I’m being honest, days. In part this was because I am a craft perfectionist with  strong opinions on fonts and paper types. For any Archers listeners in England, you will understand that I’ve really sympathized with Lynda Snell and her quandary over font choice for the “Resurgam”garden. Thankfully, I faced no such dilemma having decided long ago that Ecuyer Dax was the font for us, and I have used it for all our wedding stationery and signage. As our wedding colors are gold and blush pink, I wanted to use the same colors in our invites and website. After many hours spent rotating hydrangea images, moving things a millimeter to the left and right, and copious proofreading from my mum and husband, the invites were finally ready.

Having been ambushed with questions during the design process—“do you like option A or B, best?,” “what about C or D?,” “Do you like this pink or this pink?,” “ Does this pink match the bridesmaids dresses?”—I suspect my husband breathed a sigh of relief that it was finished. However, moving from designing to printing spawned a new frontier of questions regarding print quality and paper thickness. For several weeks we seemed to get new paper samples in the mail every day, and I spent considerable time waving them back and forward looking for the perfect paper thickness.phdinvites9Once it came time for printing, I ended up ordering from three companies, Vistaprint, Tinyprints, and Shutterfly. In the first batch my husband was missing eyes, and a yellow splodge ruined my perfectly positioned hydrangeas. On the second, the pink background looked too white. While we now affectionately refer to the incident as “Splodge-gate,” tensions were rather high at the time. Thankfully my mother is a master of the complaint letter, and passed this skill on to me. The third batch, just as Goldilocks found with baby bears’ porridge, were perfect.

Being a firm believer in the importance of first impressions, with invites done I turned my attention to envelopes. I wanted to gold foil the addresses using the Minc machine, but ran into problems when my printer did not have a 5 by 7 envelope setting. While some people might have abandoned ship at this point, I refused to be beaten by a laser printer. After a little bit of thought, I realized that I could stick the envelope to a standard piece of paper and fool the printer into printing on the envelope. And so I painstakingly stuck each individual envelope to a paper template using washi tape, and then gold foiled each one. In retrospect, given that there were 130 envelopes, this was mad—but well worth it.phdinvites7When it came to decorating the inside of the envelopes, all my years of couponing and post-valentines sales purchases really paid off as I raided my ever-growing scrapbook paper collection, and selected all the pink and gold hued paper. I cut out envelope inserts and stuck them inside the envelopes. With envelopes filled and stamped, I took my batch of pink and gold beauties to the post office, and felt a little apprehensive about letting them go. However, within days we started to receive RSVP cards with messages from our friends and family, and with each pink hydrangea card that arrives in the mail box we get more excited about the big day.

Inspired by the success of the invites, I have used Picmonkey for bridal shower and rehearsal dinner invites, wedding signage, menus, and order of services. The Minc rarely gets put away and is a regular fixture on our dining room table—I’ve yet to find anything that can’t be improved with foil. Our carpet, for example, is now permanently flecked with foil remnants. What I will do when our wedding is over and there are no craft projects left, I dread to think. Until then I am going to enjoy every minute of my little gold foiling factory and maybe begin to plan for next Black Friday… phdinvite3.JPG

 

 

Ode to the Target Dollar Spot

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The Daily Mail expressed surprise this week at spotting Adele shopping in a California Target despite “being a multimillionaire.” I felt no such shock. Although I am mildly ashamed to admit it, #targetdoesitagain and #targetdollarspot are always among my top Instagram searches. These tags provide carefully staged photos of pencils, notepads, chalk markers, and cake stands, choreographed by Instagram users with names like Plannergirl59 and MacaronMagic. (Macarons and the Eiffel Tower are very popular with American crafters, most of whom I suspect have never visited Europe).

To understand the allure of these hashtags, you need to understand a little about the Target dollar spot, or to use its official name, Bulleye’s Playground. The dollar spot greets you as soon as you walk into any Target store. Everything in the section is either $1 or $3 (although there are also $5 items now), and the items change seasonally. From Halloween window clings to hot dog baskets, glitter glue to heart-shaped paper clips, mason jars to US maps, Dr Suess erasers to Frozen hairbrushes, the dollar spot knows no bounds.

Consistency, however, is not the spot’s strong point—one day it will be fully stocked with seasonal gems, then, almost instantly the shelves will be empty for weeks on end. The dollar spot is a cruel mistress.

It is this unpredictability that feeds the Target Instagram frenzy. “Hit the jackpot at Target today!” reads the caption on bountiful images of stickers, rubber stamps, dish cloths, and the occasional wire pumpkin or Easter Egg tree. Hitting the jackpot at Target does not mean goods were on clearance, or that the store offered free gift cards, but rather that the dollar spot was fully stocked, and you were able to part with your hard earned cash. This is success to a dollar spot fan.

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While they might not recognize themselves as a fandom, Target dollar spot enthusiasts share many characteristics with other well-known fandoms such Potterheads or Trekkies. For example, there is a shared jargon—every item offered at the dollar spot is unfailingly described as “cute,” or, for real emphasis, “so cute” in Instagram comments.

There is a shared sense of purpose—a common belief that only like-minded stationery and home goods addicts can understand their plight. For example, next to an image of a lone novelty Easter pencil, user ilovemakeup laments, “I’ve only been able to find one pen out of the four from the target dollar spot,” accompanied with a range of sad-faced emojis.

In online forums, shoppers share pictures of Target trucks and cardboard boxes of dollar spot merchandising awaiting the shelves. Stories of women patiently pacing the aisles waiting for shelves to be restocked are not uncommon. The oft-cited idiom that “the dollar spot struggle is real” provides unity to shoppers dispersed all over the United States.

Indeed, the dollar spot’s fanbase is not limited to the USA. On the pages of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook’s “dollar spot swap” group, crafters the world over lament the paucity of Targets in their countries, and plead for volunteers to buy Target’s list pads, post-its, and gel pens and mail them internationally. PayPal makes such transactions easy.

phdpftarget4Planner girls—women who approach a weekly planner with the same tenacity as a Midwestern scrapbooker—find particular delight in the Target dollar spot and its ever changing range of seasonal list pads and labels. The most sought after items are the page flags—decorated miniature post-it notes, which rarely stick due to the cheap adhesive. Such a design flaw, however, does not deter a committed planner. Instead, they swap tips on how to redo the glue and laminate the flags. Like any self-respecting fandom, Target fans assign their own values on dollar spot products, most especially the hallowed page flags. I recently sold a “rare” set of $1 page flags for over $20 on eBay. The coveted teal polka dot and pink striped page flag set can go for upwards of $75.

This frenzied economy explains the shelf-lifting craze of 2015. Target shoppers realized that older merchandise occasionally fell underneath the stores’ shelving units, and thus advocated taking apart the metal merchandise displays to see what hidden gems could be found amongst the dust. After people began posting images of injuries they sustained in the process, online communities began to advocate against the practice.

At the end of 2015, Target rebranded the dollar spot. When shelving displays disappeared from stores, chatrooms feared the end of the Spot. Following the rebrand announcement, fears were instantly allayed and instead communities speculated about Target’s new bargain bins with the ferocity of a teenager waiting for a favorite boy band to come to town.

Along with other Target aficionados, I now dutifully add #bullseyesplayground to my Instagram searches. I tell myself I have my standards. I won’t shelf-lift or risk any bodily injury in the pursuit of bargains. I refuse to buy the multipack pencils, however “cute,” because they never sharpen. I will never buy page flags on eBay, or use the phrase “the struggle is real.”

And yet, yesterday I hit the Target jackpot. I took a photo of the rows of dollar spot merchandise and sent it to my husband. I sat on the shop floor to reach merchandise stuck at the back of the shelf. I left the store with 50 paper straws, a water carafe, two yards of glittery ribbon, 40 ice cream cups, and a packet of novelty erasers. Target did it again…

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The Dress

phdpfwedding4Last month I thought I might drown in tulle. Having got engaged the month before, we were now preparing for our civil ceremony in Boston. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted my dress to be like, and as my vision was unavailable in stores I took it upon myself to make my wedding dress. For the duration of late June our apartment looked somewhat akin to Miss Havisham’s dining room, but instead spider webs, blush tulle draped every surface. Crossing the floor became a dangerous assault course of pin-dodging, and I even pulled tulle remnants out of the bathroom drain.

The project took 3 seasons of Madmen to complete. Whole days were lost to hemming and the high temperatures outside meant that I kept the curtains closed to try and keep the apartment cool. And there, alone in the darkened room, I sewed and cut, and pinned and unpicked, and wondered if I was in fact in danger of becoming Miss Havisham.

Thankfully, these fears were unwarranted: opening the curtains and vacuuming quickly removed all traces of the Dickensian spinster, and instead a happy bride with a fabulously fifties-inspired outfit emerged from the piles of tulle, thread, and pattern paper.

For the skirt I used Simplicity 1427 View C. I have never made a skirt before and this one was an ambitious start as it calls for nearly 14 yards of gathered tulle. The reviews I read online were not generally very complimentary about the pattern design and instructions, and it is certainly a complicated and time-consuming procedure. I actually think the design is rather clever as the skirt waistband is constructed of two separate yolk pieces each with approximately 7 yards of gathered tulle to ensure that there is not too much bulk around the waistline.phdpfwedding6

The tulle is sewn onto a circular underskirt requiring nearly 5 yards of fabric. The woman at the fabric store balked when I told her it was all for a skirt, and I should have responded to her hesitancy. After sewing 5 yards of rolled hem, (a process that took nearly 4 episodes of Madmen) I constructed the skirt and tried it on. You could easily have fitted 3 of me in the skirt. Foolishly I persevered, telling myself that once the elastic was added this three-person skirt would shrink to my size. However, elastic does not have magical powers. I tried on the skirt complete with the first seven yards of tulle and was horrified. There was extra fabric everywhere and it was clear that that my hips did not need another 7 yards of padding, as they already had quite enough.

After a rather tense day of wondering how I would ever get this skirt to work, I realized deconstruction was the key. I carefully unpicked all the tulle from the skirt so that I could attack the underskirt with scissors. I removed about 2 yards of the underskirt and felt a stab of pain as I cut apart my carefully rolled hem. I also abandoned the duel-yoke construction and opted instead for a mere 7 yards of tulle on my skirt. To those of you brave enough to tackle this skirt yourself, I would suggest ignoring the underskirt pattern and instead constructing a circular skirt based on your actual waist measurements- no one needs 5 yards of fabric on an underskirt.

With nearly half the underskirt removed, I once again sewed the tulle to the skirt and added the elastic to the waistband. With bated breath I looked in the mirror and felt much relief to see that I no longer looked liked the Michelin Man, and instead had achieved the Fifties silhouette I was seeking.

For the top I chose to make the bodice of one of my favorite dresses to make, the Emery Dress by Christine Haynes. As I have made this dress several times I knew it would fit, however, I had to add a couple of inches to the bodice so that I could tuck into the skirt. I also chose to shorten the sleeves by several inches to make cap sleeves. For the top I used Michael Miller’s Confetti Border in Confection, which is from the Glitz collection. Michael Miller is a dream to sew with, and every time I use his fabric I swear I will never sew with cheap cotton again. To accommodate the print, I had to cut on the cross grain even though the Emery pattern is supposed to be on the grain. It did not seem to effect the fit too much, it was just a smidgen tighter than if cut on the grain.

The Emery dress has an invisible zipper and I included this in my bodice. As invisible zippers are joined together at the bottom this did mean that the top had to go on over my head. I plan to add a skirt to this Emery bodice after the wedding so that I can continue to wear it.

phdpfwedding5For the dress sash, I went to M&J Trimmings in NYC. The store is a mecca of ribbon with floor to ceiling ribbon displays in every color and texture imaginable. I could happily have stayed there for hours. Exercising some restraint, I purchased three yards of blush and gold ribbon. I wore the gold during the day and the blush sash when we went for dinner the night of our wedding.

phdpfwedding1Unlike the hapless Miss Havisham, I was not left alone on my wedding day. Instead my groom cried when he first saw me in my dress. My sister sent me a beautiful gold and blush tote bag from England, and my husband bought me a blush Kate Spade handbag as a wedding gift, so I was well accessorized. The dress was a big undertaking, but when a little girl in our hotel ran towards her Mum and told her she had seen a princess, every pinprick was worth it. For one day, I was Jackie O, and Belle, and every cover girl of Life magazine rolled into one, and I absolutely loved it.phdpfwedding3

The Grown Up Table: An Ikea Lack Hack

phdpfikea4I call this table the grown up table because it wasn’t until we put the wooden table top on, that I realized how cheap and Ikea-ry it looked before. Of course it was cheap and from Ikea so it isn’t really surprising. Not that I want to bad mouth Ikea because I love the store (especially as you get a free cup of tea if you are an Ikea Family member!), however, I think our additions have improved this table dramatically.

This was actually a fairly easy Pinterest inspired project. However, we did rather manage to complicate it by cutting the wrong size of wood the first go round so that the table top was an inch short. However, if you can measure correctly the first time it will be much easier.

Tools Needed

  • Ikea Lack Coffee Table
  • 4 x 90cm x 5.5 inch wooden board (We chose Cedar planks)
  • Sealant (We used Krylon Crystal Clear Gloss Top Coat)
  • screws
  • Drill
  • Sand Paper

To start this project, measure the table. Ours was 90cm long, however, I would recommend measuring your own in case there is any deviation.

With measurements in hand we took one of our frequent trips to Home Depot and chose some 5.5 inch board. Don’t rely on signage to tell you the width of the board, measure it yourself as we found that the width marked and the actual width of the board were often rather different. We chose two cedar boards as we liked the grain best, and then cut each into two planks. Having previously been very nice about cutting  wood, our Home Depot now says they won’t do custom cuts. Therefore my boyfriend had to take the planks over to a bench in the dowels aisle and cut our boards with a blunt hand saw. Hopefully other Home Depots will be more accommodating and cut the boards with an electrical saw for you.

Once home we experimented with which order we wanted the planks to be on the table, and sanded off the ends and edges until smooth. We tried dark wood stain initially but decided that we liked the natural cedar better, and so just sprayed them with Krylon topcoat. It took a couple of coats to get something resembling an even covering.

phdpfikea6To attach the panels to the table we used a  drill bit to drill holes in the wood. This was arguably the hardest part of the project, in large part because our drill is fairly terrible and so the drill bit got stuck in the wood a few times. However, with a more efficient tool this wouldn’t be a problem. I was fairly certain the table would split when we tried to drill into it, however, I guess Ikea tables are stronger than I predicted as we didn’t have any problems. After making the holes we then put two screws in each end of the panel. Each screw is half inch from the edge of the panel.

The grown up table is now one of my favorite pieces of furniture in our house. It looks so much better than its $19.99 price tag.  The teal candle holder came from Ikea, and the coasters are white bathroom tiles from Home Depot that I doctored up with scrapbook paper, Mod Podge, Krylon top coat, and felt bases.

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Damien Hirst Inspired Skulls

phdpfskulls3I have never really like skulls, they remind me of the scene in Snow White, when the skull appears in the poison apple. However, I had a plastic one kicking around the house, (as you do!). I was about to give it away when I realized I could probably improve it. Most improvements I do involve spray paint or glitter–in this case it was the latter. Last year I had a Pinterest-inspired obsession with glittered pumpkins, which lasted for most of the Fall. It eventually extended to glittered pinecones, leaves, and cake stands as well. Glittered skulls seemed the obvious next step. As glitter is the total antithesis of skulls, it appeared the perfect pairing. It was a very easy project, and so successful that I went to the dollar store and got another skull to make a second one. They look even better than in the photos; glitter, I have found, is almost impossible to photograph.

phdpfskulls2Tools needed:

  • Plastic skull (Mine is from Dollar Tree)
  • Mod Podge
  • Glitter (The finer the better, the Recollections brand at Michaels works well)
  • Sponge Brush

How To:

  • Take the price tag off the bottom of the skull to ensure even glitter coating.
  • Cover the top of the skull in Mod Podge using a sponge brush. It is easier to work in sections as otherwise you get covered in glue. I did the top section first, then the mouth, sides, and finally the base.
  • Put the skull on a tray, newspaper, plate, etc. so that the glitter doesn’t spread everywhere, and pour glitter over the glue. Shake off the excess and leave it to dry. You can return any loose glitter to the container for later use.
  • Repeat the glue and glitter process until the entire skull is covered. Wait for it to dry. If, like me, you lift it up to soon you will get finger print marks, and have to redo that section.
  • Add more glue and glitter to any sections that need it.
  • Optional extra: bedazzle with gems and crystals for a real Hirst look. I was going to put large red crystals in the eye sockets but I thought I might have nightmares!

So now my glitter pumpkins have some company for Halloween. Eventually I would like to get a large glass cloche to display the skulls in, but as the dollar store doesn’t sell them it will be a while till I get one. All in all a very easy way to transform an ordinary $1 plastic skull in to a skull fit for a fashionista. Hirst and McQueen would be proud.

Kate Spade Inspired Frames

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My very favorite type of craft project is one that doesn’t cost anything. This project is all made out of items I already had at home, and therefore could be completed without a dash to Michaels or Joanns.

My boyfriend recently moved into my apartment. Among the furniture he brought with him was a dresser, which we have sprayed white and put in the closet. This means that there was an empty dresser surface in the closet in need of attention. I love postcards, and probably single-handedly keep the postcard industry in business. In my large stash I knew I had some from an exhibition of Grace Kelly’s clothes, and some WW2 poster reproductions that would look fantastic in a clothes closet. The only problem was I didn’t have any suitable frames, but I did have some unsuitable ones in need of a project.

phdpfks2Tools needed:

  • Plain frames, (I had some 5 by 7 pink ones from Target’s dorm collection)
  • 1 inch Circle Punch (mine is by Recollections)
  • Martha Stewart bow punch
  • Primer
  • Assorted Spray Paint, (I used Rust-Oleum white, gold glitter, and pink)
  • Sealant (I used Krylon Crystal Clear Gloss Top Coat)
  • Assorted paper scraps
  • Glue (I used E6000)
  • Pretty postcards or pictures for framing

This project was really easy, and perfectly transformed boring frames into something special. Like many other crafters, I am a little obsessed with gold and polka dots at the moment. I love Kate Spade, but not the prices, and so took inspiration from the brand to do a little DIY job.

After taking the glass out of the frames I sprayed them with Primer. I don’t know if this step was really necessary, but my frames were a dark pink plastic, and I didn’t want the color to show through. Once dry I then sprayed them with two coats of spray paint and left them to dry completely.

Once dried the real fun could begin. Using my punches, I punched bows and dots for my frames. I also cut some long strips so that I could make stripes. The gold paper was from an envelope I had from my grandparents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary over 10 years ago! How I still have it with me after all this time and moving across the Atlantic, I really don’t know. However, it just goes to show the benefits of hoarding! The envelope was actually perfect because it was thin. I don’t think heavy cardstock would well on this project as you wont get a smooth finish.

I experimented with where I wanted to put the embellishments on my frames, and when happy with how they looked, I glued them down. After everything had totally dried I sprayed the frames with top coat to  seal them. (I didn’t spray the glitter one as I didn’t think it needed it). Finally I put the glass back in and framed my postcards. And voila, beautiful frames! This was such an easy craft, but it has made the closet look so much prettier.

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Pashminagate, or how I got $79 of craft supplies for free.

I love suburbia. I love how much bigger our apartment is than a city apartment. I love watching young families, I love that the park opposite has a baseball diamond, I love going for walks in the woods, driving to the grocery store and strip malls, I love having the city within easy access without the associated noise and rubbish. I unashamedly love suburbia. This is the tale of the most suburban thing I have ever done.

If I were to compile a list of my top 10 things about America, I think Michaels craft store would make the cut. I first went to Michaels in October 2012, on the day I got my new car. We went to Michaels and bought a Disney Princess coloring book and Martha Stewart glitter glue, and then we went to IHop for lunch. That’s the American Dream right there.

For English readers, Michaels is like Hobby Craft but much cheaper, and much more variety. Plus, and frankly this will be hard for Brits to believe, there are always coupons. Every week there is a coupon on their website for either 40%, or 50% off one regular priced item, or 25% off your entire purchase. I recently discovered they will also take coupons from rival craft stores too. I regularly commandeer the services of my boyfriend so that we can double coupon, and have even sent him there on his own and directed him around the store on the phone. He was not the only male doing this at the time, another boyfriend was doing a similar service. And as the link below demonstrates, male Michaels widows are not uncommon. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/11/funny-michaels-sign_n_5484893.html

Michaels and I are like old friends now. We’ve been through all seasons and all after-season sales together. I’ve spent many an hour in the store, getting frustrated at just how many things there are I want to buy, and lamented that it is simply not fair that so many pretty papers exist. So when my local store started to rearrange the entire store layout I was not pleased. In fact I was so annoyed that I looked online to find out what was going on, and whether anyone else shared my frustrations. No one else on the internet seemed as perturbed as me. However, I did find out that the rearrangement was part of a massive store rebrand, and the store would be officially reopening that weekend. The online flyer promised crazy reductions for one hour at opening, with gift cards and prizes being given away.

And so I found myself at a ribbon cutting ceremony for my local craft store. As I pulled up to the parking lot, I could see a balloon arch around the store door, a podium, and some customers milling around outside. I wandered over and joined in with the other suburbanites making small talk with Michaels bigwigs shipped in from head office. We stood in the wind and listened intently as a Michaels employee declared the store open, the mic booming erratically as he talked. And then they started handing out $10 gift cards to the first 100 people going to the store. It felt like birthday and Christmas all in one. I raced to the scrapbook section to pick up the $19.99 paper pads reduced to $5 for one hour, I picked up a Project Life kit 70% off, a photo storage box for $1.20 instead of $7. Oh happy day!

It was while perusing the embellishment aisle that the idea first came to me. It was a sunny day, but being early May in Boston it could still be cold. Therefore when I left the house I had thrown a pink pashmina into my bag. When standing in the wind at the ribbon cutting ceremony I had wrapped myself up in the shawl, and thus my entirely blue outfit underneath was not visible. It dawned on me that if I removed said pashmina I would look like a new customer, and would theoretically be able to get another free gift card. And thus a plan formulated, I would check out of the store (paying with my gift card of course), go to the car and put my purchases away. Go to the dollar store next door, untie my hair from its bun, remove my pashmina and return to Michaels a new patron.

It worked. I think it helped that I bought a broom in the dollar store and thus the Michaels store workers were so distracted with my struggles to hold the broom that they never noticed I had already been in the store already, and handed over a gift card with a smile and friendly greeting. And so I purchased yet more seriously reduced scrapbook paper, and got $79 worth of merchandise for free! I felt a little guilty, I probably should have felt more guilty. But truth be told I was so pleased with myself that the guilt didn’t really kick in.

I went home and called my boyfriend, having pre-warned him by text that I would shortly be phoning him with couponing news and he must be impressed. He played his part very well, but to be honest I don’t think he has ever really recovered from laughing at the fact that I went to a ribbon cutting ceremony like it was a normal thing to do. He tells me I should automatically get citizenship now for being more American than most Americans. I punctuated the rest of my day with frequent trips to my craft corner to look at my new, free, pretty paper. I love suburbia.