sometimes size matters.

I hate to say it, but sometimes size really does matter.  Especially when it comes to using stencils.

I do most (all?) of my stenciling on vintage items, like this kid sized shovel …

or old wooden boxes.

Old doctor’s bags …

or vintage suitcases.

One of the things I often struggle with is finding the right size stencil to fit on my item.

This is especially a problem with the sleds.

Trying to find a stencil where the typography fits onto those narrow slats can be a real challenge.

My solution is to use bits and pieces of wording from various stencils for those.

I also often mask off stencils and use a smaller section of the stencil on something, like I did on this toy truck.

One of the reasons I really like wallcutz stencils is that you can order them in different sizes to fit your item.  I especially appreciate the larger sizes which work really well for turning headboards or foot boards into signs.

But I couldn’t find just the right thing from wallcutz to fit onto a vintage kid’s snow shovel that my friend Sue found for me.  I only had about 7″ square to work with.

I also looked through all of the stencils I already owned and none of them were quite right.  I debated using one of my mini stencils from JRV Stencils.  I really like the Kroger stencil, and that would have fit nicely.

But the theme wasn’t right for a snow shovel.

So I decided to head to Amazon and see what I could find that would fit.  There were lots of options for really small stencils that would fit a 3″ x 3″ wooden ornament, and I found a few stencils that I liked that were 8″ square, or 10″ square.  After a bit of time searching, I ended up finding a packet of 6″ x 6″ stencils that included one that said ‘let it snow’.

I did a little prep work on my shovel before stenciling.  I cleaned it well and then added a couple of coats of spray sealer to the blade.  It was pretty rusty and since I planned to use this as outside décor, I wanted to protect the remaining green paint.

I stenciled the design using Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth.  Once it was done, I decided it needed just a little oomph of something to give it more depth so I added some shading free-hand using DB’s Putty.

I haven’t actually done it yet, but I plan to add a couple of coats of flat sealer to protect the stenciling too.

When I shared the first kid sized shovel I painted back in November, I mentioned that I had this second shovel that I planned to keep for myself.

For now I’ve staged it out on the deck, but I plan to find a spot where I can hang it from the handle … maybe on the potting shed.  Since this is more of a winter decoration, rather than strictly a Christmas decoration, I can certainly display it for several more months.  I think I’ll hang it in place of the Christmas themed sled that is currently hanging on the door.

What do you think?

the latest thing.

I must confess, I am rarely on top of the latest, newest thing out there.  I was one of the last ones to get a DVD player, an iPod, a cell phone, a digital camera and so on and so on.

But lately I’ve been seeing all kinds of YouTube videos about the new IOD product, paint inlays.

While out visiting my mom in Las Vegas, I popped into a shop called Bloom.  There are several Bloom locations in her area, but I went to the one in The District (I’ve also been to the one in Boulder City on previous visits).

They just happen to be IOD stockists, although I will warn you now, don’t go in there expecting to see a large inventory of IOD products.  They had a handful of transfers, some of the molds (although none of the paper clay that I was hoping to find) and just a couple of the new paint inlays.  I would have loved to get the Grisaille Toile one, but they didn’t have that one.  They did however have the Rose Chintz.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m still a sucker for Rachel Ashwell’s shabby chic style and this Rose Chintz falls right in line with that look.  So I couldn’t resist.

Now, before I go any further I want to address the elephant in the room.  These things are Pricey, with a capital “P”.  I paid $47.95 plus tax for one package that includes eight 12″ x 16″ sheets.  Ouch!

I know I’ll be able to get quite a few smaller projects out of one package of the sheets, but if you want to use these on a piece of furniture it could get expensive.  According to what I’ve seen online, you can get at least two and sometimes three uses out of a sheet before discarding it.  However, the look you get on the 2nd pass is not the same as the look you get from a fresh sheet.  In other words, you couldn’t really re-use them on the same piece of furniture and expect it to look uniform.  I’ll be experimenting with this going forward and I’ll keep you posted on the results.

As with any new technique or product, I highly recommend creating a test board first to avoid wasting too much of your very expensive product if you have a failure while learning.  As you’re about to see, paint inlays are nothing like transfers.  It’s a totally different process.

So, taking my own advice, I pulled out a small board that I use for lots of practices and gave it a shot.

Step 1 – paint a first coat of your chosen paint color.  I should note here that this product is best used with chalk style paints only.  I used Dixie Belle’s Sea Glass.

Step 2 – while your first coat of paint is drying, take the time to get the lay of the land with your paint inlays.  They all have a repeating pattern, sort of like wallpaper.  So all 8 sheets can create one large connected pattern.  What I discovered while trying to line up the Rose Chintz is that there are 4 sheets with one pattern, and 4 sheets with a 2nd pattern.  Those with the same pattern can be lined up going horizontally all the way across all four sheets.  Those with the 2nd pattern can be lined up below the first pattern, and also can go four across.  I hope that makes sense.

Step 3 – trim off the excess margin all around each sheet of the paint inlay.  This is mainly important if you are going to be lining up the sheets side by side (and if you don’t do it, just remember that the design does not go all the way to the edge of the paper), but I did it for my test project too.

Step 4 – dry fit the paint inlay to your project.  In my case, I was just using it on a small board, so I cut the sheet down to size.  I didn’t want to waste any of the excess, I can save that to use on another project.  If you are using multiple sheets on a larger surface, now is the time to make sure that you know what order they go in, and have them lined up and ready to go.

Step 5 – this isn’t really an official step in the process, but I recommend that at this point you have all of the items you’ll need at hand and ready to go.  You’re going to be working in wet paint, so you don’t want to dilly dally looking around for tools.  You will need your paint and brush, your paint inlay trimmed, cut to size and ready to go, a spray bottle of water (or a damp rag), and a paper towel.  You can also use a brayer, but that’s not an absolute requirement.

Step 6 – apply a generous, even coat of paint to the surface of your project.  Since my practice board is small, I could do the whole thing at once.  But if you’re working on a larger surface, it’s best to work in sections no bigger than the size of each sheet of the inlay.  While the paint is still wet, lay the paint inlay with the pattern side down onto the wet paint.  At this point you can either spritz the inlay with water and then use a brayer to press the inlay down, or you can use a damp cloth to press the inlay into your piece.  Make sure that the sheet is fully in contact with your paint.  You can blot away any excess water using the paper towel.

Step 7 – let it dry.  This is the easiest step.  Just let the paint and inlay dry.  You can tell that it’s drying because the sheet becomes more opaque when dry.  Once it is dry to the touch, you can move on to step 8.

Step 8 – once dry, it’s time to remove the paint inlay sheet from your surface.  Spritz it again with water.  The inlay becomes translucent again.  Let the water soak into the inlay paper for about 30 seconds or so, just long enough to soften up the paper backing.

Step 9 – carefully peel away the inlay paper.  If you find that you can’t get the paper unstuck, you may need to dampen it a bit more.  Let the removed paper dry, and you can then use it again on another project.  FYI, the 2nd use will likely produce a more faded looking result.  In addition, you’ll see that the paper has taken away with it some of your base paint color, and that color may transfer to the next project somewhat as well.

As you can see in the photo below, places where the paper wrinkled will show as texture in your dried paint.  You can reduce that by getting the inlay nice and flat using the brayer in step 6 above.  Conversely, you can also leave more texture in the form of wrinkles if you like that look.

Step 10 – once you’ve peeled away the paper, simply let your piece dry thoroughly.

Step 11 – seal the inlay.  This is important!  It’s best to seal the inlay with a spray sealer of some kind.  The inlay paint is easily reactivated with water, or a water based sealer.  If you brush a water based sealer over it, or rub over it with wax, it may smear.  I say ‘better safe than sorry’, use a spray sealer.  I used the Rust-oleum Chalked protective topcoat in matte clear.

Once the topcoat is dry, you can sand to distress and then topcoat again with your finish of choice.  In my case, I sanded my board to distress the edges and also to knock back a little bit of the texture overall.  Then I added a coat of clear wax.

Isn’t that pretty?

I feel like the look is reminiscent of vintage wallpaper.  Mr. Q says the end result looks much more like a hand-painted design rather than a decal.  If you’re one of those people that just can’t live with the slight halo that comes with transfers (although that problem has really been minimized in more recently released transfers), you might really love paint inlays.  So far there are only three designs available, but I’m sure there will be more coming in the future (at least I hope so).

Be sure to pin this post so you can refer back to it when you get some paint inlays!

If you want more instruction on using this product in a video format, I recommend checking out this video from Lynne at ellen j goods.

I’ll be sharing a few more paint inlay projects over the coming week or two, so be sure to stay tuned for that!


keep it clean.

A little while back Dixie Belle sent me some of their new silkscreen stencils from their Belles and Whistles line.

I’d never actually tried using a silkscreen stencil before, so I decided to do a little playing around with one this past weekend to see how I liked it.

I pulled out a little wooden bench that my picker found for me and gave it a coat of Dixie Belle’s French Linen, followed by taping off some grain sack style stripes and painting them in Drop Cloth.  Once all of that was dry, I sanded it down with some 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the ridges left by the taped off lines and distress the edges.

Then I pulled out the Fresh Eggs stencil from the Farmhouse set and saw that it was going to fit on my bench perfectly.

Silkscreen stencils are a little different from typical reusable stencils.  First up, they are slightly sticky (on the sticky scale, I’d say they are sort of like a post it note) on the back and they come stuck to a backer sheet.  You’re going to need that backer sheet to store your stencil, so don’t toss it away when you peel it off for the first time.  They are also not rigid like a typical stencil and can be curved around an edge which could be a handy feature.

I peeled the stencil off its backer sheet and applied it to my bench.

A couple of things at this point.  First, you’ll see that I have yellow tape on the edges.  That’s not because I need it to hold the stencil in place, the stickiness has it firmly in place.  I added the tape because I used a large stencil brush and I didn’t want to get any stray paint over the edges of the stencil.

Second, I do kind of wish these weren’t made out of that darkish purple material.  It’s a little difficult to get your placement right because you can’t see through it terribly well.  I wonder if we can convince Dixie Belle to make them in a more transparent color.

Next up I grabbed my Dixie Belle paint in Gravel Road and applied the paint using my stencil brush.  I have to admit, I did that “wrong”.  It wasn’t until after I was done that I realized the little plastic thingie in the package was for applying the paint.

You can simply scrape the paint over the stencil using that bit of plastic (you know, as in ‘silk screening’).  Ooops!  Well, no worries, because my method worked beautifully too.  Clearly these silkscreen stencils are much more forgiving than traditional stencils.

The really great thing about using a silkscreen stencil is that you get a nice crisp result with very little effort.  No need to worry about getting too much paint on your brush and getting a sloppy, splotchy looking result.

So for those of you who struggle to get a crisp, clean edge with traditional stencils, a silkscreen stencil might be just the ticket.

Once the paint was dry, I sanded over the stencil to give it a more blended, faded appearance and then I coated the entire bench with some clear wax.

It seriously couldn’t have been any easier.  Recently someone asked me if the sticky stencil would pull off fresh paint, but I didn’t have any issues with that at all.  I don’t think it’s sticky enough to be a problem.

Now, here’s the kicker.  These silk screen stencils can only be re-used about 8 to 10 times, and then only if you wash the paint out of it after each use.  In other words, you have to keep it clean people.  I know myself well enough to know that I’m going to find that tricky.  I always intend to keep my stencils clean, and I always start out that way.  But two or three uses in I usually slack off.  We’ll see how many uses I can get out of this one before throwing in the towel.

So let’s recap the pros and cons of silkscreen stencils.

Cons:  You have to clean them, and even with dedicated cleaning they are only good for about 8 to 10 uses.  It’s difficult to see through the dark purple stencil material when placing the stencil.

Pros:  It’s much easier to get a crisp, clean result.  They can have a much higher level of detail than traditional stencils.  They don’t need to have those bridges in letters that you have to fill in later.  They are more flexible, so you could stencil around a corner.

I thought it might be fun to give away a couple silkscreen stencils so one of you can give them a try.

The rules:  Simply leave a comment on this blog post to be eligible to win.

Your comment must be left on this blog post, not on Facebook or Instagram.  You are not required to follow my blog, although it would be awesome if you did!

I will randomly draw the name of a winner for today’s prize from all of the comments left on this post by Wednesday, June 30, 2021 at the stroke of midnight (U.S. Central time).

The fine print: no purchase necessary, you must be 18 years of age or older to win, void where prohibited by law, the number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning, approximate retail value of prize is $50, if the prize is not claimed by Friday, July 2, 2021 another name will be drawn at random to win, blah, blah, blah.

As always, thanks to Dixie Belle for providing the paint I used on this little bench as well as their silkscreen stencils.

stenciling gone bad.

You’ll remember that I picked up this already painted vintage suitcase while thrifting with my sister.

Before I say more, if by some crazy off-hand chance the person who painted this suitcase also reads my blog, then I apologize in advance for criticizing your work.  I’m hoping that the fact that this piece was donated to a thrift store means that the previous owner knew it was bad and just decided to unload it.  I hope it wasn’t a gift that someone ditched after receiving it.

When I saw this sitting there on the shelf I immediately thought to myself, I must rescue that suitcase from its bad stenciling job!

To be fair, I’ve shown you the worst of the stenciling in that ‘before’ shot above.  It’s also stenciled on the other side …

Slightly better, but still not good.

Mr. Q is always reminding me that I tend to make stuff look easy, and that for some people it’s not easy at all.  Maybe this is a good example of that.  Maybe the painter of this suitcase dove right in thinking ‘Q makes it look so easy, I’m sure I can just whip this up!’  So for those of you who also struggle with stenciling, I thought I’d share some tips for improving your odds for success.

No. 1 – First and foremost, pay attention to which items are good candidates for stenciling and which ones are not.  In this instance, the pebbled surface of this case will make it tough to get a clean result with a stencil no matter how good your skills.

No. 2 – It’s easier to get a crisp result if your surface has a little ‘tooth’ to it (tooth refers to the grain of your surface, it’s what allows paint to bind to the surface).  Slick, shiny surfaces like the semi-gloss aqua paint on this case have very little ‘tooth’ and will allow your paint to slid around a bit more.  A matte finish will work much better for stenciling, as will non-glossy fabric or paper.

No. 3 – Use a thick paint for the actual stenciling.  Dixie Belle paint straight out of the jar is perfect for stenciling.  I also use the cheap acrylic craft paint that you can buy at any craft store because it tends to be nice and thick.

No. 4 –  Use a proper stenciling brush.  It should have densely packed bristles that are a bit more stiff than your typical paint brush, but also have some flexibility.  I have used the inexpensive Martha Stewart brand stenciling brushes that you can find at Michaels, but you get what you pay for.  The ferrule has come unglued from the handle on most of mine (granted, they got A LOT of use).  The with prima brushes are better quality, and I really love this large one for bigger stenciling jobs.

No. 5 – always, always, always off-load most of the paint on your brush before using it.  I know this feels wasteful because you’re leaving 75% of your paint behind on a paper towel, but trust me, it is crucial for a crisp result.  I probably should have made this tip no. 1 because it is definitely the mistake I make most frequently myself, especially when I’m feeling impatient.

In the end, if stenciling just isn’t your cup of tea, then my next piece of advice is to keep it simple and use a transfer instead.  That’s what I decided to do with this suitcase.

But first things first, I opened it up to look for hidden treasure.  I’m always hoping that I’ll find someone’s secret stash of cash, or maybe a long lost Van Gogh, inside a thrift store purchase.  So far no luck on that, but a girl can dream.

The lining of this case is actually in pretty good condition and kind of pretty.

The color isn’t really working with the aqua though, is it?

So as much as I love a good aqua, and as much as I loved it on this suitcase while it was closed, I felt like I needed to switch to a color that worked well with the lining.  I decided to stay neutral with Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth.

Inevitably someone is now going to ask me for a tip on freshening up the smell of an old suitcase, and I have to admit that I don’t have one.  I’ve found that since they generally are stored closed up tight, over time the smell returns no matter what I’ve tried.  As a result, I use my old cases for looks only.  Or for storing things that won’t pick up the smell, like my vintage glass Christmas ornaments or craft supplies.  I would never store clothing or other fabric items inside.

Once the paint had dried overnight, I pulled out the Royal Burgundy transfer. If you’re keeping track at all, this will be the 3rd small project I’ve done with this one transfer.  I’ve already used it on a wooden jewelry box and a pair of ice skates.  I still have a pretty good sized chunk of it left after doing this suitcase as well.  Just something to keep in mind when looking at these larger transfers that are one solid design.  You can always break it up for smaller projects.

I did have to line up a seam to cover the whole top of the suitcase and I didn’t get it exactly perfect.

But I don’t think too many people are going to focus on that when looking at the bigger picture.

Also, if you’re wondering, I trimmed the transfer to fit the circular top before removing the backing paper and then applying the transfer.

I ended up painting the handle of the suitcase in Dixie Belle’s Putty for a little contrast.

  The Putty is an almost perfect match to the color of the background words on the transfer.

I wanted to add just a little something more, so I added the word ‘Beautiful’ from the Hopeful Wishes transfer.

You may have noticed that I sanded the edges and the handle to distress the paint job a bit.  You’re always going to see hints of previous paint jobs when you do this, and sure enough you get glimpses of the old aqua here and there.

I finished off the case with a coat of clear wax to give it that subtle patina that only wax can impart.

I think you’ll agree that this vintage suitcase has been rescued from a bad stenciling job.

As always, thank you to Dixie Belle Paint Co and with prima for providing the supplies used for this suitcase makeover.

If you’re looking for Dixie Belle products you can find them here.

Both the Hopeful Wishes and the Royal Burgundy transfers are from with prima.  If you’re looking for with prima products you can find local retailers here, or online sources here.

And finally, if you are local and in need of a gorgeous vintage suitcase, I’ll be taking this one in to Reclaiming Beautiful this week.

modeling material give away.

I’ve been experimenting a bit lately with Prima Marketing’s Modeling Material and molds.

I am still a total newbie at using them and am learning as I go.  I don’t want to attempt a full on tutorial with you guys because I’m definitely not an expert.  Instead here is a link to a YouTube video by CeCe ReStyled which is very in depth.

I do have a few tips for you that I’ve learned so far though.

My first tip is to sprinkle a little corn starch into your mold before using it.  This will help ensure that the molded clay pops out easily.

My next tip is to be aware that the clay shrinks a bit as it dries.

Most of the time this isn’t going to be an issue, but it came into play for me when working with the Regal Filaments mould.

When I took my modeling material out of the mould the long pieces came apart in a few spots.

I didn’t think that would be a problem, I could just glue them in place and no one would ever know.  However, as they dried the gaps grew larger because the pieces also shrunk.

If I had let these dry before gluing them in place, I could have tightened up those gaps.  However, you should also know that the clay becomes hard and brittle once fully dry.  It may also warp a bit.  In other words, you won’t be able to shape it, and it may not lay flat.  So it might work better to glue your clay in place before it dries fully.

I believe the best solution is to let your material dry for about an hour before taking it out of the mold.  It will still be somewhat pliable at that point, but also it will have firmed up just a bit.  You can then glue it in place before letting it dry fully.

Despite that shrinkage, I still think this particular piece still turned out nicely.

It’s an old cupboard door that I painted in Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth, then added the clay molds along the sides, some Hobby Lobby knobs at the bottom and one of Prima Marketing’s Floral Home transfers.

So far I’ve used a small bee mold on this raised cake plate …

I’ve used a decorative flower mold on this small jewelry box …

And I used the Seawashed Treasures mold on the cupboard doors I shared with you on Monday.

I’m having lots of fun playing around with these molds, but I don’t want to hog all the fun just for myself.  So today I’m giving away the 2 lb. bucket of Modeling Material, plus 5 molds, Baroque Swirls, In Bloom, Italian Villa Scrolls, Leafy Blossoms and Greco Crest.

Thank you to Prima Marketing for providing all of the goodies for today’s giveaway!

The rules:  to be eligible to win today’s prize leave a comment on this blog post letting me know what kind of project you would like to use these molds on.  Your comment must be left on the blog, not on Facebook or Instagram.  You are not required to follow my blog, although it would be awesome if you did!

I will randomly draw the name of a winner for today’s prize from all of the comments left on this post by Friday, July 26, 2019 at the stroke of midnight (U.S. Central time).

The fine print: no purchase necessary, you must be 18 years of age or older to win, void where prohibited by law, the number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning, approximate retail value of prize is $75, if the prize is not claimed by Sunday, July 28, another name will be drawn at random to win, blah, blah, blah.

Good luck!

do as I say, not as I do.

I always joke that I like to learn things the hard way.  But really, that isn’t too far off the mark.  Over the years I have accumulated a fair amount of knowledge about painting furniture that was mostly acquired by making mistakes and then learning from them.

I know there are other (and most would say better) ways to learn, such as taking a class or workshop.  I’ve taken a couple of workshops in my day too.  They are absolutely great for learning the basics, but you can’t learn every last detail in the space of just a few hours.  Another way to learn is by reading blogs like mine.  We make the mistakes so that you don’t have to!

In the long run, experience ultimately comes from practicing, trying things out, and yes, making mistakes.

So today I thought I’d share some of the lessons I’ve learned by making mistakes.

No. 1 – Do not apply a furniture transfer over freshly applied wax.

I wanted to use dark wax over bare wood on this piano stool seat to add some color.  For some reason, I thought I needed to wax before adding the transfer.  Big mistake.  The rubbing motion that you use to apply a transfer creates friction, friction creates heat, heat turns freshly applied wax and the adhesive of the transfer into a sticky gooey mess.  I simply couldn’t get any more of that transfer to adhere to the stool.

By the way, this experience also taught me that it’s fairly difficult to remove a transfer too.  Even though parts of this transfer wouldn’t adhere at all, the parts that did adhere were stuck down good.  I tried using mineral spirits and a scrubbing pad and after lots of elbow grease I only got this far …

The fix.

I broke out the orbital sander and sanded the entire seat down to bare wood.  Then I stained the stool top to give it some color.  Next, I added the transfer, followed by wax.  It turned out beautifully.

A little sidebar:  I refinished that stool in March 2018, long before I painted my piano black.  Then I sold it.  Kicking myself now because this stool would be perfect with my now black piano!  I’ll be on the hunt for another like it while garage saling this summer.

q tip:  If you decide you simply must have a transfer on your piece but you’ve already waxed it, you will need to wait 30 days for the wax to cure before adding the transfer.  Or you could remove the wax with mineral spirits, but who wants to go down that road?


No. 2 – Do not use Color Change Wood Filler when painting a piece with milk paint.

This is the Elmer’s Carpenter’s Color Change Wood Filler.  It goes on purple and when it turns white you know that it’s dry.  The packaging says it is paintable and stainable.  So it seemed like a reasonable choice at the time.  The problem is, because milk paint is much thinner (ie. more watery) than other paints it turns the filler back to purple!  I suspect this might happen with chalk style paints too, but I’ve never tried it.

I used it on a desk that I was painting with Miss Mustard Seeds Marzipan.  Not only did the paint turn purple, but I then tried sealing it with Tough Coat and repainting, but the purple still bled thru that too (keep in mind that Tough Coat is not intended to seal bleed thru, I just thought I’d try it).

The fix.

Since it was summer, I used some spray paint primer to block the purple bleed thru.  Then I repainted the entire side of the desk with the Marzipan.


No. 3 – Do not use the Prima Marketing Décor stamps with ink over milk or chalk paint without a topcoat.

This pair of nightstands were perfect for trying out the Decor Stamps.  However, I had painted them with milk paint and hadn’t added a top coat yet.  Because milk paint is so porous it soaked up the ink like a sponge and the pretty stamp that started out looking crisp and fabulous bled into the paint and after about 10 minutes it ended up looking like a fuzzy mess.

After realizing the error of my ways, I painted a test board with several different treatments and then tried the stamp over them.

The fix.

I repainted the nightstands with Fusion’s Putty, and then tried again with the stamps.  This time it worked perfectly!

q tip:  If you want to use a Decor stamp with ink over milk paint, be sure to seal your milk paint with a water based sealer such as Miss Mustard Seeds Tough Coat or The Real Milk Paint Co’s Finishing Cream.


No. 4 – Even if you don’t see any stain bleeding through your piece before you apply a sealer, a water based sealer can pull the stain through your paint.

I painted this linen press using Rachel Ashwell paint.  I don’t think this product is even around anymore.  I’m guessing she tried the paint thing, found it to be super competitive, and it fizzled.  But you can get this result with any paint when you add a water based top coat.  It’s super frustrating because your piece looks amazing before you add the top coat.  Also, the bleed thru can take a while to show up.  So you might think you’re done, and then a day later start to see bleed thru.

It’s really hard to know when this is going to happen.  Over time, with experience, you’ll get a feel for judging whether or not a stain might bleed.  But sometimes it just sneaks up on you.

The fix.

I used Rachel Ashwell Clear Primer to seal the piece, repainted and then finished with the water based topcoat.


No. 5 – When all else fails, follow the directions.

I really loved that Rachel Ashwell brand Clear Primer, too bad it’s no longer available.  However, another great product for blocking bleed thru is Dixie Belle BOSS (blocks odors, stains, stops bleed thru).

However, be sure to follow the directions.  I used it to block an ink stain on the inside of a drawer and the first time around it didn’t work, even though I had used two coats of the BOSS.

So I went back and read the instructions which said to allow for a longer drying period.

The fix.

I added two more coats of BOSS and let it dry overnight and it worked like a charm.

Yep, my dad was right, when all else fails, read the directions.


No. 7 – Be sure to mix your milk paint really well, especially the shades of green.

True milk paint is made with just five ingredients; casein (milk protein, hence the name milk paint), chalk, clay, oxide (natural pigments) and limestone.  It comes in powder form and you mix it with water when you are ready to use it.

Some of the pigments used are heavier than others.  Because of that, they tend to settle to the bottom of your container as you’re using the paint.

As a result, if you paint most of your dresser one day and then paint the final bottom drawer on another day after your handyman has fixed it you can end up with an entirely different color.

Yep, not a good look.  That bottom drawer definitely has a lot more of the blue pigment compared to the others.

I learned a couple of lessons from this one.  First of all, when using milk paint, mix your paint before you start prepping your piece.  Let it sit while you prep allowing the pigments time to fully dissolve.  Next mix your paint well again before starting to paint.   Also, frequently give your paint a little stir as you are painting.  And finally, be sure to paint the final coat on your entire piece in one sitting and with one batch of mixed paint.  If you’ve painted the first coat and realize you don’t have enough paint left for the entire final coat, be sure to add more paint to your mix before starting the last coat.

For more milk paint tips, check out my Milk Paint Basics post.

The fix.

I mixed a new fresh batch of Miss Mustard Seeds Luckett’s Green and repainted the entire dresser in one go.

I hope you’ve learned a thing or two from this post.  I’m sure I’ll keep on making mistakes and I’ll continue to share them with you so that you don’t always have to learn things the hard way.  You can do as I say, not as I do.

If you have any lessons you’ve learned the hard way, be sure to share them with us in a comment.

um, what is this stuff?

Several months ago Prima Marketing sent me a box full of goodies.  Included in the box were several jars of this stuff …

Chalk paste.

It sure does come in some pretty colors.  This pale blush pink is called Hubbard Squash.

And it has the most deliciously creamy, thick consistency, sort of makes me want to spread it on a cake.  But I’m pretty sure that’s not what it’s for.

So I wondered, what exactly is this stuff?

I’d never heard of chalk paste and had no idea what to do with it.  So I did some googling and it seems to be a sort of cross between chalk paint and a texture paste.  I found that a popular option is to use it with a stencil to create a raised design.

It was time to do some experimenting.

I happened to have this pair of oval wooden plaque thingies that my picker found at a garage sale for 25 cents each.  Perfect for experimenting.

Experiment no. 1 – I painted the oval in a pale blush color that sort of matched the Hubbard Squash chalk paste.  Then I pulled out Prima’s Lenore Corners raised stencil which is .04″ deep.  These thicker stencils are perfect for this technique.

Next I used a putty knife to smooth the Hubbard Squash chalk paste over the stencil.  I made sure that the openings in the stencil were fairly uniformly filled in with the paste and then pulled the stencil away.

I let the chalk paste dry overnight to be sure it was good and set up.  Then I sanded it lightly to smooth out any rough edges.

Next I pulled out some of Prima Marketing’s Decor Wax in a color called Diamond Dust.  The Diamond Dust is a pale, iridescent gold.  I used a q-tip to lightly apply it just to the raised sections of the stenciled chalk paste.

It accented the raised stencil just enough and I thought this might be a very pretty look on the right piece of furniture.

Experiment no. 2 – For  the 2nd oval I painted the base in a medium shade of greige and then used the off-white Vintage Lace chalk paste with Prima Marketing’s Madelia Gardens stencil.

In this case there is more of a contrast between the color of the base coat of paint and the color of the chalk paste.  As you can see, I did get some seepage from the chalk paste under my stencil.  I didn’t especially like the look of that, so after sanding the dried chalk paste to smooth it out, I painted over the entire oval with some Dixie Belle paint in Drop Cloth which improved the look.  Then I added a segment of Prima Marketing’s Endless Story transfer to the remainder of the oval.

From this experiment I concluded that chalk paste stenciled over a contrasting color of paint is probably not a good look for me.  The look of that seepage under the stencil is too messy for me.  However, I really like the subtlety of a uniform color over the entire thing.

Experiment no. 3 – I pulled out the last two wooden plates I had from Prima Marketing for a third experiment.  This time I first painted the plates using Dixie Belle’s Gravel Road.  Then I used the Iron Gate chalk paste, which is a dark charcoal grey similar to the Gravel Road.

Again, once the chalk paste had set up, I sanded it to smooth out any rough spots.  Then I painted over the whole plate with Dixie Belle’s Vintage Duck Egg.  Once that was dry I sanded it back to reveal some of the original color of the Iron Gate chalk paste.

As you can see, each of these techniques gives a slightly different look.  None of them are right are wrong, it just depends on the look you like.

I can’t really say I have a favorite, although I tend to prefer more subtle looks like the white paint over the white chalk paste.  It’s just enough to provide a hint of texture without being too much.

How about you?  Which one is your favorite?  And have you ever tried chalk paste?  If so, what did you do with it.  I’d love to know, so be sure to leave a comment.

Thank you to Prima Marketing and Dixie Belle Paint Co for providing the products used for these projects.

your choice of toppings, on the lighter side.

On Monday I shared my favorite technique for using a dark wax over bare wood.  Today I thought I’d focus on using other colors of wax over bare wood (or white washed wood).

Once again, all of my favorite wax brands make a version of white wax.

Starting at the top and moving clockwise that’s Miss Mustard Seed White Wax, Homestead House White Wax, the Real Milk Paint Co Soft White Wax, and Fusion Liming Wax.

That brings up the first question, are white wax and liming wax the same thing?

I don’t have a definitive answer from the experts, but I’m pretty sure they can be used interchangeably.  One may have a slightly different color, or maybe a little more or less pigment, but as you can see all of the white waxes that I have are slightly different in color anyway.

You can apply white wax to bare wood in just the same way as the dark waxes that I talked about on Monday.  If you need a refresher you can refer back to that post.  However, I often choose to apply a coat of clear wax before applying the white.    The purpose of that is to soften the look of the white wax and allow it to blend a little bit more.  But if you want that cerused or lime waxed look to be more pronounced and you really want to see those streaks of white that catch in the grain of your wood, go ahead and just use the white wax right over your bare wood.

The tabletop below has a coat of clear wax followed by a coat of white wax.

As does the top of this washstand.

These days I almost always apply my wax with a brush and then remove any excess wax with an old t-shirt.  The large Miss Mustard Seed wax brush is a favorite of mine (you can find it online at Carver Junk Co if you need one).  Mine is well used …

Another favorite light wax of mine is grey wax.  I used to make my own grey wax by mixing black and white wax together.

But now when I want grey wax I just use Dixie Belle’s Best Dang Wax in Grunge Grey.

I used this wax on a coffee table last winter.

It gives that sort of driftwood appearance.

Finally, there is always the option of just using a clear furniture wax over bare wood.  That’s what I did on this buffet top.

Just keep in mind that clear wax won’t alter the color of your wood like the tinted waxes will, it also won’t help blend any discolorations that your wood might have.

But if you love the natural color of the wood on your piece, try just using clear wax.

Before I let you go I want to mention that besides being an incredibly easy and relatively foolproof technique to use, I think wax provides the most natural looking finish for beautiful wood.

It isn’t the most impervious finish, nor is it the shiniest.  If you’re looking for a perfect looking finish, maybe wax isn’t for you.

But if you like to embrace the imperfections in old furniture and bring them back to life just a bit, definitely give this a try!

Also, if you’d like to learn more about lime waxing or white washing, check out this post …

your choice of toppings.

I can still remember that ‘eureka moment’ when I realized it was possible to strip the old finish from furniture and then just use wax to refinish it.  Prior to that I had no idea that it could be just that simple.

I thought that you had to stain wood and also then finish it with some sort of poly topcoat, but I was wrong.  You don’t have to do it that way.  You can choose to just strip off the old finish and then wax it.  If you use a colored wax, the wax itself will give a beautiful color to the wood, so there’s no need for stain.

This is pretty much the most fool-proof method for refinishing a wood top that I’ve found.  No need to worry about your stain not taking evenly, or your poly topcoat looking streaky.  Anyone can wax.

And it doesn’t matter if your piece is solid wood or a wood veneer, this technique works beautifully for both.

Solid oak:

Burled walnut veneer:

Step 1:  Strip off the old varnish using Citristrip (or your stripper of choice).  Clean the piece well and sand it smooth using 220 grit sandpaper.

Step 2:  Apply the wax using a brush or a lint free cloth.  Remove any excess wax using a clean cloth.

Step 3:  Wait 10 or 15 minutes and then buff to bring out some shine.  If you prefer a more matte or rustic look, you can do very little buffing or even skip it altogether.

Are you wondering which wax product to use?  Here are my favorite dark waxes …

As you can see, they are all very well loved.  They are also all non-stinky and safe for indoor use (to read more about wax safety, be sure to check out this post).

All of the various wax brands that I use have dark and/or brown versions and they are all just slightly different in color.  I thought this would be a good opportunity to show you some options so you can compare.

First up, Miss Mustard Seed Antiquing Wax.

MMS Antiquing Wax is the color of dark chocolate.  I’m not a fan of eating dark chocolate (give me milk chocolate or white chocolate every time), but I love this wax.  It’s very creamy, has almost no smell, and it works beautifully.

Fusion also sells wax under their brand name.  Keep in mind that Fusion and Miss Mustard Seed are both from Homestead House Paint Company, so their waxes come from the same wax manufacturer.  As does the Homestead House brand wax.  It’s all museum quality, safe for you and the environment, non-smelly and I think it’s the creamiest wax out there.  It’s a bit softer than some of the others which makes it much easier to apply.

I’ve included the Cece Caldwell Aging Cream in my line up today because that was one of the first dark waxes I used over stripped wood.  I don’t tend to use it anymore mainly because the local shop where I used to buy it went out of business.  It has a bit more of a reddish tone than the others, so if you’re looking for that color this wax is a great choice for you.  Here it is on a dresser top …

I’ve only recently started using the Dixie Belle Best Dang Wax.  Their Brown wax is perfect for finishing bare wood tops.

It is just a bit harder (more firm, less soft and creamy) than the others.  So it takes a little more elbow grease to apply.  However, I think I’m also less prone to wasting product because I don’t accidentally get too much on my brush.  I also think it buffs up to more of a shine than the others.  I have a feeling that there is a relationship between how soft/hard the wax is and how much shine you can get out of it, but that might just be my own perception.

  One caveat regarding wax, it should be reapplied periodically to maintain the finish.  The good news is that wax is super easy to refresh, simply clean the surface and then apply more wax.  If you get a water ring or a scratch or two, just spot sand lightly, clean and re-wax.  It couldn’t be easier.

Personally I would not choose to use wax on a surface that is going to get a lot of wear, be exposed to a lot of moisture or require regular scrubbing such as kitchen cabinets or a bathroom vanity.  For those surfaces I would opt for something more durable like a poly finish or Fusion paint (which is very durable and washable once cured, even without a top coat).  However, I think wax is quite durable enough for a dresser or desk top.  I even have a wax finish on my dining table that has held up very well (although we do use coasters for sweaty glasses).

So if you haven’t already tried refinishing some pretty wood with wax, give it a go next time.  I’ll add a link for this post to my ‘how to‘ page so you can always find it for future reference.

And in the meantime, be sure to check back on Wednesday to learn about more choices in toppings!


In the past I know that I have been able to continue painting in my unheated carriage house workshop well into October.  Usually October is one of my favorite months weather-wise; cooler, but not too cold.  Perfect for painting outside.

But for the last two weekends in a row we haven’t made it out of the low 50’s.

Despite the temps, I had some pieces out in my workshop that I really needed to get painted.  Since I planned to use Dixie Belle paint on them I reached out to my contact there to find out if it was OK to use their paint in the cold.  The official answer is yes, you can apply the paint outside if the temps are in the 50’s.  However, it will take longer to dry.

And of course, I’d have to pile on the fleece to be comfortable myself too.  Plus keep in mind that Dixie Belle paint should not be allowed to freeze.  Freezing and thawing again may affect the integrity of the paint.

So in the long run, even though I could have painted in my workshop, I opted to move my painting operations back indoors.  Luckily Dixie Belle paint is non-toxic and has zero VOC’s, so I’m perfectly comfortable with using it indoors with the windows closed to keep out the cold.

Since low temps below freezing are predicted for this coming weekend, I realized it was time to move all of my painting supplies back inside the house too.  This seems like a good opportunity to remind everyone of some cold weather painting tips for the three types of paint that I use most.

Milk paint is probably the most cold weather hearty paint that I use.  I’m referring to authentic milk paint that comes as a powder that you then mix with water when you’re ready to use it (Miss Mustard Seed, Homestead House, The Real Milk Paint Co and Sweet Pickins are all true milk paints).  General Finishes Milk Paint is not a true milk paint, but an acrylic paint, FYI.

Although I can’t find any definitive information about it online, I’m sure I could get away with leaving the milk paint powder packets out in the workshop in temps below freezing as long as I warmed it back up a bit before mixing it with water.  I wouldn’t choose to store it out there all winter of course, but if I forgot it out there for a few freezing nights I’m betting it would be fine.

Once mixed milk paint only has a shelf life of a few days.  Plus it is recommended that you store it in the fridge overnight if you aren’t going to use it right away.  So leaving mixed milk paint in a chilly workshop would be OK, but don’t allow it to freeze at that point.

Also, it’s OK to paint with mixed milk paint outside all the way down to freezing.  Just keep in mind that it will take longer to dry and you’ll freeze your butt off while doing it.

Fusion Mineral Paint is freeze/thaw stable.  It has been formulated to withstand freezing and then thawing up to three times without affecting the integrity of the paint.  So if you forget to bring your paint inside when the weather turns, you have three chances to get it inside before it starts to feel the effect.

Well, that makes sense eh?  Fusion is a Canadian company and they know cold.

Also, much like the Dixie Belle and milk paint, you can apply the paint in temps down into the 50’s but it will take longer to dry.

As for safety, all three of these paints are perfectly safe to use indoors with the windows closed.  Each one has zero VOC’s, and all three have very little odor.  Since I typically spend nearly six months out of 12 painting inside (more like seven this year apparently) this is an important quality to me.

This is a good time to remind you guys that not all waxes are created equal when it comes to safety.  If you didn’t see my previous post about that, you can find it {here}.  Please stay safe, especially when working indoors with little ventilation!

And if you’re wondering what I did get done last weekend, I finished up five pieces all painted with Dixie Belle’s Caviar.  I’ll be sharing them with you next week, so be sure to stay tuned!