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Today’s the big day!  The $5 Challenge is live at Lindsay’s!  (Click the glue gun graphic to go see all the wonderful projects.)

Earlier this month, I posted a tutorial for bamboo vases, and after using them for three weeks, I have to say I’m still in love with them.  This week, I finally got started on my second project.

Here’s the second half of my haul from the dollar store:

-One small oval serving tray
-One set of four small bowls
-Two bags of decorative “accent gems” – a nod to the current decor trend of teals and aquas
-One resin birdie on branch

Items on hand that I used: Spray paint, spray poly, and a bag of tea lights.

Yesterday, while the weather was beautiful, I took the tray and bird outside to my high-tech painting booth (*cough* *cough*) and gave them each a couple of coats of paint & poly.  (I wanted a glossier finish than the paint alone would give.  I also planned to put things on the tray, so hopefully the poly will protect the paint from scratches.)

I went in wishing I had a brighter white paint for this project, but I only had Heirloom White on hand.  It always goes on creamier than I want it, but now that it’s dry, I’m pretty happy with it.

Learn from my mistake – prime the bird.  I used way too much of the precious Heirloom White trying to cover up his darker feathers and the branch.  (Also, if you come over to my house, don’t look underneath his tail.  I kind of missed a bit.  Shh.)

After they’d spent a couple of hours basking in the sunshine, I brought them inside to cure overnight.

This morning, it was time to play.  It did not go quite as planned.  My original thought was pebbles on tray, bowls amongst pebbles, tea lights in bowls.  I didn’t like it, so I started messing with it.  (That’s how the pros do it, I promise!  Mess around with it until you like it!)

Hmm.  Seems I didn’t need the bowls after all.  Okay, so it’s a $4 project!  If you have clear cup tea lights on hand, I think it would be even prettier.  I’m fresh out.

And there you have it – a $4 candle arrangement, suitable for end tables, very wide mantles, breakfast bars, and kitchen tables.*

P.S. I’m also linking this up to the Frugal Friday Linky Party over at The Shabby Nest.  Have fun looking through those projects, too!

*This isn’t the steadiest candle arrangement in the world…As with all candles, please don’t put this anywhere a child or animal could disrupt it and get burned or spread the flames.  And, of course, don’t leave it unattended!  You knew that, right?

Since posting the results of my first foray into pelmet-making last week, I’ve been thinking about writing a post like this.  I think too often we are paralyzed by decorating fear.  We wait to make changes to our homes, because we don’t want to invest a lot of time and money in a home we’re renting, or into one we’ll be selling in just a few years.  Here’s the thing, though: this is your home.  Wherever you live now is home; why wait for someday to make home feel special?  You can do little, inexpensive things that won’t upset your landlord or cost so much that you mind leaving it behind for the next owner, if they want it.

That pelmet is proof.  It took me half a day and about $24, with the cost spread over a couple of months.  (If I’d bought all the bits and pieces without coupons, it still would have come in around $40…tres inexpensive when you’re talking custom window treatments.)  We can take it with us when we move; it will fit over any double window and will look great in a kids’ room, craft room, game room, or guest room.

There are so many other things you can do with fabric to spruce up a room.  Recover a $2 garage sale chair.  (I’ll get to it one of these days.)  Make a throw pillow.  Use your hot glue gun and a few upholstery tacks to mistreat a window.  The trick, if you’re on a super-thrifty budget, is finding the fabric for the right price.

Before you start shopping, you need to prepare your mind; know what you’re looking for.  If you have a specific project in mind, know approximately how much fabric you’ll need.  Guesstimates are fine.  (Just add a 1/2 yard, in case you’re off!)  Have an idea what colors and patterns will work in the room.  Don’t get hung up on matching the fabric with other pieces in your room.  Coordinating ≠ matching.  You may be surprised at just how many different, unmatched, colors and textures will look good together.

For example, take Jenny’s daughters’ room, which I linked to in the pelmet post:


Photo: Little Green Notebook

This is a gorgeous room.  Look a little closer…at the throw pillow the doll is leaning against.  Would you have thought a brocade pillow in that yellowy-green shade would have “gone with” the busy, jewel-toned headboard and the turquoise nightstand?  Neither would I.  But it coordinates, and beautifully!  Think beyond what you “know” about colors.  Just like every piece of furniture or wood in a room does not need to be the same color (now there’s a myth I’m eager to stamp out!), every fabric doesn’t have to have the of same color scheme.

Okay, now that I’ve thrown you for a loop, it’s time to shop.  You could do what I did – fall in love with one fabric and keep checking on it until it goes on clearance.  However, I lucked out; you might be waiting years if you go with that plan…or miss out on it completely.  Instead, I suggest keeping your options open and shopping around.

Fabric and Upholstery Stores

Obvious answer!  Remnant bins at fabric and upholstery stores can be a goldmine.  You have to dig, but end-of-bolt savings can be the answer to that perfect, affordable bit of fabric you’re looking for.

Discount Stores

Ross, TJ Maxx, Marshalls…no, they don’t sell fabric, but they sell curtains, table cloths and shower curtains – cheap!  What are curtains, table cloths and shower curtains made of?

Fabric!  In the same vein, check out the clearance aisles at places like Target and Ikea.

Thrift Stores

Yep, you can find fabric and craft supplies at almost every thrift store.  Sometimes it will be actual cut fabric, straight off the bolt, and sometimes it will be in the form of curtains or sheets.  Again, this involves digging, but the deals are unbeatable.

Online

There are several online fabric stores, and they all have clearance sections.  Fabric.com is one I’ve heard good things about.  Craigslist and Freecycle are worth checking out, too.  I once got a huge bag of upholstery remnants on Freecycle.  I ended up re-Freecycling them to another member when I discovered that none of them were quite my style, but all I was out was the gas to go pick them up in the first place – a worthwhile gamble, I believe.

So what do you think?  Have I missed any great resources for inexpensive fabric?  Do you find yourself in the mood to spiff up a space you’ve been afraid to tackle?

(P.S. I’m linking up to DIY Day over at Kimba’s!)

Before:

After:

A good day’s work.

ETA: After a good night’s sleep, it occurs to me that the above pictures could be misconstrued.  My newfound calmness in the room has to do with the paint color on the walls, not the lack of children romping on my bed.  (Although, if we’re being totally honest here, that certainly helps.)

I stopped into Ross today, just to see what I could see, and lo and behold: two full aisles of throw pillows on clearance.  And by clearance, I mean $5.99 – $9.99.  Anyone who knows throw pillows knows how good a deal that is.  (It even beats Overstock!)

I spent about twenty minutes ho-humming my way through several pillow combinations before finally settling on one I loved for our bed.

Ugh, the lighting in that store is horrible for photos.  Consider this a washed-out version of what I chose.

Anywho, I loved the pillows.  The only problem was…I had no idea how they’d look in the room itself.  The walls are getting painted this weekend (I keep saying that each week, don’t I?), and there are curtains in there that belong to the homeowner.  (Not necessarily my first choice in window treatments, but why buy new ones for a temporary home when there are perfectly nice ones in place?)  With reluctance, I left the pillows behind.  You see, I had a plan.

Back at home, I took one of the curtain sets down off the rod, grabbed my “Household” cash envelope (reason #2 I didn’t buy the pillows when I saw them – no cash on hand!), and set off to pick the boys up from school before hitting Ross again.

I’m glad I left the original pillows.  They looked horrible with the curtains.  And I do mean horrible.  Clash City.

However.  Look what I found!

(Yes, I did hang my curtains from the shelf in the middle of a store.  Why do you ask?)

I wish I could adjust the color more to show just how perfectly these coordinate.  The plaid pillow looks like it was made to be packaged with the drapes.  (Unfortunately, there was only one!  Sob!)  It’s much more subtle in person (as are the drapes themselves, I promise).  The pillow directly behind the plaid one doesn’t read as green in person.  It (and its matching partner) are a subtle gold that meshes beautifully with the rest of the crew.  The tufted round pillow is my favorite; look at that pleating!  If I could get away with having two without it looking like eyes (ahem, or other body parts) sitting at the top of my bed, I would have purchased another.

What a steal!  For less than the cost of one throw pillow at a home decor store, I brought home four beautiful pillows.

Now, with a king-sized bed and four throw pillows, I have a new dilemma: making just four throw pillows look good on a king-sized bed.  I’ll be playing with that for a while, I can tell.  However, I have time.  First, we must paint, and then I must hack an Ikea door that has been waiting patiently to become our headboard.  It will all come together.

My boys

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