DIY Articles by Lisa

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A DIY Gift for Book Lovers – The Londoner, Dec 19/16

We are a nation of book-lovers. For many people, a couple of shelves full of beloved books provide comfort and make us feel at home. Even though we’ve embraced E-readers, there’s still nothing like cracking the spine of a brand new book.

Not all books weather the years well. Once read, some are destined to collect dust or get packed away until someone eventually tosses them out. I recently discovered a way to save a few of them from that fate with a simple and beautiful DIY project to make as a gift for your favourite book-lover.

You need three hard-covered books that are roughly the same size, although varying thicknesses look more interesting than the exact same widths.  For the investment of a dollar at a charity book sale, I found two outdated marketing guides that were published before the advent of social media, and one of six copies of a John Grisham novel from more than a decade ago.

You can use latex paint, but chalk paint coats textured book covers beautifully, so I chose a shade of grey found in my recipient’s living room, and a bright red for a pop of colour. Protect the pages with paper or cloth and make sure to coat the inside rim of the cover with the new shade. Don’t worry if the first coat is blotchy. The second application will even it out.

A choice of lettering on the spine is a matter of taste. You could apply a title, a category, or something else that’s more personal. Stencilling is a little time consuming with more potential for errors, so I decided to go with inexpensive letter stickers in different fonts.

When the books are dry and the stickers or stencils finished, apply some white glue between the books and let it set. Then coat the top and spines with Mod Podge. This will seal the project and give it a bit of sheen without making it too shiny. It will dry in about twenty minutes.

three books painted grey and red held together with an old leather bel

Your next decision is how to tie the books together. Options range from thin leather string (used in jewellery-making) to twine to a leather belt, which I employed after my husband deemed it no longer wearable. The buckle and most of the leather was still in good shape.  All it needed was a new hole and to be shortened a bit. This look has an old-school feel to it – literally. Long before students used backpacks to carry books, our grandparents and great-grandparents bound their textbooks together with a belt and simply carried the bundle by the strap.

Depending on your level of craftiness and experience with power tools, you could choose to cut into the top cover and first several pages to make an area for a candle to sit. Be sure to set a glass votive holder or some other barrier between the melting wax and the combustible books. Your selection of colours, lettering and the binding you use will personalize this project.  At the same time, you’ll repurpose a few forgotten books and save them from the landfill.

Forgotten CDs Play on As Drink Coasters – The Londoner, Dec 19/16

CDs, once the brave, new technology for recorded music, were left in the dust by digital technology. And in the dust is where they sit, in piles or on racks. Even though we might not listen to them much anymore, they’re difficult to part with. But a quick walk through any second-hand store will show you how little value they have today.  Now that almost everything is downloadable, merchants can’t seem to get rid of CDs at any price.

So, why not turn a few of them into something truly useful, like a set of coasters for a rec-room, man cave, or to give as a gift? They’re the perfect size to protect your furniture from beer bottles to cappuccino mugs. And they’re sturdy enough to stand up to a little punishment.

Choose as many 5 x 7 photos as you have CDs to decorate. Mac-Tac is also an option. Although it’s thinner than photo stock, it’s definitely easier to apply, because it’s already sticky.

Although this project is simple, rushing it could lead to ruin. Move slowly and carefully through the steps.  There are two ways to attach the photo and make it fit perfectly. Option number one is to place the photo face down. With a pencil, trace the outline of the CD on the back of the photo, cut it to size and then glue it to the CD’s surface with white glue.  The second method involves gluing the entire uncut photo back to the CD with white glue, and once it’s dry, cutting around the edge with a sharp craft knife.  In either case, double-check that the photo is positioned correctly before making a cut. Also, be careful not to cut the paper smaller than the CD. It’s better to have to trim it than to start all over because the disc’s silver edges are peeking out.

coasters featuring Lee Roy the dog sit on a coffee table

Next, seal the surface of the photo against condensation from beverages. Apply several layers of Mod Podge with a paintbrush, allowing each layer to dry completely before starting the next one.  Thin layers are best because although Mod Podge will dry clear, any ridges will be visible. Next, cut circles of felt for the coaster bottom, and use a hot glue gun to affix it.  Avoid gluing the centre of the felt, or the glue will permeate the paper through the CD’s centre hole.  Hot glue dries fairly quickly, making it possible to give these photo coasters as a truly last-minute gift.

Photo CDs can be used in other ways besides coasters. Skip the felt step and create a CD photo album. After the photo has been applied and sealed, perhaps on both sides of the CD, drill a hole in the top of the CD. Join a bunch of these photo CDs with a screw-type keyring or chain. For a wall display, use curtain clips to hang photo CDs from a small dowel or curtain rod, make a mosaic of them, hang them from a wide ribbon or arrange them in a shadow box. Dangling CDs featuring photos of family members, numbers or animals would make a lovely mobile for a baby’s crib.