Sisal Wrapped Mirror


Sisal Wrapped Mirror by Just Something I Whipped Up

I have been toting a plain, round Target mirror from residence to residence since I got it for my first high school dorm room. We have had a good run, but on Friday I decided it was time for her to blossom. I really liked the idea of a sisal wrapped mirror in the bathroom and figured that transforming my old buddy who was already in there would be pretty simple. The fact that mine ended up looking just like this $249 version (albeit 12″ smaller) has me feeling good.



  • Round mirror
  • Twisted sisal rope – I used this, leftover from a different project
  • Cardboard box – make sure it is big enough to accommodate the mirror and a 3-inch border.
  • Nail
  • String
  • Carpenters pencil
  • Ruler
  • Glue gun
  • Extra glue sticks
  • E6000 glue
  • Scissors
  • Utility knife

First I measured the diameter of the mirror and added in a 3″ border all around – I needed a cardboard circle 24″ in diameter. For the cardboard I used a box with a side at least that big – it is fine to go across a fold. To get a perfect reasonably round circle, I cut a piece of string a bit over 12″ and tied one end to a nail and the other to a carpenters pencil with a couple of notches in it to prevent slipping. I made sure that the string between the two was 12 inches and then punched the nail into the center of the cardboard. Making sure to keep the string taut, I drew a circle around the nail, going around a bunch of times until a dark circle – let’s call it the average – emerged.

DSC_0907I cut the circle out with the utility knife, following the darkest pencil marks. I wanted to use the same hanging method, so I also pressed the mirror down onto the cardboard to transfer the position of the hardware so that I could cut out around that too. You can see the indents (not the big rip, slightly below and to the right of that) in the picture below.

DSC_0910I glued the mirror to the center of the cardboard with E6000. I thought hot glue might dry too quickly and it is a pretty big surface. There isn’t much load on the cardboard since I cut a hole in it to use the existing hanging mechanism, but I did use enough glue to make sure there were not gaps around the edges.

Finally I got to hot gluing the sisal. It is a simple but tedious process, but I have a couple of tips for making it look cleaner and more professional. First – I cut the sisal at an angle so that there is no bump where the first row and second row overlap. I used it everywhere a row stops or starts and it makes a big difference.

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Second, on the first row around the edge of the mirror, I found that laying the bead of glue next to the mirror but not touching it – not “caulking” it was how I thought of it – prevents glue from seeping onto the mirror itself.

DSC_0916Once I had my technique down, I went around and around until I was happy with the width of the border, which turned out to be less than 3″. That and I got really bored, which made the smaller border even more attractive. At that point, I stopped and trimmed the cardboard down with the utility knife.

DSC_0920After I trimmed the cardboard, I but a row around the outside, concealing the cardboard. The edge still looked messy so I added one more row on top of the one I just did, sort of filling in the gap.

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I thought I was done, but realized that the edge of the mirror was visible, so I added a row on the very inside. It would have been really hard to start with the sisal on the mirror itself, so even though it wasn’t on purpose, I would still not do that row first.

The last step was using cuticle scissors to trim the frizzy bits from the inside row of sisal. I had done the right side in the picture below.

DSC_0927Et voila!

Sisal Wrapped Mirror by Just Something I Whipped Up

Sisal Wrapped Mirror by Just Something I Whipped Up

Sisal Wrapped Mirror by Just Something I Whipped Up

This baby is headed for our poor, neglected, black-toileted downstairs bathroom. I am working on a few other updates in there but I’ll show you once it is in slightly better shape!

XO, Julia


Gold Leafing with Some Risqué Ladies

I have a new entry on my Things To Grab In A Fire list. My mom found a set of six vintage pin-up girl cocktail napkins that used to be my grandmother Tinker’s and let me have them. Here they are in all of their buxom glory:

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They are too fantastic to keep in a drawer or risk staining by actually using, so I decided to frame them and hang them in the living room next to the bar. I measured them and decided to use one long 40″ x 10″ frame. I blithely went to the framer who quoted about $250. I thanked her and fled the building. Next plan – copy the fabulous Jenny over at Little Green Notebook and shrink an existing frame. Fragers quoted me about $25 for the glass I would need, so I was feeling pretty good about reducing this price of this project by an order of magnitude.

I headed up to the Goodwill in search of a frame. The only suitable one was a pretty beat up black one. However, there was a reasonably attractive 30″ x 11″ frame and it occurred to me that it would work perfectly if I only frame 5 of the 6. Done. Since there are two of the women bicycling in the set, I decided that nixing one would be fine and I could be off and running for $9.95. So here is where we start. In case you are wondering, yes, that is painted velvet.


The finish is that sort of fakey-patina-ed gold, so I decided to try gold leafing it and mount the napkins, while making sure they are not damaged and I am not doing anything permanent to them.


Supplies (I am trying a new format here)

Project essentials:

  • Frame
  • Gold leaf – I used Speedball Mona Lisa Composition Gold Leaf (not real gold) that I had already. Had I noticed that when I bought it, I would have used real gold. Not at all as extravagant as it sounds.
  • Adhesive leaf size (glue)
  • Vintage napkins – I found similar ones by searching “Pin-Up Napkins” on eBay
  • Linen
  • Spray adhesive – I used 3M Super 77
  • Flathead pins
  • Extremely sticky double sided tape – I used this

Other tools:

  • Utility knife for cutting the existing paper on the frame
  • 100 grit sanding sponge
  • Scissors
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Paintbrush for glue
  • Foam brush for smoothing the sheets of leaf
  • Iron and starch
  • Carpenter’s square

First I removed the paper backing of the frame with a utility knife to find out what I was working with. All was well, nothing weird. I used needle-nose pliers to pull out the small nails holding the picture in and set those aside to reuse.

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The velvet was backed with foam core! Perfect. I set the glass and the foam core aside, and got to work on the frame. I used a 100 grit sanding pad to rough up the existing finish and then wiped off the dust. Next, starting at one end and working my way to the other, I spread a thin coat of size over the parts of the frame that would show.

After about 10 minutes (much faster than the bottle predicted), the size had gone from milky to clear so I started applying the leaf. I cut it into strips as I went, making it much easier to put on. After putting a section of leaf onto the frame, I used a foam brush to tamp it down onto the frame and then used my finger to sort of burnish it into the grooves. There were lots of flakes, so I would recommend doing this outside. I tried to stick the larger flakes onto bare spots as best I could. Once I covered the whole thing, I let it dry overnight before going back.

While the frame was drying, I mounted the cocktail napkins. I bought some linen yardage at a garage sale last year and finally found a use for it. I ironed it once, then laid the foam core down and figured out how to cut a piece that would leave the largest solid piece of linen left over, and cut it out leaving enough to fold enough around the edges of the foam core.

I re-ironed and starched the cut section to be sure there were no creases. Before I sprayed the adhesive all over the foam core, I tested a section because the can advised against using it on foam. You may remember that I discovered that spray paint melts styrofoam cups whilst making Phoebe’s animal clock, and I didn’t want to repeat the mistake. The cardboard on the foam core proved to be protection enough, so I went for it. I sprayed the whole piece and then put it facedown on the ironed linen. I used the super-sticky double sided tape to wrap the linen around the edges to keep it smooth.

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I ironed the napkins with lots of starch, but I avoided spraying the ladies themselves. I am pretty sure it would have been fine, I mean, they are supposed to be for cocktails, but I would be SO bummed if the color ran or something (really, I would be devastated, but “devastation” in regard to cocktail napkins seems like something I should keep to myself). I arranged my nice flat napkins on the linen covered foam core and used flat head pins to hold them in place. I used a carpenter’s square to get them generally evenly spaced, but in the end I eyeballed them until they looked even. Measuring failed because it turns out neither the napkins nor the foam core was really square. Story of my life. Stay tuned for the day, probably mid-December, when I finally tell you about The F***ing Bookshelves we are working on. I pushed the pins all the way through the foam core and then trimmed them as close as I could with the needle-nose pliers.


The next morning, I touched up the gold leaf and let those bits dry. Once that was dry I put the pieces back together and replaced the finish nails. Since I only used five of the six napkins, I put the sixth in a plastic bag and taped it to the back to that the set at least stayed together. I hung and hung it next to the bar and, voila! Now I can hang out with these fab ladies any time.



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The Nuclear Option

Hi! I am EXTREMELY excited about this post. It blows the last post out of the water and basically renders it moot. You see, while I was fussing around trying to make our living room brighter despite the lack of light and the dark brick, there was one other option that Sam and I had been kicking around without being ready to pull the trigger. I give you The Nuclear Option:

Painted brick fireplace by Just Something I Whipped UpInstead of trying to mitigate the brick, we painted it white. While we were at it, we painted the walls white, got rid of the Elfa shelves that we inherited from the previous owner and painted the tv console table. The whole thing sort of snowballed – kept saying “should we paint this while it is out? – and suddenly we had a whole-room makeover on our hands.

Painted Brick Fireplace by Just Something I Whipped Up

Painted Brick Fireplace by Just Something I Whipped Up

Painted Brick Fireplace by Just Something I Whipped Up

Painted Brick Fireplace by Just Something I Whipped Up

Today I will talk about the brick painting part and cover the shelves next time.We had been hesitant to paint the brick because we do plan to sell the house at some point – it is pretty tiny – and we didn’t want to do anything that future buyers might not like. You know, the value of exposed brick and all. I was the very first thing I wanted to do when we moved in but we hemmed and hawed and put it off. If it was our “forever house” it would have been a no brainer. With the encouragement of some friends who know what they are talking about – both design and real estate wise – we decided to do it. It was not nice looking brick and the opposite wall is still (nice-looking) brick down the full length of the house. This is the view of the side of the room opposite the fireplace. Thrilling, I know. I have plans for it but have not gotten around to executing them.


And lastly, it just looks. way. better.

Now to the nuts and bolts.


  • Dropcloth
  • Painter’s tape
  • Primer (we used Zinsser Bullseye 1-2-3)
  • Roller with 1″ nap for textured surfaces
  • Flat latex paint in white (we used Benjamin Moore Extra White)
  • Paint trays
  • 3″ Paintbrush (medium quality – it will probably be ruined but you don’t want hairs in the paint job)
  • 1″ Artist paintbrush
  • White paintable caulk

First we lifted off the mantel which luckily was super easy. Then we spread the dropcloth around the chimney and used painters tape to secure it. We knew we’d be painting the walls and the ceiling is already white, so we decided to skip taping those off. We rolled on a coat of primer. The thick nap picks up SO much paint. After the first coat, we decided to only use one roller because using two was a huge waste of paint. After the first coat went on, I used the larger paintbrush to get primer into the mortar lines where the roller couldn’t reach, and around the edges. Then I went back with the 1″ artists paintbrush to get the even tinier spots.


There were lots of nail holes in the chimney that became extremely prominent once the bricks were white. I filled the nail holes with paintable caulk and while I was at it, realized how much better it would look if the spaces between the chimney and the ceiling and walls were filled as well, so I went around those with caulk as well.

DSC_0739After about 2 hours we repeated the painting steps – rolled on and then touched up. The next morning, I rolled a coat of flat latex paint over the primer and touched up around the edges, but didn’t need to go back with the small paintbrush because the little crevices were already white and I couldn’t tell where I would need to touch up. Darn.

We planned to leave the apron until everything else was done so that we could stand on it while we painted the rest. However, when it came time to paint it we realized that we really liked having just a bit of the brick left. Once the paint was dry we popped the mantelpiece back on and moved on to the walls. And there you have it. I could not be happier with it. It is basically a whole new room.

DSC_0720 Painted brick fireplace by Just Something I Whipped Up

The Nuclear Option

I will be back tomorrow to tell about our awesome new shelves!



Brass Lamp Be Gone

Hi! Today, I give you my “new” green lamp.

Brass Lamp Be Gone by Just Something I Whipped Up

On the way home from Ithaca last week, we stopped at a few of the gazillion thrift shops  along the way and in the weirdest of them all (a former grocery store, complete with defunct freezer aisle) I found a gloriously awful and yet awesome big brass lamp. I didn’t know where to put it or what to do with it, but I figured I couldn’t go wrong for $3.99. So, in all of it’s thrift store brassiness:

Brass Lamp Be Gone by Just Something I Whipped Up  Brass Lamp Be Gone by Just Something I Whipped Up

A quick note – if you are getting a lamp at a thrift store or a garage sale, see if you can find a bulb and an outlet to make sure it actually works. If it does, great, if it doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world. Most lamps are not that hard to rewire and I have a project coming up that will prove it.

Once we got it home, I thought maybe I would look good in our bedroom, which is super boring right now. AND I finally found something that I can paint green!


  • A lamp
  • Painter’s tape
  • Primer suitable for metal
  • Spray paint – I used Rustoleum Painter’s Touch in Meadow Green Gloss
  • Spray lacquer  – I used Rustoleum Specialty Lacquer in Clear

First I cleaned the lamp with some dish soap and a toothbrush, dried it really well and then left it in the sun for a bit to dry any drops I missed. The spray paint won’t stick if there is any moisture.  Once I was sure it was all dry, I taped off the socket and the cord and primed it. I put on two light coats. I was thinking of three, but the spray paint is paint+primer, so I figured two would do it. I waiting about 15 minutes between coats and it seemed to work fine.

Brass Lamp Be Gone by Just Something I Whipped Up  Brass Lamp Be Gone by Just Something I Whipped Up

I covered the primer with three light coats of green spray paint and then two coats of lacquer.

Brass Lamp Be Gone by Just Something I Whipped Up  Brass Lamp Be Gone by Just Something I Whipped Up

Luckily I had a shade that fit and all of the paint except the green, so it was a really inexpensive project. I used one of my finials – a malachite and brass one – that looks great with the green.


I have vague plans to de-Ikeafy our bedroom. That’s a project for another day, but I thought the lamp could be a good start to sprucing up at least the bureau wall. This is what we are working with. Not bad, not amazing. Except the shell jewelry box that my dad made for my high school graduation, which is amazing.

Brass Lamp Be Gone by Just Something I Whipped Up

Moving on to the bureau situation, the most difficult part was hanging the mirror, which is a heavy beast and of course, the hangers on the back don’t have the same spacing as the studs in the wall. I got Sam to find the studs for me because he is just generally more careful and I decided I would rather take a shower. He put two heavy duty screws into a couple of studs for me, I added two larger picture hangers to the back of the mirror and then hung it up.

Brass Lamp Be Gone by Just Something I Whipped Up   Brass Lamp Be Gone by Just Something I Whipped Up

Much better.  The bad brass is all gone and at that wall is at least a little more interesting.

Brass Lamp Be Gone by Just Something I Whipped Up

I replaced the cardboard box and plastic Revere bowl that Sam keeps his stuff in with a not-plastic Revere bowl, and moved the 100k of his business cards that end up in there into the study. I purged the weird stuff that ends up in the stuff bowl on my side too.  And those bowls? Yours truly won Most Improved July 1995 and 1996 in sailing class. Actually kind of embarrassing. Let’s not talk about July 1994. As I recall there was a whole lot of crying.

Brass Lamp Be Gone by Just Something I Whipped Up Brass Lamp Be Gone by Just Something I Whipped Up

And my extremely cute sisters (they have since grown up a bit and are now extremely accomplished and beautiful women) and really cool parents (they look basically the same now):

Brass Lamp Be Gone by Just Something I Whipped Up

The orchid came in a purple pot, but a few coats of gloss white spray paint made it look way better. A few pictures of family and our honeymoon and we are in a much better place.

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