How to Write on a Chalkboard

September 5, 2013

Making it Pretty

In the past, I've always just free-handed my chalkboard messages:

They never looked bad, but ... they never looked all that pretty either:

So, for my Halloween chalkboard, I really wanted to try a little harder.  And I'm happy to say, I think my effort this time around really paid off:

Here's how I created what you see up there ...

At first, I thought about using printables.  I know they're a very popular option for making a chalkboard pretty:

But, I had this particular quote in mind that I knew wanted to use:

"When witches go riding 
and black cats are seen, 
the moon laughs and whispers: 
"'Tis near Halloween!"

And I couldn't find a printable, that I liked, for it anywhere!

So, I decided to pick up some stencils at the crafts store.  I bought these four inch ones:

And these, slightly fancier script, three inch ones:

My chalkboard is pretty big.  I made it out of an old, poster sized, frame a few months ago.  So, that allowed me to pick the bigger stencils.

Once I got them home and opened, my daughter and I played around with them a bit:

We both quickly realized that the 4 inch poster letters would be very easy to write with.
They just punched out, like you can see up there.  And the remaining paper surrounding the opening gave plenty for the ol' fingers to hold onto.

The smaller, "fancier," ones though ... they were a bit of a pain.  They came in two big strips, which I knew wouldn't work.  

So I cut them up:

At first I was just going to cut them in half, but I quickly realized I needed each letter to be individual - like the bigger ones were:

It was a bit of a hassle, honestly.  But, once that was finished - the work really moved along smoothly from there.

As I mentioned, I knew what I wanted the board to say.  So, I just started collecting the letters I knew I would need.  

I also found some cool shapes, like the moon you can see down here: 

That little guy made me really happy for some reason, lol.  I mean, a moon wouldn't be hard to free-hand.  But, still, I thought it was cute. :-)

I did NOT draw out exactly where everything would go.  I wanted the message to have a fun, random, feel to it.  

And I didn't do any measuring, or draw any light straight lines either!

I simply took the first stencil, laid it as close to the top as possible (since I knew I had a LOT to write) and started fill it in ...

After stenciling in the first "W," I knew this project was going to require quite a bit of intermittent clean up.  You can see all the white flecks up there.  

The biggest thing was to make sure that the space I was about to stencil on was clear.

For instance, you can see lots of chalk dust all over the place up there.  But, you'll also notice that where the "N" in "WHEN" is about to go ... that's clean.

Once I got the hang of it, things moved pretty quickly.  The letters were very easy to just line up.  

My free-handing itch hit on "Witches," though.  I wrote the "itches" myself.  ;-)

And, when I got to the part of the phrase that mentioned "black cats," I knew that I wanted a scared kitty image.  So, I free-handed that too:

And I may have also free-handed the "iding" in "Riding."

What can I say?  I play by my own rules! :-)

Bigger problem though:  I realized after "black cats" that I was running low on space.  So, I skipped all the way to the last word, "Halloween," and filled it in as low as I could. 

This helped me get a better idea of how much room I really had left.

I quickly realized that my initial dream phrase was too long.  I needed to cut out the part you see in black:

"When witches go riding 
and black cats are seen, 
the moon laughs and whispers: 
"'Tis near Halloween!" 

And, I'm very proud to say that:  Instead of freaking out completely and botching the whole project ... I remembered something I'd seen on Pinterest!

It was the same phrase!  Basically.  Only shorter!  And perfect!  And with a countdown!


I got on board with the new plan, and started filling it in:

But, then I realized I still had a problem.

I STILL didn't have enough room.  I had no place to put the last word!  "Until." 

So I erased "are seen ..." and "Tis __ Days," and decided ...

I'm putting words in the cat!

And I'm very happy with how it all turned out:

Sure, it's not quite as amazing as some of the printables out there.  But, I didn't have to measure a thing!  And, most importantly, I got to make it my own. 

You'll notice that all of those flecks of white I showed you earlier are gone.

Since my chalkboard is actually made of an old picture frame, and I'm really writing on glass ... I used Windex and a paper towel to clean up throughout the process.  And, after it was all done, I used Windex and a Q-tip in the tight spots. 

I mentioned in my last post, about my Halloween mantel, that I'm actually not all that into the neon greens, purples, and oranges that are so popular with Halloween decor lately.  

But, using those shades on the chalkboard really helped the words pop.  Even from across the room, you can tell what the board says:

Ok, maybe you have to squint to see the words in the cat.  BUT STILL.  I think it's cute. :-)

The project took me a little under three hours total to complete.  That's with preparation time included.  I spread the work over two nights.

The process would obviously have been much easier had I picked something simple to write ... like "BOO!" ;-)

But, I'm happy with what I picked:

The stencils were not expensive.  I only paid around $8 for both packs.

And the best part is, I have them to use again and again! :-) 

Until THAT'S necessary, though, I'm working on decorating my hutch:

Talk to you again soon! 


My First Halloween Mantel

September 3, 2013

   Feeling Spooky 

Fall has been my favorite season ever since I can remember.

Every year, right around now, I get in the mood for pumpkin everything.  I want orange leaves, sweaters, hay rides, and ... I could go on for hours!

Ordinarily, I'd decorate for Fall right about now as well.  I'd bring out the fake orange leaves, the scarecrows, and the "Harvest" signs.  

But, this year - I thought of my mother.

Before decorating for Fall, she always decorates for Halloween specifically.  And, in my own home I never had ...

until now:

The mantel you see up there is my first EVER go at Halloween decor.

And I'm really happy with how it turned out. :-)  I'm so happy with it, in fact, that I'm actually continuing the Halloween decorating throughout the house!

But, that work's not done yet.  So, let's talk some more about the mantel.

The decorating process started with this black frame:

I got it at a garage sale for $2.  It originally was a wood tone, and it framed a mirror.  But, bye-bye mirror, hello black spray paint, and wa-lah!

I envisioned it front and center on the mantel, and then ... I went shopping with my ideas:

  • I knew I did NOT want anything neon green, purple, or orange.  I see that stuff a lot for Halloween, and it's very cute.  But, it's just not my style.
  • I knew I didn't want any skulls, or blood, or anything too creepy or violent looking.  
  •  And I knew I didn't want it to be over-the-top.

What I really wanted was something slightly spooky, but in a fun, old-charm way.  And I think achieved that.

I found SO many great pieces at Crafts 2000, including this somewhat vintage "pumpkin on a candlestick":

If you look closely at this guy, he really seems like he'd be a pretty easy DIY.  

But, for $8?  I couldn't pass him up.

I struggled with whether or not to use my fake Fall leaves.  I wanted the mantel to say "Halloween," more than it said "Fall."  But, putting them inside the bird cage was perfect for me:

The cage was another great Crafts 2000 find.  It was only $9!  I think it's perfect, too, the way it sits flush against the wall: 

It took me forever to get the leaves just right.  And, adding my little owl friend complicated things too:

But, I'm glad I put him in there. :-)  I think he's fun, and my two-year-old agrees.

The bird cage is actually where I spent most of my time arranging, because, it's also where I decided to add these battery powered LED lights:

I LOVE them.  They are just enough light at night, and they are on such a maneuverable, thin, wire.  They're also on a six hour timer, once they're turned on.  So, less work for me! PERFECT!

The picture quality isn't great, because I snapped these dark ones with my phone last night.  But, I think you can still get the idea: 

I should've lit the candles too!  That would've really given it some oomph ;-).

I actually think my favorite part of the mantel is the books:

I originally wanted really old looking books, but - I didn't find what I was picturing while I was out shopping.  So, I did the next best thing to DIYing, and simply looked around the house! :-)

These were the most "Halloween-ish" books I could find.  They were tucked away in one of our closets, because we own more books than we do bookcases.  I think I literally said "Ooooooh," in my best creepy voice, when I found the Edgar Allen Poe collection.  Poe is the KING of spooky in my book:

And the little silver pumpkin on top gives me my much needed dose of "cute."  That guy was a TJ Maxx find.  I think he was $3.

That stuff you see draped on the frame was something I decided to buy, after the mantel was all put together.

By itself, the frame had too much white space around it.  And, since I HATE spider webs of all kinds (real and fake) ... this was the perfect option for me:

It was super cheap and really easy to cut up and drape.  I have so much leftover too.  It's going to be great for other places in the house.  It gives me that "spooky, but old-charmy" flair I was telling you I wanted.

This sign in the middle of the frame was yet another Crafts 2000 find.  (That store is PHENOMENAL.  I think we live near the only location in Ohio.)

I put it in the middle totally last minute.  I bought it because I liked it, but never planned on it being so prominent.  

I was originally going to do a black wreath or something, hanging from the frame.  But, I fell in love with this idea.

I especially like what it says on the bottom:

It's the perfect phrase, considering the mantel is right above our couch:

The candles pictured on the right are so great.

The glass tops are removable:

Which gives me the option of adding mini pumpkins on top, should I ever feel so inclined.  ;-)

The actual candles themselves were clearance buys.  They aren't even a Fall scented candle.  I think they're actually some sort of island fragrance.  But, the orangish reddish tone was perfect for me:

I truly love everything about the mantel.  It's got me in the Halloween spirit, that's for sure.  And I feel kind of silly for never decorating specifically for the fun holiday ever before.

I think I always feared I wouldn't be able to make it fun and spooky, without being scary.  But, once I started thinking about what I wanted out of it ... the process was really quite easy!  

And I seriously had a BLAST.

It may only be the beginning of September, but we are ready for Halloween!  And it feels great.

Like I mentioned, I'm in the process of decorating other parts of our house for the pumpkin-friendly holiday.  And I'll be sure to share some of that with you all soon.

Until then, have a SPOOK-tacular Tuesday ;-)!!