Making a simple and beautiful autumn wreath using natural elements

Nothing is more fun to me than a crafty project, and I especially love ones that involve being outdoors or using natural elements. The weather in Virginia finally started to cool off about a month ago and ever since we’ve been spending more and more time outside—hiking, playing fetch with our pups and exploring some local parks.

I’ve also been busy collecting lots of acorns, pinecones and dried oak leaves—the perfect assortment of goodies for creating a pretty autumn harvest wreath.

Tips for scavenging

When hunting for the perfect pinecones and acorns for craft projects, be careful to find newly fallen ones. Pinecones that have been on the ground for months or longer are going to be more difficult to clean and sanitize. They also won’t be as sturdy because they’ve essentially been decomposing in place. Old pinecones are just a bit yucky, so avoid them. Instead look for ones that are fresh, dry and fully opened.

Wait until you’ve had several days of sunny weather in the fall to ensure you’ll find dry, fresh pinecones. October and November are perfect months to go scavenging. Windy days help blow down a lot of goodies as well, so check after wind storms.

For acorns, it’s perfectly find to collect green ones that haven’t fully matured yet. All acorns will shrink during the drying process, so you may have to hot glue the centers and tops together after baking. Green acorns will brown while baking.

Before using them for crafting, all acorns and pinecones need to be washed and then baked. This will kill any bugs that may be hiding inside and prevent mold or mildew from forming.

How to Sanitize Pinecones + Acorns

To sanitize your pinecones and acorns, first wash them in a solution of warm water and vinegar. Fill a bowl with warm water and add 1-2 cups of vinegar. Soak the pinecones and/or acorns for about half an hour and scrub off any dirt.

After soaking, drain and remove to a foil or parchment paper lined baking sheet. The pinecones will leak sap while baking and you don’t want this to get all over your baking pans, so make sure they’re well covered!

Bake in a 200 degree oven for 30 minutes until dry. The drying process will cause the pinecones to open up, so don’t be worried if they close up while soaking. The pinecones may be sticky with sap when you remove them from the oven. Let them cool and the sap will harden, leaving you with pretty, shiny pinecones.

Collecting leaves

When leaf collecting, I look for brown oak and maple leaves that have already dried out naturally. You can collect leaves in beautiful autumn colors and try to preserve them, but it takes weeks to do this and the results are not always stellar. I don’t have a guide for drying colorful leaves as I haven’t tried it yet.

It’s a good idea to go hunting after a few days of dry, sunny weather, just like with pinecones and acorns. You want to look for freshly fallen leaves that have no weird water spots, holes or dirt. It was pretty easy to amass a large collection of pretty leaves after just a few minutes of hunting.

Leaves do not need to be washed or sanitized and can be used for crafting as long as they are clean and dry.

Nut shells

Walnut shells are a a really pretty addition to autumal decor. I purchased two packs of in-shell walnuts from Walmart and spent a few hours carefully cracking them all open.

Buy more than you think you’ll need for walnut shells because most of them won’t crack open well and will end up…. smashed to pieces. Working slowly and carefully is the best way to end up with usable shells.

Make sure you remove all the edible parts of the nut from the shell. For some shells, I was able to glue the halves back together so that they formed whole shells again. I did NOT use whole shells with nuts still inside—please don’t do this or you’ll probably end up with a very buggy wreath!

Making the wreath

I purchased an 18″ grapevine wreath form from the craft store to serve as the base for my harvest wreath. The first step was to hot glue a layer of dried leaves on the wreath form. I covered most of the wreath in the dried leaves but left a few small spots open.

Starting with large elements like the pinecones and whole walnut shells, I started to glue a layer in between and on top of the leaves. Then I used smaller elements—like acorns, walnut shell halves and some tiny pinecone—to fill the holes and cover the gaps. I used the same process and worked my way around the wreath until it looked full.

To finish the wreath off, I tied a burlap loop around the top and formed it into a cute bow. Then I hung the wreath up and filled a few last holes with acorns and hot glue.

I’m really pleased with the result—it’s exactly the warm, natural look I was going for and was a very simple and fun project!

If you can’t source good pinecones and acorns locally, they are available to purchase from small farmers online. Here are some great pinecone, acorn, dried leaf and walnut shell suppliers on Etsy. And check out these tiny pinecones!

For more natural wreath inspiration, check out Pinterest! Next year I’d love to make a wreath that’s covered entirely in dried acorns like this one.

Have you gotten creative with any home decor projects this fall? Are you over autumn yet and ready to move on to Christmas? I’m very torn. I’m so excited to unpack Christmas, but it’s always sad to put away my pretty vintage autumn things. For now I think I’ll just enjoy my new wreath, finalize Thanksgiving plans and maybe start sneaking some Christmas in.

Happy November, friends!

A sparkly + bedazzled vintage brooch lampshade

If gaudy, over-the-top and sparkly aren’t your style, you may not want to read (or look) further. If the repurposing of vintage jewelry would be deeply upsetting to you, please click away.

Otherwise, let’s take a look at the prettiest, sparkliest lampshade that I’ve ever seen!

The quest for dramatically embellished lampshades began when I spotted this amazing vintage pottery lamp at an antique store in Texas last January. I was antiquing with my sister and it took me two seconds to snap this cutie up. Then six months later I found a similar lamp on Etsy and ordered it for my husband’s bedside table. They’re a cute coordinating pair.

In my mind, I imaged the lamps paired with lovely faux flower adorned shades—something similar to this Anthropology shade that I’d been in love with for the better part of a decade:

Although I still loved that Anthro shade, it wasn’t exactly the right size or color combo for my room (and they also stopped selling it many years ago). What I really imagined was a lamp shade bedecked with handmade wool felt flowers and possibly some botanic-themed embroidery.

But then…

I pulled out my collection of vintage flower brooches last week for an Instagram post I was working on and the idea hit me—why not use the brooches for my lampshade?

I had already found the perfect shade for $1.00 at a local thrift shop and I figured it would be a fun experiment if nothing else. When I bought the shade, it was very dirty and had some stains, so I gave it a quick clean before painting on two layers of DecoArt’s Chalky Finish Acrylic Paint in “Primitive” (I watered the paint down and allowed it to dry overnight in between coats.

It took me a while to figure out how to attach the brooches to the lampshade. This is NOT a tutorial, but I did take some photos of the process just to serve as inspiration for anyone wanting to create something similar.

To begin, I used a piece of wool felt as a base, cutting it to fit one panel of the lampshade at a time. I wanted the shade to look as if it had been unevenly “dipped” into the sparkly brooches so I cut my felt accordingly—just a thin, imperfect border on the bottom of each panel.

Next, I gave each felt panel more texture by layering it with bits of floral lace and sequin-embroidered scrap pieces. It was lucky for me that I have lots of scraps and crafty things to work with. Being a hoarder does come in handy sometimes.

After the felt had a base layer of lace on top, I carefully arranged brooches and jewelry pieces until I was happy with how it looked. It was not a very technical process. I simply played around with the pieces until the color combinations and sparkle factor met my expectations. The last step was to hot glue each jewelry piece in place and then glue the entire panel to the lampshade.

I only had enough vintage jewelry for one lamp shade (I wasn’t willing to use most of the pins from my collection—some pieces were just too special to hot glue to a lampshade) so I’ll have to figure out something else for Sam’s side of the bed.

Well, there you have it: my over-the-top floral brooch embellished lampshade. What do you think, gaudy or gorgeous?!

Note: I did remove the pin and earring backings from most of the jewelry pieces with a pair of pliers before glueing them down. If this upsets you, just know that I mostly destroyed pins that were already broken or deformed. I also destroyed many pairs of vintage clip-on earrings. They look prettier on my lampshade and no one wears clip-ons anyways, so you’ll have to forgive me.

The prettiest craft room storage

An antique oak linen cupboard. Mismatched glass jars. Little vintage baskets and floral hat boxes. Ceramic vintage planters and antique general store fixtures.

Aren’t these the first things that come to mind when you think about craft storage?


That’s just me?

Well, if you don’t trust me yet, I’ve got the proof in pictorial form: nothing makes prettier craft storage than an antique oak linen cabinet.

See, I told you so.

If it were up to me, I’d have a gorgeous antique cabinet (with hand blown glass framed doors) for every room in the house. For towels and toiletries in the bathroom? Yep. For jars of flour, sugar and coffee in the kitchen? You betcha. For stacks of vintage quilts in the hall? Of course. For pinecones and stamps and felt and pipe cleaners? Obviously.

Hopefully I’ll realize this dream one day when I have a home with more than one room (technically, this apartment is just one big loft). In addition to old china/curio/display cabinets, I also plan to have 1,487 gigantic wardrobes in which I will store quilts, linens, and actual clothing, of course (because who needs closets? Not this gal—I hate them. No really, I do.)

Technically this isn’t craft room storage, because I don’t have a craft room. Just a nice, big empty corner in my bedroom that needed filling and was crying out for something very old and very wood-toned.

Now that all my bits n’ bobs are displayed behind those handsome glass doors, I’ve never been more inspired to create. Christmas elves, felt flowers, Santa mice, autumnal garlands— the million crafty projects I’ve been dreaming up for the past few years will come to fruition this year (and next) because all of my crafty things have finally been liberated from their dark, lonely storage box existence. Hooray!

I LOVE using unexpected pieces like this to store all kinds of things around the house—it’s simultaneously quirky and functional.

My particular cabinet is a very old piece—it’s likely 100 years old or more—with really unique legs—seriously, how pretty are those chunky things?!

A few other notes about this space:

  1. That black framed mirror was a recent find. I’m pretty sure it’s an antique. It’s insanely heavy and was only $12.99 at the Goodwill down the road from me. Yay for cheap, pretty mirrors!

2. The artwork for the cottage wall has been shuffled around a few times and I have a few more pieces to add. I am really loving the current layout—what do you think? Not nearly enough cottages, though—gotta fill that whole wall up!

3. Check out the photo below—do you see those giant corbels? They are architectural salvage taken from an old victorian home here in VA. I bought them specifically to help full that void (it’s a big opening in the wall towards the ceiling, between the bedroom and living room—what do you call that?) Anyways, the corbels (or whatever they are) really bring warmth to the space and help age it. Toning down the modern and bright whiteness of this apartment is a constant goal.

4. Lastly—if you see any little eyes peering out at you from inside my craft cabinet, don’t be alarmed—it’s just Santa Claus. Mr. Santa Claus Mouse, that is! I’ll be sure to post all about him this holiday season (and I may even share the pattern for him, which I made myself).

Happy crafting (and organizing) my friends!

Vintage library-inspired book logs

Several years ago, before moving cross county, my husband and I purged our book collection for the sake of downsizing. We donated countless books that we had purchased for high school and college lit classes, not thinking about the fact that they were classics we may want to revisit someday. It’s hard to say I totally regret the downsizing, because most of the books were just inexpensive paperbacks that had taken quite the beating over the years anyways.

But over the past few years, I have been working on re-collecting all my literary favorites and must-reads by shopping secondhand for vintage hardback versions. The hardbacks I collect aren’t first editions or pricy finds—I typically pick them up in thrift stores for a whopping $1.00 to $3.00 each—but they are beautiful and have that lovely vintage book smell (it’s basically the smell of dust, right?!)

Stack of vintage books

My goal is to curate a library that is full of heirloom treasures that can be enjoyed for years to come while making old and neglected things loved and useful again.

I love that most of the books in my collection now were picked up secondhand. It’s actually a bit painful to think back over the past ten years and realize how many books I’ve purchased new when there were much more beautiful (and inexpensive!) versions out there. Especially because hunting for them is half the fun!

Last year, a few of my friends were discussing a really interesting idea on Facebook: keeping index cards in their favorite books to record each time they’d read it.

I thought it would be a brilliant idea to use in my library, especially in some of my books that were reread every few years by Sam or I (looking at you, Harry Potter!)

Of course, me being me, I wanted to get a bit fancier than index cards.

When thinking about libraries, my mind instantly jumped to middle school library days. Remember the cute manilla pockets and blue check out cards that were inside every library book?

A quick Amazon search led me to some inexpensive pockets, and I found plenty of printable library cards on Etsy, although the typical check out card didn’t really fit the bill. So I decided to create my own!

Reading log cards that look like vintage library due date cards

The printable cards are available for purchase from my Etsy store (as a digital download!) and I added columns for a start date, end date, and reader’s name so that they’d work perfectly as reading logs.

I printed mine on light blue card stock and made sure to print on both sides so that the card can be flipped once the first side has been filled (and additional cards can be added, if you’re a super bookworm!)

The cards would be especially cute to add to children’s books, as kids reread their favorites so often. It’s also a great tool to encourage kids to read— I think they’ll get a little jolt of excitement and a feeling of accomplishment each time they log a “complete” date.

If your family plans to save books to pass on to future generations of little ones, then a project like this makes them even more of a treasure.

I really wish I had a system like this in place years ago. It would be so nice to look back and remember how many times I’ve reread my favorites!

If you’re interested in organizing your library with these cute cards, it’s a very easy project. Just head over to my Etsy shop—Sunshine Life Digital— and purchase the digital download for the cards. You’ll also need to purchase some card stock in the color of your choice (green and pink are also cute and both colors were used in libraries back in the day!).

The document is two pages (front and back) to make it easier when printing. Just make sure to select the option to print on both sides if your printer offers it, and if not, you’ll have to figure out how to do it manually, printing one side at a time.

Each page equals four log cards, so grab some scissors and cut along the dotted lines. If you have a large library and are printing lots of cards, an inexpensive paper trimmer makes the job a lot easier (and your edges will be nice and neat!). I LOVE my Martha Stewart paper trimmer, which I’ve had for years now.

Double sided tape worked well for attaching the manilla pockets to each book. I wrote in book titles and author names by hand and simply slipped the card into the pocket!

I couldn’t be happier with how this project turned out, and I’m so excited to add cards to each and every book in my library (I’m tackling it a little bit at a time).

I hope you enjoy this project as much as I did!

Head over to my Etsy shop to check out the other digital products I have for sale.

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