Me Woman. Me Use Man Tools.

image Continuing from my first post on Caroline’s baby shower (which I had some utterly lovely responses to, thank you!), I’d like to tell you the amusing story of how I made her guest book frame. See pictured.

The idea was inspired by my very clever mother-in-law who owns upcycled Antiques Boutique, Arthur & Ede. She’ll be embarrassed with the shameless plug, but I don’t care if it is shameless, because this little gem needs to be appreciated worldwide! Arthur & Ede was a lifelong dream for her and was finally born last year. Jane not only has a truly unique eye for really special pieces, but is incredibly gifted with a sander, paintbrush and polish. Not to mention needle and thread and staple gun! What she gives to each individual piece is genuinely remarkable and dare I say quite moving. You can browse her Etsy Shop here. She makes and sells her own clip frames, which can be used as anything really; a notice board, photo frame, or like I did a guest book. So, thank you Jane, for being my inspiration!

Stupidly I left it a little late to seek Jane’s expertise on How To recreate one of her beautiful masterpieces, so I kind of had to wing it…which resulted in some mistakes and injuries along the way! But nevertheless, here is how I did it (with several warnings issued)…

How To Make an Upcycled Display Frame

You will need:

A picture frame.

NB – Obviously you can choose your size according to function. I went to good old Oxfam and found an old painting in a sturdy wooden frame. I highly recommend raiding charity shops rather than buying brand new.

A pair of pliers (or husband’s tool box in my case!)

A hammer (!)

Small nail tacks.

A ball of string and scissors.

For finishing:


Paint or spray paint

  • One thing I didn’t consider when I bought my frame was how on earth I was going to remove the glass. Because it was an old frame it was firmly assembled with industrial staples and wooden backing. I sat and stared at it for at least 10 minutes before pulling out James’s tool box. I removed the masking tape from the edges (that was easy) then got a pair of thin pliers around the staples and yanked them out.

WARNING: This part can be rather fiddly and a teency bit stressful, but VERY satisfying! Like popping a spot!

  • Carefully remove the inners of the frame.

WARNING: Remember, you’re dealing with a sheet of glass (I forgot) and should probably put this safely to one side, rather than choose to lean on it while you continue to work then slice your knuckle open! (True story)

  • If you’d like to upcycle the aesthetics of your frame, get a small piece of sandpaper and gentle rub along the surface of the frame. My frame was a sort of worn gold colour so sanding created a rustic, distressed look. I then remembered I had a can of silver spray paint left over from some crazy Christmas decorating I did one year and decided to lightly dust the surface with silver, which gave a bespeckled, glimmer effect.
  • Decide on how many rows of string you would like to have to pin your bits and pieces to. Then carefully measure the distance between them so you have even spacing.
  • Position one tack for your first row and gentle hammer in the tack, leaving just enough of the nail to tie one end of string to.

WARNING 1: Watch your fingers!

WARNING 2: Monitor the depth of the frame, position your tack on the deepest part and check you’re not hammering too far. I didn’t do this to start off with and ended up with the sharp ends of the tacks sticking out of the pretty side of the frame! I was gutted. BUT I just about managed to save it by pulling the tacks out then sanding and painting over the mistakes. Then I started all over again!

  • Measure your lengths of string horizontally across the frame and cut then a few inches longer than that width. Tie your first length to your first tack and pull across the frame in a straight line. Position your second tack on the string and gently hammer in place.
  • Tie tighter knots around each tack and, if you have leeway, gently hammer a little further into the frame to secure the string.
  • Repeat the process as many times as you need for your rows.
  • Trim the ends of the string.
  • Admire your handy work and celebrate being a woman who uses man tools (almost) successfully with a glass of wine.

For the Guest Book Tags:

  • I bought standard luggage tags from Sainsburys, 20 for £1. I love the brown paper template. In my opinion it’s a wonderfully neutral palette against which black, gold and silver work really well. It’s understatedly chic.
  • I got my stamp kit out again and stamped every baby shower attendees name on each tag.
  • I also found small wooden clips from Sainsburys, 50 odd for £1. I used these to attach the tags to the frame.
  • My slightly frivolous (again) little addition was another stamp from Waterstones (see pictured flower stamp) which I used to theme the shower (being Summertime and all).

(At this point I wish I had taken more photos of the process, but little did I know then that I would be writing this blog. I hope the guidelines I have provided are clear!)

I displayed the frame at the end of one of the tables at the shower, and guests unclipped their tags, wrote a message (some advice or hopes for baby’s future) for Caroline, then clipped back on.

What I liked about this idea was that (hopefully) this is something that Caroline can not only keep but display. It can act as a constant reminder of her friends support. It’s just that little bit more ‘meant’ than a book that goes on a shelf or in a cupboard, or cards that get filed away or discarded. But then, that’s just me and my funny ways again.

Plus, you get to use MAN TOOLS! What’s more fun than that?!


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