Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pleated Paper Medallions

Back in November of 2009 I came across the most amazing post on Design*Sponge, and I have been ridiculously excited about one particular DIY project ever since.

OMG, I can't even put into words how enamored I am with every aspect of this look.  Mr. NM liked it, but he didn't want to kiss and hug it in quite the same way I did (probably because he's normal, and it's not normal to want to kiss and hug pictures on a computer screen.  Jus' saying...).  He did like the idea of paper décor suspended over the tables, though, so we started talking about how we could adapt those pleated paper medallions to better work with our wedding style and both of our personal aesthetics. 

Here were out criteria:  we knew we wanted to incorporate the graphic patterns we've woven through other projects, we liked the possibility of having a range of sizes including diameters over 12 inches, and the project needed to be affordable.  Hmm... fun designs on large, affordable sheets of paper...  Where could we find that?  Wrapping paper, of course! 

I scooped up about 16 rolls of wrapping paper from Target, eBay, and The Container Store for a little less than $75.  The tricky thing about estimating the amount you'll need is that wrapping paper comes in different lengths, different amounts per roll, and different types of materials.  The best deals by far were the large rolls from Target.  The other thing we purchased was the Scor-Pal ($25), to help us make more precise accordion folds.

Besides paper and a scoring board, the only other thing we used was to complete this project was our handy dandy glue gun.  And now for the how-to.

First order of business, making the wrapping paper double-sided.  To do this, Mr. NM cut it into squares and I used spray adhesive to stick one square to another.  It's helpful to roll the paper against itself to flatten it a bit before you glue it.  Might I also suggest using a very large box in a very open space - so you don't spray glue onto everything in your house and so you don't get high as a kite in the process. 

Next you just have to trim them up square.  For squares less than 12" we used our paper trimmer.  For larger than 12" we used a yardstick and cutting mat.  You'll need a pair of double-sided squares to make each pleated medallion.  Once they're squared up you can begin the scoring process.  I wanted 1/2 inch folds, so on one side I made score lines 1 inch apart, then I flipped the paper over and scored the 1/2 inch marks, also 1 inch apart.  Then you can accordion fold them.

Each accordion folded sheet now needs to be folded in half and glued to itself.  The result is a fan shape that will be half of a finished medallion.

Sometimes there would be a little extra tab of paper sticking out that I just trimmed up even with the other side.  I used the same process to glue two "fans" together.  Once the entire circle was together I noticed that some of the center pleats were expanding, making the middle area too "foldable."  Dotting some hot glue in the middle of the pleats (on each side of the medallion) took care of this.

And that's pretty much it.  I do want to share with you some other important things I learned along the way. 
If I were doing it all over again, I might prefer to stay away from really thick paper because it's harder to fold, and I would stay away from really shiny (almost plastic-like) paper because it's harder to adhere.  It's also good to know that the finished size of the squares you start out with will be the same diameter of the circles you end up with.  And finally, don't worry if your accordion folds aren't perfect because once the circle is completed the pleats are stretched out and it really doesn't make a hugely noticeable difference.

Now we just have to figure out how many we'll need in order to suspend them over 80 feet of tables, then find a way to store all of them for the next eight months or so.  Ya know, just some little details.  :-)  Oh, and as for the time it's taking to make these (because we're *way* not finished yet), I estimate that between Mr. NM and I we've spent 15 hours so far cutting, gluing, trimming, and some scoring.  We only have 8 completed medallions, so we'll probably need at least another 10 hours to finish scoring, folding, and assembling.  I'll update this post once we're finished to give the grand total time.

There are a lot of these pleated circles out there in blog land (also called pinwheels or rosettes).  What's your favorite kind, and have you ever used them for any of your own projects?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Drowning In Stuff

As we continue to churn out mountains of DIY decorations, we're obviously also beginning to collect a lot of other elements like cake stands, candy jars, serving utensils, accessories, gifts, craft supplies, candles, clothing...  the list goes on and on and on.  I'm already feeling cramped for space, both in our house and in our basement storage area - and I'm just gonna hazard a guess that what we have right now is less than a quarter of the stuff we'll end up with by the time this is all over. 

I know there's a big DIY wedding movement going on out there because it's all over the blogosphere.  But now that I'm waist-deep in a DIY movement of my very own, I'm coming face-to-face with all the stuff you don't see on those blogs.  The behind-the-scenes madness that starts with, "Where in the world do I store this stuff?" and then quickly becomes, "How the hell do I get it all to the venue?" and then peaks at, "Who will possibly have the time or the know-how to set it all up?"

I feel cheated somehow, that no one told me about this before I started so that I could be prepared.  But more than that, I feel kinda embarrassed that it didn't even occur to me.  It's all so clear to me now, but I honestly never thought much about what comes after that lovely point where you finish a project and cross it off your list.  And now...  Well, now it truly stresses me out.  And no matter how much I've tormented myself, I haven't come to any conclusions that feel remotely satisfactory.  So unfortunately I don't have any helpful pointers today, nor do I even have any of my "trademark positivity" about the subject.  Just a lot of questions that, at least for now, don't have any answers.

I know someone out there has run up against this challenge and figured out a way to master all the DIY gear.  I'm desperate for your input!! 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tracking the Light

Having decided to get married on a Friday at the top of the city, and being two people who are completely mesmerized by the city lights, Mr. NM and I didn't even have to consult with one another about what time of day to have our ceremony.  We knew it would be an evening ceremony, after work and after sunset.  We were even more sure about this when we visited our site last November to take some pictures of the space after dark.  On that night, it was jet black outside - a completely cloudless and fogless evening, and there was the most incredible full moon visible through the windows of our ceremony space.  I'm sorry to say that I don't have photographic documentation of that, so you'll just have to believe me that it was gorgeous. 

In order to be absolutely certain about the lighting conditions on our wedding day, I consulted to get the lowdown on sundown for November 11, 2011 in San Francisco. 

At this point you may be thinking what I was thinking: "What's the difference between astronomical, nautical, and civil twilight, what do they have to do with sunset, and how do they impact my wedding?"  Well folks, I'm here to answer that question for you in as brief and painless a way as possible.  And I promise that, if you're having an evening wedding or an early morning, you do care about this information..

(Note: I am summarizing this from several sources, but primarily here.  I am in no way an expert on this issue, so please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.)

Astronomical Twilight:  The beginning and end of light during the day.  Faint stars, galaxies, and other objects begin to disappear as this phase starts and they reappear as this phase ends.  The end of astronomical twilight would be prime city lights-viewing conditions.   

Nautical Twilight:  The middle of the full sunrise/sunset process.  Bright objects are visible in the sky, as is the horizon.  It is too dark to do activities outside without extra lighting, but some light remains.  Not the ideal light-gazing opportunity, but not impossible. 

Civil Twilight:  During this phase the sky is illuminated and you will not need additional lighting for outdoor activities.  In the evening, only bright lights will be visible.  Good enough to see a full moon, but not good enough to take advantage of all the city lights.

Sunrise:  When the upper part of the sun becomes visible. 

Sunset:  When the sun disappears below the horizon. 

As all of us already know, light becomes visible before the sun has actually risen above the horizon line in the morning, and light remains visible after the sun falls below the horizon in the evening.  Thus it's not that helpful to look only at sunrise and sunset times if you're interested in gauging the amount of light you'll see in the early morning or late evening. 

And now comes the part where I super excitedly tell you the good news about our wedding day.  If you consult the chart above you'll see that on 11.11.11 astronomical twilight ends at 6:32 p.m.  Purely by chance, we slated our wedding ceremony to begin at...  6:30 p.m.!  Yay for prime nighttime darkness!  Crazily enough though, if you take a closer look at that chart, you'll also see that daylight savings time ends A MERE 5 DAYS before our wedding date.  So if we had picked a date only a week earlier, then a half hour ceremony beginning at 6:30 would've meant that it would just be getting dusky outside (end of civil twilight, going into nautical twilight) and we would have completely missed out on that city lights look we love so much. 

Clearly the stars were aligned for us (astronomical pun intended).  Oh, you don't believe me?  You want proof?  I'll give you proof.

November 11, 2011...  Full. Freakin'. Moon.  

Proof - Bam!  There you have it.  We SO have the awesomest wedding date and time ever, there's no denying it.

How have the stars aligned for you and your significant other?  And do you have a need to track the light for your wedding day?

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Dessert Buffet Saga Continues

And we may have had a breathrough today!  But to properly understand the progress we've made, I need to walk you through a shopping trip I took a couple weeks ago.  If you remember this post, then you remember I'd gotten it into my head that perhaps I would make fabulous cake plates for cheaper than I could buy them.  So on this fateful shopping day I was on the hunt for plate, platter, and pedestal options that I could glue together to make my imaginarily fabulous cake stands.

I randomly took pictures of every potential item I found.  Here is a sampling: 

{Top row: ceramic plates, melamine tray, porcelain tray from Target; Bottom row: wood candleholders and porcelain egg cups from Ross}

During this hunt, I found several actual cake stand options for $10-$15 each.

{Top row: from Ross; Bottom row: from Target}

I wasn't in love with any of the "pre-made" cake stands, so I was still committed to making something ourselves.  But seeing that $10 price tag, and knowing that it wouldn't require any additional work for us made it clear to me that whatever options I found would need to be under $10 each in order for it to be worth it to me.  (And when I say "no additional work" I just mean in terms of making them.  Buying pre-made cake stands would probably require additional effort in raising them to different heights on the buffet table.  But that's another issue altogether.)  

And then, as I rounded the corner at Target, the heavens opened and a ray of light shone down on this:

Do I see cobalt blue, black, and white plates in multiple patterns?!  Who dropped our wedding into Aisle 10, just in time for me to stumble upon it?  It's a miracle!  I quickly snapped some pictures of various ways we could use these affordable melamine beauties. 

Instead of acting on my (Brabantia!) instinct to immediately purchase everything on the aisle, (which I was really, really inclined to do), I decided to wait until I could get Mr. NM's thumbs up as well.  I think I was needing some reassurance that this wasn't a totally crazy/awful/tacky idea.  So today we made our way to Target and this happened:

You'd be surprised the crazy looks you get from people when you use plates, bowls, cups, and canisters to set up a massive cake stand display in the middle of the floor...  at Target...  on a day when everyone's off work.  Okay, maybe you wouldn't be surprised.  That does sounds nuts.  But we did it, and we left with 12 "stands" and 4 small plates for less than $75 (including tax).  Score!  I still might swap out a few of the more expensive components (3 plastic canisters) with something cheaper if I can find it, but either way I *cannot wait* to see these in action at the reception!

I'll post again with all the production details and pictures of the final set-up once we start gluing them all together.  For now, we're leaving them stacked in the basement to save space (and sanity). 

Did you ever walk through a store and find your wedding on display?  And has anyone out there created cake stands before?  I'd welcome any pointers you have to offer.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Very Important Date

I realized that I haven't yet talked about why we chose November 11, 2011 as our wedding date.  It might seem like we were purposely aiming for that 11.11.11 anniversary, but it didn't start that way at all! 

We've known for a while that this relationship was heading towards a serious commitment (as in a wedding, commitment ceremony, etc.), but when we asked ourselves: When?, we didn't have a good answer for it.  Throughout most of our relationship we were both students - ergo we were poor, poorer, poorest and busy, busier, busiest.  Without having the money to fund the kind of shindig we wanted, and considering we were being squeezed between classes, exams, and moving for internships we were stuck in waiting mode for a long time.  (Side note: this did not keep me from planning a wedding.  I totally planned us a kick-ass lime green, black, white, and damask wedding - then I scrapped it when I started seeing damask weddings pop up everywhere at a time when we were still eons away from our own big day.)

One day around April 2009, during my post-doc year (definition: your very last year of training before you can officially get licensed and move on to a "real job"), I was sitting in a training and out of nowhere it hit me that we might actually be getting closer to "the right time" to have a ceremony.  I was close(r) to having a respectable income and Mr. NM was racing through grad school faster than I had.  Being the obsessive planner that I am, I began looking at what day of the week Nov. 1 fell on for the next few years because I knew Mr. NM loved the idea of our wedding anniversary being the same as our dating anniversary.  And I was cool with that especially because in San Francisco, November comes at the tail end of the city's Indian summers so we'd likely bypass the infamous fog.  Unfortunately, in 2010 and 2011 November 1st fell on a Monday or Tuesday.  That wouldn't work. 
Next I looked at the 11th because it seemed kinda similar to the 1st, just with an extra 1.  That's close enough, right?  In 2010 the 11th fell on a Thursday, but in 2011 it fell on a Friday.  I'd heard that Friday weddings can be more affordable because they're a "non-peak" day, plus I liked the idea of having a day or two after the ceremony to hang out with our guests, many of whom would be coming in from out of town.  Other bonus: by 2011 Mr. NM would be post-dissertation, post-internship, and post-graduation, and I would have been working full-time for almost 2 years. Super special bonus: a wedding in Nov. of 2011 would give me over 2 years to plan, meaning a reduced stress level for me.  (This was my hopeful thinking at the time.  Of course as you know, I was more or less wrong about that.)

Friday, November 11 of 2011 was shaping up to be the perfect date!  I sat there for a while in my blissful post-obsessive-planning stupor... before it occurred to me that November is the 11th month of the year.  **record scratch** 

Wait, what??  11th day of the 11th month in the 11th year?  11.11.11??  I felt positively giddy with excitement as the elusive and amazing feeling of *pure perfection* washed over me.  And the meticulous woman in me leapt forth, already thinking a mile a minute:  "An anniversary made up of all the same numbers?  That's the same backwards and forwards?  That you can fold in half lengthwise - and heightwise - and it will match up?  That you can cutesy-ly abbreviate as eleven cubed?  That you could never in a million years forget even if you tried really hard?"  And on and on and on...

When I got home that day and ran it by Mr. NM, he was equally excited.  Well, not equally equally, but ya know, equally in that way partners are when they're genuinely excited but mostly they're excited that you're so freakin' excited.  Yeah, equally excited like that.  So from that conversation on, we had a date - a really lovely date.

How did you and your significant other choose your ceremony date?  Does it hold any special meaning for you, coincidental or otherwise?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Paper Mâché on Glass?

I recently took on a little home-beautifying project that was super simple, gave me exactly the look I wanted, and could potentially be useful for lots of various decorative purposes - including weddings, of course! 

{my two "paper-mâché" containers, in the background}

Let me backtrack a bit...  It all started when I got the most wonderful Christmas gift from Mr. NM. 

{Kitchenaid Artisan Mixer in Aqua Sky, aka "Martha Stewart Blue" - source}

I love love love the color, but unfortunately it didn't match the current brown/olive green color scheme of our kitchen.  So I went on a little search to find a few aqua-hued items to toss around the kitchen and pull it all together a bit.  After several (read: far too many) hours of searching online and in stores, the only thing I had to show for it was a couple packages of kitchen towels.  When I found that teal vase at Pier 1, I was smitten and I knew it would work perfectly, but I didn't think it would make enough of a statement by itself.  (Side note: Totally gonna brag on myself about that vase purchase here.  Had a really, really old gift card I'd been holding onto even though I had no idea how much was left on it.  Total out-the-door cost for this gorgeous vase:  $0.78!)

Then I had this thought that Michael's probably had some scrapbook paper in shades of aqua/teal, and I wondered if I could Mod Podge it onto some plain glass cylinders I'd seen at the store for pretty cheap.  For just a few dollars, I thought it couldn't hurt to try.  So I purchased 2 different sized cylinders and 2 sheets of scrapbook paper (not cardstock) and brought them home to experiment. 

First I tried just glueing the sheet straight onto the cylinder.  I trimmed the paper just a bit shorter than the height of the glass to account for the rounded edges on the top and bottom of the cylinder.  I applied Mod Podge to the entire sheet, thinking I'd just roll up the paper onto the cylinder.  Not the worst idea, but not the best either.  If I were doing this over again, I'd only apply it to the first two inches or so - enough to stick to the glass, but not all over.  Then I'd keep applying as I rolled the paper further onto the glass.

{Supplies: foam brush, Mod Podge, paper, and a nonstick mat}

Be careful to line up the edges while the glue is still wet, because once it starts drying you can't reposition it any longer.

{Here you can see the ripples in the paper caused by applying glue to the whole sheet all at once.  Oops!}

{Some ripples you can smooth out with your fingers,
but be careful not to peel off the paper in places like I did.  That's not fixable!}

Once the paper was lined up and adhered completely, I put more Mod Podge on top to seal it and cover up any texture imperfections caused by all my fingerprints.

{See how perfectly it coordinates with that gorgeous mixer...}

Then it was just a matter of wiping down the tiny slivers of exposed glass around the top and bottom edges. 

{Witness the areas of peeled paper.  Not as perfect as I like things, but whatareyougonnado?}

Next I wanted the second vase to be similar but a little different so it wasn't too matchy-matchy.  This time I used what I think of as the more traditional paper mâché method of layering strips on top of one another.  This method took WAY longer than the first. 

{same supplies, but now using strips of various widths}

Applying glue to one strip at a time I smoothed them onto the glass, criss-crossing them at different angles.  Sometimes I would need to trim strips that extended past the top or bottom.  I kept those scraps to fill in tiny holes later on. 

{not even halfway finished, and it got more complicated as I went} 

I decided to put straight strips around the top and bottom edges to "clean up" the design of the jagged top, but that's just a preference thing.

{bringing some order to the chaos}

Again, be sure to clean the edges and interior of any stray glue spots.  When I had them both finished, I vastly preferred the look of the first one - ya know, the one that took 1/4 the amount of time to complete.  Typical... 

And then I got curious as to what they might look like with candles inside them, so I gave it a shot using an ill-fitting pillar candle we had lying around. 

{Exhibit A}

{Exhibit B}

Umm...  I kinda think Exhibit B is rocktastic!  It might not be everyone's thing, but it's so bold and dramatic that it makes me swoon a little bit.  Just goes to show you how much difference lighting can make.  But even without the candle, I still like it when it's grouped with the other vases.  It gave our kitchen just the extra color and interest I was going for.

What projects have you taken on that you've been both a little "meh" and a little "yes!" about the results?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Who Knew...

... that custom-made men's shirts had so many components to make decisions about?!  Plackets, collars, hems, pleats, accent fabric, epaulets, buttons, thread color, and several other things that I've already forgotten.  Unbelievable!  Last night I learned SO MUCH about men's fashion as Mr. NM ordered his custom-made shirt from  And the site is awesome because you can see all your changes as you make them, which really helps when you're a visual person like Mr. NM is.

{Mr. NM's final shirt design: signature standard fit, long sleeve, single placket, plain back (no pleats), 1-button French collar, French round cuffs, tritab bottom, no epaulets, no pocket, no monogram, charcoal buttons, vertical buttonholes, white thread, contrast fabric inside collar and cuffs}

Not to mention that I got to witness the male side of this wedding-day-appearance-pressure.  My guy wants to look just as spectacular as I do, with a shirt that perfectly fits every inch of his perfect self.  The best part (at least for this frugal bride) is that this custom shirt is only going to cost us...  (wait for it)...  (keep waiting for it)...  $41.84 including shipping! 

Rub your eyes and check that number again - $41.84 - less than the cost of a dress shirt from Express!!! 

Unfortunately it takes a while for this affordable masterpiece to be delivered, so it's slated to arrive at the end of March.  Mr. NM is obviously on the ball, because he told me the estimated delivery date is right before he wanted to begin shopping for his suit.  How impressive is he, right?  I know, I know.  I'm a lucky girl. 

Would you ever order custom-made clothing, for the wedding day or otherwise?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

An Epic Epiphany

I was reading back through some old posts the other day and there was one in particular that wasn't sitting well with me.  Yes, it's true that a lot of those photos were from colorful outdoor weddings, but that didn't seem to capture exactly what I was drawn to.  Although outdoor weddings are lovely, I've never really wanted to have one for myself.  And bright color palettes are super fun, but they're not our style. So what was the element that was pulling all these things together for me?

There was one word I wrote in that post that I didn't give much thought to at the time, but I now know that it really gets to the heart of the matter.  Here's what I said back in November:  "All these fun handmade details are saturated with color, color, and more color." 

Did you catch the critical word that I glossed over?  Sure you did, so why didn't I?  Of course - it's handmade! 

The very first blog post I ever wrote talked about all the DIY projects we hoped to accomplish to make our big day more personal and more affordable.  And isn't that the *essence* of what it means to be handmade?!  Yes yes and yes!  What we want is a handmade wedding.  A modern, urban loft-ish, fun, casual-chic, and HANDMADE wedding.

It goes without saying that we don't want it handmade à la  my 2nd grade art projects.  But we do want it handmade à la my creativity and meticulousness and Mr. NM's efficiency and willingness.  That's the epiphany I needed, that's what we're aiming for, that's the thread pulling it all together, and that's the way we're going to make this wedding ours.  Epic epiphany indeed...


What important wedding-shaping realizations have you had?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Calibration = Correct Colors

If you're anything like me, you've stared at your computer screen for hours drooling over other people's wedding images, meticulously creating wedding projects in various computer programs, and agonizing over colors/details/textures of wedding-related purchases you make online.  Needless to say you and I are logging a lot of screen time, which means we probably place a high importance on our computer screen showing us an *exact* replica of whatever we're looking at. 

Recently I sent some pictures off to be printed, and when they returned they were very different from the image I saw on my screen.  Because these images came from a source I trusted (not a professional photo lab by any means, but the best I've used thus far), I guessed that the problem was not on their end.  So if the problem was on my end, then I knew there was an issue with how my screen was rendering colors.  At the time, I didn't know what the term for this was, so I googled like crazy until I came across some articles about monitor calibration.  Since I'm very interested in photography and I do a fair amount of photo editing (not to mention that I'm about to have a certain big event in my life that will generate thousands of photos, which I'll probably want to look at on my computer screen), I decided to take the plunge and order a lower-end monitor calibration software. 

I'd never calibrated my monitor before, so I don't have anything to compare this to, but nevertheless I was pretty amazed with the results.  I wasn't able to capture the actual before and after as it's seen on my screen because when I turn the calibration on, both images just look the same.  So I took some rudimentary pictures of my screen in hopes that you could kinda see the difference.  Befores on the left, Afters on the right.

Taking a picture of a picture being displayed on a screen is NOT the most accurate way to document this change because some of the differences between the before and after pics get lost in translation.  But I hope you can also see that the change is more dramatic on some images than on others. 

The most amazing part (and the part I couldn't get an accurate picture of, unfortunately) is how much more similar the printed photos are to the images I see on the screen now.  That's going to be so crucial when we're printing a bunch of paper goods for the invitations or signage and especially when we're editing photos and ordering prints after the wedding.  I'm really glad I learned about this now and not after I'd been editing/ordering photos for hours only to print them and find that they weren't as I expected. 

Have you ever used monitor calibration software before?  What did you think of the results?