City Paper is not for tourists
The Washington Post’s Sunday Source section offers light and bubbly how-to’s on burnless dinner parties, easy outings, and mistake-proof craft projects. As the typical young, urban reader whom the section caters to, I thought it would be good to put the Source—and my skills—to the test. I decided to take on Laura J. Vogel’s craft column, “15Min.” Could I find all those craft supplies without a car? Could I assemble them into something cute and useful? Could I do it all in 15 minutes?
Project: Revolutionary Doormat
Sunday Source Says: “Why place something banal and ugly at the threshold to your home when you could welcome guests with a splash of color, mirth—and even a political statement?”
Supplies: 16-by-24-inch coconut-fiber doormat, one can of white spray paint, cans of colored Plasti-Dip spray, a standard Manila folder, a printout of Che Guevara (or another revolutionary symbol of choice), an X-Acto knife, masking tape, a sheet of cardboard at least 2 feet square, a box of straight pins, and white glue
The reality: The Source recommends Michael’s craft stores. But since the nearest one is in Rockville, Md., and involves a bus connection, I decided to go local. I found most of the materials I needed at 17th Street Hardware, save for the Plasti-Dip. Figuring it wouldn’t matter, I substituted some Kilz spray primer, which I used to prep the fiber doormat for its re-education. The next morning and three coats of paint later, I began to suspect I was wrong. The doormat drank up the paint like a sponge, only hinting at a change of color. By nightfall I had given up on the layer method and could be found pouring black paint directly onto the thirsty fibers. Finally, a solid color emerged—but only after the mat’s bristles were drowned in a pool of paint. The next morning, I selected my ideology and carefully laid out three interlocking lines of red Rust-Oleum into a ragged “A.” I now possessed a nonabsorbent anarchic doormat of questionable utility. The drying paint warped the mat within days. Additionally, two weeks later, the Kilz primer was still giving off enough fumes to drive my housemates off the back porch.
Cost: $25.33 for liquid paint, $24.54 for moot spray paint, $2.66 for brushes, and $15 for the doormat
Time: 20 hours
Resale value: $0—listed on eBay; as of yet, no buyers.
Project: Food-can Shelf
Sunday Source says: “Inexpensive, easily made and limited only by the wacky items stocked in local groceries…the shelves allow you to make use of canned goods you may never wish to eat but admire in the package.”
Supplies: Precut shelves from IKEA; two 6-inch-tall cans, two 7-inch-tall ones, and two 8-inchers; yellow paint; and a hot-glue gun and glue sticks
The reality: It should be said right from the start that if you have any doubts about your crafting abilities, this should be your litmus test. It involves can-opening, simple washing, intermediate shopping skills, and the ability to stack. The Safeway on Columbia Road NW has a selection of unique cans in the Hispanic-foods section. I found some scrap boards at the Backdoors Warehouse and a saw at Al’s Hardware. The difficulty was in transporting two 6-foot lengths of lumber and a hefty load of cans down Columbia Road at rush hour. Hoisting my bag of cans and my boards while walking my bike, I struggled not to clock passers-by in the head. Back home, I opened my Bruce’s yams and, not wanting to waste them, tried to foist them off on my housemates. When no one went for “the very delicious yams on the stove,” I left the rest unopened, deciding that, in these dangerous times, it doesn’t seem so strange to incorporate emergency supplies into home décor. I stacked the cans and boards and loaded the shelf with some knickknacks from around the house, a wooden bowl, old fireworks, pulp novels, a Japanese teacup, and a book of Welsh legends. I had made a shelf out of junk to hold my junk.
Cost: $10 for lumber, $17.99 for the saw, $14.17 for the cans, $9.99 for the glue gun, and $7.49 for the glue
Time: Three hours
Resale value: $0—inspired yard sale but did not sell.
Project: Doggy Place Mat
Sunday Source says: “This colorful, personalized place mat [is] made of washable canvas. It brightens up my kitchen and makes post-kibble cleanup much easier. Why not treat your own pooch or kitty? After all, Martha’s chow chows shouldn’t be the only ones with cool, well-designed accessories.”
Supplies: Half-yard of heavy-duty canvas, fabric paint, paintbrushes, a pencil, iron-on seam binding, a ruler, and a simple stencil (optional)
The reality: I had some old canvas and decided that its dark color would better hide the inevitable dog-related stains. I ran it through a hot wash so it would take the paint and then ironed it out into a smooth surface. Across the top I painted “Where’s Timmy?” Below this, I painted the words “River,” “Barn,” “Train,” and “Well.” Sensitive to the frustrations of canine dyslexia, I included simple pictures that would allow man’s best friend to communicate visually. However, by the end I was the one in need of rescue. The paint fumes left me woozy and with an aching head. Checking the label, I noticed a warning: “May effect the brain and nervous system.”
Cost: $0 for old canvas, $0 for leftover white Rust-Oleum, and $2.49 for brushes
Time: Three or four hours
Resale value: $0—no takers on craigslist D.C., despite my statement that all proceeds would go to charity.
Project: Curtain-rod Disco Balls
Sunday Source says: “Creating your own disco finials is a great way to juice up a pad.”
Supplies: A pair of 2-inch mirrored balls, a cafe-style curtain rod without finials, a hot-glue gun and glue sticks, and a felt-tipped marker
The reality: I thought finding the disco balls would be a cinch given that I live in Mount Pleasant, where there are at least four party stores within a few blocks. Sadly, I was mistaken. I ended up using tennis balls I found in the closet, painted silver and rolled in glitter. For the curtain rod, which I didn’t own, I decided to use an old broomstick, painted gold. I knew that the whole thing had to hold together aesthetically and wondered why the curtain itself was not part of the project. I decided to remedy this oversight with a bit of dark fabric (to keep out the morning-after sunlight) and some additional glitter. I then proceeded with the rod, cutting a small hole in each ball and inserting the ends of the broom handle until the glittery finials stuck fast. Groovy, baby.
Cost: $0 for the balls, $0 for the rod, 99 cents for the glitter, and $3.99 for the spray paint
Time: Two hours, three if you count searching for the disco balls
Resale value: Unknown—please just come and take this away. CP
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Charles Steck.