DIY Abstract Painted Pillows

DIY abstract pillows—so cute! (click through for tutorial) Hi, friends! Today I am excited to share a fun DIY for making abstract pillow cases with fabric paint, working with our good friends over at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores. This past year I've been obsessed with abstract everything from paintings to textiles to home decor pieces. And in this new year, one of my big goals is to refresh all my spaces, even if it's something as small as a new simple accent. I have been crushing on these pillows since I spotted them on Gal Meets Glam a while back, and wanted to try my hand at creating something inspired by them! And, of course, I couldn't stop without doing a colorful abstract pillow as well!

Supplies NeededSupplies Needed: For each set of two pillows you will need 1 yard of white denim (for the front) and 1 yard of black or colored denim (for the back). You will also need fabric paint. I like matte fabric paints best, but I'll branch out to any type to get the right colors for the colorful pillow. You'll also need a used gift card. A sewing machine is optional. If you don't want to sew, buy pre-made plain pillow covers. For pillow forms (I used the 20" x 20" and 24" x 24" sizes). 

Abstract painting with a gift  cardThe painting process is super simple! 1. Squirt fabric paint directly onto your denim or canvas. You can see here that I used quite a bit. 2. Use the old gift card (or any piece of small, hard plastic) to scrape the paint across the fabric. It will create a different type of line than a paint brush. It's cleaner, but still messy looking in a cool way. It's also MUCH easier to clean up and control your lines. 3. Continue adding lines all over the fabric. 4. Crisscross some of the lines for an interesting effect. Allow the fabric paint to dry completely before sewing. 

Next, stitch your pillow up. If you've never sewn a pillow, learn how here

Abstract painting with a gift card For the colorful pillow, I did the same exact technique, but created blocks of color instead of lines. 

DIY abstract pillows—so cute! (click through for tutorial)  DIY abstract pillows—so cute! (click through for tutorial)DIY abstract pillows—so cute! (click through for tutorial) There you have it! An easy, pretty pillow set that you can make to match the colors in your home! This is a DIY I will definitely be repeating in the future! xx. Elsie 

Credits// Author: Elsie Larson, Project Assistant: Laura Gummerman. Photography: Laura Gummerman and Emma Chapman. Photos edited with The Signature Collection

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Introducing: Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks

Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- www.shop.abeautifulmess.comWe're excited to launch our latest e-course today: Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks

Routine5Every year we aim to create a class that inspires documenting and celebrating everyday life! This year our course is filled with new, fresh ways to capture your life each week. You can use any camera for this class, even your smartphone! We don't cover the technical side of photography, but instead focus on getting inspired to just take photos (the really fun part!). This course is a great way to kick start yourself into high gear and take amazing, personal photos all year long! 

Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- www.shop.abeautifulmess.com        This course is BIG. I mean, it's meant to push you to capture your real life for an entire year. You can get the full details about the course here, but here's the short and sweet of it. This course is formatted so every month you'll have three to four photography based prompts. These are designed to challenge you to document your life this year. Life moves fast and sometimes if we don't intentionally challenge ourselves to photograph the everyday, it just gets missed. Let's make this year different! 

Each session includes example images taken by the teachers (Elsie Larson, Candice Stringham, Mandi Johnson, and Janae Hardy) as well as instructions, tips, and challenges for getting great photos yourself. Each month includes one mini album challenge as well. This is to get you printing and using those beautiful photos that you take, or ones that you already have. Each mini album focuses on a different craft supply or technique, giving you lots of variety throughout the year. The teachers of the course have completed their own mini albums that they share in the lesson, showing through photos and text how you can create your own. If you want to see a full list of all the photo prompt sessions and mini album challenges, click here.

Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- www.shop.abeautifulmess.com          One super exciting feature is that this e-course comes with a kit (while supplies last)! In addition to the e-course, the kit includes: a 4" x 4" booklet (28 pages), 3" x 4" stamp set, and a mini pigment ink (in lipstick red!). There are a limited number of kits (one thousand), so once they are sold out, they are gone! We will still offer the course for sale after kits are sold out, but the price will not change. So, if you want the kit, be sure to order ASAP. (Once the kits are sold out, we will update the shop listing so that customers will know the kits are gone.) You can check the shop listing to see what the stamps/kit look like. Also—the kit ships free US and international customers!

The course (including kit while supplies last) costs $36 USD. (Whatta deal!) 

Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- www.shop.abeautifulmess.com            This course allows you to work at your own pace. It is designed so you have a session to complete each week for an entire year, but if you find that you fall behind, don't worry! Just keep going. You receive access to all the sessions when you purchase the class. The goal is to push yourself to document those memories, so it's OK if you need to work at a slower pace some months.

Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- www.shop.abeautifulmess.com  Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks e-course available here- www.shop.abeautifulmess.com  Candice even traveled all the way to New York to photograph Naomi and Josh and their beautiful family for this e-course. It's really special, and we can't wait to share it with you! 

We are SO excited to see what you all create with this course. To read more, check the shop listing here. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments! xo. Elsie and the ABM team 

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman. Photography: Elsie Larson, Candice Stringham and Janae Hardy.

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DIY Quotation Mark Bookends

Quote bookends DIY via abeautifulmess.comProbably my favorite feature in our whole house (or at least top 5—what can I say, I love my house) is our floor to ceiling bookshelf in the living room. It makes our television set feel like part of the space, and it adds a lot of color and texture to that side of the room. Recently I made these giant quotation mark bookends to add to the shelf and it really adds a fun, graphic element to the whole collection. 

Quote bookends DIY via abeautifulmess.com Quote bookends DIY via abeautifulmess.com  These quotation mark bookends are inspired by this set from Anthropologie. I had planned to paint them gold, but then I ended up loving the black and white. 

How to make paper molds for plasterSupplies:
-poster board
-painter's tape
-pottery plaster (sometimes called craft plaster)
-acrylic paint (black and white)
-mixing bowl (for crafting, not also used for food)
-disposable mixing stick or spoon
-fine sandpaper
-scissors
-heavy duty (epoxy or gorilla) glue-scrap wood
-nails
-hammer (or nail gun)
-power saw

In case you're curious, this project cost around $22 to make considering I already had the scrap wood and tools needed (like the mixing bowl, scissors, saw, etc.).

Step One: Make your molds. Draw your shapes onto the poster board and cut out. Then cut long 2 inch strips of poster board to be the edges. Tape the strips along the outside of the shape. As you can see in the photo above, the mold doesn't have to look perfect on the outside. The main thing is to get the shape you want and to make sure no holes are present (or the plaster could seep out when you pour it).

It's really up to you how large or small you want your shapes (the quotation marks) to be. I went for an over-sized look on mine, but you can make them smaller depending on your bookshelf/space.

Pouring plaster projectsStep Two: Pour the plaster. Consult the plaster packaging to see how much water you should mix with your plaster. Use a mixing bowl and spoon/stir stick that you don't also use for food, as it may be difficult to get all the plaster off. Keep in mind that the plaster will heat up as you stir, so take care as you work.

Removing plaster from moldsStep Three: Remove the molds. My plaster package said to wait 30 minutes after pouring to remove the molds and then to let the shape dry out for at least 24 hours. Check your package for any drying time or other directions on this as it may vary. 

As you can see, some of the blue from the poster board didn't come off all the way when I removed the molds. I chose blue so you would be able to better see this project in the photos, but it turned out not to be the best choice. I actually completed this project a couple times (more on that in a second), and found that the best poster board to use is either white or the "dry erase" poster board (it has a slick side that easily peels off of the plaster). I recommend using these. But if you do find that some of your mold just doesn't come off, you can easily sand it off once the shape fully dries. 

Book end wood framesStep Four: I used scrap wood to create a base and back for my shapes. I simply cut the boards to the size of my quotation marks, and then nailed them to each other (you could also glue with wood glue and clamps or use screws). I then painted these black to match my existing bookcase. I wanted the quotation marks to look like they were floating on the shelves. :)

I sanded my plaster shapes, painted them, and then glued them to the already painted wood base. Be sure to check all paint and glue packaging for proper dry/curing times. 

Plaster project fail!Here I wanted to show you a failed attempt. I wanted to add dowel rods to the center of these so the quotation marks would really be floating over a wood base on the book shelf. But I had to pour so much plaster to cover the dowel rods that the thickness just didn't work well with this type of craft plaster, and it cracked as it dried. So, I changed up my design slightly and made thinner (but still over-sized looking) shapes. 

Another tip I learned while working on this project is it's best to let your plaster shapes dry out for a couple days before painting with acrylic paint. I painted mine after the suggested 24 hour dry time and the paint ended up peeling off (I think because the shapes weren't fully dry so the moisture messed with the paint). If this happens, you can sand off the peeling paint, let dry, and paint again. Which is what I did. But, better to wait too long to let it fully dry than have to go through those extra steps if you ask me. 

Quote bookends DIY via abeautifulmess.com   And yes, I currently have my bookshelf organized by color and I love it! Thanks for letting me share my new bookends with you! xo. Emma

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman, Photography: Janae Hardy and Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

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Sister Style: Travel Pals

CG0B2255 smCG0B2255 smCG0B2255 smOver the weekend we traveled to Charleston, South Carolina to celebrate Emma's birthday and also have some good old fashioned sister time. For us, spending hours on a plane or in a car together inevitably ends with us coming up with lots of new ideas for A Beautiful Mess. We'll dream about blog post series, product designs (been talking about future Happy Mail card designs among other things), and big dreams that may or may not come to fruition, but hey, dare to dream!

Emma's Wearing: top/received in a clothing exchanged (brand is American Eagle), skirt/H&M, tights/Target, shoes c/o ModCloth (brand is BC Footwear), and sunnies/ShopSosie

CG0B2205 smCG0B2205 smElsie's Wearing: Dress/Vintage (found at Katy K), Sunnies/ASOS, Purse/Madewell (on sale now!), Shoes c/o Swedish Hasbeens. *When I travel I try to only pack two pairs of shoes. Usually a pair of Hasbeens or other comfy heels and a pair of cute flats (this time Converse). 

CG0B2227 smCG0B2227 smI've been trying to take more photos with my Instax Mini. It's a tiny instant camera that takes credit card size photos. This is my second one. I think I got my first one about six years ago! I found this really cute case to keep it in. I'll try to share some of my favorite Instax photos with you soon. :) 

CG0B2233 smThanks for reading! xx. Elsie + Emma 

Credits// Author and photography: Emma Chapman and Elsie Larson. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess Actions

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7 Free Tools for Tracking Blog Post Performance

Blogging Tips via abeautifulmess.comHey, there. Trey here, again. Given that so many of you have some kind of website or blog yourself, I figured I’d share some of the tools I’ve come across for keeping up with individual posts' performances. It’s incredibly useful information if you’re considering starting or building a sponsorship program or if you're just looking to grow your blog and want to see which posts perform the best. But it’s also just kind of fun to see the numbers—if you're into, like, counting and stuff.

For those of you working for or running a small business, you've probably noticed there is no shortage of figuring it out as you go. Actually, I think that’s probably true of any size company. I always think a company’s infrastructure must be so advanced and thorough, until I start working there. It’s actually kind of relieving to realize, “Oh, you’re all just doing your best here too? Cool, I can do that.”

The point is, when E+E wanted me to reshape and rebuild their sponsorship program, the first thing I needed was numbers, but the structure in place was pretty limited. They already had Google Analytics, which I’ll talk a little about below, but it wasn’t giving them a clear view of individual post pageviews, and tracking clicks felt incredibly tedious. 

The only view of social activity we had was BlogLovin likes and checking the live feed of pins coming from our site. And to be clear, that pin feed doesn’t tell us how many pins or anything, so we were just guessing based on how dense it would get with one post or another. 

So I researched (googled) and researched (more googling + a few clueless emails) for anything I could find that would help us keep track more accurately. Here are some of my favorite free tools:

Track blog post performance! (click through for more information)
SOCIAL MEDIA SHARES

Anymore, without some sort of social media activity around your post, it’s unlikely it’ll see much long-term attention. So here are some tools to keep an eye on:

Pin Count: We’re very much a Pinterest blog, so this is an especially important number for us. If you drop your link into this tool, it’ll tell you how many pins (including repins) your post got. This was the first social counting tool we found.

ShareTally: This is my current favorite tool, as it aggregates and totals all the shares (including Pinterest) from 21 social networks and gives you a top-level view of the activity on each network. If you drag their “Tally it!” button into your toolbar, you can just click it, and it will run the query on whichever page you’re currently on.

SharedCount: Like ShareTally, it aggregates shares across multiple social networks, though it only tracks 6 vs. 21. But to be fair, it tracks the 6 most used. The one benefit this tool has over ShareTally is its API. So you can add a share counter on your blog using data this site pulls, BUT they charge for that functionality.

AddThis: Unlike the rest, this won’t simply let you input a link and output social totals for you. It’s a tool you can add to your site to track your social activity. We use AddThis for the social counters you see at the bottom of each post. It has some pretty narrow free options that make it possible to add a share total to the bottom of your posts. The catch is that you have to use their designs, unless you’ve got someone very code savvy. And the most useful tools they offer require that you purchase a pro package.

Track blog post performance! (click through for more information)TRACKING INDIVIDUAL POST PAGEVIEWS

If you’ve got any kind of site, chances are your backend has some sort of built-in tool to track total pageviews for your site, maybe a little more. And hopefully you’ve installed Google Analytics (super free and super awesome) to dive even deeper. But the catch with most popular blog formats (no jumps) is that you can’t really get an accurate count of pageviews for an individual post. While Google Analytics will let you see how many pageviews a specific URL is getting, readers can see your post a few ways: homepage, page 2/page 3/etc., and the individual URL itself. And there’s no easy way to add all that together, UNLESS you use a tracking pixel.

WebBeak: From my searching, this is the only tool I’d recommend, because everything else I found was either miserably complicated or charging way too much. And for its base functionality, WebBeak is completely free (they have more in-depth reporting for a small fee). So here’s how it works:

    1. You click “Create Tracker” and go through the prompts until it gives you your tracking pixel link, which is just an image link, but that image is only a 1x1 transparent pixel.
(link looks like: http://webbeak.com/ppe289pl)
    2. You just need a little html here to code it as an image:
<img src="http://WEBBEAK LINK HERE" alt="track" />
    3. Then, drop that code into the bottom of your post in the HTML view.
    4. Once your post is published, every time that 1x1 pixel loads, it counts one view. So ultimately, every time your post loads, it starts counting—giving you pageviews for your individual posts. You can track those results by dropping your WebBeak link into the "Track Results" section of the site.

Track blog post performance! (click through for more information)TRACKING LINKS

If you’re working with sponsors at all, they always want to know how many clicks they’ve gotten from working with you. There are a lot of ways you can pull this off, and Google Analytics has a built-in system for it, but it can get a little complicated if all you’re looking for is the total number of clicks. The easiest way to get that information in my opinion is using the link shortening services:

goo.gl: This is Google’s link shortener, and it’s what we use any time we need a tracking link in a pinch. It tells you exactly how many clicks the link got and where in the world the clicks are coming from.

bitly: You’ve no doubt heard of bitly, as their links are everywhere. They also happen to have a pretty robust amount of data on the links you create, a little more socially in depth than goo.gl. Which you use really just depends on how much information you need.

Hmm...

Welp, that was a whole lot of words next to each other. Sorry to anyone with absolutely no interest in blog metrics who I just bored into a coma, so here's an old picture from my phone, because lol. 

Track blog post performance! (click through for more information)Anyway, those are some of our go-to free tools for tracking our blog posts. Like I said, even if you aren't necessarily looking to start an ad program or anything, it's still fun to see how those numbers play out. I get into more specifics about starting a sponsorship program (pricing, etc.) in our Blog Life course if you're more interested in that side of it.

Of course, if you've got any questions about the tools above, let me know, and I'll try to answer to the best of my understanding. -Trey

Credits // Author and Pug Photography: Trey George, Other Photography: Elsie Larson

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