Mud Cloth + Mid Century

Can mud cloth from Mali and “MCM” — also known as Mid Century style — go together? Can they live happily together in one piece? Well, let’s see. Here’s what mud cloth looks like, if you’re not sure what I’m talking about:

Mudcloth at Museum of Natural History

That’s a mudcloth I “designed” with a fun interactive feature on the Museum of Natural History’s website, where you can make your own mudcloth – check it out. As you go through it, it tells you how mud cloth is made and the meaning behind the designs.

Mud cloth is also called Bògòlanfini. It’s made with strips of cotton cloth sewed together, and then painted with patterns that have significant cultural meanings that tell a story. It’s painted with fermented mud gathered from riverbeds, thus the name mud cloth. It can take weeks of work to make one mud cloth.

I own a few pieces of mud cloth. One found this summer at Chicago’s Randolph Street Market (there’s always some there from a vendor who sells wares from Africa) and a large piece I found at the famous Mustapha Blaoui store in Marrakech last month. At that TripAdvisor link about the store, you’ll see a review by Starr Covey Perry who was with our group and I snapped photos of her buying her rug! It is indeed a beautiful rug. Now I’m kicking myself for not buying a rug. But I did get mud cloth which was one thing I wanted to find and I knew Mustapha Blaoui had it:

Mud Cloth Patterns

This might be CRAZY, but I want to replace the black vinyl on this Mid Century style chair with mud cloth:

Mid Century Chair Makeover

I can’t help but think of Mid Century as a hipster style thing. But I got this chair 20 years ago when I was hipster age and went through a Mid Century stage! Unfortunately I did not treat this chair well. The white plastic was scratched and to cover that, I spray painted it with that faux stone-look paint. Like THAT’S an improvement? I thought it looked cool at the time, 20 years ago. Maybe in 20 more years I’ll look back at this mud cloth phase and wonder, what was I thinking putting mud cloth on that chair? But I’m gonna do it. So that’s a DIY post coming soon.

So has anyone else mixed mud cloth and Mid Century? (Is it too geeky to say MC²?)

Yes! Some people have …

Here’s mud cloth on a stool with Mid Century style. It’s now sold, but it was from Etsy shop ChezBoheme:

Mudcloth and MCM at Etsy Shop ChezBoheme

Apartment Therapy reported on a collaboration between Philadelphia design company HYM Salvage and Urban Outfitters that resulted in this version of “mud + mod”:

HYM Salvage and Urban Outfitters Mud Cloth and Mid Century Modern Chair

And they made this stool/ottoman:


And this chair, with sleek metal detail that contrasts with the handmade cloth:

Urban Outfitters Mudcloth and Mod Chair

A piece of mudcloth is simply draped over a bench, to add pattern and color at Design Manifest. I like how they mixed the geometric mud cloth with the pillow pattern:

Mud Cloth and Bench at Design Manifest

Here’s a pair of 1950′s brass stools upholstered vintage mud cloth. Now sold but was at 1stdibs. I think it works because the lines in the mud cloth are similar to the Sputnik-y stool legs:

50s Brass and Vintage Mud Cloth

Via Rent Patina, how about these two examples of chairs upholstered with mud cloth – one is a wingback, the other like Danish Modern or Mid Century:

Mud Cloth on Chairs via Rent Patina

Here’s a different view:

Mud Cloth Chair via Rent Patina

This is a 1970s chair with a sexy sculptural shape, paired with mud cloth. Chair now sold, but was at 1stdibs:

Mud Cloth Chair Sold at 1stDibs

Here’s a mud cloth pillow on a Nelson bench, a classic Mid Century piece, snapped by Instagrammer xnasozi (you can also buy mud cloth pillows from her shop):


So it seems that yes, “mud” and “mod” can be paired together!

Watch for a DIY coming here soon where I reupholster the black vinyl on my Mid Century chair with white plastic curves reminiscent of Eero Saarinen style. The chair is a relic I still own from the days in my 20s when I worshipped Mid Century. I’m not into Mid Century now but this chair is so cute and comfortable, I could never let it go. So we’ll see if I can weave together favorite styles from the past and present!


DIY Ridiculously Over-Sized Pendant Necklace

It was a little traumatizing to finally get to Topshop — after hearing about it for years — and then find not much age-appropriate for me, other than a bangle. So let’s look at the positive in this situation. What a bangle it is!

Super Big Whoop Pendant Necklace

But here’s the thing: I never saw it as a bangle. It was destined from first sight to become a big-whoop pendant necklace.

The key is, have a fresh eye when looking at things. Don’t use things as they’re intended. Bangles are perfect for making over-sized pendants.

You can make a similar necklace with any over-sized item with a big opening in the middle. Then find something to hang in the opening. Here you’ll see what I mean …

Necklace Assembly

The supplies are somewhat simple. I say “somewhat” because usually my DIYs do not involve plugging something into an electrical outlet. If an electrical plug is involved, that means there’s some drilling or sawing or heavier-duty sanding, and it’s not so super simple any more.


Supplies to Make Super Oversized Pendant Necklace

Inspection Time

Everything passed inspection. And believe me you don’t want to disappoint this particular Inspector because you will hear about it for awhile. Maybe even at 4 a.m.

Making the Pendant Necklace

This bangle is wood with a thin metal lining. As a first step, I drilled a hole. The drill bit was able to drill through the thin metal but the pressure distorted the metal a bit. The wood also split, but paint or wood stain can hide that. I started with the smallest drill bit and gradually stepped up, but the wood still split. So, be careful. These things are manufactured cheap.

Drilling the Bangle

Be Careful Drilling Wooden Bangles

Safety tip: Watch out for sharp metal pieces. Sand them down and vacuum up the metal shards ASAP. Especially if you have kids and four-legged Inspectors running around.

Clean Up Sharp Metal Shards

I had two matching gold-tone pendants (probably from JoAnn or Michaels jewelry-making aisles) already on hand. So I glued them together with E6000 glue, because the pendant is free to spin and I wanted both sides to look the same.

E6000 Glue is Awesome

DIY Pendant Necklace

Then, I knotted leather cord on the gold-tone pendants. Then threaded this leather cord through the hole drilled in the bangle. This was tough – the leather was thin enough to go through the hole but it needed help getting pulled through.

Help Needed

Here’s a trick:

Poke a needle or pin through the leather cord, and pull the needle or pin through the hole. The leather cord will follow.

Try to use a strong needle or pin because I broke a few thin needles while trying to poke them through the leather. It was tough stuff.

Leather Cord Threading Tip

Leather Cord Threading Tip

To finish off the necklace, I simply knotted the leather cord. It’s a long necklace so it doesn’t need a fixture. You can just slip the necklace on over your head.

Here’s the obligatory pin-worthy image:

DIY Ridiculously Over-Sized Pendant Necklace

That’s really it! Super easy.

If you find an object you’d like to use as a pendant that can’t be drilled, such as a thin metal bangle, you can creatively knot the cord around it instead of drilling through it.


Miniature Moroccan Mosque Minarets

Back in the 90s for my first post-college apartment, I collected these distinctive tall skinny ceramic buildings made by a Michigan artist. I don’t remember his name now, but I found these pieces in Ann Arbor and Royal Oak.

Silly Ceramic Buildings

Way back then, they were cute set up with lights in them, on a windowsill, lined up like a city skyscraper scene. Over the years my tastes changed, and the buildings gathered dust in the basement. This past summer I debated selling them, so they were among the pile of things to be posted on eBay. But I still couldn’t let them go.

Then in Marrakech I saw these little “buildings.” I spotted a row of them on a shelf in a riad:

Miniature Moroccan Mosque Minarets

See a resemblance?

After returning home, I researched these buildings and found they are representations of the square minarets you see on mosques in Morocco. And they’re usually in a rose or orange-y clay color. Like this collection at Peacock Pavilions in Marrakech:

Moroccan Mosque Minarets at Peacock Pavilions

Or this scene captured by fotobes on Flickr, in a room in a Berber house in the Atlas mountains:

Miniature Moroccan Minarets in Berber House by Fotobes on Flickr

I saw them in the Marrakech souks:

Moroccan Minarets in Marrakech Souk

You see how sometimes they have a slight jaunty crookedness? Like they’re a little too impatient to stand still so they’re caught wiggling around. That’s what I really liked about my buildings. Maybe because that’s how I am! Most likely, the soft clay slabs get unwieldy when making these shapes, and they don’t dry straight. (Yes, I’ve done some time in a ceramics studio!)

Now I know what to do. Keep the little buildings. And paint them. Blue isn’t my color – there’s nothing much blue in our house. So that’s one reason why the buildings didn’t fit anywhere. So maybe I’ll paint them a natural dusty clay color.

If you have something that isn’t working for you any more, before you sell or donate it, see if a makeover will help.

Around the World in 365 Days: A Year of Global DIYs for Paint and Pattern Blogzine

I took a DIY trip to almost every continent in 2014! Not Antarctica yet – there’s not much home decor influence there. Unless you have an ice hotel. So how did this “travel” happen? Every month I made globally-inspired DIY projects for Paint and Pattern blogzine. So after a year, there’s a whole collection of ideas.

Some projects were shared here, but not all. These projects might give you ideas for DIY gifts to make for the holidays (for family, friends OR yourself!), so here are links to all of them. Because these were written for Paint and Pattern, they all involve paint and stencils. Click the photos below to get how-to steps and helpful tips …

French Country Tea Towels

With Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan and a French motif stencil, you can turn blank tea towels into decorative towels:

French Country Tea Towels

FLeur De Lis Coasters

Get some 4×4 tiles from a tile or home improvement store, add a stencil or two with paint and you have a personalized coaster gift that’s perfect for coffee, tea or wine lovers:

Stenciled Coasters

Behind scenes story: For a photo prop (and convenient wine drinking excuse) for the photo above, I went to the wine shop in search of a bottle. But it couldn’t be any ol’ bottle. So I examined all bottles carefully. After awhile an employee offered to help. I said I was “looking for a bottle with French words and a pretty label.” He backed away slowly. Like maybe the wine stupidity could be contagious. I wanted to say, wait wait, I am not simple, I DO know about wine! But that day, I grabbed a bottle that had just the right blue on a not-trendy label.

Otomi Tote Bag

With stencils and paint, you can turn a blank tote bag from the craft store into a colorful Otomi patterned bag:

Otomi Tote Bag

Obi Table Runner

Inspired by the long rectangular fabric obi that are worn as a sort of belt with kimono, I used Japanese medallion stencils to make a table runner:

DIY Obi Table Runner

Florentine Tray Side Table

With a big candlestick, wood disks, a stencil, gold leaf and paint, I made a little side table. It’s way easier than you think! Check out how to do it:

DIY Side Table

Moroccan Medallion Tabletop

After years of living with a plain glass tabletop, I transformed it with a rich gold and black Moroccan medallion:

Reverse Painted Glass Tabletop

Old Faded Wall Stencil

I used Indian stencils with a white and light Scandinavian feel, and made them look faded and old. See the technique to do this:

Faded Stencil Effect


You can make an “antique” mirror with an inexpensive picture frame and glass, Krylon Looking Glass spray paint and stencils. Find out how to do it:

Antique Stenciled Mirror

African Tribal Pattern Lamp

This is one of my very favorite DIY projects ever! A dramatic lamp made with stencils and paint:

DIY Stenciled Lamp

Chinese Style Stenciled Box

Here’s a DIY that looks like a souvenir you might have picked up in Shanghai. But you didn’t because you can paint this Chinese style box and install the special Chinese style hardware right in your home:

Chinese Style Box

ETched Glass Bottles

For the first time ever I etched glass,to make Fourth of July themed lemonade bottles:

Etched Glass Lemonade Bottles

American Country Chicken Tracks Door Mat

You can paint any ol’ flat door mat from a store to give it your own personal touch. I gave chicken tracks to my door mat:

Chicken Tracks Door Mat

Indian Jali-Inspired Wall Art

With scrapbook paper, paint and stencils, you can make wall art layered with patterns:

Decoupaged Wall Art

Italian Terra Cotta Wall Art

I was inspired by Tuscan terra cotta garden pots from Impruneta, Italy to make this wall art with raised stencil effect:

Terra Cotta Wall Art

Sari-Inspired Door

Here I painted and stenciled a door with Royal Design Studio’s shimmery Stencil Cremes, which look like silk. I used stencil patterns arranged to look like a sari:

Sari-Inspired Painted Door

Indian-Moroccan Closet Nook

This was an epic project, still in progress! There are more teal color pillows to make, a lantern from Marrakech to hang. I turned an unused guest room closet into an Indian-Moroccan nook for reading, napping, or even working if you can bring yourself to work in this space. It was easy with paint and stencils:

Stenciled Closet Nook

Indian Stenciled Silk Fabric

Not only are the walls and the front of the nook painted, so is the silk bench cushion:

Stenciled Silk Cushion

Craft Caddy

Finally, to help cart around all the supplies for these projects, I hacked some Ikea items to make a craft caddy:

DIY Craft Caddy

Whew! It was a productive year. Believe it or not, I’m still full of ideas for things to make in the future!


A DIY Christmas

Do you do any DIY for the Christmas holidays? It’s usually a DIY Christmas around here. I think making things is much more meaningful than buying a bunch of stuff manufactured in China. Especially if you have kids, you can make a tradition of creating tree ornaments and other decorations together every year. My mom did that with my sister and me. Starting very young, every year around the kitchen table together, we painted plaster Christmas tree ornaments. The ornaments painted when I was eight were a little messy but I still have them almost {ahem} years later. With time and practice, we kids got better at painting and now painting is a regular hobby for all three of us. Bringing out those Christmas ornaments brings up lots of good memories.

So it was perfect that Hometalk asked me to put together a board of easy DIY Christmas tree ornaments. You might find some good ideas for your Christmas decorating here:

Easy Christmas Tree Ornaments

I had fun looking at blogger projects posted on Hometalk, and seeing the creative things they used to make Christmas ornaments. Can you believe some of these projects used:

  • Old stair railings
  • Broken chair spindles
  • Embroidery hoops
  • Zippers
  • And even shower curtain rings?

Did you know these things can be very Christmas-y? It’s true, they can! Click through to the board to see how in the DIY posts.

My Kind of Flower Arrangements

You might have been able to guess if you’ve been following along for awhile, but a dozen red roses in a glass vase is not my thing. Nope. Gotta be something different. Like these arrangements from Terrain …

A crazy hanging globe arrangement looks a little like a bad hair day, but prettier with plants:

Terrain Hanging Globe Flower Arrangement

This arrangement is made with echinops and sarracenia — as unusual sounding as it is looking. But there are some common oak leaves in here too:

Terrain Flower Arrangement

That vase looks a lot like lassi cups from India.

I like the amaranth creeping over the edge of this arrangement and the contrast with the fluffy cotton:

Terrain Cotton and Amaranth Arrangement

This red clover and artichoke bouquet is unexpected for the Christmas holidays and that’s why I like it:

Terrain Artichoke Christmas Bouquet

What do you think? Would you go for these? I figure, we all know what roses, carnations and wisps of babies breath look like. Why not try something different.

Here’s a wild bouquet I made years ago for our sunroom. It has that amaranth drooping over at the bottom:

Flower Bouquet

Holiday Gift Guide with Global Style

With 260 people entering the giveaway here last month, it’s high time for holiday gift ideas with global flair. Because the holidays are already crazy — why not make it easy to find unique gifts? Maybe something different than what everyone can find at Target and Amazon? Well, Novica brings a whole world of handmade goods to your doorstep, so you have easy access to a lot of unique gift ideas.

And until the end of the day today (midnight Pacific time, Nov. 23) Novica has coupon codes for $10, $15 and $25 off. The best news is, you can use all codes! Novica says you can place up to three separate orders to use all the codes.

Novica Coupon Code

Again, those codes are good through today only. Novica regularly runs discounts and sales so if you miss ordering today, watch their website for savings on your holiday shopping.

Gift shopping at Novica is a good way to help support artisans around the world, such as Yuni Kristina who designs and makes Indonesian batik silk scarves:

Novica Indonesian Batik Silk Scarf

She creates batik shawls and scarves in many more colors and designs – check them out:

Novica Indonesian Batik Scarves

If you know someone who needs a special place to store jewelry, this reverse painted glass jewelry box is a beautiful place for jewelry to rest. It’s hand-painted by Asunta Pelaez in a traditional handicraft from Peru:

Novica Peruvian Jewelry Box

In addition to precious little boxes, Asunta also paints mirrors, trays, coasters and small tables:

Reverse Painted Glass at Novica

From Thailand, jewelry artisan Tiraphan Hasub makes beaded necklaces, anklets and bracelets with big personality, such as this turquoise-hued necklace:

Novica Turquoise Color Necklace from Thailand

Here are a few more of her many designs available at Novica:

Thailand Jewelry from Novica

Much of the U.S. has already had cold winter weather and with an entire winter season still ahead of us, maybe people will appreciate some extra throws to keep warm? Here’s an alpaca blend throw blanket woven by W. Rojas Yuri on an Andean handloom:

Alpaca Blend Throw Blanket

I have an alpaca throw blanket and I can tell you, if you want to keep warm, it works!

A thoughtful gift would be to fill a decorative bowl with some food or spices, and tuck in a special utensil. This little floral plate made by Diana Dewi from Java looks like tea time to me:

Floral Plate from Java

Light up someone’s life with a candleholder, like these soapstone globes with Indian jali-inspired shapes. The soapstone is hand-carved by Gulam Rasool, who learned marble sculpting from his father:

Soapstone Candleholder

He carves many other shapes in similar jali style – elephants, boxes, vases, bookends:

Soapstone Jali

If something here didn’t catch your eye as a gift you need, Novica has more than 30,000 products from artisans around the world, so surely there is a gift for nearly everyone there.


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