They say that marriage brings many surprises, and this is certainly true. When my boyfriend – now husband – and I first moved in together, he arrived with a pile of classic bloke stuff (flat screen TV, huge bag of sports kit, very little else), but also a large, scuffed box marked ‘fancy dress’. This he explained, quickly, was full of kit worn for various ‘work dos’ at which he had been required to play the role of Spice Girl, Madonna etc – always female, for some baffling reason which we won’t dwell on. I mentally assigned this discovery to the category ‘things to reflect on but not be unduly concerned about’, and forgot about it. He remains the only grown-man I know of who has his own dressing-up box. It pains him slightly that, as a sign of his growing maturity, this now contains a Santa Suit, the role he is most often called on to play at festive nursery events.
Watching 2yr old Harry waft round the kitchen recently in a carefully curated outfit of jeans, dressing gown, sunglasses and bike helmet, brandishing a play sword, I realised that genetics has once again leapt to the fore, and that perhaps each man in the household now needs his own dressing-up box.
I customised this old blanket box (ebay, £30) to produce a pirate chest befitting a mini-adventurer; I wanted to avoid paying a fortune for the the standard high street primary-coloured options, and also to make something more personal. I have visions of this being consigned to the loft for Harry’s teenage/early-adulthood before being whipped out dramatically to impress his own children ‘You were a pirate, Daddy???’ ….but I am of course getting way ahead of myself here. Tips and techniques below…
Once you’ve found a chest or box to customise, you’ll need some or all of the materials below:
1. Decide on what text you want to add to the front of the chest and print to your decal paper, following the manufacturers instructions; I used Lazertran, which requires a shallow water bath to release the paper from its backing.
2. Mark lightly in pencil where you want the lathering to appear and then apply; with Lazertran I brushed the surface area lightly with turpentine before applying each letter and coating again; this ‘melts’ away all the Lazertran without ink, so the great thing is you don’t need to worry about cutting out accurately and can leave some border to your letters before you apply
3. I then added giant upholstery tacks to all the metalwork to look like ancient studs, by snipping off the pins and then glueing the tack head to the chest.
4. Papering the inside was a case of trial and error, and errors were a-plenty; I used watered down PVA to coat liberally my maps and then pasted to the sides and lid of the box. Where possible, I tried the align the map parts together to recreate the whole, but I didn’t slave over this.
5. I’m still on the look out for a suitable buckle or clasp for the front to finish it off – as with all my projects, it will probably continue to evolve for a little while…
p.s. I’ve just been asked how to make the scroll in the second photo, so here goes…
- Print your text onto a standard sheet of paper, wait 10 mins for the ink to completely dry out
- Take it outside and hold a lighter against the paper to brown the edges, blowing out as soon as it catches light
- For this bit, have a pail of water to hand, tie hair back, check wind direction; really, just the obvious stuff…
- Rub a squeezed-out tea bag all along the edges to create an aged effect. Dab it across the rest of the paper for tonal colour.
- If you want your scroll to lie flat, cover the damp paper with a tea towel and a heavy book until dry
- When dry, curl the top and bottom round a paintbrush or pencil to create a scroll effect.
- Admire your efforts.