Ocean Nursery Update 4 – Under the Sea Crocheted Baby Mobile

We had an ocean themed nursery for our first baby, and we’re continuing that theme for our second. Since I crocheted O’s baby mobile, and since I think it’s still comforting for her to have it hanging from the ceiling above her bed (it has been there all her life), I didn’t think it was really fair to cheat baby number 2 out of a mobile of his own. Of course, I decided this way too late so I’ve been crocheting every night until my hands ache. But at least it paid off and I (just barely) made my deadline (yes, I’m hanging the mobile the night before my c-section).

So, first I needed to come up with a new list of colorful underwater creatures that weren’t entirely impossible to crochet. The first mobile had: a lobster, mermaid, humpback whale, octopus and a striped fish. After much debate and pattern searching, I decided on: a sea slug, angler fish, stingray, starfish and seahorse (lot’s of S’s strangely). After deciding on a way to hang the mobile, I ended up needed a few more creatures so I added in a penguin and more starfish (since they were easy and looked good in lots of different colors).

my sea slug

my angler fish

Don’t you love how my sea slug looks like he might also be going to an underwater disco? (I used Martha Stuart Glitter Eyelash yarn). On the angler fish, I used glitter safety eyes from this site and a cool lace for his teeth to make him a little more friendly. The stingray below has pipe cleaners in his “wings” and tail to give them a nice shape.

my stingray

my seahorse

my penguin

my starfish

If you’re crafty-inclined and want to try out some of these patterns too:

  • Sea Slug – $4 pattern from edafedd on Etsy (well written, easy to follow patterns!)
  • Angler Fish – free pattern from Lion Brand Yarn, taken from the book 75 Seashells, Fish, Coral & Colorful Marine Life to Knit & Crochet.
  • StingRay (or Manta Ray minus the mouth flaps) – free pattern from Roman Sock
  • Blue Starfish – free pattern from Lion Brand Yarn
  • Seahorse – free pattern from Mausica’s Magical Menagerie
  • Amigurumi Penguin – free pattern from Lion Brand Yarn

And here are pictures of the original ocean mobile I crocheted for O (email me if you’d like links to the patterns I used for the first mobile and I’ll try to dig them out for you):

octopus (well, pentapus)

whale

lobster

striped fish

mermaid

O’s mobile

The second thing I had to figure out was how to hang the mobile. Ah memories… I remember giving my husband and his work friends the next to impossible task of drilling holes of equal height and equal distance from one another into a large wooden egg for mobile number one. I’m so proud of him for totally pulling it off! But I think he’s already has enough “fun” project memories from this pregnancy, so I wanted to hang this second mobile in a more simple way. I think the easiest hanging options are a wooden cross or a circle or maybe multiple tiered wooden bars (there I go getting complicated again). I found some hanging examples below on Etsy (and, by the way, if you click on the pictures, I linked back to Etsy where you can purchase them):

by LovelySymphony on Etsy

by Yarntoybox on Etsy

by Lovelygiftforkid on Etsy

But, as luck would have it, I came across a gray Pressa Octopus Clothes Drying Rack from IKEA that I’d had lying around the house for a while (it was in my Christmas stocking) and my mom suggested I use that for the mobile… brilliant!!! (and also – duh Nicole!!!). I took off all the clip hooks and I just used the existing plastic loops to hang the mobile pieces from.

Drumroll please…

Ta-Da!

And the all-important baby view of the mobile – a purple starfish is going in the empty spot

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Ocean Nursery Update 3 – The Squid Dresser

We’re getting close to the finish line with this pregnancy so I’ve been insane about finishing up all our little projects for the nursery (also called nesting)- the good news is that most of them were started long ago and are just waiting on a few final touches. For example, the dresser. The dresser was delayed because of super humid days and lots of rain which didn’t work out so well for airbrushing with water-based paint (i.e. on humid days, it seemed hours of work could come right off if you just breathed too strongly on it). Luckily, the weather finally cooperated!

The dresser re-do only had 4 steps:

  1. changing the ugly drawer pulls
  2. painting the dresser blue
  3. airbrushing a cool design
  4. clear-coat to protect it and seal in any VOCs from the airbrushing

The drawer pulls were originally brass but are pictured below right after we tried painting them blue to match the dresser. Still ugly and too busy looking, so we decided to replace them with really simple round knobs. Also my husband and I both hated how noisy drawer pulls like these are (especially when your toddler figures out how to lift and drop the handles). Unfortunately, the screw holes from the original drawer pulls were too large (and although we could have suffered, the outer holes seemed too far apart and the inner holes too close together) so Nick drilled new holes for our knobs and puttied the old ones.

New dresser knobs

old dresser handles – didn’t like them in blue either

Step number 2 was to paint the dresser blue in our fabulous No-VOC Mythic Paint (we went with the Blue Cadet color). I love how just changing the color made it immediately look so much happier! I was originally voting for a white dresser but I’m glad I let Nick change my mind. And I never really noticed the cool scrolling on the bottom of the dresser until after we’d painted it – kind of like some edgy design you’d see on a piece at IKEA. (yes, I love IKEA).

dresser and daughter in blue

And the final step was my husband’s vision. He decided on a squid, in keeping with our ocean theme, and when I mentioned that the white splatter-like detail on his tentacles reminded me of a view of the universe from space, he was inspired to add some stars as background (also our little Muffin absolutely LOVES stars).

finished squid on dresser

Forgot to drill holes for knobs on the test drawer – oops.
And sorry about the lighting (we have a yellow sun light in the bedroom) but Ta-Da!

Ocean Nursery Update 2 – Turning the Mini Crib into a Toddler Bed

We originally bought a mini crib for baby #1 because we were living in a tiny one bedroom apartment and honestly couldn’t fit a full size crib  (I even gave up one of my 3 dressers to fit the mini – oh parenthood). Luckily my husband, Nick, and I are small people and O is no different, so we never felt the need to swap up to a standard crib. Little O is now 2 years old and still seems totally happy with it. Pregnant mommy, however, is no longer okay with lifting her into the crib anymore – ouch! So we decided it was time to convert her mini crib into a toddler bed. Unfortunately, this turned out to be more complicated than originally anticipated.

Our mini crib (and most others) will convert into a twin bed, but I thought that would be too big a change right now with baby #2 coming so soon – at least with 3 sides of her crib still up, she’d still have that safe, enclosed feeling she’s gotten used to and hopefully make it an easy transition. Now, lots of full size cribs have ready-made toddler conversion rails to turn a crib into a daybed, but after hours of searching, I’m almost positive they just don’t exist for mini cribs. My first thought was since the standard size rails look like a sideways letter P, maybe we could get one meant for a full size crib and just cut off part of the long stem to fit. But unfortunately the tall part that keeps you child from rolling out of bed (the loop of the P in my example) measured pretty much the entire length of the mini crib, so there’d be no way for O to crawl in. I realized we were going to have to make it ourselves.

Inspiration – the Muu Sam

I found the Muu Sam crib above while doing my search for the non-existent mini crib conversion rails and fell in love. My husband originally wanted to just cut the existing side that would be taken off anyway (which would mean the toddler rail would have slats instead of this pretty flat surface to paint on), but that side becomes the headboard or footboard when converting to a twin bed, so we’re definitely not destroying it (we will have to come up with something crafty to use the 2 short sides for though, when the time comes). Luckily, Nick is great at projects like these and has friends with big tools (thanks Greg!) so he got to measuring. We wanted to make sure the rail would line up with the original screw holes that were already in the crib to hold the 4th side up. We also learned O is obsessed with inserting pegs/screws/bolts into holes (you can see her toddler hands helping out in the photo below – time to get her a baby tool kit!).

Clearly so excited :)

Once the rail was glued and assembled, Nick painted it white – yes, unlike in the disaster of Nursery Update 1, we did it the right way this time – with 2 coats of Mythic zero-VOC paint. We still think better safe than sorry when it comes to paint fumes though, so I was ousted from helping with the large area painting (Nick was also doing coats of blue on the dresser). But I did pull out my non-toxic acrylic craft paint to do the sharks (in our open, well-ventilated garage with stretching breaks). And here’s the finished product:

Ocean Nursery Update 1 – A.K.A. The Disaster

The changing table – newly painted with toxins :(

We got started on our nursery redecorating project by painting the changing table. The table was a pretty blonde wood but nothing else in the room matched, so my husband and I went down to Home Depot. Now, I’m a research fiend so this is embarrassing, but it really must have been due to a case a pregnancy brain, because we bought regular white spray paint. My husband carried the table outside, gave it a nice paint job and stuck it in the garage to dry. The next day I ask if we can bring it inside and hubby says “Maybe. I’ll bring it inside and we’ll know pretty quickly if it has aired out enough.” ….. Cue light above my head clicking on (and some thunder and lightning for dramatic effect):

  1. VOCs
  2. Pregnant women and young children are NOT supposed to be exposed to paint fumes
  3. Why did some part of me just assume spray paint wasn’t actual paint that could be harmful?

I believe there was a sheepish and panicked smile quickly aimed over my shoulder as I ran over to my computer. And I’m sure there was some eye-rolling from his direction. Turns out spray paint is actually the WORST kind of paint we could have possibly picked with some of the highest levels of VOCs.

VOCs are harmful chemicals (linked to a variety of health effects including eye, nose and throat irritation; dizziness; liver, kidney and central nervous system damage and even cancer) that offgas (or outgas) for long periods of time at normal room temperatures (small amounts could even be released for the entire lifetime of the paint). You can read more scary details using the link at #1 in my list above if you like.

So,we bought some Zero-VOC paint from Mythic Paint (another great option is Lullaby Paints) hoping we could just paint over the spray paint and seal in the nasty VOCs. Unfortunately, no-VOC paints are made to be breathable, so they’ll lessen the VOCs emitted but no where near completely seal them off. Back to the drawing board.

Using paint stripper was going to be toxic also, plus some parts of the changing table appeared to be pressed wood or some other type of processed wood (it was a hand-me-down gift, so no way to visit the retailer to know for sure) so sanding the table down could release formaldehyde and more fun, harmful stuff!! (the upside and downside of research is finding other relevant topics). I was getting ready to tell my husband we just needed to suck it up, toss the table and replace it when I finally found a solution: we could paint a new layer of a non-toxic, clear gloss sealer… and hopefully it won’t discolor the paint requiring us to do one more coat of the zero-VOC (update: my husband is developing an eye twitch).

To do this the right way the first time, use a no or low-VOC primer or sealer on any particle board or processed wood items and definitely before painting them. Then always (cause it’s good to protect the adults too), but especially if you have or are expecting children, use a zero-VOC paint. We’ll be using whatever is leftover of the sealer on our IKEA bookshelves. Sigh.

The Ocean Themed Nursery – Before

This room had no overhead light so we created one – IKEA sun lamp
(cord in plastic tracking goes to wall outlet)

No, it’s not perfectly spotless – let’s be real here

Unit for books and toys

So we’re starting this redecorating project with an obvious mishmash of old items (like the dresser which still contains mostly mommy’s seasonal stuff) and new items (the crib) along with things we were given to us (the changing table, the glider) and a few things we crafted ourselves (the mobile). Everything was originally purchased/obtained for our now 2 year old when she was a baby. And back then we didn’t have a separate room for her so our setup was quite a bit different. Now that we have a second baby coming (and I’m totally nesting!!), my husband and I wanted to really get this room pulled together and perfect.  Right now the only ocean-themed items we have are the color palette, the mobile and most of the art.

This is a real-time project so sorry it may take a while before the completed “After” pictures can be posted, but we do have a deadline, #2 is coming in about 3 months! And I’ll be posting pictures along the way.

Other things to note: we’re leasing so we cannot paint or wallpaper the walls (well, we could, but I don’t want to have to re-paint it back white later). Yes, all the adorable nursery layouts in magazines always have cute wall colors, etc., but we’re just going to have to do without that for now and I think it’ll still look amazing. Changing the carpet, likewise, sadly, not an option (at least it’s “sandy” colored). And second, let’s consider this DIY on a budget – yes, we could just buy a new changing table and dresser that matches the crib, but it seems like such a waste, both are perfectly good, and modifying them can be super fun!

To-Do List:

  • Replace silver frames on artwork above the crib with black frames (that actually fit the images, haha) like the rest of the room
  • Get those few other art pieces I’ve been waiting on
  • Replace Diaper Genie (which did work well for 2 years) with a hot blue Ubbi diaper pail (we need a pail with a locking top b/c of a curious toddler and the blue will look awesome)
  • Remove bottom 2 dresser drawers and replace with 2 open shelves (so we can put fabric bins there for our 2 year old’s clothes and keep the existing bins under the changing table for our new baby boy’s clothes). We want little O to be able to access her clothes, versus keeping them in the closet, so she can soon practice dressing herself. This one is a maybe? It seems simple in thought, maybe not so much in practice. We’ll see.
  • Paint dresser (white or blue?) and then my husband will be painting on a jellyfish scene (he has “a vision”)
  • Paint changing table white
  • Paint glider white (currently a creamy color)
  • Make slip-covers for the glider (depending on finished look of dresser, I’m thinking maybe something green-ish like the color of the changing pad?) or if I’m really brave, maybe a complete makeover?
  • Get actual curtain tiebacks or holdbacks – starfish? (instead of the chip clips I’m currently using – which work great, but not so cute)
  • Replace pink fabric toy bins in bookshelf with blue or dark purple (pink must have been on sale or something back when I got them)
  • Additional shelving on the only wall not pictured?
  • Definitely getting this adorable octopus hook for coats

Let me know your thoughts and ideas too! And if you love ocean themes, check out my Pinterest board of the same name.

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