Crafting a Solution to a Problem: Decoupage and Upcycling a New Jewelry Box

I was gal with a problem. An organizational problem. I had too much jewelry. I’m not huge on jewelry wearing, really, but I’m super into making and wearing cute earrings. Somehow I ended up with just a whole lot, and I stored them in these boxes.

Starting with the fish box going counter-clockwise: coworker brought it back from the Philippines, cousin brought back from Italy, gift from my grandma, music box from my mom, box my grandpa made me before he died.
Starting with the fish box going counter-clockwise: coworker brought it back from the Philippines, cousin brought back from Italy, gift from my grandma, music box from my mom, box my grandpa made me before he died.

I love all these little jewelry boxes. I’ve gotten them all as gifts from various family members and coworkers on their world travels. The circular thing with the necklaces is something I made in ninth grade, and, up until now, my system had worked okay. My boxes took up more room on the bathroom counter than I liked, but it was doable. Then there was just too much of it, and finding my earrings easily became too difficult. Then Merrill the cat took to hopping up on the counter top, and started knocking stuff off all of a sudden.

So, I needed something new, but I couldn’t really justify the expense. Earlier this week, I happened to be dropping a donation off at Goodwill, and I thought, “huh, maybe I’ll give a look around.” I love fixing up old things, so I had the idea that I might find an old jewelry box I could re-stain or pick up a picture frame and do up one of these (which, by the way, is something I came up with when I was a kid, but, of course, all great ideas are already taken). Then I found something perfect, and snatched it up. I’m not sure when I decided to do decoupage for the first time in a decade, but, by the time I left the store, I had my plan in place.

This is the thing I picked up.

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It’s a fancy Chinese Checkers set! The lid was going to become the door and where I put the earrings, while necklaces and bracelets would hang on the inside.

First, I took the lid off the hinges and pulled out all the hardware because, as is life, sometimes we must deconstruct in order to reconstruct. It required a tiny screwdriver, but that is the kind of thing I have lying around because eyeglasses and small electronics.

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After taking it apart, I sanded all the pieces with a fine grain sandpaper and wiped it down with a damp rag.

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For the actual decoupage, I turned to an extra copy of Good Omens by Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett I picked up for 30 cents. Instead of Mod Podge, I used the tried and true recipe of 3 part Elmer’s glue to 1 part water. It’s cheaper and works equally well for most things, I’ve found. Tearing up the book was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I might have cried a little. But, sometimes, hard things must be done for beauty!

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After about five episodes of Chowder, I had laid down the first glue layer, wrapped up the wooden frame with book pages, and applied the top layer of glue.

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Then bed time.

The next day, I started in again.

First thing, I did a light dusting of acrylic varnish to give the whole thing a satin sheen.

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This is my favorite. It’s two or three up from the bottom as far as price, but it works just as well, if not better, than more expensive brands. This tiny bottle has also gotten me through about a dozen small projects, and there’s still more than a third left.

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While I waited for the paint to dry, I used the extra glue medium and some vinyl to make some old pin back buttons into new pin back buttons. Aren’t they cute? I put them on my work lanyard, and I’ve already gotten compliments.


The front door/lid needed a mesh of some sort, so I fished around my house. Found some really great scrap tulle, and doubled it over to make it stronger. I had intended to staple gun the fabric into place, but my staples were too long for the frame. They would have poked through unless I got the angle perfect. Instead, I used the tiny screws from the hardware I was no longer using to screw the fabric into the corners then hot-glued the rest of it down. It was finicky, at first, but it worked pretty darn well in the end.

The main part of the box was going to hold necklaces. First I backed it with this pretty green leaf fabric I had laying around from an older project.

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The next part took some thought. I wanted something to hang necklaces from that would keep them from getting tangled, fit in the space I had, and make them easy to take out. My inspiration was a shower curtain tension rod. I took a dowel rod out of my stash, cut it down to size, and smoothed it over with a bit of sandpaper and varnish. For the rod holder, I went with a slice of a cork I, again, had stashed away.

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Glued them into place, and the rod sits just inside.

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I then put the door back on, and made sure everything closed okay. I wasn’t super pleased with the gap I was seeing between the door and the box, and I was worried about keeping it closed. I scavenged these tiny magnets from a broken compact mirror (that I really need to do a proper recovery on), and taped them into place before I glued them down.

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They were really, REALLY strong, so I ended up creating a little gap, and now the door closes, stays closed, and opens with the touch of a finger.

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It was time to load it up!

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I placed it in the bedroom on the dresser and DONE!

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The best part: because I had so much of this junk laying around, the only thing I actually spent any money on was the wooden game box and the book. And now I have this Chinese Checkered patterned mirror that I can do…something…with.

 

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