the cheapest love i ever made

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alternately (and less open to sketchy interpretation) titled: DIY pallet statement sign tutorial. so cheap, so easy, and makes a huge impact on any wall or space.

what i call this little number is my shine sign. or just the diminutive m'shign if i'm feeling caffeinated and friendly.

my inspiration was this pin which i was instantly ready to love full blast, and then was SUPER confused by. like, why are we embedding the intimate song of solomon verse on our privacy fence? then i realized it was actually created as a wedding backdrop (brilliant!) and thought, "shwew."  and my full on love for this idea proceeded as planned.

knowing that i wasnt gonna nail any words into our beloved fence (because of , #1: pretty and #2: forehead punctures on children), i sought about for a way to adapt this idea. my eyes fell on 4 pallets we had snatched up about a year ago when pinterest convinced me that gold was worthless and the true specie of the american crafter was now PALLETS. SO MANY PALLETS.

i have used one plank so far in a year. i want my gold back.

but this time, the pallets were mad handy to have. and even my stubborn refusal to get rid of them despite their being neglected was perfect. since we had dumped them next to our driveway (for classy) nature had attempted to reclaim the wood for her own, so the planks i harvested have a nice weathered look that i didnt even have to work for.

everything else that went into this project was on hand and free (and even if i hadnt had the stuff i could have bought it all for maybe $10).

this is how [montell jordan and] i do it:


-4 pallet planks (or any wood 5"x44" ish)
-2 pieces pf scrap wood about 14-18" long and 1" thick
-a mess of little nails (with at least a bit of a head)
-various colors of yarn
-paint and a nice little paintbrush
-pen, paper, tape.

i put that "4 pallet planks" up there in the material list all casual like it was nothing. if you've ever deconstructed pallets you know it isnt NOTHING. it takes muscle. and grunting. grunscle.  i am actually a little offended that no one on our street called an emergency veterinarian to tell them that a muskox was in labor when they heard me waging war on my chosen pallet.

if you feel like you are about to herniate a few organs, dont worry, you are doing it right. also: try harder.

line up your 4 planks in a pleasing fashion

take your two scrap pieces of wood and trim them down so the edges wont be longer than the width of your sign. these are the crosspieces that wont be seen but will bind your 4 pallet pieces together.

nail the pallet wood onto the cross pieces. nothing exact or precise needed here. save your OCD for a later step.

we only had long nails, and i wanted it super secure, so i flipped it right side up and nailed front to back into the cross pieces, and then bent off the extra nail length with my hammer on the back so as to avoid tetanus.

print your main statement word (mine is SHINE. we have always loved that verse from phillipians and thought it perfect on several levels for this project since the sign is destined to go outside in the shiny sun and under the stars).

print out the big honking letters and lay them out on your wood to make sure you like the size and look. one letter per page (maxed out to the edges) was the perfect size for mine.

 we used the font BEBAS NEUE (free from dafont) at size 900 or something monstrous like that. and i printed with the embossed format to save ink.

cut your letters out carefully and place them in the exact place you want them. you can tape them down if you're working someplace breezy.

trace your letters with a sharpie (dont sweat what color it is. it's gonna be all covered up in the end anyway).

toss the paper letters and peep your outline.

grab your hammer and nails (grunscle optional). dont just start hammering like a mario bros. bonus level villain though. 

first you need to nail the corners of each letter. these will dictate the spacing of the others and we KNOW we need the corners of our letters to be defined so nails definitely go there before anywhere else.

here is my E completely cornered

ok once everything is cornered, go ahead and put your midpoint nails in. the spacing is going to vary here. for the mostly straight letters, it's very straight(HA)forward and you just want to halve or third each straightaway by adding another nail or two along each line.

the bottom of my E. i decided it only needed one more nail. the more you add the more colored in and less string-y your finished project has the potential to be.

for the curves, it's kind of a pain because you want them to LOOK curvy, and that means lots of nails (and flashbacks from pre-cal where somehow straight lines turn into a curve).

 our S had more nails than the other 4 letters combined i think. i cannot say that i recommend picking SASSAFRASS or ROCOCO as your statement word, but it's your funeral

once everyone is nailed in check to make sure all your nails are about the same height and not crazy wonky bent. (yes, michael crichton's timeline is a pretty good read)

congrats! the burly hardware/woodworking portion is over. now we get to be indoor/creative-y types.

select your color scheme and lay out your yarn/string. i always have to do this to make sure a red/green havent sneaked next to each other (even though i didnt have red in this project...accidentally making christmas decor is always a fear). i still had all of these leftover from other projects and this one hardly made a dent in my skeins. my yarn lives on for more DIY!

to start winding, tie off your yarn on a nail.

as you make a turn, wind all the way around the nail heads you pass along the way for extra security (but dont pull anything crazy tight).

i would always do the outline of my letter first

every now and then, push your yarn down to the wood (rather than up high on the neck of the nails.) you'll get more depth this way.

once youve wound a base outline, go wild and start connecting all of your nails. bounce all over the place. just make sure you go back and define the outline of the letter every few layers.

when you have the coverage you like, cut the yarn and tie a tiny loop at the end of it.  then you just find the nearest nail and hang your loop around it at a tension that isnt too loose or too much of a stretch.

go back and snip your starting tail off if you can see it flapping around and it bugs you.

feel free to grab a studly buddy and have them string a neighboring letter to make the work go faster. (give them the curvy letter just for fun).

as you're getting all geometric connecting your points, just make sure you dont join two nails that are forbidden lovers and which would break the perimeter of the letter outline. you think this is an "n'doy, keight, like i'd ever let that happen!" but once you start crazy winding up in those letters, its like youve dumped out a  box of superballs in a bathroom stall and things get a little chaotic.

i like to think the bird knew that i would use this exact area for a WHAT NOT TO DO example and he pooped on it to drive the point home.

 from foundation to penthouse, you can see how you want to make these nails and yarn build up into 3D lettering.

when everyone is tied off, check your results. i spotted the top of my E was a little convex and some other wonky areas that looked distorted because of nail bend. 

this was easy to fix by just tapping lightly on the offending point so that the line straightened up.

next pick a font and print out your subtitle words (we used the font ANDROGYNE). tape down each word to get a feel for proper spacing and such.

i laid down a thick stripe of tape to be the "line" that all of my letters would sit on. once i made sure the tape was level, i didnt have to worry about my letters sagging if i made a mistake eyeballing their float height.

i used a pinterest tutorial for painting perfect letters on wood to do my lettering. this was way easier than cutting out my script-y font. (of course if the gods have smiled on you and you own a vinyl cutting robot slave, then you just go ahead and use that. but you wont feel as awesome as us free-handers when its over...maybe).

i just took a cheap old ball point pen and retraced the outline of each letter on top of the paper. i pushed down really hard to kind of engrave the outline into to wood below 

when you pick up your paper, you should see your outline. this will guide your painting AND provide little riverbanks so that its harder to paint outside the lines. the imprint acts as a dam to stop the flow of paint right at the perfect outline of your lettering.

because my wood was weathered, some of it was HARD and didnt want to take the imprint very deep. but i could still see it, so i just traced the outline with a pen in these cases to be sure i didnt miss the border when i painted (good light will be your friend here).

PAINT! this is where your OCD can be fun. i am a terrible painter and have shaky hands and i still pulled this off with a lot of satisfaction. (p.s. we used exterior paint since our sign will live outdoors).

if you do mess us, no worries, you have and eraser...its called sandpaper.

admire your work. no one ever needs to know you cant just freehand paint like that.

and youre done! now you can just feel extra happy and inspired and colorful every time you walk by your sign (after you hang it...i dont have pics of where we hung ours bc thats a later reveal with another project).

in the words of layla-boo: i LOBE it!

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  1. I lobe it too. Super job. My neighbs has a TON of pallets always for the taking, so I've done just that, and was waiting patiently for them to become "perfectly weathered" for a project. ha. i crack myself up.

    1. i feel awesome that i was "patient" enough to wait mine out. it really is a virtue. ;)

  2. It looks fabulous. What font did you use for the small letters? I have an idea for a sign in the new nursery and your tips for painting on wood will be perfect for my project.

    1. androgyne. i added a link to it in the post. new nursery as in new BABY!?! off to stalk your facebook!

  3. That looks amazing! I cant wait too try this. I just happen to have a pallet waiting to be used. Did you use a lot off yarn? I know it can bee pricey sometimes.

    1. no not at ALL! i have had these skeins for over 2 years and looks like i will have them much longer. this project hardly made a dent (sag?) in them.

  4. i've loved it ever since i was lowercase G

  5. Very cute, I love it! What will rain do to the yarn, anything?

    1. good question! this will be up on a wall that does have a bit of roof overhang over it, so i am thinking it should be pretty protected from all but the most horizontally driven raindrops.

      we did yarn grids in our garden that have been rained on (and watered) directly, and even that holds up well, so i am optimistic!

      in a world where i am rich and think things through better, i might have gotten colored string.

  6. hi keight! new reader here :) my friend kacy shared your blog with me (your story about the family who is adopting - amazing!) and i know we have mutual friends in the huggins family. anyway, wanted to introduce myself and say that this is some pretty awesome art! i love how it turned out. i definitely want to copy this some day! (it's pinned!)

    also, just wanted to share that i think you're a fantastic writer. the adoption blog was so wonderfully written that i just had to stick around for more. and i certainly haven't been disappointed. thanks for sharing your life with the (blog)world! :))

  7. [grrr i think the internet ate my comment - but sorry if this is a repeat!]
    the first one went something like this:

    hi keight! new follower here :) just wanted to introduce myself. my friend kacy introduced me to your blog (the post about the family who is adopting - amazing!). and i know we have mutual friends in the huggins family. anyway, just wanted to say that this is some amazing art! i definitely want to copy it some day (it's pinned!). it's such a statement for a relatively low cost and a little sweat.

    also, just wanted to say that i think you're a fantastic writer. i loved how you wrote that adoption post and just had to stick around for more. i haven't been disappointed! thanks for sharing your life with the world! :))

  8. love love love love love!