Monday, July 1, 2013

A gift that rocks: Michigan State trivet

To say that David is a Michigan State fan would be a gross understatement. He's not merely a fan; the guy bleeds green. 

While I graduated from the University of Michigan, I certainly understand his loyalty. After all, David is a State alum, just like his father before him, who graduated from MSU when it was still Michigan State College. His kids are dyed-in-the-wool Spartans; both recently graduated from State.

Since David frequently cooks, I knew he would love this river rock trivet in his favorite MSU theme, the block S. Turns out his kids were wowed by it too, so much so that I think I'll need to make more for them someday.

The river rock trivet is an adaptation of several projects I saw on Pinterest. It turned out better than I expected, although it was challenging to keep the rocks the same height. This is important so a hot dish doesn't slide off the stones!

To make the project, you'll need:

  • A pattern: I found the block S pattern online and pasted the picture into a Word file to print out.
  • Felt: I used forest green for the S, with sheets of heather gray for the backing.
  • Good fabric scissors.
  • Other scissors for the cardboard and pattern.
  • Cardboard: Use thin sheets, the kind that gives some stability to packaged items such as curtains. I glued two together to get the desired thickness.
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks: For gluing the felt together.
  • River rocks: I used several bags from Dollar Tree, plus ones David and I have collected over the years (you'll need lots, since you have to sort through them to find flatter ones of similar height).
  • E-6000 glue: For gluing rocks to the felt.
  • Cotton swabs: I used these for the E-6000 glue.
  • Rubber gloves to wear while applying the glue.
  • A large foil tray or something to hold the project (be sure it's something sturdy you won't regret getting glue on!).

1. Gather the materials and wash the rocks in a sink of soapy water, allowing them to dry on an old dish towel.
2. Cut out pattern. It should be big enough to work as a trivet to hold a pan out of the oven.
3. The cardboard serves as a stiffener for the bottom layers of felt. Cut out cardboard sheets in the desired shape. You may want to create a pattern for this too.
4. Hot-glue cardboard sheets together to create a thin, sturdy surface.
5. The felt background sheets need to be about 1/4-inch bigger on all sides than the cardboard sheets they'll be hot-glued to. You can either cut the felt pieces using the same pattern as the cardboard, or hot-glue the sheets of felt to the cardboard and carefully trim felt (either way, cut the felt 1/4 inch bigger on all sides).
6. Cut out the top layer of felt in the block S or your design pattern. Center it on the background felt. You may want to make a chalk line on all sides.
7. Hot-glue the top felt shape onto the background felt.
8. Place the felt layers onto the foil tray. Grab all of your river rocks and get comfortable.
9. Sort through the rocks, finding pieces that fit the shape of your pattern. You probably want to vary the colors, sizes, and angles a bit for interest. Frequently check that the rocks are level by setting a casserole dish on top. If it teeters, you'll need to replace a rock or two. Expect this to take a while. I kept my project on the coffee table for a couple of days and kept returning to it.
10. Once you're happy with the rock placement and are sure they're level enough to support pots, pans, and casserole dishes, you're ready to glue. Before you get started, read the E-6000 glue label and take any  necessary precautions. 
11. Carefully move the foil tray with the felt, rocks, glue, gloves and cotton swabs to a well-ventilated spot (preferably outside!) and open up your tube of glue.
12. With gloves on, put a little glue on a swab, carefully pick up one rock at a time and glue it to the felt shape.
13. When all the rocks are attached, allow them to dry in a well-ventilated spot.
14. Check that all the rocks are firmly attached. Start by tipping the trivet slightly. If they stay stuck, tip it upside down and shake it a bit, re-gluing any rocks which come undone.
15. If you notice any visible glue, try to carefully scrape it off with a knife.
16. If you like, you can glue a few cork tabs on the bottom, although I didn't find this necessary.
17. Let it dry indoors for a few more days before using.

Note: Be sure to read the E-6000 glue label.This glue worked very well for the project, but gave off strong fumes! Avoid getting it on your skin. If I had it to do over, I would have done this project on a nice summer day, when I could work outdoors. Since I was making this in Michigan shortly before Christmas, I worked inside but waited until a day when it wasn't snowing, went as fast as I could, then took it outside to air out and dry a bit. 

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