R-O-C-K in the nursery – DIY Decoupage Rocking Horse

Soon after I returned to work from maternity leave, one of my friends was getting ready to become a mother for the first time as well.  She and her husband decided to wait to find out the gender at the birth.  Exciting for them, I’m sure.  But much more difficult when looking for a gender-neutral gift other than a yellow or green onesie.

Then it hit me – what if I (gasp!) made her a gift?  Brilliant!  That’s exactly what I’ll do.  Wait a minute, what do I know how to make?  I really started to kick myself for never learning to crochet, but I was determined I would think of the perfect idea.

I had recently received a handcrafted bench for Alister from two of my best friends and I thought I could find something similar to craft for my friend.  So off to Michaels I went to find an unfinished bench or toychest I could paint and call it a day.  Well, as usual, my trip did not go exactly as planned.  Instead of finding the perfect bench or toy chest, I stumbled upon another child-friendly item.  A rocking horse!  You know what I’m talking about, the ones you breeze past when heading directly to pick up a frame at Michaels?  Yes, I suddenly became overwhelmed with the idea that every small child entering this world needed a rocking horse.  And not just any ordinary rocking horse.  A decoupaged rocking horse.

So I took the two remaining rocking horses on the shelf and began inspecting them as though they were fine gems.  In hindsight, I probably could have flipped a coin, but I opted for what I assumed would require slightly less sanding.

Now that I had my rocking horse picked out, there were only a few remaining supplies I needed to pick up (I had recently learned they were going with a safari-themed nursery in neutrals, so I had something to work with):

  • Unpainted, wooden rocking horse
  • Sandpaper
  • Acrylic paint – I played it safe with beige to complement the neutral-colored nursery
  • Mod Podge
  • Sponge brush
  • Scrapbook paper – I picked out a few yellow and green pattern pieces along with a single safari page I luckily stumbled upon
  • Scissors
  • Spray sealant – I used a non-toxic polyurethane

Now that I had my presumed supplies, I decided to research online in hopes of seeing a tutorial or at least a finished product.  As luck should have it, I stumbled upon Flip Flops All Year where she completed the exact idea for her niece.

After seeing the finished product and what appeared to be a relatively simple process, I took the horse and the sand paper and got to work.  I did not spend a lot of time sanding, just did a good once-over job, spending more time where there were obvious splinters and imperfections in the wood.

Next, I took out my sponge brush and applied two coats of the tan acrylic paint all over the horse, allowing it to dry whatever the recommended amount of time was for acrylic paint.  Who am I kidding?  Once I was done with one coat, I started the second to keep the process moving.

Here is a look after two coats of paint on the sanded, raw wood:

I decided to wait longer after applying the second coat of paint as the next step involved paper and glue.   This next step was probably my least fun part.  I did not have a very calculated process when it came to drawing and cutting out the shapes of scrapbook paper to fit the horse.  Instead, I took a piece of paper, traced the rough outline of the horse’s shape where I intended to glue it, and cut around it.  Then if it did not fit the shape when I was finished cutting, I continued making minor adjustments to the shape by eye-balling it until it was good to go.  I had a rough idea of how I wanted to lay out the scrapbook paper and coordinate the patterns across the horse, but it was really a trial-and-error approach that worked best for me.

After I cut out the pieces of scrapbook paper, I began the eagerly anticipated decoupage stage!  I know you can opt to apply Mod Podge directly to the horse and lay your paper down, but I had more success by applying Mod Podge to the backside of the scrapbook cutout and pressing it to the appropriate area on the horse.  Then I brushed a thin layer of Mod Podge over the top of each piece of paper.

If I learned anything about the decoupage rocking horse process, it is this – Less.  Is.  More.  Initially, I covered nearly every piece of the horse with different patterns and color of paper.  GAWDY!  I nearly scrapped the entire project and made an emergency run to Target to pick up the yellow or green onesies I tried to avoid in the first place.  Instead, I quickly pulled off the scrapbook paper that seemed excessive before they fully dried, sanded down the areas to remove some of the paper that already dried, and repainted the “fixed” areas.  It may not have been the world’s best cover up job, but it no longer required an immediate trip to the garbage.

Once the horse had been painted and decoupaged, I had reached the final step – time to seal the paint and paper with a topcoat to ensure years of a rockin’ good time.  Pun intended. Just a couple minutes of spraying a non-toxic polyurethane over the entire horse (outdoors!) and I had finished my last step.

The beauty of applying paper directly to your gift. No need for wrapping paper! Simply tie a bow around it.

I was pleasantly surprised with this entire process not to mention the finished product.  And when I gave it to my friend and she started to tear up, I knew it was worth the effort. Just an aside, she recently sent me a photo of her (now) two-month old daughter trying out the rocking horse for the first time.  It was definitely worth it.

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One thought on “R-O-C-K in the nursery – DIY Decoupage Rocking Horse

  1. 3hoosiers85 October 27, 2012 at 4:27 am Reply

    Emily, I think you’re have a ball writing!!! Love reading it all!!!

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