Last summer, we went home to visit my Gran. I don’t know what possessed me, but I crawled up in her attic in the middle of the day in Texas, August heat. Actually, what was motivating me was to find out if I had any old toys or treasures from my childhood left up there. I am a complete sucker for anything with sentimental value and love to pass down special things that I loved as a child to my babies now. I think things with a past have the capacity to move us in ways we didn’t think possible. I’m drawn to anything old for the history of it. There’s a story there, waiting to be unlocked and I enjoy the journey of discovering a forgotten thing and making it new again. This certainly happened on this trip in my attempt to track down childhood paraphernalia. Upon opening an old, ratty box I found my baby cradle. My great-uncle built it for me more than 30 years ago and I had love it. Here it was in my hot little hands, shedding its (lead based I’m sure) paint layers. In tact and still laying in the cradle was the mattress, rose and cream checked quilt, and rose-colored ruffled sham my Gran had made for it back then as well as my favorite baby doll, Julie. I remember getting Julie when I was about my sweet girl’s age. I had gone to Little Rock to visit my aunt and uncle for the weekend. My aunt was super excited that they had just built a Target (BIG deal even then) close to their townhouse and took me with her to pick out something special. There on the toy isle, I fell in love with Julie. I was so excited to discover such a nostalgic piece of my past that had been waiting for me up in that hot attic all this time.
I knew I was going to make the cradle over. There was no way in the world I could hand down a flaking, lead paint shedding toy for my 7-year-old to play with. I sanded the thing as best as I could, getting all the paint off the actual wooden pieces, but to my surprise noticed the ends were particle board and not solid wood. Sanding this was causing it to bump and texture in a way that wasn’t what I had anticipated. However, the majority of the large flaky pieces were on the ends and I had no choice but to keep going. Satisfied that most of the paint was removed, I decided I would do a couple of things to safeguard the cradle by sealing it so that no tiny, missed old paint had even a hope in the world of resurfacing and then chipping off.
After sanding it to its almost original form, I covered it completely in black oil based paint. I knew this would help secure any teeny tiny bits of old paint and keep them locked away forever. I hadn’t planned on distressing this piece, but with the state it was in after sanding, it was clear that the over 30-year-old cradle would look old in a new and safe way. I did two coats of Sherwin Williams oil based satin paint. Once dried, I covered it in Annie Sloan old white. It needed several coats of the chalk paint to give it a good distressed finish. I sanded down the chalk paint layers and distressed the corners and ends to perfection.
I then applied a couple of appliqués I cut out of vinyl with my Cricut. My sweet girl is really in to owls and trees, and we are redoing her room in these themes, so it just seemed fitting. Once the vinyl was in place, I covered the entire cradle in Minwax clear poly. This was to ensure the safety of the piece by preventing any flaking or chipping. It also didn’t hurt that the poly “yellowed” it a tad bit more to make it look (again) like I had just pulled it out of the attic (but without all the poisonous chipping paint).
I washed the mattress and bedding Gran made and added it back in. What a beautiful little antique just for my baby’s baby dolls. She loves it as do I. I hope she makes some lovely memories with it and considers it a treasure as well.Here lies her first baby doll, Ella and my favorite childhood baby, Julie, together in their very own rocking cradle.