DIY Painted and Distressed Grocery Sign

This past weekend I spoke at the Becoming Conference and I brought two of the mini-thistles with me.

I used to call them the twins.

At the conference they worked with me during the DIY class and helped me in the decorating session and ate ice cream with the crickets at dusk and participated in Zumba at midnight and got their nails painted five different colors and tried on earrings in the hallway and took 501 selfies at the photo booth and soon the conference attendees started calling them the mini-thistles….

….and it stuck.

How to Distress Lettering

We drove to the conference, the mini thistles and I.  And as we wound our way through the green pastures and horse farms of Kentucky and the hills of Tennessee and the winding mountain roads of North Carolina, I listened to the gentle chatter of two almost seventh graders….

….and I discovered five things.

1.  I love being a mother.

2.  You can get your hair wet, wrap part of a t-shirt around it, sleep on your t-shirt hair and end up with waves.

3.  They make shag rugs for your locker.

4.  “Hey Future Husband” by Megan Trainor has some wisdom for the ages.

And the most eye-opening discovery of all….

5.  No one in the car, except for me, had ever heard of a rotary phone.

Distressed Grocery Sgin

It made me a little sad and made me sigh and gave me pause and made me think of all the things their generation and all the generations to come were going to miss out on.

Like phone books.

And encyclopedias.

And land lines.

And maps.

And life without caller ID (remember when you had to actually answer the phone to see who was calling)?

Distressed Lettering

Do you think yard sales will ever go the way of those phone books and long-distance charges?

I hope not.

I’d lose my main decorating supply line for furniture and fabrics and milk glass and vintage baskets and shutters….

….and stacks of old wooden craft letters for .10 each.

And in case yard sales are still in style where you live, here’s how I used my yard sale letter find to make this sign.

Grocerry Sign

Step 1:  Start with the letters

If you didn’t find them at a yard sale, Hobby Lobby sells them in the wood section.

They measure about four inches tall.

Step 2:  Cut the board for the sign

This board for this sign measures 34″ long by 6″ wide.

You can have them cut it for you at the home improvement store.

Distressed Paint Techniques

Step 3:  Glue the letters to the board

Space out letters.  Grocery is a seven letter word so you want to start with the “C” in the center and space the rest of the letters out from there.

You don’t want to use hot glue because your letters will not really lay properly.

Use craft glue instead.

Let dry.

Distressed Letters

Step 4:  Paint the sign

I used 5 different colors of paint on this sign that I found out in the work shop.  I started with SW Mindful Gray and added in SW Rice Grain and layered in some other random grays and whites.

I didn’t over think it.  I just painted and then dry brushed and took some paint off with a paper towel and then painted some more.  And then I distressed the whole piece with 120 grit sandpaper and sealed it with a light coat of polyurethane.

And I painted this sign with the oldies station blaring in the back ground for inspiration.

You know.

The oldies station.

Featuring all those songs that were around when caller ID was invented. 🙂

PS  When it starts out with Zumba at midnight and ends with a painted sign….

….do you ever wonder where these posts are going?

I’m just glad you’re along for the ride. 🙂

Want to know how to decorate your home for free?
Click here to get my FIVE BEST secrets.


  1. Image for Renae Renae

    This past week while on vacation, my boys and I (11 and 8) went to a couple of antique stores. They like to look for old baseball memorabilia. I'm good with that. But I think the most fun they had was picking up a rotary dial telephone. They looked at it like it was from outer space. My youngest was trying to dial but he left his finger in the thing the ENTIRE time. I quickly corrected him and showed them how to dial their grandparents...cue the eye rolls and toe taps. Man that took a LONG time...especially with so many 7s and 9s! They really like the whole swipe, press call thing we have going on with the smart phones. Sad part is, I can still remember all of my grandparents' numbers 30 years later but I'll bet you $5 they don't know theirs!!

  2. Image for Yvonne Yvonne

    Karianne, I always love following your wanderings! There's always something to smile about and something to learn! Hi to your minis!

  3. Image for Mimi Mimi

    So many wonderful things in this post! 1. I love a sign where I don't have to pretend that I can paint within the lines of a letter. Paint the letters and attach? Genius! 2. Mini Thistles! :-) :-) 3. My students laugh hysterically when I tell them the first time I ever used a computer was in 8th grade, and I didn't pay attention because I thought, "When am I ever going to use this in real life?" Thanks for such a fun post to start the day! Merry Monday to you and the Thistlettes (in case you want to start a girl band the next time you hit the road)!

  4. Image for Cindy Cindy

    It looks fabulous:D Oh yes...the oldies. I'm glad I'm not the only one who does that! I have a ton of old music that I listen to when I paint! My favorite- Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. Some good ol' "Boogie Shoes" will do just fine too:)

  5. Image for Carol Lander Carol Lander

    Love the sign. But I really love your observations about things and words our kids will never know. Like albums and record players, actually having to watch a TV show when it airs (although I have to admit DVR has made life easier.), reading books from paper (I hope real books never ever leave our world.). I'm sure our parents thought the same thing when we got microwave ovens and cell phones that were only good for making phone calls. I'm sure it was a road trip to savor.

  6. Image for Teddee Grace Teddee Grace

    Rotary phones? Try crank phones! When my family moved back to rural northwest Missouri from Wichita, Kansas, after World War II, crank phones with the telephone operator who listened in were still the norm in this backwater as were kerosene lamps and wood cook and heating stoves. Our phone number was three shorts, i.e., three quick, partial turns of the crank. My mother insisted that I learn to use this phone system before I started school, and the whole complicated process, including being forced to talk to this strange woman who operated the switchboard, almost gave me telephonophobia! As always, enjoyed your post.

  7. Image for Pat Pat

    Love the sign! I giggled over the Mini-Thistle's's amazing what you learn when you just listen to the conversations of girls along with their sweet giggles! I miss that. I certainly hope yard sales never go by the wayside...I too, would miss all the fun treasures I use to decorate and craft with from them!

  8. Image for Terri Godfrey Terri Godfrey

    Best post EVER!! You're so in tune with the decorators of today but still have your feet firmly ensconced in yesteryear. I absolutely love that the items of yesterday have become recycled, re-useful ( my made-up word) and that they add so much character to today's homes. It's like taking Martha Stewart and adding so much more interest to the looks and vignettes. The old made new again! I make a living from vintage items and artful reinvented "stuff" so I hope yard sales never go out of style! Thanks for a great blog, Karianne!

  9. Image for Ann weisman Ann weisman

    Just imagine when your girls are with their kids remembering what they used to have and do. In the long run the things were just things. It was the people we shared them with that are the good memories. But I do miss clotheslines.

  10. Image for Dale D. Dale D.

    So many sweet moments with your duo thistles (adorable) and like you, I loved listening to the conversations going on in the backseat when my kids were younger. Pretty special taking a road trip during the summer with so much to see and a possible surprise around every corner. More people out and about, animals grazing, wildflowers blooming by the road side and quaint little towns beckoning you to slow down and take a stroll. Zumba at midnight would be a kick because how often does that happen? What fun for you all! Love the sign with the depth of colors and thinking it is time to check out that craft website and see what it is all about. I have so many larger projects to start soon ( a delightful french China cabinet that will be perfect for all my blue and white collectibles once I paint it and a antique chair with a charming ottoman that I need to redo with a cute modern fabric), but some times a girl just needs a project that can be finished in a day, wink♡ Thanks for sharing and the awesome ideas. You got me thinking of possibilities...

  11. Image for Sharon H Sharon H

    Oh yes, Miz karianne....I too am glad I'm along for the ride! And creatively perfect that is! I hope they love their special distinctiveness as much as the rest of us do.....but oh dear....7th grade?.... ..I remember my children's 7th grade years. And my grandchildren's 7th grade years! Yikes, now I have great-grandchildren and a few of them are already in 7th grade and beyond! How did this happen? It was only yesterday that I myself was anticipating the move from grade school to the "Junior High Building" to start the 7th grade....sigh

  12. Image for Marisa Franca @ All Our Way Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    Loved the story!! I bet the mini-thistles had a ball too. How many people remember what it was like to get up off the chair and change the channel on your TV? Or you had to actually look at a map to know where you were going? I guess we could keep going on and on but we are also learning from our kids -- that's fun. Some of the things they come up with are so funny -- how about the jean shorts? I forget what you call them. And every time you begin a story I know it will have a beginning , a middle and an end. And make perfect sense. I love your sign -- thank you for giving me a heads up on the glue -- I don't do a whole lot of crafty things who knows what I would have grabbed!! You Rock! Big Hugs.

  13. Image for Debbie Esparza Debbie Esparza

    Thank you for the smile on my face this morning! Your posts are just precious, as are the mini-thistles! Love, love your sign too! Keep up the great work, and making me smile. How's the doggie doing?

  14. Image for Susan Susan

    Mama Thistle and her mini-Thistles make an unbeatable team! So glad to hear you had this time with your little soooooo deserve it because you are the type of mother who can truly appreciate and savour it! Oh, I soooooo adore this sign! I have a feeling I'd botch up the paint part of it, though...I can handle working with one paint...maybe two...but anything over that is too much for these butterfingers to handle...hehe! I'll just adore your sign from afar and dream! :)

  15. Image for david david

    I totally hear you about phones, and land-lines, and tapes and and and. I make library card coasters (you know the old check out cards) and customers divide into two camps. People who walk up and say "OH! Library Cards!!!!!" and people 20 and under who walk up and say "what are those?" Glad you (all!) had fun at the conference. The Grocery Sign looks great!

  16. Image for Sue B. Sue B.

    Seeing your post with, "Zumba at midnight and "painted sign" are two reasons to read and find out what you have been doing. Wouldn't miss a word!

  17. Image for Linda Linda

    We had phones in every bedroom and the kitchen too. No one lese had so many phones! No party lines either. A bonus since Daddy worked for the phone company. He wouldn't let me have a pink princess phone because he didn't want to take "advantage". He was a man of integrity. They were a pain but oh how I wanted one. So I got my girls a Hello Kitty French style one when we lived in China at the market. My girly girls loved them. Maybe I should start calling them the Pickles. Most definitely NOT the bushels! So cute that you have Mini Thistles Thanks for the fun.

  18. Image for Winnie Winnie

    I'm as happy to be along for the ride, Karianne!!! Because of your blog I always know where to get a smile when I need one . . .

  19. Image for Patty Soriano Patty Soriano

    We had a party line when I was a teenager, so you listened for a particular ring. I guess these days it's like ring tones for different people who are calling you, although I do not have that on my plain jane, use-only-as-a-phone phone. I also still have a house phone which does not show me who is calling. I just use my ESP to tell me whether or not I want to pick up. I love maps....don't like GPS thingies. Hubby thinks he can't live without one. I'd rather read a 100-year-old book in my hands than a best-seller on an electronic thingie. I've also held on to an old phone book for my little town. I can actually call our post office and not have to look up a 1-800-number on the web! I don't much like technology. It it turning my nieces and nephew into non-communicative techno-robos.

  20. Image for Donnamae Donnamae

    Speaking of land lines...we were weren't we? I remember our kitchen phone...a wall phone...that had a cord about 20 ft. kidding. It was so I could talk, cook, and still keep my eyes on the kids! That was before there was a fancy name calling it multi-tasking! Love the mini-thistles! So cute! And that sign...perfect! ;)

  21. Image for Tish Foster Tish Foster

    The sign is perfect and most definately a future project for me:) Thanks for all the inspriation - as always you are The Best. Tish:))))

  22. Image for Tish Foster Tish Foster

    The sign is perfect and most definitely a future project for me:) Thanks for all the inspiration - as always you are The Best. Tish:))))

  23. Image for Colleen@Lilacdrivedesigns Colleen@Lilacdrivedesigns

    Love the sign, super cute! I have one that says "groceries" and I love it. At the last show I did, I sold an old, very heavy, black rotary phone that still had a listing of old 4 digit dialing numbers on them (I think it was 4 anyway) that's going waaaay back. Anyway, a ton of younger people looked at it, but only one lady (older than you or I ) knew what a treasure it was...for $14!! It was taken from an old funeral home, creepy and old to boot ;)

  24. Image for Amy W. Amy W.

    I don't know what in you post to make a comment on! All of it was so lovely and funny!! Thanks for the giggles!!! Love the sign!

  25. Image for Michelle Mortensen Michelle Mortensen

    I am a 4th grade teacher and it is often funny for me to explain record players and telegraphs to the students. I get what you mean. I hope yard sales NEVER go away. Best, Michelle from P.S. Do the mini-thistles wear red lipstick?

  26. Image for Marijean Marijean

    Just think, the technology the kids have today will be their nostalgia in years to come. Love the sign ! Could be just what my kitchen needs. Have a lovely day, Marijean

  27. Image for Jaimee Jaimee

    I've long admired your Grocery sign and am so happy you shared this today! The variations in paint colors are what drew me, so it was nice to see up close. I have a 10-year-old daughter and love her to bits...she keeps me on my style/hair/music toes....I think we need more details on the t-shirt in damp hair technique!

  28. Image for Cecilia Cecilia

    Aw, what a cute nickname for the mini-thistles! Cute, cute! Rotary phones, cassette tapes, encyclopedias, no microwaves, no personal computers! The list could go on. I sure hope garage sales and flea markets never go away! Sigh. Oh! I love the grocery sign. Very nice. Have a great week, Karianne!

  29. Image for Barbara Neubeck Barbara Neubeck

    ... glad you an the girls had a great time KariAnne ... I hope yard sales and second hand shops never disappear... I love them... xxxx Your sign is great... Have a great day... Hugs... Barb xxx

  30. Image for Mary Mary

    You have such a sweet soul!! Wish I could some day meet you -- I'd give you a big hug! I really love your blog and your decorating style and your ease with which you write. And the Mini Thistles is such a cute name for your girls! I'll bet it stays with them. They are lucky to have such a sweet Mom!!

  31. Image for Amber Amber

    Oh my word, I almost spit my coffee right onto the computer screen reading #5! We just had to explain rotary phones to our 13 year old. Hilarious! Of course, the sign is all kinds of fabulous!

  32. Image for Rowena Philbeck Rowena Philbeck

    Enjoyed the instructions for making the cool sign. I remember all those phones etc that you mentioned. I always wanted a princess phone but my dad wouldn't get me one. My cousin had a pink one and boy was it cool!!!

  33. Image for Mindy Whipple Mindy Whipple

    What a cute sign! And the rotary phone? Well, living in the country outside a small farming community our first several years of marriage we still had a party line!!! Seriously...sometimes the neighbor across the way would leave his phone off the hook and my husband would trek down the road and he would ALWAYS say, no my phone is not off the hook. My husband would come back home and mysteriously our phone would work again : ) That is long gone and we even have high speed internet available but we still cannot get cable out here. Thankful for those saucer looking satellite dishes!

  34. Image for Karen Karen

    What beautiful style you have! I would be thrilled if you stopped by and shared at our Something to Talk About link party each Monday! Karen

  35. Image for Gina Gina

    Great minds - I'm telling you ---- I just did a bakery sign like this with the letters using an old cabinet door. I love the technique of using the letters. This sign turned out beautiful- as always. Have a blessed weekend my friend!

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