Showing posts with label Sewing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sewing. Show all posts

Thursday, September 18, 2014

{Part 2} How to let go and let your pre-teen redecorate...and be happy with the results.

In part one, I gave you four tips for letting go and letting your pre-teen redecorate her own room. I'd guess that those tips are applicable to kids of all ages with just a little adjusting for age (and maybe taste).

When we took on the job of redecorating Brynn's room, we knew we didn't want to do a huge overhaul. We'd already done that when she turned 8 and I ripped out her carpet in favor of a wood floor. I also built her a bunch of furniture. This re-do was just meant to be a tweak. A little change in style to suit her more grown-up tastes.

Here are the details.

Paint. Brynn was set on white walls. Her trim was already white (including the wainscoting that goes about 1/3 of the way up her walls), the same white that we use for all of our house trim, The Right White by Restoration Hardware, color matched in Sherwin-Williams paint. The Right White is my favorite trim white and that wasn't negotiable. It's not too warm, not too cool, and keeping it the same in Brynn's room meant one fewer can of paint in the garage and easier touch ups when she (inevitably) scuffs the trim in her room.

In order to work with Brynn's trim, I thought her wall color white should probably be a tad warmer and darker than The Right White, but it really wasn't up to me. Remember, this was our opportunity to let Brynn choose her own design. So, I gave her several white paint swatches from Sherwin-Williams, all of which were acceptable to me. She looked at Extra White, Pure White, Snowbound, and Marshmallow. Marshmallow probably would have been my choice, the warmest and darkest of the four. She, on the other hand, wanted the whitest possible walls. Like, the color of printer paper. She wanted (and actually pointed to) the white that is the border between the paint colors on the color strip. Extra White was the whitest of the options she had, so that is what she chose. It's not a color that most of us would choose, especially not when combined with trim that is a hair darker and warmer. But she's not most of us, and it's not our room.

After Brynn and Scott primed and the paint started to go up on the walls, it was obvious to Scott and me that Extra White was both too cool and too bright. We wondered if Brynn would have second thoughts. Scott even said something like, "I guess I'll be back in here painting with her again tomorrow." She never said a word. I didn't ask her what she thought because I didn't want to make her doubt her decision. Once we got the room put back together, the white faded away, just like she wanted it to. The moral of the story is...don't fuss over paint colors in a kid's room. They're easily pleased.


Desk. You may remember this reading loft/desk combo that I built for Brynn back when she was turning 8. It was awesome...awesome for an 8, 9, or 10 year old. But this summer Brynn was feeling like she'd outgrown the loft. She was starting middle school and expecting her homework load to increase. She wanted a real desk. So, I kept my eyes peeled for one we could re-do, and I found this one on VarageSale, one of my favorite sources for furniture to makeover. Here I am driving home with the new (old) desk.

If Brynn had a bigger budget (remember, she was originally budgeting only $155 for this re-do, which I told her I'd match, bringing us to a total budget of $310), she could have chosen any desk she wanted. But she didn't have a bigger budget, so it was up to me to find one that was in decent shape, sturdy enough to last her until she gets out of high school, and ready for a makeover. She really wanted something modern. And given a bigger budget, we could have dressed this old desk up with modern pulls. I think someday she might buy herself new pulls. But for now, the original pulls add a bit of eclectic elegance to what otherwise could have become a room so modern and contemporary, it felt cold. So...budgets. We love them.

Brynn gave herself a choice of three colors for her desk: yellow, navy, or coral. She chose navy. General Finishes Milk Paint, my go-to paint when I'm painting a piece of furniture and don't want a distressed finish, has a great navy called Coastal Blue. I left Brynn out of the labor for this part (one can only share SO much of the work when one is a control, painting furniture is kind of my thing). My dad and I gave the desk a light sanding, I primed it with dark brown primer that I had on hand, sprayed it with half a quart of the Coastal Blue milk paint, finished the insides of the drawers in a coral color that I mixed up from leftover paints in the garage, and sealed the whole thing with PolyWhey wipe-on in satin.

I soaked the old brass drawer pulls in a vinegar and baking soda solution and then used Brasso to clean them. I think it's pretty caustic stuff, but every once in a while that's what it takes.

If the top of the desk looks a little off to you...that's because it is. I'm doing a little desk blotter experiment. I'll report back once I have some results. 

Bedding. Brynn had her heart set on the yellow and white chevron duvet from the moment she set eyes on it, so I knew it would be the centerpiece of the room. She found a few sets of navy and white sheets at PBTeen, too, but her budget was more of a Target budget. So, off to we went. Together we picked out the navy Threshold sheets to sleep on and the navy and white sheets for her box spring and a pillow.

I've become a pretty serious devotee to the Threshold sheets in recent years. I first started buying them because they were organic cotton. Unfortunately the navy sheets weren't available in organic (I'm thinking that organic in a deep navy dye is pretty hard to achieve) so we ended up with the conventional version. The sheets are made in India which was encouraging -- India leads the world in organic cotton production (although it is falling) and is an established Better Cotton region. So even though these are conventional, I feel okay about supporting India's cotton industry. The quality of the sheets is fantastic and in this latest package there was a bonus...the head and foot of the fitted sheets are labeled! So you put them on the right way the first time! Genius.

For the box spring, we bought the navy and white scribbled-polka dot/ikat-ish sheets, also from Target. I remember once upon a time seeing a box spring cover that just went around the edges of the box spring? And then I remember almost passing out when I saw the price. A fitted bottom sheet seems to work just as well, plus then you've got the top sheet and a pillow case to play with in the room. Best of all, the quality really isn't all that important because the fitted sheet only gets washed every now and then, to get the dust off. It's a fun way to bring in another color or pattern. So that's what we did.

Curtains. This is the design element that Brynn was probably the least involved in. She didn't really seem to care what her curtains looked like (maybe her brain was on design overload). For her closet I suggested white with a blue ribbon trim and she shrugged her shoulders and said okay. Once her navy and white sheets came and we knew that she liked them, I suggested the flat sheet as a non-working curtain just to soften her window and she shrugged again. I took that as a yes. Thankfully, once they were up she was quite enthusiastic. I think there was some squealing and maybe even a little shouting.

This is another project where I took over all the labor. Like the desk, this was something I couldn't really bear to see screwed up. She can move furniture, she can paint walls, and with enough time she could sew a lovely set of curtains. But she's in school all day and I'm here and I knew I could whip them out pretty quickly and a lot less painfully. The white curtains were in the as-is bin at Ikea. I used the same kind here in our living room when my mother-in-law and I created 9ft tall bold striped curtains (which I still love). The panels were only $10 each which is a steal for that much heavy fabric. Brynn's closet has a curtain track system that I special ordered from our local fabric shop and installed back in 2006, I think. It has held up really well. The only problem is that there's no fudge room for your curtain length. I love to just make my curtains whatever length they end up being and then hang the rod in the right spot. You can't do that when you're working with a curtain track, but the clean look is great and it seems to be super durable.

The navy and white curtains around the window are lined with leftover white curtain fabric from our living room curtains, just to give them some extra weight and help them look finished. I like all of my windows to show the same color (white) when you look at them from the outside of the house so I always line my curtains with white, even these ones that you can barely see from outside.

For the curtain rod over the window, I used a 6' wooden rod from Lowe's (probably meant to be a closet rod), a pair of Martha Stewart finials from Home Depot, and some handrail hardware I had hanging around. I painted the rod and finials navy, waxed it to make sure the fabric on the curtains would slide easily, and then hung it with the handrail hardware.

Artwork, lighting, accessories, etc. Brynn already had the gigantic framed poster of Paris from Ikea. It was a birthday gift last year (by the way, artwork makes great gifts for girls this age, I think). She was hoping to put it at the head of her bed, but after discussing the width of her bed versus the width of her ballet barre, she agreed it should go over the ballet barre. The ballet barre has been in her room for a few years now and she uses it at least a few times a week for stretching and barre work. It's just a 1x4 screwed into the wall with a handrail on it. Simple, inexpensive, and a really useful element for her.

The artwork above Brynn's bed is four watercolors she did a few days before we moved back from Mexico when Brynn was seven years old. She sat in the backyard there, looked around at the trees and flowers growing around her, and painted those pieces. While they are really special to me, they make her feel too young, so they will go. I told her I'd surprise her with some replacement art made by me. Yikes. I think I'll also paint the frame coral.

The ballet photo in the corner of her room is one I took during her second year of ballet. It's been in her room for a long time and I'm thrilled that she still loves it as much as I do.

The only piece of artwork I bought was the inspirational canvas. I passed by it at Hobby Lobby and couldn't NOT grab it. I knew she'd love it. It was a fun surprise element to add to her room.

For the message board above Brynn's desk, I used her old cork board, wrapped it in batting that I already had, and then finished it off in the coral and white fabric with yellow ribbons and some sparkly upholstery tacks.

Both of Brynn's lamps and her schoolhouse fixture were already in the room and working well. She was happy with them as they were, so we left those. In truth, the schoolhouse fixture was non-negotiable, but I think she already knew that so she didn't even ask to replace it. Plus...the good old budget would have said no anyway.

One accessory that totally floored Brynn was her new iHome. It was in our kitchen for a few years before Scott installed speakers in our main living area. Since then, it's just been sitting in a closet, along with a first generation iPod Touch. We're not interested in letting Brynn have unlimited internet access or a phone of her own, but the old iPod Touch is great for iTunes, email, weather forecasts, an alarm clock, Pandora, and iTunes. And that's about all she can do with it. Scott disabled or removed everything else. Because while eleven-year-olds may be trustworthy when it comes to design decisions, we know better than to trust her with a super-connected device of her own.

Besides her new desk, all of the furniture in her room was there before the re-do. I did take it all out (cube bookcase, bedside table, and bed) to repaint. I gave them all a light sanding, a coat of clear shellac wherever knots were bleeding through, and a fresh coat of paint with my sprayer. Are your kids super destructive to their furniture? Mine are! Brynn's furniture was in desperate need of a new coat of paint.

For Brynn's furniture and all of the basic white furniture in our house, as well as some of our built-ins, I use the (discontinued) Martha Stewart Glass of Milk white color matched in Sherwin-Williams ProClassic semi-gloss. The color is very similar to General Finishes Milk Paint Antique White. It's a great creamy white, not too yellow, not to dark. I always have a gallon on hand, so I didn't have to buy any paint for those touch-ups.

Since the only accessories we purchased were the small canvas word art plus fabric and ribbon for the message board, our cost in this category was only about $25.

All together, that brings our total cost to $307. Under budget by three dollars!

I'm proud of Brynn for making some great design decisions in her room and for sticking to her budget. When she looks through PBTeen, she kind of salivates a bit. To get the look she saw in a catalog like that without buying everything from the catalog took both maturity and vision. It was so fun to watch her wrestle with her ideas and then work with her as she made decisions.

Now...any guesses as to how soon we'll have to go through this process again? I'm crossing my fingers that we can make it to college. Wishful thinking, I'm sure.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pillow covers for a lazy seamstress

I don't do zippers. I don't even do buttons if I can help it. I definitely don't do snaps, since that requires an extra tool I'd probably lose. Velcro is kind of a pain, plus it's something I'd have to run out to the store to buy, since I'd forget to buy it when I get my fabric.

Yep, I'm lazy. In fact, I doubt that there's a lazier (or less skilled) seamstress within many, many miles of my house.

Luckily, pillow covers are easy, quick, and cheap to make.

Here's how I do them.

For a 20'x20' pillow form, I cut my fabric to 21"x48". I use a rotary cutter because it's easier than using scissors.

Then I put a hem on each end. My mom taught me a lazy way to get perfect curtain hems, and I use the same method for pillows. For this, I want 1" hems that use 2" of fabric. So, I fold the fabric up 2", press, fold the unfinished edge into the fold, press again, pin, and sew.

Perfect hem.

Next I overlap the fabric inside-out to give me a square that's about 20"x21" and I sew up the side seams with about a 1/2" seam allowance (that means my needle is about 1/2" in from the raw edge of the fabric).

I trim my corners, flip it right side-out, and I've got a pillow cover. It takes about 10 minutes to make one, maybe a little longer if you're watching TV while you work.

I believe this is called an envelope style pillow cover? All I know is it is fast, easy, and it gets the job done.

And that sofa that's got all of the lazy-girl pillows on it? Yeah, I'll be posting about that soon!

The source information for the fabrics used here are available on my Pinterest fabric board. All three came from

Thursday, January 24, 2013

{backyard redo} Protecting our Outdoor Furniture

It seems that our backyard redo series has been interrupted by...well...winter. Bleh.

But even in the dregs of winter, there is still work that can be done to move things along.

Do you remember these chairs? The bright red tabouret chairs I bought after Thanksgiving? I know I told you they'd end up outside, but things move slowly sometimes around here, and so they're still inside.

They will go outside. Eventually.

But, the instructions that came with the chairs very clearly stated that they are not intended for outdoor use.

Ha. We'll see about that.

We live at high elevation (around 6500 feet, I think) and the sun here is intense. To keep it from fading the bright red paint on our chairs, I decided I should make some slipcovers to protect them.

Luckily, these chairs stack easily, as many as four high. I've got eight chairs so I only need two covers to protect them. The chairs won't be covered all the time, but probably from November through April all eight of them will wear their covers, and during the summer I imagine that at least four of them will be covered most of the time since we won't be hosting parties every night of the week.

At least that's not the plan.

To keep the chairs covered, I headed to Lowe's and bought a 12ft x 9ft canvas drop cloth. It was bigger than I needed, but it was a better value than the small drop cloths. I know I'll use the leftover fabric to make covers for the backyard furniture I'll be building (like maybe a table to go with these chairs?) but using a cloth this big was a bit unwieldy. I think next time I'll sacrifice a few bucks and buy a couple of smaller cloths.

Also, I bought the heaviest cloth (10oz) in order to get the best protection from the elements.

Would a fabric made for outdoor use probably hold up longer? Like Sunbrella fabric, with UV protection built in? Yeah, probably. But have you looked at the prices on it?

The drop cloth I bought cost about $27. For that much Sunbrella fabric I'd probably have spent a good $100. So drop cloth it was.

The first thing I did was wash the drop cloth in hot water to maximize shrinkage. Once it was good and dry, I draped it over my stack of chairs and started pinning.

It took a bit of trial and error to get the pinning right. That might be because my only experience with slipcovers comes from watching Trading Spaces (faithfully) about ten years ago. But I think all that time I put in with Hildy and Laurie and Paige must have paid off, because for a first try these covers actually came out okay.

Meaning, they fit. And probably won't blow away when the wind kicks up. I'll count that as success.

I pinned the sides first using the factory edges of the drop cloths, then I pinned the tops. Once I was happy with the shape, I trimmed off the excess and then sewed up the seams. After that, I put the slipcovers on inside out and folded up the hem.

I pressed the crease for the hem before trimming off the excess fabric and turning the hem under (this is how my mom taught me to hem curtains and it works like a charm). I actually only had to hem the back of the cover -- when I pinned it all together, I used the factory hem for the front, making sure it was parallel (or almost parallel) to the floor as I pinned.

Once the hem was stitched, I pressed out a couple of seams. (Not all of them because, really? It's going to sit outside in the snow.) Then I flipped the cover right side out, and tried it on the chairs.

Much to my surprise, it fit! Those of you who follow me on Facebook already know this, though...I couldn't help but post a status update about rocking my first slipcover. I'm not even sure you can call it a slipcover, actually.

This stack of chairs is now sitting out on our new (unusable because it's too dang cold) patio. I'm so looking forward to spring summer when we can finish up out there. In the meantime, I'll keep finding ways to make progress, even if it's just pinning the furniture I'm going to build so that maybe by July I'll have a place to drink a beer in the sun.


psst...for more about our backyard redo, check out these posts.

Friday, November 16, 2012

{tutorial} Bold Striped Curtains

About a month ago, Scott and I embarked upon a repainting of almost the entire interior of our house. Bedrooms were spared but...not much else.

We went grey. (On the walls, not in our hair.)

Our grey walls were inspired by our new curtains, curtains that we didn't yet have. In my mind, though, and on Pinterest, I saw bold grey and white striped curtains.

Here are a few of my inspiration images:

From The Blissful Bee via Pinterest

From The Yellow Cape Cod via Pinterest

From A Well Dressed Home via Pinterest

If I'm being totally honest, I have to tell you that originally I wanted bold chevron, but I couldn't find bold chevron fabric or curtains anywhere and the idea of making bold chevron fabric was just about enough to knock me out. So when my friend Emily suggested stripes instead, I was all over it.

For about ten seconds, I considered using white curtains and painting the stripes on. This seems like a reasonably good idea until you get down to the nitty gritty of it. Where do you lay out four 108" x 57" panels to paint them? Is there a clean spot (a dirt, dust, and pet hair-free place) in my house that is this big? Um, no. Is there one in yours?? Because, if so, I'd like to come move in with you. Or hire you to keep my house clean.

So that left me with a few options -- leaving a panel intact and adhering stripes to the panels, using something like Heat-n-Bond, was one option. This sounded cumbersome. The other option was buying panels (or fabric, but panels from Ikea were way cheaper than fabric from a fabric store) and cutting them apart, then sewing them back together.

In the end, this seemed like the easiest option. Plus, my mother in law agreed to do the sewing for me which kind of made it a no-brainer.

SO, here's how we did it.

I needed 4 108" curtain panels and I needed them to be lined.

I bought two packs of these grey curtains from Ikea and two packs of these white ones. Looking back, I should have bought two more packs of white ones to line the curtains, but I ended up buying 14 yards of crappy curtain liner from Hancock Fabrics instead. Another pack of curtains would have been cheaper, thicker, and wider.

The curtains needed to be washed ahead of time to deal with shrinkage, so I washed all the grey curtains together and then all the whites. After sewing the crappy curtain liner into the new curtains, we realized that we'd forgotten to pre-wash the liner. So...I guess when I wash the curtains I'll do it on cold and hang them to dry?

The moral of that story is remember to wash your liner, too.

Once the curtain panels were clean and dry, I laid them out on my rotary mat and cut them into strips. To make 4 108" panels with 1/2" seam allowances, I cut the following:
  • 4 18.5" tall white strips with grommets from the tops of the white panels.
  • 8 19" tall white strips
  • 8 19" tall grey strips
  • 4 23" tall grey strips for the bottoms. I left these unhemmed until the curtains where hanging, then hemmed them using the iron-on hemming strips that come with Ikea curtains.
My mother-in-law and I both agreed that getting the strips cut right is the main key in getting these curtains right. If they aren't exactly the right sizes, there is no way you'll be able to get the stripes lined up pefectly.

My stripes line up perfectly. I could live with them if they didn't line up perfectly, but someone more OCD than I am would probably go nuts.

Once the strips were all cut, my mother-in-law sewed them together, alternating colors, using a half inch seam allowance. In order to get the seams perfect, she put a strip of masking tape 1/2" from the needle on my machine -- this made it easy to keep the seam allowance right.

Getting the seam allowance consistent is the second crucial part of getting these curtains right.

Once all of the strips were sewn together, we cut the liner to fit and gave it both a top and bottom hem. This is where it gets a little murky and you might want to figure out a better way for yourself...

My mother-in-law topstitched the top of the liner along the seam just below the grommets at the tops of the panels. Then, she pressed the sides of the panels over about 1/2", sandwiched the liner between the two layers of curtain, and topstitched the length of the curtains.

We talked about a bunch of ways to put the liner in, but because we needed to leave the grommets accessible, we couldn't find a great way to do it. This seems to have worked, though!

Once the liner was in, we hung the curtains and then I used the hemming strips enclosed with the curtains from Ikea to press and hem the curtains.

All together, including curtains, liner, and thread, these panels cost me about $175 and I ended up with a lot of fabric leftover -- one full grey panel, another half a grey panel, and about 3/4 of a white panel. I already have plans for the grey fabric and I have no doubt that I'll be able to use the leftover white fabric down the road, too. Clearly, these panels were more expensive than just buying four plain Ikea panels (I could have done that for about $75). But, for the effect that I ended up with, I think $45-ish per panel was a pretty good price!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

No more ziplocks!

A few years ago I found a new way to reduce my dependence on oil...I decided to quit using ziplock bags. Because, as I'm sure you know, the manufacture of anything plastic requires a good bit of oil. To replace plastic bags I made a big batch of fabric snack bags. I made some of the bags the size of sandwich bags and some the size of the smaller snack sized bags.

My first bags...they're still in use!
That was two years ago. I haven't bought ziplocks since.

I know! It sounds so...un-American!

Yes, sometimes I get complaints from Scott when he's packing for the airport and wants ziplocks for his toiletries (I haven't had a problem getting through security with my toothpaste in my regular ditty bag). Other than that, I think we've adapted pretty well.

For my snack bags, I've used both cotton and nylon liners. I like the cotton liners better because I don't have to worry about what kind of weird chemicals were used to make them (although conventional cotton is sprayed with lots of pesticides and then later it is bleached...but I try to use fabric that's been washed several times). If I'm sending a messy sandwich in one of the bags, I just wrap the sandwich in parchment paper (I buy the pre-cut squares of deli paper at Costco) before I put it in the bag. My girls pull out their sandwiches wrapped in paper and use the paper like a plate when they eat at school. We use the bags several times (shaking them out when necessary) before tossing them in the washing machine inside-out.

I played with several designs before landing on this one. The rounded top is forgiving and the small piece of velcro is all you really need. I tried bags with full velcro closures, but they were hard to open and close. We've never had problems with this design -- the food we put in the bags seems to stay in the bags!

I want you to be able to join the no-ziplock revolution, so while I worked on another batch of bags over the past few weeks, I took (poorly lit because it was usually the middle of the night) photos of each step.

Let's get started.

First I cut out two pieces of fabric (one for the outside, one for the lining) using a pattern that I created. The pattern is made of one 8 1/2"x11" piece of paper taped to another piece of paper with a rounded top edge. I traced a mixing bowl to get the rounded edge. The total pattern height is 17 inches. When I'm cutting a sandwich bag, I use the full height of the pattern. For a snack bag, I fold the lower sheet of paper in half, so the total height is 11 1/2 inches.

Place the fabrics with the wrong sides together (these pieces are cut to snack size).

If you're going to use a ribbon tab on the rounded flap of the bag, now is the time to cut it. I make mine about 2 1/2".

Fold the fabric tab in half, center it (as best you can) on the rounded top edge, and pin it between the two wrong sides with the cut edge poking out.

Sew along the perimeter of the bag, but leave the flat bottom end open.

Press the seams open and then turn the bag inside out.

Press the edges flat and do your best to round out the top -- sometimes this can be challenging!

Fold the raw bottom edge inward and press it. You're going to top-stitch it closed.

Pin the pressed edge.

Top-stitch the bottom edge. Sometimes it is fun to use contrasting thread for this part...if you're confident in your ability to sew a straight line. I'm not, but I use contrasting thread anyway!

Now add velcro to the outside of the bottom part of the bag.

Fold the bottom part of the bag up toward the rounded flap. I use my best judgement on this rather than a precise measurement.

Once you've figured out where you want your fold, top-stitch all the way around the bag, starting from the top right corner of this picture, down around the curve, and then up to the left corner. I don't go across the bottom -- I just leave the fold.

You're almost done! Match up the rounded flap with the velcro on the bottom and add a piece of velcro to the inside of the flap.

That's it! The bag I was working on in the photos is a snack sized bag. For the sandwich bag, follow the same steps but make your fold in the appropriate place to get the size bag you want.