Wednesday, January 02, 2013

I've Moved!

I can now be found here, with a new title but the same author.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Finally Really Done, Done, Done!

All it took was a nudge from a friend, wondering if she had missed my final post about completing my home study, to get me to... well, to complete my home study.  So I can blog about it.  Because inquiring minds want to know.

As of the last post (mid-July), there were two issues outstanding:  the art niche and the drawer pulls for the file cabinet.  Both are now resolved and I am reveling in a sweet and lovely home study that is exactly what I envisioned!

I decided I wanted to rotate whatever will be in the art niche in the bookcase, so I got several pieces of fabric from my favorite fabric store, which is always having a sale on something.  On the day I went, it was batik, so I got three different varieties and hemmed them to stretch over two small, spring-loaded curtain rods as background.  It helps to carry around the color chips for this project so that if something catches my eye, I can see how it will work.

So I started with a plain-ish green fabric and tried this:
Looks okay, but the proportions are wrong.  Still, it's a start. Let's see what else we can do.

Different roses (yes my neighbor said it would be okay for me to pick hers), different background fabric, and mounted on a pretty cedar box that I've had for years.  I keep meaning to repair the clasp so that it will actually close, but it works fine for this purpose.

Okay, let's try the third fabric:

Yes, that looks pretty good!  Now I feel like I have some viable options and can start really playing around with this.  (And right here and now I want to apologize for the lousy placement of text and photos in this post.  I find Blogger very difficult to work with, and will probably eventually move this blog to a different, more user-friendly platform, but for right now I just want to git 'er done.)

Here are some other things I've tried over the summer:

Onion blossoms from the vegetable garden.

Sunflowers grown from seeds given to us by a member of our former congregation.  They are spectacular (I've never grown sunflowers before) and very Van Gogh, don't you think?  I call them Cumberland Valley sunflowers.  Note that I put some baskets on top of the bookcase to fill in that awkward space, which looks much better now.

So... onward to the drawer pulls.

You may remember that the original file cabinet looked like this
after I had painted it and put it in place.  Functional, but boring handles.  

I tried replacing them with colored glass ones, which would have been okay but I was too dumb to measure between the holes, and it turns out that the glass ones were 3", while the holes in the drawer were 4" apart.  Back to the drawing board, or, more specifically, to Rejuvenation, which is Portland's answer to Restoration Hardware.  There I dug around in the used hardware bins until I found these handles, 

which were the right size and made of metal, but unmatching.  I don't care if they match!  They are complimentary and cool, which is all I cared about.  And I knew that if I painted them, they'd look great.

Here's the tried-and-true DIY home painting set up:

a cardboard box over a trash can in the garage, with the paint strategically situated on top of an upturned bucket beside it.  Scissors, a paintbrush and a damp rag complete the set-up.

Instructions:  poke a hole in the cardboard that's a little smaller than the screw for the handle, so that you can screw the handle firmly onto the cardboard.  Actually, poke four holes, two for each handle.  Apply paint (same paint color as the chairs) and then wipe immediately and strategically with damp cloth so that some of the paint comes off and the metal shows through.  Thus:

Allow both handles to dry thoroughly, then replace boring old handles with these.

I made this picture extra-large so you could admire it.  Don't they look great!!??

So here are some final photos of the Finished Home Study, now my favorite room in the house:

The richly-embroidered pillow cover was a gift from another parishioner, brought back from Saudi Arabia.

Whenever possible, I keep fresh flowers on my desk.  They make me so happy!  Petunias are the happiest flower.

The little plate is from a new favorite store, Noun.  It's there to receive a coffee cup or maybe some cookies brought by a visitor to my room.

"And that, said John, is that!"  (Can anyone other than my brothers attribute that quote?  An extra hug from me if you get it right.)

Okay, friends, onward to the next project, which in fact we have already started -- the bedroom!  Stay tuned... but don't hold your breath.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pretty Much Done... Almost

          I'm as done as I can be with the remodel of my home study, until the Objet d'Art Inspiration Gods and the Drawer Pull Gods smile on me.  So I decided to let you all see the more-or-less finished product of my hard work over the past five months or so.
          Let's start with the Before:  two shots taken shortly after we moved in.  Barely functional and really ugly, with mostly the wrong furniture.

          I lived with it like this for as short a time as possible -- several months -- until I could really focus on redoing it the way I wanted:  light, warm, feminine and simple.
          Rather than go back over everything I did, which has already been documented in previous posts (scroll down), I just want to show you the final results with some detail about things I haven't described before.
          Here's the current view from the doorway:
          Here's another view that shows the small carpet we brought back from Turkey a few years ago.  I wasn't about to replace the new wall-to-wall, though I'm not crazy about it, so this makes a nice alternative.
          And here's the best view of all, because it has my one-year old granddaughter in it, in training to become an important executive:
          I didn't get a complete "before" photo of the desk, which I bought for $30 on Craig's List (I had been prepared to pay up to $200 at an antique store, but hadn't found what I wanted until this PERFECT specimen turned up).  Here it is with drawer knobs removed and having been lightly sanded before priming.
          The knobs turned out okay (here's a trick for painting knobs -- hang them from something by the screws, so you can hold them by the screws to paint the entire surface, then let them dry without touching anything):
but the detailing in green is really awful.  At first I thought I'd paint over it, but now I think "folk art!" and try not to look at it too much.
          This whole room is so much smaller than what I was accustomed to in our last house that I knew I would need to figure out some extra storage for, you know, stuff.  This was my solution:
          The floating shelves are from Ikea, and the four baskets came from Home Depot (which my husband insists on calling Home Despot).  Can't find a link now, but they are Rubbermaid, four to a set with unattractive tan canvas liners.  I took one liner apart and used it as the pattern to make new red liners with yellow ribbon trim.  I will spare you the details of all the mistakes I made in that little project; let's just say that I'm not so good at spatial relations.  But I'll tell you, you can fit a LOT into a 9" x 11" basket, and I'm loving the options for organization (notecards in one, camera and cell phone stuff in one, etc.)
          The file cabinet may turn out to be my biggest regret.  Stupid me, I didn't realize that this two-drawer file which I got for $25 at a used furniture place...
was legal size.  Nor did I realize that the holes for the handles were 4" center to center, rather than the more common 3".  It was a bear to paint (I am not a good painter...yet) and for the moment I'm putting up with the old drawer pulls until I can find something kicky and bright with a 4" spread (maybe on Etsy?)
But it does offer a nice amount of surface space for important photos, a houseplant, and the coffee cup of a visitor.  (Still hoping to find a nice tile or trivet for that cup.)

          And a word about photos and art:  When I decided where some favorite pieces of art would hang...
(behind my desk is a photo taken at Zion Canyon, and the piece to the right of the little shelf is a drawing of the Dervish ritual that we brought home from Turkey, while to the left of the shelf is an oil by my daughter, part of her "Three Things on a Beach" series)

... I had to have the glass in two of them replaced with non-glare glass because of their location in the room.  Word to the wise:  get art framed with non-glare glass in the first place, even though it's more expensive, so that you won't have to spend even more $$ to get the plain glass replaced later when you hang it in a different place which glares.
          And while we're at it, let's take a look at the windowsill of the sweet little eyebrow window, which is a common architectural feature of Portland houses built in the 1920's.
This is the closest thing to an altar that I have in this room.  The Tibetan prayer flags send out prayers as the wind moves them (and it's true, there is no wind in this room because that little window doesn't open, but it's a good thought nevertheless).  The photo is a favorite from our most wonderful vacation in Costa Rica, the rock was carried a long way down the mountain in Big Sur by a dear friend who spotted it while meditating and knew that it should be mine, and the women... ah, the women!
          I once preached about images of God, and encouraged my congregation to come up with their own images of what they thought God looked like.  The following Sunday a woman in my congregation gave me the three women on the right (the one with the gray hair to the left looks amazingly like that woman's own mother), saying they represented her images of God.  I adore them, saggy breasts and all!  And when I sent one of them back to the artist a few years later for repairs, she was returned to me with a male friend, the fellow on the left, who completes the set.

          I love the way the picture frame on the photo of me with my two fantastic daughters echoes the trim on the Victorian wooden shelf above it.  I've always loved this shelf, and I'm delighted to have it in my study with what will probably be a rotating art display on it, showing items that are personally important to me.
          These shelves tucked into the alcoves on either side of my reading chair were built by my dear husband for additional storage.  This side houses knitting books and patterns
in pamphlet boxes that I covered with sticky shelf paper (for which I had to search long and hard to find a suitable design!)

...and this side is just general storage for photo albums and materials that I might need now and then.
The carved gourd on the top shelf houses my iPod.  And the little ceiling lights, which were there when we bought the house, are perfectly situated to shine on my book or my knitting or whatever I am doing in that heavenly recliner.

          Okay, so here's the other unfinished part:
There was enough extra room on this bookcase for me to remove a horizontal shelf so that I could do something interesting with the resulting space.  (And yes, that's the whole Harry Potter series to the left of the space.) I think I want to line the back wall with a printed fabric (not the same as the seat cushions and valence), or at least a fabric in a contrasting color, and then put some vertical objet d'art in there.  But what?  I'm thinking about my parents' wedding photo, which I love, but it's not big enough for the whole space.  Anyone have any ideas?  I'd also like to make the top of the bookcase more interesting than just holding the three volume Diary of Gideon Welles, my ancestor who was the Secretary of the Navy during the Civil War.  Maybe a hanging plant off the side to meet up with that be-ribboned pole that was held by a marshal (probably 9 years old) for the processional at our installation ceremony lo these many years.
          I'm sitting in this room as I write this, so happy with the way my vision turned into reality.  It's my favorite part of the house.  Come on over sometime and we can enjoy it together!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

How to Make a Button Tab Valence

The work on the study continues, although slightly hindered by various acts of stupidity on my part.  For example, I planned the whole project around this fabric, 
which I chose because it had two of my main colors in it:  the yellow of the walls, and the purple of my recliner.  Once I had fallen in love with the fabric ("Wind Symphony" by RJR Fabrics), I took it to the paint store, where I matched the teal and the brick red to use as highlight colors.  A week or two later, back to the fabric store I went to buy two yards for... oh, I don't know yet, whatever.  But there wasn't any more, and they told me it had been discontinued and they couldn't get it.  Great!  Now I've planned my whole room around a fabric that doesn't exist.

Thankfully, I found it on eBay and ordered two yards.  That is, I thought I did.  When it arrived and there was only one yard, I got all huffy and self-righteous with the seller, who kindly pointed out that the details on the eBay listing specified that it is sold by the half yard.  So "two" means one yard.  No wonder it was only half the cost it had been at my local fabric store!

The one yard was enough to cover the two chair seats and get a head start on the valence while I waited for delivery of the other yard I needed.  For indeed, I had decided that a valence above the window would look great made of the same fabric.

Twenty years ago I splurged on a pair of really nice (expensive) lace curtains, for which I found no suitable place in the house where we lived for the last 14 years.  They were perfect for my study window — not to cover it, but just to hang at the sides and look pretty.
But they needed a valence, don't you think?  (Sorry about the poor photo quality; my camera and I are not friends these days.)  We splurged on cellular shades that open from either the top or the bottom; here it is all the way up.  Just a little hard and straight-sided for my taste, even with the lace panels.

The valence I envisioned would hang from tabs secured by buttons, so I looked around on line and found this site, which gave excellent directions.  If you are serious about making a tabbed valence or curtain secured by buttons, you might prefer to go there rather than wading through this chronology.

My first yard yielded enough fabric, after the chair seats were done, to make 18 tabs about 4" wide and 10" long, which I guessed would be plenty.  This whole thing was less "planned" than "done by the seat of the pants," but eventually it all worked out.

When the additional fabric arrived, I made sure it was straight by using the old "pull out a thread" trick that I learned in 8th grade sewing class.

It's very tedious, but this way I could be sure that I was cutting exactly on the straight of the fabric.  Then I cut it in half lengthwise and seamed the sides together, attempting to match the pattern in the seam by folding/overlapping it the way you would when hanging wallpaper.  It was a crap shoot that I'd get it right, and I promised myself that if it wasn't exact, I would not fiddle with it, but would just accept it and go on.
Okay, so not perfect, but not too bad...

This gave me a piece 18" high and 88" long, for a valence over a window that was about 65" wide.  I turned in the side seams, using this magical stuff instead of struggling with my fossil of a sewing machine trying to make a hem stitch.  You just iron the fabric down with this stuff in between.
Whoever invented this should be sainted.

Then I folded each tab long ways and stitched it, right sides together, across one end and along one side.  I used this technique (scroll about half way down the page), which is apparently an old quilter's trick called "strip-piecing," in which you just place one piece next to the one you're working on and keep stitching, rather than that tedious reverse stitching to anchor all the stitches in place at both ends on each separate piece.  These were going to end up inside a seam anyway, so they wouldn't really need to be anchored.
They looked like this when I was finished, and all I had to do was cut them carefully apart.  The tedious part was turning each one right side out, after clipping the corners so they would lie flat, and pressing them well.  Now each tab had one seamed end, one folded side, one seamed side, and one raw end.

Figuring that the finished height of the valence would go from just above the window frame to just below the open (that is, up at the top of the window) shade, I did the math, allowing for the seam allowance at the top (more about that soon) and a 2.5" hem at the bottom.  I ripped off the excess fabric to use as a facing at the top, and hemmed the bottom.  Oops, I forgot to turn under the 1/2" allowance for the hem, so it's got a raw edge.
Oh well, no one is going to see it (except the thousands of people who read this blog).

Then came the clever part, thanks to the Internet and this site.  After searching the whole house to find a 7' piece of floor that wasn't covered in dog hair, I laid out the valence right side up and spaced the tabs on it with the raw edges aligned so that the tabs were facing down.  They ended up being about 4"apart, center to center, using 15 tabs.  (Okay, so I have three left over... who knows but I might need them some time?)
It's rather difficult to see, so I put a shell on one tab to make it visible.

Then I laid the facing wrong side up on top of the valence and the tabs, and pinned through all layers.

I stitched the whole length of the thing through the facing, tabs, and valence, ending up with something that looked like this with the facing going up, seam at the bottom.
(The facing already had side seams on it, since I had done them before tearing it off.)

When you turn it over to press it, it looks like this, with the raw ends of the tabs secured between the facing and the valence, finished tabs headed in the right direction (that would be up).  Remembering the seam allowance this time, I ironed the facing down with that magical Heat Bond so it looked finished.

Then came the fun part, buttons to secure it.  I had decided to use a variety of similar-sized buttons in red, purple and green, and had bought a jar of assorted red ones and a jar of assorted  purple ones at my local fabric store.  I had the green ones already in my button box.  (That's one advantage of being an old geezer — you have a really great button collection!  And now I have a lifetime supply of red and purple buttons as well.)
These are the ones I chose.  They look a little more different in real life, though the green ones are the same.

First folding each tab exactly in half, so they would all be the same finished length, I pinned each one down.  Then followed an evening of carefully sewing on fifteen buttons in random order, and voila!
Done!  I was a little surprised that it wasn't longer, but I guess I lost a lot of that 88" length with the side hems and the fudging I had to do in order to not match the pattern in the center seam.  Nevertheless, it has a little extra give to it so it's soft and pretty-looking.

And on to the next project, which will be the basket liners.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Chair Project

We suddenly find ourselves, in retirement, living on a somewhat austere budget.  Gone are the days of eating out whenever we pleased (a rarity anyway, as we eat so well at home) or buying a book we want to read (thank goodness for the Multnomah County Library!)

So when it comes to making our sweet house into a home, I'm looking for ways to save money, reuse or repurpose what we have, etc.  I've become a devotee of Craigslist and some DIY websites (especially this one) which are teaching me even more than I learned at my father's knee or my husband's side over the past 60 years or so.

I'll be blogging about renovating my home study from time to time until it's done.  This is reminiscent of my daughter's question to me when she was about twelve:  "Mom, when they were inventing cottage cheese, how did they know when they were done?"

I'm not sure how I'll know when I'm done with this, but I'll probably figure it out.  Anyway, today's installment is about refinishing chairs.

I found these chairs for $5 each at a restaurant supply store (advertised on Craigslist).  They are very sturdy and well made, but were dirty and the finish was flaking off.  The faux leather seats were dreadful, and both of them were webbed with dust, cobwebs and leaves; they probably had been stored in a barn somewhere.

Had we looked more carefully while we were in the dingy attic of Rose's Restaurant Supply, we would have noticed this crack in a rung of one of them.  However, Duane says the wood is a laminate and since this crack is only in the outer layer, it probably won't make much difference, so I didn't do anything about it.

After removing the seats, it was easy to sand using a little electric mouse sander with 100 gauge sandpaper for the flat surfaces, and sanding the curved surfaces by hand.  Because the finish was already flaking off, this went very quickly.  The sanding was done outdoors, of course, on the one day in weeks when the sun was out.  I brought them upstairs to my study (note new paint on the walls) where they'd stay dry in the Portland weather, and the floor was covered with a drop cloth anyway from the wall-painting project.

Here's one after being painted with one coat of oil-based primer.  (I learned from the kids at Young House Love that you can paint latex paint over oil-based primer, and it's better to use oil-base primer because it seals much better than latex.)  My mistake was not painting the horizontal surface on the seat, which I thought would be covered by the cushion.  But unpainted bits showed around the edges, so I had to wait to install the seats and go back to paint the part that shows as natural wood above.

I just love me a nice fresh can  of paint, don't you?  This is Benjamin Moore's "Intercoastal Green" in the Aura semi-gloss base.  It's a low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint which is really nice to work with and good for the environment.

You do know the ol' nail trick, don't you?  Before you start painting, pound a few nail holes in the lip of the can so that paint will run back down into the can instead of all over the outside.  Not only does it save paint, but you want to keep the outside of the can as clean as possible so you can identify the paint later.  But just to be sure, you'll want to identify the paint by writing on the cover of the can, which of course you will keep pristine.  And for heaven's sake, don't write "Judy's study," because the next owner of the house won't know what room that is.  Instead write its geographic location, like "upstairs north bedroom."

Once the chairs had two coats of color on them and were left to dry for several days (yes, that's longer than they say you'll need, but why take a chance that you'll dent or mar that fresh paint by touching it too soon?) I got going on the seats, which turned out to be amazingly easy peasy.

I pried off the old nasty faux red leather, which was attached with about a zillion staples.  My plan had been to replace the foam under it, but that foam was very tightly glued to the chair bottoms and it looked okay -- not ratty or coming apart, and pretty darn clean -- so I just decided to put the new fabric over it.

I put the seat foam side down on the wrong side of the fabric and traced around it.  Then I made another line 2" outside of the tracing, and cut the fabric along that line.  Here's the seat face down on the wrong side of the fabric.  (I've already cut out one piece of fabric to the right; that's the dining room table showing through.)

Then using your trusty antique staple gun (which takes two arthritic hands to squeeze all the way down), you start stapling.  I put three staples on the straight edge of the bottom first, then turned it around and put a few at the top, stretching the fabric as tightly as I could.  Just work your way back and forth pulling it tight and stapling one side and then the other.  Oh, and don't rest the heel of the staple gun on the table unless you want a lot of little dents in the table like we have now.  A doubled-over towel under the whole thing would have prevented that.

The only tricky places were the corners, where I was trying to keep the fabric perfectly smooth on top with no visible pleats or folds.  I pulled it up in the center of the corner first, then pulled up one side and then the other, easing the fabric with each pull.  Staples are cheap, so I used a lot!

There we go, all done!

And here's the final product, ready to be sat on!  

Just to help you remember where I started, here's the "before" picture again.  I'm so glad that in this big project there is finally an "after" to show you!