Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Hizzy

I did a little sewing for our home before the shower we had last week.   I love the before and after feature on Design*Sponge, so this is my own "before and after" post.  Luckily I remembered to take before pictures.  We painted first.  J put in the tall baseboards.  The wall color is Guilford Green (Ben Moore).   We call this room the music room.  Not because we're fancy-- because up until this point, the only thing in our formal living room was the piano.  Now we've added the record player, so still the music room. 

Before. Though we had already painted.
After.  So hard to take a back lit photo.  Any tips? 

 We knew we wanted some seating in front of the big window.  Those are the curtains I made a while ago, still ahem, not hemmed.   I like how they settle on the ground anyway.   The bench had been there before but we moved it to another room.  We set out on a hunt for two armchairs but couldn't find anything we liked that didn't cost an arm and a leg.  Then, I discovered the dining room chair at a thrift store.  Eight bucks.  I thought,  I bet I could recover that!  Brought it home and realized that the wood was very similar to the bench we already had.  I thought, I bet I could recover that, too!

It is easy as pie to recover a chair or bench like this.  I unscrewed the base and took off the old fabric from the dining room chair.   It actually had been recovered at some other time.   I used the old piece of fabric as a pattern to cut a new one.  I was careful about keeping the zig zag stripe even.  The fabric is actually home decor fabric I bought a while ago to make a skirt, I believe.  It was a nice bonus that it came straight from the stash.   Then, I wrapped the new piece of fabric over the base and used a staple gun to attach it underneath.  I stretched it the same way I learned to stretch canvases, starting in the middle on opposite sides and working my way to the corners.   I kept the horizontal stripe even by marking the middle stripe on my piece of fabric and matching it with the middle of the base.   I pulled the last bit of fabric at the corners as taught as I could and stapled it about a zillion times.  It's not too beautiful underneath but that doesn't bother me one bit.  The round pillow on the chair is store bought.



The bench is a really nice piece of furniture so I didn't want to remove the original cover. I stretched the new cover right over top of it so if we ever want to go back to the old one, we can. Then I made pillows. I bought some pillow forms, bright orange piping and zippers. I cut the fronts first. Then I cut the backs in two pieces so I could put in the zippers. The piping is my favorite part. I wasn't sure how to do a sharp corner so I just rounded the corners of my square. There I go again with a complementary color scheme-- orange and blue this time.  

 I needn't tell you who loves the newly covered bench in front of the giant window.  Great for bird watching.

 The mirrors were created by a series of happy accidents.  We found the two mirrors at the same thrift store for ten dollars each.  Just a traditional gold framed mirror.  Originally, I wanted to paint them a copper color or even burnt orange.  I used some of that hammered copper spray paint first.   No neat hammered effect.  I tested it on a flat piece of paper and it worked well, but I don't think the texture works right unless there is a flat surface for the paint to pool on.  After the copper spray paint, the mirrors didn't look too different from the way they looked before.  I decided to try a glossy white spray paint instead.  After I put on the first coat,  J sanded them a bit to get rid of some of the dust in the nooks and crannies and we ended up with a really nice, distressed result.  The copper comes through the white in places.  We haven't hung the second mirror yet.  It was going to go across from this one, but I'm not a fan of too much symmetry.

 The last addition to the room is this piece of furniture.  The photos of this are self-serving because I'm hoping someone can tell me a little about it.   What would you call this, a sideboard?  A buffet?  I have no idea how old it is either.   The veneers on the front make me think Art Deco (?) but the legs don't seem to match that.   I think it is beautiful and I'd love to know more about it.   It was a gift from J's mom (thanks!).  She bought it at an auction and had it in storage.   We cleaned it up and put a coat of wax on it.  A couple of new knobs, too. 

 And there you have it.  A brand spankin' new music room.    Now, we can sit back and enjoy our work.  I'm not painting anything else for a looooonnngggg time.......

 Another gratuitous cat picture though I do realize it makes us look a bit crazy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ruffles and Ric Rac

We had a couples baby shower at our house this past weekend for our close friends.  They are the first of our crew to have a baby.  A girl due in March.  We are all super excited for them and wanted to celebrate with everyone, not just the girls-- hence the couples shower.  It was hilarious watching all the menfolk during gift opening time!  None of them were quite sure how to react.  For the past two weeks I've been doing nothing but painting the house, sewing baby clothes and cooking.  I made fifteen homemade pizzas. They were delicious, if I do say so myself.  And our house has never looked better.


Of course I had to sew a baby gift.  I had so much fun making these baby clothes.  So much fun.  I was giggling while I was sewing.  Maybe it was the itty bitty pockets?  The jumbo pink ric rac?  I'm not sure.  There is something really gratifying about making a miniature garment.  I don't know, maybe it has to do with the fact that it takes less time.  Or maybe it's just that miniature things are really cute.

The ruffly hoodie and pants are from Simplicity 2572.    Both made from flannel.  Little girls can wear blue, too- right?  Blue is my favorite color.  The hoodie was actually pretty difficult.  The hood has two darts in it which I think are unnecessary.  The ruffles are painfully tiny.  Not much room to run gathering stitches.  And that is the teeniest set in sleeve ever


I did really like the bias on the inside.  I made my own bias tape from the blue stripe flannel.  I also bound the seam at the sleeve ruffle, which the pattern did not call for.   Only the best for baby.

 The bathrobe is from Simplicity 3711.  I used the same blue stripe flannel for the outside and the most deliciously soft micro fleece for the inside.  And jumbo pink ric rac of course.  I cannot say enough good things about this pattern.  I was so impressed with it.  The construction was different than what I'm used to but it seemed to be so much more efficient.  The sleeves are put in flat.   No setting in and gathering itty bitty sleeve heads.  The pockets have a nifty little self facing and share the seam line with the side seams.  There are instructions for making a decorative welt seam on the hood.  All the instructions are clear and very well written.  I thought it was surprisingly sophisticated compared to the few other Simplicity baby patterns I've sewn.  It went together quick and easy.   And how adorable is a mini bathrobe, seriously?  Now if I could just make one my size......

 Itty bitty pockets

 Playing with the close up setting on the camera

Painfully tiny ruffles

Thursday, January 13, 2011



Our monkey grass looks funny covered in snow.

Almost nine inches- more snow than I've ever seen before.   Everything looks so different covered in snow.  You notice things you didn't notice before.  It's been a wonderful four days.  Everything shut down so it's perfectly acceptable to be a homebody.  J and I actually had time to paint the walls and ceilings (ugh).  Three rooms down, only trim to go.  The sun is shining today and everything is melting.  Back to the real world tomorrow.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Matching Stripes

Not much sewing has been going on around here.   We are hosting a baby shower for some dear friends in two weeks and have decided that we need to paint the front three rooms of our house.  Currently, the whole house is a construction zone.  Dust everywhere, patches on the walls and ceilings, no blinds or curtains up, door frames with paint partially scraped and sanded off ...  In hindsight, we probably should have thought this through before we started.  And yes, the shower is in two weeks.  Wish us luck.

I did manage to get a little bit of sewing in today.  I ordered this wool shirting from a few months ago and hated it when it arrived.  It was not what I was expecting.  I didn't pay attention to that little ruler at the bottom that tells you the size of the print.  I thought it was a small, skinny stripe.  I also wasn't sure what exactly a wool shirting would feel like, but again, I wasn't expecting something as heavy as this.  This is one of the strangest fabrics I've come across.  It is very heavy weight.  The weave is loose and it seems to stretch and recover even though I know there is no stretch.  Anyway, when I finally had my hands on it I thought blech.  I put it to the side and stared at it every so often wondering what I could do with it.

What do you do with a fabric like this?  I decided to make use of the stripe and make up the skirt from Vogue 1132.  I've been reading a little bit about working with bias and thought this would be a good introduction.  There are only two pattern pieces for the skirt.  The front/back piece (there is an extension you have to tape together) and a waistband piece.  I cut the front/back piece in half and cut each piece of my skirt separately, lining up the grain line to make sure the bias was the right angle and that my stripe would match. 

I thought I had it all planned perfectly.  In fact, I sewed it up and put it on my dress form to hang before I hemmed it and didn't notice a thing.  It was my husband that pointed out the sides.  See how nice the front and back center seam look?

Not so much on the side seams.  I factored everything in, even that the reverse of the fabric reversed the color scheme, except I cut my pieces top to bottom and bottom to top.  I actually had to, to make it fit on the piece of fabric I had left (I made something else, unsuccessfully, with the fabric first- I'll post about it later).  Humph.  My conclusion is that you have to be on top of your game to match stripes on the bias.

If I were a perfectionist I would never wear this.  Luckily, I'm not.  In fact, I actually really like this skirt.  I've read some bad reviews of this pattern but I was happy with it.  I think I'll be able to use the skirt pattern over and over again.  But it is a whole lotta skirt, definitely not proportioned for the short.  I'm 5'9" and I cut about 3 inches off the bottom before I hemmed it so it would hit me mid calf.  I think that's a good length to wear with boots.  Speaking of which, check out my new boots :)

I'm happy with the end result.  It's a little bit Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, but in a good way.  I've actually developed an affection for the huge stripe.  I'm hoping to fix the other item I made with this fabric, but we'll see.  On an exciting note, we are bracing for snowpocalypse here.  (Can you tell we don't see snow very often around here?)  There is a huge storm that is supposed to drop 6 inches of snow or more.  We are prepared- stocked up on firewood and wine.  Maybe I'll get a few days off school to paint...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Top Five Techniques

Wow, 2011. Shouldn't we have flying cars by now? Or robotic maids? It's hard to believe another year has gone by. 2010 seemed to go by exceptionally fast. I've only been blogging for the past six months but I have been sewing the entire year and this year I feel like I really, truly, started learning how to sew. Looking back on where I started in 2009 to the end of this year, I can see growth in my projects and the techniques used to make them.

I thought you may enjoy seeing the first thing I ever made. My husband came home with an old sewing machine in the spring of 2009 with plans for his infamous tipi and I decided to have a go at making something for myself. I went to the fabric store and picked up a super easy one hour skirt pattern and this pretty batik and spent almost a week making this. Seriously, a week. I initially sewed all the seams with a 1 mm stitch before I realized that something wasn't right. It made sense at the time to start at the number one :) I had to rip out that tiny stitch and start over. I actually wear this skirt quite a bit in the summer and I'm sure I'll always cherish it.

Flash forward to my Lady Grey and I realize just how much I've learned since that first project. And, I've learned it all from this wonderful online sewing community! (And tips from my grandmother, of course.) I've enjoyed this sewing blog experience so much. I've found many kindred souls around here who love sewing as much as I do (and more!) and who I get incredibly useful advice from. I know that without this online resource at my fingertips I would not be as far along as I am now. I wanted to list my top five sewing techniques and tricks I learned this year that I found through the online sewing community. These were all things that made me think aha, that's how you do it! Some are basic knowledge that I just didn't know how to do properly and some are nifty little tricks that make me feel like I'm cheating. I hope some of them will be useful for you, too.

1. French seams (ooh la la!). I have a very basic sewing machine that goes forwards and backwards and that's about it. Learning to do french seams from this Colette tutorial enabled me to keep the inside of my garments looking neat. I use french seams whenever I can.

2. Catch stitching. I learned so much during Gertie's sew along, but I think catch stitching may have been the coolest. I used to avoid hand sewing like the plague but I now I turn to hand finishing above all else to make something look extra nice.

3. Hand picked zipper. I hated putting in zippers because I found it nearly impossible to line everything up and feed it through the machine while keeping the stitching straight and even. My zippers always came out messy. I found this tutorial from Sewaholic and it's only hand picked zippers for me from now on. I don't think I will ever put one in by machine again.

4. Removing sleeve ease. I've always struggled with set in sleeves. The easing and pinning can be very tedious and there are many times that I find there is too much ease. I love this tutorial from Casey that explains exactly how to remove the excess.

5. Turning a button loop. This one may seem a little silly, but I use this trick more often than anything else. I could never quite figure out how to use a needle and thread to turn the loop. I use this bobby pin technique all the time to turn all kinds of narrow loops and straps.

I'm looking forward to more sewing adventures and learning this year. My main sewing goal is to make pants/trousers that fit. That could possibly take me the entire year ;) Thanks to everyone for being so generous and kind with your knowledge and comments. Wishing you all a happy new year!