Monthly Archives: April 2012

In which I wear my curtains

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On the main floor of my house is a perfectly nice bathroom. It has white tile on the walls that is old but in good condition, and the slightly offset placing of the vintage black and white floor tiles has a quirky, unique look I really like. It was the first room I painted and made curtains for last winter after we moved in. It looks pretty and clean with minimal effort–a good quality in a bathroom. Unfortunately the bathroom upstairs does not share the charm of its main floor cousin, and of course it is the one we use primarily. The tile in this bathroom is a dirty-looking peach and the floor is an even dirtier-looking peach, with icky stained grout and a bathtub that appears to have stretchmarks I cannot scrub off. My husband is fond of some of the “historical” features of the bathroom, such as an old toothbrush holder that is recessed into the wall, hidden by a chrome panel, but then swings out into view when you push on it. The kids call it the toothbrush bat cave. I’ll grant that the toothbrush bat cave is kind of neat, and I generally have an appreciation for things that have withstood the test of time, but seriously I hate this bathroom. I’ve bleached and scrubbed and cleaned but it still looks dingy and gross. Plus…dirty peach. Ick. And did I mention that awful tub? Bleah.

So I’ve basically ignored the existence of this bathroom long after our other rooms have been freshened with paint and shown some homemade love. My generally paint-averse husband actually scraped and painted the peeling ceiling himself a couple months ago, so I guess I now know exactly how long I can avoid doing something until he finally gives up and does it himself. I hated to put any effort into this room because I really just want to wait until we can afford to gut it and get a new, clean, nice one put in. But then I’d found this pretty fabric that kind of brightens up the dingy peach and I figured I might as well go ahead and paint the walls (white) and put up curtains so I can stare at them while I’m brushing my teeth instead of that nasty tile until our bathroom redo budget gets met. The Amy Butler Midwest Modern prints kind of hearken to a time when a home renovation might have included hiding something necessary but unattractive such as a toothbrush holder.

I’d bought more of the fabric than I needed for the valance and I was thinking I’d make some strips to sew on the edges of towels, maybe make up a bathmat, decorative hand towels, stuff like that. But after I’d make the curtains and hung them in the much-despised bathroom I decided I actually liked the fabric too well to waste more of it on a bathroom I dislike. It’s unlikely I’d want to use the same fabric in the new bathroom when I’d have every pattern in the world to choose from (since I wouldn’t pick peach tile!) and I didn’t want to sew the fabric onto things I’d want to keep in the new space, like towels. So I switched gears and used the rest of the fabric to make a shirt for myself instead. Now I match my ugly bathroom, sort of, only I can leave so it’s different. I used New Look 6871 but did my own things with the sleeves. I had just enough left over to hem a strip just the right size for tying in my hair. Worth thought it was hilarious that I’d set the tripod up to take a photo of myself–I’m watching him laugh at me in the photo. I like the shirt and I think it was a much more satisfying project than the curtains. It’s a brighter, bolder print than I would typically choose for myself but it’s springy and fun. Sometimes I don’t like wearing shirts like this because they look homemade–you don’t generally walk into Target and see a similar item for sale. I tend to prefer patterns that draw less attention to their homemade-ness, but this one actually makes a good story. So far at least three people have asked if I made it and I told them all that I match my curtains.

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The sad story of a broken camper window

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We recently took Little Red on a very fun camping trip with some friends. In preparation for our weekend I took one of our camper windows, which had cracked over the winter, to a local glass place to have it replaced. I was a little worried about removing the window but it unscrewed easily. I hung cardboard in the empty spot and hoped for no rain during the time the window was out. Fortunately, the glass was replaced very quickly and without great expense. I felt so DIY-empowered. Until I went to rehang the window…

at which point I apparently over-tightened the screws and cracked the new window in two places. Ouch. And it really wasn’t in the time or money budget to try it again, so I duct-taped the broken window and went camping with it like that. Given the amount of foot traffic our camper generates in a campground I have to admit it was a little embarrassing to have so many eyes on my paint job and duct taped window, but what’s a girl to do? At least the tape job seems to be watertight; our camping trip involved heavy storms (followed by lots of mud for the children to play in–lucky kids!) but the window and tape held up. One of our camping friends snapped this photo of all of us in front of our petite camp residence du rouge.

We met up with three other families on this trip and had an excellent time. All the kids banded together to form their own little tricycle gang and I’m not sure my own kids will ever be happy camping with just our family again. One of my favorite parts of the trip was when a nearby camper stopped by to chat and told me she’d snapped a photo of my camper and put it on Facebook. Funny! Maybe her photo will get back to me somehow.

I took a crochet project with me to keep my hands busy around the campfire. I’d seen this cotton yarn in the “cottage” colorway recently on Knitpicks and thought they must have made it just to go in my kitchen. The reds and blues and yellows look just right with my Pop Garden Paisley Ice curtains. I bought some inexpensive white cotton bar mops and am crocheting borders on them in the bright yarn. I’m currently working on my third in the four-pack. I’ve done two borders from this book and improvised the other. I was a little worried that the color of the yarn would fade as soon as I washed these in hot water with my other dishcloths but I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far. The yarn seems to be holding its color really well after the first couple washes.

If you are wondering why my stove knobs are missing then a) you are very perceptive, and b) you must not have a two-year-old. They are in a basket on the counter at a height only reachable by grown-ups.

A get well kit and a painted hutch

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Dorothy and Worth are not feeling well today, both down with the kind of passing tummy ailments that seem to accompany childhood. Thankfully neither child tends to get too pathetic; instead they seem rather glad to be allowed the rare chance to zone out in front of some DVD entertainment on our dusty television while Mama washes icky sheets and, in this case, blogs. Even though the stomach bug has hit all members of our family on a semi-regular basis since our little germ-magnet Dorothy was born, the first symptoms still seem to find us scurrying to collect the supplies we need to recover appropriately. Of course every family has it’s own version of comfort or soothing foods when they are sick, but we gravitate towards the old school Gatorade, chicken soup, soda crackers and those preternaturally bright popsicles that come as liquid in plastic sleeves. Last winter it occurred to me that it might be handy to actually just keep all those items on hand so that when one of us gets sick we can skip the harried trip to Kroger. The problem was that such infrequently-used items kept getting shoved to the deep, dark recesses of the pantry where no one can find them, especially if Mama is the one sick and the person looking for the Gatorade is biologically incapable of moving other food items to see if it might be behind them. So after my last bought with the stomach flu, when I suffered through a recovery without the comfort of technicolor popsicles, only to find them the next day right where I had said they were, I got the idea for our Get Well Kit. The kit is just an old kitty litter bucket which I scrubbed clean, decorated, and stocked with our sick foods of choice. I closed it up and placed it in an obvious (I hope!) place, and then today when I needed bland, salty noodles for my ailing angels I knew right where to look. Now they’ll go on our regular grocery list and the bucket will be replenished with no extra gas money involved.

I was having some trouble with my old china cabinet. I don’t think I’ve ever posted a photo specifically of it, but I’m sure it’s appeared incidentally in other photos, like here.  It was a very pretty, traditional, glass-doored and glass-shelved oak cabinet. I lucked into it by deserving some good karma after my arm was broken when Dorothy was a baby–a friend who was downsizing gave it to me and my brother delivered it to me in his truck. I stuck in my dishes with my one good arm loved the thing to death in our old house.  In this house it never looked quite right. The very small dining room needed an anchor point, and so much furniture of the same color all crammed in just didn’t work. I’d have probably kept it anyway just because I was fond of it, if it hadn’t been for the unnerving combination of teetering glass shelves + all the dishes we got for our wedding + my son zooming through the house in a plasma car. It was an accident waiting to happen. New furniture wasn’t in my budget, however, and buying something to hold dishes on Craig’s List would require the use of a bigger vehicle than I possess. Then I saw a photo on Pinterest one day of a painted hutch with open shelving, where the owner’s white dishes stood out beautifully and didn’t appear to be on the verge of plasma car disaster. I found a similar hutch on Craig’s List at a secondhand furniture store not far from my house. I printed out a photo of my china cabinet and decided it couldn’t hurt to ask the owner for a trade. I was a little surprised when the owner accepted at once! My china cabinet good karma continued. Since my cabinet was worth more than the outdated (but very sturdy–I checked) hutch in her store she was happily willing to send a truck to pick mine up and deliver hers. We’d exchange no money. Perfect!

I had the men stick my new/old hutch in my garage for its transformation. The top, above, had two glass doors. I took one to a glass place to price replacing them with clear glass, because just a wee bit of glass up so high didn’t feel too dangerous, but the price was high so I decided to wait on them.

The bottom was a little beat up but sturdy and very roomy, to accommodate lots of extra dishes (I’m a dish hoarder; I’ve disclosed this before) and linens.

I spent a very pleasant afternoon in the garage with the radio and my electric sander. I knocked off the decorative railing on the middle shelf (kapow!) and decided as the paint went on that I actually really liked the look of the thing without the doors. I used a satin finish black paint and all new black hardware.

I’m really pleased with how this turned out. My white dishes look awesome against the black, and I can access them more easily as well as change out a few accent pieces seasonally. (My Louisville Stoneware out now is in honor of the local upcoming “holiday” of Kentucky Derby Day.) Although this hutch may not have the trade value of the cabinet I had before it is infinitely more valuable to me to have a piece of furniture that can withstand a plasma car crash without reducing my dish collection to dust, and I really like the way having something big and black in the room helped it look better overall. The room even seems bigger now without so many brown things in it. This could be dangerously habit-forming, though. I can totally see how furniture barter could become a slippery slope! Good thing the kids cannot be offered in trade…

Easter

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So I think my seasonal allergies are officially killing me, and perhaps my blog as well. I’m so groggy but can’t sleep well, and I can’t stay up late for my solo creative time either since I’m so tired–all of which means that I’m just not getting quite as much done as I used to, and I feel all red-nosed and nasty. I’ll quit complaining now, but I’d like it noted that it is not cute or vintage or handmade or (since this comes up so often on my blog) sexy to have a stuffy nose for three weeks straight. Not one bit. Bleah.

Moving on, I’ve actually managed to get a lot done in the past few weeks anyway even if some of it may never make it into my little record here. This is my sweet family at Easter brunch, one of us popping decongestant pills as needed.

Dorothy’s dress was a joint venture by me and my mother. Mom sewed a simple tank dress out of white eyelet and I crocheted colorful little flowers to decorate it. I used cotton embroidery thread so the scale of the flowers would match the eyelet fabric, then made a very large one in worsted weight yarn for her hat. She looked sweet and pretty and it was fun to do a project with my mom for my daughter. Now the white dress has chocolate stains all over it, so I’m trying to devise a creative laundry solution!

I sewed my own dress from McCall’s M6027. I fell in love with this fabric at Joann’s a couple months back and finally got around to stitching it up a couple days before Easter. I think it is a Lisette poplin. The pattern worked up very easily on the serger–no messing with clipping around the bust or fussing with how all the skirt godets line up. The serger magically makes it all smooth. The problem with this pattern didn’t arise until I tried the thing on and realized the shoulder straps are set too far apart for my frame. I re-serged here and there, clipped, stitched and tucked and finally got the bodice so tight and the straps so ridiculously high that I couldn’t put my arms down when the back was zipped up. Right at the point I was read to throw it in the trash I took the scissors and cut big chunks out of the fabric under the armpits and that was when things finally started to improve. I sewed it back together and it fit acceptably well. The straps are still not in quite the right place for my shoulders and something around the arms looks a bit uneven, but if I keep the cardigan on no one will notice! The fabric is so pretty it is worth it. I altered the pattern a bit and re-sewed the dress out of a thrift store sheet to see if I could get the straps right on a second go-round. I love the theory of the pattern with the swishy skirt and the quick serger seams. I want to sew it out of this fabric and have it be a “cocktail” dress, in a breezy casual summer cotton. It went better the second time but then bagged a bit in the front. If I get my courage up I’ll order the fabric and do it one more time, with hope for a perfect fit.

My last Easter project was a gift to my church. Our pastoral staff organized an Easter vigil this year, a unique and special service that involved traveling around all the grounds of the church and involving various lay and clergy readers. They needed two three-ring binders in which to stash the materials for the readers and someone thought of me because I sometimes do book-binding. It’s much more satisfying to make books with more attractive bindings–traditional stitching or screw posts–but the three-ring kind was serviceable here so that’s what I did. It was fun to get back into a craft I haven’t spent much time on lately. I hadn’t even purchased book board in Dorothy’s life, but I was encouraged to find that I could buy it locally. I decorated the binders with illustrations drawn for the service by another church member, which I then embossed with powder and heat. I think this project will inspire me to do some more books in the upcoming months. I made a baby book for Dorothy but haven’t done the same for Worth so that seems like a good place to start.