Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New Living Room

I am super excited to share our new living room.  This has been in the works for a few months as we knew we wanted to have a number of handmade items.  We had a two month wait once we ordered the couch so we had some time to complete all the DIY projects.  We still had the furniture we bought quickly and on the cheap when we moved here, and after 5 years we were tired of the dark, muddy tones.  The change to a light and airy design is just what we wanted!

Here are a couple shots of the finished room.  Not all the pillows and artwork were finished when I took the first photo, hence the difference.

Coffee Table

Gallery Wall - in progress

Fireplace Vignette

The couch is the Henry Sofa from West Elm in gray velvet.  The rug is from Joss & Main.

Our DIY projects were:

Coffee table - I found the table on the side of the road.  It was a darker stain and very beat up, but I loved the MCM shape of it.  Sanding off the finish revealed a beautiful pattern to the pieced circular top.

Pillows - I wanted an eclectic mix of mismatched pillows, and I've been collecting interesting fabric for a few months.

Artwork - Using newspaper templates of artwork we've collected from our travels, we arranged a gallery wall behind the couch that I think really shows off our collection.

Remote Caddy - Wanting to keep the table as clear of clutter as possible, I stitched up a remote caddy for the arm of the couch.  Best part is that it isn't that visible from the rest of the room.

New Fireplace Vignette - Our fireplace isn't a working one (and really who needs one in California), so we filled it with a salvaged block and tackle, and pillar candles nestled in white sand. It looks great at night.  The garland is made out of jute twine, upholstery webbing strips, and starfish.

Ottoman - This one is really my favorite.  Using the excellent tutorial for a boxed cushion ottoman at Design*Sponge and at this blog, we made an upholstered ottoman out of an old end table found at a thrift store.

I am excited to share tutorials on the DIY projects soon!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Textile Designs with Bleach

Our new couch is arriving in mid-August, so, of course, we are now redesigning the rest of the living room to match it (shhh...boyfriend hasn't caught on yet, or at least, is choosing not to mention this state of affairs).  The new couch doesn't come with throw pillows so I am making a few of contrasting fabrics.  We ordered down pillow inserts from Amazon, and I've been madly browsing Pinterest for interesting ideas.

I wanted to do a pillow with text on it, and found this great quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald: "They fell briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered."  Love it.

I have a couple yards of dark, lightweight denim and thought it would be neat to bleach the quote onto the denim pillow.

You'll need:
dark fabric
bleach pen
stencil (or freehand)
cardboard, large enough to more than cover the area you will be bleaching
ruler and chalk
well ventilated area (I worked next to a open window)

1. Lay the fabric, right side up, on the cardboard (to protect your work surface).

2. With chalk and a ruler, mark off your outside dimensions of the pillow.  I also marked the 1/2 inch seam allowance on all sides, then a further 1 1/2 inches inside as I didn't want the quote to go all the way to the seam.

3. Mark straight lines across as your guide to the lettering.  I wanted very regular, straight text but swirly cursive could also be fun.  My stencil letters were an inch tall and I included 1/2 inch between the bottom of the letters to the top of the next row.  Stencil, or write, your lettering using tailor's chalk.
Marking off all guide lines.

4. With even pressure, begin writing with the bleach pen, which was a gel so the letters kept their shape and the bleach didn't bleed into the fabric.  Do some test lettering on a scrap.

Let the bleach sit.

5.  Let the bleach gel sit on the fabric for about 1 hour.  I noticed that the gel had dried at that point.  Rinse the gel under water.  I also washed the fabric with soap to remove as much of the bleach residue as possible.  The fabric also needs to be machined washed.

The lettering, after washing off the bleach
The bleached effect is so neat, I sketched a starfish on a scrap of denim too. I like how the bleach doesn't fade the fabric evenly, making a unique effect.

Some tips for writing with a gel bleach pen:
  • Try to use even pressure to get a uniform bead.
  • If you want a narrow bead, write so that the bleach comes from behind the pen, so forming curved letters like Cs and Os have to be done in two parts, first the top curve then the bottom curve.  Basically, you don't want to drag the pen tip through part of the letter you've already written.
  • If you pause in writing, be sure to tilt the pen tip up so the bleach gel doesn't gather in the tip and come out in a splat.

Next up: constructing the pillow!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Crystal Dessert Stand

The internet is full of instructions for making dessert stands . . . . . and here’s another one!

My three tiered dessert stand is made from plates from the thrift store, an ice cream sundae dish, and glass candle sticks from the dollar store.  They are bonded together with a clear epoxy.  Be sure to use an epoxy that does not include silicon, which will keep it from hardening.

  • Clean and dry the glassware.
  • Mix the epoxy according to the package instructions.
  • Spread epoxy on the bottom of the sundae dish and center on the bottom of the large plate.
  • Epoxy the tops of each candlestick and center on the bottom of the medium and small dishes.
  • Allow the epoxy to set.  You now have 3 single tiered stands, small, medium, and large.

  • Spread epoxy on the bottom of the candlestick of the medium set and center on the top of the large plate.
  • Epoxy the bottom of the candlestick of the small set and center on the top of the medium plate.
  • Allow to set.
I used the sundae dish upside down to make a wider base.  I love how the plates are all different as well!  The glassware cost about $10 and the epoxy $5.

We set the stand up for Easter breakfast.  The scones are a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, which makes the best scones I’ve ever had.   

The punch is one bottle of Naked Berry Veggie smoothie, 3 cups of orange juice, and one 33 oz bottle of lime seltzer.  I think it would be great with a sparkling rosé for an adult version too.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

From Maps to Plants, Repurposing and Reviving an Old Map Stand

I work in a small, shared office at a university.  We recently reorganized and re-envisioned our office space that including paring back and purging what we didn't need.  It was a great and invigorating spring clean!

Ever since I've started working there, an old metal map stand has stood in the corner but didn't serve a purpose in our office, so I brought it home, gave it a good cleaning, and came up with the idea to turn it into a plant stand.  The slats for rolled up maps were perfect supports for shelves.

Dusty and drab!

It was very dusty and tarnished, so the first step was just cleaning it!

Then, I used this technique over at one of my favorite blogs, Centsational Girl.  I scrubbed the stand with lemon juice and salt.  This polished off some of the tarnish but not too much.  I'm not sure if it is brass or bronze, but I am loving the warm golden glow that shows through.

Using wood I had left over in my basement, I cut out the two shelves. I wanted them to look like aged, reclaimed wood.  I pounded the edges and corners of the shelves with a hammer, dragged the hammer over the flat surface of the wood, and banged some other metal tools into the wood, leaving dents and gouges.  I even scraped the wood against our rough concrete driveway.  I sanded the shelves until smooth, then wiped it free of dust.

Loving the bands and knots in the wood.
Dented edges (sounds like an '80s rock band).
Continuing with the reclaimed look, I decided to oil the wood with black walnut tinted Danish oil, and finish it with an orange beeswax.  This combo gives the wood a nice patina that doesn't look too "finished."  I love the different bands of colors and the knots. 

I am always surprised at how much the dents and nicks show once a stain or oil is applied.  My advice is to be a bit conservative in the amount you do and scrub the stain or oil into those imperfections to bring them out.

I love the wood and metal combo!

I love the end result and the shape of the metal stand.  I am now able to display some of the white stones we brought back from the Greek islands a few years back.  Wrapped with copper wire, they are an interesting way to display photos and postcards. 

Loving how the white stones pop against my dark "reclaimed" shelf!
I was having a lot of fun with the stones and wire and made this little sculpture of a stack of small stones as well! 
Oh, and the postcard there, of the Fog City Diner in San Francisco?  It is of a painting by my mom.  Check out her amazing pastel paintings here!

The total cost of this project was $0, yup $0!  And it gave new life to an interesting, but not functional, antique.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Recipe: Tipsy Onions

One of our favorite things to do in the Bay Area is go up to wine country.  Over the years though, we've stopped doing tastings at several wineries a day and instead go for a hike at the Jack London State Park (the site of his farm), the Sonoma Reservoir, or any of the other great hiking spots nestled amongst the vineyards.  Then, we go to one or two wineries, pick out a great bottle of red (pinot noir, zinfandel, and petit syrah are our favorites in this region), and have a picnic at the winery.  Many wineries have outdoor picnic areas and will waive the tasting fee and provide glasses for your picnic when you buy a bottle!

This weekend, I decided to do a slightly different take on our standard bread, cheese, and salami picnic, and created this onion dish with which to top the bread.  I'm not really sure what to categorize it as: onion conserve? onion jam?  Whatever it is, it is tasty!

Tipsy Onions
2 medium red onions
1 cup white wine
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp bourbon (optional)
Kosher salt

Thinly slice the onions into rings, while the olive oil is heating in a pan over medium heat. 

When the oil is heated add the onions and stir for about 1 minute.  Add the wine, bourbon (if using), thyme, and a pinch of salt.
Simmer, uncovered, over medium low heat.  Stir occasionally until the onions are softened and the liquid begins to evaporate.  Increase the heat to medium.  Let the liquid evaporate fully and stir so that the onions begin to lightly brown, but not burn or stick. 
Rosé Vinegar Dressing
3 tbsp rosé vinegar
Scant 1 ½ tsp honey
¾ tsp Dijon mustard
8 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper

Do you have a mini-food processor?  I love mine, especially for making dressings in small quantities.  It emulsifies the oil in a just a few seconds resulting in a creamy dressing.  These steps are the same if you hand mix the dressing, it just takes a bit longer.

In the food processor, mix the vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper.  Pulse a few times.  Add the olive oil and give it a few pulses until the dressing is creamy.

If mixing by hand with a whisk, add the oil slowly bit by bit.

To serve: top bread slices with arugula and a spoonful of the onions.  Drizzle with the dressing and top with a shaving of Pecorino Romano.  And don't forget to pour the wine!

Wine and lots of great goodies!
We ended up at the Hartford Winery and had a great bottle of their Russian River Zinfandel.  We also had a goat cheese brie, salami, apples, dried fruit, and nuts.

How do you know it has been a successful picnic?  I think these two photos say it all!

The aftermath!

Monday, March 18, 2013

The RAST Dresser

My nephew is staying with us a couple nights a week and we wanted him to have a place for pajamas and his things.

Enter the RAST, the favorite amongst crafters for being a blank canvas for all sorts of design treatments.

The RAST in its original state.
After assembling the dresser, which went quickly and smoothly, we gave it a light, quick sanding with fine grit sandpaper.  We then gave its exterior surfaces a coat of Zinnser primer to lay the foundation for the paint.  I like to use a spray primer because it goes on evenly and there isn't any clean up with mineral spirits.  I did two coats of primer, with a light sanding in between.

I painted the dresser a very pale blue and painted the knobs in brushed nickel metallic spray paint.  When painting knobs and pulls, I like to poke the screws through a piece of cardboard and attach the knobs.  This way, the knobs stay straight up while painting.

I also made a stencil of a elongated star burst, just using clip art on the computer.  I carefully taped all the edges of the stencil and spray painted it with the metallic paint.  I plan on putting on a protective finish, but just haven't decided what yet.  The color is a custom Benjamin Moore that I added more blue to so I don't really know the color!  It also has Floetrol added to it to help even out brush strokes.

Finished dresser - I love the little red converse!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pinterest Project - Thrifted Sweater Redux

I have a ton of Pinterest pins for Fashion Inspiration, so I try to actually use them for inspiration as much as possible!  Here is a project based on Pinterest and using a thrifted sweater.
Inspiration photo from Pinterest
I’ve had this photograph pinned on Pinterest for a while now so last weekend I decided to tackle it!  Pinterest isn’t letting me click through to the original source for this photo.

I found a rather simple navy blue sweater at my local Salvation Army.  It’s nothing special, no special materials or anything, but it is very soft, fits well and has a fine knit.  It is also in great shape: no tears, pulls, or stains, it has retained its shape and isn’t too pilly.
Original sweater
I purchased 1 yard of pink ribbon at my go-to fabric store. The sweater was $4.50 and the ribbon was $1.65.  I already had matching thread, so I got a new and very unique sweater for less than $7!

How to:
1. Cut through the neckline and on either side of the shoulder seam to as far down the arm as you want.  Remove the bulky shoulder seam.

Cut a slit at the shoulder
2. Carefully, and without stretching the knit, stay stitch about 1/8 inch from the edge to stabilize it and keep the edge from unraveling while you work. 
Stay stitch the raw edge
3. Cut the ribbon in half so you have two ties.
4. Gently and without stretching the fabric, fold the seam over, laying the ribbon in as you go.  As I got closer to the end of the slit, my seam became less of a fold and more of a roll.  Just be sure to get the raw edge tucked inside the seam.  Also, if your new shoulder slit crosses any seams, be sure to keep them aligned as you fold over the raw edge.
Pinned seam with the ribbon pinned into the seam
5. I decided to hand baste the seam as the raw edge kept wanting to peek out between the pins and the pins were getting bulky.  Basting the edge kept the seam super secure for the machine sewing.
I chose a small stitch, a size 2 on my machine.  I had to advance it by hand to work it over the neck seam. 
Here you can see the hand basting
6. Remove your hand basting and gently press the seam with a warm iron.

7. Finish the seam on the ends of the ribbon.  Fold ¼ inch of the raw edge of the ribbon, press with the iron, then fold and press ¼ inch again.  Unfold and trim the edge to 1/8 inch of the first fold and clip the corners.  Fold the seam again, pin, sew, and press.
Clip the corners of the seam
8. The ribbon needs to be stitched down to the underside of the seam.  Here it is coming out of the finished sweater seam on the wrong side of the sweater, but it needs to lay flat along the seam.  
The ribbon, sewn into the finished seam
Pin the ribbon so it lays flat against the seam (wrong side)
9. Use thread to match your sweater in the needle, and thread to match the ribbon in your bobbin.  Pin the ribbon flat along the seam, and stitch right on top of your first seam.  With the threads matching your sweater and ribbon, this seam will blend. 

Sew the ribbon flat to the seam
10. Press gently with a warm iron and voila!
Finished sweater

Love the bare shoulder peeking out!
I also removed the sweater’s original and kinda ugly tag from the back of the neckline.  The machine care instructions are in the side seam and those I kept.

I think this would also be pretty with a longer slit down the arm, and lace inset into the slit up to the shoulder bow.  This would be a great solution to a sweater that fits in the body, but the arms are too slim.  Hmmmm…going to have to find another thrift store sweater now!!

Loving it with my new pale pink pumps!!