Around the House

Prototypes and Small Projects

I haven’t shared much sewing on the blog lately.  It hasn’t been because I haven’t been sewing, but because I’ve mostly been sewing things you guys have already seen.

My lavender sachets have been hanging out in my closets and pantries for a while now, and were losing their potency, so I decided it was time for some new ones.

  I decided to use some of my fabric.  I had some extra swatches kicking around that hadn’t made it onto my board for Quilt Market for one reason or another (color change, scale change, ect) and decided that rather than keeping them around, rolled up and not seen, I’d make them into pretties for myself.  This is my Iris Dot pattern, in the Frosted colorway.
  The other sewing I’ve been doing has mostly been working on prototypes for aerial clothing.
  I’ve been making a large percentage of my own stuff, and quite a few of the instructors have been enviously eyeing my leos and shorts, and encouraging me to make some for them to buy.
  Now, since I’ve got a lot of other irons in the fire, I may not exactly take off with a full out spandex empire, but I figured that standardizing the patterns I’m using can do nothing but save me time in the future when I go to make my own…and, if I crank out a couple to sell, it’s only a bonus.  So, lots and lots of pairs of tiny shorts to go over leggings, and a couple new leos to work out the exact fit of the leg holes and get the neckline where I want it.
  Lots of sewing, but not much to show off!

Because They Have Gooey Fingers, I Have Fabric Dye (How to Mix Custom Colors)

Ok, that title is somewhat misleading.  It puts the blame for my not being able to have “nice things” far too much on my children, when in reality, my husband and I are nearly as bad as they are.  …in this instance, the boys are only half to blame.

The Mr. and I have a beautiful duvet cover that we were given for our wedding.  It was pale blue, high thread count cotton and I loved putting it on the bed every fall (we change our comforter in the spring to a lighter-weight one, so this one is only used half the year).  Unfortunately, some time last year, G wound up in our bedroom with chocolate all over his face, and decided to face plant into our bed.  …that’s the part of the blame I can place on “children”.  The rest of the issue came from me.  Thinking I was being clever, I immediately stain treated the cover, washed it and then, here’s the awful part, lay it out to air dry.  …that doesn’t seem so bad, until I tell you that I lay it out using my husbands weights to support portions of it.  …they left giant, dark orange rust stains all over the cover.  I cried.

I tried and tried to remove the rust stains to no avail.  Nothing was getting them out.  I gave up and tried to just ignore them.  A year later, with the stains still upsetting me, I turned to dye.

The picture above is what the comforter looked like before I started.  It’s also the background for these pictures.  Very, very pale blue.

And this is what it looks like now:

The photo doesn’t capture the color exactly…it’s more purple than this shows…sort of a grey lavender.  The little scrap of fabric is part of the process I used to mix the dye (which I’ll explain in a second).

I’m still trying to decide how I feel about the color.  It changes enormously depending on the lighting.  I love it when it’s more grey…not sure how I feel about it when it’s uber purple, especially with my not-intended-to-match-lavender linens…

Anyhow, if you hadn’t already guessed, this is a custom dye color.  Every once in a great while, RIT will have a dye in just the right color for what I want…but it’s not often.  I’m a color snob, what can I say.  Luckily, back in college, I took a costume design class that included a section on dyeing.

To make this particular color I used RIT’s Royal Blue and Black dye in my washing machine.  I wish I’d have had the foresight to have bought a little bit of green to add in, but, *sigh* such is life.  I filled my machine with the hottest water it could muster, dumped in my cup of salt (since I was working with cotton) and started putting in the dye.  The blue I bought was powder, while the black was liquid.  …I would suggest going the liquid route if you want to do this, as I found I had FAR more control with the black than I did the blue.  Basically, I added a small amount, allowed the machine to agitate for a second and then swished a scrap of cotton material around for a bit.  Once it was good and saturated, I rinsed it and dried it with a hair dryer.  Obviously, since my cover was light blue, it was going to turn out a touch differently than true white fabric, but, as you can see from the picture above, the difference was pretty negligible.  Make sure that if you don’t love the results from your first dye bath, you don’t just re-swish the same scrap fabric.  Start with another white piece.

The dried scrap fabric will show you what color you’ve created in your dye bath.  If you have a bedroom with lots of natural light (like mine), make sure you don’t just look at the fabric in your dark, poorly lit basement and be like “YUP, that’s good” like I did, or you may wind up with a bright purple surprise.  Also, obviously make sure that when you’re adding dye to your water, you use a light hand.  You can ALWAYS add more dye, but once it’s too dark, you’re pretty much screwed unless you want to empty the machine and start completely over (hoping you have enough dye left to get where you need to).

This was actually my first time using the washing machine method to dye something…and I’m pretty dang happy with it.  I did wind up with a few little dark splashes of dye on it (because apparently I’m not allowed to have a spot free comforter) but I fear that’s because I was in a rush, and being careless and got dye on the sides of my machine…that then got on the cover when I went to move it to the dryer.  THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!!!  As a result I’m considering running it through another bath with just black dye to darken it up some.  We’ll see.

If you have any questions about mixing your own, custom dye colors, let me know!!

Making Our House More "Ours"

  Something has shifted lately.  I’m not sure what exactly caused the change, but for whatever reason, the Mr and I finally got to a point where it clicked that, hey, this is our house, we can do whatever we want with it.  We aren’t going to have to repaint the walls back to rental-white or worry about a security deposit…we aren’t going anywhere.

  …so lets have some fun, huh?

  Our first project was putting up a canopy in our bedroom.

  Before we lived in this house we had always had a four poster bed.  We both loved the look of it, and were rather dismayed to find upon moving in that there was absolutely no way to get it up to our bedroom.  Apparently in the 1920s when our house was built, they weren’t much worried about getting box springs any bigger than a twin upstairs.  So, a platform bed became our best option, and while upgrading from the 4-poster’s full-size to a queen has definitely been the way to go, we both felt like our room was missing something.

  I wish I could get slightly better/wider pictures of the end result, but unfortunately, anywhere further back, I wind up with walls in my way.

  G loooooooves the new canopy.  At least twice a week since we’ve put it up he has begged to be allowed to pull all the curtains shut and play in our “fort”.  We both love it too.  It has completely changed the feel of our bedroom.  I wound up moving several pieces of furniture out to account for the visual space the canopy takes up, and the end result is fabulous.  It feels airy and luxurious…and we’ve stopped smacking our knees on the corner of the bed that blended into the floor just a little too well.

  To make the canopy, my Mr. drilled holes in our ceiling and affixed rings.  They’re, uhm, rather more robust than we needed in the end, but our plans for the canopy changed several times during the process.  We had originally planned on some sort of piping to fit through the eyes, but realized that we already had a cable system we had bought for G’s bedroom (that didn’t work in there) which would present far fewer logistical problems and used that instead.  A metal cable got threaded through (no worrying about how to turn the corners!) and I hung some Ikea curtains from it using small clips.

  I was very pleased to find the curtains I did.  I was fairly certain I was going to have to head to Haberman’s and, needing 16 yards of fabric, sell them (at least) one of my children to get something I didn’t hate.  I did the math and to beat the price of these I’d have had to have found fabric that was less than $4 a yard or something ridiculous like that.  Seeing as most of the stuff I like tends to be more like $20 a yard…  I do need to do some sewing work to get these exactly where I want them.  There are two curtains on each “post” at the foot of the bed and I want to french seam them together so there’s not a weird opening at the corner.  I also want to remove the tabs at the top (since I’m not using them) and hem the whole thing to a better length.  Not a high priority though, so it’ll probably wait for a good long time before I get to it.  We also have to redo lighting in the room to make it less awkward in relation to the new curtains…but that will probably be an even longer time.

  Our second project is rather more eccentric.

  If you follow me on Facebook you already know I’ve been doing aerial for the last few months.

  It’s incredibly fun, and a crazy hard workout, and I’m a little addicted.  I dragged the Mr. to a conditioning class back in November, and he got hooked too and has been doing trapeze classes.

  I had joked with the Mr. after I’d started that I was going to make him set up a climbing gym for me at home, and after he got into it himself…well…he started thinking about it seriously.  Now, we’re not completely insane, so it’s not like we’re going to be practicing tricks like I’m doing in the pictures above at home, but a big part of hitting a wall and not being able to learn new tricks at the gym is that my hands and arms just get so fatigued I can’t hold myself up on the silks by the end of my class.  Enter this:

  Yup.  What’s up climbing rope in my stairwell.  …told you we’d decided it was time for fun.
  So before you start giving me too much side eye thinking I’ve gone entirely batty, this isn’t in the middle of my house.  Again, our house being so old, it has some unusual features.  Most houses have the stairs to the basement nested underneath the stairs to the upstairs, so there really isn’t all that much height in the stairwell unless it’s leading to your upper story.  …I didn’t really want a giant, rainbow-colored, rope-climbing gym hanging out where it was highly visible from my dining room.  But, our house must have originally only had external access to the basement, because our basement stairwell is entirely separate from the rest of the house…tacked on to the back, nice and out of view.  That means we have a crazy high ceiling just begging for a rope to climb.
  Now, I didn’t know this, but according to the Mr, ceilings aren’t really designed to support much weight.  I had it in my head we could just find a cross beam, drill an eyelet into it and start climbing.  Apparently I’d have pulled the ceiling down on my head.  What he did instead, was to attach 2x4s across our walls into the studs (which not only support the walls, but also the ceiling) and then brace a beam across those.  … he then tested it up to something ridiculous like 600 lbs to make sure it was safe.  …there’s a reason I don’t do these projects without him.
  So now we’re just in the process of figuring out what to do for fall padding.  Like I said, neither of us is interested in doing anything much more complex than climbing and strengthening our hands and arms, but it is a cement floored set of stairs we’d be falling onto if something went wrong.  In the meantime, we’re sticking to low-height exercises.
  …so does your treadmill look really boring yet or what?

Shelves with Hanging Patterns, Take 2

  Sooo, do you guys remember how my husband set up this shelf for me so I could hang all of my traced patterns?

  Do you see how I have a reasonable amount of stuff on there?  …that’s because it was right after he put it up.  When I have a shelf, I can’t help myself, I have to put everything I can possibly fit on it.  It’s just in my nature you guys.
  Long story short, I put way too much stuff on it and what should have been a perfectly stable shelf, uhm, may have ripped heavy duty anchors out of the wall taking large chunks of plaster with it.  May have.  Ahem.
  So, after some reassessing of what sort of load the shelf should be expected to take and talking about the uses we wanted for this room thanks to this book, my Mr. has made me a way better set of shelves.

  …I’m curious as to if he realizes that he’s basically teaching me that the way to get really nice things is to break the first one he makes me….
  Anyhow, this picture is from part way through the cleaning spree I did to relocate all my fabric and craft supplies up off of the floor based shelves and onto these, so it doesn’t even remotely reflect how awesome it looks in here right now…buuuuut, I live in Michigan and it currently gets dark at like, 4pm, so I take pictures in the 3 minutes per day that the light isn’t horrendous, whether the project is utterly perfect at that moment or not.
  As you can see in the picture, my Mr integrated puck lights into the shelf.  They have 3 different settings so I can either blast them at full strength or, I dunno, set the mood with my serger.  Speaking of lights and my serger… double awesome having the extra light from these shelves, because it definitely broke the light in my serger when the old shelf fell on it.  (This is why I can’t have nice things).
  So, you can see the lights, what you can’t really see is that that man of mine stained the wood to match the gorgeous old woodworking that’s already all over the room, and spray painted the brackets, hardware and the curtain rod for hanging my stuff off of to look like it had always been here too.  Everything went into studs that we double checked the location of this time, so I was given the go-ahead to load them up as much as I wanted.  I got rid of both the wire frame shelves I had all my craft stuff and fabric on, moved it all up above, consolidated everything else down and was able to get rid of an entire table.  My light box is currently jammed onto my sewing table, which isn’t going to work as a long term solution, so we’ll be making it its own little floating shelf, but! with this new set up, this room now functions as office, sewing/hobby room AND has enough open floor space to be used as a guest bedroom again.
  I’m really freaking proud of the results.  It makes the room far more functional, and it looks huge!

It’s All Too Much-A Review

  I’ve been trying to pare down the stuff in our lives for over 2 years now.  It has been an ongoing process, but we’ve finally had a break through.  This book has been a big part of it.

  …the copy of Peter Walsh’s “It’s All Too Much” that I checked out of the library did not have the author staring at me creepily from the cover.  I’m glad, because that probably would have put me off checking it out, and this book was insanely helpful.

  My Mr. laughed at me a little bit while I was reading this because I had a really hard time getting through it.  Not because it was hard to read mind you, but because I kept wanting to jump up and get rid of things or organize every time I finished a page.

  There’s a ton of information in it, and I’m not really going to dig into it a ton here, but probably the most useful thing for us was the simple advice to change the way that you look at rooms.  Instead of saying “we have all this stuff, where do we put it?”, look at your room and say “I want this room to be used for x, y and z” and remove anything that doesn’t serve those purposes.  Don’t worry about “but where are we going to put it?!?” just now, just take it out of that room.
  The book suggests you sit down and make up a chart for each of the rooms in your home detailing what’s in there now and how it is currently used versus how you’d like to have it function…and the things that ought to be removed.  Actually sitting down and doing it was excruciating and we couldn’t bring ourselves to do it for every room in the house, but it gave us a really strong place to start and got me and the Mr. on the same page as to what we were trying to do.
  I’m pretty sure we’ve gotten more done, thrown away or donated more stuff and gotten our house closer to where we want it in the last two months than in any other period in the last two years.  On top of that, it’s kind of sick how much easier it is to keep things clean and easily found when there are so many fewer of them!  Paring stuff down has gotten a little addicting.
  So, I suppose it goes without saying, if you’re looking to organize and simplify your home (and really, who isn’t?) I highly recommend this book.
  The hope is, of course, now that we’re getting to a point where I can do less manic cleaning and cursing while trying to find my things, I’ll be able to create more.  We’ll see how it all turns out!

How to Temporarily Dim a Non-Dimmable Light

  We live in a really old house.  Typically that means teeny tiny closets and not very many of them, but we somehow won the old-house-closet lottery and have nice, big closets in our upstairs bedrooms.

  The room we use for our nursery has an especially large closet, and so in the interest of keeping the majority of the bedroom floor space open and to keep any less-than-pleasant odors contained, we have our changing table in there.
  We also have this nice, bright light fixture:
  Now, that light is fabulous for lighting up the closet during the daytime, or when you’re using the room for diaper changes that aren’t in the middle of the night, but when you’re dealing with a newborn who wakes you up multiple times a night to nurse and then needs a diaper change afterwards, the last thing you want is to have your eyes seared out by a full-strength light fixture.
  A nightlight type solution would sort of work, but what I really wanted was an overhead light that bathed the whole room in a nice, dim light.
  Luckily I found an easy solution when G was still an infant.
  All it takes is some tissue paper, scissors and a couple pieces of tape.
  I prefer black tissue paper, because it does the most dimming while doing the least to change the color spectrum of the light, but any dark colored tissue paper will work.  Simply cut your tissue paper to size and slide or tape it over your fixture.  Once baby is old enough to have grown out of middle of the night diaper changes your light is good as new, and you can always augment the lighting in the room for daytime with stand alone lamps if you need a brighter light during times of the day that you haven’t just been woken up from a precious 30 minutes of slumber.
  This works best on overhead lamps that already have covers over them, since you don’t have to worry about the paper coming into contact with the light bulb.  I wouldn’t suggest it for desk lamp type lights.
  If you have any questions about how I did this, let me know!

Everybody likes to smell nice (except maybe little boys, who prefer beans)

  I’ve mentioned before that our house is old.  I love our old house.  It has charm, character and history.  But, unfortunately, it also has cracks and crannies that let in critters.

  Some time over the winter, it let in moths.  I’ll give the sewers, knitters and crocheters a minute to flinch and hiss at the m-word.  I felt the same way.
  Thankfully (I guess?) they started in the pantry.  It was obnoxious, and a little creepy, but throwing away the occasional bit of food didn’t get to me too badly.  Until I saw one in my closet.
  That meant war.  You can take my graham crackers, but you stay away from my textiles!!
  After doing some research, I found that my options were pretty much limited to nasty chemicals or lavender.  Not wanting to bring any dangerous nonsense into my house and kind of digging the idea of everything having a nice floral scent, I decided to take the lavender route.
  Luckily for me, the Purl Bee had just done a tutorial on lavender sachets.
  If you’ve never seen their site, do me a favor and don’t click on those links til you’ve thought to yourself what pretty little sachets I made, and how nicely my picture turned out.  Once you click it’s going to be obvious I’m a rank amateur.  The materials they use are incredible, the end products are beautiful and the photography is gorgeous.  I sincerely doubt there are any toddlers in their lives.
  Speaking of toddlers; I made two sets of sachets and when I’d finished, G desperately wanted to play with them.  He begged and begged to play with the “pillows”.  Him using them as a new toy wasn’t really going to work out for moth control, so I had to take them away, but I used the same general idea to make him a couple of bean bags and now he’s happy as a clam.
  For either bean bags or sachets, start by cutting yourself 2-4″ squares of fabric.  I loved the look the Purl Bee sachets had with the plain canvas on the back, so I used muslin for mine, but complimentary fabrics could be absolutely beautiful as well.
  If you have the time and ambition for hand sewing, I suggest you follow the directions for treating the hem in advance of putting in your filling that is in the link above.  If you’re stealing moments while your tiny dictator(s) nap and think hand sewing sounds like it will be lovely to have time to do when your little one(s) gone to college, you’re with me.
  Start by placing your squares, right sides together, and stitching 3 of the 4 sides.  Turn the pocket right side out and iron.  Next, fill about 3/4 full with either lavender or dried beans.  Turn your hem allowance under, iron flat and sew shut.  …it may actually be easier to turn your hem allowance and iron it before you fill the pockets, but what can I say, I prefer ironing dangerously.
  If you’re making bean bags, you’re done.  Go throw it at somebody you love and have fun.  If you’re making sachets, you’ve got one more step.  Start by using my knot free technique to attach your thread to the center of your muslin square.  Push your needle through the center, moving the lavender to the edges with your fingers and creating a long stitch in the middle.  Pass the needle from front to back a few times until the pillow puckers in the middle.  Tie it off (again knot free) and you’re done.  If any of that is confusing, click over to their tutorial where there are lots more pictures.
  This is an incredibly quick project, and a rather satisfying one.  I finished a dozen of them fairly quickly and am planning on making another dozen soon.  It’s a great way to use up scrap fabric, and I love that on top of making my house smell nice, the lavender will be keeping my yarn and fabric stashes safe.
  As always, if you have any questions or comments, please let me know!  I love hearing from you guys!