Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pretty Pillow Plans

In mid-January Kristen Krason posted this gorgeous mood board on her blog, 6th Street Design School (one of the blogs I check almost daily).

Oh, those colors! I love them. You've seen my affinity for raspberry pink in the past week, and I love how this mood board incorporates that with chartreuse and aqua -- two more colors that. I. love. And those pillows! The second I saw pillow #1 I knew it was what our living room needed to look a little more cohesive.

Source: fabric.com via Sarah on Pinterest

Now, remember that this month is No Shop January. In early January I laid out some ground rules, and in those ground rules I allotted money for a blender and a yoga Groupon -- two things I did not purchase. I also saw that the beautiful pillow fabric on fabric.com was on clearance and there wasn't much left. So, after three weeks of admiring it, I finally bought the fabric. Note: As of posting this, fabric.com is showing 8 yards left. 

I bought three yards totaling $41, but I had a coupon to bring it down to $35 (just enough to still get the free shipping!). That should be enough to make at least two pillows and maybe cover a lampshade or a chair.

Last night my roommate and I sat on our couch admiring how much our living room was coming together. The TV wasn't even on. We were watching the room. And we should've been going to sleep. We're having a Superbowl party just because we like the new TV stand I made, and so we can cook a bunch of the stuff we saw on pinterest. Can't wait to get this fabric so I can sew up some pretty pillow and make it look even nicer!

Update: The piece of furniture that my roomie and I were admiring is now posted here. And I just found out that my fabric is coming tomorrow. Yay!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Project Updates

Hey friends! Wow -- I owe a big THANK YOU to Miss Mustard Seed because her Furniture Feature Friday sent a ton of traffic to the desk I posted last week. If you found this blog from her lovely site, I'm very glad to have you!

This weekend I wrapped up work on a project that has been a long time coming, and made it just in time for the Superbowl party my roommates want to host this weekend. I'm just waiting on some hardware to finish 'er off. Which should come today. Yay!

Not surprisingly, the hardware is from Anthropologie. I got it on sale, so I was able to keep the very pretty knobs to $3/piece (plus shipping). This purchase will involve a return (and trip to the Anthropologie store, double yay!) because I couldn't decide which hardware I wanted. I'm incredibly indecisive, so I use this strategy probably too often. Oh well, whenever I watch HGTV Sarah and Genevieve and Candace always bring in multiple options and choose their favorites.

I'm leaning towards one right now, but I'm going to wait to make my final decision until I test them out tonight. It's so hard to see what something will look like until you actually test it out. Here's a glimpse of my purchase:

Note that I bought 9 of one type of knob, which I did because the review noted that they weren't totally well constructed. I need 7. Consider the extra two backups.

I'll be back tomorrow, Wednesday, Thursday, or whenever I get around to photo-editing/writing the post.

P.S. Man oh man, I have a crazy hankering for Bodo's Bagels right now. Is that weird? It's a favorite food spot right across from the UVA campus ("grounds", otherwise known as). Fellow former Charlottesville residents--does this ever strike you? Or maybe you are craving Take It Away? $2 pitchers (duh)? Do you ever get a crazy hankering for your favorite college food? Is this a sign that I need to go back to grad school? Or take a day trip to Charlottesville? Does anyone want to go with me? Is this too many questions?

OK, back to work.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Adventures in Sewing a Zipperless Pillow

Like many women, I love me a beautiful throw pillow. Textiles are just so purty and pillows are one of the easiest ways to soften up a room. They’re also a great way to add personality to a basic couch or duvet. In the case of our house, they’re a way to dress up our hand-me-down couch.

Before I dive into this little pillow-making tutorial, first let me introduce you to my new(ish) friend, Suzy the sewing machine:

She’s a pre-WWII Singer Featherweight sewing machine. So she’s kind of a new-to-me situation. My grandma has a similar one that she and my mom have used to sew many beautiful things, including both of these lovely Halloween costumes:

That pumpkin isn't on my dress -- it was on the scanned picture. Side note: Don't ever dress your 5 year old up like a bride for Halloween. She will not know how to answer the question, "Where's your groom?" every time she rings a doorbell, and so she will get snotty. And if you are 5 and you're reading this, 1) how impressive and 2) definitely pick what you want to be for Halloween before your mom gets any ideas.

But I digress.

My mom always wanted my sister and I to have our own featherweights, and she saw this one at the shop where she took hers to get serviced. It was a very pleasant non-birthday, non-Christmas surprise. Suzy doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, so she’s very easy to use. I decided to break her out and make a pillow for my first project.

I bought this pink patterned fabric on fabric.com, but before you go chasing it down, you should know that I bought it over a year ago. That seems to be a theme this week.

I decided to do a zipperless pillow because, well, zippers intimidated me. My mom always made them sound hellish, but she was always sewing clothes costumes. I found out last month that when it comes to pillow sewing, zippers are pretty easy. But I consider this pillow more of a step one, so we’re starting here.

I picked up a 14” pillow on sale at Joann’s Fabrics. In hindsight, I wish I had splurged a little bit more because this pillow is very flat. Next time I will buy something a little more plush.

First, I measured and cut a piece of fabric about 16” square. That sounds like a lot, but, it’s better to cut too big than too small. And this was my first try, so I was leaving room for error. I cut the back pieces after looking at a flap-close pillow I had at home, and I determined that the overlap should be an inch or two. With about a ½” hem, that meant that I needed between two and three inches more than my initial 16” square, so I cut a piece of fabric to be 16” x 19”. Then I cut the 19” piece in half.  

Next came the sewing process. I needed to hem the overlap sides first so that it could be sewed into the square, so I folded one side of each of the smaller pieces over and sewed a hem. Once those two pieces were hemmed on the open side, I placed the 16” square face up, and placed the two back pieces face down so that all the sides lined up. Then I pinned around the sides, pointing the pins towards the center of the pillow.

Once all the pins were in, I was ready to start sewing. I started in one corner, reinforcing the initial stich by sewing forward, backward, and then forward again. After going around all four sides, I reinforced the last stitches and cut the thread. Then I picked another corner, reinforced the first stitch, and sewed around the square again.

After I finished sewing, I turned the pillow inside out so that it was, well, no longer inside out.  Then I placed my pillow form inside the pillowcase.

And that’s when I determined it looked really, really limp. No worries! I took the pillow form out and flipped the pillow cover inside out again. I did another two stiches about ½” inside the original stitches to shrink the size of the pillow. Then I tested the pillow again, and it looked much better. Once I determined that the pillow cover was the right size, I took it off the pillow, cut the edges to shrink the excess a bit, and cut the corners diagonally so that there wasn’t a bunch of extra fabric stuffed in the corner.

Now the pink pillow resides on our couch, but I’m thinking about snatching it for my bed soon. Of course, that will be after I sew some new ones for the couch. Oh, and don't be fooled into thinking that I still have my Christmas decorations up. This was just the best picture I have of our couch pillows right now. Which reveals that yes, I completed this project a little while ago. You caught me. 

Has anyone else taken up a new sewing project lately? 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Moroccan Stenciled Desk

Guys. I’m really excited to present this project to you not only because I’m pumped about the way it turned out, but because it represents a major victory against months of procrastination. It's also a victory for No Shop January because I had already purchased all the materials to finish it forever ago, it was just a matter of getting it done.

A month after we moved into our house, I bought a solid wood white desk on craigslist. It needed a lot of work, so I took it directly into our basement where I immediately got to work on it  it sat for 5 months. In my defense, I bought it in mid-October, which can kind of be the end of the furniture-revamping season on account of the shorter and colder days. But really that’s not a good excuse, because all I needed to do was sand, it’s not like I needed to paint it outside.

Here's the before:

And here's the after:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Keep Calm and...Come Play with Us

Every time Christmas or her birthday rolls around, I never quite know what to give my grandma. This is the woman who babysat my brother when my mom went back to work, took us to the beach every summer, took my sister and I on shopping sprees for our birthday, attended every sporting event and awards ceremony she possibly could, and even paid for my college education. Basically, she is amazing so I want to make sure I do something that will make her happy.

The only problem is that like many reasonable people her age, she doesn’t really want more stuff. She has tons of interests and I could give her endless accessories for her house, but she doesn’t need any more seashell-themed things for her living room. She is beautiful and has a great sense of style so we do buy her some clothes, but we want to do more than give her a couple sweaters for Christmas.

This year, instead of giving her stuff, we decided to give her an experience. My grandma loves spending time with us (who can blame her?) and we sure enjoy her company too, so my sis and I decided to take her to tea with my mom this year.

But this is not a post about the tea party…because we haven’t gone yet (we’ve all been busy). We are planning to go this weekend.

This post is about the invite. The challenge with giving someone an experience is that unless you have tickets to unwrap, the whole gift-giving process is kind of dull.  I decided to make an invitation in Photoshop, although I think it would be pretty easy to make it in Word too.

The invitation was a play on the “Keep Calm and Carry On” British World War 2 poster that you see all over the place.

To make the poster, I downloaded the “Keep Calm” font from K-Type.com, which even the crown icon. First, I made the background color pink. Then I made I separate text box for the crown icon, “Keep”, “Calm”, “and”, and “Drink Tea” so that I could easily control how close together each line was. Once I sized everything properly, I arranged all of the items so that their center points were aligned.

Next, I created a new Photoshop document to be the back of the invitation. Using the same font (not in all caps) I wrote, “Your lovely granddaughters and daughter invite you to channel your inner Kate Middleton and join us for afternoon tea at Peacock Alley in the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC.” I didn’t specify the date because my grandma is a super busy lady and I wanted to see what her schedule was like first. And I kept the crown on the front rather than a tea cup because I mentioned HRH on the back.

I printed the invite on cardstock from a regular inkjet printer and put it in an envelope for her to open on Christmas day. 
She loved it, and we can’t wait to go get tea together. I think that the Keep Calm poster makes a great invitation, and you could use it in many ways—bridal and baby showers, birthday parties, etc.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Well Hello Pretty Ladies

For a year, my roommates and I sat in our living room with nothing hanging above our pretty big sectional besides a tiny picture I found at Home Goods. And for a year, I wondered what the heck to put there.

I pinned a lot of ideas for artwork over the wall to Pinterest but just wasn’t quite sure what I liked. One thing I was sure of? We needed large artwork of some kind and I needed it cheap.

We came close to getting one option: a series of four vintage Mademoiselle cover prints from Z Gallerie. But at $50, it was out of my budget and I wasn’t even sure if four pictures would like good enough in this space.
While those prints were the right ones for us, I still found myself gravitating to vintage fashion prints. I love a pretty fashion print, and, like I mentioned with my Christmas tree, living with three girls is the perfect time to embrace something girly in our living room.

I especially liked this gallery wall that I saw on Pinterest:

Via Pretty Stuff (original source anyone?)
Then One day I saw this picture on Pinterest:

Via Layla Grace
When I clicked on the source blog I found that it was a gallery of vintage Barbie prints. And when I Googled “Vintage Barbie” (naturally), I found the Barbie calendar.

Ding! (That’s the sound of a light bulb turning on above my head).

This isn’t the first time I’ve used calendars for artwork. In college I took apart a calendar and put up all over my dorm room. When I did it then it looked ridiculous, but I always maintained, like many other bloggers, that calendars can be a great source of affordable artwork.

I picked up the 2012 Barbie Calendar at Bed Bath, and Beyond. I wasn’t sure how many of the prints I wanted to use – I was thinking 6 or 8 in large frames with big mats. I figured I would probably paint the frames because our living room is kind of lacking in the color department,.

It seems that framing section at Michael’s is perpetually on sale, so I figured I could get a pretty good deal on a group of their nicer frames. My first option was a group of six 12x16 frames. They were originally $30, marked down to $15. Which still sounded like a lot when I was thinking about buying six of them.

Not to mention, the price of mats big enough to fit in the frame put the total for each one over $20, making this project ring in to the tune of $150—a whole lot more than I was trying to spend.

My second option was a matted frame around the same size as option one for $12.99 each. When I did the math of six or eight of those babies, it was still pretty pricey.

Then I looked at the shelf above option two. There, I found a 10x13 frame matted to 8x10 for $5. I hadn’t really thought about displaying all twelve pictures, but at this price it was my cheapest option. So I took home 12 frames in white and oatmeal (since I was planning to paint them anyway).

First, I placed all 12 picture frames on the floor in two rows of six to see how large it would be.

It didn’t seem very big on the floor, but I wanted to see what it was like on the wall just to be sure. To do this, I used scrap paper and catalogs to make a template for each frame, and hung them on the wall with painter’s tape.

We call this photo "channeling our inner teenage boy".
Yes, those are pages of one of the 50 Victoria's Secret catalogs we receive every week. 
I decided I liked all 12 frames, so I proceeded with my plans to paint them.  I settled on a lavender spray paint with one or two frames painted a darker purple. First I took all the mats and glass out of the frames.

Then I placed the frames on a matt outside and painted the frames in shifts so that I could get around them easily. I decided to put a layer of primer on the frames because they weren’t real wood and I hope that the Primer would help the spray paint adhere.

Once I finished the frames, I moved on to cutting the Barbie prints out of the calendar.

First, I removed the staples from the centerfold of the calendar. Then, I cut each piece of paper down the fold with a craft knife. I had to keep reminding myself that the calendar pattern was on the back of half of the images in the calendar.

Many of the prints were actually bigger than 8x10 opening, so I broke out my high school yearbook knowledge and used the mat to crop each picture. I tried my best to include the feet as much as I could, but I ended up having to cut some of them off. I’m hoping that unlike a photo on a yearbook page, it looks a little bit artistic and not silly.

I cut the images slightly smaller than the whole mat so that I could tape them to the back of the mat exactly as I liked them.

Once everything was cropped and taped, I put the glass and mats and prints in the frames and began the very tedius hanging process. I tried to make life easier for myself and our walls by using 3M Command Strips to hang the frames. That way we would have fewer holes to patch when we moved out (we live in a rental) and it would be a lot easier to hang them precisely in a grid.

I started from the a top center picture and worked my way out until I hung 6 frames in a row. I used a combination method of a ruler and a level to mark where on the wall I needed to hang the frames.

Once I hung the top row, I moved on to the bottom, again making my way out from the center. Then I stepped back and looked at the whole thing and determined I needed to make some adjustments. Luckily the frames were easily to remove from the wall, so I eyeballed the adjustments until everything was straight.

Well...I wish it was perfectly straight. This is not a good project for extremely perfectionists because it seems almost impossible to get the entire grid to look right. But it’s good enough.

The first time around I had only painted one frame dark purple. Once everything was on the wall I decided it needed another dark accent, so I took a frame down, pulled the glass and print out of it, and re-sprayed it a darker color.

And voila! Vintage fashion print artwork gallery over our couch.

Some of the places that I found the Barbie calendar show it as art in a kid’s room, but I think it works here. In fact, most people have no idea that they’re Barbie prints when they see the arrangement. I know it’s super girly, but like I said before, when else will I be able to do something so girl in my living room?

I haven’t even told you my favorite part about this whole thing. The price!

Here’s the budget breakdown:
Barbie Calendar - $12
12 Frames x $5 each - $60
Primer Spray Paint – had already
Lavender Spray Paint x 2 - $7
Dark purple spray paint - $3.50
Artwork Total: $82.50

The Command Strips added about $20 to the budget, but they’ll save us money when we don’t have to patch holes before we move, and I would’ve had to pay for mounting hardware regardless of what art I bought. So for a little over $100, we have art above our couch.

$100 still always sounds like a lot of money to me, but I know that this is a great value for the price, especially considering that the price per framed print came in under $10 each. AND then there’s this fun piece of info.

The original Barbie inspiration piece? Well, I followed it to the source and found that the prints displayed on the wall sell for $100 EACH! And if I wanted to, I could’ve probably painted the frames a similar color to the high-end prints to make them like even more similar. There are definitely ways to dress these babies up even more.

So there you have it, a $1200 piece of artwork done for $100. Can I get a woohoo?

Has anyone else done something cool with calendars as art? I plan to keep using them and even recycle my 2011 letterpress calendar that hung on the wall in my cube at work. But that project requires more materials so it will have to wait until after No Shop January!

Speaking of No Shop January, today was a success! I was at work late and very tempted to pick up a pizza on the way home, but I resisted the temptation and cooked up chicken tacos when I got home.  Score one for me. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Monthly Challenge: No Shop January

I decided that to aid in that sometimes-lacking feeling of accomplishment that can come with my quasi-grownup state, I'm going to take on some kind of challenge each month of 2012. Today I am declaring this month No Shop January. 

It doesn’t ring quite as well as “No Shave November” (which I did NOT participate in), but that’s what I’m calling it nonetheless.

Last year my old roommate, who loved to buy super cute clothes online, decided to do “No Shop November” to accompany her boy toy’s “No Shave November” and save some much needed moolah. Well…I looked at my credit card statement last weekend and realized just how expensive December was. And I also realized how much money I spend on impulsive purchases and projects every month. I don’t think my bank account can wait until November and I really want to get better at saving, so I am holding my own No Shop January to start the year off on the right foot.

I’m trying to set reasonable terms in hopes that I can be a little less impulsive in the following months, so here’s how this is going to work: I’m making a list of non-allowable expenses and making a few exceptions so that I’m not completely devoid of a life this month.

No spending allowed on:
  • Clothing, shoes, and accessories
  • Random makeup like lipstick or nail polish
  • Random stuff from Target that I have a tendency to pick up when I’m grocery shopping there, including plastic containers and holiday decorations
  • Sewing and crafting materials
  • Tools (Anything I don’t have I will borrow from my parents—who will be surprised to read this)
  • Wine or beer from the grocery store
  • Fast food/restaurants when I’m eating alone
  • Groupons/Living Social Deals/Flash Sales
  • Shopping with gift cards from Christmas is allowed.
  •  I am allowed to buy the blender that I have been thinking about buying for a while so that I can make green smoothies.
  •  If a Groupon or Living Social deal comes up for the yoga studio that I really want to attend but can’t afford, I am allowed to buy it.
  • The boy and I are allowed to spend money out to eat for date night, but we should try to use my restaurant.com gift cards to snag a good deal.
  • Groceries are allowed, but impulsive purchases of craving foods when I already have perfectly edible food in my house are not allowed.
  •  I am allowed to buy materials within reason for a project that I plan to at least start in January. That means I should try to use paint that I already have, but if I decide on another color that would work best, I can buy the small quantity of paint. I can also buy a new foam roller if I need one and the hardware I need to retrofit this specific piece of furniture. The key is that this project is done within reason and that I take inventory of the materials I already own before buy more.   
Strategies for seeing this through:
  • Delete flash sale and store emails immediately.
  • Read Living Social and Groupon deals quickly and delete them if they don’t have the yoga place I’m looking for.
  • Plan meals better so that I don’t need to eat out.
  • Start and complete the project I’ve been planning to do instead of taking on new ones.
  • Write blog posts about the projects I’ve already completed instead of taking on new ones.

In addition to a halt on impulsive shopping, I am also taking steps to get my finances better organized. I am plan to open another savings account or two – one for short term savings projects one for long-term, don’t touch, save for an emergency savings.

I am also planning to do more structured saving. I live in a spacious house with great roommates…in a so-so location for me. It’s close to my office but not as close to Metro as I would like, and not walkable to bars and restaurants I got to like I wish it was. I don’t really want to move because our rent is dirt cheap and I like my living situation. So, to make sure I am actually benefiting from the money I’m saving by choosing to live a bit farther out of the urban areas than I’d like, I am going to start saving the difference between what it would cost me to live in one of those places and what I pay now into savings, contributing a small portion for short term and a bigger portion for long term.

And so begins No Shop January. I’ll try to keep you updated about how I’m doing, what’s tempting me, and how I’m being resourceful and using what I have to do a few projects around the house.

Oh, and by all means, feel free to join me in this endeavor! I know I’m not the only Savvy Young Something who wants to get savvier by getting her spending under control. If you decide to join, leave a comment here or on my facebook page, or send me a tweet letting me know you’re taking on the challenge!

P.S. I’ll be back tomorrow with an update on a project I took on a little while ago. Hint: It involves this pretty lady

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It's a Coffee Table Post...about My Coffee Table

Last year I bought a coffee table on Craigslist from a family with four kids, and boy did they leave a mark on it. Literally. It was totally beat up. But it was also only $20 and solid wood for the most part, so I scooped it up with the intention of refinishing it.

A word to the wise: Don’t buy a piece of furniture in October that you intend to refinish unless you are willing to live with it as-is until the spring…or however long it takes you to get around to finishing the project. We lived with our beat up coffee table for a year until I decided on a whim to try to finish it before my cousins came to visit.

So one day when I came home from work, the table looked like this:

And when I was done working for the night, it looked like this:

And I looked like this:

Caution: Don't try to live on the edge like me and wear flip flops while sanding.
Always wear closed-toe shoes when using power tools. 
It was a dusty endeavor.

When it comes to refinishing furniture, this ain't my first rodeo. A while ago I refinished my big girl bed, and I also stained a piece of wood to make a coatrack. To tackle this project, I took it into our backyard and went after it with my power sander (I own this Ryobi sander, but this similar Black and Decker sander would work fine too). The finish came off super easily, and I was able to sand through a lot of the scratches and dents in the surface.  I started with the tabletop and then moved to the legs. That’s when I realized that I would be better able to sand and stain the entire table more thoroughly if I took the table apart.

A lot of tables can be easily de-constructed by removing screws on the underside of the tabletop. After removing the legs from the tabletop and shelf, I finished sanding the tabletop portion and legs and called it a night. I left the drawer and the shelf for another day.

While most of the table is solid wood, the shelf is made of a very thin veneer. That means I couldn’t just take a power sander to it. To make sure I thoroughly removed the finish without hurting the shelf, I decided to strip the finish off and then lightly sand it with sandpaper.

But, I was doing all this in the fall, so by the time I got home from work it was dark and kind of chilly—not good when you’re trying to strip a piece of furniture. Luckily, because I took the table apart, I could use a water-based stain to begin staining the tabletop and legs in our basement each night when I got home from work.

To stain the table, I used General Finishes Water-Basedstain in Espresso, which I had leftover from a previous project. I applied the stain evenly in sections using a foam brush, and wiped it off using pieces of an old t-shirt. I think I applied four coats in all.

When the next Saturday rolled around I set up shop outside and used a disposable paintbrush to apply Citristrip to the shelf. I let it sit on the surface for about 4 minutes, and then used a plastic stripping tool. I didn’t let it sit longer because it started to dry after that point.

In order to prevent myself from damaging the veneer, I was very careful with the stripping tool, allowing it to skim the surface and remove the finish without scraping the wood.

After stripping off the finish and cleaning off the stripper residue (snort), I let the shelf dry overnight inside.  Then I stained it using the same technique as the tabletop and legs.

After all the surfaces were stained, I used a foam brush to apply three coats of a MinWax Polycrylic Protective Finish in Satin. I let it dry over night, moved table back up to our living room in pieces, and put it back together.

I picked up some drawer pulls at Home Depot thinking that they were standard and would fit the coffee table drawer. Silly me. It turns out that a lot of standard drawer pulls are 3” wide, but the holes in my drawer were 4” apart. I found some drawer pulls on anthropologie’s website (similar ones currently available) that were the right width, ordered them in 4 colors, decided on the ones I liked best, and returned the rest. 

The table is admittedly a little large for the space, and the finish is a bit darker than I'd like -- it looks almost black in certain light, but I still think it's a major improvement over its previous beat up state. And, I'll be able to sell it for more on Craigslist when I eventually decide to move or find another piece for the space.

I’ll be back later this week with more overdue projects!

Linked to: My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia

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