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Thursday, April 21, 2011

DIY American Girl Bed

My daughter is currently in the American Girl phase.  I'm not sure how long it will last, but boy is her current wish list expensive!  For Easter I decided I'd make her a DIY version of an American Girl bed.  I found complete plans to make a the bed here on Ana White's website.  The goal with this project was to spend as little money as possible so I didn't follow the plans exactly.

The entire bed was constructed out of wood from my scrap pile in the basement with the exception of a 2x2 that I had to purchase.  The plan calls for a 3' length and rather than buy a whole 8' length at the local lumber mill I bought a 4' stake that is sharpened to a point at one end (I think it's used for fencing?).  According to the man at the shop it was cheaper - it came in just over $1.  I ran out of 1"x3"'s partway through and omitted or substituted different dimensions instead.  I had no suitable plywood scraps and although I have some 1/4" masonite lying around I had no desire to have to cut it down to size.  I decided I'd make it a rope bed.  My daughter has an antique rope bed at her Dad's house so I thought it would be cute if her doll did too.

I drilled 9 holes down each of the sides of the bed then 6 holes across the ends.  You just thread the 'rope' (leftover from a dollar store project) through the holes, weaving in a basket weave pattern (over and under).  Knot off each end after pulling tight and it will happily hold a mattress.

The mattress I made was constructed from fabric scraps which are on their third go around now - first as sheet, then a craft project, then as lining for my office curtains and now a doll mattress.   I still have some left and I'll probably make a pillow since I only just realized I forgot about that small detail.

Since I used paint and primer I already had in the house, all told the bed cost me less than $2.  Not a bad deal and I'm sure my daughter will love it.  Next project?  Doll bedding of course :)

 Happy Easter Everyone!

XXDIY Animal Rescue

I should really be careful what I say nowadays.  Yesterday I was 'complaining' about the ducks wanting to make our backyard home and I jokingly said that next thing you know I'd wake up in the morning and find lemurs in the garden.  Well, no lemurs but I did find these...

I really don't know what to do.  We currently have one dog, one cat, a rat and a bird.  The cat, rat and dog were all adoptions and we don't really need another cat do we?  But, gosh, they're adorable.  I don't know what to do.  Keep one or give them all up to Animal Services?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Get The Duck Out (please)

That's right, they're back.  Second day in a row that Mr&Mrs Mallard have shown up in my pool.  Today things were getting frisky between the two of them and I let out a groan of despair because this seems to mean that they really do like our backyard.  I let Oliver out to try and scare them away, but no luck.  They just jumped back in the pool and swam around until he lost interest and wanted to come inside.  I can't let Fry out without a leash because he has none of the reservations about water that Oliver has and he'll jump right into the pool to try and catch them.  I let him out on the long leash and that didn't work either.  They're still swimming around as I type this.  Perhaps they're still just test driving different properties before they settle down?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

N&B (Nest & Breakfast)

OK, it's a terrible photo.  I was so shocked to look out the back door and see a pair of mallards swimming in our pool that I wasn't really concerned with photo quality.  So many thoughts ran through my head at once.  First on the list was "DON'T LET THE DOGS OUT."  I was just getting ready to let the boys out for their morning ritual and thank goodness I noticed our new house guests first.  I immediately yelled up the stairs to my daughter to get out of bed and look out the window and see the ducks swimming in the pool.  My next thought was "Please, please don't try and nest in my backyard!"  I know it's got a lovely private swimming pond, the garden is overgrown and tangled with lots of hidden places to build a nest and it seems private enough but how on earth could I keep a one and a half year old Jack Russell Terrier from terrorizing this feathered family until their babies were old enough to fly away?  I seems unlikely that a pair of ducks would seriously consider nesting in a suburban backyard, unless of course you've been through this before. 

Two years ago, in a different house we had almost the exact same conversation.  That particular pair of ducks were named Mildred & ______ (I've forgotten her husband's name already!).  We woke up one morning and there they were, swimming in the pool.  You think they're just stopping by but they keep showing up day after day, even after meeting the Boston Terrier who won't stop terrorizing them.  It was all fun and games until the men came to open the pool for the summer.  They found  a handful of duck eggs at the bottom as they were cleaning.  Poor Mildred had been trying to build a family.  I don't know why her eggs kept ending up in the pool but I felt so bad for her it was somewhat heartbreaking.

Last year we went away for the weekend and when we came back there was a brand new robin's nest right next to the door, on top of the porch light.  Mum and Dad robin were not happy to see us.  Everyone kept telling me to take the nest and get rid of it.  I just couldn't do it and we spent the next few months dodging angry parents, watching their cute little babies grow up and sometimes having to leave and enter the house via the side door.  That ended in a heart wrenching episode when the last little one to learn how to fly accidentally jumped out of the nest and landed right in my watering can.  Thanks goodness there was only a few inches of water in the there but the poor little guy was frozen, shivering and traumatized by the time I discovered him.

 The moral of the story is that it's cute to think of fluffy, furry and/or feathered creatures making their home with you but really it will just make you an overprotective surrogate parent and you'll find yourself treating your house and garden like they are a protected wildlife reserve.  You don't want to find yourself standing on a stepladder on the front porch putting a fledgling bird back in the nest while scolding it, saying "Now you just stay right there mister until you're sure you can fly.  I can't keep coming out here checking on you every five minutes until you're all grown up and besides, don't you know how dangerous it is out there?"  I'm sure my neighbors think I'm a little loony.

Dog Days of Spring

It certainly doesn't feel like Spring where I am.  Where is the warm weather?  The other day I had turned the furnace off in hopes that I would not need it again until Autumn.  I was sadly mistaken and the dogs would agree.  The Jack Russell is our dog Fry, the Boston Terrier is Oliver, who belongs to my mother.  Oliver is visiting for the week and the day I turned off the heat they both spent the entire day under my desk, sharing the fluffy bed they'd stolen from the cat and lying as close as they could get to my portable heater.  Spring?  I think not.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hand-Me-Down Skills

I love hand-me-downs, I always have.  Some hand-me-downs are better than others though and handing down knowledge is one of the most valuable and meaningful things I think we can do.  When I was about twelve, my grandmother and my mother taught me how to sew.  As far as I know, most of the women on my mother's side of the family sewed.  I was so proud to finally be let into the club.  I got to go to the store, pick out my pattern and fabric and make my very first outfit.  I wore it to church  Easter morning and I was so proud.

Well, my daughter is now eight.  She's been around me and seen me sewing all sorts of things; slipcovers and curtains for the house, a flower girl dress for Grandma's wedding, Halloween costumes.  She's dabbled with scraps before but I wanted to let her into the 'club' so last summer we went to the store, she picked out a pattern she wanted to make and she got to pick out whatever fabric she wanted.  She helped me cut the pattern out and it went into a bag to be sewn later.  Well, later was a lot longer than I'd planned.  We never got around to it last summer.  A couple of weeks ago I pulled the bag out and decided it was time to finish the project.  Now, she's a little young to use the sewing machine all on her own so she got to sit in the driver's seat and learn how to operate the foot pedal.  I guided the fabric through the machine while giving the commands to stop and go.  It was interesting to say the least but she got confidence from the experience and wasn't so frustrated that she would be turned off sewing because it was too difficult.


Here she is learning the fine art of seam ripping.  Excuse the state of the office, we made an event out of it and there were snacks required and breaks for doodling on paper and so forth.   Once the top was almost complete I had her try it on.  As you can imagine, a project that was cut out one summer and then sewn together the following spring may not exactly fit properly.  Obviously she'd grown and the top had now become a 'belly top'.  She was thrilled, I was not.  This was an opportunity however to learn another important skill.  How to deviate from a pattern and make things up as you go along.  Like I explained to her, once you know what you're doing (sort of) you can change things.  It doesn't have to be exactly like the pattern says.  That way you'll always have something completely unique and even if someone else makes the exact same thing with the exact same supplies, yours will be different.  I added a six inch ruffle to the bottom of the top and it turned out great.

When we were shopping for the fabric she insisted on purchasing large fuchsia gems to sew onto the top.  I thought it was a horrid idea, but let her buy them because she was being creative.  What do you know, her idea was a good one.  I think the jewels look great and I'm so proud to have worked together with her to pass down a family tradition that seems to be falling by the wayside nowadays.

Evolution of an Office Pt. 1

I've been away from the blog for so long you'd think I wasn't working on anything.  Nothing could be further from the truth. I've been working on lots of different projects.  The problem is that I haven't yet finished anything to a standard that I want to share it.  I've been removing wallpaper, tiling, patching drywall, painting, sewing, cleaning out and building.  Today I decided I'll share part of the transformation of my upstairs office.  The picture above is what the office looks like now.  If you're thinking to yourself  'That's not really all that exciting'.  Have a look at how the room started out...

 This is what it looked like shortly before I moved in. Wall to wall pink shag carpet, wallpaper on all four walls that was stained and yellowing.  None of the stuff in the room is mine but that doesn't mean that I did much better.  Here's what it looked like after I moved in but before I started working...

Granted, there was a short period of time between those two photos where I'd totally cleaned out the room and it was used as a guest bedroom.  It had an antique 3/4 rope bed, two bedside tables and a chest at the end of the bed.  I never got a picture of that, unfortunately.  Here's what it looked like as I was working on the transformation...

I've removed the carpet to reveal the hardwood floor and the wallpaper is gone, leaving only the lovely purple paint that had been underneath.  The walls were in terrible shape and needed a ton of patch work.  I'm not sure what I dislike more, removing wallpaper or patching drywall.  It's not so much the patching that I hate, it's the sanding afterwords.

Once the walls were prepped I painted them with Boomerang's latex, pearl finish recycled paint in what I think is called 'Stone Grey'.  I'm not sure since the colour isn't listed on their website.  The paint was beautiful to work with, nice and thick and covered really well.  If you're not familiar with Boomerang, they basically take recovered domestic paint and stains (aka leftovers) and mix them together to create uniform colours that you can buy super cheap.  I think some colours may be better than others as I used another of their paints in my hallway and stairs and it was a lot more runny and splattered all over.  I also primed and painted all the wood moldings in the room white and removed the door.

I'm not yet ready to share a full view of the room.  I still have to get rid of two large bookcases along one wall, including all the books they currently hold, slipcover two client chairs and get photographs printed and framed for the walls.  Also, I need to somehow get rid of the carpet tape residue that just will not come off the hardwood, finish inside the closet for office storage and repaint the closet door.

What I will share is the making of my valance for the window over part of my desk.  I knew exactly what I wanted for that window as soon as I knew I was putting my office in that room.  I wanted a box pleated valance in grey and white.  I ended up choosing IKEA's Stockholm Blad fabric, not because it was my favourite but because it was the only grey and white fabric they had in stock the day I finally broke down and committed to purchasing fabric for the office.  I'm glad I got it in retrospect.  It doesn't match perfectly and I think that's part of the charm.  The photo above shows the only new items I used to make the valance.   The fabric, thread and a package of pre-made white piping that I splurged on so I didn't have to sit around making my own.  The lining I used was once a bed sheet and then it had been re-purposed for a craft project.  One day I'll have to share photos of my sewing trunk.  It's like the proverbial treasure chest.  I don't throw fabric supplies out if I think there's even the slimmest of possibilities that it could be useful some time in the future.  I also used the bedsheet/craft project lining to make faux piping when I realized that I wanted to have white piping on both the bottom and the top of the valance (but didn't want to drive to the store or spend the extra $2 on another package).

Normally a box pleated valance would have a solid framework underneath.  I was going to build a structure out of scrap wood for mine but realized I'd used all the appropriate scraps on another project.  So, I found an adjustable curtain rod in the 4th bedroom (which is where all the boxes from the before picture went) and nailed some small scraps of 1"x2"'s together to build it out enough that the roller shade could still operate with the valance over top.

I screwed the blocks to the wall above the window and painted them out to match the walls so my mish-mash drapery hardware wouldn't be so noticeable on closer inspection.

I then attached the curtain rod brackets, put up the rod and covered the face of the rod with sticky back Velcro.  This meant I wouldn't have to sew a rod pocket into the valance, it would look somewhat more authentic even with the pieced together hardware and I could still remove the whole thing for washing.  I didn't have to buy the Velcro either.  I have two rolls of the stuff (one of each male and female sides) in my sewing chest from ages and ages ago when I had a business making custom soft furnishings.  It pays to not throw some things out.

I won't go through the step by step details of sewing the valance as I didn't take any photos of the process.  In it's simplest terms you get a long rectangle of fabric and make pleats at even intervals and sew them in place.  You don't have to line it or add piping like I did.  Once the valance was sewn, I stuck the Velcro to the back side and hung it up.

Once the valance was done I took a photo of that side of the room so I could blog about it and then realized that my printer cart shelves were all messy and it didn't look nice.  Since I don't have time to make organizer trays for all my supplies at the moment (and I obviously don't want to buy any) I measured the opening on the cart and cut another piece of fabric the same size adding one inch to the width for side hems and four inches to the length for the bottom hem and the top lip.  Once the side and bottom hems were done I simply zig zag stitched across the top hem to prevent fraying and stuck on yet more Velcro.  I stuck the corresponding Velcro to the underside of the opening and voila!  A curtain to hide the supply shelf mess.


Now if only I'd come up with some way to get rid of all those cords......