Sewing, We Meet Again

I’m sorry to report there has been no further progress on the chair cushion dilemma. The fabric is still pinned to the cushion. I do thank all of the readers who have told me how they would fix the mess I’ve made. I really appreciate your help! I’ll be sure to let you know once anything more happens on the cushion front.

However, I did dress up the chair with another throw pillow I just made. Check it out.

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Such a happy and bright bird on a neutral background. I shall name him Stanley. He looks like a Stanley.

I’ve already showed you how to (sort of) make a simple rectangular pillow, so I won’t go through that tutorial again.

Instead, I’ll show you how I stenciled Stanley onto the fabric. I was a little nervous, since I hadn’t ever stenciled onto fabric before. I had nightmares the paint would run or soak through and then I’d have to start all over. I even considered buying some yellow felt or a fabric remnant in a cool pattern, cutting our bird shapes, and sewing them onto the pillow in order to avoid painting onto the fabric itself. But, I sucked it up and decided to go for it.

I started with a yard of utility fabric from JoAnn Fabrics. Super cheap and super durable. I threw it in the washer and dryer so it could shrink if it was going to, and to make sure the fabric was clean and ready for painting. I ironed it too to get rid of any wrinkles. Make sure not to use fabric softener. Not sure why, but the fabric paint I used and all fabric painting websites I looked at told me not to do it. So, I didn’t.

I searched for a pillow insert for a while. Holy goodness those things are expensive! No way I’m paying $27.99 for only an insert. I wouldn’t even pay that for a pillow. I’m too cheap. Dan came up with a great idea while we were at Wal-Mart in search of a reasonably priced insert. I had wanted it to be a small throw pillow, so why not use a travel pillow as my insert? Works for me and it was only $3.99!

When I got home, I measured the pillow and cut the fabric. It was decision time. I had to decide what I wanted the stencil to look like. Originally, I wanted a birds on a wire pillow, but then I thought just one solitary flying bird might be nice. I hemmed and hawed (because I hem and haw over everything) and eventually decided to go with the one bird look. It was a bonus to me that I didn’t need to create my own stencil, or find a new one. When had I ordered the birch forest from Cutting Edge Stencils to make some wall art, a little bird stencil came with my order. It must have been fate.

I started playing around with the stencil to see where I thought it would look best.

Up top?

Down low?

Hmm…how would it look with a whole flock of birds?

I ended up positioning it in the top right corner of the fabric, so he looked like he was flying off the pillow. I put some newspaper underneath the fabric to stop any kind of bleed through, and taped the stencil to the fabric using painter’s tape.

I poured some yellow fabric paint into a disposable plastic glass, got my brush wet and started dabbing away. It bled a little outside the stencil, but wasn’t too noticeable. In retrospect, I probably should have traced the bird with a pencil, then used a fine brush to paint it in. Oh well. Next time.

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When the bird was dry, I gave it another coat to make the color brighter. 

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Once the second coat was dry, I lined up my fabric to begin hand sewing the pillow. I know, I should use a sewing machine. I don’t have one handy at the moment. 

Be sure to put the stenciled part inward when you sew since you turn the pillow inside out during one of the later steps in making the pillow.

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I stitched three sides, put the insert into the case, then tried to sew that final side with an invisible stitch. Still not the best, but I am definitely getting better. The final few inches I sewed look pretty good. Maybe I’ll go back a re-sew it someday.

Here’s Stanley just chilling in his new spot. He turned out a bit more yellow than the rug, which wasn’t my intention, but it was a welcome surprise. Stanley’s brightness keeps the yellows from looking too matchy-matchy, and I love the softer color, but more industrial feel that the utility fabric brings to the room. 
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I think the office re-do is nearing its end! What’s left?
 – wall art (above book case)
 – hang the DIY chalkboard
 – create shelves for display purposes
 – finish cushion (much to my dismay)

Almost there!
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DIY Chalkboard

This project has been a couple months in the making. A while back, I ordered a chalkboard sticker in a fun shape. I thought it would be a fun touch in the office, and debated what to do with it. Here’s how it came out.

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At first, I thought I would stick it to a large piece of wood that I would have painted and distressed before hanging it on the wall. I had some trouble finding some cheap, already distressed looking wood, so I decided to do something else.

What if I framed it? I liked that idea. While on the walk home from a dog park near our house, I stopped at a resale shop to see if they had any cheap frames. I was in luck, I found one for $2.80.

I planned on painting the frame, but once I got it home and cleaned it, I thought it actually would look nice that it’s a different tone than the painted furniture and the wall. Done.

I got out my scrapbook paper supply and saw what I had to work with. I had gotten a bunch of green and yellow patterned sheets while re-doing the office, just in case I wanted to do any small projects.

I came across a yellow pattern that seemed to work. The problem: a standard piece of scrapbook paper is 12×12. The frame was 11×14. Argh.

This is where Dan and his fantastic spatial sense entered the picture. He basically cut out a portion of the middle of the paper and used that to cover the parts where you could still see the frame backing.

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There are some “seams” showing where the paper cuts show, but it is minimally noticeable.
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We talked about whether we wanted to use this as an actual chalkboard or more for decoration, and the decoration functionality won out. I’m planning to write a funny quote on the chalkboard and then give it a permanent spot on the wall next to the desk.

My First Time Sewing

I’m a beginner in the sewing world. And by beginner, I mean I’ve never sewed anything more than fixing a quick hole in a pocket or sewing a loose button back on. I’ve never worked a sewing machine once in my life, and the thought of trying scares me.

I still have no idea what I was thinking when we bought this chair on craigslist.
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It was a steal at $20. It has a strong and sturdy wooden frame and we could easily get some slipcovers for those cushions. Well, all didn’t go exactly as planned.

First, this style of chair from World Market had been discontinued. No problem, I thought. I thought the Casa chair currently sold at World Market was close enough that we could just purchase slip covers for those chair cushions and all would be fine.
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You probably noticed it already. The back cushion of the Casa chair is a lot bigger than ours. I thought about getting a slip cover anyways, then pinning the material so it fit correctly, but that was dashed when I saw the available colors were khaki, rust, plum, charcoal, and ivory.This chair was destined for the office, so I wanted it to be a yellow or green shade. The slip covers were a no go.

I then got the bright idea that I could just purchase material from JoAnn’s (either on sale or with a coupon, of course) and create my own cushion covers. No problem, I thought, despite my total lack of sewing experience.

I was looking for a way to infuse more green into the room, as we already had the yellow rug. I knew the furniture would be painted white, so I thought that a green and white pattern would be best. I found the Waverly Lovely Lattice pattern in Jungle.
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The pattern complemented the rug well, without it being too busy, or fighting it for the eye’s attention. I’m new to the whole “styling in layers” concept, so I didn’t quite trust myself yet. But, with Dan’s encouragement, we went to JoAnn’s and picked up a yard and a half of the fabric. I figured worst case, it was a wasted effort and we were out a few bucks. We brought the fabric home, and it sat in the office on that chair for quite a while as I went between ignoring it out of fear, and looking online at every sewing tutorial I could find.

Eventually, I decided it was time to take action.

From my research, I learned that you should start by measuring the cushion. It measured 18.5 inches by 24 inches. I added an extra inch to each dimension to allow for room to sew the seams. I measured it out on the fabric, and used a pencil to mark where to cut.

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I ended up with two pieces that I was going to have to sew together. By hand. Gulp.

I lined the two pieces up together, with the underside of the fabric facing out.
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This is because you will turn the pillow right side out before putting the cushion into it. This way, the seams are inside the pillow and hidden away. So, I began the loooooong process of stitching the fabric together on three sides. I tried to sew as straight a line as I could, and I tried to make the stitches close together. Eventually, after what felt like a million years (it was really only about as long as of Superbad), three sides of the pillow were sewn and I was ready to turn the fabric inside out. I was nervous, wondering if the seams would rip.
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Very carefully, I inverted the fabric. To my happiness, the seams held! Now my other nail-biting moment, would the pillow fit inside? It sure did – nice and snug, but not too tight! I did my happy dance right then and there!
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I was on top of the world! I could sew! I was on a high, that is, until I realized I still had that one seam to finish, and it would be the hardest one. Sigh.

I consulted my research again, and I ironed the edges of the unsewn fabric in towards one another, creating the seam line I would follow when I sewed. From here on out, I had problems.

I followed the slip stitch directions exactly, but my results were far less than perfect.
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I could still see the thread. The fabric puckered. I ran out of thread and had to re-thread the needle half way into the seam. The last bit of the two sides didn’t seem to match up correctly. Grrr. I ended up with a pretty ugly seam, but at that point, there was no way I was going to rip it out and try again. Maybe another day, but not that day. So, I placed the pillow on the chair with the seam facing the wall. No one will notice, right?
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That left the bottom cushion to be done, which was to be finished another time since I had filled my sewing quota for the day. I don’t know what made me think of it, but I had a moment of panic where I wondered if I would have enough fabric for the bottom cushion.

Nope. I put the cushion on top of the leftover fabric and unless I got pretty crazy with the seams, which I am nowhere close to in skill level to do, I didn’t have enough fabric. Son of a…

At that point, I was ready to admit defeat, so I headed for the shower to get ready for a planned girls night that evening. When I got out, I saw that Dan had taken pity on me and tried to figure out a solution. He sort of wrapped the fabric around the cushion like he was wrapping a present, and then pinned it to the cushion itself. For now, I’m leaving it as it, but I know it’s not a permanent fix for the problem.

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There’s the dilemma. What should I do? Get more of the fabric to have enough for the whole cushion, then make it like I made the smaller one? Sew the fabric as it is directly to the cushion? Just leave it alone and hope the problem goes away? Hey, maybe the cushion will sew itself, right? Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

Office Update: Rearranged and Re-painted

I owe you guys an office update. I have for a while now.

I wanted to have more than one or two things done to update on before I wrote a post. I did tell you that we finished up our frame gallery, and it still makes me smile everytime I pass by and see it from the hallway. We used a mish-mash of different images we liked, though my 2 favorites have to be the University of Illinois Quad (the big one on the bottom left) and the yellow bird drawn on a vintage Chicago map (on the top right).

But we’ve done more than just complete the frame gallery.

On to the big reveal – here’s how the room looks now.

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We’re almost there!

I’ll breakdown all we’ve done.

Well, for starters, we did a total room rearrange. Here’s the before look:
 

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The room feels a ton bigger after moving the desk to the far back wall. We’ll have to move our diplomas because now they just look weird and half covered by the TV. Then that will leave a new wall for me to decorate. Ooooooh.

Additionally, the rearrangement created a great space for some relaxing and TV watching in the front part of the room. We found that chair on craiglist a couple months back. I have big plans for it that involve some pretty green fabric and a throw pillow I have yet to make. I placed the old Ikea wooden table next to it, and under the window.

The table was elsewhere in the room before, but it was awkwardly hanging out near the closet and housed our wireless internet stuff. And it was stained pink. We gave it a coat of primer and a coat of white paint, and that’s what we got. I really like how it came out. It kinda looks a little beachy, and definitely vintage.

Oh, and the dresser. You probably thought it was new. Nope, and it’s not a craigslist find either. When we rearranged the room, we realized the tall boy dresser was just too tall to hold the TV because of how low the chair is. So, we swapped out the tall boy for the dresser Dan had in his closet. It’s been his since childhood. Now the TV is at a more manageable height, and I had an added bonus of storage drawers big enough to hold my scrapbooking supplies.

Speaking of storage, we created even more storage in the bookcase we already had. We sanded the bookcase. Then primed and painted it white.

It felt like we were done for the day once the paint dried, but I’m thinking about roughing it up some to make it look distressed. Maybe another day.

We bought the yellow and green storage bins from Target and I filled them with my crafting items. As an added bonus, I was forced to go through everything and organize all my supplies. Now I know where everything is! Let’s hope it stays that way.

I think we’ll be painting the dresser white too. And we’ve already bought some new silver toned hardware, which matches the room better. We’ll add it on after the dresser is painted.

I’m so glad that the office is almost done. I feel like the space has been completely transformed. I actually want to go in there now. I actually have space to do all my crafts now. We actually use this room now!

Office Update: The Gallery

As the office is getting moved around as part of our office re-do, I’m becoming more discerning over what kind of wall decor we have. You saw how we made this birch tree wall art, and I’m very pleased with the result. It definitely adds something to the room.
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These square glass jars in our bedroom are hung from rustic looking hooks and are filled with lavender bunches. I think it adds to the serenity and peacefulness of the room, and the wonderful scent they produce is an added bonus.

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My main wall decor issue is with frames like this.

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And this.

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While the photos of us are fine, and the collage was made with love years ago, it’s just not working for me anymore. The six part frame looks too commercial, too mass-produced, and without any character. And the collage, well, it just doesn’t add anything to the space. But just as the office became the dumping ground for all objects without a home, it appears it also became the walls to put all old frames that had nowhere else to go. No more!

My first stab at creating a new wall decor scheme for the room came in the form of a frame gallery.

Let’s get this project going. It started with a trip to Ikea and the purchase of RIBBA frames in different sizes. We chose the walnut finish, but they come in several others. We didn’t really go in with a plan, we just grabbed frames as we saw them and put them in the cart. When we got home, we took a look at our haul.
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Dan laid them all out on the floor and started arranging them until we came up with an arrangement we both liked. He picked up a nail and his hammer, and I could barely say “STOP!” fast enough. I wanted to make sure the spacing would look right on the wall before we started making nail holes. I took each frame and traced it on paper. Next, I cut out each traced frame. We taped them to the wall so we could see how the frames would look in relation to one another. Dan measured and adjusted each piece of paper until we were satisfied. Don’t let the brief-ness of my explanation fool you. This part took quite a while, almost a whole morning, to get it right. For some weird reason, either our ceiling is on an angle, our floor is on an angle, or both because no matter how many times Dan measured, the frames didn’t look straight to me. After much adjustment, it finally looked right.

Now, the easier part! Dan strung the frame that needed it with frame wire, then adjusted the hanging brackets on the others to make them hang properly on the wall (this took some doing with a pair needle nose pliers and a bit of colorful language). Then he measured a few inches down from the top of each paper marker and marked the spot for the nail.  Once the nail was in, he removed the piece of paper from the wall. Here’s how it looked half way done.
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Do that for every frame, and you get the finished product.
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I love the clean lines of the arrangement, and I really like the open space all around it. My preference would have been to do this in a long hallway, but until I have one of those, this will have to do. I did plan it out so that the frames can be seen from the hallway while walking by, if the door is open.

Obviously, it’s not completely finished. We’re working on gathering images, sayings, or even small paper items that mean something to us. Once the gallery is completed, I’ll be sure to share how it looks. Until then, I’ll be brainstorming what to do with my remaining naked office walls.

The Power of the To-Do List

What a wonderful feeling it is when you can cross a ton off stuff of your to-do list. I always have a handwritten to-do list scrawled in my planner. It usually contains 10-20 items, and I have a feeling of satisfaction when I can take a red pen and cross out something I’ve accomplished.

This past weekend, my red pen got quite the workout. Here’s what it looked like:

Hang curtains (office and dining room)

Bedroom storage baskets

Bamboo

I’ll elaborate further.

We bought curtains for both rooms over the past few weeks. The office ones are the Home Chesapeake curtains from Target in green and the dining room ones are the Matilda curtains from Ikea. But, in order to hang curtains, you need curtain rods. That was the problem. We didn’t have any.

Hello Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Here’s my curtain rod routine. We head to the clearance section first thing. You can usually find some great deals there. We did. We found 2 matching curtain rods (for the living room) for $9.99 each. Add in my $5 off a $15 purchase coupon, and we got both rods for a little over $17. We didn’t have as much luck with finding a rod for the office. Instead, we splurged for a (gasp) $19.99 rod, then used another $5 off $15 coupon.
 

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Here are new curtains are in all their glory:

Office.

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Dining Room. Don’t the curtains soften up the room?
 

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I know the dining room curtains are wrinkly and yes, it bothers me. Dan installed the curtain rod while I was in the shower and put the curtains up without consulting me. Those babies are going to have to come down soon so I can give them a proper ironing.

Moving along now to solving the bedroom nightstand clutter problem. We have these wonderful Pottery Barn Valencia nightstands. Yes, they were an amazing craigslist find.
 

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I seem to need everything I own next to me in order to sleep at night. On my nightstand: lamp, alarm clock, ring holder, hand cream, eucalyptus linen spray, candle, book I’m currently reading, a Cosmo, a Food Network magazine, pen, paper, the list goes on. I needed a storage solution. I recently realized the bottom shelf of my nightstand is the perfect place for a storage basket. We found 2 on clearance from Michael’s for only $4.99 a piece.
 

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The final project was a quick and easy one. I had 3 pieces of bamboo from that same Ikea run when I got the curtains. I thought the office was a great place for the bamboo since it’s supposed to bring peacefulness and a wise energy to the home. The problem? These cute Toni Green Bud Vases we got for the bamboo from Crate & Barrel were just a bit wider than the bamboo, so the bamboo tilted to the side.
 

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This probably wouldn’t bother most people, but it bothered me. While at Michael’s looking for storage baskets, I bought some natural looking river stones for only $1.50 (with a coupon) and poured them into the vases.

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Success!

 

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Am I the only one bothered by things like wrinkled curtains and leaning bamboo? What’s your home-related pet peeve?

Office Update: Got it Covered

I looked far and wide to get a good deal on a fun yellow rug for our office. A rug is a great way to add a pop of color to a room, without having to paint. I loved this Surya area rug from Macy’s, but I couldn’t stomach the $549 price. Way out of our budget.

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After some research, I was able to find this much less expensive version from Home Decorators. Pretty similar, right?
 

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We ordered the less expensive doppleganger of the Macy’s rug and it arrived at the store for pick up. Woohoo!

Home Decorators is owned by the same company as Home Depot. They don’t have physical stores everywhere, so they are mostly an online store. However, as we found out, if you find something you like from their online store, they will ship it to any of their stores for free, and all you have to do is go get your purchase. Luckily, there’s a Home Decorators in Chicago. Saved us $20 in shipping. Yeah!

We ordered the yellow Argonne rug in a 5×8 size, which I originally thought would be too big for the space, but now I’m glad we ordered that size. It fills up the room and is visually pleasing. Have a look.
 

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I’m glad we spent a little more money for a nice rug, instead of buying the more expensive curtains we were both drooling over.
 

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While I loved the fun pattern of these mimosa panel curtains in apple green from ZGallerie, they are quite a pretty penny. Add to that the fact that when we do eventually buy a place of our own, we may have 2 or even 3 windows in our new office. What are the odds of finding these curtains a couple years from now? So, we reasoned that the rug was the better investment for us right now. And because we don’t want the room to look pattern crazy, we’ll definitely be purchasing some solid green curtains because we have a patterned rug. We always knew we’d get either a patterned rug or patterned curtains. Never both!

Don’t worry though. I have a great idea that will add in a playful green pattern to the room. Just wait and see.