Reworked Textiles

It is no secret that I enjoy sewing. I like to sew for a multitude of reasons -the unconscious solitude of it, the tangibility and satisfaction of an easily completed project, and the challenge of learning or improving a skill. Recently, I have been reworking some fabrics  that I am using to make some pillows, which has proved to be a satisfying diversion from some larger projects that are in the works or needing finishing touches.

My sister bought for me in Mexico this lovely textile -which is a cotton scrim interspersed by woven strips. I think it is intended as a decorative window covering. 

I wanted to use it as fabric for a pillow so I screwed up the courage to cut it up and sew it onto a piece of washed cotton duck.

To prevent the weave from unraveling, I straight-stitched along the edge with ivory thread and then added a decorative zig-zag on top in turquoise. I have almost finished the strips and then will construct the pillow. The weave is pretty open, this pillow will be on the delicate side and I'm hoping I can wash it inside out because everything and I mean everything needs to be washable in this house.  

I have a little bit of dyed wool left from the dining room curtains and wanted to make a little bolster pillow for my beaten up leather chair. I've long been inspired by the channeling often seen on motorcycle jacket elbows and thought I'd see how I could recreate it in wool. I sandwiched some wool batting between the wool and some cotton on the other side. The wool wants to pull a little as it's sewn -even while using a walking foot but I think I can make this work. Still more sewing to go here.

Oooops! These aren't pillows, they're tea towels but I'm throwing them into this post anyway. I love making tea towels because I'm always in need and they're fun and simple to make (and my husband trashes kitchen towels with reckless abandon). I don't overthink the color combos, I overlock the edges using a zig-zag stitch and then do a pair of decorative stripes a few inches in from the boarder. 

Finally, I added just a little bit of magenta stitching to this striped denim and made two petite little pillows. I am in love with this fabric. I bought like 20 yards of this recently and plan to make a slip cover for one of my sofas.

Happy Friday.


Replacing A Sink: Part Two

Well here we are at part two of replacing the chipped pedestal sink on the top floor. Find part one here.
I am replacing the pedestal sink with a more diminutive, wall hung vintage one which required a bracket and a reinforced wall.

My method was to add blocking between the studs. This project was a learning curve for me -I tried some tasks that were completely new to me. I made a couple rookie mistakes but in the end there was no harm done (just time wasted) and walked away with some new home repair experience under my belt.

I used brackets to hang my 2x4 block. No problem there, except that I miscalculated my height and had to cut a larger hole in the drywall. 

Ok, here's the first lesson. Luckily I figured this out before I made a mistake. On the first smaller drywall cutout, my plan was to just screw the piece I'd cut out right back to the blocking, tape and then compound -so I cut a small piece, not stud to stud. Once I figured out that I had to move the block higher, I realized that I should cut the drywall stud to stud, so that I could easily screw the piece I'd taken out back on. Duh.

For the section that did not span the studs, I used these clips which do work pretty well but aren't nearly as strong as screwing into a stud.

I know this looks like a train wreck but believe it or not this mudded out no problem. The secret being to wait a full day between passes. The first pass, I focused only on the tape and screws.

For the remaining coats, I did a large section -like 2ftx2ft using my magic trowel. I think I did about 3 coats and did not sand until the very end. That magic trowel is a really good tool, this repair is completely invisible and the wall is very flat.

I used 9 #12 wood screws (2 1/2" long) to really make sure that sink wasn't going to fall off the wall. I did not screw into the two outermost holes because the screw would have run into the plates holding the blocking in place. Prior to hanging the plate, I primed and painted the wall. I actually ended up painting the entire room, and the trim, windows and door, which I will of course show as soon as I wrap everything up in there. 

Once I installed the plate, I literally just dropped that sink onto the bracket and that was that. Next up was contending with the plumbing (the next lesson) which I will cover in part three of this post. 


Progress :)

Finally, finally, finally we are making progress on the hot tub project.
If you are a regular reader, you will remember that this project was begun a loooong time ago, last September to be exact. So yes, my yard has been ripped up and in complete state of disarray for 6 months.

There are many reasons for the delay but the two most glaring ones are: 1)Project expansion and 2) weather. In all the projects and renovations I've done over the years, project expansion seems to be inevitable. This project expanded because we decided that when we put in the hot tub we should replace the pebble patio with a troweled concrete pad. (Pebble pads look really great but in practicality, boy are they uncomfortable underfoot. We hated ours). We were going to pour the pad without a drain because it seemed like overkill to have one. We were not going to hire a general because the project seemed pretty straight forward.

That seemed rational and easy enough until the deluge of winter rain set in. It was epic here in Norcal. All that rain led to the natural conclusion that pouring a large area of non-porous concrete, right next to the house, without a drain, could be a recipe for disaster. We envisioned the yard as a bathtub -especially because we already dug into the hillside to create a flat yard (i.e we removed a lot of absorbent top soil) and have large footings around the yard's entire perimeter.  

Anyhoo, the drain required a new ditch and drain and a new hole bored through the foundation...and then part way through the project, my plumber disappeared. He completely ghosted me. 

Happily we are back on track. We hired a general who is managing the plumbing and is going to build the tub and pour the concrete. Yay, is all I can say. 

The plumbing work is back underway and the patio area has been cleared so that it can be tamped and prepped for the concrete. Some of the stone will be repurposed for drainage in the yard.

Well now, isn't that lovely. I am so excited to be able to get back to gardening. 


Replacing a Sink: Part One

 Today I tore up my top floor bathroom.

What in the world would possess me to do such a thing (other than that atrocious tangle of hoses)? 

You see that? I don't know how in the world that happened but it sure ruins the whole thing for me. 

Since that chip occurred, I have been scouring my usual spots for a vintage green sink. I've been looking for a pretty long time and finally, finally scored one at Discount Resources a couple of weekends ago. I will fill in the details on this guy at a latter post when I install it, because right now I want to get back to that mess I've made. 

The vintage sink has some thin little chrome legs but is mostly held up and in place by a wall mounted plate. This means that I need to install some blocking in between the studs, which of course means cutting away the drywall. 

This oscillating multitool did the trick -I was sure there was no electrical hiding behind this wall before I cut, btw. This tool also makes very neat cuts so I should be able to reuse the piece I cut away with some artful mudding.

I'm hoping I can sneak in a 2x4 on a couple of concealed simpson hangers and call it a day. I'll definitely post about this later. I'm also planning on giving this room a fresh coat of paint, which I will do before installing the sink but after installing the hanging plate.



A Copper Pipe Drying Rack

While I am not quite finished with the changes I've made to the laundry room, I wanted to share this drying rack I made for in there.
I used to hang stuff on a tension rod above the utility sink which basically rendered it useless. Mostly I use this rack to hang non-dryer work-out wear and shirts that need ironing. 

This was very simple to make with some 1/2" copper plumber's pipe and a few bits and bobs.

The project called for two 48" lengths of 1/2" pipe, three floor flanges, three threaded adapters, two 90 degree elbows, and one tee. 

My thoughts in determining how to build this thing were mostly driven by these considerations: 1)Height needed to hang items comfortably while also clearing items on folding shelf below. 2)Distance away from wall to have hanger width clearance AND to also hit a stud for strong anchoring. 3)Length of rod needed to look visually balanced and provide enough hanging space (the wall with the mural is a sheer wall, i.e there is plywood behind the drywall, so I did not need to account for a stud there). 

Use a hacksaw to cut and a flat file to clean up the cuts after so the pipe can easily slide into the fittings. 

I used zero adhesive -the mechanics of this construction is what holds everything securely in place. To assemble, I first measured and secured the flanges and then assembled all the pieces and screwed the adapters into the flanges.  

Prior to assembly, I spray painted the flanges with Montana Can turquoise. Never settle for rustoleum colors when you can buy Motana Can! 

P.s. First I primed with Bin 1-2-3.

I consider this to be a success! and I sort of surprised myself with how easy this was to make this. As soon as I finish up the last details in here, I'll post about the rest of the room.

Peace and love and happy laundry.


Wool Curtains!

Finally! I finished the wool curtains for the front of the house.
Let me just say,this project took diligence. First there was getting the wool in the right color, and then sewing these puppies was no small feat due to their enormous size.

This job consisted of four individual panels -each 108" wide and 118" long, finished. I have four enormous windows but instead of draping on both sides of each window, I have one panel for each window and wall area and double up in the center, that way each column of drape is nice and full while at the same time saving me the economics and trouble of an additional 4 panels.

Beyond that, the interior architecture of my house is very minimal -the windows are quite striking the way they are set into the wall with minimal trim, so to have too much curtain fluff going on around them would work against that, I think.

Unlike their silk predecessors, these curtains do not have interfacing -they are only lined. I opted to only line and not interface because there was already so much heft to the wool that I worried that adding interfacing would make them too heavy and that I wouldn't be able to get a nice delicate pleat. At any rate, I'm not even sure that interfacing would give much body to a wool curtain based on the way mine drape. 

The first step after getting the wool back from the dyers was to join the lengths -two per panel (each 55" wide combined to 110" less the seam). I had already done all the calculating and cutting for the lengths because of the dying process, so this was relatively straight forward. First I ironed the two pieces to be joined and then pinned them right-side facing each other. Because this wool has some give to it, I was zealous with the pinning -like 1 pin per inch and a half.

Because I was sewing such enormous lengths, I invested in a walking foot for my machine. And when I say "invest", I'm not joking. I bought my brand new Bernina foot with an old style attachment (because I have a vintage machine) for $229 on ebay. A walking foot chunks the fabric through the machine on the top of the fabric in the same way the feed dogs under the fabric do -so that the two move together. This helps prevent stretching and misalignment and puckering. I am very glad I bought this foot -I had no trouble sewing these lengths at all. After sewing together the 8 lengths to make 4 panels I did the same with the lining. 

I had considered recycling the lining from the old curtains but ultimately bagged this preposterous idea because it was much, much easier to just buy some new, uncut fabric. And apparently curtain lining is pretty affordable because I got all of mine for $90 (at Discount Fabrics). I repeated the same process of pinning and sewing two lengths together with the lining.

Now would be the right time to address some of the trickier aspects of making really large curtains. First of all, there is a ton of fabric to contend with. This necessitates working on the floor in a large open space. Professional curtain makers work on a large lightly padded table, which allows them to iron, measure and pin without the fabric moving around. I did a lot of my ironing on my dinky little ironing board, this was a pain. I also ironed on the floor when the situation called for it.

Also as I mentioned earlier, wool has some stretch to it. That makes it a bit trickier to lay out, cut and pin.  I dealt with these factors by being really meticulous. I made sure that my center seams on the lining and fabric were actually centered, so that I could use them to align and square things when I sewed the wool to the lining. I used a large square to mark off my cut lines, pinned the crap out of everything that was being sewn and just worked very slowly and carefully. 

Finally, these curtains pool on the ground. Pooling will not save a horrible job but it does allow a bit of forgiveness in hemming.

As is the case with many projects where I am still learning, I relied on Youtube videos to help guide me along. For general construction technique and methods, this youtube channel has great tutorials; for sewing the lining, this one; for figuring out the pleats, this one.

There are a variety of methods for sewing the lining to the fabric. I opted for sewing an invisible seam with a return. This simply means that the lining is cut narrower than the curtain fabric, which causes the side seam to be pulled around to the rear. It is a very neat way to seam the lining to the fabric. The panels are pinned right side together and sewn, pressed and then the top is sewn -starting in the middle -(Watch this video to to make this garbled description much more clear).  

After the sides and top were sewn, I cut the fabric and lining to their right lengths and then sewed the bottom seam with a hand sewn blind stitch. I used a 5 inch hem folded over twice (so a 10" fabric allowance for seam). Because I didn't want to see any stitching on the front of the curtain, I stitched only through the lining. 

A hand sewn blind stitch is far faster and easier than one might think. 1)Pick up a little stitch on the lining, 2)poke into the fold of the seam, 3)travel about 1/2 inch inside the seam and then poke out, 4)repeat. It's really pretty zen to sew like this.

Next comes the hard part -figuring out the pleats. What I mean by that is: figuring out how many pleats over how long a distance, how big the pleats are, what distance is between them and how wide the fabric needs to be after the pleating is completed. Again this guy is very good at explaining this formula. *When I say "formula" it would be dishonest not to add the caveat that some refiguring might be necessary to meet different criteria -like being shy on fabric or wanting smaller pleats, etc...

After I did about 6,000 calculations, I determined that I would have 10 pleats per panel spaced 7 inches apart, and that my pleats would use 4 inches of fabric and have a equal return and overlap on each end of 2 1/4 inches. 

I found that it was helpful to mark out the the spaces and pleats with pins while calculating the formula -because a mock up speaks a thousand words. Once the calculations are set, it is safest to mark the layout on all the panels with pins (and not rely solely on measuring as one goes) and use a method to mark which is which, then there are no ugly surprises when sewing. 

This is the beginning of a pleat. It is the 4 inch pleat allowance pressed in half and sewn with a 4 inch vertical seam. I did not use either buckram or a large seam at the top of my curtains, which is the traditional technique, because it created too much volume to get a nice looking pleat.  Instead I have no fold over at the top. Basically I just folded and chalked a 4 inch sew line, and double sewed that. 

This is how to fold the first sewn pleated section into a triple pleat.

Hand sew these pleats at a single point. I sew mine 1 inch from the top and about a quarter inch in from the edge because I prefer a subtle pleat. Tacking farther down the pleat would make the pleat more pronounced. Don't fret, this is also a pretty fast process. 

I use a slightly stronger thread when hand sewing the pleat together. This is the same type of thread used to sew buttons.

To hang, I use standard hooks. Some people pierce the fabric to either side of the pleat stitching but I opt to go in right on the stitch and have the hook travel up the inside of the pleat. It is for this reason that I double sew this seam, so that this stitching isn't weakened by the piercing there.

This scenario pretty much never happens but I thought I should also photograph these closed. If I were to be super critical, I'd think maybe a slightly larger overlap on the ends would be better to prevent any light seeping in at the top there by the hooks, although perhaps the brackets would cause that in any case, I don't know.

This has been a beast of a post but I wanted to add some final comments on the look of these curtains versus their original silk counterparts -in other words silk vs. wool for curtains.

I loved the original silk drapes, they were really vibrant and pretty. The silk had a beautiful sheen, and the curtains hung with a poofy elegance -sort of like a big 80s wedding gown. They were decidedly more formal. The biggest downside to the silk was that they were pretty fragile in the end -both to the sun and the cat. They were also pretty stained from greasy little hands (what a fantastic place in which to hide and play).

The wool also drapes beautifully, but is less poofy and is more matte in sheen. This makes them read as slightly less vibrant, even though the color is virtually identical. The texture though, with the slight nap, is more inviting than the silk. It says, go ahead and touch me. Also it reads "warmer" than the silk, I think because of the texture and sheen. They also puddle beautifully at the floor. The wool is formal but in a more minimalist language. I feel the wool will be more durable than the silk, but we shall see. 

To summarize in another way, the wool curtain is Jil Sander to the silk's Oscar de la Renta. Both elegant, and regal but for different reasons. My decor and architecture is probably better suited to the wool, I realize, now that they are hung so I'm happy with the change I made. 

And. I am SO happy to have knocked these off my to-do list :)

Any thoughts? Do tell.