A Homemade Throw

It is no secret that I love to sew textiles for my home. Recently I made a new linen throw for my living room couch.

This white couch gets a ton of use. It is slipcovered in white denim. Some cringe when they hear "white couch" but I can tell you that a washable white slipcover is durable as hell, because, well...hot water, oxyclean and bleach.

This does not mean, however, that a person doesn't grow tired of removing the covers and throwing them in the wash. That can be extremely tedious, so I like to have a cover for the seat cushions for all the dirty feet and eating that happens here -that way I can extend the time in between whole slipcover washings. I've used a bunch of different covers over the years -a suzani, a homemade topper, a wool blanket. 

I had the remnants of a roll of linen left over from this kitchen towel dying and sewing project. I didn't want the throw to look like a simple bedsheet, and I had the width of the fabric (54") to contend with, so I decided that the best approach would be to make panels sewn with a decorative stitch. Based on the width of the fabric, and how much I had left, I cut the lengths into 4 equal widths.

I sewed the panels together (using white thread) with a 3/8" seam and pressed it open.

I then folded each side of the seam allowance in half, (with the cut edge tucked under), pressed it and pinned it in place.

Then I stitched it in place with blue thread. This type of seam allows the item to be reversible, so I can flip it when it gets dirty.

This is the front side.

I also chose to use the contrasting blue stitching for the seam along the edge.

I made it large enough so that I can tuck the ends in under the cushions. I really like the look of the seams. I realize that this application would also look great on a duvet cover or pillow. 



Wallpapering With Decorative Paper

When I repainted the front hall and stairs this summer, on my to-do list was to also clean up the small little cabinet that holds the mail. This was a bright spot in an otherwise drudgerous task.

This little recessed nook, which is behind a cabinet door, was nasty. The plate that used to cover the interior side of the mail slot had gotten knocked loose and the mud and paint job looked like it had been done in the dark. 

I knew that this was a perfect spot to dress up with paper. Instead of using wallpaper, I instead opted to use sheets of decorative paper. I did this for a couple reasons. First of all, the space has 5 little walls, plus the ceiling -something that necessitated a lot of cuts, so the long format of wallpaper was actually going to be a burden. Second, I needed a pattern that was going to be forgiving with all those connecting corners, which meant that the less linear and more random the design, the better. 

I had all the tools and glue that I needed for this project from my earlier map wallpaper project. First though, I squared out the inside corners with a little bit of drywall mud, primed everything, and painted the floor and trim with satin paint.

After a mind boggling internet search, I decided on this paper, which came in 20x30" sheets, every one unique to the other. I very roughly estimated the footage I needed and ordered 7 sheets, erring on the side of plenty in case I screwed up (which I did).  

The paper had a deckled edge, which I initially thought was going to be an obstacle but in the end was a good thing for blending the seams. If I had been papering a space that was absolutely square, I would have re-cut the edge of the paper straight with a razor and aligned my edges. Instead I used a long metal ruler and a putty knife to tear all my cuts, which created a slightly feathered edge. The wankinesss going on in the corners called for some slight overlapping, which suited the fuzzy edge. Additionally, this paper is pretty thin and saturated easily, making it very fragile which made the edges almost pulp together in a way.  

I was glad to have ordered extra because I did make a mistake -on the ceiling. I made a template of the ceiling outline, and then when transferring it, I traced it onto the right side rather than the back side of the paper, which of course made it the mirror image of what it was supposed to be. Derp.  

After I finished papering, I made a wooden frame to cover the ugly inside slot. I thought it would be easier to add the frame second, rather than having to paper around it. I cut the mitres on my chop saw and filled the gaps with painters caulk. Primed and finished with satin paint. There's a tiny little spot on the inside of the mail slot which needs to be touched up with pale green to match the color of the exterior trim, which is how the rest of that slot interior is painted.

Using decorative sheets of paper as wallpaper worked well in this nook. There is no doubt that the variances in the paper are detectable if you are looking for that. This probably wouldn't look good on a large accent wall but for here I think it looks great. This small wallpapering project is also pretty easy technically, with a little practice, almost anyone could do this. 

As a side note, whenever I'm looking for more technical info when acquiring a new skill, I turn to Youtube. This guy was very informative about wallpapering in general.

I had also promised a little while back that I would photograph the finished entry hall so I am throwing that in here with this post.

Except the front door, which is vanished and is holding up nicely, I painted everything here -walls, ceiling, doors and trim.

Finally, without pontificating too much, one last note on "styling" because for some reason I feel compelled to say it. Obviously, when I'm posting photos, I've taken some care that there not be piles of life's debris lying about. On the other hand, I do not generally "style" my photos with additives that are not true to the reality at hand. I do this because I am more personally interested in looking at unfluffed spaces than ones that are completely manufactured for a pretty shot (and assume that others are too). I feel that with thoughtful design and reflection on how a space really functions, spaces can be inspiring while at the same time reflecting the realities of living, and that can be a good thing! 

So yes, I am aware that if I were acting as my own stylist, I would have placed a few pairs of Wellies next to that basket, and perhaps a nice copper umbrella stand next to the table, but in real life that would drive me nuts -at least the boots would. Anyway, I'm rambling.

Please weigh in if you have thoughts on the styling thing.



New Lampshades in the Bedroom

I recently bought some interesting African waxed cotton fabrics to make some bedding for my older son who has headed off to college. This type of fabric is definitely outside of my usual go-to repertoire when perusing the stacks at Discounts Fabrics here in the city. My son, however has a very good eye and chose a variety that he liked, including the one below.
It occurred to me that this fabric which sort of reminds me of a peacock's tail would be a rad departure from the boring white shades I've got going in my bedroom.


The shades I recovered are 10" high. I cut my fabric to 11.5" to give me a 3/4" edge on both sides to create a seamed edge which I then fold over the shade's metal framework. I determined the length I needed after wrapping the shade on a dry run. 

I machine stitched a line on the folded edge to keep it crisp and hold it in place. It also makes a smart detail. I use this same detail on the vertical overlapped hem on the body of the shade.
Many fabric shades use a small strip of additional fabric on the top and bottom rings to cover the ring and hide the edge of the fabric. I find that method to be unnecessary if the folded over seam is done neatly and tightly.

I decided to glue the fabric to the existing shade only at the edges and along the one vertical seam (rather than glue down the entire swath of fabric). My method was to entirely apply my fabric and clamp with clothespins and then work my way around the edge with the glue, one section at a time. I used fabric glue.
Lots of clips make for a tight neat edge. The inner ridge of the clip works great for getting the fabric to wrap around the shade's ring.

These shades are way more maximalist than is my usual style. I really like them because they are so unexpected and unique. They are a fun departure for me.



I Love What You've Done With Your Yard

I am aware that there has not been a whole lot of pretty in this blog lately. Those magical and satisfying aftershots, with their inspiring condensation of the nitty-gritty, have been really lacking. I wish it were otherwise, because believe me, it feels like a shitstorm of drudgery on the house project front around here.

All I've been doing for months on end it seems is painting and tearing up my yard, and I've got a lot of loose end projects that I haven't finished-finished yet either. I do aim to have this blog reflect reality, however, so I guess there you have it.
And when I say I'm tearing up the yard, I really mean it.
The hot tub project is moving forward, at what feels like a snail's pace. My plumber is installing a new gas line for the boiler, he actually has to upgrade my whole system because the hot tub heater requires a massive 400,000 BTUs and my current pipe diameter cannot accommodate that along with the other systems I have in the house. For those of you who care about the technical shit, he's installing a 2" pipe, and that is the inside dimension, so it looks and is massive. 

The gas line will come out from through the foundation and travel underground to the retaining wall. From there, in order to spare the Thuja roots, we're running it low along the retaining wall, to the shed, where it dips back underground. The heating unit will be by the shed.

Digging trenches is vicious work. Oliver and I dug ours in order to save money and to be in charge of our own destiny. It took a couple of weekend afternoons.

Here's the gist of it. Code requires 18" under grade. That's pretty deep folks. This photo is actually only our preliminary dig. The trench had to be widened by about 8" because it has to accommodate the gas line and two pvc water lines -carrying water to and from the boiler.  Thankfully I already have a 220 volt/50 amp electrical box installed by the shed from the original construction, so I don't also have to trench for that.

"Digging ditches" is really a misnomer. One doesn't just put a shovel to the ground and spoon out the dirt, at least not in my geographic reality. Where I'm located in San Francisco, digging actually means hammering away at the packed rock with a pickaxe and then scooping it out with a shovel. This is especially true because my yard was already excavated out of a sloping hill to make it flat, with only a foot or so of topsoil added back. 

 All I can say is, Oy vey. My hands are killing me.


Painting Exterior Trim

The trim on my house needs paint, especially in the rear which has a southern exposure.
I have had this project on my mind for some time now and wanted to get this started before the winter's rain. I'm starting on the top deck where the paint seems to be at its worst and where it is very easy to tackle with a step ladder.

It really bakes up here. This sill, which also must hold morning dew the longest, was down to the wood. This was the original paint, which is about 9 years old. I don't know if that is considered good longevity for a paint job or not (kind of not to me but whatever). 
This is actually a pretty easy paint job. The window and doors are clad so it really is just the wooden trim around them and the fascia at the roofline that needs help. We used a few methods to prep the surface -a scraper, wire brush and a random orbit sander. 

As an aside, it appears that everything -doors,windows, trim has faded in the sun. My recollection when buying the windows was that the cladding was billed as resistant to fading and chalking. The cladding color has held up well everywhere except the sill. I've read that Loewen recommends car wax to bring back luster to a clad surface so I will be trying that after I finish painting.

Oy. That looks like rot to me. I really cleaned that out and then filled it with Bondo All Purpose Putty. 

This stuff is toxic as shit but really works well. It's totally non-porous so it sands smooth like a gem and has a very quick ready to sand time (15 minutes).

I use a pretty wide putty knife to get a wide repair that is easier to sand invisible. The random orbit sander cuts through this very quickly with 100 grit.

There were also a few other splits and cracks that I filled and sanded. 
It took two of us only a few hours to scrape, fill, and sand to be fully prepped for primer. 

I used Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 to prime. Because this is a very sunny area and August's heavy fog has of course now decided to dissipate, I've tried to squeeze my painting work into the morning before the 9:30 or 10.

The trickiest part of this project is getting a perfect color match for the paint. Of course, a more organized person would have the formula for the original paint used here. Unfortunately I can't find that paint can anywhere -I probably absentmindedly recycled that long ago.

I've had one fail so far, mixed at my local hardware store -too dark. I'm going to try another place in the city. Fingers crossed and I'll photo and post completed project later.


Just Go With It

Woosh, I have been doing a lot of painting in my house of late. 
As part of my recent painting of the front entrance hall, I also gave the door that leads from the garage to the entrance a nifty new look.

You see, the door that leads to the garage into the house gets seriously banged up -especially from the outside which is shown here. Perhaps it's all the bikes that are getting trekked up and down the stairs (don't even ask) or that the door opens off a stair and often gets nudged open with a foot (guilty), but for whatever reason it takes abuse. 

I came to the conclusion that the door would look best if the paint job did not require surface perfection. I'm not into that shabby chic distressed paint look, so I went with creating a modern graphic coupled with a sanded, matte surface that would still look alright beaten up. 

I titled this post "Just Go With It" but it could just as easily be "Form Follows Function", which is a principle to which I wholeheartedly subscribe. While I'm rambling, this design is a runner up to my first wish -which would be a copper clad door but that is just pure fantasy. 

The shadows from the garage door struts make this a bit hard to read but there are two blue triangles here -a large very visible one at the bottom and a smaller one at the top. My initial instinct was to make two symmetrical triangles meeting in the middle but then when I began taping them off, I realized that the graphic was a bit nautical flag-ish.

I achieved the velvetish surface by first brushing on like 4 or 5 coats of black -giving each 24 hours to cure in between coats. Then after taping the design, I put on two coats of Benjamin Moore Polo Blue. After giving that another 24 hours to cure, I went at it with my sander with 150 grit. The nice surprise was that the Polo Blue sanded out to a lovely lighter but very rich shade.

This door has been hung and functioning for a few weeks now. It already has one nick and some scuffs but it's still ok.