12.23.2016

Wall Prep in the Laundry Room

I have been working furiously on the walls in the laundry room since my last post. Obsessive does not even begin to adequately describe...

I have been going full bore because skim coating creates the biggest mess -no matter how "tidy" a worker you may be, and having a giant mess in the laundry room really wreaks havoc on a household.

Before starting, I covered everything with rosin paper. I thoroughly vacuumed and wiped the walls and then primed with BIN 1-2-3 latex primer. After than I started filling in the biggest ridges and cleaning up the corners with joint compound (undiluted) using a wide spackling knife. Those repairs required sanding before I could move on to skim coating everything. Oh, the dust!

I watched this video on skim coating which proved very helpful. The only thing I would add is that I used a bucket of water with a rag in it to clean off my magic trowel. The magic trowel really is a good tool -with it, I accomplished something that I feared was beyond my skill set, smooth walls! Btw, I used a 18" variety which felt just about right. 

Beyond the trowel, the other most important factor in skim coating is good lighting. It is a must, I can not stress that enough! The light must bounce off the wall so that you can see any feathering that occurs with the compound. The feathering is totally manageable, but only if you can see it.

Ok, one more thing too. Patience. patience, patience. My walls required 3 coats in most places and 4 in others. That's pretty tedious. 

After the skimming was finished it was time to sand and really make a mess. Oy. Really, oy. 

Side lighting is also critical at the sanding stage and then, most importantly, before the primer, a clean surface! There must be as little dust on the walls as is possible before priming again. I did a preliminary clean along the baseboards with a shop vac. Then I used my Miele vacuum cleaner with the hardwood floor brush to vacuum the walls. Then I wiped the walls with a very dry, damp sponge, then I pulled up the rosin paper and vacuumed everything and the walls again. 

The picture above shows me at the one coat of primer stage. I have since added two coats of paint. It needs a third, and then the fun shall begin -I plan to paint a graphic mural. I'm both excited and terrified at the same time, could be great or a total disaster.

Cheers.

12.05.2016

Where I Replace a Washer And Encounter a Series of Unfortunate Events

Hey Ho. Last month my washing machine broke. During the spin cycle the machine sounded like a jet engine and it sounded like something was clunking around in it. When I called my favorite repair guys at Mars Appliance and told them the symptoms, they told me to get a new washer -it was a broken bearing, expensive to fix and a poor investment on an almost 10 year old machine. 

Anyhoo, replacing that machine created a buffet of shit sandwiches -all driven by the fact that my replacement machines are larger than the ones I had and would not fit properly under the built-in folding table.

Ok, so I'd be recreating a shelf like the one already there. That's not beyond my skill set! -I could get all the plywood pre-cut and could screw it together just like I did here.  I began by taking down the nifty shelf I fashioned which was holding sheets, and then Oliver and I ripped out the existing folding shelf. Let me tell you, that mother weighed a ton and was really effing wedged in there. 

Ok, so all the current frontload machines are fucking enormous with the exception of the compact European style ones by Bosch and Miele which are a nonstarter for American serial laundress like myself. I would have replaced my washer with the same size if I could have but of course that model is no longer made (it had like a 3.4 cu capacity which was fine for me, the new ones are 4.3 and up). This new size dilemma also meant that unless I wanted a mismatched set with two different heights, I was in the market for a new dryer as well. Lucky me, I guess. 

To make room for my new monstrosities the shelf above was going to have to be higher and deeper. Another measure I threw in at this juncture was to turn the gas line 90 degrees so I could fit the machines a little closer to the wall because they were about 5" deeper than the old. 

My plumber did this for me in like 5 minutes. In the end I only really needed to raise the shelf by like 1/2" (grrrrrr) so I tacked on a strip on top of the existing wall supports at the rear, put in new, longer supports along the perpendicular walls and got a new support piece of plywood cut to the right height and installed that. 

Let's fast forward a bit. Here is the new shelf installed (and the new washer and dryer -Maytags with a direct drive and 10 year warranty). Like my old shelf, it is two sheets 3/4" baltic birch plywood screwed together with an exposed edge. It weighs a ton and is jammed in there like nobodies business. The new shelf is 33" deep to the old one's 26". I let the machines hang out a bit in front because I was worried that anything deeper on the shelf would just overwhelm the room.

So everything when pretty smoothly up until this point except for the damage to the wall caused during demo and installation of the new shelf. Closer inspection revealed that, to my horror, the paint in this room peels just as easily as it did in Ethan's room

Nooooooooooooooooo. It just strips right off.

I don't know enough about the technicalities of painting to confidently know why this is happening, but I do have my theories based on how the paint peels. 

First of all the primer and the paint readily strip off the joint compound all in one. I guess that this is happening either because the wall was primed before the joint compound fully cured or the wall was not properly cleaned of dust prior to the primer being applied. As to why the paint peels from the primer, this seems like more of a failure of the product than a mistake in the application? or was there a lot of dust on the walls which interfered with adhesion? Could the paint have been thinned? Whatever the cause it is a bummer because...

Yes, I stripped the whole room and now I need to skim coat everything in order for my new paint job not to look like a train wreck. 

First I'll prime everything, sand the table and cover it in paper and then get to it, I bought one of those Magic Trowels and can't wait to see how it works.

p.s. If anyone has some theories/experience with this paint adhesion situation please weigh in.

11.29.2016

Custom Dyed Wool

Hey, remember this FUBAR curtain situation? I've had replacing these on the back burner since writing about them in May. Turns out, it proved extremely difficult to find this same magenta color in wool. I did an exhaustive internet search and ordered quite a few samples, all to no avail. 

Finally, I came to realize that to get the right wool in the bright color I desired, I would need to get the appropriate weight/composite wool first and then have it dyed. Done! 

I bought one yard samples of two weights of  100% white wool from a company in New Hampshire called Dorr Mills -one manufactured by them and another by a separate manufacturer they carry. I bought a full yard so that I could see how the wool hung and so that I could get a shrink test done at the dyers -because sister, don't we all know that wool shrinks when you wash it! 

A 20" square was marked on the wool and then processed and then the shrinkage was calculated from that. The wool I preferred (made by Dorr), which was slightly more expensive at $27.50 a yard, mercifully had less shrinkage than the other which was slightly lighter in weight. Shrinkage was 5% in length and less than that in the other direction. 

It did take me forever to find a source to dye a really large quantity of wool. I've done my fair share of dyeing at home, but this project called for 36 yards of fabric, which was WAY beyond what I could do in the bathtub in my yard.  I found Alverado Dye House through the great people at Discount Fabrics. I brought Alverado a piece of my shredded silk and they ran two color samples -one for each wool and a shrink test at the same time. 

Each test was 35$ and they matched the color perfectly, and I mean perfectly. The actually dyeing cost is by the pound, with a minimum charge of 140$. My job cost 166$. 

Btw, I want to note that I have NO affiliation with ANY of these companies, I mention them because I have found them to be good sources.  
  
So after I confirmed that I could get the color right and determined what the shrinkage would be, I ordered the wool -a whopping 36 yards.

There was one more step in this process. In order to get the best consistency, the dyeing company dyes straight yardage in 5 yard increments -sewn end to end into a loop. This was fine for me because I needed a shrunk length of 3.75 yards per panel. 


Instead of measuring out my yardage each time, I cut two lengths of non-stretchable string and used them to mark the distance for each cut. 

I sewed the fabric end to end in an easily visible thread using the longest zigzag stitch my machine could muster. 


I picked up the wool yesterday and am now beginning the process of removing the looping stitches. As a cost saving and recycling measure, I am going to try to use the lining, which still appears to be in good shape, from the otherwise trashed silk curtains. I am expecting that it will take some time to carefully deconstruct those. 

On cost, I am coming in a bit over what I had hoped for in my initial estimate. I had wanted to spend about 24$ a yard. Dorr Mills gave me a 10% discount because my quantity was so large (36 yards), so that brought me down to 24.75$ a yard. But added to that was the cost of dyeing and samples (236$). Plus, I ended up needing to buy a bit more yardage because of shrinkage and the width of the wool bolts. I had estimated 25 yards but in the end needed 36. So far I have spent $1,127 for this project. Certainly not a paltry sum but far lower than the heart attack inducing cost of a custom curtain made by someone else for windows of this size.

All in all, I am excited for these curtains. I think the wool will be far more durable to the crazy kitty and be well worth the effort, and I'm glad I was able to reproduce the color of the silk curtains because I just loved them so.

Now let's just get these bad boys sewn.

11.11.2016

How to Sew a Box Cushion Cover 2.0

This week I made a new cushion cover for my very beaten up leather chair. 
This is the second iteration of this (the first version is here). I wanted to replace the previous cover with something a bit more cheery. We shall see if this lighter fabric is a fool's folly with the heavy rotation this chair gets from the cat and dog. This cover is washable but some shenanigans are beyond remedy IRL. 

I traced my previous cover onto my new fabric. Remember to prewash the fabric to account for any shrinkage that may happen down the road. 

Because I was working in a repeat stripe, I tried to align the center so that the pillow had symmetry. In a stripe that would generally mean that the stripe itself would not go down the center of the pillow but that the two center stripes would split the middle, if you follow.

Also I decided not to use piping for this project, so I was careful to align the stripes of the box cushion panel with the top and bottom pieces.

A box cushion slipcover may seem intimidating but really it shouldn't be considering that it is simply a two sided pillow connected by a middle panel. The trick to keeping this simple is by using two panels for the midsection -one for the front and one for the rear, which has the zipper.

After cutting out the top, bottom and front panel sections, begin the zipper section. This panel must be a little wider than the front section to account for the zipper. In this case my front panel was 5" wide and the rear one I cut to 6". I then immediately cut that 6" section down the middle into two 3" sections. Align the zipper and pin (the two right sides facing each other).

Sew the first zipper section, align the stripes and pin again with right sides facing each other. 

This would be a good time to mention that I use a length of continuous zipper for this project. Additionally, I also cut my zipper to be about 2" longer than my panel so that I can move the zipper pulley completely out of the way when I sew the zipper to the fabric.

Pinned and ready to sew. Don't forget to finish the edges with a zigzag stitch so they don't fray.

This is what the front will look like after sewing in the zipper. Then it is time to press into place the overlap which hides the zipper.

Ordinarily I would pin and sew this overlap along each side of the zipper to keep it hidden. I found that this fabric was very prone to puckering when doing this so I left it as is.

Begin assembling pillow by sewing the front panel to the top -just follow the edge. Then pin the rear panel to the top and sew. After this, I place the cover inside out on the insert and align and pin the bottom. This allows me to make adjustments in the fit. I was a little big around the T sections here, so I increased the seam allowance. 

 Pin, pin, pin!

I traced a new sew line in yellow chalk once everything was pinned in place. After this carefully remove the insert and sew. By having the zipper extend slightly beyond the panel there is no worry about being able to unzip the thing after everything has been sewn shut -inside out!

Btw, this is a great tool for tracing and marking. These roller chalk dispensers make a nice thin line and are refillable and of course the chalk washes off.


I am pleased with the way this turned out. I plan to replace the felt chevron cover on the bolster pillow. Making that was a fun project but the pilling has gotten pretty drastic and it's time for a change. 

Peace and Love. 

11.08.2016

A Happy Avocado Tree (And Some Other Changes)

Since painting the stairway I've made some small change-ups in my upstairs hall.
I moved my beloved avocado tree which has really taken off. I've had this plant for probably about 5 years now -a nice guy in our neighborhood gave it to my son when it was just a little starter plant. I moved it out of my bedroom last spring because it was getting too big for its spot there. It loves this new location because it gets a ton of sun from the skylights above. 

The most dramatic change has been hanging this suzani. It used to hang in my front entry. This looks so much better to me than the smaller piece I had here previously (which you can see here). I just love how bright and cheery that textile is. 

Looking toward the front of the house, I swapped out a map for a pen and ink piece that I made in graduate school. Time to retire that map for a while. 


Finally, on the stair landing, I added this big stump which had been lately living in Ethan's room. This was a street find. It is a beautiful hunk of aged wood.

11.04.2016

Painted Exterior Trim

I finished painting the rear deck trim!
Last I reported on this, I had done all the prep work and was needing to match the top coat trim to the aluminum clad windows. I had brought a window to my local hardware store which does color matching but that was a fail -too dark. It turns out that, whereas a computer will give a good estimation of the formula, after that, it falls on the skill of the mixer to get it perfect.

A reader had pointed out that I could get the color match formula from the window dealer. I went on the website of my manufacturer (Loewen) and discovered that there were several sage greens in their catalog and I couldn't figure out which one was mine. It felt like just getting the color matched would be easier than calling the dealer, etc., etc., etc. 

Anyhoo, I went to Creative Paint in the city and they matched it, like, perfectly. Hurray. I used a low luster exterior paint because that sheen best matches the window frames.

I used two coats everywhere except the sill that had the most damage. There I gave it three.

After I had finished painting but before giving the windows a washing, I polished up the clad siding with car wax. It worked wonders in getting rid of the dullness. I simply wiped it on and then buffed it off with a soft rag. I worked in the morning before the sun was strong because I've always heard not to polish a car in the sun. I also want to note that one would always do the car wax thing after finishing all the painting because the car wax would interfere with paint adhesion if it accidentally got on the trim to be painted.
  
I plan paint the trim on my front deck (which is the mirror image of the rear) myself. I do plan, however, to hire out the rest of the job. The windows on the front of my house are really, really high so I don't feel safe doing it. 

A long time reader might notice all the plants on my rear deck are gone... I transplanted a lemon tree to the rear yard but everything else fell victim to the draught and my laziness in watering. My long-term plan is to build some planter boxes around the perimeter of the deck and install an automatic watering system. This is probably not going to happen until after I finish getting the hot tub built in the yard -which I have ordered and am waiting delivery (Yay) in probably about a month.

10.26.2016

The Anatomy Of Sheds

I could not be more thrilled about having my work included in this book, The Anatomy of Sheds, by Jane Field-Lewis, which is coming out tomorrow (October 27)! It is a lovely coffee table book -very thoughtfully curated and photographed with a wide range of compelling spaces. I'm thoroughly stoked to be include in such company.   

 My backyard shed was photographed by the uber talented and infinitely patient Caitlin Atkinson.  



The book is 238 pages of #shedporn from all over the world. Totally awesome if you're like me and dig that sort of thing.

Cheers and go check it out!