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.


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. 


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.


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.


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! 


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.