I'm thinking of going back to cloth napkins. 
I dyed this linen some time ago (for a pillow) but the color didn't come out as I'd planned so it was sitting in my fabric pile. I had enough for four 24" squares. 

I didn't go with seams and instead used a fairly tight zigzag stitch at the raw edge. On the prefinished edge (one per napkin the way I cut them), I zigzagged slightly off the edge because I liked the way it looked.

I edged in different colors so that we can use the napkins more than once and not get them confused, kind of like what we do with our tooth brushes.

This was a very fast project, btw. An hour or two of stollen time in the morning.


Found Storage Cubby

I've had really good karma lately for street finds. 
I recently found this little storage box out in Noe Valley.

It was looking a little ratty, especially with the tape remnants on the top.

It was in perfect shape structurally though, it just needed some light sanding to minimize the water marks and to get rid of the gummy tape residue.

I bought this random orbit sander recently when I was redoing the window sills in Ethan's room. I justified this splurge because I am also planning on repainting the trim on the rear deck which is peeling and will need some sanding prep. I like Makita as a brand and usually stick with that if I can. This sander is a charm to use; it is way superior to one of those palm sanders (faster and quieter) and has the added bonus of velcro backed sand paper disks which are worth every penny in my opinion.

It cleaned up not perfectly but pretty nicely. I only gave it the lightest of sanding with 250 grit because I didn't want to eat through the top layer of veneer. I finished it with one application of Butchers Bowling Alley Wax. The paper I had leftover from when I lined this dresser's drawers.

This thing is perfect for housing my thread. I'm using the bottom drawer to hold all the tools and presser feet to my new (old) sewing machine. For now I'm storing this little box within the larger cabinet in my living room that houses a bunch of fabric. That cabinet is here, in case you're curious.

Nice, right? Much more pleasing to look at than the plastic boxes I had been using.


Dry Garden

My garden had been toughing out the California drought pretty well until this summer. The grass was perpetually brown and all but the plants and trees seemed pretty unscathed. Trying to be a good conservationist, I rarely watered.

And I recycled bathwater whenever I could because I have a mega bathtub upstairs.

When I got back from my vacation at the end of June, my garden looked terrible. Many of the trees were losing their leaves, which sort of alarmed me. This poor lemon tree is looking really pathetic right now.

These guys (laurus nobilis) were turning brown and dropping their leaves as if it were autumn (in June!), besides that these guys keep most of their leaves year round.

The creeping fig was also drying up.

I bit the bullet and bought some soaker hoses. That way I can keep my garden alive while using as little water as is possible. I already have some soaker hoses on the east and west walls (which I had been using about once a month), but had none at the rear, north wall, where all this leaf dropping is happening.

I'm hoping that a few slow deep soaks can remedy things until the winter rain (hopefully) arrives. The hoses say they give about 1/2 to 1 gallon of water per foot per hour. I ran the long one for an hour and the short one for about a half hour. This is only about the equivalent of one or two big tubs, so everybody keep their pants on!  Oh please please please let a mother of all el ninos come our way this winter.

If you live in California, are you watering your garden or yard? 


Happy New Sewing Machine To Me

This year for my birthday, which was back in April, I decided I was going to buy myself a new sewing machine. I have a basic Singer (which I got new 14 years ago), that could tackle most of my sewing projects but was slow and loud. I was also having trouble getting the Singer to sew thicker materials, like the coil vessels I've been making lately. A reader pointed me to a Forum (patternreview.com) which started my research for a replacement machine. 

Once I started reading about machines, it was clear that a vintage mechanical machine was the way to go for me -I needed a work horse. With sewing machines, the adage "they don't make them like they used to", certainly rings true unless you are dumping thousands (like upwards of 8K) for a new machine. This is because affordable new machines largely use plastic parts, whereas all those old machines use metal ones. 

Anyway, I'm not going to pretend I'm any expert, because I'm a total newb in this whole vintage sewing machine world. I did learn enough about vintage machines on this incredible site (Ashleyandthenoisemakers) to set my sites on a Bernina 830 Record. 

I got my machine on Ebay. It is from 1975. It cost me $320 (including shipping) and then I spent $125 to have it serviced by a technician here in SF. $445 for a forty year old machine, crazy right?! Let me tell you though, this machine is a Ferrari to my Volkswagen. It's fast, precise and quiet. Some of the features I've noticed right away on this Bernina that I love are: A bobbin that goes on forever, reverse stitching that lines up with the forward stitches and speed, speed, speed. 

This machine has a bunch of fancy embroidery stitches that I haven't experimented with yet and also has an array of beautifully made presser feet for different hemming applications that I've just started fooling around with. 

I'm still learning how to use this machine so I started with a few simple bedding projects. This metalasse fabric was from a comforter cover whose cotton backside disintegrated with wear. I cut that off and made it into a blanket with a zigzag edge. 

I also made these squares for my bed from some pale pink linen. I had just enough fabric for two of them. 

Usually I prefer a flange for bed pillows because without one a square pillow can look like it belongs on a couch, but in this case I thought the linen was dainty enough not to read that way. Also a bed pillow should not be too full -to also prevent that couch look, IMO. Just as an aside, I am also preferring under-inflated decorative pillows everywhere these days.

This project only took a couple hours to knock out. I've learned to keep zipper tape on hand so that I don't find myself unable to do a quick project for lack of zippers. I am partial to a invisible zipper application, I find them easier to sew.

So, so far it's happy sewing times around here. I am in love with my new Bernina!


Street Find Planter

Today's post is a one-two dose of some of my favorite things -street finds and avocado plants.
I found this sweet planter on a street corner in my neighborhood a little while back.

What the what? I don't know why anyone would get rid of this thing. It's in mint condition. I thought it'd be perfect for the avocado tree in my bedroom that has outgrown its pot several times over by now, plus an avocado seems the perfect plant for the so-cal, mid-century vibe this pot has going.

These are my babies I've been growing for years. You can see their origins here and here.

Because this pot is so big (about 14" in diameter), I wanted to be able to place it on a table without a saucer under it. For this reason I used a liner to block moisture at the base. I know this is risky business with rotting roots, but I will be very careful with my watering. This particular avocado has had some hard times lately -perpetually dry (I've been out of town a bit this summer) and in a pot too small, so I'm curious to see how it does with abundant root space and water.

Growing avocado trees is so much fun. Everyone should do it! I find that they are best looking at their early stages and can become uglier over time when their leaves become larger, tougher and droopy. The beauty is you can just keep a continuous crop of these young thing going year round, just like a nasty serial bachelor!


The Super Treacherous Paint Job from Hell

So last week when I started prepping Ethan's room for painting, I made the super bummer discovery that the paint had really failed in there.
It just peeled off the wall -epecially in the areas that were mudded at the drywall joints.

Because I was going from dark blue to white, I knew this paint job was going to be tedious but this peeling paint issue was taking it to a different level altogether. 

After I scraped the paint that easily came off, I used spackle to smooth the transition from the remaining paint to the bare walls so that they weren't completely ridgy. I like the spackle that transitions from pink to white as it dries because it is helps to be able to see the patches while working. After it dried, I used a large plasterers sponge to sand.

This was beyond tedious. I did two walls and then made the executive decision to leave the other two alone and just paint over them. It's a bummer to be painting over paint that could/will fail but my only consolation is that if/when the paint dings, it will ding down to the mud and because the walls will be white now, the dings won't be nearly as visible as they were with the dark paint. The perfectionist in me cringes at how lame this is, but I was really losing it over this paint job and that's not good. I figure that some day when I sell my house I'll have to get it all professionally painted anyway so whoever can deal with this problem then.

The second part of this paint job that couldn't be ignored was repairing the window sills. This is a long and complicated saga, which is too boring to go into in great detail. Suffice to say that when we built the house, the edges of these sills where mudded incorrectly which caused them to chip at the corners almost immediately. When I asked to have them repaired, it was done in a super lame-ass way -they just added a corner bead on top of everything and added an additional layer of mud (over the unprimed paint), which of course also peeled off like an onion.

So these I scraped down entirely and redid correctly with the filler built up flush to (but not over) the substrate sill, which is made of melamine.

This was a perfect job for Bondo because it is far more durable than spackle or joint compound. Usually I use the stuff designated for auto body repair, but decided to try out this new product which is for home use. Honestly, it worked just like the auto body stuff -I couldn't tell the difference (smelled just as toxic but dried really quickly and was sandable in minutes). This product absolutely requires a ventilator when using.

I decided to go with this shellac based primer for the entire room. My greatest worry was getting proper adhesion on all of the different surfaces I now had -paint, spackle and raw mud. The best thing about this stuff is it dries very quickly and truly sticks to everything. The worst is that it is very liquidy so that even edge-lock painters tape failed with this shit.


In the end the room came out pretty great. It's pure white -Benjamin Moore's OC-117 (just like the rest of my house). It took 2 coats of primer and 3 coats of Aura to get it covered. Ethan's room is now very sparse and lovely. It's a huge change from the old days (2011) and (2012).

He's still deciding on what to do with his windows. He absolutely must have curtains because he is a teenage vampire and needs to be able to sleep in on weekends.


A Can of Worms

Yes, a can of worms is a nice way of saying what this situation really is. My sister described it a bit more concisely as "a major mo fo".
I am painting Ethan's room and this is his window sill, which has been messed up for a long time. I thought that the paint failure was due to the very hard use it was getting from the teenager, with spilt water and whatnot. Turns out I was wrong.

Further investigation reveals that the paint did not adhere on any of the mud joints in the entire room. No wonder the paint dinged so easily.

It literally peals off in these nice, easy strips. Kind of reminds me of waxing my legs, tbh.

I'm using one of these for the task.

These are my thoughts...

I'm pretty sure that it is the primer that failed. I think the primer didn't adhere because the mud was not given enough time to cure before being coated (because the adhesion is better on the plain drywall). This adhesion issue would/could also be confounded by walls that weren't properly dusted down prior to primer and/or a poor quality primer. Remember, I had problems with adhesion when painting the boys' bathroom

Good lord, please don't have the paint job blow like this in the entire house, I won't be able to take it.



Let's catch up on what's been happening around here.
Two weeks ago we traveled back east so that I could visit with my sister, Kit could swim in her pool, and Ethan and Oliver could go look at some colleges. 

 Oooooof, things really didn't go as planned. Sorry for the gore. 

On our first day there, Kit fell on some rocks and completely split open his knee. He was unbelievably stoic and brave about the whole thing. This cut was very deep and in the worst place possible, as the knee had to be immobilized to prevent it from reopening -never mind that now the pool was off limits.

The other thing is that keeping Kit from taking off his brace and digging at the cut has required 24 hour surveillance. For real. One of us has been watching and sleeping with Kit for 2 weeks now and counting. Thank goodness I had my sister to help me and that she's watched countless hours of Grey's A so as to know how to redress a wound. :/ And, of course, because no one is perfect, he's managed to get to his cut and reopen it more than once. We are hoping that by the end of this week he will be completely healed and things can get back to normal around here. 

Aside from that major bummer, we still enjoyed our trip. To fill the day, we twice rode the train and back a couple towns over. The sweet conductor let Kit wear his hat.

We took some nice walks down my sister's dirt road.

We got a surprise visit from some naughty cows that escaped from their farm. 

We had some nice and dramatic weather. 

After four days of healing, we devised a triple barrier waterproofing system for Kit's knee so that he could finally go in the pool, which is his absolute favorite pastime.

We grilled out and ate great food and I got to see and bond with my family.

I did a bit of junking with Ethan.

Ethan and I snuck away one afternoon to photograph this incredible local building. It had been newly fenced off but we walked around its entire perimeter and miraculously neither got ticks or poison ivy.

I have long been fascinated by abandoned or former institutional buildings. When I was a more reckless youngster, I admit that I trespassed to many a property on more than one occasion.

This guy inherited the same gene.

In case you're wondering, this beauty is Halcyon Hall, which was built in 1893 as a hotel but became a boarding school (Bennett School for girls) in the early 20th century and later expanded into a women's college. It closed in 1978.

So now I'm back in SF but all projects are at a standstill until this wound heals. I've got a few things I'm contemplating: I want to buy a new vintage sewing machine and sew some larger coil bowls, and I've got a bunch of painting projects lined up -both boys rooms need paint, as does the trim on the back deck. I'd also like to wallpaper the sewing room....