Tag Archive | DIY

Day 4: white

IMG_7726 (2)

This swathe of white fabric kept me plenty busy this summer. I probably could have sailed a boat with it. But instead, I did some interesting Frankenpatterning to create a comic-con costume for my friend’s daughter. Any among you who are video game aficionados will recognize this character.

IMG_7773

The garb of Ezio Auditore from Assassin’s Creed

Ok, so now it’s white and black and red all over.

This was a fun, yet maddening project. The fun was getting to collaborate with my friend over several weeks; each weekend having a fitting with Miss F, then sending all the kids out to play while R. and I chatted and worked on our respective crafts. Also fun was trying out some techniques I hadn’t done before, namely the slashing on the sleeves. This is reminiscent of Renaissance styling. I found a very helpful tutorial done by a woman who creates her own garb for Ren Faires and the like.

IMG_7751

Sleeve in process

IMG_7754

Slashes are cut, showing the black underlining

IMG_7771

Finished sleeve, ribbon details and topstitching. The garment looks rumply because Miss F is much taller than me, so it doesn’t hang right on my dress form.

The maddening part was, I had to create this costume basically from scratch, using art from the video game and a fan-drawn diagram of the key components of the costume to translate it into real life. For the hood, I used a cloak pattern that I have, but turned the hood piece around to give it the trademark point in the front. The body of the garment was a combination of the cloak pattern and a woman’s suit dress pattern from the mid-90s. Of course, neither of those two patterns truly captured the complete look, so there was a lot of measuring, drafting, sketching, and trial and error. If I were to ever do it again (which I won’t), I know what I would do differently. There’s always value in learning.

Miss F had a fantastic time at the comic-con, rocked her costume, met new friends, and even won the costume contest! She mailed me the sweetest thank you note afterwards and R. presented me with a couple of beautiful thank you gifts that she made for me. But you’ll have to wait to see those…

F Auditore AC costume

Advertisements

More or less homemade Halloween

WordPress tried to get fancy on me and switched me over to the “improved posting experience.” Well… the improved experience ate my post last Wednesday and I was too disgusted to start over again. But, I suppose it’s time to stop pouting and get back on the horse. Problem is, I don’t even remember what I was going to write about. How about we take a look at our Halloween costumes?

There wasn’t a whole lot of crafting involved in our costumes, but there was a considerable amount of DIY.

First is Rana. She wanted to be Cleopatra, which is actually what she had intended to be last year before Joan Jett swayed her. The Joan Jett wig was hardly suitable for Cleopatra, so I looked and looked and the best I could find was a Snow White wig. Rana doesn’t know that I cut the red ribbon off. This wig had seen better days and I tried to tame it by soaking it in water and conditioner, but that really didn’t do a thing. To make it look appropriately royal and Egyptian, we needed some kind of headdress. I didn’t really have time to make something elaborate; I found this crochet headband pattern which turns out looking pretty good in gold crochet thread. The beauty of this pattern is that you can make it up in any weight yarn (well, within reason), just use the appropriate sized hook. One thing to note is that this was written with UK crochet terms, so for Americans — when she says “slip stitch,” she means single crochet. It will turn out to be kind of a lumpy mess if you actually slip stitch.

Rana’s Egyptian “dress” is actually a chemise I made from Simplicity 5726 (The Fashion Historian pattern by Martha McCain) which I’ve already talked about here . A gold and silver belt and some canning rings for bracelets finish off the costume. Rana was convinced that she was the spitting image of Cleopatra and we’ll just let her think that because she had fun, and isn’t that what dressing up is all about?

She wouldn't walk like an Egyptian for me.

She wouldn’t walk like an Egyptian for me.

Granota was a kitty cat. With purchased ears and tail, a painted face, and black clothes, her outfit was pretty easy to put together.

Meow!

Meow!

Beaten only by… Konik’s pumpkin suit. I crocheted the little stem & berries hat he is wearing, but apparently never blogged about it? I can’t find a post about it. I made it when he was just 1 year old and so now, it is technically Sprinkaan’s hat, but Sprinkaan is a kind and understanding baby and let his big brother borrow it for just one night.

Sugar punkin

Sugar punkin

So that leaves Mr. Gren, Sprinkaan, and me. Can you guess?

IMG_5997

Yes, we were Doc, Marty, and Jennifer from “Back to the Future.” We outfitted Baby McFly’s stroller like a little cardboard Delorean, complete with glow-stick flux capacitor. It all started because Sprinkaan already had that little red vest and we went from there. If we had had more time between when we thought of the costumes and when we wore the costumes, we probably could have made a better Delorean. But that’s what you get for one rushed afternoon of work. Also, there was that little issue of making it baby-safe. Rather than being an exact replica, we’ll just say it embodies the essence of the real Delorean.

Roads? Where we're going, we don't need "roads."

Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need “roads.”

The Delorean Motor Company probably didn't use cardboard and duct tape.

The Delorean Motor Company probably didn’t use cardboard and duct tape.

Outatime

Outatime

1.21 gigawatts!

1.21 gigawatts!

 

Great Scott!

Great Scott!

There you have it: Halloween 2014!

IMG_5987

 

I heart craigslist, part 2

You probably thought I had forgotten about this, too, huh? Never fear! It was just waiting in the wings.

In part 1, I showed you our table’s amazing transformation and noted at the end the hodge-podge of chairs around it. I like the hodge-podge. One little nugget of wisdom that I took from years of watching “What Not to Wear” was “It doesn’t have to match, it just has to go.” And that suits me just fine. Too much matchy-matchy and it begins to feel a little sterile, a little cold, whether that be outfits or furniture. So in that spirit of “going” versus “matching,” Mr. Gren and I have been keeping our eyes peeled for old wooden chairs on craigslist. Our entire criteria consists of: must be wood, preferably unfinished, $10 or less. There are certain styles I just don’t like, so I’m not falling all over myself for every wood chair that hits the ads. This chair set the tone for our hunt:

IMG_4528

This chair has been a part of my life for 26 years. It had been left in the shed of the house my family moved to when I was in 3rd grade, and, other than the gouge mark I made in it when using it as a sawhorse at the age of 12, it has always looked like this, even down to the paint flecks on the leather seat. I don’t know what its history was before it became part of our family, but I’m glad it was forgotten so that I could adopt it.

Chairs number 2 and 3, each found on craigslist for ten bucks, are as follows:

IMG_4527

IMG_4529

The first one obviously needs a new seat cover. I haven’t decided yet what I want to do about that. See, there’s this issue of children. Either I choose something indestructible, or else I have to make peace with the kids putting their own, ahem, “special touch” on it. Having to re-upholster it more than once is a distinct possibility in that scenario.

Chair number 3 garnered a lot of love from the kids who dubbed it The Potty Seat and pretended to flush each other down the gaping hole in the center of the seat. (C’mon, if you fit through that hole, you totally would have done the same thing). When we first saw this chair on craigslist, I hadn’t noticed the groove about 1/2″ all the way around the hole. I was thinking of upholstering a small board to fit and nailing it all together. When we got it home, I realized that the hole had previously been covered by caning. You know the type — I think everybody’s grandma has at least one item of caned furniture.

But where does one get replacement caning? What a silly question. Amazon, of course! Amazon has everything. For $25, we got a complete kit with easy-to-follow instructions. Slightly annoyed that we could have bought another two and a half chairs for that, but weighing that with the option of having a worthless chair on hand is what made us decide to go for it. Besides, I watched YouTube videos on the process, so I’m an expert now.

This isn’t going to be a real how-to or tutorial because the videos (of which there are many) do a good job of explaining how this works. I’m just going to show our work. No need to reinvent the wheel here!

To start with, we lucked out that someone had already removed the old caning and spline; from what I learned, that is the hardest part of the job.

IMG_4796

I guess I skipped the part where we painted the chair. Look, we painted the chair!

After soaking the sheet of caning and the spline in the bathtub for a half hour or so, it was time to start applying it to the chair. This is definitely a two person job, so if you foresee caning in your future, grab a buddy. And if you need to photograph the process, a 6 year old will do.

IMG_4799

First, I laid the sheet of caning over the hole, trying to keep the grain as straight as possible.

 

IMG_4806

Then, using those little wooden wedges pictured above (they are included in the kit), Mr. Gren pounded the caning into the groove. That sounds easy, and really, it’s not difficult, but it was a little bit fiddly. The caning had a tendency to pop out on the side opposite of where Mr. Gren was pounding it in. That’s why it’s good to have two sets of hands working on this to help hold things down that don’t want to stay down.

IMG_4805

Once the caning was pounded in sufficiently enough that it wouldn’t pop out, we removed the wedges. Now it was time to carefully lay the spline (a long, flexible whip of wood). We chose a center point at the back of the seat to begin and end the spline. Putting the spline in involved more wedges and pounding and popping out and pounding. Granota got bored and found another subject to photograph.

IMG_4823

Meanwhile, Mr. Gren and I are still working in the background. So it’s not a completely gratuitous picture of my adorable baby.

Finally, the spline was in and nothing was popping out! Now came perhaps the hardest task of the whole process: cutting off the extra caning.

IMG_4860

We probably could have stood to replace the blade in our box cutter for one thing. I’m not sure that would have helped immensely, though. There’s just no way to make one long, clean slice through all the extra caning. Mr. Gren had to cut through each of those little strips all while trying not to nick the paint (we did end up having to do some touch-up afterwards, so anyone attempting this should probably just count on that). The uber-frustrating part of cutting the caning off was that, because of the angle of some of the woven strips, they would pull up and threaten to pull out the whole strip. Holding the little wooden wedge in helped with that and gave Mr. Gren something to cut against.

IMG_4868

We ran a bead of wood glue over the spline and trimmed any little stragglers poking up. A little wipe down and the job was done! You have to let the seat dry and tighten up for a day or so before using it. We were a little nervous when the time came for the inaugural sitting… but it has held Mr. Gren for the past four months, so I think it’s safe to say we did it right!

IMG_5782 Here’s where we’re at so far! Somehow, I don’t have a “before” picture of chair #4, so… surprise! We have four chairs! We’d like to get four more, plus we need to do the seats on chairs #1 and 2. You will see more chairs here eventually! And they won’t have to match; they just have to go.

I heart craigslist, part 1

How do I love thee, craigslist? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when I find a deal that’s just right

For the woeful grammar and hilarious typos.

(With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.)

When my family moved into the log cabin in the Fall of 2011, there was already a table in it, so we put our little kitchen table into storage, along with 75% of our stuff.

When we moved into the cabin in the Fall of 2011, Konik was not quite yet 2 years old and was still in a high chair.

When we were preparing to leave the cabin last fall, we realized that our seats-4 table was going to have to accommodate 5 and, soon enough, a 6th person. No way, no how. Craigslist to the rescue!

Mr. Gren found a solid wood table with double turned legs and three leaves for $30. Caveat: it was in rough shape and desperately needed refinishing. But not enough to scare us off! When we moved into the house, Mr. Gren put the table back together and we ate at it for months, albeit with a tablecloth to hide the ugliness and protect little arms from rough spots. Finally, in May, I was feeling well enough and the weather was dry enough that we felt like we could tackle this project.

Before:

IMG_4393

IMG_4394

IMG_4388

As you can see, the finish was gone, the veneer on the side was chipped up beyond repair, and some of the “medallions” on the legs had fallen off (although the woman who sold us the table did have a few in a baggy that she gave us). First things first: removing the remaining veneer with a putty knife and a chisel file. Correct tools for the job? Not really. Eventually, we did get every last scrap of veneer scraped off, but not without a few banged-up knuckles.

Little helper

Little helper

Once that was done, we had to sand any remaining varnish off before painting time. Then, Mr. Gren had to reattach the middle pair of legs. Even though they were original to the table, they were too tall and made a hump in the middle of the table. He sawed off and sanded the feet until they were the right height. We also had to match up and glue on the missing leg medallions. So hard to wait through all that when I just wanted to paint! All necessary evils to get to the good stuff. The dry, dark wood took three coats of white paint for a good, bright finish.

The sun was going down, but you get the idea.

The sun was going down, but you get the idea.

All three leaves in

All three leaves in

Do you see that thing? I didn’t measure it exactly, but the table stretches to about 8 feet. Banquet at my house!

After the white paint, things got fiddly again as Mr. Gren meticulously measured and taped out 12″ diamonds from one end of the table to the other which we would paint in a pale blue. In order to keep the measurements correct when we painted, he could only tape out the two outside rows at first, leaving the center blank. Once the paint dried inside those diamonds, he could finish taping out the diamonds down the center. It was tedious work and I love him for it. I love him for other things, too, like washing the dishes, changing light bulbs and killing spiders.

IMG_4452

You may be able to tell that the skirt of the table is also the same pale blue as the diamonds. We wanted it to be a very subtle shade — enough to give the table visual interest, but not a bold slap in the face. When all the blue was dry, I gave it three coats of clear polyurethane for protection and to make clean-up easy. I have four kids; I know it’s not going to look pristine forever, but I can at least give it a head start.

IMG_4481

The back diamonds look discolored, but that was just the light in the dining room. It was really hard to get a picture where the blue showed up!

IMG_4482

As long as my children stop using those horizontal pieces as footrests, we’ll be alright.

IMG_4484

I kinda like blue in the dining room.

I am in love with this table now. Forget odes to craigslist; I need to write an ode to my beautiful table! Every meal feels classier now. Except… notice the mishmash of ugly chairs? Stay tuned for part 2…

Banner Day

Back in the spring, the girls were in a musical production at church. When I found out that some help was needed with props, I volunteered and was assigned the task of creating banners. Other than general dimensions and being told that there needed to be a lion on one of them and “something else” on the other, I had a lot of leeway. Because these banners were to represent two different armies, I turned to heraldry for inspiration. I asked the girls to explain the scene to me on the way to school one morning and they said that the lion was for the good guys, so we needed something appropriately sinister for the bad guys.

“A dragon!” Rana suggested. “With ten heads!”
“No, just three heads, “Granota countered. “We don’t want to make it too hard on Maman.”
I’m glad she was looking out for me.

After dropping them off at school, the boys and I headed to the fabric store. Costume satin just happened to be on sale that week! The lion should look regal and what’s more royal than purple? Especially set on a bright white field. Well, it goes without saying that the bad guys needed a black banner. After much debate, I ended up choosing green for the dragon, not, as might be assumed, because dragons are green, but because it just happened to look the best of the available options.

Next step, choosing the design! With vague ideas in my mind of what I wanted, I did a search on lions in heraldry and found a handful of suitable lions. I let Konik choose which lion would go on the banner. Then, to appease the girls, I did a search on three-headed dragons and found a really cool image of a dragon with three long, writhing necks. Then I saw the same image printed on a t-shirt. And there it was again and again, and why does that guy have it tattooed on his arm? A little investigation and…

Oh. “Game of Thrones.” Guess I’d better not use that dragon.

I settled for a regular ol’ one-headed dragon, but he looks sufficiently ferocious in my eyes. Using the pictures I had found online as a guide, I drew my lion and dragon silhouettes on tissue paper. Before cutting them out of the satin, however, I fused some lightweight interfacing to the back of the purple and green to keep the shapes from fraying once they were cut out. That was a bit of genius if I do say so myself.

IMG_4366

To cut the banners themselves, I used my brand new (ok, Christmas new, but inaugural use) rotary cutter and self-healing mat (Thanks, Mom!). That was kinda fun. I need more stuff to cut all zippy like that…

IMG_4367

The sewing was, y’know, sewing. Basic applique kind of stuff, then seaming the edges of the banner, turn right-side out, yada yada. To construct the standards, I had two sizes of dowels, the sizes of which I have forgotten now. Aren’t I helpful? Ah, but look! I just found my Lowe’s receipt. It says: two 3/4″ oak dowels — those were the poles; and one 7/16″ dowel that we cut in half to put the banners on, like a curtain rod (I say “we” because Mr. Gren cut the dowels down to the right sizes). On the ends of each of the skinny dowels, we screwed a little wooden button to keep the banner from sliding off. On the tops of the thicker poles, Mr. Gren screwed in an eyelet. Then I used a length of cord tied to each end of the skinny dowels and wound twice through the eyelet to hold the whole thing together.

IMG_4443

IMG_4442

Result was some pretty nice looking banners. Konik and Granota demonstrate how well they turned out. They looked great in the kids’ play, too, but it was too dark for my little camera to get any good pictures during the performance. And apparently, I didn’t take any photos of just the dragon banner, which is a bummer. But hey, at this point, we’re all just glad I’m writing again, right?

IMG_4441

IMG_4440

IMG_4447

Christmas gifts: They were cones!

The last of the Christmas gift round-up! This was another Rana project and definitely not something I would have done with the younger kids. Finding homemade gifts for men can be tricky — it’s easy to find all kinds of cutesy, frilly, girly projects, but something that a man might want or find useful can be a real challenge. Rana had pulled one of her uncle’s names for this last one. Knowing that this uncle uses a wood stove to heat his house, when I found this project for pine cone fire starters, I thought that this was something we could do.

First things first: you need pine cones. Pine cones are plentiful on the other side of the state, but over here on the Western side of the mountains, mostly all we get are fir cones. Fir cones, while bountiful, are worthless, acidic clumps of mush. Some people have to rake leaves from their lawns; we get to rake fir cones, or else they burn up your grass and you have no lawn. Actual pine trees are in sparse supply around here, so in order to get the aforementioned pine cones, we used several of those cinnamon-scented pine cones they sell around the holidays. One advantage to this versus foraging for cones in the wild is that the cones are already dried and opened up.

Other supplies you’ll need are wax (we used an old candle) and wicks (cotton yarn). The basic idea is, you put a wick on the pine cone and coat it in wax, then you chuck the whole thing into the fireplace to get your fire going. We melted down a white candle in our pseudo-double boiler (tuna can in a pot of water). Little known fact: tuna cans float. That made the whole cone-dipping process more exciting. Bobbing for pine cones.

Rana did make a cute video for this, too, but Konik is yelling at me in the background while my mom tries to shush him. Oh well.

IMG_3385

IMG_3386

I had visions of the cones looking as though they had been frosted with snow. Unfortunately, white wax doesn’t look white unless it’s in a solid chunk, so our pine cones just looked kind of greasy. Hm. Another one of those “live and learn” moments, I guess. Even if they didn’t turn out as pretty as we had counted on, we hope that they are at least functional!

Christmas gifts: warm hearts, warm hands

We’re on the last batch of homemade Christmas gifts now with Rana’s contributions. It is fun doing this with a little bit older child since she is capable of more. Since she jumps at the chance to use the sewing machine, I chose a project with some easy sewing: pocket handwarmers.

IMG_3118

IMG_3120

For each of the kids’ projects, I took little videos where they explained what they were doing and who their recipient was. After Christmas, I shared those videos with our families. But Rana’s video is so funny because she goes into full-on TV hostess mode. And she explains the project as well as I can, plus, she’s cuter. Take it away, Rana! (The picture below will link to the video. Click it!)

Click the picture to be taken to the video.

Click the picture to be taken to the video.

After adding the lavender and rice to the little handwarmers, we sewed up the hole and called it good. But then I started thinking that maybe the recipients needed something to store them in during warm months when handwarmers aren’t needed. I whipped up some little pouches while Rana was at school, but let her choose the ribbons for the drawstrings. There! Now they were ready to send off to cousins. Just a few seconds in the microwave, pop them into their coat pockets, and they’ll have toasty fingers.

IMG_3381

IMG_3115