Monday, January 28, 2013

Before and After: A Roadside Rescue (Antique Dresser)

It's been a little while since I've been able to share a good "Before and After" with you guys.  And let me tell you, this is a good one!  I had such a good time working on it and am super excited to share it!
Back in the fall, I was driving my son to school one day and got a little turned around.  We were new in town and I wasn't sure of the best way to go to get to the school.  As I was winding my way through a neighborhood, I spied a pile of furniture next to the curb.
Of course I had to slow down to get a look at what was being tossed out, and my heart practically leaped out of my chest when I spotted this beauty among the cast offs.

I quickly took my son to school and hurried back to get a closer look.  Upon closer inspection I found that both front legs were broken, pieces of trim were missing from the bottom drawer, the piece that extends between the front legs was broken (but had been somewhat repaired), and while it had a mirror stand, the mirror was missing.  Generally, it was in pretty sad shape.

In spite of all its flaws and needed repairs, I could not believe my luck!  I couldn't fit the whole thing into the back of my car all at once, so I decided to bring the drawers home first then go back and get the rest, all the while practically hyperventilating with excitement and anxiety that somebody would snag it while I was gone.  Luckily it was only a few blocks from my house.
Once safely in my garage, there it sat for a few months.  Finally, sick of the precious space it was hogging, my husband encouraged me to tackle it.
I repaired the things that needed it, then got to work on the fun stuff!
I started by sanding down the top and restaining it a nice medium tone.
The body and drawers got painted with a custom mixed bluish grey and I highlighted some of the details with crisp white.

A light distressing brought out its lovely details even more.

While I couldn't replace the missing trim pieces on the bottom drawer, I decided that filling in those gaps with white paint would help camouflage them a bit.  Unless you look closely, you don't really notice that it's just paint there.
Decorating the top was a fun little adventure, too!  I love shopping the house to see how I can pull things together.

I'm still trying to decide if it's really "done" at this point.  The top needs to be sealed somehow, and I'd intended to use a dark brown glaze on it but haven't brought myself to apply it.  I really like it the way it is, but I also like the effect that glaze has on a piece.  It gives it more depth.

What do you think?  Glaze or no glaze?

Maybe I'll live with it for a while and see if the fancy strikes to glaze it later.  Meanwhile, I LOVE my rescued antique dresser!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tutorial: Recover a lampshade the lazy way

Do you ever have a project on your mind that you want to do, but DON'T want to do at the same time?  You  know, something that would be a big improvement once it's finished, something that you really do want done, but the idea of actually going through the process just makes your eye twitch?

This lampshade was one of those projects.  It started off as a nice big, plain lampshade, but during our last move it had gotten a little beaten up.  The plastic on the inside was dented and when the light was on those dents were an eye sore.

As I mentioned in the post I wrote about the painted lamp that this shade belongs to, I did end up trying to camouflage the dents by painting some 1" vertical stripes on the shade.


They looked fine with the light off, but with it on the stripes were streaky and uneven and looked just awful.

I spent a long time trying to figure out how I could fix my flub without having to replace the shade completely.  That's where my lazy crafter side came out.  I did NOT want to hassle with trying to cover the shade with fabric, which to me seemed like a really unforgiving process.  You have to get the fabric on straight, get it on smooth, and don't you dare mess up or it'll be obvious!  At least that's what I imagined. 

Also, I hate spray adhesive.  Blech.

So I pondered and pondered, when one day as I was browsing lamp shades in Target I spotted a super cute one that I really wanted to just buy.  It was covered in a grey cotton fabric that had lots of tiny little pleats and folds all the way around it.  PERFECT!!!  No precision, no perfection and no spray adhesive!  I decided to recreate this look with my bruised shade.

I came home and carefully sliced through the thin layer of silk fabric that I'd painted the stripes on and peeled it off completely, leaving the bare, dented plastic lining.  I'm not sure this step was really necessary, but I didn't want those stripes showing through my new fabric.

Luckily I had a good sized piece of grey linen in my fabric stash, so I proceeded to cut it to the height of my shade + 2".  The length I cut was a total guess.  I used a piece that was the length of my fabric, plus a piece that was about 3/4 the length.  I didn't want my new ruffled shade to be too full.  But if I were to do it again, I would measure around my shade, then double that measurement and cut my fabric to that length.

I sewed the two pieces together end to end to give myself one long piece.

This next step was pretty cool.  I absolutely HATE gathering fabric for ruffles using a basting stitch.  So I did a quick search and found this tutorial for a tricky way to do it without worrying about busting your basting stitch.  Click on over for a full step-by-step.  But I'll give you a quick run down here.

1. Pull your top and bobbin threads out so they're a little longer than the length of your fabric.  Yep, waaaay out so they're as long as your fabric, plus a few inches. 

2.  Lay your fabric under your presser foot then bring both long threads underneath the foot and lay them out in front of your needle.

3.  Set your stitch length to normal (I used 3.5) and your stitch width to a wide zig zag.

4.  Stitch a zig zag right over those long threads, all the way down the side of your fabric.  (Make sure you're not sewing INTO the long threads when your needle comes down to create your zig zag stitches.  You just want to cover those long threads.)

5. Clip only your zig zag threads when you're done stitching, NOT the long threads.

6.  Pull on those long threads to gather your fabric.  They should pull easily underneath your zig zag stitch to create your gathered edge.
 Gather both sides of your fabric along the long edges, distributing the gathers evenly and checking to make sure that your finished length is enough to go entirely around your lampshade.

Take it to your ironing board and press the folds down in a neat or messy way, whichever you prefer.  I went with messy.

Place your fabric on the table, wrong side up, then lay your shade on top of the fabric.  Fold the fabric to the inside of the shade and glue the raw edges down using a hot glue gun. 
Glue a few inches on one side, then tug the fabric to the other side and glue a few inches on the other side.  Continue this way all the way around the shade.  *I wasn't paying much attention and my fabric got a little skewed as I went.  Not a big deal to me, but if you want your pleats and gathers to be nice and straight up and down, keep an eye on this as you go.  Or you could skew your fabric intentionally and end up with diagonal pleats!  How cool would that look?!

To finish off the inside, glue a length of grosgrain ribbon to cover those raw edges.

Learn from my mistake and give yourself enough extra width on your fabric so your zig zag stitches aren't showing once you've folded the raw edges in.  Some of mine are peeking over to the outside of the shade because I cut my fabric too narrow.

And here's the finished shade!  (See those diagonal gathers?  They don't really bother me, but I'd be more careful to keep things straight if I did it again.)

Bye bye ugly dented shade. 

Hello gorgeous custom pleated shade!!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sometimes it's the little things

Last month, like many of you, I was in the throws of Christmas preparation.  Shopping and planning and making and running around.  You know, the usual. 
I wasn't making very many things, just a few little gifts like the dolls I shared recently, and a couple of new Christmas decorations.  But I kept having trouble with my projects.  Time after time I'd have to walk away in frustration, only to come back to it later and wrestle with it some more until it was done.  Not much satisfaction to be had.
One day it all just got to me.  I was grumpy and frustrated and had just had it!  You know what I mean?  I vented my frustrations on Facebook with this:
Today I've struggled with a gloom that's been pestering me. Maybe a mug of cocoa will help. Couldn't hurt, right?
to which a sweet friend replied:
Christmas music on Pandora, make a craft, get some sunshine. 
(Did I mention that Michigan is very dreary in the winter?  That was part of my problem at the time, too, I'm sure.  Sick to DEATH of the grey!)
She didn't know that I'd been struggling with that very thing, but the her idea still appealed to me.  I needed to make something simple but that required focus.  Again, I wanted to use my hands and end up with something successful. 
I immediately dove into my craft closet, searching for inspiration.  I spied an oatmeal colored wool sweater that I'd picked up a few months ago while thrifting.  It was in great condition, just shrunken.  Perfect for a craft project!
Next I started hunting for buttons.  I wanted big wooden ones, but didn't have enough.  This gave me another idea, so I walked out onto my back porch and rifled through a pile of twigs my husband had stacked next to the firepit.  I quickly found one that I liked and went back inside to start my therapy.
I cut the arms off the sweater right at the seams then turned it inside out and sewed it closed on 3 sides, leaving the hem open.  Pillow cover!
Next I turned my attention to the twig.  It was fairly straight but still had a few extra knobs that I wanted off, so I used my Dremel tool to clean it up a bit.  Then I cut it into 5 sections that were each about 1.5"-2" long.
With a little piece of sandpaper I smoothed each piece, rounding off the ends and giving myself the much-needed handwork that I was looking for.
I got the tiniest drill bit I could find and carefully drilled two holes in the middle of each section of twig.  Luckily I'd chosen a piece of fallen branch that was dried out but not rotten.  I was so scared that after all that I'd end up with split, crumbly and broken pieces of twig when I tried to drill into it.
But it worked!
I made button holes in my pillow cover then attached my new handmade twig buttons.
I cannot tell you how much I needed this project.  I just needed something to go right!  It only took me about an hour (you know how important instant gratification is to me), and to end up with something that I really, truly liked and could be proud of was HUGE. 

This project made me realize a few things.
1. My yard is a great resource for project materials!
2. Sometimes something as small as making a button can turn your whole mood (and crafting mojo!) around.
3. There's no need to go spend a bunch of money on supplies when you get the urge to create.
4. Projects don't need to be big, involved or impressive to give you a great sense of accomplishment.

So, Sasha, if you read this, thank you for your suggestion. It made all the difference in my day. And who knows? I may just be making some more wooden buttons somewhere down the road, because now I know I can! :)

Friday, January 4, 2013

An attempt at dollmaking

A few weeks ago I got the itch to make something.  This happens to me a lot.  Sometimes I get the urge to make something specific, sometimes I want to use a certain material, sometimes I just want to make something for a certain person, and sometimes it's all of the above.
I wanted to make handmade Christmas gifts for my best friend's children, so I had to come up with what I could make for two boys (ages 8 and 6) and two girls (ages 4 and almost 2).  The idea for the boys ended up being easier than I thought- marshmallow shooters!  Seriously, if you have kids (boys or girls) aged 5 and up, they'll love 'em!  Check out Pinterest.  There are tutorials everywhere!
As for the girls, I knew I wanted to make something girly that both would like, and something I could do some hand sewing on.  That was the itch I needed to scratch.  I wanted to stitch by hand.
The thought of making a couple of dolls for them made me so happy!  I browsed the Internet until I decided on the look I liked, then made up some paper patterns.  This took a little trial and error, then I had fun choosing fabrics. 
This little gal was my first attempt.  And yes, I made her with red hair and blue eyes on purpose.  :)
Since this was my first doll, I hadn't gotten the assembly really figured out.  I stuffed the head and limbs, stuffed the dress, then pinned everything in place and hand stitched them closed.  I didn't mind that, but I didn't like how floppy this made her head. 
A friend of mine asked if I'd be willing to make her two little girls a pair of dollies, so when I started on those I changed my approach.  This time the assembly took more thought and there was far less hand stitching.  I struggled quite a bit on a few parts and realized that my pattern pieces weren't quite working this time (i.e. adding pig tails made it almost impossible to turn the head right side out through that skinny neck!)  Ugh.
They did turn out pretty cute, though. 
These two gals are the ones I ended up sending to my best buddy's girlies (as a surprise).  Again, LOTS of struggles on these.  I think I made the redheaded doll twice and she still didn't turn out quite right.  Oh well.
Clearly I'm new to this.  The dolls are all a bit wonky, and I still haven't worked out the kinks in my pattern pieces, but the particular itch I had has been sufficiently scratched.  And now both of my sweet friends' sweet girls have little look-alike dollies made by me.  That sure makes me happy!