HQAL – What’s Going On At My House?

Three weeks have passed again. I already mentioned that the cats made it difficult for me to quilt. I said that I would get lots accomplished during The Super Bowl, which I did not! Between the game being a good one and the fun commercials to watch and all the food and drink that Peter was plying me with, I didn’t put in a stitch. Now we’re up to the Olympics and I am not doing much either. Too much skating and speed skating to watch…And we have been busy during the day.

I am still quilting the third center quarter.

What I have been doing? Painting! We’ve been living with this dreadful color in the guest room for four years. It’s like a cave – a vampire’s cave. I like red, but this is a black red and nothing goes with it. Even my favorite red and white quilt is swallowed up in the darkness of it.

You can see that there was a large desk built in the nook area. Without the desk it will be a nice sitting area.

The desk is gone – Peter ripped it out! Then we painted the whole room with a primer so that I could “see” to audition paint colors. Over the years I have tried many colors. There were paint chips taped all over the room.

When I went to Sherwin Williams the other day to get some paint on sale, I looked at their color wall again. I wanted an interesting neutral. I came home with two more samples and fell in love with one. Look at this paint!

That is what I call an interesting color! SW6547 Silver Peony.

We call it Helio. Years ago, I bought a blouse and the color in the catalog said helio. I looked it up in the dictionary and it said helio is the color when the sun has set; it’s a pinky purple-ish blue. Very peaceful and it changes as the light in the room does. Now to arrange furniture and hang mirrors and pictures and look forward to our first guests in the brand new room…

oh…and to quilt…

P.S. I am sorry that I was in such a rust to post this that I forgot to add the links for the other quilters who are participating! Excuse me!

This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

Kathy, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Susan , Jessica  , SherryNanette, Sassy,  Edith ,  Sharon and Bella.















A Pressing Station!

If you are a quilter, or do anything with large hunks of fabric, you know what I am about to say – an ironing board is not a useful shape or size. It’s pointy and narrow; good for ironing clothing but not for pressing* fabrics or quilt tops. Since returning from the river cruise, I have been in a fit of organizing and I looked at my ironing board and its space with a critical eye. I have had it in several spots in the studio and nothing has been right. When I complained to Peter about it, he offered to help me find a solution.

Initially we thought about reworking an existing table, and looked at work benches. Though they are about the right size, they are way too big and sturdy. We then looked at tables and couch tables. I thought it would be easy to add a sturdy top. Though many were nice, they were expensive and often rickety. So – Peter said he would make me one from scratch! In the studio, I had to decide where to put it. This is a spot where it’s been…

And it was here another time. The closet door is one of two into the dormer area and I don’t use this one. The new station will work well here.

Many years ago, I got a certificate in fiber from the Worcester Center for Crafts. In the fiber studio, we had huge work tables, made using 4’x 8′ plywood sheets with a felted fabric underneath, covered with muslin that could be taken off to wash. We silk screened and did any number of projects on them. It turns out that a pressing surface really shouldn’t be as hard as an ironing board typically is, so we stapled an old wool blanket to the top (a wedding gift from my mother…) and now I must make a muslin cover with elastic so that I can easily take it off to wash.

Here is the wonderful top getting its legs attached. We measured where my arms should be for pressing, or any work that I do standing up, and the table is the correct height. You can see that it is very sturdy! It is made of a composite top we found that’s 2’x4′. All the hardware that Peter found is sized for 2″x 4″ wood, so the construction was fairly simple.

One of the reasons that I began dreaming about a pressing station was because my iron started leaking. I did some online research as well as asking quilting friends, and decided to buy an Oliso. They are funny things – I used one at a workshop and could not figure out how to use it, but once I did, I liked it a lot. (I call it “the hopper” because that is what it does when you touch it!) When not being used, it wants to be horizontal to the surface, which is perfect for the pressing table. Most irons, if you leave them that way, will leak. It is not an inexpensive iron, but it is an important tool that I constantly use when I am sewing.

Thanks so much Peter! I am already using it and it’s perfect! If you have a handy spouse, I suggest you persuade them to make you your very own pressing station…

Pressing* is what a quilter usually does. We iron fabrics, with a back and forth motion like you would a shirt, but after sewing seams, we press them down and flat. 






Chalk Paint Chairs

After moving to South Carolina, our brown upholstered dining room chairs seemed heavy and out-of-place. Though I wanted to re-upholster them, the cost of the fabric and labor was way too high and they weren’t particularly special chairs. There is a chalk paint store in the area, and after I took an introductory class with them, I decided to paint unfinished chairs. The instructor told us about an Amish furniture store which was full of choices for straight-backed chairs. After spending a good amount of time dithering about which chairs to buy, I decided on six different styles! Somewhere I had seen an old farmhouse kitchen where mismatched chairs sat around a big table. Though there are many antique stores nearby, new chairs seemed a better option. This was all about a year ago and the unfinished chairs with cloth seats, sat in the diningroom looking forlorn.

Sometimes I make quick decisions about fabrics and colors, but not this time. Finally I found an ikat fabric that I liked – with watery, soft colors.

And then the paint color debate started in my head. For a long while I thought I would be clever and paint each chair a different color and collected paint samples. I came to my senses a few weeks ago and decided that one color would suffice. I went back to the chalk paint store which sells Annie Sloan’s brand. They have a large selection of colors, but nothing appealed to me. I didn’t feel like mixing their paint either, so I started to Google. It turns out that chalk paint is very easy to make and Lowe‘s had a recipe and all sorts of good information. It’s Plaster of Paris and water and plain paint and that meant that I could simply choose a color I liked and make it myself. (And it was lots less expensive.)Why chalk paint? It is very thick and goes on easily. There are far fewer drips and these are easy to spot. Years ago when I painted furniture for our apartment, I could not find a finish that I liked; it was always too shiny and then when I sanded it, it looked – well – sanded. Chalk paint has a dull finish and then when the finishing wax is applied, it can be rubbed to make it shine a bit. There are all sorts of amazing techniques one can do, but I just did plain painting. And I’m very pleased with the result.

Next I am debating painting a red leather recliner…. Have any of you tried chalk painting on leather?






A Kitchen for a Quilter*

Last post, I shared one side of the unfinished kitchen. Now I can share the almost completely finished kitchen and complain a bit more about the old one.

What really drove us mad about cooking side of the kitchen was the glass cooker top! Hate, hate, hated it! Discovering that we could get a gas line installed to the house started this whole project. Once Peter got the permits done, we bought a new gas cook top, and a new wall microwave/convection oven and oven. As you can see, the old appliances were black. Ugh. I’m not a clean freak, but I do like white or stainless in the kitchen. It looks sleek and clean. My other huge problem was the microwave oven and exhaust fan over the cooker top. The fan did little but wush the air somewhere and the oven was so low that I was nervous when I used the enormous canning pot. And the microwave was so old that it did not have a plate to rotate the food.

So pleased to see them gone! We do not have space for an exhaust fan to pull the air up, so we chose a downdraft unit to pull the air into the crawl space. There were some challenges getting it in, including making the drawers under the cooktop a lot shallower, but it is worth it. Gas is so wonderful to cook on and so hot – I had forgotten and nearly burned dinner the other night.

Another little detail that always aggravates me in a kitchen, is the lack of shelves. I know some people who own a handful of cookbooks but I am not one of them! I have cookbooks all over the house. (And check out this kitchen view with the dark brown glass tiles and the ugly off white Corian counters. Ugh!)

My idea was to build a bookcase at the end of the island. The kitchen designer suggested glueing one of the cabinet doors shut and inserting a black set of shelves that would coordinate with the black molding on the cabinets. Though we lost a lot more cabinet space, I am delighted with the new bookcase. (Which houses my most used cookbooks…)

And here is a “beauty shot” of the sink and the new glass inserts in what was the “black hole” cupboard. And how about my apple core backsplash? Is it not wonderful?

The whole project took three weeks. It seemed like forever but when we admire our sparkling update, we feel like we have a brand new kitchen.

How I love Painting!

I have another great before and after picture for you! It’s interesting looking at these two photos together. I took them in the afternoon when there is no direct sun in the great room. The latte one looks much lighter than it was.

Latte color

The latte looks fine but isn’t Knitting Needles amazing? It looks almost white, but it is a light value of grey. And it’s a very neutral grey, without green or yellow; probably with a blue-ish cast.

Knitting Needles great room

It was a lovely misty, foggy day on the lake when the first coat was finished, and the grey around the picture window framed it beautifully. And when the trees leaf out in Spring, it will be wonderful as well. The white trim looks crisp and I am going to enjoy adding colors to the room (and the halls and stairways too!). I am very affected by the colors where ever we live and I was thinking that I wouldn’t have painted the Illinois house grey. Not sure why, but the beige based colors were better. Here I want clearer colors.

Naughty me, I have a new project going. It is colder here and I am knitting a hat. I made one in Illinois, but I bet I threw it away thinking I wouldn’t need it here. This photo has eye candy for my weaving friends! This is my antique pine tree and snowflake coverlet, which is one of my all time favorite patterns.

Knitted hat

The dust is settling from the painting and repair work and I am vacuuming and dusting and we’re re-arranging furniture. This is the perfect way to begin the New Year!

January Begins…

Normally on the first week of the year, I drift around the house wondering where to start dismantling Christmas and what trouble I can get in after a long spell of doing little in the studio. January is my quiet time and I love the cold and having to stay indoors… But this year, I’ve been working hard as we are having a great deal of the house painted, what I call “the public areas”, the great room, halls, stairwells. Most of the ceiling in those places needs to be repaired and painted as well; some of the drywall is cracking in the corners. This paint is the original paint from the original owners, so it is 17 years old. It sure looks dingy and nicked up. Instead of getting back to projects, I have been taking down things on the walls, patching holes (the last painters did not patch!) and moving furniture out-of-the-way. I am so looking forward to the color which is changing from a latte to Knitting Needle, SW7672, which is a darker shade of the dining room.  I love painting and a fresh coat of paint surely is a great start to the year.

High dormers

The ceiling in the great room is very high, so we have asked the painter to clean the dormer windows and change the lightbulbs! The painters are licensed and bonded, so if he falls, it’s fine. If Peter falls doing those tasks, then we are in big trouble.

The cats are a bit un-nerved by the activity and furniture moving and react in different ways. Jasmine is bored by the whole thing and annoyed that she is cooped up in a bedroom and can’t make friends with the painters! Gizmo is terrified and cowering under the bed, poor guy. He spent a good deal of last night howling because his cat tower is now in the wrong spot.

Bored Jasmine

I am working around the edges of the confusion and activity. I bet all of us less than organized fiber people begin January by cleaning their work areas. I do this every year, with varying results. This year, I am hoping to do better and I think I may succeed. My Pfaff is at the repair shop getting her check-up so I cannot sit down and sew for a bit… and get into trouble… and lose track of time…

In other happy news, the weather is cold (for SC) again and the flannel sheets are back on the bed. Not only has the weather been unseasonably warm, it has been raining like crazy! Sunday’s paper gave me the answer I was looking for – we’ve had about 30″ of rain during the last three months of the year. Yow!

Back to working on the studio and spying on the painters…


The Disappearing Reds!!!

Decorators always talk about the transformative nature of paint and what a cheap fix it is. If you all thought the powder room re-do was a dramatic one, check out these pictures!!!

Here is the dining room. The dark red coupled with the bright white trim (and the awful air conditioner intake thing-y) was jarring. And I must admit that I have never seen anyone use the same color above and below a chair rail. The red was from the first owner and I don’t know how the previous owners could stand it.

Dreary Diningroom

My plan was to paint above the chair rail with a pale gray and then wallpaper underneath. Ha! All of the wallpapers that I like are terrifically expensive. {sigh} New plan is to see if they go on sale or do some stenciling myself. Peter is voting for stenciling and that would be fun and unique.

More red dining room

So for the moment we also have the same color above and below the chair rail, which is SW On The Rocks. Is this not amazing??? So cool and calm and crisp. I can’t wait to buy a new light fixture and decide whether to re-upholster the chairs or find new ones. For now, I am just SO happy looking at it.

On The Rocks grey!

Moving to the livingroom. There are no lights of any kind in here (just wall outlets) and it was dark, dark, dark. At night this red turned almost black, and not a cozy black but a black hole sort of black!

Red livingroom

I wanted the Indian rug to move in here, so I sampled colors to work with it. I had to paint some primer white first so that I could actually see the samples!

Livingroom paint samples

I chose the middle one, SW Biltmore Buff, and love the color. I couldn’t adjust the color properly – it’s more of a creamy yellow in the light we get (the windows face west) and the rug looks smashing in there. Now the room is so bright and warm without being too hot.

Biltmore Buff livingroom

The cats are always intrigued when the furniture is moved. The same piece takes on a whole new aspect when it’s not in the usual spot.

Gizmo exploringNow there’s only one more red room to re-do!

The Powder Room Re-Do!

!!!!!! Hooray !!!!!!

This is the before – the dreadfully dark, dreary, silly wallpaper. And the beaded shades. They made the room very dark and were filthy dirty. I used to be very fond of brass, but not anymore. Everything metal in this house is brass….

Dreadful wallpaper

 And here it is today!

It really does not look like the same room. When we got the wallpaper off, it was noticeably brighter. The light makes the blue walls look almost white, but we painted them a warm blue. Peter tackled the huge job of replacing the pedestal sink and the insides of the toilet and we installed all new fixtures. And the pretty orb pendant.

Powder room re-do

The next project will be deciding what to hang on the walls, but for now, I am so happy to be looking at this calm blue…

Cleaning Up The Christmas Clutter

…and organizing for the New Year.

Christmas was a bit of a blur. After a fun two days, I came down with a stomach thing on the 27th and felt unwell for several days. Was it a bug? Was it excess sugar or turkey or good cheer? I can’t say, but I dozed on the couch, draped in the new Christmas Quilt and ate toast and rice, while the tins of cookies languished…

We took the tree down today, which always makes me sad. I love walking into the great room and seeing it, slowly winking at me with its brightly colored lights… I know it’s late to show a picture, but it was an especially pretty tree.

2014 tree

Santas and snowmen need to be collected and linens washed and stored and the Merry Christmas to Me quilt still needs to be washed – it’s been very rainy recently. The  studio is where we wrap presents and the paper and ribbon and tape have been tucked away. Next I pondered: “how do I re-arrange the studio to include the new Sweet 16?”. I very much like my Koala sewing table because it is so flexible and can be arranged in many ways. I decided that I need the maximum table space for cutting and spreading out patterns, so I closed that part of the Koala, and put my office table parallel to it. Then the Sweet 16 fits nicely beside it.

Reorg 1

That didn’t last long! I came in the studio this morning and looked at that arrangement and realized that it did not use the table to the best advantage. Although it looks “tidy” and there is lots of floor space with the table parallel to the sewing table, it’s really better to have it perpendicular. This way, I can move around the table to work on things and when I start storing containers underneath, they will be easy to access. I think this is good!

Reorg 2

And look what I am working on again, poor guy!

Turkey work

The Studio Re – Re-Do!

Several months ago I opted to paint only a few areas of the studio, which was silly. At that point I just wanted to get the design wall up and didn’t want to deal with the mess and chaos. I had a neighborhood ladies meeting this week and Peter kindly offered to help me finish it up. (I thought it would be fun to show off my work areas.) It’s funny; I didn’t really see the latte colored walls anymore, but it certainly was time to finish it up so that I can really settle in.  What a mess!

Studio mess

Here you can see the two colored walls I’ve been living with.

Office area

We planned for the painting to be completed over one weekend – ha – of course that didn’t happen. Peter has been traveling an enormous amount and there have been other (more fun) things to do each weekend. But the painting is complete and the studio is entirely pink now and feels cool and girly! There is still a bulletin board to be hung on the big wall behind my desk. Is it because I was a Second Grade teacher? I cannot seem to have enough bulletin boards. And there’s a magazine track on the stairs to be put up as well.

Pink & girly

It really looks wonderful. And so tidy since I have not started sewing again….

Partially organized

More as I get organized!