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?






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…

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!

Studio Update – the design wall!

I’ve always used a “design wall”. When I first started to quilt, I pieced on the dining room table and  taped work in progress to the livingroom wall, but the best scenario is a full-fledged screwed-in-the-wall-push-pin friendly one. It’s important to be able to see your work as it’s progressing, particularly if that work is going to hang on a wall. (If I’m making a bed quilt, I do often lay it on a bed to see how it’s looking.) So here it is –  the design wall is finally done! If you have moved a lot, you know this; anything you want to do in your new house always takes longer than you wish it would! I got a few of the studio walls painted in December hoping to get the board up, but we just completed the project this weekend. {sigh} The difficulty was, as it often is, that we couldn’t find homosote. In case you don’t think you know what homosote is, you do, it’s what a schoolroom bulletin board is made of. It used to be very inexpensive and easy to find, but not anymore. We had to special order it! I have used other material for a design wall, but homosote is the best. It’s thick and you can put long push pins into it. In Japan, we hung double-sided foam core from the ceiling. It worked, but barely. It was so thin that I had to use pins to hold up my designs and it curled in the high humidity. But it’s a good choice if you can’t screw into the wall. Peter is the best installer ever, so patient and accurate, and he has installed a few of these over the years.

Peter leveling

After you decide what to use for the design wall base, the next decision is what to cover it with. You could paint it, but then all the holes show and it can start to crack and fall off. When I was a Second Grade teacher I always covered bulletin boards with burlap and stapled the fabric on the back. However, many fabrics are too narrow and burlap usually is. For the design wall in Highland Park, I used the gridded flannel fabric from eQuilter. It’s a nice quality and a good width, but quite difficult to get the grids even – and if you’re going to have lines on it you want them to be even!  The homosote is  4′ x 8′ and we only cut a bit off this piece so the light switch could be used. I went to Joann’s to see if perhaps they had designer burlap, which is wider, and I made a great find!  The fabric covering the homosote is felt , it came in a nice white, and best of all, it’s 72″ wide. I discovered it in the store by the burlap which was not even 42″. (I hate seams on a design wall…) This baby is screwed in tight!

New design wall!

For some reason, having the design wall installed always makes me feel like I’m really home! 

Ready to work!

With the design wall hung, I was able to dig out the zinnia and sunflower from their moving package and carefully pin them up to inspire me. I cannot wait to quilt these two!!!

January Projects: Primarily Painting

I have been enjoying everyone’s year end posts, with photos and lists of all the wonderful projects they’ve completed. If you follow along here you know that I was not in “fiber mode” last year and completed nothing. But, as always, I’m excited that it’s January and here are some of the things I want to accomplish!

The studio unpacking and organizing has been at a standstill since the beginning of December! Earlier in the Fall I “allowed” myself to sit down at the sewing machine and do something and the half square triangle project was in the box by the machine. I tacked up the squares on the design-wall-to-be as I sewed them. It’s going to be a fun quilt, but it is supposed to be a leader-ender project, so I put it away again.

Half Square Triangle Bit

And here is the painting part of the post and the theme of the month! We are working on reorganizing Peter’s office closet and our master bedroom closet, so lots of patching and priming and painting is happening. I really want to get a design wall hung and I have learned from many moves that once the design board goes up, it doesn’t come off until we move! The walls are not a bad color, but it’s a dark latte or paper bag color and not neutral (or girly) enough for me. This room has not been painted since the house was built in 1999 (!) and I am looking forward to covering up all marks of the previous two owners.

Design Wall-To-Be

I very stupidly decided to paint the primer coat at the beginning of December. Then more important and fun things needed doing, so here this is what it looks like… Isn’t it interesting to see just how dark the latte color (over the doorways) is?

Primed wall

I got to a paint store yesterday and bought some samples. These really are different. ;-D The top one is a warmer pink and the bottom a cooler one.

Paint samples

The deadline for entering quilts in my guild’s March show is in a month, so I need to get the design wall done so that I can get working on some machine quilting. And I want to get back to being me again too!

Making Progress

A few weeks ago,we had a box pick up and now we can use the garage ! Here are two gigantic piles of collapsed boxes.

Collapsed boxes

And here are a bunch of dish packs stuffed with paper. Another odd thing happened with the awful move; I didn’t stand at the door marking off box numbers as the men brought them in. We’ve always done that; how else can you tell if something is missing? The driver sort of shrugged when I asked about it and said “I brought all your boxes from Chicago”. Well, I’m sorry to say, I don’t think he did! There are no unopened boxes and we are missing some of Peter’s clothes and a collection of antique tins that I love. I don’t know what to do. If you’ve ever seen the warehouses where they store people’s stuff, you know how huge they are. A box could be lost in one of those places… forever…….

Boxes of paper

Now that the majority of boxes are unpacked, I’m making it feel like home here and finding places for everything to stay put. We have spent a lot of time moving furniture from here to there. The Queen of Cupboards does not seem to have enough wall space for all of them….. {sigh} … and no basement to store them.

And now the redecorating can begin. We haven’t lived in an older home for a long, long time; our last two places were new with a color like Navajo White paint on the walls. This house was built in 1999 and has had two owners, although the previous owners said they didn’t redecorate. {Really???} I feel like we’re living in someone else’s house. Here’s the powder room. I HATE the wallpaper. {Apologies to those of you who like it… different strokes and all that.}

Dreadful wallpaper

I hate the chandelier and I hate the little beaded shades that make the room so dark. And I have never liked brass faucets as they look like gold. This house is located in South Carolina on a lake and although I’m not saying there has to be fish or mermaid wallpaper on the walls {though that could be fun}, I find the Italian Architecture wallpaper to be an odd choice. I think this will be the first room to play with!

Gold faucets

We did add one little touch of us this weekend. The idea came to me one day when I was admiring the view. I found a great place online to order vinyl words for the wall and we put this up over the very wonderful window in the great room. You may need to click on the picture to see the words – I took several pictures yesterday but it’s difficult to photograph a window.

Welcome to the lake

We were sitting on the dock the other evening, admiring this sky and waiting for the full moon to rise and…

Amazing clouds

…it occurred to me that I have been thinking and dreaming about moving for many years. It’s so wonderful to be able to really feel like we’re home. ;-D