Retro as Hell

I finally got around to hemming and hanging my 2014 Spoinflower tea towel calendar. Best thing on the internet (Spoonflower tea towel calendar artists). This year’s was by mrshervi.
I know it’s April. Dude, I HAVE a calendar.  But my sewing machine broke last year and I just haven’t invested in a new one.
The in-laws moved recently and one of the treasures in their magic basement was a 1910 Singer sewing machine retro-fitted with electricity and a (stubborn) pedal.
Holy bananas, it worked.

I had concern as the bobbin was already threaded and carried me through this project. Also, I’m pretty sure I threaded the thing way wrong but it worked.

I checked Singer’s site but the manual is not available online (surprise?). I’ll call them tomorrow.
After some investigation, I found the bobbin. It was tricky.
Couldn’t figure it from there.
It lifted up! But that wasn’t helpful at all.
But then I figured out through fifty trials and fifty errors that the silver panel SLIDES. I CAN reach the bobbin. Hopefully someone at the Singer 800 number can help me thread it tomorrow when they open.

Tufting Lessons: What NOT to Do

Ok, FIRST OF ALL, I carried that one hundred ton headboard upstairs all by myself. That’s the big deal here. Points.

But before I even covered it, I measured (gasp!) and marked the spots for the — tufting buttons? — what are they called? And I drilled holes in the MDF before covering. Behold.

Transported upstairs! ALL BY MYSELF!

And it sat there behind the bed sadly untufted for weeks.

I had already made the buttons, which was really fun and slightly mind-blowing. I went to the craft store last month with no clue what to buy for tufting buttons.  After staring at all the actual buttons I found this kit to make fabric covered buttons.  Seriously, guys, I had no idea this technology existed.  I brought it home to give it a try and just LOOK how fun and easy it is.

I finally found a long enough needle to do the tufting. Kind of. Mostly. The longest actual needles I could find in the stores were four inches long. This is something called a Ball Point Bodkin. (A quick Google taught me that bodkins are used for pulling ribbons or elastic or whatever you want I guess through fabric corridors. Fascinating.) I still had to really push it through and then pull out the other side because I clearly made the whole thing too thick.

LESSON ONE: You do not need heavy MDF. Use plywood.

LESSON TWO:  You do not need 4″ padding. Use 2″. It will be fine. No. It will be BETTER.

For the actual tufting, I turned to the internet. The internet actually had lots of ideas about how to secure the thread to the back of the headboard, because the internet is smart.  My favorite plan suggested I tie a washer to a piece of heavy duty thread, send it through the back with my needle (bodkin), grab the button, push the thread back through, pull taut for the tufting effect, and tie the loose end to the washer to keep it tight. Love it! And I had washers so didn’t even need to go to the store.

When I finished with them all, there were buttons evenly spaced, but not really tufted. It was difficult to tie the string to the washer after threading the button while simultaneously keeping it pulled tight through that four inch upholstery foam. (Seriously. Don’t use that. Use something else.) Still pretty.  But I wanted that bounce, y’all.

I figured out that I could pull the washers a bit and then duct tape them to the MDF board to get a little more tufting action. Voila.

RECAP: This the opposite of the correct way to tuft a headboard. It doesn’t need to be so big. I bought this cool french hook clasp thing to hang it on the wall but it is so big that it just sits on the floor. It doesn’t need to be so heavy. Regular plywood is much lighter. It might be a little bendy at first but once you staple the batting around the foam, and then add fabric, I’m sure it will steady itself. Don’t use four inch think foam. This headboard is super padded, and that’s nice and all, but I think it could be just as padded with half the foam, and I would have been able to use a regular upholstery needle. Learn from my mistakes.

Wedding Decorations for Almost Free

For those of you playing along at home, the Great Sewing Machine Disaster was solved. A lovely lady from my office let me borrow her sewing machine to complete the wedding bunting in time and the day was saved and happily ever after was lived.

I finished the bunting the weekend before the wedding, which left me about five days to figure out centerpieces. I already knew I wanted to do candles and flowers in mason jars and tin cans. Very backyard wedding. And very cheap. I bought a bunch of candles at Ikea for under $20. Two hundred tea lights, and about thirty votives. I had some white ribbon left over and a random yard or two of burlap. I had pasta-sauce type jars and mason jars and on standby in Florida already, and just needed some cans.

My condo complex has a row of like twenty industrial trash can sized recycling bins (half paper, half ‘commingled recyclables’) that are always overflowing on Tuesdays because they are emptied on Wednesdays. I went out on Tuesday to gather my goods and learned that my neighbors are super fancy people that do not eat canned food. They drink wine, they drink fancy bottled beers, they drink un-fancy canned beer, and they eat food that comes in jars. But they clearly prefer Whole Foods and farmer’s markets for their vegetables. And they have certainly never heard of Chef Boyardee. I found only four cans, all beans, all together, from someone clearly making a giant batch of chili. Even the tomato sauce I found next to them came in a jar. I actually had to go purchase the cheapest canned veggies I could find and throw them out. It felt terrible. I should have planned ahead. That cost just under $20 but could be free if you are smarter than me.

I used a hammer and nail to punch little starlight holes in half of the cans, to make twinkling tea light holders. And I glued burlap to the rest and tied ribbon around them to make vases. I put sand in half the jars with votives to make more candleholders, and used the other jars as more vases. For flowers, I sent my darling son and husband 80 miles away (one-way) to the nearest Trader Joe’s with two 5-gallon buckets half full of water. They came back with SO MANY FLOWERS for about $85. I pulled all the bouquets apart and filled my little centerpiece vases and still had enough flowers left over to make a calla lily and tulip bouquet for the darling bride, smaller calla and lily bouquets for her ladies, flowers to pin on the gentlemen, and three more large bouquets for the cake table, the guest book table, and the bar. For $85, yo. I’m pretty sure I spent $85 for my bridal bouquet alone because I am an idiot. Newsflash: Wedding flowers don’t have to be expensive. Trader Joe’s ALL DAY.

It all turned out beautiful.

A Masochist’s Guide to Sewing Bunting

Background: my darling cousin Jasmine decided to get married at my parent’s house this March, as they have almost three acres and a gazebo for the ceremony and plenty of room for an outdoor reception. (Don’t worry, it’s Florida. Weather should be perfect but we’re renting a tent just in case.) I volunteered to take on decorating the reception tent. On a budget. Oh by the way, this conversation went down in late January.

I decided the reception tent OBVIOUSLY needed bunting. I had a bin full of fabrics that I’ve had for years, waiting for that quilt I’ll never make. What a perfect idea to sew bunting to hang in the tent! I can have it done in a week of evenings and then I’ll work on centerpieces, I thought. HAHAHAHA. Please know that all of my sewing knowledge was imparted to me at age six by my grandmother when I used to make elastic skirts and sleeping bags for my Barbie dolls and at age twelve during a two week sewing lesson by my 7th grade Home Ec teacher. Everyone else in Home Ec made an apron, but I made a tote bag because I would only have to sew straight lines. So.

I made three cardboard triangle templates and began tracing with markers. Hours passed. Nights passed. To be fair, I did this while watching marathon TV shows, like Food Network Celebrity Cook-Off and Two Broke Girls. All the shows backed up on my DVR that didn’t need a lot of attention to watch…
I stopped counting at 600 triangles.
(I see triangles when I close my eyes. I dream of triangles. Triangles, triangles, triangles. I might be going crazy.)
But the triangles were pretty and vintage-y and I felt good about this. Three weeks in, and all. I decided that I wanted them different designs on each side, and I didn’t want a wrong side to show. (MASOCHIST ALERT.) So I broke out the dusty sewing machine and randomly grabbed triangles, sewing them together on the long sides, wrong sides out. This took approximatley 65 hours and I wish I was kidding. (Lou Diamond Phillips won Celebrity Cook-Off if you were wondering, but I really though Coolio had it in the bag with his ‘Ghetto Gourmet’.  Coolio, who knew you were such a great chef?)
I then turned all the triangles right side out and ironed them, creating millions of little flags. The internet told me that I should use bias tape to string them together but apparently the internet is a billionaire because that stuff was like $1/yard. I found some 2 inch thick indoor/outdoor ribbon selling for $6.99 for 100 yards instead. And bought three. 300 yards of ribbon. 900 feet of ribbon. What have I gotten myself into?
I cut a piece of ribbon about as long as the dining room table, fold it in half longways, and iron it. Then I pin my bunting flags inside, starting each flag every twelve inches. I don’t know why I decided to measure THIS when I don’t measure anything else; I guess it’s because I love Jasmine so much and want her wedding to be beautiful. And evenly spaced. I then sew along the entire ribbon, attaching the flags and leaving a bit extra ribbon on the ends so I can go back and sew all the little ribbons together for one ginormous strand of bunting. I was in the groove tonight, almost finished with the first spool of ribbon (100 years!) but now I kind of want to cry. Ok, just kidding. I already cried.
My very old, very inexpensive sewing machine has broken.  The wedding is less than a month away.
Dear Universe,
Please help.

How to Build a Closet in Infinity Days

Day 1:  One of the wire shelves in your closet comes loose from the wall on one side rendering it useless.  Take the clothing that was hanging in the closet and lay it in piles around the bedroom.

Day 5:  Go to Home Depot for new fasteners. Buy the EXACT SAME brand.  Take them home to reattach the wire shelves and realize that the sizing has been slightly changed over the years and they do not fit. Feel frustrated, and pull out the rest of the wire shelving because it was ugly and you hated it anyway.

Day 6:  Pout.

Day 7 – 12:  Put on some music and hang out in the closet, removing plastic wall anchors, patching millions of holes. Sand, patch, rinse, repeat.  Take off the doors while you are at it, and decide you don’t want to put them back on

Day 13:  Paint the inside of the closet.

Day 14 – 17:  Research those fancy gorgeous closet systems. Dream of having a built-in shoe rack and slide-out, cedar-lined sweater bins. Figure out that you could instead buy a used car. Buy neither.

Day 18:  Realize you will have to build this yourself.

Day 19 – 25:  Find and price closet systems that you can install yourself. Learn that they are over priced and overwhelmingly made of wire shelves.

Day 26:  Mope.

Day 29:  Notice the Ikea shelves that you  have in your kitchen.

Run upstairs and grab a shirt on a hanger from one of the piles of clothes on hangers around your bedroom. Test that it fits on the Ikea shelf. Get excited.

Day 33:  Wake up early to go on Ikea adventure. Eat a giant breakfast for like, twenty-three cents in their great cafe while you wait for the store to open. Feel proud of yourself for being there so early, finally learning to ‘do Ikea right.’ Find the Grundtal kitchen shelves and the cool Ekby Jarpen shelves with neat brackets.  Take some home. Also buy cool drapes to hang in lieu of doors.

Day 35: Measure. Take the shelves to Home Depot for some free cuts.

Day 41 – 48:  Spend an entire week hanging shelves, one or two at a time because the stupid battery operated drill isn’t powerful enough and you have to use a screwdriver and your hands get tired and once you walk away you generally don’t come back until the next day.
Use plastic wall anchors in the drywall where there is no stud.  Have trouble with the plastic wall anchors hitting wood in one spot.  Figure out that if you clipped the wall anchor, you could still use it to screw into the drywall with a bonus of the end of the screw going into wood. Hang two of the Grundtal shelves upside down because you are not paying attention. Get finished — and this step is important — decide not to correct the upside down shelves.
Put your clothes away and feel great about yourself. Hang the curtains in the doorway with a tension shower rod. Notice that they are a bit long.

Day 50: Hem the curtains.

Day 55: Build shelves in the closet above where you have placed a dresser. Start by having no idea how to properly build shelves. Notice a previous owner has attached some 1x4s to the wall.

Decide to use them as a ledge, installing more so the shelves are fully supported. Like this.

*****I don’t know if this is a CORRECT way to create shelves, but it worked for me so I will show you how to do it. It will only work if building them where there are already three walls, like in a linen closet or a cabinet, or in an awkward area on the inside of a closet, just like in the picture above.*********

I asked the Saw Guys at Home Depot to cut the wood for me, making the wood that will become a side ledge about an inch shorter than the depth of the shelf.

(I decided to use the coated melamine for these shelves to more closely match the Ikea shelves that I had already installed, but of course natural wood is great and maybe preferred so use whatever you like for the actual shelves.)

Then I drilled two or three small holes in the 1x4s. These should be smaller than your screws, so your screws will still hold. I didn’t measure this at all – I HATE measuring. Then add the screws, screwing them JUST past the other side of the wood.

Hold the wood up to the wall with a level balanced on top, moving it around until you have it where you want  it.  Tap the screws with a hammer so they leave indentions on the wall behind the wood.  That’s where the plastic wall anchors will go (if you are hanging on drywall).

I really like a particular type of wall anchor that doesn’t need to have a pre-drilled hole in the wall. It has a screwy bit and a pointy tip. You just tap the pointy tip into the wall with a hammer, then twist in the screwy bit with a screw driver. Maybe these aren’t that revolutionary, but I got VERY excited when I discovered them a few years ago. The old school kind that my dad taught me to use were complicated and tended to break while I was trying to get them into the wall. No more.

Attach the 1×4 by twisting the screws the rest of the way through the wood and into the wall anchors. It helps to have a powerful drill with a cord at this point. You can’t always count on your wimpy little cordless drill in times of need. My hands were hurting by the time I finished. But I DID finish.  In ONE day.

The shelves should just rest on the 1x4s, you won’t need to attach them. Unless you want to. I did not want to. I even added hooks for belts, because I just couldn’t. get. enough. screwing.

Day 56: Get your camera to take pictures of the closet to show the Internet how to build an entire closet system for around $200. Feel very proud of yourself. Walk into the bedroom and notice there is clean laundry to put away. Don’t take a picture of the pretty closet. Decide to put the laundry away first.

Hang a shirt made of lead on the rack and watch as this happens. (I took the clothes off the rack before I snapped this pic because I was afraid the other side would rip out of the wall from the weight.)

Do you see what I mean about EVERYTHING BREAKS?

I should have seen it coming. I hung the shelf upside down so the longer ends were on the top, which apparently is not how science and force and gravity work. Also, the top left screw was loose when I put it in, because I hit wood or something with the wall anchor when I first put it in, had to remove it, clip the end, then screw it back in. Whoops.

So. Here we are today. (It is kind of tricky to take a picture of the inside of a closet, especially when there is a very heavy dresser in the way.)

Notice the patched wall where there used to be another Grundtal shelf/clothes rack.

I cannot reinstall the same rack because it bent. And I cannot buy another one because of the gaping holes left when the plastic anchors ripped from the wall. I can patch it and sand it and repaint it but I can no longer expect that area to hold any weight.

Any ideas?

No Pattern Pillows

I love the idea of sewing.  I love that I have a sewing machine, and I like to imagine myself as someone who could just whip up something just like that – snap.  But I am not that person. Sewing is tedious and time-consuming, what with all of the measuring and tracing and pinning and blah I don’t even know because I skip those steps whenever possible.

Very impatiently, I measure and pin just enough so that everything looks fine.  Luckily, uneven hems or wavy lines do not upset me. I tend towards less expensive fabrics and Freestyle Sewing.

We took the heavy sticky sliding doors off the master bedroom closet and replaced them with great graphic Ikea curtains.  (I’m almost done with the New Closet!)  But tonight I had fabric left over and made four pillow covers super quick like, with zero measuring.  They were really fun to make and actually look pretty good.

The curtains were over a foot too long so I had too much fabric left over to just throw away.  And I remembered that I had four uncovered tiny pillows that had been sitting in a closet for a couple years. I think I paid $1.99 each for them at Ikea long ago, but they have just been bouncing around closets ever since.  Perfect.

I had just enough fabric to make four envelope pillow covers.  I used the pillow as a guide instead of a measuring tape.  I first folded over the short edges about half an inch, ironed them, then folded them again and ironed them again.  I sewed these in place.  I then folded the fabric into an inside out envelope shape and sewed along the unfinished edges to make a pillow pocket.  Flip them back right side out and voila.  Instant pillows. And no wasted fabric.