Power tools

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Lately my crafting has involved saws rather than sewing machines.

We’ve spent the last month having our yards, front and back, totally redone.  New patios and paths, and a multitude of new plantings.  It was all finished just in time for it to be too cold and wet to really be useable.

For most of it we threw money at people to do the work.  But I wanted to put some effort in, beyond the plant buying, so we are making the various privacy screens ourselves.  (Not the posts, though.  That was another task we farmed out to the people with muscles and stamina and post hole diggers.)

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The people at Lowe’s got us started with the cedar fence boards, cutting the 5 1/2” boards into 2” and 3 1/2” boards.

We then stained them what was supposed to be a neutral sort of pale brown but turned out to be very orange.  I also didn’t think there was enough difference in size between the two boards.  So, back to Lowe’s for more boards, colorless stain, and a second attempt.  This time I ripped the boards myself, using uncut 5 1/2” boards and making ~1 3/4” boards.

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This is the new privacy screen around our window in the back.  Too pale?  I didn’t find the right brown yet I guess, but at least it isn’t orange.   It still needs trim on the edges and the post tops cut off, but I’m happy with it.  There is a star jasmine and a climbing rose which will be trained up it on both sides to make it even more private.

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The second one we finished today, except again for the post cutting.  I figured the orange boards didn’t matter as much in the front where I won’t be sitting in a patio chair staring at them, so we used those we’d already stained for the screen around the garbage cans.

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My son “helping” during the photo shoot, in between holding boards for me to screw into the posts and sweeping up sawdust.

We have an 8’ wide screen to build on the property line so our neighbor won’t have to stare at our trailer, the screens where the hot tub will eventually go, and a small screen blocking the view of our air conditioner still to go, but we’ve worked out the kinks in the method, so they should go quickly if the weather holds out this week.

 

 

Much brighter

My sister decided yesterday that she could no longer live with the curtains she inherited from the previous tenant when she moved into her apartment.

It is not hard to see why she turned against them.

Crtains before

She is very far from a brown and red plaid person.  I don’t know how they lasted as long as they did.

Here’s a closeup.  I think they would maybe work in someone’s hunting cabin in the woods?

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There was a lot of agonizing at the fabric store because she couldn’t find a print that matched what she saw in her mind.  She wanted bright, but not too busy.  She also didn’t want to pay a fortune for curtains when she isn’t sure how much longer she will live in this apartment.

And then we hit on the idea of ombré color block curtains.  Kona cotton rainbow of options to the rescue.

After a bit of math confusion at the cutting counter, I handled the cutting and sewing, and she handled all the ironing.

 

I made French seams to encase the raw edges, as they will show from outside through the windows when she is on her patio.  We didn’t line them as she needs all the light she can get in that living room.

On her way home she went to Lowe’s and got a can of silver spray paint to turn the rings and rod from black to silver.

Such a vast improvement after a morning of work!

Curtains after

The teal/turquoise is also in the quilt that I gave her when she moved.  (A camera shy niece is hiding under there.)

Quilt a d curtains.

Next we need to make some pillows for the gray couch that will brighten up that too.  It is so satisfying to be able to make such a difference with a few yards of fabric.

Chaos in the kitchen

I’m trying to think of an explanation of why I thought it would be a good idea to do a kitchen remodel during the last crazy busy weeks of school.  There has to have been a reason, but now that it has actually started, it escapes me.

But there is no going back now.

On Sunday, my kitchen looked like this:

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On Monday afternoon, it looked like this:

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I’m taking a lot of deep breaths and reminding myself that change is a good thing.

 

Box shelves

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Nearly a year ago we moved to a new house, a decision that made my commute to work much shorter, but my sewing space a lot more cramped.  Instead of a small dedicated room, I have the end of the family room for my crafting space.  At least it is the end with the window!

Storage is the main issue.  If I need a lot of work space, I can take over the dining room table, but that doesn’t work for storing fabric, yarn, fiber, and all the millions of doohickeys and whatsits that I accumulate.  So things are scattered in various parts of the house, and too many of the smaller items build up in the work space and get in the way.

In an effort to improve the situation, I made box shelves.

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It took a number of days.  Once I got the right wood (5″ wide hemlock boards) I went to L2’s house to get a refresher course on using a table saw.  I have a small, portable one – like most of my larger tools, it is the result of a visit by my brother.  He sees home improvements that can be made, always resulting in me owning tools that I may never use again.  (I have two jigsaws now, because I forgot I had the first one when he swung through town and needed one to work on a kitchen project for me.)

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Then L2 taught me that there are corner clamps.  I’m a fan!  And we used her air compressor (though my brother had me get one of those too) to shoot very fine nails into the secured corners to create the boxes.

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Out of two eight foot boards I got three boxes and a 4 inch left-over.  Once I was home again from my power tools seminar, I did the finishing work.  I needed to fill in a few spots – the wood putty was a bit dried out, but it worked OK – and sand.  Stain I had on hand, and I bought a small sample size of limeade colored paint for the inside.

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They aren’t perfect.  I need to remember next time to put the nails on the tops and bottoms, not on the sides where they are going to show more.  I taped the edges when I was painting, but they still aren’t perfect, so I’ll need to go buy a razor blade to clean that up.  And I haven’t yet tried the keyhole fasteners for the back that I intend to use to hang them.  (Mostly because I can’t figure out where I put them.)  But the shelves match the picture I had in my head, so I’m happy with them.

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I need to make one more, for symmetry, as they are going to hang in pairs on either side of the window, making space for button jars, thread spools, and other items that accumulate on top of the cutting and ironing surfaces.

Odd patches

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No finishes this week – unless settling on a kitchen remodel design counts? – but I did make a new start.

I’ve been sewing lots of little squares together in spare bits of time.  There hasn’t been a lot of spare time, because spring means getting to the neglected yard work and we’re also been spending a lot of time looking at cabinets and countertops, but I have gotten some sewing done.  The dining room table is lost beneath all the scraps and cutting boards and irons.

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For quite a while I’ve been cutting up leftover fabric after each project into whatever square sizes will fit.  Five inch if possible, some 4 1/2″, and the rest become 2 1/2″.  The littlest ones were really starting to pile up, although for once they were piling in neat little stacks instead of a mound.  Some effort to be organized is going on, though my family would deny it.

I found an online pattern called Growing Up Odd that uses up a multitude of squares – 2,425 of them in the original pattern!

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I separated out the lighter and brighter fabrics for the most part and stuck to the darker tones, but other than that it is very eclectic.  There are batiks and 30s style little florals and the occasional giraffe.  Everytime I pick up a square I remember the quilt or bag or basket that came before it, which is what I love about scrappy quilting.

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The original calls for 2″ squares, and mine are 2 1/2″, so I’ll be making fewer blocks or it would swamp any bed we have.  I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to try for a king size, which would mean quilting it in pieces and then attaching them so I can handle it on my home machine, or if I’ll scale it down to the usual generously sized twin.  We use those so much around the house, but I really need a king size quilt for the summer months when the down comforter is too hot.  I’m just not sure this is the pattern I want for the bed – I have a picture of giant flying geese in my head for that one.  On the other hand, I don’t have all the fabrics that I want for the geese, and we could probably stand to have more than one large quilt as an option.

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Not a decision I have to make at the moment, which is good because my head is stuffed with kitchen backsplash tile options with little room for anything else – why are there So Many Choices!?  I can just keep mindlessly chain piecing little squares when I can’t look at tiles anymore.  It is soothing.  I have 50 9-patch squares done, and a lot more little 3-patches to join together.  Chain piecing goes so quickly, but I’m going to need a lot more.

 

Redecorating

Some back story:

We moved into this house in July. It was built in the 1970s, so it was a little tired. We knew we were going to have to do some updating.  One of the least pleasant parts was the carpet – an already stained off white that my sons fairly quickly turned rather gray.  It had to go, especially in the living and family rooms.

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Six months later, all new windows, gas fireplace inserts, solatubes, new bamboo flooring, and a whole lot of new living room furniture, and we finally have a useable, attractive front room.

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All this furniture was new, stored in the garage until the new flooring came.  We unpacked and assembled and set it in place 5 minutes after the workers left.  We’d waited months and couldn’t wait a minute more.

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But no new room can be complete without a quilt! (Pictures, paint, and a rug would also help.)

After an unplanned shopping spree at the fabric store, I combined a lot of warm and cool toned grays and browns, added in golds, and mixed half square triangles, four-patches, and solid squares.

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I got a lot of use out of my triangle square up ruler.  My half square triangles are never perfectly sewn, so I cut the squares at 10” to get a slightly bigger than desired square and then trimmed the slight extra edges to 9 1/2” after the blocks were pressed open.

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The finished quilt top is 7 x 9 blocks, 63” x 81”.  The colors will really pull the room together once it is quilted.  Perfect for naps on the new couch.

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This needs work

My sewing set up since we moved is not ideal.  I’ve gone from having a dedicated room – small but with lots of shelves and several table spaces – to a corner of the family room.

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I swing the gate-leg table leaf up when I want to cut or iron, sliding the boards back against the wall by the desk when I’m done.  It is a tight space, and looks messy when even a few supplies are out.

The storage space is also problematic.

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I’ve got a hall closet nearby, with more stuffed in the coat closet, a couple of shelves in the office, and more still packed up in the garage.  There is no hope of a full quilt sized design wall that I’ve been able to figure out yet.

It will improve.  A few more shelves can go in the main closet, and I can definitely pare down as well.  Some shelves above the sewing area will help as well.

But nothing is going to turn it back into a separate sewing room, until a kid goes off to college.  And that is a good seven years away.

Still, I can sew, even if I can’t find all my notions yet.  (Maybe the good scissors are still in the garage boxes?) And I have a couple of finishes to share.

In July my cousin and I made small fused fabric quilt tops,  and this week I finished the two fish I made then.

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The top one is about half the size of the lower one.  I added top stitching details on the bodies and fins and tried to make creek bottom pebbles and water lines with varying degrees of success.  The small one is going to my nephew who is crazy for fishing, and my Mom got the other one because she’s my mom and has to appreciate my sewing projects.  Also, her condo walls are still quite bare a year after she moved in, so she can’t claim she has nowhere to put the things I give her.

The first one I did I didn’t think through well enough and I had a multitude of thread ends to bury.  The second one I wised up and did the stitching with just the top and the batting so I just had to pull the thread through to the back but didn’t have to knot them all and bury them between the layers.

You can see what I mean in the pics below.  In the first I had all those ends to knot.  In the lower one, I just left them loose and tangled and covered them up when I added the backing.

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The area works OK for these small projects but it is going to be interesting to see if I can wrestle with larger projects in that small area.  I may need to move to the dining room table for real quilting.