It’s just a rectangle

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My sister moved into a new house near us last spring, and her attention has been focused on fixing up the inside to make it not just a white box. But as summer arrived she started to take a look at the outside, specifically the little side yard that is her main outdoor space. When she bought the house, she paid for a fence to be put around the yard, and the builders spread bark there, but it was otherwise barren and ugly. And she complained of bark splinters in her bare feet.

She got some quotes on having a paving stone patio laid, but they were crazy expensive. And she started thinking about a deck, but she was a little intimidated about the building process. But it’s only a rectangle! How hard could that be?

So we made building her a deck a summer project.

She hired my boys one morning to scrape away most of the bark to use elsewhere, and then deck building commenced.

What we discovered early on is that apparently a lot of people in America right now have decided to do home building projects. And, with factories sometimes closed or shipments delayed due to Covid, the local stores were cleaned out of a lot of what we needed. It was a two state search to find 10 foot pressure treated joists. Luckily the 16 foot lengths for the beams on the long edges were easier to come by, and we needed fewer of those.  I have a battered but useful utility trailer that made it possible to haul in the 16 foot boards.  

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While the 10’ board search went on, we dug down and packed gravel for the cement blocks.  A friend helped her jackhammer away the cement steps in our way.

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(Let me tell you now that I don’t know most of the technical terms for any of the things we used. Pressure treated wood, joist, nail, that’s about the extent of my building vocabulary. The words “support thingy” were used a lot and about more than one part.)

My husband helped with delivery, and my sons helped with the hammering of two by eights together to make support beams for the long end. They also helped us get the first joists hung to create our rectangle.  We also made a lot of construction-question phone calls to my brother, who lives on the East Coast, and builds house additions in his spare time.

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At times my hammering skills were not up to par. But most of the nails went in all the way in and straight.  For a given definition of straight.

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We stretched it 16 feet along the side of her house, and then right up against the fence, just 10 feet out from the house. We made it a floating deck, using post blocks that could be leveled, because I was pretty sure the two of us wouldn’t be able to get posts in the ground and make them all the same height.  According to local codes, any deck less than 18 inches high doesn’t have to be permitted, and because it’s not attached to or touching the house, she didn’t have to go through the HOA approval process.

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Our proudest moment was when we successfully used my small and slightly wobbly portable table saw to rip a flexing, flopping 16 foot Trex board down to fit the final gap at the fence edge on our first try.

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Least proudest moment is the support brace between two joists that bent five nails and three screws before we gave up and figured there must be a hidden knot.  We were relieved when that one disappeared from sight as the top Trex boards went on.

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it isn’t perfect, but it’s level, sturdy, stable, and a great size. Now we’re starting to think about what kind of deck furniture we might build to add to it, and what the step up should be made of. It takes up about half the length of her side yard, so she also has another area that we can make into a patio at some future point.

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The happy new deck owner.

Sewing cute

My sister, who is one of the few people that I let inside of our isolation bubble, decided it would be a “fun project” to sew a baby quilt for one of her colleagues.  Actually, this time she turned out to be right. It really was fun.

Slightly to her dismay, she did most of the sewing. The baby decorating scheme is apparently forests and mountains.  I found examples of quilts with trees and mountains and she picked the birch tree look. Their school mascot is a hedgehog, so that definitely had to go into the forest.  Then we both cut and she sewed all the straight lines.  Fairly straight even!

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This quilt was our inspiration.  We went with raw edge appliqué for the hedge hog, and strip sewed a bunch of black, white, gray and cream to speed up the trees.  A little slicing, reversing, and occasionally seam ripping a slice to insert more to mix up the lines made the tree part go very quickly.  I sliced up the background to insert the trees and she sewed them in.

A few sloping forest floor lines later, and there was only the hedgehog left to make.

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That is just pure adorable in my opinion.

The sandwiching, quilting and binding were all my jobs, though she did come back and learn how to bury thread ends.  I will make a quilter out of her yet!

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It was pretty simple quilting.  Mostly stitching in the ditch around the trees and the bark stripes – I occasionally lost the ditch, but it went well overall.  I outlined the hedgehog and added some internal stitching to really anchor it – we know the raw edges will fray a little over time, but that is supposed to make it more like hedgehog — Fur? Hair? Spikes?  At least that’s how we are going to explain it.

Here it is pre-washing machine:

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And straight from the dryer in full crinkle. The hedgehog survived!

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It was off to the baby shower 5 minutes after it came out of the dryer.  Finished just in time.

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Actual finished projects

This first one is not my project, but it was accomplished in my house and I supplied some of the materials, and I needed something to do with fabric to post, so I’m using it.

My sister pulled an old desk chair from the Goodwill pile – we bought it at some point at Goodwill for my son, and now, even rattier, we were sending it back there until she claimed it.

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She used a can of silver spray paint that I bought to tone down the chrome on the new dining room light fixture and improved on the chair’s black plastic.

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Then she dismantled the cushioning on the back rest and seat, added in some extra batting, and recovered it all with the help of some duct tape (we couldn’t find the staples for the staple gun). The fabric is a horror movie poster print, her favorite genre.

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The finished chair looks great!

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We also have been painting two very basic Target stools for the kitchen’s new breakfast counter.  They were pretty boring, so we added some whimsy.

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Meanwhile, on the fiber front, I’ve only gotten a few inches of knitting done.

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I have only worked on my Volt wrap during odd moments, mostly while watching the Olympics.  I had a major set back when I screwed up an increase and didn’t notice until much later.  I had to rip back 6320 stitches. Ouch.  Such a dumb mistake in such a simple pattern.

But the kitchen-remodel-that-ate -summer, after a series of mishaps and set backs, is so close to ready for its big reveal. Just a few details remain.

Wheel bags

My sister is a volunteer for the local roller derby team.  Just saying that highlights how different the two of us are.  My sister is all about derby, tattoos, blue hair dye, and zombies.  I am a librarian who quilts and knits in her spare time and would never voluntarily have needles stuck into me.  But as long as we don’t discuss anything remotely political, we get along really well now that we are adults.  Fought ferociously when we were kids, but we’ve recovered from most of that.  I’ve really enjoyed her living with us this last year and I’m going to miss her when she moves out next month.

Apparently, being a derby skater means having lots of wheels – inside wheels and outside wheels and whatever wheels.  She asked me to make her a set of bags to carry the alternates around in.  So I made up a drawstring bag to sew.

Drawstring bag - cardboard insert

I made little sleeves for cardboard inserts to slip into the bottom for stability.  She wanted them removeable so they can be washed.  Wheels pick up a lot of dirt.

I matched the insert square with square bottoms and sewed a continuous piece of fabric around the edge.  When I got back to the start, I cut it off and them sewed up the side seam.

Drawstring bag - bottom

Drawstring bag bodyI messed up on the first one and made the cuff too narrow.  I should have cut the fabric strip about five inches wider, so it is quite stubby.  I also didn’t do very well at sewing the opening for the drawstring.  I did much better on the second one, as I seamed the cuff ends and then folded over the seam allowance edges on one side where I’d left the opening to make finished edges and sewed those down.

Drawstring bag opening on cuff

The cuff is doubled – I sewed it to the inside and then folded it over and top stitched it to the outside.  Then I stitched around again about half an inch up to make the channel for the drawstring.

Adding Drawstring bag cuff

I had some black shoe laces that I used for the drawstrings, though the polka dot bag really needs a white one.  The second one, covered with orange zombies, turned out much better.  I hate the zombie fabric, but my sister loves it, of course.  The cuff is big enough to fold over, and easier to grab and carry. I’ll make a third one with a better cuff to replace the polka dot one and my son can have that one to carry things around in.  He loves little bags.

Finished drawstring bags

Different kinds of crafting

Sliding glass doorMy siblings and I all are handicrafters in very different ways.  I’m the fiber girl, making my crafts with yarn and fabric.  My sister is more paper and paints.

And then there is my brother.  He is the builder.  When he isn’t busy with his regular job (he’s the only non-teacher in the family as a captain in the Navy) he likes to do construction.  In his “spare” time he rips the roofs off houses and adds another level, puts in bathrooms where there were none, and adds new wings to the sides of houses.  While my idea of a weekend plan is to finish quilting a couch throw, his is to build a retaining wall and a fully insulated shed.

My sister and I frequently lament together about how wonderful our houses would be if he didn’t insist on living clear on the other side of the continent.  Two of my most frequently stated desires have been to put a sliding glass door to my back deck, and a side gate in the fence so we could put the utility trailer beside the house instead of the garage.

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For a wonderful birthday surprise, my mom and my sister arranged to fly my brother in for a long weekend!  I got home from work on Thursday and there he was!  It was the first time I’ve seen him in two years.  Lots of hugging.

And then came the rest of the treat.  We raced off to Home Depot that evening and got the door they had already arranged and the dismantling and installing began right away until it was too dark to continue.

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My sister took the next day off and, one table saw purchase later, the two of them got all the trimming and caulking finished.  I just have a little painting left but we have a fully functioning slider now, letting in so much light.  And even better, the French doors are no longer there to bang into the dining table and chairs every time my children run in and out (conservatively, a thousand times a day).  And a screen door!  Breezes without bugs!

image There was also eating birthday cake.  That kept me and the boys busy while the others sawed and hammered.

Boys and birthday cake

And they kept going.  With the kids and my husband helping they took off the narrow section of fencing at the side of our house, my brother whipped up a gate, and we can now squeeze our useful but annoyingly long utility trailer alongside the house rather than taking up every inch of space in our single car garage.

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Much garage organizing is in my future, and I’m so happy about that!

My sister, brother and Mom are fabulous, and it was a terrific birthday surprise.

Looming

My boys have always called weaving on my rigid heddle loom “looming.”  I haven’t gotten the loom out for awhile, but my sister, who teaches a middle school class for severely disabled students, wants to work on weaving with them.  So this morning we dragged out various bins of yarn and I taught her how to direct warp my 24″ Kromski loom.  Which, of course, I forgot to take pictures of.  But here she is weaving away on her soon-to-be-a-scarf.

Kathie Sue weaving a scarf

I especially like that she matched her blue yarn to her blue hair.  And that warping the loom forced me to clear off the dining room table.

We also have a birthday boy in the family this weekend.  Eight!

Birthday cake

Update:

She wove all day and finished the scarf that we just warped this morning! Now she’s deciding what tomorrow’s scarf should look like.

Finished woven scarf