Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bringing My Dining Room Out of the 90s

Or out of the 70s? I don't know....exactly when was beige fabric printed with small music notes and square dancing calls ("Do-si-do!" "Promenade your partner!") hip? The story of how our dining room set came to be ours is kind of an odd one, so I'll give you the short version: It's 1998, we just got married 2 months ago, and we're moving into our very own home! It's the start of the school year, and I mention our new house to one of my co-workers because I know we live in his neighborhood. He's a very nice man in his mid-50s, and he says, "Do you guys need any furniture? We're cleaning out my mom's house because she just died. Come on over after school and you can take a look at what we have left."

Since I have a personal policy of never turning down a guy's dead mom's furniture, we drive out to her house after school that day. He gives us his mom's dining room set, a twin bed, a giant ladder, a dehumidifier, and probably a couple other things I'm forgetting. He won't take any money for it, so to show him my gratitude, I bake him an apple pie next day. He smiles and thanks me, then puts it on the table in the teacher's lounge to share...later someone told me it was because he'll go into anaphylactic shock from one of the pie ingredients (was there nuts in the pie? I can't remember what he was allergic to.) So anyway, kinda an odd way to aquire furniture, but it's served us well!

The chair seats, however were totally worn out when we got it. I set out immediately to find fabric to recover them. And for some reason, I liked the beige square dancing stuff. (In my defense, the words are very faint and you wouldn't necessarily take the time to read them if you were just sitting down to eat!)

A couple weeks ago, I was out at Hobby Lobby and saw some fabric I just loved. I stood there trying to figure out what I should make with it. It was a heavier cotton fabric and I decided it would be just the thing for our dining room chairs. Partially because our chairs were getting so ghetto again from years of use, and partially because the colors were perfect. Our dining room sits right between our kitchen, which has walls same color as the blue in this fabric, and our family room, which has a lot of espresso brown furniture. So this was the perfect fabric to tie it all together.

I feel a little silly explaining how to recover a chair, because it really is pretty self-explanatory, but since this is a craft blog, I'll go for it.

First, unscrew the chair seat from the frame, then pry out the old staples. Take off the old fabric and toss it, but you might save the old padding and just put new stuff on top of it for a little extra fluff.
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Cover the chair with a few layers of padding. I used about 4 or 5 layers of quilt batting, but there's probably a variety of battings, foams & padding stuff that you could find at any craft place to use for this. Just depends on how smushy you want the seat to be.

Cut a piece of fabric slightly larger than the seat, lay in all on top of each other, they break out the staple gun! I like to put a few staples on the sides across from one another before I move on to the two remaining sides. It keeps the fabric nice & straight, and it's easier to do the corners when the middle is already stapled down.

When you're all stapled, trim the fabric so you can see the holes that the chair screws are going to fit back into. Plop the top back on the chair (I find it helps to have all the screws slightly screwed up through the top of the chair so you can make sure the pad is situated properly over all 4 holes before you go screwing it all back together), and go to town!

Now I need to get to work on a tablecloth to cover up the old, scratched up table top!
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Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Littlest Print Exchange

I'm not sure if anybody around here makes artwork in editions, or if you know anyone that does, but I thought I'd take a chance and tell you about a new project that I started today. It is a juried print exchange (in which I am the juror) and it goes like this: Submit an online portfolio of some of your artwork. If your work fits into the group, you make an edition of fifty 3.5" x 3.5" prints and send them to me. I sort them out into portfolios containing one print from each of the fifty participants. Each participant is then sent one complete portfolio. I'm planning a fancy package to house the prints. At the end, you can buy a bunch of tiny frames from Ikea or Dollar General and cover your walls with awesome artwork. I'm mostly interested in printmaking disciplines like relief prints, intaglios, silk screens, or lithography, but I'm also excited about digital prints or photographs. Anyway, think about it and check out the Littlest Print Blog if you might be interested.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Two Silly Projects

After finishing a Very Big Knitting Project (a sweater that took me a month to complete) I needed a couple of quick instant-gratification-type projects. A "palate cleanser" if you will. I also didn't want anything I'd have to put much thought into color/type of yarn. In fact, this first project was originally going to be something that I used leftover odds & ends from past projects, until I realized that the sizes (and washability) of the various leftovers were so different, I wasn't sure how it would all come together. So I spent the $3 and bought two skeins of "peaches & cream" 100% cotton yarn to work with.

This first project is, obviously, a SWIFFER COVER (try not to be too jealous). When I showed it to a friend, she said, "Oh, I just use a dishrag on mine." Hmm...well, that would have been quite brilliant if I had figured it out. But then I might not have seen the need for this knitted swiffer cover. And I wouldn't have felt nearly as fancy while I swiff.

Quick & Easy project two was knitting cuffs onto dish gloves. Theoretically, the cuffs are supposed to catch that water that runs down your arms & into your gloves when you accidentally lift your hands out of the water at the wrong angle. I haven't tested them yet, so I'll have to report back about whether they work. But in the meantime, I'll feel much cuter than usual as I wash dishes. (It may even motivate me to stop sticking every giant pan I use in the dishwasher!)
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The Shelf

I don't know if this qualifies as something I made, since it is a "found item." And I don't know if it qualifies as a "found item" since I had my stepfather pry it off a hearth in someone else's home with a crowbar. But it sure was a project!

old hearth shelf

This shelf came from an old house that has since been burnt to the ground. It stood on my grandfather's property in southern Illinois, on one of his fields. He had purchased the land from the Hawf family, and came to own the old house. It was in serious disrepair, and only squatters had lived there recently (or meth addicts, if you like.) The house was so old you could see through it; it had no plumbing (just an outhouse), and a potbelly stove heated the place. We went through it and salvaged what was left, then it was burned, and my mom built her new house where it stood.

I fell in love with the hearth shelf, and my stepfather pried it loose for me. He flattened the rusty nails on the back. I didn't change a thing on it. I just scrubbed it down with a bucket of soapy water on their front lawn and let it dry in the sun. Then, when I finally hauled it up here, I was just faced with how to hang it up.

old hearth shelf

First, I attempted to drill through it, mark the holes, and screw it into drywall anchors. That was a miserable failure, and nearly led to divorce. The wood was so incredibly thick and sturdy, and it took forever outside in the hot sun to drill through it. Then, because the wall in our spare bedroom turned out to be more plaster than drywall, I only succeeded in putting several large holes in it. I patched them, repainted over it, and tried again. I finally succeeded in mounting a couple 200-lb. hanging hooks, and mounting hooks to the back of the shelf, and simply hanging it up like a large picture.

old hearth shelf

I love the old decals along it. It has held up very well, and I have to say it was almost worth all the work of dragging it up here, washing it, and mounting it while pregnant and crying hormonally. Almost. Just don't look at the wall behind it... It needs to be sanded down and repainted one more time!!