"I love my cats because I love my home, and little by little they become its visible soul." Jean Couteau

Thursday, October 31, 2013

brightening up a room with a tablecloth

I love our dining room/sitting room combo area. For some unknown reason, I really wanted a red dining room, and Zach let it happen, and it makes me happy. However, I have often felt that the room feels dark. Maybe 'dark' isn't the right word because there are so many windows and, during the day at least, it's very light and bright in there. Maybe more what I mean is 'all the same tone.' I love the red walls and our hardwood floors and most of our furniture (not totally loving you, slip-covered loveseat, but you're a project for another day). But the floors and most our wood furniture has red undertones. Add in the chocolate brown loveseat and current chocolate brown tablecloth, and even with the sun shining brightly, it still feels like too much of the same dark colors. 

The sitting room side of the room does OK with the reds and golds from the window seat, chair, and throw pillows and the cream and yellow of the side tables, but the dining room side feels too red and brown. For awhile, I thought about painting the dining chairs white and recovering them with a yellow-patterned fabric. Zach was not a fan of that idea. He said, "But YOU picked out those chairs and stained them!" It's true. But that was before we had this house. And a red dining room. And reddish-brown hardwood floors and a reddish-brown giant china cabinet. However, I was afraid that I'd paint the chairs and then hate it, and then it's so much harder to go back to the stain. So then I thought, well, maybe I'd just recover the plain beige seats with a bright pattern. I even ordered a bunch of swatches. But then I thought some more and realized that it would be even easier and less permanent to just get a new tablecloth. DUH! 

So I searched the inter-webs and Home Goods for a tablecloth that would be a nice pattern and just the right yellow-gold to go with the side tables and pillows from the other side of the room. And came up empty-handed. No problem; a tablecloth is super easy to make, so all I needed to find was an appropriate fabric. Back to the Internet, plus JoAnn and Hobby Lobby. I almost bought some fabric at Hobby Lobby back in August, but something about it just didn't seem right. I forgot about it through September, when Zach and I went on a spending hiatus. Then I came back to it as we started to plan to have a bunch of friends over at the end of the month. I ordered some more swatches, this time from fabricguru.com to find the right color. 

None of the swatches I ordered were both a good color and good pattern, but one was a good color, so I went back to fabricguru and searched for just that color and found three promising possibilities. I called Zach in for his opinion and, as often happens when I do that, as he was mulling over the choices, I realized which one I liked best. As occasionally also happens, Zach then picked the same one. 

The fabric came 54" wide. This TLC page recommends making your tablecloth 12" wider and longer than your table. Our table is about 36" x 58", so I ordered 2 yards (72"). The first thing I did when the fabric arrived was wash it, in case it shrunk. And, boy, did it shrink! At 72" long, I should have had 7" overhang on each end. After washing, I had maybe 3" overhang. The width shrunk quite a bit too, but I'd had more leeway there, so it wasn't as big of a deal. Obviously, if I did this again, I'd order more fabric. 

With all the shrinking, I ended up not cutting the fabric at all. I assumed that the uncut sides were perfectly straight and started by hemming them in about 0.5", then folding that up another 0.5" to make a really nice edge. 

Then I used my old brown tablecloth to make the cut edges straight. I pinned the short side of the brown tablecloth about 0.5" in on the already-pinned straight side, then futsed around to get it all laying nice and flat. This created a straight edge along the cut side. I pinned the cut edge up to meet the brown tablecloth edge; in some places, this hem was about 0.25" and in other places it was more than 0.5". Then I moved the brown tablecloth out of the way and folded up the hem another 0.5" for a nice edge. I did the same thing for the other cut end. 

At this point, I hadn't actually sewn anything yet. I pinned all four sides first, so when I got to the sewing part, I could just sew the hem around all four sides in one shot. I used some yellow-gold thread from my cushion project. The fact that the color matched pretty closely was nice validation that I'd picked a good tablecloth color. 

I do wish the tablecloth was a little longer, but it's still acceptable, and it definitely brightens up the dining side of the room, so overall, I'm pretty pleased.



Monday, October 14, 2013

a gift for baby

Spoiler alert!!! If you are a friend of mine (and let's face it, if you read this blog, you probably are), you will now find out what you will get from me if you have a baby :-p

I went to a baby shower this past weekend. Besides the awesome Star Wars onesie that my friends had registered for, I decided to make them a little something else. In my blog-hopping one day, I had come across this video tutorial for making a very simple blanket. I then did some googling to find these more detailed instructions (I like to have written instructions with numbers). I like sewing, so I thought this looked like a fun little project, plus I had the excuse of the baby shower!

In the video, Melanie talks about using "minky" fabric, which I'd never heard of before, so I looked it up and the handy-dandy Internet. It turns out that minky is a micro-fleece, a soft, fuzzy fabric, which sounded perfect for making a super snuggly baby blanket. I went to my local Hobby Lobby and got 4' of red micro-fleece and 3' of a cute star pattern on flannel. My friends are having a girl, but I didn't want it to be too girly. Based on some of their nerd onesie registry items, I thought stars were a good choice.

I'm not going to go into a lot of details here because Melanie's tutorials are great. The micro-fleece came 60" wide, so I cut that down to 46"x46". The flannel came 45" wide, and I cut that down to 36"x36" (since I got 3', I only had to cut one side, which was a bonus). Then I started with Melanie's tutorial (video is probably more helpful), finding the centers of each side of both pieces of fabric, pinning them together (good sides facing in to each other), and sewing each edge. In Melanie's video, she says to do a 0.5" hem if using minky, so that's what I sewed.

Doing the corners was a little tricky, but Melanie's video explains it well. I don't have a cutting mat, but I do have a paper cutter that has a grid on it, so I used that the line up my ruler on a 45-degree angle with the point where the two edge seams met. 

After trimming the excess off the corners, I turned the blanket right-side-out. Stick your finger in each corner to make sure they get turned all the way out. Then came the one, tiny part where I deviated from Melanie's instructions. For closing up the remaining hole, she recommends laying the outer edge fabric flat and folding the middle piece in to meet it (this will make sense if you watch her video). However, I found that everything laid nicer if I laid the flannel flat and folded the fleece under to meet up with the flannel. I also didn't iron it, just pinned it in place and started sewing the final seam.

Here it is -- a close-up of the corner, and the whole, finished blanket. Isn't it adorable? And the micro-fleece is SUPER snuggly!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

weekend hodge-podge

This past weekend was pretty busy with several small-ish projects. I finished a secret project, which I'll share next week (can't share gifts until they've been given!). I hung Zach's Bond pictures on the closet door in his basement movie cave. I re-sized two polo shirts from work a la this post. And I moved some bushes. That's what I'm going to talk about here, though it will probably be one of my less exciting posts. Sorry. If that didn't convince you to stop reading, here you go...

I posted here about my original bush-planting adventures. To refresh, I planted boxwood, dark knight, boxwood, gardenia, boxwood, hibiscus, boxwood, gardenia, boxwood, dark knight, boxwood. Pretty quickly the hibiscus started going downhill; I put it back in its pot inside and replaced it with a solar flare bush. The solar flare was supposed to be native to Maryland, but it died over that first summer. The gardenias were supposed to be frost-proof (that was their name, frost-proof gardenias), but they didn't make it through the winter, which wasn't even that cold. So first thing in the spring, I had replaced the dead solar flare with another dark knight, since the other two were doing really well. I replaced the gardenias with false indigos. Well, those never really took off. One now looks pretty dead, and the other just looks sad. So I'm giving up on other plants and just sticking to dark knights and boxwoods. 

The dark knights have actually done better than anticipated and have spread out more than I had planned, so they're getting a little too cozy with the boxwoods. I suppose I could prune them down, but instead I decided to just move the boxwoods. This would give everything more space and get rid of the need to keep trying to fill in empty areas with other plants that keep dying. 

As is always the case in our land of rocks, digging sucked. Plus, we've been having unseasonably hot weather here the past week. So, I actually only moved three of the six boxwoods. I plan to do the other three this coming Saturday. 

There's not really anything else to tell. The boxwoods now have some room to breathe, so hopefully they'll grow and spread some more and help balance out the enormous dark knights.