2/27/2012

MEET HALLE!!

In keeping with my tradition of naming my furniture, Ratso has officially been rechristened Halle! As in Halleluiah this project is done!  I'm so happy to finally have this finished and my dining room is no longer sewing central.





I already had these two rattan footstools. I took the cushions off, stacked them and added a round glass top for a cute little side table.

And...now that the work is all done...I'm thinking of listing the set for sale. Yep. I need to make room for my Storsele chairs. So, if you're in the Twin Cities / Western Wisconsin area and are interested in a vintage rattan set just leave a comment and I'll get back to you with the details.

2/24/2012

POSSESSED!

Sewing continues. I'm starting to sound like a broken record. Everything has been going so smoothly that I should have known something had to go wrong with this project eventually.

I've been using my vintage Vikings-Husqvarna sewing machine to sew the cushion covers. I can't say enough how much I love this machine. It's a dream to sew on and beautiful to look at. It sews quietly and smoothly. I could go on and on. So I was happily sewing away last night when my machine became possessed. With no warning it suddenly took off racing at full speed! I thought the foot pedal had gotten stuck at first, but it wasn't. Then when I tried shutting the machine off it kept running at full speed! What the heck?! I finally had to unplug it. Now every time I plug it back in it takes off again. Crazy. My husband thinks it's the wiring in the foot pedal. Whatever the case it probably won't be easy to repair or find a replacement pedal for this 1950's sewing machine. Anyone ever had a problem like this? If you have I'd like to hear about it, especially if you have a solution!

For quite some time I've been searching for new bedside lamps for the master bedroom. My husband and I both like to read in bed so we needed something that could be adjusted for reading when we wanted, looks nice of course, and is reasonably priced. I signed up with The Foundary a few months ago. They offer limited time sales events to members and have some really great prices. It's free to join and they send a daily email with the lastest offerings. Yesterday the perfect lamps showed up! They're just what I've been looking for and cost far less than similar lamps I've seen. I like the architectural/industrial lines paired with a cloth shade to dress it up a bit and allow for softer lighting. The toggle switch on the base should be convenient for a bedside lamp too. I hope they'll live up to my expectations once I actually have them in hand. Just as a word of caution, most items bought through The Foundary are not returnable.

Confucius table lamp in oil-rubbed bronze from The Foundary.
That find has led me to decide on my next project. On my to-do list are a pair of Ikea nightstands that need some hacking and tweaking. We also bought a new light fixture for over the bed that I'm really excited about. I'm still on the search for new bedding and rugs. The room needs painting and with that comes plaster repairs. Ugh. Really, really hate that job. Seriously may consider hiring someone to do it. But I'm really looking forward to a redecorated bedroom. It's long overdue.

Will you be watching the Oscars on Sunday night? Last year I printed out Oscar bingo cards from How About Orange. It made watching the four-hour long show a lot more interesting, so we'll be doing it again this year. I also like to do a meal based on one of the best picture nominees. I'm thinking a southern inspired dinner would fit in well with The Help and The Tree of Life.

Back on Monday. Have a great weekend.



2/23/2012

Halfway

I've completed three of the cushions for my rattan sectional as of today. Again, it's all going slower than I had hoped. I scrapped the idea of assembly line production and am doing them each individually. It's nothing too interesting to blog about. Just lots of hours with my sewing machine while listening to NPR and podcasts. I'm already thinking about what project I want to tackle next, among the myriad of choices waiting in the wings. I suppose I should make a list and prioritize them. With a son's wedding coming up in June I know there are things that really need to get done so I should concentrate on those. June will be here quicker than I like to think. And once the weather turns nice I'll be wanting to spend time outdoors working in the yard and garden.

But, I digress. Back to cushions. A few detail photos to keep you updated:


A couple of the cushions are a bit loose in the corners. Although I'm proud of how nicely I was able to turn a square corner I realized afterwards that with all the Dacron batting the cushions are actually a bit more rounded. I'll probably be stuffing some fiber-fill into the corners to fill them out so they look nicer.


As you can see, from this zoomed in shot, the drop cloth fabric has little flecks of lots of different colors. I suspect they use recycled scrap fabric to make these.



I sewed the zipper ends into overlapping pockets to hide them.


Nice square corner!


A finished cushion. I considered doing piping cord on the edges but it would have been a ton more work. It definitely would have had a nicer finished look. Now that I have more confidence sewing these perhaps I'll tackle some colored cushions in the future, using outdoor fabric and piped edges. Or not. The nice thing about a neutral color is that I can jazz it up with fun throw pillows, changing them out whenever I'm in the mood for something different.


Inside seams serged for a nice clean finish that won't ravel when washed.

So there you have it. I'll continue to plug away until I'm finished. Can't wait!




2/22/2012

New at the Casa

Awhile ago I mentioned that I had made a trip to the "big blue box", Ikea of course, and brought home a couple new things for the casa. Time for a reveal.


It's the Storsele chair in black. Actually a pair of them. I know. It's crazy! See that rattan sectional back there? Plus the two wicker chairs you can't see? I needed them like I need another...well, porch chair. But I'm in love with these chairs. The curvy lines provide a feminine touch while the black color is all masculine. Mr. N seems to like them just as much as I do. Plus the black picks up on the black painted trim of the windows. Anyway, I didn't see any of the Storsele chairs displayed in the store as we were walking through, so I was sure they didn't have any at our Ikea in the Twin Cities. Just before getting to the checkout I spotted one of those search screen things and when I looked it up it turned out they had five in stock! They were in the very last space in the very last row in the warehouse area. Figuring they might be a bit harder to find in stock the closer it gets to spring we, meaning me of course, decided they would just have to come home with us. They're very comfy too in case you're wondering. Now I just have to figure out what to do with all these chairs! Front porch, back porch, cottage? 

I also have a couple new pillows. I've been wanting a pillow made of the Orla Kiely gray scribble stem fabric for a long time. Unfortunately the fabric isn't very easy to come by here in the States, so I ended up buying one on eBay from Francis House Soft Furnishings in the UK. Mandy does beautiful work and has a nice selection of pillows available. Be sure to check out her store. Shipping is reasonable since it's just the pillow cover, not the insert. 


I made the gray cable knit pillow from an old sweater.


Some sunny yellow carnations, in an old hand-thrown ceramic pot my husband made back in college, is adding some needed color to all the gray and white.



Now I have to go find something BIG to hang on the clothesline with my new clothespin.


It reminds me of this one I had referenced in an earlier post. Just a wee bit smaller.


Maybe an idea for a future terrarium?

2/21/2012

Teeth Pulled Here or How To Shorten a Metal Zipper

While I continue to plug away at sewing my cushions, I thought I'd toss out this little tutorial on how to shorten a metal zipper.

As I'd mentioned earlier, I had purchased 36" metal toothed (teethed?) upholstery zippers. After sewing the first two covers I realized that I really only needed 30" zippers. Not wanting to throw any more money into this black hole project, than I'd already invested, I went in search of a way to shorten the remaining zippers I already had. It's actually kind of fun and a little bit like playing dentist because you get to pull teeth!

First you'll need a few items from your sewing and tool boxes. Round up a hammer, needle nosed pliers, flat blade screwdriver, measuring tape, pencil and (not shown) a pair of pinking shears.


Start by measuring your zipper. If it's a 36" zipper, for instance, it should measure 36" from the top of the closed zipper to the bottom metal stop.



Beginning at the bottom stop measure up to the point you want your zipper to end. In my case I wanted 30".  Make a mark on the tape on either side of the closed zipper and then unzip it below that mark.



Next, using the pliers, remove the two metal stops at the very top of the zipper teeth. These keep the slider from flying off the end of the zipper, which wouldn't be good. Grasp each one firmly and give a good tug. You'll have to hold on tightly to the tape on either side. They come off surprisingly easily. Set these aside because you'll be reusing them later. If they go flying off the table and get lost in your 70's orange shag carpet don't sweat it. You can always do a thick whipstitch at the top of the teeth to accomplish the same thing. 





Now you can start pulling off teeth, above the mark you made earlier, in the same manner. It works best if you just grab the part that juts out beyond the tape. I removed about an inch worth of teeth. Try not to get too carried away. It's that much fun! 

Note: I'm holding this upside down in my obviously dehydrated fingers.
                                     
The stops that were set aside earlier will probably need to be opened up a bit in order to get them back on the tape. I used a thick bladed screwdriver as a wedge and hammered them open enough so that they would easily slide back onto the tape. Place them right above the topmost teeth, like they were originally. Crimp them closed tightly using the pliers.

The last step is to cut the tape. Using a pinking shears helps prevent any raveling. 


And that's it. You're done! You can now apply to be a member of the American Dental Association...or Swedish, or Canadian or whatever country you live in. Go out and put up a shingle saying "Teeth Pulled Here".  Next week...root canals. How hard can it be? 



2/20/2012

Progress

Hello and welcome to a new week. Hope you had a great weekend. I spent mine very industriously working on the chair cushions, packing up a couple of Etsy sales, and listing a few new items into my shop. Hop over and have a look.

New items at Red Telly Etsy shop.
I forgot to buy my February Friday flowers last week. Somehow I just completely lost a day. All day Friday I was operating under the assumption it was only Thursday. At dinner that evening Mr. N made a comment about having survived another week of work. (Can you tell he's already dreaming of retirement?) I replied that he was being a bit hasty considering he still had one work day left to go. He laughed good-naturedly at my "joke" until he realized I was serious. Time flies when you're having fun, eh? Apparently I must be having fun! So it's Monday flowers instead.

I was a bit optimistic when I said I hoped to be reporting six finished cushions by today...ergh! But I am  happy to say the hardest part is behind me and should be an easy finish from here. Saturday afternoon...the whole afternoon...was spent cutting out fabric for two cushions. I know that doesn't sound like it should take a whole afternoon but it did. First I had to iron my giant drop cloth piece because it was very wrinkly. Then I needed to straighten all the edges since they weren't cut properly on the grain. Fiddly work. The fabric ravels very easily (too much so actually) so it was rather easy to do, but time consuming nonetheless. Then came figuring the size of the pieces I needed to cut and how much seam allowance I should allow. Lots of scribbling and jotting and math. Then determining layout to make the best use of my fabric, so I'd be sure to have enough for everything. Measuring and drawing cutting lines. And then finally cutting my pieces. By that time my brain was feeling addled and I figured it would be best to wait with sewing until the morning. I didn't want to screw anything up after all that work.


So, I got to work right away on Sunday, setting up my sweatshop in the dining room. It looks a frightful mess and I hope no one stops by unexpectedly. I have more room to spread out there on the big table and great light from the east and south windows. I also needed space to set up my sewing machine, serger and ironing board. Again, it took me a half day to sew the first cover, figuring things out as I went and being slowly patient so as to get it all right. I referred to this video for help. (There's a link within the video to take you to the full detailed version.) Once I got the hang of doing square corners things became much easier. After a break to get the kinks out of my neck, from bending over the machine for all those hours, I started in on the second cushion and it only took me two hours to complete! The second one turned out nicer than the first, as might be expected. The rest should be relatively easy now that I have my calculations figured out and techniques down. As I had mentioned previously I think I'll do those in an assembly line fashion rather than each cushion start to finish at a time. My camera batteries died so pictures will have to wait. Gratuitous flowers from last spring's garden will fill in for your viewing pleasure. :)



As for the color I think it turned out exactly as I hoped it would once all is said and done. The only thing I would have changed  is to use shorter zippers. I used a 36" zip because I thought I would need that length to be able to get the covers on but I think I could have gotten by with 30" zippers. It would have given the cover a nicer finished look. I still could do that with the remaining cushions, which are the outer two sectionals, since the sides of the middle section I've already done will be hidden by the other two. The zippers I have are metal so I can't cut them shorter like I could have if they'd been vinyl continuous coil zippers.* Another lesson learned for next time.





FREAK OUT!! A woodpecker just tapped on the glass next to the window where I'm sitting. Nearly scared me out of my skin! Phew. Calming down now...  Ever had a woodpecker knock on your window? It's loud!

*I found out I can shorten my metal zippers after all. It's easy. I'll try to put together a tutorial for a future post.


2/16/2012

Cushions Update

February Morning Sky

Time for a progress report on my cushions for the rattan sectional. I'm moving forward in baby steps. I haven't actually started any sewing yet because I first had to decide on a fabric choice. I'd considered an acrylic outdoor fabric, like Sunbrella, that would hold up well to the strong sunlight on my porch and be easy to keep clean. But because I don't have a lot of experience with zippered box cushion covers I was a little hesitant about cutting into expensive fabric. I was leaning towards a neutral color. Then I recalled seeing around blogland how people have used painter's drop cloths for slipcovers. They're readily available and inexpensive! Just what I wanted. So off to Walmart I went to pick up a 9x12 cloth for $20. I already had a new 6x9 at home which gives me plenty of fabric to work with for a total investment of $30. Not bad!

After pondering it for awhile I decided that I wasn't really crazy about the beige color, which is a bit darker than I prefer. A little Googling led me to a great tutorial about how to bleach drop cloths at Miss Mustard Seed. I followed her 3-step approach:

  1. Fill washer with hot water and 2 cups of chlorine bleach. Add the fabric and make sure it's completely submerged. I also agitated it for a minute to be sure the bleach was evenly mixed in. Let it soak for several hours. I let mine soak about 2-1/2 hours. At the end of the soaking period finish the rest of the wash cycle.
  2. Repeat the first step, this time using 2 cups of bleach plus laundry detergent. I let it soak for about another hour and finished that cycle.
  3. The last step is to run it through a regular wash cycle with detergent and 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide which will neutralize the bleach so it doesn't continue to break down the fibers. 

Afterwards I popped it into the dryer on high heat and was happy to find that the cloth did come out somewhat lighter, although still not as light as I'd really like, probably because I was too impatient. I can live with it though. I would have let it soak a bit longer but I was getting tired of the whole house smelling like bleach. The fabric softens up nicely, which will make it easier to work with. All my fabric didn't fit in one load so I still have to finish bleaching the rest and keep my fingers crossed that it comes out the same color. Don't expect it to bleach to a true white. Mine came out more of what I'd call "greige"... a creamy gray color. Again, the light (or lack thereof) doesn't allow me to get a decent picture, but I can assure you there is a difference. Oh, and while I was at it I also threw the zippers into the final wash to be sure they were preshrunk, just in case.
Bleach vs Unbleached
Next up, cutting and sewing. I hope I can get an assembly line process going with that. The idea of completing one cushion and then having five left to go is too daunting. With any luck I'll be back with  six finished covers by the beginning of next week.



2/13/2012

Monday Ramblings


Some rambling thoughts this morning. This Monday started out like a more typical Monday than the last one. It's cloudy with snow on the way. I followed my usual routine of starting a pot of coffee and then sitting down to check my email and favorite blog updates. Umm, black screen on my laptop? I've had some issues with the screen lighting lately so it's not a huge surprise. I was able to shut it down and restart it. This time the screen lit up. Weird. I suspect eventually it'll need some repair, at which time I'll have to decide (depending on how costly it'll be) how much I want to spend on a four year-old laptop. I guess I should do some of those backups I've been meaning to do too while I can.

With February being solidly in the middle of winter, still a long time until spring, I decided to make Fridays this month officially "Flower Friday". It really helps to have a pretty arrangement of live flowers sitting around to give a little boost to one's day. If I'm lucky a $5 grocery store purchase lasts for seven days. Money well spent in my opinion. Cheaper than a therapist, or drugs, or alcohol or whatever some people do to lift their spirits.

Those two pitchers are recent thrift finds. ♥♥♥ The green tray also thrifted a couple years ago. Doesn't it look springy? I just wish the light was better so I could get some decent indoor pictures. 

I finished painting the window trim in the bathroom. I never showed a picture of the completed project did I? I also hung up the new cellular shade. It's all very white. But I like it! It's the only room with painted woodwork in our house, not counting the porches. It's a south facing window so we get a lot of light in there. I opted for a cordless top down - bottom up shade. Now I can have the top partially down to let the sun in while still having privacy from the neighbor's. In nicer weather I can have the top portion of the double hung window open for ventilation. Not having dangling cords gives it a cleaner more minimalist look which appeals to my aesthetics. 




Mr. N brought home a cold last week. I've been doing everything in my power to avoid catching it. So far so good, knock on wood. I've exhibited a bit of OCD I suppose. I stopped using the shared electric toothbrush handle, using my backup regular old toothbrush instead. I make him use his own hand towel and designated cloth dinner napkin. Washing my hands obsessively, of course, every time I touch something I know he's touched. Trying to keep my hands away from my face. That one's hard for some reason. Covering my hands with my sleeves to open the doors. Using my wrists to operate the levered tap handles on the sinks. Opening cupboard doors, drawers, the refrigerator and the like by grabbing the top edges instead of using the handles. Airing out the bedroom every morning with some fresh air. And this one is funny. At night I prop my big square reading pillow between us so he won't be breathing directly in my face when he's turned in my direction. Like I said, OCD. But so far it's worked. Nary a sniffle on my part...yet. The only kiss he'll be getting for Valentine's this year is a chocolate one I'm afraid.

Monday is laundry day here usually. It always reminds me of a set of embroidered dishtowels my grandmother had. There was one for each day of the week. Monday was wash day, Tuesday ironing, Wednesday mopping and so on. I kind of do fall into those routines. Mine, ideally at least, assures that the necessary chores get accomplished each week. I've been using a variation of this ever since I first became a stay-at-home mom. It breaks down something like this:
  • Monday: Launder clothes. Clean the kitchen (tidy cupboards, clean refrigerator, tops of surfaces, etc.) Plan menu for week.
  • Tuesday: Iron. Wash kitchen floor. Grocery shop.
  • Wednesday: Free day to work on projects or have an outing.
  • Thursday: Vacuum and dust bedrooms. Clean bathroom. Launder linens.
  • Friday: Vacuum and dust downstairs rooms. Bake.
There you have it. Like I said it's my ideal schedule. I always aim to get as much done in the morning so I have afternoons free. It used to work better in pre-internet days. :-/ In reality it's pretty hit and miss. I'm a big list maker. I like to start the day with my list of things I absolutely have to get done followed by the things I'd like to get done. Most days I never get to the second part and am lucky to get the "have to's" accomplished. Today for instance it's now 11:00 a.m. and I haven't started any of my work yet other than this blog entry. Oops. Guess I'd better crack the whip!

Back tomorrow with an update on my cushions.

2/10/2012

Making Chair Cushions Pt. 1

Now that my rattan sectional was refinished I needed to address the issue of cushions. I needed six new pieces, three seats and three backs. I knew this project was going to be a lot of work so I wanted to be sure I used a good density foam that wouldn't get flattened and out of shape over time. I don't want to have to redo this a few years down the line. I chose a furniture grade foam, 5-inch thickness for the seats and 4-inch for the back cushions. I ordered mine online from eBay (sorry I can't remember the source, it was a few years ago.) The foam is the most expensive part of the project. Try to find it on sale or look for a discount online source like I did. Mine cost about $80 if I recall correctly. It came in big slabs that were rolled up and wrapped many times with plastic. I made the mistake of opening one of them, even though I wasn't ready to use it yet. The foam had been quite compressed and upon opening it the thing sprang out like a jack-in-the-box! It also had a fairly strong odor since it's a polyurethane foam. If I ever need to purchase foam for cushions in the future I'll seek out a greener soy based foam. It took a long time for the odor to dissipate. I ended up leaving the stuff on my porch for several weeks, where I could have the windows open, instead of bringing it into the house.

After calculating the size each cushion would have to be I was ready to do the cutting. In the fabric stores I've seen them use an electric knife. I had enough extra foam to experiment with so I tried that first. I didn't like the result. It left a jagged cut that was less than desirable. Next I tried a serrated knife and I found that tended to catch and also leave a very uneven edge. Finally I took a very sharp boning knife. I found I could carefully drag it across my cutting line in one smooth motion, cutting about an inch deep per swipe. Being careful to hold the knife exactly vertical I made several passes until I was all the way through. I ended up with a nice smooth cut that was much preferable to the other methods.

The next step in making cushions is to wrap them in a Dacron batting. Batting helps round out the edges of the foam and makes the covers fit nicer. I used a 1/2-inch thick batting. You'll need a spray adhesive that is made specifically for foam. I used a product called Camie 313 fast tack upholstery adhesive which I found in the upholstery section of my fabric store. You'll want to use it outdoors or in a well ventilated area like a garage. Don't overlap the batting or you'll end up with big lumpy areas on your cushion. Caution: If you get the stuff on your fingers anything you touch will stick to you. My fingertips looked like little fluffy balls of batting when I finished.

You could, at this point, just go on to make your finished covers. Since I knew I wasn't going to be making mine right away I wanted to protect the batting with a muslin undercover. I also knew my final cushion covers were going to be zippered so that I could remove them for occasional cleaning. I was afraid the batting would be too fragile to hold up if it wasn't covered.

I used a simple box construction to make the muslin liners, much the way you would sew a tote bag, using one piece of muslin per cushion. Here is a basic tutorial for a tote bag that shows how to do that. I calculated the finished cover to be exactly an inch smaller than the actual cushion because I wanted a nice tight fit to avoid wrinkling. I used my serger to sew the seams to ensure there would be no raveling. After squeezing it onto the cushion I then just folded and hand-stitched the open end closed using a simple overcast stitch. As you can see the muslin is nice and tight and the cushion edges are smoothly rounded from the batting.




My cushion is just slightly wider than the seat of the chair because when the three sections are together I wanted them to fit without any gap. As you can see in the picture below I could have sized to fit inside the rim of rattan but chose not to. You'll also see that I've covered the sinuous springs with a piece of canvas that I stapled on. The old springs are a bit rusty and it also helps protect the finished cushions from impression marks. I've noticed that one of the seats sags more than the others so I may be replacing the springs on that one eventually. The last photo is a pretty accurate depiction of the actual nice golden color of the restored rattan.


 

I've brought you up to date on where I now am with this project. I've been narrowing down fabric choices for the outer covers. I'm leaning towards a natural color, much like the muslin. When I get that figured out I'll be ready to start sewing. I have a feeling it's going to be a slow process. But, like I've said before, I'm so ready to get this checked off my long overdue project list. If anyone has any helpful tips they've learned sewing zippered covers, or links to tutorials, I'd love to hear from you. Have a great weekend!

2/08/2012

Restoring Vintage Rattan

I've slowly been making progress on my rattan project, a vintage sectional I rescued from a neighbor's dumpster next to my family's lake cottage. I had dubbed the sectional Ratso because it was is such a pest of a project. But I'm determined to get this monkey rat off my back once and for all.

The sectional after sanding but before finishing.
Click to enlarge.

These are two of three pieces. The middle armless section I had refinished awhile ago and have been using as a chair in my living room. I finally got around to staining and lacquering the other two last fall. It had been such a long time since I'd done the first piece I wasn't even sure I remembered the stain color correctly but - PHEW! - it came out looking the same. 

I gave the chairs a good sanding before applying the stain and then came two coats of lacquer. When finishing rattan or wicker it's always best to use lacquer as opposed to varnish or polyurethane because lacquer is flexible. The other finishes will crack over time given the way these furnishings flex and move. The other good thing about lacquer is that it's a non-toxic product, which is great if you have children or pets. 

It dries to the touch in about 30 minutes and is water resistant. The label says it's also fruit juice and alcohol resistant, just in case you're, you know, having a little cocktail party and things get a little crazy. Use a good quality natural bristle brush. No sanding needed between coats. The lacquer will be self leveling without visible brush strokes, and it leaves you with a nice smooth durable finish. I used Deft Clear Wood Finish in semi-gloss. It was very easy to work with. Use lacquer thinner to clean your brush. 


You can see the smooth finish and sheen in this picture.
Stained and lacquered.

I'm really happy with the restoration considering how weathered these were after sitting on a deck exposed to the elements for years. The natural variation in color of the rattan plus staining helps disguise the areas that I wasn't able to completely clean up by sanding. 

The cushions for the sectional were left in the dumpster, for obvious reasons. I purchased new foam and in my next post I'll take you through the process of making cushions and getting them ready for the final zippered covers.