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Every time I crochet I think of my dear friend, Carol. We were neighbors over ten years ago and it was as fun as being college roommates. We’d go grocery shopping together and get our Starbucks on the way with our grocery lists in hand. We were like two old ladies making a day of a grocery outing. She is a master at crocheting and I’ve always regretted not learning from her but waiting til I was interested in doing it years later. This project was a baby blanket for my brother’s baby.


Pajamas and pillowcase dresses

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O to be in a Turkish bath…

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But it won’t be the case today in between double runs to the pool for swim team, geometry class, volunteering to finish some artwork.

Yesterday I read about ‘foutas,’ (pronounced fow-tas) which are lightweight, gauzy fabrics used in old Turkish bath houses in place of heavy terrycloth towels for their ease in drying quickly. They are made from lightweight 100% cotton with vibrant colors and a fringed knotted edge with ample sizes around 40+” by 72″. I thought what an ingenious delight to pack something so airy for the beach. In hindsight I wish I had noticed these at the bazaar years ago during my trip to Turkey. Fabric was one venue I didn’t invest enough time in perusing. I searched online through the handwoven designs and varied color patterns but changed my mind when I saw the price tag. These lovely linens are around $65 a piece.

I stopped by my local fabric store and picked up a linen cotton blend that is super soft and it hasn’t even been washed yet. It’s the ideal effect – very thin and light. I spent a whopping nine dollars on the two pieces that I had cut in 2 1/8 yard increments.

My version wouldn’t be handwoven but it would be hand unwoven. I started fraying the edges. If I wasn’t patient before I began this project I certainly will be now. It takes a huge amount if time to pull out the threads and I still haven’t finished. The threads break easily. I got into a rhythm and pulled from the center outward for a few strands, but got off kilter and the threads began splitting again.

I’ve frayed about 2″ and I’m hoping for about 3″. Below is a picture of the frayed edge with realistic light so you see the delicate design and at the bottom how I will knot along an entire edge once I’ve frayed to my heart’s content- photo darkened for contrast visibility. Afterward, it will be washed and packed for fun in the sun- a coverlet while napping at the beach under an umbrella, a shield from whipping sand, wiping blurry eyes free from sunscreen, or the most practical use of all – inspired by the Turkish bathhouse – drying off after a dip in the ocean.



Forgotten Family Room Redo

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My new color palette

Amidst all of the projects I confront, my attention for finishing one wanes before initiating the first steps of the next.  Such is the case with the family room redo.  It is complete – for the most part – as much as anything can possibly ever be complete in this house; everything is subject to revision at all times – yet I realized that I never posted the before and after pictures.  My color palette is above and has always been my preferred choice, but furniture sizes etc. dictated otherwise when we moved in here about 9 years ago so I went red.

I am very happy with the redo.  It is like winter inhaled and spring exhaled through the house and the lighter colors make me ready for warmer weather outside (after the upcoming major snowstorm, snow day, and a day of baking with the kids sledding outside).

To top it off, my daughter taught me the most amazing way to feature before and after pictures.  I tried to do it myself with a computer based software, but I eyed some program she was using and tried to see if I could find it.  Once she realized I was trying to download it but couldn’t think of my own itunes username or password, she said, “Oh mama…” and just did it for me.  Voila – a great way to showcase the before and after pictures.  She uses it to feature “throwbacks” – posing for the same style picture years apart.  I will let my attention wander for one moment and feature the picture of all of her pictures that just looked precious:

Here’s to throwbacks that make mama happy.

Back to the project now…

I redid the window seat and changed the herringbone red and mustard seat cushions for an old Calico Corners geometric leaf design I had stashed away (that is also on the wing chairs in my living room).  I prewashed it which would enable me to wash it in the future as needed and it gave the fabric this fabulous rippled effect that looked so shabby chic that it made me wish I had done it for the wing chairs.  All of the pillows were recovered or repurposed in the basement.  I loved my window treatment before because the style was so simple.  I used one length of fabric, folded it in half so both sides would be the pretty fabric (no white lining) and pinned it over the rod so it is just haphazardly up there.  I did incorporate a ruffle along the bottom edge of the new linen curtain.  This style curtain is perfect for the rooms where I still have grandmother roller shades.  I do not like the roller shades, but the back of the house is east facing and the morning sun beats in so we have to close them when it gets really hot out.  The valance style curtain hides the ugly roll.  I think that roller is the best style room darkening element; my thought eventually is to cut off the scalloped edge and recover the entire shade with linen to make it look a tad better.

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Before and after window seat and sideboard

My grandparents’ sideboard (the one that USED to match their buffet) was redone under a coat of paint – the whole treatment – primer, a cream that I had stashed in the garage, rubbed down with a sage paint like lotion once it was dry, then roughed up.  I am hoping that is okay with grandpa.  He totally got how I am with projects though so I am thinking he would be good with it.  I switched the more formal light from the old room with the green antique French wine jug lamp that my grandfather made which found a nice homey spot on the sideboard.

My paintings were added to the basement decor so I made a new painting (and featured its design in another blog posting here).  I darkened the frame a bit yesterday afternoon the barnwood was a little too light for the room and didn’t give the ‘POP’ I was hoping for with the painting, so I used the rusty dregs of some stain left in a can in the garage to darken it up.  I lightened the knick knacks from reds and dark browns to tans an, blues, and greens but kept my beloved copper accents.

The carpet was switched with the basement carpet.  The leather sofa was freshened up with lighter pillows and a trendy crewel throw, backed with an old matlasse coverlet that needed some new life.  The coffee table – my $12.50 gem of a find – was painted all the way around and given the same treatment as the sideboard.

Before and after fireplace, coffee table, and sofa

Whew – a big project with lots and lots of sewing – but I am so happy to have repurposed so much of what I already had and be able to create an entirely different look.  It was time to freshen up – another check off of the list and now onto other projects.

I wish I thought of that!

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Yellow with white polka dots, black fabric with tiny white polka dot trim, white ribbon, initial and bee embroidery

The pillowcase dress – it’s the simplest fashionable design to sew in a matter of minutes when someone needs something new to wear. My sister frequently makes them for my niece who looks like a It’s cute on someone wearing bloomers, a preteen hippie shirt, or a work outfit cinched with a belt. I sampled making a couple that multiplied because there were so many fun combinations and it required basically scraps of fabric to complete.

White, with turquoise and silver fabric, with a box pleat formal trim, white ribbon, and a Carolina blue monogram

I found a very good tutorial here that offers size guidelines for different ages – but really it’s a try, check, revise type project depending on your subject.  It takes your fabric, some ribbon, a coordinating trim fabric, and if you use an embroidery machine that’s a fun way to personalize or embellish your design.

Here are some more completed projects:


Bar stool slipcovers

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After the painted ruined one of my barstools in the kitchen I thought I would have to do a quick reupholstery job – which I could have done in about 10 minutes and been finished.  Always choosing the hard road, I decided to make slip covers for the four or them to match my lighter color scheme.  These stools get a lot of wear and tear since they are around the kitchen island from my own kids, friends, and even the cat when something smells good at high altitudes.

I bought fabric that is very thick and durable and would handle frequent washes in a neutral shade and white muslin for the lining.  I traced the top of one of the stools to serve as my pattern piece.  I cut out four rounds from my fabric and four rounds from the muslin.  I estimated that a 5 inch drop skirt would be the right length; it’s not too long but long enough to stay in place.  I stitched my drop skirts into a 47″ loop that fit the diameter of my stool.


I should have serged these edges to reinforce the seams, but wanted to finish the project so I topstiched instead at the end.I used the stool as my mannequin and pinned the skirt around the round pattern piece allowing about 3/8″ for a seam on both the choice fabric and my lining fabric.



I wanted a little ruffle around the edge so I cut 2 2″ wide strips, serged the together and ironed them in half so they would be about an inch long when sewn.  I serged along the length before using my regular sewing machine to box pleat them.  Box pleating takes a lot of fabric and I ended up using about 2 and a half times the diameter of my stool for each stool.


After the box pleat was prepared, it was time to mount it to the lining piece.  I mounted it with the “right side” of my box pleat folded against the “right side” of my lining so when I opened it flat, everything would look nice.  I stitched this in place.


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I mentioned in another posting when I was factory sewing a slew of things that were repetitive, check while you sew after each step to ensure it is right – that way you avoid repeating the same mistake 6 times and then having to remove it six times.  I put the lining on with the box pleat trim and checked the look of it.


I kept the lining in place (good side facing toward the stool and the seam side facing out since it would be covered with the fabric) and popped the fabric right over the top of it.


Now it was time to work from the outside.  I pinned everything in place so it wouldn’t turn as I was stitching.  I turned the good fabric under about 3/8″ and topstitched around it right over the initial seam I had made in my box pleat so nothing yucky would be seen from underneath or on top.  It was a really quick finish and they came out looking like little wedding cakes.  Yum!


Ready for Spring with new slipcovers

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My kitchen has seen the gamut of colors.  It has been wide blue and white stripe wallpapered (not while we lived there), Parisian Taupe, Moroccan Red, hospital white, and is once again Parisian Taupe.  Parisian Taupe is my standby color – it’s got just the right amount of every shade that it compliments any color set next to it.  I decided that the warm fall reds needed a change on our main level and adopted a new color scheme of blue, cream, and green.  The paint was minor in this redo.  There would be a ton of sewing, which was my stopping block.

The most daunting task of this revamp was the reupholstery of my kitchen chairs.  In my house, everything is remade, and then remade again.  I am in love with my Louis chairs; they are in all of the decorator magazines and go with any style table.  The chairs were purchased in a light pickled finish, but have been repainted with chocolate and gold about 9 years ago and the natural wear and tear of chairs in our house has truly blessed them with the natural worn dings and scratches in the paint that they look like they are real French antiques from Louis himself.  They have encircled a modern glass top with ornate pedestal and now sit alongside a farmhouse table built by my dad for us for Christmas a few years ago.  The chairs have seen rich purple fabric flecked with tiny spots, cream tapestry, and red and mustard gingham.  I like the red, but it lends itself best to Christmas decor and it was high time for a change for these royal beauties.

Rather than reupholstering them yet again, since the integrity of the wood is undoubtedly compromised after stapling and removing staples around the back six times, I figured I would sew slip covers that can be easily washed and removed if and when I have the desire to change them again.  I began by making a pattern using tissue paper pinned to the chair so it would be a glove fit.

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I made the tucks so I could see exactly how the finished product would be sewn.  I found the center line and worked with half of the chair so that my pattern and the fabric piece would be perfectly symmetrical.  The fold of the fabric for cutting would run down the middle.  I labeled my pattern with a highlighter showing ‘center – fold’ so there would be no confusion at cutting time.  I repeated the process with the seat back – knowing I would cut two circles for the front and back – leaving an ample seam around both pieces so I would have enough for seam allowances.  My slipcovers are fully lined so I ended up cutting twelve ovals for the seat backs with my chosen fabric and twelve ovals out of white muslin for the liner.

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I removed the pattern pieces and made sure they were neat when positioned flat for cutting.  The opening at the base of the pattern piece below (seat piece) would be rounded following the line – I just didn’t have tissue paper taped inside.  I notched out two cuts in the top for where my ties would be inset and the skirt would come out of the back of the chair.

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I cut two pieces for the seat – one from the cream candlewicking fabric I had chosen and one white muslin that I was using as a liner and checked the fit.  Pretty good for a slipcover – not too tight, but doesn’t look slumpy either.

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Once I set the ties in and sewed the rounded edges for the back, I snipped about a centimeter in around the inside of the tie seam so the fabric would ease and not cause the bunchiness that you can see in this picture.  Of course, ironing after you are completely done makes a huge difference too.  Snipping just lets it have space to flatten out – just be careful not to snip too far in causing fraying or splitting the seam.

chair 3

I took the chairs  to my workroom to constantly check the fit during sewing.  It becomes like a factory when you are making six.  Make one, check the fit, if it works, repeat the same step through all of the chairs to maintain consistency.  If not, make necessary adjustments, and then finish all six.  For the seat back, I realized after sewing the first one that I couldn’t sew the circle as far down as I would have wanted to because it made the back seat slip too tight to pull over the rounded edges.  Trial and error is the name of the game here.  Here is a picture of the slip cover completed, but unironed.  I topstiched around the back just for added strength and it is more aesthetically pleasing.

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The last step on each chair is to hand sew the back of the slipcovers closed.  That is the one opening I left to be able to work inside out and the easiest to finish by hand at the end with one short straight seam.

Here is the finished product.  Perfect for spring, but easily transformed back to celebrate the holiday season.  Who knows….maybe this season will be a neutral Christmas theme in keeping with my fresh new palette.

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