Monday, January 31, 2011

Girly sink skirt


My husband has always been the painter in the family. I have other talents. For instance, I’m very good at sitting on the couch with a bowl of chips and saying, “That looks great! You missed a spot!” He is very patient and will not panic, even when a full bucket of paint goes over onto the carpet. He used to let me help him paint, but years ago, one tiny closet proved that there was not room for both of us to be the painter in the family, and in fact he was equal to this task on his own, and I got out of his way.

Well now, he’s Very Busy, and asking for a painted bathroom doesn’t seem fair, especially since I am crafty and can jolly well pick up a paintbrush myself. So I did, in this bathroom. I surprised myself and did a fair job. No big drips, no big catastrophes.

The pipes under that pedestal sink are U.G.L.Y. There are gobs of putty all over them and splotches of paint from the last three times we he painted in there, and I decided to make a little skirt to hide them.


It’s very girly. I measured around the sink, then added half that measurement again to the total, then just hemmed it on three sides. At the top, I made a small casing and ran a cotton cord through there, gathering to the measurement of the sink, then stitched the ends closed to secure the cord and gathers. Then I used sticky backed velcro to attach the skirt to the sink so it can be washed, in the likely event that someone mistakes it for a towel.


Not bad for a day’s work! I love it in here now. There is nothing like a tidy bathroom to make you feel like you have all your ducks in a row.

I've linked this post at Blessed Little Nest's Life Made Lovely Monday. Come see a few others!


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Log Cabin Knitting Begins


Blanket #4 is on the needles. This is the first of sixteen blocks that will eventually, hopefully, be a Buncha Squares blanket. This design is by Ann and Kay at Mason Dixon Knitting, in an homage to the amazing Denyse Schmidt.

This blanket is a beautiful concept, just as beautiful as the original quilt concept was, which taught me that you can take a bunch of fabric that looks good together and just start sewing, just put it together without making a bunch of templates and precise measurements (if there’s anything I will fail at, it’s precise measurements) and your end result will be spectacular, dynamic, energetic, and all yours. Quit thinking, start sewing! I think that’s the line where craft becomes art.

Well, Ann and Kay are knitters, so they wanted to do this with yarn, and their knitted blankets are so incredibly inspiring that all I have to do is see a picture and I’m in the car to the yarn shop. And that’s what happened here with Buncha Squares.

Only this first square doesn’t look too good. I have not intended to knit a semaphore blanket in primary colors. (Why don’t they look like primary colors in the skeins? Huh? Why do they look like muted blues and greens with a hint of terra cotta while they’re in the bag, but when I knit them together they look like the French flag?)

Like I need any more blankets anyway…

Friday, January 28, 2011

Patchwork blanket update


It turns out that starting a hundred different knitting projects is not the path to Nirvana. It will not result in finished items. It will, instead, result in an enormous, teetering mountain of half-completed blankets, sweaters, scarves, hats, shawls, mittens, and socks. Which means that, unless I want to be found smothered by a toppled avalanche of yarn, I had better start finishing some stuff.


Sometimes, I just feel like knitting something, and I don’t care what. This beautifully simple project is so perfect for times like that. This is just simple garter stitch, knitted over 40 stitches, back and forth ,back and forth. I change the colors as my whim dictates or when the ball runs out, and when I have completed six or seven of these mindless strips, I will sew them together.


As I work on this, I am completely absorbed in something else, and this blanket appears to be knitting itself. My hands are busy, and my mind is free to pay attention to the John Adams miniseries on HBO. Before I know it, this will be done, and I’ll be picking out another blanket project. I have a few ideas in mind. In the meantime, progress is good.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fabric covered lampshade


Well, I did it, I covered a lampshade with fabric. Whew! This project got pretty hairy for a minute there, and I wasn’t sure at one point whether I was gluing fabric to a lampshade or to myself. Let us just say spray adhesive is not my friend.

I followed this great tutorial, which very sensibly recommends starting with a small lampshade and working your way up to the big ones. Heck, I like to jump right into things, which is why I sew myself to stuff now and again, and this is the lampshade I had, so that’s where I started.

Everything was fine through the pattern drafting and fabric cutting, but when the glue came out, it all went a little bit sideways. Things were glued to the wrong things, things were glued to themselves, things were glued to my pants. It was quite a scene. Fortunately, my husband was standing right there to laugh at me and help at the same time, and he managed to divert a tricky situation into a pretty reasonably cool-looking lampshade.


How it looks this good is something I can’t quite figure out, given the giant wad of glued-together fabric this thing was at one point. Tip #1: Keep a patient assistant nearby at all times. This is a thrifted shade (what else?) and thrifted fabric (are you surprised?) The spray adhesive was something not necessarily recommended for fabric, but it was recommended for everything else in the world, including cork and rubber, so I went for it. I made a simple bias binding for the top and bottom edges and after ransacking my craft bins for several curse-filled minutes looking for fabric glue, I ended up just using Elmer’s white glue to attach them. If you decide to cover a lampshade with fabric, do not do this. Keep looking around until you find your craft glue. It was a huge mess, but I am nothing if not determined, so forty sweaty minutes later, this lampshade rose from the ashes and debris of panicked crafting and became this:


Pretty nice, yeah? It had better be, is all I can say, since there’s spray adhesive all over the kitchen and glue all over me, which is what will happen if you are impatient. (Why does there always have to be a lesson in it for me?) If you decide to try this, start with a small lampshade, and work your way up.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Living the Good Life

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We are in the (continuous, ongoing, neverending) process of trying to spruce up an old house. Mind you, we have lived in this poor old house since 1991, and the baby that learned to crawl on these beat-up floors has gone away to college now. No excuses! The main problem is that I am always changing my mind, pressing my sainted husband into service with a hammer and paintbrush, and we have had this kitchen four different ways (at least) since we moved in. At one point--I hesitate to tell you this--it was hot pink.

This little shelf of pretty things is over my stove, and I love, love, love the way it looks. It’s just one small corner in an otherwise chaotic life, but it’s good, so good, to be busy and to have the dog happy to see me, and to have places to go and things to do, dinner to cook, school events to attend, gardens to plant. I can rest my eye on this little shelf as I dash out the door, spilling my coffee and leaving a trail of craziness in my wake.

To see more Good Lives in action, visit Sarah at A Beach Cottage:

Beach Cottage Good Life Wednesdays

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dog bed slipcover


“I wish I had a cozy new cover for my doggie bed. The old one doesn’t go with the pretty bedroom floor. Will you make me one, huh? Pleeeeeeease?” *wagwagwag*



This is a simple envelope, nothing more than a pillowcase, with twill tape ties. The fabric is from a bundle of leftover upholstery pieces I bought at a garage sale years ago and have gradually almost used up. This piece was left, and it worked perfectly.

In the event you want to do this yourself, you almost certainly don’t need instructions, but just in case:

Measure your dog’s bed and add 1” to the side measurement and 1 1/2” to the length, if that’s the side with the opening. Cut two rectangles. Stitch up three sides using a 1/2” seam. Turn under the raw edges of the opening 1/2” and press, then turn under another 1/2” and press.

Cut six equal lengths of twill tape pin them on, spacing them evenly around the opening. Stitch around the opening, close to the fold. Turn and press. Stuff the old dog bed inside, and that’s it!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fabric Roller Shades


Following an excellent tutorial I found at Design*Sponge, I fulfilled a long-held dream of mine and made my own roller shades.

My husband and the kids all had opinions on how they turned out: words like “ice cream,” “marching bands,” “circuses,” “peppermints,” and “Mary Poppins” were offered. I said they make me feel like I’m in a candy store, and my daughter offered the inexplicable “I feel like I’m on a boat.” Well, it’s hard to say whether any of that is good or bad! They look so great in the daytime, when we don’t really need them, when the light filters through the pink and white ticking in such a glowing and wonderful way that I think, Yes, those are perfect! They somehow make people feel like they’re on a boat. That’s cozy!


Fortunately, these are dead easy to make, and if/when I find a more perfect fabric choice, it is the work of an hour to redo. The most difficult part was getting them to hang right; in fact, the first three times I touched one of these, it fell on me. The spring action in the roller is so incredibly strong that if you pull it and then let go, accidentally or otherwise, it snaps all the way up with such force that it takes the valance with it. Then it falls off the wall. Hilarity! We all had to take a lesson in how to carefully raise and lower these shades.


They really do look fantastic in the daytime.

When I was a girl, I spent a lot of time at the farm, and so much of who I am today was shaped by those weekends and school breaks spent feeding the sheep and playing with barn kittens and peeling bushels of pears and sleeping in the upstairs four-poster bed in the room with roses on the walls. The windows there had lovely old roller shades, made of fading cloth that let in the most golden, muted light in the world. I really wanted that.


Friday, January 21, 2011



It’s pouring snow today. The sky looks menacing, and the plow trucks have already been past the house three times. It’s a good day to sit beside the fire and work on a Big Project. I started this blanket back in September and progress has stalled a bit lately, which doesn’t matter anyway, because as soon as it’s finished, there will immediately be another one. Granny squares are like that.


But it called to me today, so the couch looks like this, and there is coffee steaming away at my elbow, the dog is snoring, and I am perfectly content.


Let it snow.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Whimsical Paper Silhouettes


These little silhouettes are such a great mix of tradition and whimsy—just like me! I’ve always liked the old-school versions done in black against a cream background, but that look is a little too American Colonial for my taste, so I decided to do it like this instead.


We went hunting for old frames at the thrift store and had no trouble whatsoever in finding them. One of these had a pair of old sepia portraits in it, with “Edward and May Maner” written on the back. After I peeled off the crumbling backing paper and cleaned the glass, I filed the Maners away for some future project. Maybe I will adopt them. You can see some of my real ancestors in the portraits there on the shelf.


This is an incredibly simple project, and the results are so rewarding. Here’s what to do:

1. Go to the thrift store and buy an old frame. Try to find one with the glass still in it.

2. Take off any old paper backing, and remove whatever old picture is in the frame. If it’s cool, save it for later. Carefully wash and dry the glass.

3. Choose two acid-free decorative papers that have good contrast with each other. Using the glass as a template, trace onto the lighter paper and cut it out. This is the backing.

Okay, here’s the tricky part.

4. Get your child to stand in profile against a white wall so you can take his or her picture. (I suggest you ask them to remove the hooded sweatshirt they’re undoubtedly wearing, unless you want their silhouette to look like a head bobbing inside a giant bucket. Also, pointedly ignore any complaints they may have about what their noses may look like in profile. Tell them they’re beautiful, because they are.)

5. Resize the photo if necessary (I just looked at mine in print preview until I felt like it looked right—sorry, that’s not very helpful) and print it. The size you choose will depend on how big your awesome vintage thrifted frame is, so this is all up to you.

6. Using very sharp paper scissors, cut slowly and carefully around the edges of the profile. Don’t cut away the details of wisps of hair and eyelashes, those add personality.

7. Now place the cut-out printed photo on the darker of your decorative papers and carefully trace the image. Use a sharp pencil. Cut out the image, again being careful not to lose details. I traced mine on the back of the paper with the printed side of the photo facing down. If you trace on the front of the paper with the printed side of the photo facing up, be sure to cut inside the pencil lines so they aren’t visible in your finished product.

8. Using an acid-free glue, stick the silhouette image on the backing paper.

9. Frame it up and hang it!

Really, the hardest part was getting my kids to stand there, not wear the hoodie, quit complaining about their noses, and hold still while I took several photos, experimenting with different lighting. After that, it was a piece of cake.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What I got for Christmas

I want to show you what I got for Christmas:


Actually, there are two things in this photo that I got for Christmas: one is the fantastic wooly plaid blanket on the bed (thanks, Mom!) It seems like wooly plaid blankets are getting to be my new favorite thing. I can only blame Cath. This blanket is so warm and so soft, and it makes my bed look all grown up.


Well, you can’t really even see the other thing I got for Christmas in this picture, but this one is really pretty and I wanted to show it to you.


There it is, kind of peeking out at the left-hand side. It’s the floor! For Christmas for me, my husband stripped off the hundred-million layers of old paint and yellowing polyurethane from this beat-up old floor and turned it into this beautiful, beautiful, BEAUTIFUL thing.

Where was I while this was going on?

I was here:

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That’s Cinderella’s castle at Disneyworld. While I was at Disneyworld, he was at home on his knees, stripping old paint off the bedroom floor. For me. Heart!


Oooh, ahhhh! (See how there are about six boards at the end that are different from the others? Yup. All of a sudden, there are six boards of knotty pine on that side. Life in an old house! There are no end of surprises. We decided to embrace the knotty pine boards and love them anyway.)


Seriously, just look at that room. Oh, swoon! I love it so much.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cath-style tea towels


I am so inspired by Cath Kidston. Her beautiful interiors are so soft, light-filled, and cozy. I adore the combinations of florals and lace with wooly plaids and beat-up furniture. I aspire to it every day, and whenever I get a chance to get my Cath on, I do it.

These little towels are made from a thrifted linen tablecloth, which I did hesitate to cut up until I noticed a small stain, but really, I didn’t like it as a tablecloth, and for five bucks, it’s okay to experiment. The gorgeous crocheted lace is also thrifted. I know! Don’t you just want to go thrifting with me?


The very faded tag on the tablecloth said “The Pride of Flanders” and had a little dutch-style windmill on it. Somebody probably brought this thing back from their European grand tour and then used it on their tea table.


The only question remaining is whether I will dare to use them. As somebody wipes their peanut-buttery cheeks on this pretty thing, you will hear my screams.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bluebird silhouette

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I found this little oval frame with curved glass at the thrift store, and just needed something to fill it, so I got out my sharp scissors and my scrap bag and freehanded this little bird silhouette. I glued the fabric down with Mod Podge.

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I grouped it together with some other thrifty things, and hung them all in the kitchen. It was so hard to drive a nail into the lovely, newly-painted blue wall, but in the end it was okay. Now my kitchen looks like a cozy cottage, which is all I ever ask.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Scarves and a Riddle

I’m sorry to have been absent, but I went on a little vacation. Can you guess where I went? Here’s a clue: the snow is fake, and so is the owl.florida vacation 2011 038

Those two gorgeous scarves were hand knitted by my beautiful daughter, who you see there on the left. She did a great job, and we needed them, because it was cold. Here’s another clue:

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Here’s me, outside The Three Broomsticks, sporting a butterbeer mustache. Now I'll bet you can guess! If you said this, you're right!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


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Here’s a moment of quiet. I love the rare winter days when the sun comes through the windows, and the cat sleeps on his back in a comfy flowered chair, and it’s all warm and dozy beside the fire. On days like this, I feel inspired to cook things, and since I managed to find a bin of avocadoes at 6 for $1.00 (yes, you read that right! Go ahead and digest for a moment, I’ll wait…) I decided to make a huge batch of guacamole.

This involved a call to my mom, who makes the best guacamole, although the best part about hers is that she’ll whip it up at midnight, when you’re sitting around the kitchen island in your pajamas, nibbling on snacks and wine. All you have to say is, “Hmm, I wish we could have some guacamole,” and she springs into action. It is so delish. Here’s her recipe, and I swear this is what she said:

Mom’s Midnight Guacamole

Peel and mash up three avocadoes, which will make a lot.

Add the juice of a lime. Well, half a lime. Okay, cut it into quarters…

Put in some garlic powder. Just sprinkle it on like you’re salting it. If you add too much, it will be really garlicky.

Now for some salsa. Spoon it in until the guacamole is the right color.

That’s it! Enjoy. And you will. Serve with salty corn chips. This dish is best enjoyed in the middle of the night, when it will feel the most decadent and luxurious.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Addicted to the urchins

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Okay, technically this one isn’t an Urchin, but oh my gosh, these are so much fun. I went freestyle on this, my second attempt at one of Margie’s crochet-covered stones, and I love how it turned out! And I am out of stones now, and there are six inches of snow on the ground, what am I going to dooooooo? I only found this one by remembering I had built a small decorative cairn next to the back door, so I went out there to root around with a trowel until I located it, and even then it was frozen to the ground. A few quick hacks with a shovel soon took care of that--here, wait, let me show you the back:

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Cool, right? Pretty much all I did was find an interesting crochet motif (this one came from here) and then just added a bunch of chained webbing at the end and sides until it was approximately the shape of the top of the rock. Then I decreased until it curved in, tucked the rock inside, and decreased again to tighten it up. Voila!

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Aaahhh! (Yikes, I can see now that I goofed up the original Little Urchin pattern on the white one. Well, nothing to do but have another go at it! Whee!)

As soon as it is at all possible, I will be filling a bag with rocks and going completely hog wild. Yes, I will be a rock-covering, crocheting fool. You looking for me? I’ll be sitting right here, crocheting on rocks. Yessir, right here in this spot, crocheting away…hahaheeheehoho!

Little Urchin Stone

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I’ve been seeing these little crochet-covered stones all over the internet, and I have much admired them and quite craved them. This here is my first attempt, and next time I want to use much smaller thread, for a lacier look. The idea is the work of Margaret Oomen, who calls them “Little Urchins” because they look like sea urchins. More of Margaret can be found at the beautiful Resurrection Fern. Many thanks to my dear friend Leda for leading me to that blog. Goodness, it’s so wonderful.

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Margaret generously provided a tutorial, which can be found here. Basically, what you do is crochet a round motif until it is approximately the same size as the rock you’re covering, and then you decrease for two rounds at the back to snug it up.

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Happily for me, my little town in New York is full of these smooth, round stones, so even though it is an arctic tundra out there, and going up to the lake right now to search for stones would be to risk slipping on the ice and falling into the drink, I already had this stone here in the house, ready to go.

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I can’t wait to make a whole bunch more of these. Thank you so much, Margaret!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

V-neck Sweater Vest, finally

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Back in November, I decided that my husband, who is working toward his doctorate, needed some kind of professorial-looking sweater vest. This idea seized me, and would not let go. Never mind that he has never before in his life worn a sweater vest—I was undaunted! I just felt it would be perfect. Just the right amount of casual braininess, with a little insouciance. Yes, a sweater vest! Yesssss!

The first attempt was something with a lot of allover cables, and he eventually let me know that he thought a vest with a lot of “stuff on it” would be too fancy. I also knew it would take me a hundred years to knit a sweater with cabling on the wrong side rows (why? why do that?) so I tore it out and started a simple stockinette cardigan vest.

I worked on this thing every available minute, whenever he wasn’t in the house. I faked a headache one evening so he’d go to a holiday party without me and I could finish the armhole ribbing. I blocked it in my friend’s office at work, where it lay there smelling like a wet animal for three days.

I lovingly wrapped it and set it under the Christmas tree, and waited. When the appointed hour arrived, he unwrapped it, said, “Oh, it’s a vest,” and put it on.

It was huge. So huge. He looked like a little kid wearing his dad’s clothes. We laughed and laughed. The buttons seemed absurdly clownish, and the ribbed hem hung halfway to his knees. Oh my goodness, it was terrible.

Well, I’m a pretty good knitter, but I almost always knit only for myself, so the lesson here was that if I’m going to knit for somebody else, it can’t be on the sly, because that person has to be around to be measured, and I have to check the progress of the work against them now and then.

He’s a pretty good sport, and was willing to wear this awful thing, but I said no way, I can do better than that, so on Christmas Day, I unraveled it and started again, this time measuring him carefully and doing all kinds of math.

The result is much better.

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This is just a plain stockinette vest, with twisted k1, p2 ribbing at the hem, neck, and armholes, designed by me to fit him. I worked on this mostly in the dark, while watching the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, extended edition. (Samwise Gamgee, I loooooove you!!!!)

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Better late than never. Merry Christmas, honey.