Saturday, December 29, 2012

And Looking Ahead....Goals/Plans for 2013

I hesitate to even make this list, because I don't want to feel tied down next October to what I thought was most important nearly a year before. If that makes sense. But I like to think that I'm a flexible enough person to not do that. I'm also hesitant because right now I want to just put "the rest of the house" on the list, and...that's not especially realistic. I suspect this house will keep us busy pretty much forever.

All of that said, goals can be helpful, so here is my very tentative, always flexible list of ten things it would be lovely to accomplish, house-wise, over the next 12 months:

1. Finish the nursery AND the master bedroom. It's pretty easy to prioritize the nursery right now, since the baby kicks me all the time to remind me. But I want to make sure we don't get that finished and then just let the other half of the room sit there, neglected. If the baby gets an awesome room, Dave and I should, too, dammit! It's also a pretty doable project, since we're leaving the carpet for now and all the furniture is staying. It's mostly about getting art on the walls and some accessories and all that.

I finally won my game of chicken with West Elm; they put duvet covers on sale the other day, and I ordered the one I've been eyeing for months. And then I used (mostly) Christmas gift cards to buy sheets and a comforter to go inside the duvet cover and all that, so a big step is already taken.

I love the duvet cover with the Newburg Green....but there is a bit of a problem--one that makes Dave very sad. I don't like it with the cream colored headboard. At first I had been planning to paint it, but then when I got the room divider curtain up I thought it would actually be fine. And I read some stuff from assorted decorators on the internet that suggested I just didn't know what the hell I was doing if I was afraid to mix whites and creams. But....I don't like it with bedding. So I think I'm back to the original plan, which is painting it very light gray and distressing it. That will probably be the biggest pain in the butt project in the room, though.

2. Redo the den: At this point I'm nominating the den for "if we only get around to totally finishing one room, start to finish this year...." It's perfectly serviceable as is and doesn't drive me TOO crazy....but I have a leather couch that's supposed to move in there sitting in my garage right now, and if it sits there once the humidity starts to kick in in early summer, it's never going to survive. And I want my wallpaper!

3. Finish painting trim and hanging art in Ari's room: poor Ari. His was the very first room to get painted, before we even moved in, and yet he's had half painted trim in there and empty frames leaning against the walls for months. I hate painting trim. Especially with carpet on the floors. But I will get it done! He has some Ribba frames from Ikea that he'd like some Hetalia art in. And I'm also personally hoping (hint, hint Ari!) that he'll use some of the art supplies he got for Christmas to draw something wall-worthy himself:

4. Get hardwood floors in (at least) Milo and Gus's room: Ideally we'd rip up all the carpet in the house, but that falls into the don't bite off more than you can chew category. But with August's allergies, I'd like to make the floors in their room a priority. And we'll toss in finally getting around to the other little projects in there....some lights I need to hang, maybe a couple of display shelves for them, a lamp needs spray painting....

5. Vegetable garden: I planted a garden most years at our old house, with varying degrees of ambition, but my efforts were severely hampered by the fact that we lived in the middle of the woods. We have no such problem here, and I intend to take advantage of our relentless sunlight. We'll probably start out small, with just a few garden beds out back. I'd also like to do some fruit bushes and maybe a row of dwarf or semi-dwarf fruit trees somewhere out there.

6. Build some furniture: I bought Dave a Kreg Jig for Christmas, and I got Ana White's book, so there's nothing to stop us now! We still need to do the table for the kitchen, and I also have big plans for a coffee table with toy storage and a low TV cabinet for the den.

7. Chalkboard Wall in Kitchen: There's plenty more to do in the kitchen, but this project is pretty small. I want a chalkboard wall somewhere, and there's a wall right next to the center hall in the kitchen that would be perfect for it. It's out of the wayish, but there's not enough room to do much else there. My plan is to buy galvanized steel, paint it with chalkboard paint, and then put a nice frame around it. It's something both my older kids and the baby, when he's a bit older, will have a lot of fun with, I'm thinking. And then we'll probably need to order some zombie magnet poetry for it:

8. Furnish the sunroom, somehow or another: I'm not willing to commit to a full scale sunroom plan at this point (although that would be nice), but I'd like to get some seating out there and USE IT at least. It's a nice room.

9. Figure out how to help sad porch/deck and make some progress on it: I am overwhelmed by how sad our screen porch and deck are right now. I have no illusions that we're going to make them beautiful and perfect in 2013, but I would like to come up with a plan to improve them and start in on it. It has the potential to be a really cool space. But only potential.

10. Get rid of carpet in master bath: Of course, this was supposed to be one of the first things that happened after we moved in. But before we tile it, we need to figure out a way to make it less freezing. And I worry that that will be very, very expensive. But still. There must be a way! One possibility is doing either hardwoods or the vinyl that looks like wood just so it won't be as cold as tile. At least for now. I'm not sure what the long term plan in that bathroom is or how long it's going to be before we get to the long term....

Looking Back....Part 2: Best things about blogging

I planned to do a blog about the new house before I even knew which house it would be (and THAT'S kind of a long story, that I'll tell sometime). We had no idea we were even going to move until around this time last year. In fact, around this time last year we were simultaneously FINALLY getting around to some long neglected projects at the old house (we were doing a quicky bathroom renovation just before Christmas last year) AND trying to decide if it was for us or for whoever the new owners would be. And then things picked up speed.

I knew I wanted things to move more quickly, reno and decorating-wise, in the new house than they had in the old house. And I knew I found reading about such things fun in other people's blogs and that I would likely enjoy writing about such things in my own blog. And, hey, I was right! My favorite things so far about doing this blog:

1. Motivation: even back when I hadn't really told anyone about the blog and no one was reading, knowing it was out there was a huge motivating force. "We have to finish something THIS weekend, so I can take the pictures and blog about it!"

2. A place to write stuff: I like to have somewhere to write stuff. I had the homeschool blog for years before this, but it never felt very....creative. I know some people are great at having creative homeschool blogs that are fun to read, but I usually felt like I was writing some variation on, "and then we did some math and read some stuff" over and over again. Which is probably partially a reflection of how we do school....we don't do a lot of crafts that are fun to take pictures of. stuff. And talk about it. Which is lovely, but not terribly visual.

When I was in high school, I had a zine. My zine is still more google-able than my real name is. Apparently one can find copies of it in Box 94 of the "Alternative Traditions in the Contemporary Arts: Periodicals and Zines" collection at the University of Iowa. I wrote lots of teen angsty stuff about war and The Brady Bunch and whatnot. Blogging is kind of like having a zine, only without all of that copying and going to the post office. And you can just click on a button to see who's reading instead of walking all the way to the mailbox. The landfills are thanking the internet, too.

3. Other blogs: Before I had this blog, I read Young House Love and Making It Lovely and poked around on Apartment Therapy.

Did you know that there are way more blogs than that out there?! It's true. And finding my favorites and reading them has been so much fun.

I found Decor and the Dog's posts about blogging super helpful when I was first starting to write (link parties? who knew?) and later had a fabulous time when they teamed up with Newly WoodwardsMaybe Matilda, and Two Twenty One for the Holiday Dare to DIY link party. I found it really doable and approachable, but it also made me do some things I probably wouldn't have gotten around to otherwise (and started me reading several great new-to-me blogs regularly).

And making some blogging friends whose blogs I never miss reading and with whom I regularly exchange comments and ideas has definitely been one of the best things about blogging. Broke Ass HomeInteriors by KenzMiddle Class Modern, and Shift Ctrl Art in particular have all been great fun to "meet" as well as being constantly inspiring with all their great ideas.

4. Becoming braver about craftiness: I have mentioned my poor spatial reasoning skills before. Parking terrifies me. I sew the legs on pants wrong. But reading about other people's craftiness has inspired me more than I thought possible. I made a mobile! And no sew curtains! And it wasn't nearly as scary as I thought! And they didn't look like a 4 year old made them! It is possible I'll even break out the sewing machine one of these days. It's also possible I'll just single handedly keep the Heat N' Bond people in business instead.

And now I've written this whole post with nary a single picture. There should probably be a picture so people don't get bored. Here you go:

ETA: I totally forgot my number 5!

5. Benjamin Moore paint: okay, I didn't need a blog to find this (though the internet in general was certainly a big part of my color searching), but I'm so glad I stumbled across Nantucket Fog to start my love affair with Benjamin Moore. Before that, I was always a "pick out something that looks good on the card at Home Depot" kind of girl. But I remember vividly the moment when I painted my little sample of Nantucket Fog in the dining room next to the samples from Home Depot. Oh, Benjamin Moore! Your colors are so much richer and more complex! And your paint is the same price! I will never go back! I don't think I've ever loved a paint color the way I love my Nantucket Fog. Although Newburg Green is giving it a run for its money. It's also very helpful that the closest Benjamin Moore dealer is 5 minutes from my house....even closer than Home Depot!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Looking back at.....the last 1/3 of 2012

We moved in to the Boxy Colonial in May, but I didn't get started blogging until September (I'd long planned to do it, but actually jumping in took me awhile). First post September 2, but then nothing else until the 18th. Since then I've done a fair job keeping up with posting. I attribute this largely to blogging being more fun than laundry. So, anyway, I have considerably less than a full year's worth of blog material and experiences to sort through here. But I'm having a lovely time looking back at everyone else's years, and, being an Aries, I can't stand to be left out of anything.

I've spent more time than I should trying to figure out how to decide what my "top" posts are. How are other bloggers determining this? I'm guessing most views is the most common method, but then what about going by most comments? Doesn't that say more than posts that people look at a lot but having nothing to say about? That's what's going on with my "DIY Chalk Paint" post; for some reason (I don't understand how these things work), I'm one of the top things that comes up if you google "diy chalk paint" so I get a ton of views on that post....which makes me wish it were a lot more interesting (I painted a very boring Ikea table in my library--mostly as a way to test out chalk paint without too much commitment). It's my third most viewed post, but it has not a single comment. Dave suggested a complicated system wherein I assign 1 point for each page view and 3 points (or whatever) for each comment. But that sounds so mathy. So I'm just going to look at my top 10 most viewed posts and pick my 5 favorites of those. And now I've spent too much time relaying the story of how I spent too much time thinking about this!


1. Coasters for Christmas

This one's a no brainer, as it ticks all the boxes: it's my most viewed AND most commented on post, and I like it. As I mention in the post, making cheap coasters out of tile is hardly an original idea; I attribute this post's popularity to owls being cute and to its being featured on the Dare to DIY link party.

2. The library--finished! (enough for now)

This one has fewer views than the earlier "library: progress" post, but I'm picking it because, well, the library was more finished in it. The library is the first room we did start to finish (and it's still the only one I'd really call finished), and I love it. I spend all of my computer time at the dining room table, where I have a view across the foyer of my awesome Billy shelves. I still don't have my Strandmon chair for in there....maybe soon!

3. Thanksgiving: Part 2

7th in views, 2nd in comments. I still love my Patch dessert plates. I wish I'd waited to post until I put the runner that came later down. It's pretty. Take my word for it.

4. Nursery Progress at Last!

Finally starting to pull the nursery together made me happy. And whales are awesome.

5. Kvar-fail: the story of a room divider

More practical than fun, but this is a post I would have liked to read back when we were trying to figure out how to do the room divider. And it turned out exactly how I envisioned, which is not always the case.

Honorable Mention: Fire Pit Weekend Revealed!

This was one of my very first posts, back before anyone was really reading (I mean, not that I have millions of readers now or anything), so it didn't get much attention. The firepit was a project we planned before we even moved in, and it's definitely made the backyard more fun and less....barren wasteland-y.

I've got big plans for two more year-end themed posts before New Year's. Next up a somewhat less self-indulgent one, I hope. Although it's kind of hard to blog about your house without being self-indulgent, isn't it?

Linking with:
Funky Junk Interiors

Thursday, December 27, 2012

DIY Steps for Amateurs--by Dave!

Dave takes a lot longer than I do to finish a blog post, but he's also a lot more thorough. These steps were finished awhile ago. And still standing! Who knows if my mobile will have long since fallen on the baby two months from now.... --Gretchen

This is a momentous occasion ... my very first blog entry!  Gretchen has wanted me to post about my home improvement projects for a while and, now that I'm off for Christmas vacation, I might get one or two of them done.

One of the things we knew about The Boxy Colonial when we bought it was that the back of the house was kind of a mess.  There's a screened in area that's against the kitchen and seems sturdy enough, but with gaping holes in the screens.  There's also an open deck (good for grilling!) off of that.  This part seems homemade and ... not sturdy enough.  We still need to do something about that.  And then there were the stairs down to the back yard.  Every time someone got on them, I crossed my fingers that they didn't collapse.

I am not a handyman.  This house is starting to change that, but I'm still very much a novice at building stuff.  In October, after fairly successful attempts at building a fence around the backyard (huge project) and a dog gate between the sun room and kitchen (tiny project), I set out to replace the back steps.  While small in size compared to the 6-foot privacy fence, there's a certain amount of precision involved in making steps that you don't necessarily need for a fence.  I was a little nervous of getting half way through, screwing up something royally, and having to eat the cost of the destroyed material and pay a professional to do the job.

The demolition is always the most satisfying part of these sorts of jobs.  I've always thought so when I watch HGTV, and now I have first hand experience.  My boys and some of their friends helped out.  We didn't get a good "before" shot of the steps, but here's with the railing off and some of the treads.

You can see the brick path that the stairs are resting on.  Let me clarify that ... The right stringer is resting on the bare ground just to the right of the brick path.  The left stringer is resting on a chunk of 4x4 post that's resting on the the 4x4 post that you can see running along side the bricks.  There are all sorts of nails at weird  angles holding everything in place, but the 4x4 frame of the path had broken under the weight of the steps.  This is the main source of my fear of lawsuits.
There's nothing more manly than a crowbar.
This is the best shot I could find of the stringer being supported by the block.  See it next to Gus' feet?  That was the original builder's solution for making a level surface.  Nice.
I had a rough time getting the steps detached from the porch.  The nails were those twisty types that really don't want to come out at all.
I decided to use the weight of the steps to help me out.  Judo style ... use the strength of your opponent to defeat him.  I lifted from the bottom step, raised it up above my head, and dropped it.  Success!  The entire structure got ripped out of the porch.
Well, not the whole structure.  See the leftover stuff?  Still lots of gnarly gnails to pry out of wood.  I got some of them out by hammering from the back side, but it was way too hard to do.  So on my first (of many) trips to the Home Depot, I bought this:

Ridgid Cordless Oscillating Multi Tool

Except I've decided to stop buying battery powered tools (I hate waiting for batteries to charge), so I got the corded version.  That was $129 instead of $99.  It's a neat tool that can be different things depending on the attachment.  The starter kit comes with an oscillating saw that can be used to cut nails (sweet! That's what I needed for this stage of the project!), some other small precision saw, and a sander.  The HD was having a sale where you can get one attachment free ($50 value!) and I decided to get the power nailer ... seeing as how I would be doing lots of nailing in the near future.

With the old stairs gone, I had to decide how to deal with the brick path.  It's hard to figure out the history of additions on this house, but at some point, the brick path must have ended at the bottom of a flight of stairs that have long since been torn down.  There's a nice level cement block at the end of the brick path ... this is directly below the door to the screen porch.  So I guess they extended the porch at some point, pushing the steps 7 feet down the brick path.  Instead of dealing with the unlevel surface, the aforementioned shoddy block leveling technique was implemented.

I didn't want to spend a lot of energy tearing up the path, but as it turned out, I didn't have to.  The bricks were so old, I was able to pull them up by hand with no trouble.  Now I have a bunch of extra bricks - score!

The 4x4 posts that lined the path were still in the way, though.  I have a Skil Saw, but that doesn't cut deep enough for the 4x4s.  I was able to cut through most of it, but a good inch of solid wood still stood between me and an obstacle-free surface for my stair landing.  Enter the jig saw.  I used that to cut down to the ground on both sides.  Perfect!  Except the jig saw blade wasn't long enough to get all the way to the middle of the 4x4.  So I had an almost completely detached piece, but there was still a little square of solid wood in the bottom middle of the beam that was inaccessible.  Enter the kid's Red Toolbox hand saw.  I don't have my own non-power saw, but the kids got one for Christmas last year and it was exactly what I needed to finish the job.  Finally I had a clear patch of ground to have my stairs land on.

I considered pouring a concrete slab to make it nice and level, but opted to be lazy and ... not.  Instead, I bought some cement blocks from the HD - 3 of them at 16 inches wide a piece, and created a level surface using those.  In retrospect, I probably should have poured the slab.  A neighbor friend who is full of advice, whether I want it or not, said that over time the weight of the stairs will make my blocks sink.  His solution to fix my mistake is to hammer a bunch of rebar at weird angles going underneath the blocks, then pour cement around the ends that are poking up.  I may do that at some point.  I guess maybe I'll post about it, too.  I'm not holding my breath, though, and neither should you.

The darker cement block is not there for support ... obviously.  I just put it there to hold the dirt under the other blocks in place.  I guess there's a good argument to pour cement around the base.  Another good argument is that the first step is too high when you add the extra height of the blocks.  Sigh.

Remember that I basically have no idea what I'm doing?  With that in mind, I found many tutorials online.  I found this guy who I liked from Makena Built and decided to use it as my step building bible.  I watched these a few times before buying any material or tools.

How to calculate, layout and build stairs - Part 1 of 3

Part 1 was pretty straightforward. It goes through the calculations of exactly how to measure the wood before cutting it. Since I already had existing steps, that made it a lot easier. But watching this guy go through his specific calculations was still useful for me. In my case, I needed 8 steps with a 7 1/8 inch rise and 10 inch run. From 8:20 to 8:50 he talks about boards that will be used to nail the steps to the landing (in my case, the screen porch) and the deck (in my case, the cement blocks). So he's building interior steps and has a nice, level wood floor to work with. Since I have cement blocks instead, I decided to ignore the part about being able to lock the bottom of the stringer in a nice sturdy fashion. I understand that there are tools that screw into concrete, but I decided to cut a corner here and have the steps just resting on the concrete. I'll let you know how that goes...

How to calculate, layout and build stairs - Part 2 of 3

Part 2 showed the dude actually cutting the first stringer. I liked the use of a carpenter square and stair knocks. I don't know if I'll ever use the knocks again, but they were like $3 so no biggie. I made my first stringer the way he instructed. Very smooth and easy. At 5:05 he talks about knocking off some amount for his ledger. I did this, too, but I wish I hadn't. My ledger ended up going higher than the top horizontal stretch of stringer. I didn't cut it down because I wanted to maximize the surface area I could use to attach the stairs to the porch. What didn't occur to me until later was that my treads lost 1.5 inches. So to avoid a dangerous amount of tread overhang, I cut the extra 1.5 inches off and now the top step is a little too narrow. I haven't noticed the discrepancy when using the stairs, but it's ugly when you look at it closely. So I try not to.
Anyway, at about 6:00 you can see how a professional uses a saw. What took him approximately 90 seconds took me about 20 minutes. I was a little more careful of my fingers. And I was cutting 8 rises, not 5. Anyway, a neat tip with the jigsaw at 7:55. I did that and I feel cool because of it.

How to calculate, layout and build stairs - Part 3 of 3

Part 3 begins with the four stringers already attached by the ledger and floor board. At 0:53 he talks about a strong backer.  I skipped this step since mine are exterior steps.  Notice that, at 2:00, he pulls out a hammer to lightly tap one of the middle stringers so the top is flush with the ledger.  Apparently, he is much better at precision cutting than I am.  He must be a professional or something.  When I tried doing this, I wacked the heck out of my middle string and for the life of me could not get it to fit.  There was a good half-inch of underhang.  Unacceptable!  I ended up pulling out the Skil saw and shaving parts of the middle stringer down until it fit.  That took a lot longer than the 45 seconds shown in the video.  But eventually, I had a similar structure to the one found at 2:45.  (I used deck screws instead of nails because I don't own a nail gun.  The power nailer attachment for the Ridgid tool isn't really powerful enough to use like that.)  My steps are only 3 feet wide, so I only had three stringers instead of his four.  Even so, I found the thing to be crazy heavy and very hard to get into the right place.  I was sorely wishing I had another non-pregnant adult around to help with the positioning of this beast.  But I managed.  Professional Man made it look pretty easy, but keep in mind that I'm a math teacher, not a construction worker.  And I had pressure treated lumber, which I assume is A LOT heavier.  And if you think about it, 8 rises times 3 stringers is 24, where 5 rises times 4 stringers is only 20.  So I was carrying 20% more wood that Professional Man.

Since I wasn't fastening the bottom of the steps to anything, I wanted to make sure the top was very secure.  Instead of just nails/screws into the side board of the deck, I used these angled metal braces that seem to be made for just such an occasion.  Something kind of like this angled metal bracket.  Although it seems to be upside down in this picture.

Now that the stringers were attached to the porch, it was a simple matter of nailing the deck board treads on, right?  Nope.  Remember how I had to finagle the middle stringer so it would fit in the frame between the floor board and the ledger?  Well, the three stringers weren't all level anymore.  The bottom step was fine, but there was an ever increasing see saw effect as the treads made it up the stringers.  I was rather dismayed and didn't know what to do.  At first I thought I had to shave down the middle stringer on every run, but my level revealed that the middle and left stringers were good and the right string was too short.  I'm not sure how that happened, but I REALLY didn't want to shave down two stringers.  Instead, I went for a cheesy shim solution.  Can shims be 1 inch thick?  Mine are.  They'll have to do.
This picture shows the 3 angled brackets holding the stringers.  You can also see one of the the thickest shims under the top step on the right.  You can also see how I needed two 2x4 backers.  Just one would not give me enough surface area to attach to the porch.  The top backer is why I had to shorten the depth of my top step :(  Two flat brackets are there to help keep the top backer to the bottom - without those, I don't believe the top backer would have been attached to the steps at all.  I guess a 2x6 backer would have been a better solution.  So many mistakes!

The power nailer got some serious use during the tread attaching.  That was pretty fun.  It's not that much better than a hammer, but it does reduce the chance of finger injuries and bent nails.  I was glad to have it for so many nails.  Two treads per step, two nails per stringer, eight steps and three stringers total ... we're talking 96 nails.  I wouldn't pull the tool out for a small number of nails, though.

At this point, the Makena tutorials had taken me as far as they could.  I still needed the railing, but I guess that part is fairly self explanitory.  Four 4x4 posts (two per railing), four 2x4 boards, and a bunch of ballasters (32, I think).  The bottom posts are a little wobbly because I didn't bury them - I thought the massive lag screws would be enough, but was wrong.  The top posts are attached to the stringers and the post with perpendicular lag screws, so they're pretty sturdy.  I cut a pyramid on the top of each post to encourage rain water drainage - an added bonus, I like the feel of the softer angles.  I just set the angle of the Skil 30 degrees off the standard perpendicular cut and made one cut per side, 2 inches down.

The right railing is about two inches taller than the left one.  When I put that one up, some of the ballasters didn't quite make it down to the steps.  Gretchen is sad about this and eventually I will lower it to match the other one.  But it's not a priority at this point...

Completed steps!

I'm happy with the end result.  Hiring professionals would have been much faster (this was a four weekend project for me) and given me nicer steps.  But I'm still glad to have had the experience building them.  They're certainly better than the old ones and it was good to save the money.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Back to work! No-sew curtains for the nursery

No more of this taking time off for Christmas nonsense; I am 3 weeks and 1 day away from my due date. Predictably, doing the board and batten right before Christmas did not actually happen. But we made up for it a bit by spending the evening before Christmas Eve making our very first no-sew (or, umm, any kind of) curtains.

In contrast to the mobile, I was pleasantly surprised by how quick and easy this was. It's nice when that happens.

I came across this fabric a few weeks ago on Carousel Design's website:

....and I decided I must have it. I had been thinking of just a plain gray and white chevron, but this was a lot more exciting. And not too expensive, at $7.50 a yard. I ordered 6 yards, and I have enough left over to make a skirt for the crib. I got away with this, however, by making two panels out of the 54" width, which was pushing it a bit. I think I'll be fine with it on these windows, but if I were going for a more formal look I'd want them wider, which would mean ordering twice as much fabric. A dilemma I'm giving a lot of thought to, because I'm hoping to make another set for the dining room soon. 

Anyway. I read through this post on Young House Love before starting, but, honestly, there's not a whole lot to the whole thing once you know that HeatnBond iron-on hem tape exists. You just cut and iron and make four big rectangles, and you have curtains! 

While we were working on them, I told Dave that I think "I wasn't really a perfectionist about this" should be the new subtitle of this blog. We measured so that things would be pretty much the same length and all that, but we knew the panels were going to be all wavy and bunched up in the end, so we didn't worry overmuch about perfectly straight edges or anything. 

I won't get into a step by step tutorial since there are a million of them out there already and since it's pretty much exactly what you expect anyway. Here are a couple of pictures of the process:

We folded it in half and ironed down the seam before cutting it down the middle.

Gavroche thought he should sit on the fabric because he's orange, too. Incidentally, the colors looked darker on the website. I was a little disappointed, but I still like it.

This is what the hem looks like after you make it. No sewing! Exciting!

Our iron was happy to finally have something to do again after a long, LONG vacation.

The whole process took maybe three hours start to finish, and I suspect the next set we make will go faster since we've had some practice. We picked up brushed nickel rods and clips at Lowe's the next day and hung them up. New camera did its best rising to the occasion of taking backlit pictures. Not too much backlight, since the sun hasn't been out here for days:

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas! I got a new camera!

I broke out my big present today because it's my new camera and I NEED it for tomorrow morning. Oh my goodness; I'm in love! It's not a huge upgrade...I had a Canon Rebel XT, and I went with the Rebel T3i this time, opting to stick with a more affordable body to leave more room in the budget for lenses. But between the fact that my old Rebel was showing its age and the improvements they've made in the newer's a BIG difference. I'm amazed at how in focus the pictures I took today are, even though it was a cloudy, rainy day. I'm also astounded at how wide the kit lens opens up (uhh, probably the old kit lens did exactly the same thing; but I haven't used that one for so long I'm not even sure where it is.....I never felt the lack of a wide angle until I started this blog and wanted pics of entire rooms at once). I can take a picture of the whole Christmas tree without lying on the floor now! Anyway, I'm already having an awesome Christmas, me and my new camera, and everyone should be expecting much nicer photos in future blog posts!

Also! My card reading woes are over, because the new camera uses an SD card instead of Compact Flash, and there's a card reader for it built right into my laptop. Whoo hoo!

We spent today visiting with my Dad's side of the family. Tomorrow people (my mom and stepdad plus my brother and sister-in-law) come to us in the morning, and then we've got nowhere to be until late afternoon when we pop down the street to close out Christmas at a friend's house.

And post Christmas is our mad rush to get the nursery finished before Dave's break is over/the baby is born. I will need a lot of breaks from actual nursery work to post about stuff, so there will be lots to see here.

So Merry Christmas to everyone! I'll leave you with a few pictures from my beloved new camera (I want to either name it or write a poem about it. Or both):

Check out Gavroche the kitty....rainy day and I didn't even open the blinds first! This is with my old cheapy 50 mm fixed lens.

And never before seen in a photograph: my ENTIRE dining room! All at once! I just stood there, opened up the lens, and took the picture! I didn't clean the dining room first. But you're probably too excited about seeing the whole Advent calendar in one fell swoop to even notice that.

And when you turn the camera the other way? You can take a picture of Gable AND the Christmas tree without even leaving the den. And flash, dark outside, room with a frustrating lack of overhead lights, and it's STILL pretty in focus. Have I mentioned that I love my new camera?

Friday, December 21, 2012

DIY Mobile: a tutorial with many pictures

Warning! This post will contain approximately 4 million pictures because 1. tutorial! and 2. mobiles are fun to take pictures of.

If one is in search of a mobile for one's baby's nursery, one can do a quick Etsy search and find many beautiful and pricy mobiles to choose from. Quite a few of them are made out of colorful circles such as the ones you see above. They looked, to me, like the sort of thing I might be able to make myself. And I could. Although, after actually buying all the materials and putting the thing together, I understand a bit better why people charge $50 and $60 for them on Etsy, I have to say. It wasn't particularly difficult to make, but it was tedious and time consuming, and I was a bit surprised at how much I wound up spending on materials.

First I looked around for tutorials online and pinned a couple. I liked the look of this one from E Tells Tales:

....but I also liked this one from Dan and Brit:

and it had the added advantage of looking a little less complicated to make. So I used it as my main inspiration/basic template. 

First up a trip to Hobby Lobby for materials:

I used a 40% off coupon for the circle punch. I briefly contemplated just tracing something and cutting out all the circles by hand, but that seemed like an awful lot of work, so I sucked it up and spent....maybe $14 or so after the coupon? (I should save receipts!) on the punch that makes perfect 3 inch circles for you. I have no idea when I'll ever use it again, but I guess I should try to find another circle intensive project now, since I have it. 

Other materials:
*double sided tape (I saw a lot of tutorials where people sewed their cardstock together, but I'm all about tape. Like Ramona Quimby, I feel that there isn't much scotch tape can't do)
*embroidery hoop: you just use the inside circle from this
*some kind of string or thread: most people seem to use fishing line, but I got this thick thread instead
*cardstock: I picked three different much  you need depends on how long and full you want your mobile. I wound up using 7 sheets of each color
*ribbon (for hanging from ceiling)
*spray paint (not pictured)--assuming you want to paint your embroidery hoop to match. I used some gray I already had.
*glue gun (also not pictured)

Then you start punching out circles. I was not a perfectionist at all about my circles. I sort of prioritized maximizing the cardstock (I was surprised how much the cardstock cost when I bought so much....I think I spent around $15 on it all together) rather than perfect circles. So a lot of them have a little chip missing. Which you'll notice in the pictures but, which, since they have two sides, doesn't really show when you look at it all hung up from a slight distance.

When you're tired of punching out circles and want to do something else for awhile, you can start making your strips of circles:

First you cut a length of string (as long as you want! It's your mobile! I did them long enough to put 7 circles on each, with just a little space between each circle). Then put down a circle under the string, with a piece of double sided tape running down the middle.

And then put another circle on top of the bottom one, to hide the string.

Eventually, your strands will look like this.

So you keep going until you have a million strands. Or, in my case, I think I wound up with something like 18. It just depends on the size of your embroidery hoop and how far apart you put the strands. I initially thought I'd put them farther apart, but then I liked the look of them really close together with some overlapping, so I wound up back at Hobby Lobby buying more cardstock.

Once you have all your strands ready (uhh, or really anytime) spray paint the embroidery hoop if you're going to do that. 

And once it's dry, start attaching the strands. 

I just positioned the string from the strand where I wanted it and then attached it with a little dot of hot glue. I was nervous it wouldn't hold well enough (as is evidenced by the unnecessary masking tape in that second picture), but so far, so good. Hot glue is amazing. Also--two hot glue projects, and I've only burned myself once! 

This part, honestly, is kind of a pain. It's not hard, really, but there are just so many strings and circles everywhere trying to get twisted up (although they untwist surprisingly easily), and I had to hold the hoop in place while the glue dried before I could turn it and do the next strand. But I got there eventually. It might have taken me a few days. I didn't measure the spacing between the strands. Had I spaced them out farther, it probably would have been a good idea, but since I was going for the overlapping, crowded look, it didn't really matter. I just eyeballed it. 

Eventually, things will start to look like this:

When you FINALLY have all your strands attached, you're ready to attach the ribbon. More hot glue!

I put a little dot on the inside, then wrapped around and put another dot on the outside of the hoop. Then crossed the ribbon over and did the same thing on the other side. Then used another ribbon going the other direction and did the same thing. Hold on....a picture might be helpful here:

So the strings made kind of an X at the top where they intersected and attached to the ceiling. 

And you're finished! Screw a hook into the ceiling and hang that sucker up! And then take a whole bunch of pretty pictures from a million different angles to show off your handywork!