Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Quick DIY: Quarry Tile Coasters

Having spent a not insignificant amount of time recently, handpainting furniture, I've become rather conscious of hot drinks (actually ANY drinks) making rings on my lovely paint finish. Time for some coasters.....

I picked up a couple of creamy/chalky quarry style tiles from the clearance section at B&Q for 50p each for this project :) But already I'm planning on keeping my thrifting radar on alert for some handmade/vintage tiles with a bit of quirk and uniqueness so I can make some more. These could even make a cute little gift made from some pretty vintage tiles and tied with some great ribbon or twine. Super quick and easy...

1) You'll need a tile(s), felt, masking tape and some suitable spray adhesive
2) Mask the edges of the tiles to avoid getting spray adhesive on the outside edge
3) Line the tape up with the bottom edge leaving just the base exposed
4) Spray the bottoms of the tiles with adhesive, place base down on the felt and weight down. Leave to dry.
5) Remove masking tape, trim excess felt around the tile with a craft knife and you're done

These look great teamed with our newly painted bedside tables and I don't have to panic about where to put my morning coffee if I'm luck enough to get brought one...(sometimes it happens peops!). I'm gonna be looking out for some glazed vintage/retro tiles to make a set for the lounge too.

Do you like our new lounge wallpaper btw?


Monday, August 27, 2012

Thrifty Finds # 36 - Vintage curtains and linens

Whilst sorting through my fabric stash I rediscovered some vintage curtains/linens I just couldn't bring myself to leave languishing in the charity shop....

1) Vintage Double Duvet set £2 - I'm envisioning something similar to this....a girl after my own heart. Duvet covers as dressmaking fodder!
2) Vintage upholstery fabric £5 - I have a good amount of this but as yet no firm plans as it doesn't really fit in with our decor! Maybe a "carpet" bag with wooden handles?
3) Vintage curtains £3 for the pair - I just adore the the colours, the Scandinavian feel of the print and the pixelated style of the pattern. I had hoped to turn this into some cushions for our lounge. Unfortunately J HATES it (git!) so it's currently sitting in my stash awaiting inspiration!
4) Vintage Curtains £3 for the Pair - I ADORE this fabric. The colours and the brush and pen strokes effect created by the screen printing process. It's quite lightweight for curtain material and a good weight for dressmaking. I think I may use it to have another stab at Cynthia Rowley 2512. It was one of my first ever dressmaking projects and if I'd thought ahead about the bulk in the waistband I would probably have finished it! (sewing inexperience!). I think I'm ready for another stab at that one now!

I could get quite evangelical about sourcing fabric from charity shops! It really is a great way to source unusual prints and patterns and bag a seriously decent amount of fabric for what you would pay for half a metre in a fabric shop. Duvet sets and curtains are great sources, even blankets. Depending on the weight of the fabric, use them for muslins/toiles, as fully fledged garments, bags and accessories.

Oh, and while you're at it, if you happen to nab a quality made set of curtains that have weights in them, they make great little pattern weights to hold down tissue patterns for tracing or cutting...


Friday, August 24, 2012

A quick DIY for The Little Tornado....

Elliott has a great imagination for play. Really, you should hear some of the conversations his toys have with eachother, and he has a collection of voices that he uses too. So funny! Unfortunately I don't have the same childlike imagination when it comes to pushing cars around on a rug! When he wanted to play with his collection of cars yesterday (inherited from his Dad, uncles, cousins, even some that belonged to his Grandfather) I found my mind drifting to what we could use as a road, when I had a bit of a eureka moment...

I dug out some gaffer tape and a couple of rolls of electrical tape from the shed....

We often use a bit of white furniture board (you know, the thin bendy board that is tacked to the back of cheap flat pack furniture) so that Elliott has a flat surface to do puzzles and drawing/painting etc. We don't have room for a table in our house and this bit of board slides away under the sofa when not in use. It took me about 10 mins and a few strips of tape to whip up this little play road. Complete with road markings and zebra crossings.....

Elliott was ridiculously excited by something so simple and spent the next hour or so running Lego pedestrians over and causing pile ups at junctions. Such a gentle child....;)


Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Sewing Space - An easy way to store fabric...

My mission to overhaul my sewing space continues; and a project that has been long overdue is sorting through my stash of fabric. I'm probably about half way through it at the moment but thought I'd take the opportunity to share how I keep my fabrics neatly stored and stacked without causing a "fabric avalanche" every time I need to take a bolt of fabric out from the middle of the pile....!

To be honest, it's not rocket science but this way of stacking means that my piles of fabric stack exactly onto my shelving and are much easier to access and move about too. Essentially I cut cardboard inserts to the dimensions of my shelving. In this case I want to fit 2 piles of fabric side by side on each shelf. So I divide the width of my shelf by 2. Then I deduct 1/2" from this measurement to allow for the thickness of the fabric once it's wrapped around the card. This will give me the width of my card insert. The depth of my card insert is the same as the depth of my shelf, but again with 1/2" deducted to allow for fabric wrapping....

Then it's as simple as wrapping the fabric around the card insert as follows....

Pin  the loose edge in place and you're done. I find this method quick and simple and it stops fabric from flopping about all over the place when it's piled up, and it makes the fabric easier to move about and access. Plus I can see at a glance what I have, which avoids me going out and buying more fabric because I didn't realise what I already had!
What's your top storage or organisation tip for your sewing space?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Getting my house in Order # 4 - Making Progress

Hooray, we've finished the "main" stuff in the lounge! The aim was to go for a blend of neutral tones and whilst I loved the colour of this dark wood unit, J was adamant he wanted it much lighter. I can see his point I guess. Our lounge is not particularly big and darker colours can close the room up in theory. So this was my first job. The veneer was real wood so it was easy enough to sand and took the paint well. I opted to line the insides with my bargain Laura Ashley wallpaper to save me having to paint the insides as well. (It doesn't actually match the room scheme but as the inside is only visible when you open the doors, I wasn't too worried about that. The unit itself was easy enough. The glazed doors were a bit of a pig if I'm honest! This job took me several days, as the unit is around 6ft long and it took 3 coats of primer, and 3 layers of topcoat because it was so dark to begin with.....

Here's the finished unit. I was sooooo glad to get this one finished.......

Next up was the actual decorating. I painted the ceiling and coving as J has pretty nasty rheumatoid arthritis and painting the ceiling would have been far too painful for him. Pig of a job too! Painting white emulsion on an already white (textured, ugh!!!) ceiling was tricky. Difficult to see where you've been and as it dries it looks as if you've missed patches everywhere. Add in my dislike of teetering on stools and it's a recipe for much swearing. I've actually concluded that I do not like decorating! Luckily J was able to take over the painting of the walls and woodwork AND hanging the wallpaper....

What a hero! I think he's done a great job and we're really pleased with the finished effect....

AND, not to be left out...

Throughout the past few weeks my Summerhouse (aka my sewing space) has become a dumping ground for various paints and tools and bits of furniture. It was starting to grate on my nerves to the point where I thought it might be months before I'd ever get any sewing done again. If ever! Ok, maybe a bit melodramatic. But I am seriously having stitching withdrawal. Seriously! I'm getting agitated and snappy and everything! Not good. Something had to be done to calm my frayed nerves. So I set about overhauling my sewing space; and it's turned into something of a mission. It is so transformed in fact that I might actually finally get around to sharing a little tour of my space on this blog at last ;) Here's one project I finished up the other day. Some tatty shelving from a now defunct Billy bookcase. A fresh coat of paint on the top and then tarted up with some wallpaper underneath after I saw this idea on Apartment Therapy (I love that site! I mean, who DOESN'T love a nosey round other peoples houses?!)....

Anyhow, I'm off to sort through my fabric and pattern stash. Purging I am peops. PUUUUURGING!

Oooh She's Cheap # 3 - Contemporary plant displays

As part of our push to add some decorative detail to our blank canvas of a home, I wanted to include some life in terms of houseplants. Now I'm ok in the garden but when it comes to houseplants I have a track record of killing them off in a very short space of time. Succulents, I'm assured by online guides, are very forgiving  plants and virtually indestructible. Well that remains to be seen. But they are super pretty and come in some very interesting forms, shapes and colours. I like the way they look in sleek and simple contemporary containers. Here's some I found online from BHS of all places! Cute huh?

Well, as you know, I'm not one to shop on the High Street when I think I can save money by shopping elsewhere and come up with a cheaper DIY alternative. Well, whilst we were on holiday in the Isle of Wight I came across this little group of miniature succulents on a charity plant stall at just £1 each. While J rolled his eyes when he saw me trapsing back to the car with a tray of plants (he had that "why can't you just buy a fridge magnet like a normal person" look on his face) I had plans for these little babies....

With some ceramic pots from my local charity shop at 50p each, and some white aquarium gravel as top dressing (£4 for 2kg from a nearby aquatics centre so I have LOADS left), I'm rather pleased with the result AND they cost a fraction of what I would have paid on the High Street...

Now I know they're a little smaller than the High St alternative, but given time I'm hopeful that they'll grow into a super display....Hmmm....does checking them every few hours make them grow any faster?!
The one in the square planter was super tricky to repot. The leaves are really delicate and kept snapping off! I'm hoping it will rejuvenate itself in time. Anyone out there got any knowledge of succulents? I've given them plenty of drainage underneath and a specialist compost to give them the best chance of thriving. I really don't want to kill these off!



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Getting my House in Order # 3 - Behind closed doors...

First off I apologise for the shocking quality of the photos in this post. One of the reasons I've never really shared any photos on here that have been taken inside our home, is that the light just isn't conducive to decent photos. So, well, sorry!
If you're a regular reader you'll be aware that normal sewing activity has been put on hold for the summer as we spruce up our home and try and get it working for us in the best way possible. We live in a very small property with practically no decent storage built in. When we moved here we had to try and fit in the contents of a 3 bedroom detached house into our 2 bedroom bungalow. Add to that the ever growing collection of toys the Little Tornado seems to accumulate, and you can probably understand that STORAGE is an ever present dilemma. I hate clutter and mess. I find it oppressive and find myself getting agitated. (You wouldn't like me when I'm agitated. Heck, I don't even like me when I'm agitated!) The old adage "a place for everything, and everything in it's place" is sooooo true. I find that if things have a "home" I find it easy to keep things tidy. The problem with a property that has little or no built in storage (and little space to add any), is finding a home for everything. You just end up with random piles of "stuff" dotted around with nowhere to go. We all have a junk drawer/cupboard/bowl (delete as appropriate) somewhere in our homes, right? Receipts, packs of cards, Euros from last years holiday, earphones, screws that we might need one day, chargers for phones we no longer own.......rummaging through stuff to find a screwdriver or some batterries that I know I've seen somewhere..... well I decided some time ago that enough was enough.

I've been on an "organising" drive these past few weeks and have been finding creative ways to maximise the storage that we do have. One of the conclusions that I've come to is  that the humble old cupboard door has storage potential just waiting to be unleashed. With a few screws and fixings I've used the insides of our kitchen cupboard doors to organise and make it easy to access the stuff that we use on a daily basis, and free up storage space inside the cupboards in the process...

With a few screws and miniature bulldog clips at 15p each from our local post office; I've put an end to hunting around for J's prescriptions and hospital appointment letters. The shopping list is at hand for when I open the cupboard and find out we've run out of something, and money off vouchers are there to grab before I head off to the shop. Now I just need to print off an A5 size planner to pin up and fill in at the start of each week and we're good to go....

Left: These cutlery holders from Ikea (erm mine were only 50p each from the charity shop though, hehe! fixed to the inside of the door keep all my everyday cleaning materials to hand, and free up space under the sink (that part I'm still organising!)
Middle: I used tool clips and cup hooks from my local hardware store to keep everyday diy tools to hand so that if a little job crops up I can do it there and then instead of putting it off because I can't find the  screwdriver. The miniature screwdriver kit is velcro'd to the door and is in constant use with Elliott's toys constantly needing repair or new batteries
Right: A simple cup hook to store chopping boards, racks etc

Tool clips, cup hooks and bulldog clips. Cheap as chips to buy but are now my new sanity saving heroes. Erm, if you do fancy organising your cabinets like this, a word of warning from someone who learnt the hard way. Don't eyeball it. Double check the length of your screw against the width of your cupboard door. Wouldn't want a hole right through to the outside would you....ahem! (Yes. Yes I did. It's only a teeny one though and I don't think J has actually noticed yet. Shhhh!)

And what about this canny idea for your fridge door.......

Haven't had to rummage around for a pen since. Not mine this one. I shamelessly copied it from here....



Thursday, August 09, 2012

Handpainted Furniture - Step by Step

When I first started painting secondhand furniture back in my teens, my youthful impatience meant that the most thought I put into it was what was the cheapest tin of cream gloss I could get down at Wilkinsons. My next criteria was whether I could get away with just putting one thick coat of the stuff on, and to hell with sanding, brush marks and stray brush hairs that would fall out from my equally cheap brushes and stay embedded in the paint for all eternity.
Part of that was to do with a youngster's budget. But I've always been an impatient sort, especially back then. Always eager to race to the finish line rather than enjoy the process itself. It's a trait that manifested itself when I first started sewing too. Over the years though I've become more interested in taking the time to get it right, with each stage of a project. Be that sewing, painting furniture or whatever else I decide to apply myself to. So that I don't spend the rest of my time, thinking I should've taken the time in the first place! (We've all been there right? That dodgy seam that it's too late to unpick now because, heck, it wouldn't notice once it's finished, right? But WE know it's there, and it's mocking us for our slap dashery every time we look at it, mwah ha ha ha ha ... ;)
So, the process I'm about to share is not a quick one. It involves (yawn) allowing paint to set hard overnight, and (double yawn) sanding between coats and such like. BUT, when I take the time to follow this process properly, I'm only ever chuffed with the finished piece. In fact, when I'm sure there's no-one around, you could catch me running my hand over bits of furniture....ahem...everyone does that don't they...? : /
So here goes. My top tips for a finish you'll want to keep running your hands over again and again......


Stage One - Prepping and sanding

1. Remove all hardware. Handles, hinges, drawer runners, door catches. The lot. (seriously who can be arsed to paint around them?!)
2. Keep all screws and fixings together in a safe place
3. Wearing a mask and eye protection (Please at least wear a mask. I made myself VERY ill a few years ago because I didn't bother) Go at it with your sander (or sanding block if you're not as lazy as me!) like a thing possessed! I start with a 180 grit pad and depending on how effective that is I'll either stick with it or try a slightly more or less coarse grade of pad.  If you go too coarse you can end up grinding ridges into the wood. NOT a good look. You're sanding just to take the surface finish off so the primer paint has something to adhere to....

Kinda like this....obviously darker stained/varnished woods will look slightly different, and untreated wood will require very little sanding at all....but you get the gist....

1. Once you've finished sanding you'll need a lint free cloth dampened with white spirit or turps
2. Dust off any excess sawdust with a brush then wipe down thoroughly with your damp cloth

Here're my bedside tables all ready for priming...

Stage Two - Priming

1. Dismantle what you can. Take doors and drawer fronts off for painting etc. It's much easier to paint them and then put them back on than it is to cut in around door edges, drawer carcasses etc
2. I never fork out for specialist primers. IMHO they're pricey and not necessary (melamine primer is one exception though. That is genius!) On wood furniture I always use humble 'ole matt emulsion as a primer AND as topcoat. For use as a primer you want it watered down a bit at approx a 3:1 ratio of paint to water. You're aiming for a consistency similar to Salad Cream!  Just stick it in a big jar, add the water, put the lid back on and give it a vigorous shake. I also like to use sponge "brushes" as you don't get the brush marks in the paint like you do with standard brushes. But at this stage it's not vital as the primer will get sanded smooth in the next step.

Paint the piece with 2-3 coats of primer allowing to dry thoroughly between coats and letting the final coat of primer set overnight. Then before you move onto the next step remove all jewelry (if you haven't already) as until the paint is sealed in the last step, you can mark it quite easily with rings, bracelets etc. I've even had coloured nail varnish make a mark (I'm a glam DIYer oh yes sireee!)...

1. Your primer coat will have very fine bits of dust and grit in it when you look closely or run your hand over it. We don't want that! You'll need a 280-400 grit (fine) sandpaper. Start finer, and go down a grade if you need to.
2. With a gentle sweeping/circular motion, gently sand the surface. Constantly running your (ring free!) free hand over it as you go to gauge the smoothness you are achieving. You'll be amazed at how little effort is needed. The paint will come off like chalk, so be gentle, especially on the edges and corners, as you want to avoid sanding back to the wood as much as possible. Once you're done, dust off any powdery paint with a brush and wipe down with a slightly damp cloth.
3. This technique uses matt emulsion as a top coat too. (the latter stages of this technique do not work with any other kind of emulsion other than matt emulsion. Or with kitchen/bathroom formulas) Water it down a little (about 6:1 this time) in a large jar. Shaking vigorously again. Watered down paint is much easier to work with. It goes on more smoothly and the brush marks are less obvious. Again, using a sponge brush reduces the lines in the paint even more.
4. I decant my paint into a plastic food storer a little at a time so I can stick the lid on between coats and don't make a mess of my paint jar every time I put the brush in and out.

Stage Three - Top Coat

1. When adding your top coat brush the paint on first in one direction (across in this instance)
2. Then gently drag the brush (without additional paint on it so it's damp only) in the opposite direction, at right angles to your initial brush strokes...

It's tricky to photograph the effect this has. If you are able to enlarge this photo then you may be able to see in more detail. Hopefully you can see that the second downward stroke smooths out the more obvious brush lines...

I prefer to do 3 light coats of topcoat rather than 1 thick one...

Stage Four - Finishing (aka "where the magic happens!!")

This is the part that really makes the piece look super delicious and worthy of lots of stroking...ahem. Ok, maybe that's just me. Anyway....

1. Using a 400-600 grit (very fine) wet and dry sandpaper, wet the sandpaper and the surface you are sanding with clean water, and in gentle small circular motions sand the surface. You'll see the paint start to mix with the water and make it cloudy. Go gently!
2. Wipe the liquid away with a lint free cloth and marvel at the magic!

Again, tricky to photograph, but hopefully you can see how the brush marks have blended into eachother here. (Try enlarging this photo if you can) This is after just one go with the wet and dry sandpaper. You can repeat this step until you are happy with the finish but be careful not to sand all the layers of topcoat back...
Once finished, allow to dry thoroughly and then wipe down with a clean, lint free cloth.
Finally.....

1. With a wood balsam, rub a generous amount into your surface in circular motions..
2. Buff with a clean, lint free cloth or according to product instructions. Allow to set hard overnight before placing anything on the surface.
3. This is the stuff I use. It smells just divine. (Beeswax, linseed oil etc) Approx £3 from our local hardware store or...hang on...I've just realised you can get it at Tesco's for £2.20!! Buggar!

You can repeat this step as many times as you like. Just leave a few hours inbetween to allow each coat to set after you've buffed it. The more coats of this you put on, the harder and more durable your finish will be...

Just look at the sheen on that! I much prefer the sheen that a beeswax/balsam finish gives to that of say, a clear varnish, and it's unbelievably durable too. No brushmarks, and often a "clear" varnish isn't actually clear at all and can alter the finished colour of your piece with a slight yellowy tinge...the balsam finish is quicker, easier, smells nicer, and you can keep using it every month or so to preserve your the beauty of your finished piece...

...and there you have it. My own personal method of revamping tired old furniture with a simple tub of matt emulsion. No fancy paints or messy varnishes. As Alexander would say...Simples!!  ;)


Monday, August 06, 2012

Getting My House in Order # 2 - Bedside Tables (Part 2)

So, my nails are a mess, I've sustained several mosquito bites, and our garden is strewn with painting and sanding paraphernalia. But this weekend I finished revamping the two bedside tables we bought on Ebay, and I have to say I'm pretty chuffed with the result :)
I opted for a very pale grey, mixed from some Fired Earth Chalky White and some B&Q Slate Grey emulsion we already had. So I hope J doesn't expect me to match this colour anytime soon because I have no idea of the ratios! I just dumped a bit of both paints in a large jar, put the lid on and shook furiously, decided it looked about right and off I went. Despite my rather slapdash approach to colour selection they look fab in our bedroom and tone perfectly with the wallpaper sample we have blu tacked to our wall and the new lampshades that are still awaiting the perfect lamp bases to go with them. I like to think of it as a natural instinct for colour.....(ha ha, NOT!) that's what I'm telling myself anyway!

I found these handles on ebay for a mere £1.45 each with free postage. Score! They remind me a little of grosgrain ribbon :) What's great in terms of fitting into the room scheme we have planned is that they echo other details. There's a metallic element to the wallpaper we're going for, and they pick up on the vertical pleats of our lampshades and the horizontal ribbon tucks of our bedding....

I managed to achieve a nice clean finish on the drawer fronts because the way they were constructed allowed me to dismantle the drawers and paint them seperately. I didn't want to go for an overtly "distressed" look on the paint finish so there are just a few subtle areas that kind of came about naturally during the finishing process, and the existing nicks and scratches on the wood kind of enhance that without it looking like it's particularly contrived. Not really visible in these photos is the subtle sheen achieved with this particular technique (a step by step on that to follow just in case anyone's interested) All in all I'm a happy bunny with the way this project has turned out.
Unfortunately there's no rest for the wicked and I'm still painting, still getting mosquito bites (how do they find the one spot you haven't smothered in repellant!!) and still trashing my nails.  I've begun work on our 6ft sideboard, a cute vintage chair that I rescued from the recycling centre and a mirror that I picked up at the charity shop. Then after that there's ceilings, walls and woodwork to paint and wallpaper to put up. All with a nutty toddler running around. We are  frickin' knackered!



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