25 September 2013

3 months 'til Christmas

I got a sewing machine for my birthday from my Mom, and this is the first thing I've done with it.  I'm not one who sews, but I'm starting to learn.  Christmas present number one, done!  I'd seen these online, and knew I had to make a dragon hat for Aaron.  I didn't follow a pattern at all, and used scraps of red and navy fleece to piece it all together.  It was a learning experience, for sure, but considering it was the first thing I made, it turned out pretty awesome!

05 September 2013

Step One: Re-cover Dining Room Chairs

I debated whether to begin my living room update with curtains or captain's chairs.  I had decided on curtains, then cut and pressed the fabric, when I discovered I had no thread.  So, by default, tonight's labor was focused on re-covering the first of nine dining room chairs.

My plan is to use the two antique captain's chairs I inherited from my grandmother to create a sitting area which will replace one of our ratty "couches" (a broken sectional disguised with pillows, a well-placed toy box, and a throw blanket), so I figured I would start with one of them and get to the standard dining chairs later in the update.

The chair was in good shape; it did have a few scratches and dings in it, but not enough that I have any interest in refinishing it.  My major issue with the chairs is the cushion fabric:  it, like just about everything else in my grandmother's house, was pink and had to go.
 I began by turning the chair upside down and removing the screws -- one in each corner -- that held the seat to the body.  Easy peasy.
 Next, I started pulling out the staples that held this black stuff -- which, I'm sure, has a technical name -- to the wood.   (Essentially, it covers the raw edges of the upper fabric and hides the webbing underneath.)  This would have been easier with a staple remover, but, since I didn't have one, I used the screwdriver to pull up the staples.  Also, while the seat was off, I got some wood oil and gave the entire chair some TLC.  It shined up quite nicely!
 I then removed the staples from the fabric, which were securing the fabric to the underside of the wood frame.  Once I got going, I saw that the frame was already riddled with staple holes.  My guess is that this is at least the third (and maybe fourth) time this chair has been re-done.  Somehow, that made me love it even more!
 Underneath, I found some interesting stuff that I had to Google.  First off, I expected to find a seat made of solid wood with foam on top.  Instead, I found woven webbing topped with burlap, then some kind of upholstery filling or batting on top of that.  Apparently, webbing like that is pretty common and is supposed to make for a more comfortable seat, which certainly fits my purpose.
 The filling was another matter entirely.  Most websites I'd seen recommended using foam core for the seat; my mother has recently re-covered her (similar) chairs and simply used cotton batting.  Whatever this is, it was kind of delicate and crumbly, and looked sketchy.  I still don't have a name for it.  But...it is sturdy, soft, and comfy!  I sniffed it; no odor.  And, ultimately, I decided to re-use it, and the chair is very pleasant to sit on.
 Next, I used the fabric I had removed from the chair as a guide to cut my new fabric.  I LOVE this fabric.  And I really love how it looks modern, but it's not permanent...it doesn't seem like it will be a big deal to re-do these chairs in a few years if I love it no more!  I had read that it wasn't hugely important to get a perfect cut, since the edges of the fabric would be hidden under the edge of the seat, so I didn't really bother much with that, as you can see in the photo.

After cutting, I chose to ScotchGard the fabric.  I went back and forth on this, but ultimately I tested a small piece of fabric and was completely amazed to see droplets of water bead onto it and not soak in.  With small kids in the house, I figured this protection was a must.
After that, the process was shockingly easy.  I stretched the fabric around the wood base with the original filling (pulling it pretty tight) and stapled it in place.  Then I used the same piece of black stuff I had removed to cover the raw edges of the fabric and screwed the seat back into the base.  Boom!  Done!  I know that people do this all the time, but it was my first try, and I am incredibly impressed with the results.  From start to finish, I would say this took less than an hour.

There are imperfections; my seat has bumps, and I am not 100% sure the fabric is aligned perfectly.  Still, I'm pretty happy with what I got, and I assume my second captain's chair will turn out even better. As soon as I get it done, I will post pictures of my little sitting area!

Living and Dining Room Makeovers

We've lived in our house for close to six years now, and the process of making it our own has been a lot slower than for most people.  We started with paint, but even that was spread out over the course of several years.  We have gotten new furniture, but it's always been hand-me-downs that we worked into our decor:  a new couch from my brother, a new table and chairs from my grandmother, some bookcases from my parents.  My mother-in-law made us some valances the first month we lived here, and they haven't been changed since.  I genuinely think I have spent $0 on decorating improvements like pillows, rugs, wall art, and knick knacks.  All our major work and purchases have been to our kids' rooms, changing the decor and furniture as they aged out of cribs.  The master bedroom and bathroom, plus our common areas (kitchen, dining room, and living room), have been largely untouched except for the addition of furniture and the updating of family photos.

This summer, the hubby and I decided that we could spring a little (key word) bit of money for improvements, and that they would aim to spruce up the living room and dining room.  To save money, everything we are doing is upcycling and DIYing.  Our total budget for the project is currently $300, but I have only spent $225 and hope to be able to swing another $100 or so in another few months.  Here are the challenges I had to work with:

  1. Our house has an open floor plan; the kitchen, dining room, living room, and eat-in kitchen are all part of a big circle with our pantry as a divider in the middle.  The color scheme for this area -- more than half the house -- has to coordinate without getting old.
  2. We can't afford to buy new, or even nice used, furniture.  (I discovered quickly that furniture purchases would take huge chunks out of our budget.)  So we are re-using and re-styling as much as possible.  I'm starting with the living room.  We currently have, to the naked eye, two couches and a love seat.  One couch used to be white before my kids got ahold of it; it's sort of a variegated cream color now.  The other "couch" and "love seat" are actually two pieces of a broken sectional that we disguise with cushions.  One part has a broken back, so it needs to sit against a wall; the other has a sunken area that we stuff with homemade cushions. 
  3. The open floor plan means lots of windows...four standard-sized ones in the living room and one triple-wide one in the kitchen.  All our panels have to coordinate, and purchasing that many panels at $10-$30 a pop wasn't practical for the budget either...so, again, I'm going to have to aim for homemade.

Here are some photos of the living room as it currently stands:

My master plan for improvements is multi-step:
  1. Ditch the brown "couches" (the broken sectional).  [Cost:  $0]
  2. Steam clean and fabric protect the white couch, just to spruce it up. [Cost:  $11 for the ScotchGard and cleaning fluid]
  3. Bring two captain's chairs from the dining room into the living room to replace one couch; re-cover them with a nice fabric, and set up a little sitting area with a small round table I currently have in the bedroom. [Cost:  $24 for fabric from Hobby Lobby]
  4. Get an old wingback chair out of storage from my grandmother; buy a nice slipcover, and use it to replace the "love seat" under the window.  (Side note:  the chair is currently pink.  I checked, and it will cost $300-$400, plus fabric, to re-upholster it.  It's a nice chair, but that's not an option for right now.) Move the ottoman/toy box under the window for extra seating/table, and put a cute half-priced tray on top for magazines. [Cost:  $75]
  5. Move the coffee table in front of the white couch to open up the walkway to the back door. (On another side note, we hope to also spend some time -- later -- improving our porch and back yard to make it more appealing.)  [Cost:  $0]
  6. Ditch the old, beat-up, stained, faded throw pillows, blankets, and floor pillows, and make new ones.  [Cost:  $20 for fabric]
  7. Ditch the dated brown valances and make floor-length curtains out of neutral canvas duck; stamp a lattice pattern in burnt orange along the bottom (for interest, but not too overwhelming, since I'll have eight panels in the room).  [Cost:  $150 for fabric, stencils, paint, and curtain rods]
I've already bought the bulk of my supplies.  I need a little more curtain fabric, curtain rods, and the slip cover, but I have enough to get started.  I think the project will realistically take several weeks, since I'll mostly be working at night after the kids are in bed and if there's nothing else on my plate.  But hopefully, there will be a huge improvement, and once the living room projects are done, I can move on to the dining room!