Blood, Sweat and Teardrops

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This morning the girls woke up to a special surprise outside. Late last night, my husband’s cousin and his girlfriend rolled into town and parked in our kindly neighbor’s driveway with their brand-new handmade teardrop camper. I had no idea this was a thing until we saw Hunter and Sarah at a family wedding last fall and they began excitedly telling us about their dream of heading cross-country and showing us online pics of all these beautiful little trailers people are making themselves. You can buy plans online, but Hunter and Sarah built the camper pretty much to the specifications of a drawing Hunter made. They funded much of the materials and the trip through friends and family via a successful GoFundMe campaign, and faced more than a few setbacks, including someone crashing the trailer the camper sits on and a last-minute exhaust leak, but they finally hit the road yesterday from Rhode Island. They were with us for only few short hours, but we were so pleased to be their first stop and the girls loved exploring the inside of the trailer, which is outfitted with awesome cabinets and sweet linens and curtains made by Hunter’s sister. Talk about DIY. We wish them well on their travels south and then west! They’ll be documented at https://teardroptravel.wordpress.com/.

#quiltproblems

My husband says he’s going to have an intervention. Over the past two weeks, he’s on multiple occasions accused me of not listening, of “getting a lost look” in my eyes, which he says he knows is me working out a problem… a quilt problem. And he’s right. Quilting has turned out to be a mathematical mindfuck.

Aside from the challenge of working with two different block designs and making sure that once sewn, they both end up the same exact size because I planned to alternate them in rows, there was the challenge of figuring out how much yardage to buy for the quilt back. How many times did I scrawl on a piece of paper a 45-inch by 72-inch rectangle to represent the two (not enough!) yards of tiny floral print cotton I purchased for the back, deduce that I needed to cut strips that were 60 inches long to sew together to make the length and then cut strips that were 50 inches!? This is what happens when you try measuring and cutting while two small people demand sippy cups instead of big-girl cups, water instead of milk and yogurt-covered raisins in the GREEN BOWL, MOM! And yell at me for picking the wrong fucking episode of Scooby Doo and not being able to work the Netflix remote. So my first lesson learned here in this phase of quilting is measure three times, cut once. And of course, use the green bowl.

For the quilt top, once Skye (benefactor of said quilt) and I figured out what we wanted our blocks to look like, I cut like a thousand pieces and laid them all out for her and told her to make 8 nine-square blocks and 7 diamond-in-square blocks. So I made the kid work for it. And she loved it. After I stitched each one, she ironed them. Once we had our 15 9-inch by 9-inch blocks, we laid them out on her bed, and I decided to piece them together in a grid defined by 3-inch-wide strips of this awesome white-on-white polka dot fabric I’d bought. We liked the contrast of the white strips so much we decided to make the entire border in the same fabric.

The bigger the quilt top got, the harder it was, of course, to sew. So after much layering of pieces and smoothing, I pinned every three inches or so on the seam. I learned my lesson because inevitably the fabric will get away from you and fly all over the place as you sew, which is why you must roll up the left side of the quilt to make it easier to move across the machine.

Anyway, we now have a fully assembled quilt top. Next up: assembling the quilt and well, quilting! IMG_0667

 

Wanna Be Startin’ Something’

IMG_0620Last week I launched a blog. But why, at 36 and in 2016, when there are millions of DIY blogs written by crafty mommies would I do this? Well, for starters, every good name I ever came up with for one had already been taken. So I put it off. Because I do that. Then I discovered a list from last year stating that one of my “goals” for 2015 was to “start something.” Which I didn’t really do, unless you count streaming workouts (also a required activity for 36-year-old moms). Anyway, I’ve been meaning to start blogging my adventures in crafting and home projects mainly to document my own mistakes, so that I (and perhaps others) can learn from them. When I get into a project, I don’t always prepare or have the right tools, and I ultimately learn by trial and error.

My goals for 2016: slow down, learn how to make pizza dough, and start quilting, with the ultimate goal of making a quilt for my 5-year-old’s bedroom. I’ve yet to slow down. The pizzas are tasting pretty good. And a few weeks ago I took an intro to quilting class to learn some basic quilting skills. We made a pillow, which was beautiful, but for the steep $65 price of another class, I decided I could purchase a few materials and essential tools to get started at home. My mother-in-law loaned me the Betters Homes and Gardens Complete Guide to Quilting, and I was set. It contains so much clear-cut, useful information, but the main takeaway I got from that and the class was that you can start with a block. It could be a block that is the centerpiece or a block you’ll repeat over and over again. So I asked Skye (pictured) what she most wanted on her quilt, aside from like, every color in the rainbow, and she said, “Butterflies.” Damn, now I have to learn applique, too?! Eh, I’m always up for a challenge.

Wanting to do this as simply as possible, I decided to applique a butterfly inside a white diamond shape enclosed by four corners to make a large square (approx. 10 by 10 inches). I measured and cut the size of each corner to be about 4 by 4 by 5 inches, leaving about 1/4 inch to spare for the seam. I then faced all right sides together, as though cutting an X through a box and opening each piece to reveal a full square underneath, although the longest side of each triangle should be 1/2 inch longer than each square side. To see how to properly sew a diamond into a quilt block so that you can connect it with other blocks later, I recommend this video.

After sewing and pressing all the seams smooth, it was time to applique.IMG_0616 I used a precut butterfly form, and snipped all the curves so that I could fold it (not well, mind you) around the curve and press. The worst part, and this is what the book recommended, was hand-basting the seam closed. I did this as I ironed, which I thought would save time, but it still took an hour to hand-baste one single butterfly. Who has that kind of time?! Once complete, I tried affixing it to the square using different stitches (like a zig-zag) on my machine, but it didn’t look uniform enough around the curves and I ended up hand-stitching the entire thing to the diamond. Then I removed the hand-basting, and voila, I had a pretty cute, not perfect, first block! The true test of success? Skye’s smile when she saw it.

This Old Chair

Back in the day, I remember reading a ridiculous article about “drunk shopping,” where women would come home from work, have a few glasses of wine and the next day realize they’d made some online purchases they didn’t remember. And this was, like, a serious problem. Up until recently, the only time I could recall making this mistake was when a pair of silver sparkly Toms showed up in the mail for my 2-year-old that looked more like Michael Jackson loafers. The second example was a happier accident, when Jo-Ann Fabrics was having one of its blowout sales and I was in the market for a couple yards to recover the seats of my dining chairs. Scrolling through page after page of geometric patterns, I was starting to get bored. I was working on my second high-alcohol IPA, and there it was: “Lotus Lake.” So unique in color scheme and pattern, with fish to boot. I immediately showed my mother-in-law, who has a thing for fish decor, and my sister-in-law, who has a degree in fibers. They were like, “That’s it! That’s the one!” and in the excitement of it all,  I added it to my cart.

A gigantic tube soon appeared in the mail, but the print turned out to be much too large for my little seat cushions. Nevertheless, I felt it had a purpose. I wandered around the house, Lotus Lake draped around me, until my eyes fell upon this old coffee-stained, tweed-covered chair in the basement bedroom where my mother-in-law spends weeknights. With three days until her birthday and suddenly feeling overly confident in my upholstery skills, I decided to go for it. I think the end product turned out pretty well (and so does she), but there were certainly a few lessons learned along the way. Here, for my inaugural JuneSkyeDIY blog post, I share my top five tips for recovering an old chair:

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1) Get a tetanus shot. One of the amazing and equally maddening features of the tweed chair is that antique tacks lined the ENTIRE THING. So after pulling about 300 tacks until my arms were sore — and carefully prying them out with pliers so that I could reuse the nicest ones later — there were at least another 300 STAPLES TO REMOVE. And drop on the floor. And step on. Which brings me to my next tip…

2) Do not drink alcohol. This was my mantra when making Halloween costumes last fall. Every night in October I had to put in some work on the requested princess/fairy dresses and put off that glass of wine or beer. Likewise, recovering an armchair is a painstaking process and there’s little room for error. And with only two yards of fabric, I knew I’d have nothing to spare. So don’t screw up. Put on some tunes and make a pot of coffee.

3) Start with the back or whatever is clearly the last panel that was attached, then work in reverse order, removing each piece. In this case, I had five pieces of fabric to cut, including the arms. Once I pried the back piece off (and retained the original stuffing), I could see that the top piece had been pulled through to the back and stapled onto a piece of the frame (see photo below, it’s the bare piece). Then the separate seat piece was pulled through as well and stapled to the bottom (at left) bar you see here. And the back panel covered all of it, and was stapled beneath the chair, the bottom of which was covered by a dust cover (you can buy new dust covers at Jo-Ann, too).

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4) Take a thousand pictures. Think of it as a machine you’re taking apart, and everything you’re doing you’ll do in reverse order later, so take pictures as you go to replicate what was done originally. And finally…

5) Remove and cut each panel using the original panel as the guide. I am lazy and did not do this, and hence the part I had to cut and stretch around the bottom of the arms is a little wonky. I have no doubt if you removed everything, replicated it and put it back as it was it would be perfect (or close to perfect, because you know, it’s DIY. Self-taught, baby!). For my final step, after stapling the back panel, I covered the seam with the original tacks — but I did not use them everywhere because they were super hard to apply in a straight line — so I carefully folded and pressed the sides and front, and only used the tacks where other staples were evident, too.