crafts · finished objects · Life · Sewing

Pillows and updates!

Although I’m a bit of a dud in the posting department lately, I have been sewing!  Right now I’m still sewing mostly home dec, as I try to get to the end of my summer project.  I’ve finished my Dala horse curtains and my painted rug, but photos will have to wait until I get them set up!  In the meantime, I made some pillows:


The fabric is one of the Tannis Keefe reproductions that Michael Miller put out recently.  It’s a linen/cotton blend, around the weight of a Japanese cotton/linen print if you’ve ever felt those.  I bought it as a nameless, boltless fabric during my trip to Minnesota this summer – how could I resist those adorably evil kitties?  It’s sold out lots of places, but I was able to find it on Etsy, if anyone is looking.

These are simple envelope back pillows over a down insert.  I have to use down on the leather sofa because it can be stuffed into the corner – anything else is forever falling off!  I make my envelope pillows in one piece – you cut a piece of fabric the width of your pillow exactly by the length times 2 plus 6″ (for the overlap).  Hem the shorter edges, then pin the overlap back to the front (RS together).  Make sure it measures the same as your pillow length.  Sew the two side seams, turn right side out and you’re done.


I made two.  You can also see the lamp I remade in the back.  It was a dated rubbed bronze paint base with a cheap tiffany style shade.  I applied gold leaf spray paint to the base and replaced the shade with a modern ikea version.  I love the way it looks now! Better than the old shade:


I’ve started my floor pillow.  Here are some of the fabrics:


The big piece is for the back.  All the fabrics are Amy Butler’s Cameo collection.  So far the pattern has given me one issue – it’s hard to get in the center without shredding the fabric!  I worried it wouldn’t be secure, so I cut the wedges to 3/8″ instead of 1/4″.  I may get a little hole in the middle at the end, but I can close that up easily, and it will be more secure.

I haven’t had much time to post lately, so I thought it might be time to mention what’s up with me!

I’ve started a new job, teaching applied voice to University students.  I’m an adjunct faculty member – not a professor exactly, but it’s very exciting!  I’m doing that very part time right now, and teaching at home the other days.  I don’t plan to give up my studio, this is just something that I’m doing for me.  Many of my friends work there, and it’s great to leave the house to work occasionally!  My husband also got a new job, which he loves, so changes are abounding.

We’ve had a ton of visits and social events this summer – my best friend even came up from Florida (where she lives) for a week!

Last week we took my in-laws to the state fair.  They’d never been, which I thought was crazy, but I realize that having grown up in Louisville it was easy to go every year.   It’s not the biggest or absolute best fair in the country, but it’s a fun afternoon.  We saw lots of giant vegetables, saw some goats being paraded around a ring by their seven year old owners, and ate this year’s disgusting fair food:


What is it?  Why, a Krispy Kreme burger of course.  A hamburger with two krispy creme donuts as the bun.  I mean, I didn’t eat it, but my husband did – please note, this photo is from before he tried a bite.  Me, I stuck to my favorite, the Grater Tater.  I don’t know why it’s so good, but I basically look forward to it all year.  The nacho cheese is not optional.

We saw the textiles of course, which I always love.  There are never very many things to my taste, but that’s ok – I admire the traditional work too! My husband made me take a picture with his favorite quilt:

Yes, I thought was odd too, but I looked it up, and apparently making crafts out of Crown Royal bags is a thing.   Marc offered to sacrifice and switch to Crown Royal if I wanted to make my own, but I told him that was all right.  It was enough to take the photo.

One last photo that encapsulates the fair for me:

The blue ribbon winner in the “Little Critters” category, which seems to involve anthropomorphic vegetables.  To the left is a vegetable (a parsnip?) wearing a paper towel diaper that reads “change me”.  This, like much of the fair, is a mystery to me.  Who makes these?  What is the judging criteria?  But I don’t know… honestly, it’s sort of sweet in a wholesome, old fashioned way.  Reminds me of the film “State Fair”, which I love and watch every time it comes on Turner classics (although I am sad that I missed the jam judging – if you’ve seen the film you know what I mean!)



crafts · decorating · fabric · house · Sewing

Curtains for me!

Today was not the best of days.  I had an audition, which never fails to freak me out.  I don’t get stage fright, and I love to perform, it’s the being judged (a necessary part of an audition!) that never fails get to me.  Whenever someone comments on the arrogance of actors and musicians I usually say: A. You’re right and B: Seriously, it’s a coping mechanism.  It’s like a life full of never ending job interviews.

But eh… I’ll live.  To cheer myself up I went to my new favorite restaurant (Tom and Chee – an entire restaurant of grilled cheese sandwiches!)  Afterwards I was happy to find that my linen fabric samples had arrived:

I ordered these samples from  They specialize in linen and they send free swatches on request.  The price was great for the quality.  I decided on plain linen for the large curtain in my living room, but I needed to pick a color.  I decided on the middle color above, which is called simply “natural.”  The other shades are (right to left) aluminum, bleached, natural, krista, and mix natural.  All swatches are the IL019 medium weight linen.  I’d consider the weight to be comprable to Kauffamn Essex linen.  It’s not heavy, but I think it will drape nicely for me (I am lining my curtains anyway!)  I had to order 8 yards to get the fullness I prefer (2x the width of the window).  You can see why I was trying to keep costs down!

I also ordered fabric from to make simple tie top cafe curtains for my hall.


The pattern I’m using I found at Make it Love it (you can see their finished curtains in the photo  above).  The fabrics are by Michael Miller.  I love those charcoal and pink dala horses, called Wooden Horses,  to death!  They will be the main curtain, and the top/ties will be made of the wood block print behind, also by Michael miller.  I’m going to fully line these curtains.  Thank you for all the advice – I decided that I agreed making the long curtains from quilting cotton might not work, but it’s perfect for a small hallway window!

I’m starting to put the living room back together – I have a rug!

Leon the cat, as you can see, is helping to break it in by shedding furiously.  This is a flat woven cotton rug from Ikea.  I  am planning to paint a design on this rug using fabric medium – I like the white, but it’s not practical around him.  I still don’t have anything else in the room, but I’m working on it!  This project has been intensive, but I’m so much happier already that it’s worth the stress.



crafts · Sewing

A new home for Doris

My husband and I have a weekly tradition: every Friday night I pick him up from work.  We usually do our weekly grocery shopping then (that’s when Whole Foods offers 5 beer tastings and appetizers for $5, and my husband is all about that!)  On the way we usually stop at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which is right by his office.  A few months ago I saw a sewing machine desk with a machine, which isn’t unusual at these stores (though I don’t think the re-store usually takes them, as they have mostly architectural thrift items.)  I was pretty sure it was a Singer slant needle machine, similar to my 500A Rocketeer, Doris:

I’ve owned my Rocketeer for two years, but I don’t use it as often as I might because I don’t have a place to keep it.  As you can see, these machines are really made to recess into a singer sewing table or desk.  I’ve wanted to buy one, but it’s hard to find them in my area.

I got home and checked the internet, comparing the machine with photos on the internet.  I realized that it was a 403A, almost the same as my machine but without the fancy rocket styling:

The 503A would be the equivalent in my model.  The 403/503 don’t have built in stitches, but they do use cams (included with this machine, which has all the accessories other than the foot pedal. )

The re-store marks items down according to how long they’ve been there.  I wanted the desk, but I knew I would probably just sell the machine, so I watched and waited until it went to 75% off, and picked up the whole thing for 25 dollars!  I hauled it home in my Mom’s truck, and brought it into my foyer (currently the staging area from my house work – keeping it real here!)

The desk included all the cams and feet as well as the power cord (no foot pedal, but the pedals on these are prone to burning out, so that’s not shocking.)  It also came with an original carrying case, which I plan to keep, as my rocketeer doesn’t have one.  I found a brochure online showing my sewing table:

(image from, circa 1960)

My cabinet is the Hampden Court, described above thus: “This beautiful desk of 18th century design is an exceptional piece of furniture.  It is equipped with seven drawers for storage space.  Comes in mahogany finish.”  It’s extremely heavy and solid, especially with the 403 inside (if you’ve never tried to pick up an all metal machine you are in for a surprise!)  It’s missing the drawer pulls on the center front drawer (actually a false front) but otherwise it is intact.    I’m probably going to paint it, as the veneer is chipped and peeling in spots.  I’m looking forward to using my rocketeer more – I will be sure to post when I actually get around to refinishing the cabinet!





crafts · house · Sewing

Do you sew for your home?

The first thing I ever sewed was a quilt:

(Yes, I promise it has a binding now!)

I now know how crazy I was, but it’s what I wanted to make.  So I sat down with my Viking Huskystar machine (which did not make it out of the ordeal alive,) a book on basic sewing techniques and a web tutorial, and I made this thing!  It took a few months, but you know what?  When I finished that quilt, I knew how to sew.  And that I needed a better sewing machine.  This is why I always ask beginners what they would like to make.  It’s like learning knitting – yes, I could set you up to make a simple garter stitch scarf, but if that’s not what you want you’ll go mad with boredom long before you finish.

After finishing my quilt I started making dresses and well… that was that.  In spite of the fact that I originally bought my machine to make curtains, the most I’ve done is a super utilitarian set of shades for the skylights in my third floor.

When I started my redecorating project this summer, one thing I knew I wanted was to sew my own things.  Storebought curtains are expensive and boring, which is the reason why my home only has roman shades and sheers from Ikea.  In addition, regular curtains and shades don’t fit my windows very well (I can use the ikea ones only in the extra long length without hemming, and all blinds/shades have to be custom.) I have a few questions for the more experienced among you:

1. Is it ever ok to use quilting cotton for curtains?  I love the prints, but I don’t use them for garments due to stiffness.  I’d imagine I’d need to line a curtain made of this fabric, but I’m planning to do that anyway.  I found mixed opinions when I went looking online.  My concern is that they might not drape well.

2. Do you have any sources for home decor fabric?  I have to shop online, and I’m not looking to pay crazy decorator prices.  I’ve ordered swatches from (some Amy Butler home decor prints and a few Waverly and Robert Allen fabrics) but I’m open to ideas.  I find the idea overwhelming, as I have the worlds most giant windows.  We’re talking tons of fabric here!  Since I have to buy so much I don’t want to make a mistake.  I’d rather not pay more than $16 a yard.

3. Any favorite resources for sewing curtains or roman shades?  When I made the curtains for my skylights I winged it, but I’d rather these look nice.  I’d love to make pinch pleated curtains, as I think those look much nicer than plain gathered curtains.

In addition to the curtains, I’m planning to replace my blinds (different window) with a custom roman shade.  I found this tutorial which uses the innards of a cheap mini-blind to make them.  This is brilliant!  I remember my Mom making them once, and I’m pretty sure it involved the use of dowel rods and a lot of cursing.  I can reuse my blinds, which would be great.

In addition to the curtains and blinds, I’m sewing one other project.  I found this tutorial on the Moda Bakeshop (a great place if you like using the packs of pre-cut fabrics.)

It uses one jellyroll (skinny pre-cut strips,) some piping, and 2.5 yards for the back to make two floor pillows.  I think calling them floor pillows sounds much better than what they will no doubt be in my house – cat pillows!  And it’s a good think it makes two, because they will fight over a pillow for weeks.  I’m going to use Amy Butler’s new Cameo line of fabrics. I found them when I was looking at home dec, and I was very sad to realize they don’t come in a sateen.

I think it will go really well with my new green wall.  I’ll be waiting on my order for awhile longer (they have been moving their warehouse) but I should have my jelly roll soon.

Update on the rest of my diy living room makeover:

This past weekend I replaced both the horrid ceiling fans in my living room.  This was an accomplishment, as one of them was hung over the open stairwell, and both were installed with a junction box that didn’t actually fit into the ceiling.  I replaced the junction box in both and changed the fixtures, trying not to look too hard at the wiring (our electrician assures me that it’s fine, but we do have some of that old cloth covered wiring – not knob and tube, just cloth covered, and it looks kind of scary!)

Here are the ceiling fans – from some past decade, they were noisy, leaked oil, and didn’t even come close to lighting up the room.

Ceiling fan #1 was replaced by my rehabbed chandelier.  Here is the before:

and the after:

It gives off more light than it appears in this photo.  I spray painted the chandelier glossy black.   The shades were replaced, and applied this faux mercury glass treatment to the glass.  I don’t know how obvious it is here, but they give off a pretty speckled light, like this only a bit less yellow:

The effect is very realistic.  I recommend that tutorial.  The key is to spray vinegar/water first, then the paint.  I sealed mine with heat resistant clear coat, and I use fluorescent bulbs which don’t get hot, and which don’t touch the shades, but I’m still not sure I’d do this around a candle.

The second fan was replaced with a basic track from Ikea.  I love it – you can see how nicely it lights up the wall (paint is Iron Mountain from benjamin moore, the color for my hallway) and it also makes the stairs easy to see.   Good lighting makes quite a difference!

I’m taking a break from dusty activities, so it will bit before more progress – hopefully I can figure out my fabrics in the meantime!

crafts · finished objects · Sewing

Burda 7220: Oh Burda…

Pattern: Burda 7720

Fabric: Cotton lawn from Joann’s


Everyone told me that Burda had crazy instructions.  I heard them, but then convinced myself that A. I often don’t even use instructions, so I’d be ok and B. that the crazy was probably only in the magazine.  Well wasn’t I wrong!

Burda 7220 looks innocent enough.  Do not be fooled!  I’ve spent weeks (off and on) working on this simple top.  I chose a lightweight cotton (about the weight of a lawn.)  I would not recommend this choice.  I’d go with a polyester so that it doesn’t wrinkle.  The back on this is so long that you will sit on it and look like you’ve slept in your clothes.  For example, this photo was taken five minutes after the one above:

You can see the wrinkles starting, and I haven’t even sat down yet!  So yeah, go with something synthetic here.   I also think it would have nicer with some weight.  Don’t get me wrong though – I actually like this style.  Ok, the mullet hem is a little weird, but it’s trendy this year.  I’ll be happy to wear it a few times, since I got this fabric on clearance.

On to the pattern issues, of which there are many.  But first, a photo of the back, to give an idea of the length (I’m 5’8″ tall if that gives you reference.)

1. There is a back collar stand for no reason that I can tell.  It doesn’t stand up enough to need the stiffness.  But having that stand (in the back only) makes the entire neckline weirdly complicated.  In the end I sewed on the collar stand (with interfacing but no facing) and then just turned and stitched under.

2. The center front gathers are not what you think they are.  They’re actually formed by rows of gathering stitched into a double ended dart.  Have you ever tried to gather stitches and then sew a dart with the gathers?  It was so strange that I couldn’t believe that was what it was actually asking, but it was.  It worked, but you know, I think there was an easier way.

3. The markings.  Made no sense.  In particular the markings around the dart/ front neck opening were impossible, with several intersecting lines that were poorly marked (and at least one set that seemed to serve no purpose!)

4.  The hem markings: The sleeves were not (as far as I can tell) marked for front and back.  One side is shorter, and I guess I’m just supposed to match that up?  It was hard.  Then there is the hem.  The directions say to make a narrow hem, which to me is serging and stitching under on the serging line (3/4″ or so hem allowance.)  That’s what I did for the sleeves, but then when I got the [attern out I realized it was 1 5/8″.  Mine are the same length as the model’s above, but I have long arms.  The bottom of the top has no marking for hem depth that I can find.  The sleeve hem directions actually point to the regular hem, so I’m going to assume the bottom is where the narrow hem goes.  That’s what I did, and I can’t imagine anything else would work on such a curved hem.   Its very confusing, let me tell you!

So that I don’t complain too much, I’ll mention that the top fits well, is true to size, and is trendy without making me feel silly.  In addition, I really appreciate that the sleeves are drafted with very little ease in the caps – I didn’t have to remove any to make it work!

I’m suspecting that the issue is that I haven’t sewn Burda before (other than Burdastyle website patterns).  Most pattern companies have their own language.  I need to learn Burda’s quirks to make their patterns less of a trial.  Maybe the next one won’t take me three weeks!

Would I recommend this pattern?  Well… I personally wouldn’t, but I suppose that depends on your tolerance for bare bones instructions and marking.  I’m glad to have made a Burda, and I will make more (with careful perusal of instructions!)

decorating · home repairs · house

I have a green wall!

Yes I do:

I love this color (Cabana green by Benjamin Moore).  It’s pretty both in the daytime and at night, and it’s bright without being fluorescent.    I also chose the color for the other walls:

It’s Revere Pewter, also by Benjamin Moore.  As you can probably tell from the difference in the green, it’s actually a little cooler than it appears above.  I decided to go with a grey-ish beige (greige!) because the cool silver wasn’t working with my brown sofa, but it’s not as yellow as my other choice (above, which looks good here, but looks dirty on the wall).  This gray has a slightly green base, and looks different in different lights.  It’s pretty light and neutral, which is different for me.

I’m not painting the doors or stairwell until after an audition I have in 2 weeks, because while I can handle regular (low voc) paint fine, the oil primer I prefer on the woodwork is a bit much, and I’d rather not be ill.  In the meantime, I’m going to work on other projects – choosing the fabrics for the pillows and curtains I’m sewing, and changing other fixtures.

Last year we replaced the chandelier in our dining room.  The old one was not to my taste at all:

I really don’t like brass.  I replaced it with a chrome and white fixture that goes well with the cobalt paint, but I kept this one around for a redo.  It used to have really awful frosted glass shades with weird raised images of fruit on them, but I got rid of those – they weren’t working for me at all.  I was resigned to buying clip on shades when I found these at Goodwill for $4:

They aren’t setting the world on fire or anything, but they fit.  I’m thinking of using a faux mercury glass technique (here) on the outside of the glass, but I’ll wait until the fixture goes up this weekend.

In the meantime, I’m painting the chandelier itself:

Plain black gloss paint.  Here is what I use to paint metal:

I apply the liquid sandpaper with the gloves on.  This is important for metal because I think it’s hard to sand enough, especially if you have shiny brass.  You really want to knock the shine off!  I did three thin coats of the paint and then two lacquer.  I didn’t prime, but I would prime anything that is going to be handled at all with spray Killz.

I also have replacements for the other two fixtures – a flushmount for the hall to replace the awful bare bulb we’ve been living with, and a track for the stairs.

I don’t use the ceiling lights at all, but my husband does.  Hopefully with all those new lights (vs the three single bulbs we have now) it might actually be bright enough to see.  I’m keeping part of this old lamp:

My Mom gave me this lamp.  I like the interesting tree shaped base.  What I don’t like?  This:

I know, some people love these lamps.  I find that when you live in a victorian, people think you really need tiffany lamps.  I have five of them for some reason, and they just aren’t my thing.  This one isn’t fancy, so I won’t feel bad putting the shade in our yardsale and replacing the shade on the base.  We picked up a new shade last weekend here:

My husband wants to make it clear that he’s riding that cart like a crazy person.  Of course, I was taking pictures of him doing it, so that makes me just as crazy!  Where are we? That bright yellow wall can mean only mean this:

IKEA opened a store in Cincinnati a few years ago, and I’m not over the novelty yet.  I know, those of you in really big cities (or Europe) are over it, but trust me… before this there were no inexpensive places with good design.  I like to thrift, but there are some things you need to buy new.  My budget for this makeover is really low, so I knew a trip to IKEA was in order.

I picked up a plain cotton area rug (Erslev)in a large size to paint, a new floor lamp,  the track lighting, and a few odds and ends.    Oh, and I bought their panel curtain system to use as a fourth wall in front of the stairs – I want the living room to feel more like a room!  I thought their curtain choices were cheap though, so I bought the hardware and decided to make my own.

Tomorrow I’ll post about the actual sewing I’m about to do.  I have new curtains, pillows, room divider panels, and an area rug to paint.    Yes, still a lot, but I’m really pleased with how the room is shaping up – maybe I’ll finally have a living room I enjoy spending time in!