Happy Halloween!

>> Wednesday, October 31, 2007

This is our first Halloween in a house together, and we're also in a neighbourhood with lots of kids. They are always running around in front of our house and we can hear some of the funny things they yell out. So we're looking forward to giving out candy.

A week ago we bought a couple of tiny pumpkins on the way home and I drew spiders on them. This was to indicate to the neighbourhood kids that we would be participating in Halloween and we would have candy. The boy next door saw them when he came home and he yelled out to his dad - "they have pumpkins with spiders on them and on the back it says happy halloween!!" So now the kids know that even though we just moved in we understand the Halloween system.

So last night Bradley carved our big pumpkin after sketching out a few faces. We both agreed the pirate was the best. Scary but lovable. So here he is, ready to have a candle lit inside him tonight. As you can see he's lost a tooth - eeww! - and it's hard to see from the picture but he has scars all down the left side of his face. Perfect.


Happy birthday Bradley!
(men's apron tutorial)

>> Thursday, October 18, 2007

I think the first step for sewing for a man is the colour scheme, choosing colours they like that aren't too girly.
I wanted to make an apron for Bradley - now that we have a barbecue. I found the perfect piece in my stash, a sturdy white cotton with blue stripes and a striped ribbon for the neck strap. This was a sample piece of fabric and already serged, so it saved some extra steps. I made it up as I went along but it worked quite well, so here's another tutorial.

Step 1: The rectangle was 26" inches wide and 34" long. I pinned the neck strap in place (20" + hem allowance), and folded over two corners at the top. At this point you can try it on to see if it's roughly the right size. I had to try it on myself then imagine myself a little bit taller.
 Step 2: Once the right amount of fabric at the top corners was folded over I cut off the excess and folded the edges and pinned in place. Then iron and sew! (You could also hem the top and sides next if you wish)

Step 3: The waist straps were just twill tape stitched in place. I recommend making them long enough so you can wrap around the back and bring them around to the front again to tie. 
Step 4: Love is in the details. I hemmed the ends of the straps (by hand) so that they wouldn't fray. 
Step 5: I added a 9" x 17" pocket. The serged edges were just folded once then sewn in place, with a 1" hem at the top. Pin it in place before you sew then try on the apron to see if you like the position. I sewed a couple of extra seams to make divisions in the pocket. That way there's a skinny one to hold tongs. Finally, I embroidered Bradley's name to personalize it. I should have done the embroidery first, then hemmed the top of the pocket to hide the back of the embroidery but I didn't think of it. The easiest way to do it neatly is just pencil in the lines before you stitch.
Done! Bradley loved his new apron... Gosh he's handsome. And such a good sport letting me take pictures.

Sewing books with apron patterns I recommend (hover on the links to see more info):
This is a beautiful book with inspiring sewing projects photographed in front of inspiring decor. It has a French chef's apron, perfect for men! This book also has a garden-artist's apron with pocket.
Simple Sewing with a French Twist: An Illustrated Guide to Sewing Clothes and Home Accessories with Style

This book includes seven apron patterns! And each project just uses one yard of fabric.
One-Yard Wonders: 101 Sewing Fabric Projects; Look How Much You Can Make with Just One Yard of Fabric!
This book has an apron pattern on page 49 - a short pleated apron with pocket. Amy Butler's books always have great instructions and solid sewing techniques.
Amy Butler's In Stitches: More Than 25 Simple and Stylish Sewing Projects
This book has an apron pattern on page 23 called Sunday-dinner hostess apron, very simple, super cute!
Weekend Sewing: More Than 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Stitching
This book has two apron patterns, a cafe apron with pocket on page 31 and a reversible apron on page 44. Lotta = cool and beautiful style.
Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing: Patterns and How-To for 24 Fresh and Easy Projects
This book has a handy no-frills apron on page 199, similar to mine (in this post) with a large pocket. This practical book has so many great projects and lots and lots of general sewing info.
Sew Everything Workshop: The Complete Step-by-Step Beginner's Guide with 25 Fabulous Original Designs, Including 10 Patterns

Books all about sewing aprons:
The Apron Book: Making, Wearing, and Sharing a Bit of Cloth and Comfort
Sewing Vintage Aprons: Classic Aprons for Today's Lifestyle
A Is for Apron: 25 Fresh & Flirty Designs
Little Retro Aprons for Kids


Schoolhouse light

>> Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I mentioned to a couple of people that we got a new light for the front room and said it was a "schoolhouse" light and got blank looks. So I thought I'd show some pictures. This is a very traditional style of milk glass light fixture, in this case a semi-flushmount with a brushed nickel base. I thought everyone knew what a schoolhouse light was, but realize now that years of reading Canadian House & Home, Country Living, Domino, Canadian Home & Country, Elle Decor and Style at Home has possibly taught me things not everyone knows.

When did I become so home decor obsessed? I'm not sure. It had some practical applications when we were fixing up our condo in order to sell it, and of course we need to fix up our new home to make it comfortable, but I think you can tell it's gone beyond that. Luckily my girlfriends also seem to be a bit home decor obsessed themselves lately so I don't have to feel too sheepish for wanting to talk about tiles, paint colours and light fixtures all the time. (speaking of tiles we found some white 1" hexagonal floor tiles for our bathroom - I can't wait to install those!!)

Anyway, I love the new schoolhouse light, even to the point where I find myself gazing adoringly at its reflection in my bookcases:
(That and my new vintage golden book Birds)

So this front room is our living/dining room, but it's also working really well as my studio during the day. The computer is to one side in my secretary desk, and the dining table is perfect both for watercolour painting and sewing. You may notice the ironing board in the hallway - very convenient so I can do my cutting and pressing on it as I work on sewing projects. Right now I have my sewing machine out because I'm making a present for Bradley. Speaking of which, are you wondering why all the posts all of a sudden? Well it's an extra-posts-for-the-week-before-your-birthday treat for Bradley. And tomorrow is the big day! That's when I'll show you what I made for him.


This is the old light fixture... just didn't really work with the decor and made the ceilings seem lower than they are, plus Bradley kept bumping his head. Plus environmentally speaking it was using a whopping 480 watts!


Easy peasy napkin rings tutorial

>> Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This is a nice little project that you can do quickly and use up some of those bits of fabric. If you've been working on something big or complicated, it makes for a nice break. This is also an excellent beginner's project.

It started with a set of eight blue napkins I found at Goodwill, they were such a pretty blue and nice soft cotton fabric. I've had a small piece of turquoise pictorial satin that made a beautiful combination. I'd been saving this scrap but never knew what to do with it. It's a bit droopy, so I paired it with a fairly sturdy plain turquoise cotton for the backing. I'm not crazy about interfacing, I use it sometimes but I didn't want to here. You could though if you want to really make your rings crisp.Step 1: (above) cutting out your fabric. I wanted eight rings so I cut eight strips of fabric as large as I could from the little piece I had, then eight matching pieces for the backs. (You could use the same fabric for front and back of course - in which case you would just cut one piece and fold it in half lengthwise). The pieces should be around 6" long to go around a typical napkin, and it's up to you how thick to make them. My pieces were cut 3" wide, for a 2.5" finished size. I wanted them to be large enough to see the little scenes in the fabric.

Step 2: Place right sides together and pin in the middle. Then sew down each side, with a 1/4" hem.Step 3: Turn the ring right side out
Step 4: Press flat. Then tuck inside a 1/4" hem on one side and press. Then tuck the other end in to make a loop. Pin in place. Handsew together using blind stitch. I sewed the outside, then turned the ring inside out to sew the inside. As you go you can tweak the way it's tucked together to make it neat.
Done! I love how they look with this vintage linen tablecloth. I found this one at the St. Lawrence antique shop for $10.



>> Monday, October 15, 2007

This weekend we had some rainy days but still had a little patch of time out in our yard. It was lovely doing a little bit of tidying up in the garden, trimming back some plants, mowing our little patch of grass and raking up the leaves. The big trees at the very back of our yard, behind the shed, lost their leaves very quickly. The picture above is a little lilac tree that I planted a few weeks ago. I thought it had died - it was much taller than this - and I cut it back and left it. But then I noticed these little leaves growing. That made me happy.

After living in apartments and then a condo for so many years it is so nice to have a yard again. We also started a little compost pile in the corner which is great because we just throw everything from the yard in there. And now and then some bits of food from the kitchen - eggshells, banana skins, vegetable bits. It really decomposes down very quickly and I just turn it over now and then with a bow rake. (I just figured out what it's called from google - basically just a short sturdy rake). Later on I may add a little bit of fencing around it or something but right now it seems be working - not very elegant but simple and effective. And maybe it's all the fresh air but there doesn't seem to be any bad smell at all. In fact when I turned it over it had a nice earthy smell - like forest undergrowth after a rain.In the back we have a great shed - it's really big and already has an "L" shaped work table in it. Someday we'd like to finish the walls and fix it up a bit. I imagine a summer studio but it's been pretty practical having a place to put the garden tools, our bicycles and pots and things.The best part is my potted plants now have a chance at a decent life with some real sunshine. This begonia has been flowering since we moved in at the end of July (thank you Jaimie!). I found the green ceramic planter at the Sunday market at St. Lawrence for $5. It's so nice, the base is shaped like big petals. I love ceramic planters.


Kitchen reveal

>> Friday, October 12, 2007

I was so happy with how painting the cabinets has transformed our kitchen I'm going to show some "before" and "after"s, but there are still more changes to come. For those of you with something similar going on in your kitchen, I can tell you that this was our most affordable makeover yet at under $150. We had some leftover 1-2-3 primer, the cabinet paint (Debbie Travis, "cloudy white", semi-gloss latex) was around $40, new white hinges were around $40, new brushed nickel knobs and handles were around $60. Stores often sell these items in packs of ten as well, so you can really save there.

Here's the left side "before", I took this picture in the middle of unpacking. The old knobs were in the middle of the doors. And as I mentioned before the cupboards were made of fake wood laminate. Yuck!

Here's the "after" of the left side. I don't even mind the green countertop so much anymore:
Here's the "before" of the right side. Somehow it was even worse - the whole kitchen felt gloomy:
Here's the "after" of the right side. It's so much more cheerful now:
And this third view is from the eat-in area of the kitchen (not renovated yet) looking back into the galley kitchen area. This shows the wall where we took down a cabinet. Unfortunately the thermostat and an outlet were wedged underneath and cut into the tiling. But later on we plan to redo the tiles in any case. Once you change one thing you realize you need to change other things too. My friend Jaimie inspired me talking about apple green tiles, and Katie Muth's tiles are so pretty.Here's the "after", the pale green wall paint (Debbie Travis, "chiffon", eggshell latex) needs a second coat but you can't really tell that from the photo!We've ordered a new faucet online, the current one is leaky and specializes in going from cold to burning hot and rather than getting it fixed we're going to just replace it with something nicer. And someday we may replace those vinyl floor tiles. It's a constant dilemma deciding how much to spend on the house. I used to think that it was so small we'd definitely need to move soon and shouldn't put too much work into it, but that tiny house in my last post really inspired me. I mean, ours is more than twice as big! I thought we had the smallest house in Toronto but now I see I was quite wrong.

Living in a small space is a fun challenge, making things work on a small scale can be very satisfying. I really believe it's a good thing, you know, environmentally and all that. Too many possessions can weigh you down, I'm always trying to pare down but it's hard because I can be a bit sentimental about things. I'm working on it though.


Speaking of small...

Not that we're looking for a new house, but I was on mls.ca today and came across this adorable little house.

But in case you think the house at 128 Day (pictured above) is excessively large, you may prefer to consider one of the tiny little gems from the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. My brother is considering building one of these 96-square foot homes in our backyard.

I can't believe we're living in a 650-square foot monstrosity. That's right our house is very small, but as it turns out, not as small as it could be.


It's a small thing but...

>> Tuesday, October 09, 2007

After: a new knocker, lock and doorknob and the mail slot is now painted to match

There is nothing like a freshly painted front door. Our front door was a fairly decent solid door made from medium brown not-great-quality wood.
Before: the plain front door, old caramel wall colour and awkward shelf on the wall

I filled in the scratches and painted it white to match the trim, and Bradley added a new brushed nickel lock and door knob. I added a matching knocker and all it needs now is a fall wreath. I'd like to make something with acorns... I've always wanted to make this one, there isn't a picture of the finished wreath, but perhaps you remember it. The leaves are also velvet.
After: this corner is much brighter now, especially in the afternoon when the sun comes down the hall from the back of the house


Drawing and painting

>> Thursday, October 04, 2007

Thank you for the nice comments on my last post, I've been wanting to reply but your email addresses aren't usually linked to the comments I receive so I didn't manage to. Sometimes I reply to questions in the comment section but I don't know for sure if anyone sees.

So to answer about the craft sale idea (thanks again for asking where I'll be!), I was thinking of the One of a Kind sale but I've heard it's a bit expensive and I felt a bit intimidated to start there. I decided that I'd like to try the sale at the Tranzac Club instead - The Artisans Gift Fair. I used to live in the annex and went there a lot for events. It's on Brunswick Ave. just south of Bloor St. The neighbourhood is familiar and it's easy to get to the Tranzac from our new house, and the tables are really affordable. I'll keep you posted once I apply and know which date I'll be there.
So what else is new? I just finished a promo (above) for our Illustration for Kids group (and posted on our group blog about it) and did another little illustration (at the top of this post) for the Picture Bookies showcase theme "asleep". And I've been updating my online portfolios.

And speaking of painting, I've almost finished painting the kitchen cabinets. It looks so easy on Take this House and Sell It, but it certainly wasn't for me. It's taken ages: removing the cabinets, removing the old hinges, washing the cabinets, filling the holes from the old knobs that were in the middle of the doors, sanding (sort of) and priming the cabinets, painting, painting again, painting a 3rd time, attaching the new hinges (more drilling as, again, the holes were not quite in the same place), drilling holes and attaching the new knobs, attaching new drawer handles after enlarging the holes which were just a teeny bit too close together, and finally touch-ups galore. Phew! Pictures to follow in a new post...

Also, I managed to scrape the stucco off of our bathroom ceiling so that it's now nice and smooth and will look great once we fill some small holes and paint it. This was in anticipation of putting up our new shower kit, now that we've put in new plumbing (see new faucet above). In case you ever want to try this, our stucco wasn't ever painted which means all it took was some spritzing with water and gentle scraping with a putty knife. And hours of clean-up once the ceiling ended up on the floor!

This was the old faucet - covered with a peeling chrome laminate

Once all this drudgery is behind us (someday, not sure when), I look forward to having fun with decorating. Design sponge has created a bunch of Flickr sets that have really inspired me. This beautiful bedroom. This pretty craft corner. This living room. And now come on, this little guy is just adorable.


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