Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Quick Patchwork Pillow

As I mentioned in my last post I have developed a strategy for reducing the amount of stuff in our house. One of my House On a Diet strategies is to use up things. This patchwork pillow is made entirely of fabric leftover from other projects. I started with this pattern which is a freebie from allpeoplequilt.com.


The finished pillow will be one of my contributions to a silent auction where the bidders are Girl Scout volunteers raising money for our local Girl Scout council. In my fabric stash I have some fabric that was once used to make Brownie Girl Scout uniforms. I found it on the flat fold table at a fabric store a few years after that particular uniform was phased out and I have had it for around 15 years. A couple years ago, for the silent auction, I made pillow cases and used my vintage uniform fabric to trim them. They sold for around $50!

To coordinate with the Brownie fabric I used this brown background, woodsy-themed fabric (sorry I have no idea what the fabric is called) that was left over from a baby quilt I made a few years back. The fabric features several different animals but I concentrated on using owls. If you're familiar with the Brownie Story you know that an important character just happens to be an owl. That made the fabric not only the perfect color, but an appropriate choice for the Brownie theme. I was able to use some of the other fabric scraps from that quilt as well as fabric left over from the pillow cases mentioned above to complete the patchwork. Here is the front of the pillow:


The pattern calls for an envelope-style back for the pillow but I made a flat back for the pillow and was able to use some patchwork blocks that were also left over from the baby quilt for extra interest on the back. Here is the back of the pillow:


I am pretty happy with how the pillow turned out and I am especially happy to put my leftovers to use. If you have fabric scraps from other projects that you would like to use, this pattern is a good choice as it uses small pieces of several different fabrics.

Monday, November 17, 2014

House On a Diet : My Strategy

About a year and a half ago I decided that I had to put our house on a diet.  Things here had gotten a bit out of hand and I made up my mind to tackle this somewhat overwhelming task of getting our house in shape. It needed to go on a diet, complete with exercise and a plan to maintain a healthy weight.  

Before I go any further I should tell you that I am not, and never will be, a minimalist. I like my stuff. I'm a collector (with maybe just a touch of hoarder). The idea of purging just wasn’t for me. After all, a crash diet really isn’t very good. It’s a lot healthier to lose the weight gradually and it’s easier to keep it off that way. Right?

Our house is pretty small (900 something square feet) and storage space is limited but even larger houses may need to go on a diet. Reducing the bulk of the contents of our house is an ongoing project and here is my strategy:

Throw it away—this is both the easiest, because I can just toss it into the trash can and it magically disappears, and at the same time the hardest, because I might be throwing away something that I will need or I’m thinking about how much money is being wasted.


Donate it—this is my favorite option. I just can’t stand to throw away something that can be of use to someone else. The nice thing about this is that I can often support a worthy cause by donating my discards to a fundraising yard sale or charity thrift shop.

Recycle it—I try to be responsible and make sure to repurpose and recycle whenever possible. Our aluminum cans regularly go to raise money for the local animal shelter and 2 large donations of obsolete electronics have supported fundraising efforts as well. Almost anything with metal can be recycled and in our neighborhood anything that we put out in the back alley will be picked up by recyclers looking to make a bit of extra money.


Dispose of it properly—expired medications, paint, cleaning supplies, motor oil, chemicals can pose a hazard to people and the environment. Every once in a while our county sponsors a tox-away day where potentially hazardous substances are collected and old paint is collected on a regular basis. Of course, this will be different in other places, so check around and find out how it is done in your community.

Use it up—this one is my favorite. I always get a great deal of satisfaction of using up craft supplies, cards, wrapping paper or things that have been shoved to the back of the cabinet and forgotten. Where do all those little bottles of lotion come from anyway?

Finish it up—I am the queen of the unfinished projects and there is no doubt that the finished projects take up less room than the supplies and the objects with potential. This is an area that I am really trying to focus on at present.

Gift it—I’m not talking about re-gifting, although, I am not opposed to re-gifting if it is done carefully. If you have something that you no longer want or need and someone else can use or will treasure, by all means give it to them. And, you don’t have to wait for a gift-giving occasion. Last Christmas my niece got a sewing machine but she didn’t have any sewing supplies. I was very happy to go through my supplies and give her some of my duplicates.

Return it—I sometimes borrow things from family or friends and those items can occupy a lot of space if they aren’t returned promptly. I have found that sometimes if I don’t return the item right away the person I borrowed it from decides they don’t need it and don’t want it back. Does that ever happen to you? Right now I have a sewing machine that I borrowed from my mother sitting in the dining room and she refuses to take it back. And, that is not the first time that has happened to me. Last time it was a monster folding table that I borrowed from a friend.

Don’t bring it in—this one is really important for me. I have been putting more thought into purchases making sure that when I buy something it is what we actually need/want and will really use. I also try to avoid swag—free t-shirts I am talking to you. And, I don’t let myself go to many yard sales, rummage sales, flea markets, or thrift shops because I almost always find something irresistible in places like that.

Organize it—the strategies listed above are in no particular order but this one does belong at the end. Having a well-ordered house is part of the process but it doesn’t make sense to me to organize until I know what I am keeping and what I am getting rid of.  

I’ll be talking about my house diet strategies in more detail and I will be sharing the progress in future posts? Our house probably won’t be featured on The Biggest Loser: Home Edition anytime soon, but  here’s hoping there is some progress to share. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Porch Progress

Our house has a skinny front porch that is enclosed with windows. Unfortunately, our porch had turned into a parking spot for miscellaneous things we didn't know what to do with. One of my house goals for the summer was to get it in shape so that we can actually use it.  My budget for this project was around $100.

With the windows open, the porch is a pleasant place to sit and relax in spring, fall, and the not-too-hot part of the summer. In the winter it serves as an air lock, keeping the cold air from blasting right into our living room every time we open the front door. It also gives us a chance to clean off messy shoes before coming into the house.

As you can see in the before photo below, the porch has bead board above the windows (and on the ceiling) and brick below. The wall on the right is the outside wall of the house. The inside of the porch got a fresh coat of paint as part of our exterior house painting project.


With the walls and ceiling inside the porch painted, the next thing that needed attention was the floor. For many years the floor has been covered with a patterned straw matting. I really liked the matting but it was completely worn out. I couldn't find the same matting and it wasn't in the budget to replace it anyway. Paint seemed the logical answer,

Painting the floor and the inside concrete window ledges proved to be very easy. The floor had paint had been covered by the matting and there were a few places where the old paint was flaking off. I scraped those spots, scrubbed down the floor and let it dry very well. I used Behr Porch and Patio Floor paint in Silver Gray to give it a coat of paint. It went on easily and dried enough to put the furniture back in a couple hours. A simple coat of paint made a huge difference.


My plan was for this to be a use-what-you have project. The old wicker furniture got a coat of traditional white paint and new cushions here. A vintage, folding rocking chair that my grandmother used on her porch also got a new cushion. I sewed a couple pillows using fabric from my stash here.


Then I added a primitive cabinet that had been stored in the garage.


The porch still needs some accessories. I figure that if I dig around a bit more I can find some things that I can decorate with without having to buy much. So far I brought out a tabletop fountain (which is probably not "in" but the sound of bubbling water is so soothing). I also tried a vintage planter with succulents but some caterpillar-like bug ate the plants. It's too cold now for plants but next spring, I hope some plants will be in the budget. I did buy a cute little lantern at IKEA--couldn't resist.

I spent $92,70 of my $100 budget: floor paint $29.94 - $5 rebate, fabric and fiberfill for cushions $28, fiberfill for pillows $4.11, spray paint $25.68, lantern $3.99, and 2 succulents $5.98.

My to-do list for the porch still includes: touch up the floor (which got scratched when our new refrigerator was delivered), refinish the wall light fixture, replace the storm door, add a rug of some kind, and add some additional accessories. Most of these things will probably have to wait until spring because winter seems to have arrived before I could get this project completed.

Friday, November 14, 2014

My Version of the Phoebe Bag


In my fabric stash, I had a remnant of a lightweight brocade upholstery fabric in beautiful fall colors that I bought a year ago with the idea of making a bag. (Yes, I am a fabric hoarder.) Looking at my Pinterest board for purses and bags, I noticed that I had pinned more than one bag made from the Phoebe Bag pattern and I decided it would be an excellent choice for using my fabric.

The Phoebe Bag is a free pattern from Artsy-Crafty Babe that you can find here. I am always amazed at how generous bloggers are with their free patterns and tutorials. This is a downloadable pdf with a full-sized pattern and clear instructions. I can see why it is so popular and why there are so many finished Phoebe bags on Pinterest. Thanks Artsy-Crafty Babe.

I made a few minor changes to customize the bag for me. I adjusted the width of the bag to make it just a bit wider so that I could easily carry a notebook in it and I made the strap a bit longer so that it would be a shoulder bag for me. I skipped the optional interfacing since I was using a fabric with some thickness to it and I wanted the bag to be a bit slouchy. Also, I used Velcro, which I had on hand, instead of buying a magnetic snap.

The lining is a green-on- green, cotton print that was actually a skirt that I made years ago and couldn't bear to part with when I couldn't wear it any longer because I liked the fabric so well. (Told you I was a fabric hoarder.)

It took me a couple hours, at most, from start to finish to cut out and sew this bag together. For a finishing touch I added a filigree broach that I found at a rummage sale for 50 cents to the flap.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Replacing Window Glass

Our exterior painting and sprucing up project just seems to go on and on. Will it never end?

We have a small garage that we use to store garden tools, the lawnmower, a ladder, and interesting things that I find in other people's trash. I am about half finished painting the garage and because we have had cold and rainy weather this fall I think this project will, sadly, have to be continued next spring.

I was able to take advantage of a warm, dry afternoon last week to replace a broken window in our garage that needed to be replaced before the window sash is painted. This is a fairly quick and easy job. To get started I gathered up the following supplies:


  • Glazier or glazing points -- these are little metal triangles that push into the window frame and hold the glass in the window frame.
  • Window glazing--this is the putty that goes along the edges of the glass.
  • Glass--my local hardware store has many standard sizes of glass already cut.
  • Putty knife--I have a handy, dandy putty knife made for just this purpose. It is v-shaped at the end to make it easier to smooth out the putty at the proper angle and it also has a little notch at the end for pushing the glazing points into the wood.

To get started, I carefully removed the broken glass by prying out the old putty and pulling out the glazing points. It is a bit hard to tell but the picture below shows the window after I removed the broken (top right) windowpane. Obviously, I have no idea how to take a picture of glass without getting a reflection so you get to see me and the neighbor's garage as a little bonus.


The next step was to put in the new glass and insert the glazing points to hold it. Then I put in the putty and smoothed it to form an angle between the glass and the window frame.

I couldn't figure out how to take pictures while I was doing this and I am not exactly an expert at it, so I don't have a tutorial but I found these good, step-by-step instructions on how to replace window glass on the ACE hardware website. This is not an advertisement for ACE hardware. It is just a coincidence that I bought my supplies there. I do have to that everyone at my local ACE store is very helpful and knowledgeable.

So here is is with the new glass installed. Wow! With the replaced glass, the reflection of the neighbor's garage is even better. Now the window sash needs some paint and the window needs a good cleaning. A curtain would be a nice touch. And, I have a plan for that.

It will take up to 2 weeks for the glazing putty to dry. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will find one dry, warm-enough day to paint the window sash before winter really sets in. I am so not ready for winter. I have too many outdoor projects that are not finished.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Binge Watching HGTV On Netflix

We don't have cable television at our house but we do have Netflix that we can watch on a tablet, computer, or phone. For a long time my husband has been urging me to make more use of the Netflix subscription (if we don't use it we are wasting our money). I resisted because I could really see myself getting caught up in a show and spending a lot of time watching Netflix when I should be doing other things.

Well I finally succumbed to the temptation when I heard that some HGTV shows are available via Netflix. I always try to catch HGTV anytime I am staying in a hotel so I have seen a few episodes of several of the current shows.

Since beginning binge watching a few days ago, I have tried Love It Or List It, which I had previously seen a few episodes of. The premise of the show is that a couple is trying to decide whether to remodel their current home or move. A real estate agent tries to find them a new house while a designer works on their new house. The show ends with the couple making the decision to "love it" or "list it". This show is very scripted and formulaic. Even though I enjoy seeing the remodeled spaces the bad acting gets on my nerves and I can't really binge watch. Most of the homes that are featured would benefit from a good de-cluttering and the picking up and putting away of a lot of stuff. If they did that many of them wouldn't need the extra space that they all seem to be looking for.

A show that I just started watching yesterday is Flea Market Flip. This one is definitely binge-worthy. I have already watched 3 or 4 episodes. Teams compete to buy items at a flea market. After revamping the items they sell them at another flea market. So far I have seen some surprising ideas for making over flea market finds. I love to explore a good flea market even if it is just vicariously.

My favorite show so far is Rehab Addict. I had never seen this one and I blew right through all the episodes from season 1, all that are available from Netflix. I love old houses so this show is right up my alley. It features Nichole Curtis rehabbing old houses in Minneapolis. I like that she tries to save as many of the original features and as much of the old materials in these houses as possible. She also makes use of materials that are reclaimed, recycled, or found on the side of the curb or in someone's garbage. She uses salvaged materials when she has to replace something in a house--doors, windows, floor boards, kitchen cabinets, bathroom fixture. Yeah, I just might be addicted to this show. Don't tell my husband but I just might have to get cable so I can watch the new episodes.

Go Behind the Scenes With Rehab Addict
Photo from diynetwork.com

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Better Nesting Book Club : A Sudden Light


The Better Nesting Book Club recommends:
A Sudden Light
by Garth Stein

Garth Stein's previous book, The Art of Racing in the Rain, is one of my favorite books from the last 10 years. I have also had the privilege of meeting the author, so when I saw that he had a new book, naturally, I was excited to read it.

There is no dog in A Sudden Light (If you haven't read The Art of Racing in the Rain, which you really should, the book is narrated by the dog.) but there are ghosts. The Riddell family is haunted by several generations of unresolved issues and secrets.

For the first time in his life, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell's father takes him to the family mansion, which was built by a timber-baron ancestor. The mansion is a huge, rustic building built from whole trees on an estate overlooking Puget Sound. With hidden staircases and secret rooms the the house sets a dark and secretive atmosphere for the story.

While Trevor's father and his sister are working together to sell off the house and property and send their father to a retirement home, Trevor begins to explore the house and surrounding property. Trevor's exploration uncovers long-buried family secrets. His willingness to face his family's past, ghosts and all, changes his family's future.