Monthly Archives: September 2011

No Sew Curtains… No, Really

Hers.

There are few things that make me want to give up instantly.  Like sewing machines.  Chris made a really good point once (note that key word “once” :)).  He pointed out that pretty much everyone’s grandmother is a master at the sewing machine so why is it that our generation, the one that grew up with technology advancing faster each year than it did over a full century, is so puzzled by these devices?  It’s seriously like trying to translate hieroglyphics.  It must make sense to someone but to me, it’s just button and knobs placed in a strange pattern, its methods an utter mystery.

So here’s my dilemma:  I’m tired of the lack of variety in store-bought, ready-made curtains.  I want to be able to choose my own fabric, width and length and make custom curtains.  Is that really asking too much?  According to Calico Corner’s quote for turning my master bedroom drapes idea into reality, yes, it was asking too much.  $700 too much.  Oy vey!  But look at this fabulous chevron fabric.  Could you say no?  Especially if I told you it was only $7.48 a yard?  Didn’t think so.

It didn’t take me long to turn to my mom to help me decipher our sphinxlike sewing machine.  Before you scoff, note that both Chris and I tried our hand at the sewing machine.  After 4 hours, we got nowhere but two broken needles and one jammed machine.  But moms can fix anything… right?

Nope, not this time.  The machine found a foe in my mom as well as she jammed thread after thread.

But I was determined to have custom drapes so we ventured to Michael’s and came back with this hot, little number.

Note the “Ultra Hold” and the “For No Sew Projects.”  Cha-ching!  Yes, this would be our ultimate savior.  I bought the ultra hold version because our cat had already ripped out the hem on our living room curtains playing Superman.  Yes, you read that right.  She slinks behind the curtain and jumps about a foot into the curtain, causing it to flutter behind her like a Superman cape.  She has a tiny head and thus a tiny brain.  That’s all I’m going to say.

The project turned out to be easy once we eliminated the sewing machine.  Here are our simple steps:

1. Determine the size of the drapes you want, considering you will need to fold each side for the hem.   For each side, we decided on a 1.5″ hem.

2. We lucked out as the width of the fabric was the perfect width for the curtain panel so I didn’t have to do as much work on the sides. Since the sides were the ends of the fabric and thus had a finished edge already, we only needed to fold them over once to be hemmed (so you wouldn’t see the pattern abruptly end… see picture above).  For the top and bottom, because we cut the fabric, we folded the edges over twice to prevent fraying.

To put it simply, we folded the sides over once at 1.5.”  We folded the top and bottom over twice 1.5″ each time so 3″ total.

3. To help hold the folds down, we ran a hot iron over each fold creating a crisp crease.

3. Heat n Bond time!   Turn the iron on to the silk setting, no steam.  For the sides (folded once), we placed the Heat n Bond on the back side of the fabric on the edge then ran an iron behind it.  For the top and bottom (folded twice), we folded the fabric once, then placed the Heat n Bond on the fold then ran an iron behind it.  We ran the iron slowly (about 1-2 seconds) giving the Heat n Bond time to melt and bond to the fabric.  After we finished ironing it and it had cooled for about a minute, we removed the white paper backing.

4. Once we removed the paper back, we folded the fabric over and ironed the other side of the fabric which bonded the Heat n Bond to the fabric.  We moved the iron slowly to give the Heat n Bond time to melt (about 4-6 seconds this time).

5. We repeated this for each of the four panels.  It took some time but, hey, we avoided a sewing machine!

6. We bought curtain rods and curtain rings with clips.  It’s perfect for using custom panels of cloth for curtains.  No holes needed for the rings.  You just clip it to the rod, much like a binder clip.

And how’s the durability you may ask?  Well, it’s lasted three months and several cat attacks so far.  I think Heat n Bond and I will be friends for a long, long time.

His.

I’ve noticed two things about the women in my life: 1) they all blast the A/C in the car but turn the vents away from themselves, and 2) they have useless things in their house- towels you can’t use, chairs you can’t sit in, and in this case, curtains that don’t close. I had curtains in my apartment before I got married, and they were there simply as a guarantee that I could sleep past noon on Saturdays.

Just as I had feared, Julie once again suggested putting up curtains that wouldn’t close. I suppose I should rephrase and mention that, technically, it’s not that the curtains can’t close… it’s that I’m not allowed to. Anyway, after doing our typical fabric-choosing runaround (which basically means Julie shows me two dozen patterns before remembering that I really don’t care), we had a new puzzle lying before us: assembly. Curtains are made of cloth, and cloth had to be sewn, right? For some reason, Julie thinks I can sew. I learned how to re-stitch buttons and small tears in Boy Scouts, but beyond that I’m pretty useless with a needle. Seeing as we’d need to sew several feet, stitching wasn’t really an option, and Julie wanted curtains stat.

I decided to swing for the fences and attempt to use the sewing machine again. We had borrowed my parents’ sewing machine, and I nicknamed it Christine. If you’ve ever seen the movie of the same name, you’ll know what I mean- it works flawlessly every time for my dad, and has tried to kill everyone else. Anyway, a few hours down the drain and I gave up on the sewing machine. We were desperate for a solution, and remembered that our Ikea curtains came with iron-on strips for hemming (gotta love the Swedes for their refusal to properly fasten anything).

One trip to the craft store later and we were cooking… or ironing. And it was tedious-measure, fold, iron, fold again, burn fingers, measure, fold iron… repeat. Julie may have laid out instructions, but she failed to mention that it takes at least an hour per curtain to get it right. So, once again, a late Saturday morning whim turned into a weekend project.

Once everything was put together and installed, I have to admit that it looks pretty good. What was originally a confusing extension of the bedroom had turned into something that looked almost intentional. I just wish she would let me close them on Saturday mornings.

And now for the final results!

  

  

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The Great Leopard Extinction

Hers.

Could anything top a leopard print chandelier?  Sadly, yes.

At first glance, the dining room chandelier that came with the house looked like it had leopard print mini shades with black fringe on the edges.

Chris and I were quick to agree that this would be one of the first things we changed in the house (after the wood paneling of course, more here if you haven’t read up on that adventure yet).

As we began disassembling the chandelier, we discovered the chandelier held a deep, dark secret…

…it was not leopard print.  Oh no, it was much worse.  It was a tan and black leaf pattern made to look like leopard print from afar.  See for yourself.

       

We couldn’t decide what was worse- that someone decided to approve this design for manufacture or that someone saw it a store and liked it enough to spend money and take it home with them.

Jokingly, Chris and I decided to list the chandelier on eBay providing full disclosure of the… unique… chandelier.  Leaf print and all.  We figured it would go unsold, or someone would snatch it up for the minimum price of $0.99.  Much to our surprise, after a week, bidding shot up to $70.  Seriously??  But we weren’t going to question it.  Hey, it paid for half of the price of our new chandelier.  Cha-ching!

Speaking of new chandelier, after scouring a few home improvement and lighting stores, we finally decided on a wrought-iron five-light chandelier from Home Depot for $140 (the brand is Hampton Bay, if you’re curious).  It was just the right size for our quaint dining room and provided an instant updated look.  I couldn’t find the exact model at Home Depot but here are a few similar options available: here and here.

Although Chris had a few installation issues, installing lighting is usually pretty easy and provides such a quick update or style shift to a room.  I’m obsessed with our new chandelier and it helped shape the remainder of our room.  Is it weird to style a room based on lighting?  Maybe.  But, hey, it works.

His.

“What is… that?”

That was my first question upon entering our house the first time we looked at it with the realtor. From a distance, it looked like it was constructed from brass coat hangers and topped with some sort of leopard print and black fringe shade. I immediately thought of the leg lamp from A Christmas Story, and I knew it had to go.

It was clearly going to be my first electrical project.

In physics class, I struggled with electricity- it’s very complicated, very abstract, and very boring. In practice, I excel in electricity- it’s very straightforward, very dangerous (my kind of fun!), and when you get it right, it’s very rewarding. So in general, I enjoy electrical work. What I don’t enjoy, however, is hanging things from a ceiling. As Julie was about to find out, there is a huge difference.

Julie picked out a really cool chandelier. It has clean, flowing lines and a subtle wrought iron look but also retains the “classic” chandelier image. It’s also heavy. Like, really heavy. If you’re ever mounted an electrical component to a ceiling, you know that at some point, it requires wiring everything up with one hand while supporting whatever you’re installing with the other. This isn’t a huge deal when it’s a 10-ounce dome light, but a 10-pound chandelier is another story. Somehow, that 10 pounds increases exponentially every minute, meaning you have about a minute to wire everything up before your arm gives out and your new chandelier has a fight with gravity.

After a few tries, I gave up. The wires just weren’t cooperating, and my arms were getting sore. Julie threw a fit because her family was coming to visit that weekend, and what would they think if we didn’t even have a light in the dining room (which was embarrassingly empty, anyway). As Julie whined about how little she understands about lamp installation (that’s what it sounded like to me, anyway), the solution hit me- brothers-in-law! I keep forgetting that Julie’s brothers aren’t in the third grade anymore, so I told them I’d let them watch all the sports they wanted if they agreed to hold the chandelier while I wired it up. Jackpot! Within minutes I had a well-lit dining room and a TV that was stuck on ESPN for two days.

I’ve learned a few things in my years as a DIYer, and the most important is that no one works for free. So whether it’s a case of Guinness or all the SportsCenter they can handle, everyone has a price. And I’m not above bartering.

Here’s the final product (and, yes, we did paint the walls as well but more on that later):

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Filed under Before & After, Dining Room

Love Me Some Tree Ninja

Hers.

We had been dreading this day for a whole year.  Tree cutting day.  But, the time had finally arrived.  A few events set this day in motion.

1) My mom, the most un-hippie tree hugger you’ll ever meet, arrived for a weekend visit

2) Chris shot down my attempts at calling a professional tree trimming company (how can you say no to someone who advertises himself as a tree cowboy?!)

3) The tree was becoming so overgrown that branches were beginning to touch the street pavement (nothing kills curb appeal faster than a tree out of control)

Chris moaned and groaned thinking of nearly every excuse in the book to get out of the inevitable.  But it was time.  Time for the Chris versus tree showdown.

Obstacle 1: We met our first obstacle upon discovering that we don’t have a ladder tall enough to reach the branches that needed to be cut and Chris wasn’t ready to take claim to the title of Tree Cowboy.  So, my Dad and Chris set out to Home Depot to rent a ladder.  Two Home Depots later (the one by us has stopped renting tools we found out… boo!), the boys were back home with a humongous ladder in hand.

Obstacle 2: Enter hippie-mom with her claims that we needed a special spray to use on the tree after cutting branches.  “It’s like Neosporin for trees!” she claimed.  Fiiine.  Another trip to Home Depot and we had the ultimate tree band-aid.

And we were off!

Let me take this time to mention how this is yet another project we severely underestimated the timing on.  What we thought would take an hour, two at the max, took ALL day.  Even with 6 pairs of hands helping.  Oh yeah, you know we roped in brother 1 and 2 as well (what else are they good for?  KIDDING!… sort of).

As Chris and my dad whacked away at the tree, my mom surveyed (aka represented the feelings of the tree through her hippie ways), my middle brother cut the fallen branches into smaller limbs, and my youngest brother and I dragged the limbs to the curb for trash pick-up.  Several hours later, we surveyed our handywork.

Then began the big debate.  There was something wrong.  Mr. tree looked like he had a bad haircut.  Everything looked great on the two sides and in the back.  But the front… oooh boy.  It looked like he was bald in front except for one rebellious spot sticking straight out.  Sort of like Howie Mandel’s soul patch.

Yikes.

Side A (Dad and Julie): The patch has gotta go.  Whack it off!

Side B (Mom and Chris): Leave the patch!  The integrity of the tree will be gone otherwise. (Have I mentioned the word hippie yet?)

Well, side A won.  Naturally.  We’re the most stubborn afterall.

The soul patch was cut off and our tree emerged as its beautiful self again.  Ahhh.  Much better.

Our front yard is almost up to par with the lawn two doors down that we so covet.  They have perfectly manicured bermuda grass compared to our very lush, but very St. Augustine lawn.  It’s so unfair!  *sigh.  Some day we’ll steal back the mental title of “Lawn of the Neighborhood.”  Some day.

His.

Correction: I’m the Tree Ninja. What my lovely wife failed to mention is that a few weeks before, I climbed up into the tree with a sawzall and cut all the branches I could reach. The problem is that you can only climb out so far on a branch before things get really unstable. I wanted to wear a helmet, but Julie said no because I would “look stupid.” Right, because climbing a tree with a sawzall doesn’t already look stupid or anything.

Anyway, to say that the branches were low is something of an understatement- you couldn’t walk in front of our house without getting whacked in the face, and the only thing keeping it off the ground was the fact that most of the branches were resting on top of my project car. Oh, and the daily advertisements for tree-cutting services taped to our door was another giveaway that maybe it was in fact time to do something about it.

I hated yard work as a kid. Not only were we the only kids in the neighborhood that had to do it, but it was usually my mom going on a clipping frenzy while my sister and I picked up the debris. I pretty much have nightmares about picking up leaves and tree limbs, so I agreed to risk life and limb (no pun intended) to cut the stupid branches under one condition: I didn’t have to pick anything up.

After picking up a ladder and tree saw from Home Depot, Julie’s dad and I stared at the tree for a few minutes attempting to determine which branches needed to be cut, and in what order. We finally picked a starting point, gave the ladder a few good shakes to ensure stability, and we were ready to hack away. I’m not scared of heights, but there’s something unnerving about cutting off tree limbs. For starters, you’re about 15 feet off the ground. Seconds, you’re on a rickety ladder, throwing your body weight back and forth to make the cuts (it’s that or hang on by one hand and make wimpy cuts).

A few hours later (I knew from the beginning that it would take all day, by the way), we had a pile of branches about the size of a Sherman tank… but something wasn’t quite right. The tree looked like a boat listing to port, and we weren’t quite sure why. Julie and her dad were convinced more branches needed to come down, but I didn’t want to lose any more shade in the front lawn. After a few minutes of arguing (I’m sure the nosy neighbors were delighted), we compromised and decided to cut one more branch. Huzzah! The tree looked great, and we were DONE.

Oh, and the neighbors whose lawn Julie covets? They don’t do their own work, they have lame grass, and they don’t get the satisfaction of climbing trees with power tools.

Tree Ninja to the rescue!

Just chillaxin’ between cuts.

The rest of us look so hard at work!

A visual after we sprayed the tree “band-aid”

Ahhh so much better without the soul patch (sorry we forgot to take before picture!  Don’t hate us!)

Aw, pretty house!

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Doorbuster of a Deal

Hers.

As our realtor walked us through what would soon be our first official house, only one thing made us stop dead in our tracks… and not in a good way.  We had just wrapped up looking at the backyard, turned back towards the house, began walking to the patio door and stopped.  The patio door looked like it had been attacked by gremlins trying to claw their way into the house.  What sort of beast would do such a thing to an innocent door??  Well, you can rest easy.  The world isn’t overrun with gremlins.  Just misbehaved dogs.  The owner’s dog had chewed halfway through the door over the years.  Good thing they moved out when they did because that door didn’t have much of a chance left.

Upon placing our offer on the house, we were told that the owners acknowledged the door had to be replaced and would take care of it before we moved in.  Being the penny-pinchers we were, we saw an opportunity to knock off some of the price.  We negotiated back saying- no worries, take another $1000 off the asking price and we’ll replace it ourselves.  No biggie.*

What’s the asterisk for you may be wondering?  Because, as this point, I would like to note that it seemed like a lot of work to replace an exterior door but Chris reassured me a zillion times saying he could fix it in less than a day.  It was nothing they couldn’t handle.  Nothing to worry about.  So I didn’t.  The sellers were happy.  We were happy.  Alls well that ends well.  Right?  Wrong.

I figured I’d only have to wait a month or two to rid myself of the hideous near-death door.  Chris kept saying, all I need is another set of hands and I can take care of it.  So, in enters my family.  That’s an extra FOUR sets of hands of help.  That Saturday, while Chris is at work, I excitedly venture off to a builders surplus hardware store with my dad for a heck of a door deal.  With two doorknobs, one door, and several minutes of convincing the cashier that I am NOT my Dad’s trophy wife but his daughter, we happily returned home to present our treasures to the rest of the group.

Now, my husband doesn’t anger easily.  It’s why we work so well together.  He’s the Type B to my Type A.  It takes a lot to get him riled up… like when his wife goes out and buys a door without him.  Oh, and she’s already started painting it so he can’t return it.  Yikes.  Not a fun day to be Julie.

Well, he got over it… eventually.  Until an hour later he figured out that the door frame wasn’t exactly a perfect rectangle and that I had purchased a steel door instead of a wood door.  I thought I had been smart with this purchase decision since steel would better insulate the house and be a studier door… it also is impossible to mold into a different shape meaning our un-rectangular door frame would make the project un-doable.  Yikes.  Not a fun day to be Julie.

So, I gave Chris a few months to figure it out.  He came to the conclusion that he couldn’t do it himself.  So, I did what every wife would do.  I called a professional.  Perhaps another error in my ways was scheduling the handyman to come while Chris was at work.  All I knew to do was to show him the door I bought then show him the door frame.  I prayed that would be enough.  It wasn’t.  He scratched his head for a full 45 minutes then told me I had two options.  Option 1) Pay him $900 and give him a full weekend and he could replace it for me using the door I purchased.  Umm no thanks.  Option 2) Buy a different door, this time made out of wood.  Definitely not… that would mean fessing my mistake to Chris.  Fat chance.  So I went with Option 3.  Told him thanks but no thanks, we’d figure it out ourselves.

Several months later, Chris convinces his dad to help him finally take on the door project.  Chris reassured me that with his dad’s help and Uncle Tom’s advice, they’d knock it out in no time.

2 DAYS later, and several pounds of dog hair vacuumed from the perimeter of the door frame (gross!), we had a shiny, new, partly-painted door installed.  Chris and I still fondly look over at our patio door and wonder if the $1000 knocked off the purchase price was really worth all that… and then remember the Gremlin-like markings and decide yes, indeed it was.

His.

Let me clear a few things up. When we were negotiating the details when buying the house, I said I could replace the door… I never said anything about how long it would take me. To be honest, I didn’t want to do it- I had attempted to install a door once before, and it was such a beating that we gave up. Doors are surprisingly tricky to install, and I wanted no part of it. Oh, and I definitely did NOT tell Julie it was OK to buy a door.

Doors are a finicky beast, and just about the most frustrating thing to install. Everything has to be exact… and when I say exact, I mean within 2-3 millimeters, or else the door won’t close. The more exact you are, the better your door will open and close. That said, I knew the exact dimensions the door needed to be, so when Julie announced she and her parents were going to the builder’s supply store I reiterated that I wanted to see the doors for myself so I can make sure they fit. So imagine my surprise when I got home from work on day to find Julie painting away on a now un-returnable door… that wasn’t the dimensions I gave her. I had heard it hundreds of times growing up but somehow I just couldn’t resist saying it: “That’s exactly what I told you not to do.”

As always, Julie tried to reason her mistake under the rug. She had to get the door because it was “super on-sale” and she had to paint it right away because it was a “yucky color.” She also seemed to think that there was no cause for alarm because, don’t worry, her parents were here to help us install it. Now, I like my in-laws, but they’re not DIYers, and this wasn’t a job for beginners. And let’s not forget that it was over 100* outside at the time.

I reluctantly propped our shiny new door against the wall in the garage and waited for cooler weather, and for my parents to come visit. Finally, February rolled around and we caught a break- my parents were in town and we had two days of absolutely beautiful weather, so my dad and I got to work. If you’ve never seen how a door is mounted, it’s really not much more than a few nails. We pried off the trim and I showed my dad how much fun a sawzall is, buzzing through the nails like butter. Within minutes, the old door was off, and now the fun could begin.

The new door went up, and of course didn’t fit. The problem was that there was too much space between the house and the door frame, so it would be almost impossible to mount the door in a way that the trim would cover the gaps. We shimmed and adjusted, and reshimmed and readjusted, and repeated… a lot. First, the door wouldn’t open, then it wouldn’t close, then it wouldn’t sit right, etc. The worst part is that the whole time you’re doing this, the door has to stay closed, so we had to go in and out through a window… because that doesn’t make me feel like white trash or anything.

We must have made a few million tiny adjustments all around that door before finally making desperate phone calls to anyone we knew who owned a hammer. Finally, a fellow family DIYer came through (good ole Uncle Tom) and told us the trick is to mount the hinged side on the door and frame to the house, and then shim the other side. A few hours later (time mostly spent vacuuming dog hair out of the crevices), we had a door that closes so effortlessly the cat can do it… but usually she just sits behind it and waits to get whacked when it opens.

And now for the photographic evidence.

       

  

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Filed under Living Room, Renovation

Sneak Peak

What’s this, you ask?

This is us teasing you with things to come.

This is also the result of an hour of research and browsing on Amazon.

Lastly, this is what will probably end up being Chris’ holiday weekend (while Julie hits the Labor Day sales, of course… kidding!… kind of).

Excited yet?  Just you wait.  There are big things in store for this little can. Muhaha.

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