Monday, December 15, 2014

Pinch Me. And Then Pinch a Pleat. And Then Pinch Me Again. I Can't Believe I Made Hand-Sewn Pleated Draperies!

The guest room is starting to come together. We hung the headboard and mirror, and I just finished the scariest part of the project: Sewing curtains. I spent last Thursday and Friday making hand-sewn fancypants draperies with weights, pleats, buckram, the outer edges pinned to the wall, the works! If I didn't have photographic evidence, I wouldn't believe I made them. I keep making excuses to walk by the guest room so I can stare at them. *sigh*

Voila! The fabric is Robert Allen's Neo Toile. The nickel rods and crystal ball finials are from Lowe's.
If you've been reading closely, you know that my Mom makes custom, hand-sewn draperies. And she's good. Like, so good that she's made draperies for Nashville royalty like Barbara Mandrell. Mom made the curtains in our living room and bedroom, and she wanted to teach me how to make my own curtains. So I bought the fabric, went to her house, and she instructed me and supervised my work while I did everything myself (with one exception--but more about that later!). I was a very eager student. I wanted to do everything right, and I didn't want to cut any corners. I kept asking Mom, "Is this how Barbara's curtains were made? I want my curtains to be just like Barbara's!"
On day one, I spent four hours measuring, ironing, pinning, and hand-stitching. First I cut and hemmed all four sides of the fabric that makes up the front of the panel. Next, I did the same to the lining. Last, I sewed them together. All by hand.
The lining is attached to the drape with a stitch that goes through the lining and the back of the hemmed edge, but never pierces the front of the panel. From the front, this stitch is completely invisible. I kept confusing Mom by referring to it as the "ninja stitch." *grin*
At the end of day one, I had two 94'' tall panels hemmed to size, with the lining attached. It was around this time that we turned on Napoleon Dynamite, and Mom confessed that Uncle Rico's style reminds her of my Dad, circa 1978. HAHAHAHAHA! Ew. 
Mom asked me not to share all her secrets, so I can't post step-by-step instructions. But I'm happy to share a bit of what I learned. First, you need a sewing table to do this! It would be nearly impossible to do it without a very tall, 9+ foot long work table. I imagine that for many people, not having a long, clean, flat surface to work on is probably the greatest barrier to doing a project like this. And that's a bummer.

The next thing I learned is that if you have a 9 foot long table where you can lay your project out flat, it's not so difficult to make these curtains. Ironing? Pinning? Sewing a stitch with a needle and thread? That's not hard! If you've ironed a shirt and sewn a button, you already know how to do 90% of this. The hardest part was remembering which step came next. I constantly asked Mom, "Is this right? Is this what I do next?" I was intimidated by the scope project, and sometimes I didn't feel confident about my work. But when you break the project down into small steps, none of them are very hard.
On day two, we sewed in the weights and buckram. Mom sewed vertical seams at the top of the panels to start the pleats. Then I folded and sewed the pleats into place by hand.
Look, Ma! I'm sewing pleats! Also, I'm wearing a Nuka Cola shirt. Let me know if you recognize the reference!
This is what the finished product looks like from behind. To hang the curtains, I inserted a drapery hook into each vertical seam, about an inch from the top edge, then hung each hook from a curtain ring. 
I can't promise you that it's 100% easy, because there's one major step that I didn't do myself: I didn't work the math to figure the pleat placement, take the resulting numbers, and machine stitch the beginning of each pleat. There is a formula for figuring out the placement of the pleats. It's not a difficult formula, but Mom tells me it can be time consuming, especially the first time. Mom did this part of each panel while I worked on the other panel. When I realized she did this part without me, I turned into a whiny teenager. "MOOOOOOM! I wanted to do it myself!" Ha. 

I couldn't actually be mad, though. She knew I wanted to finish the curtains as soon as possible, and it was sweet of her to make the project go faster. Also, I think she was in a hurry to get to her Bunco game. But she happily handed the panels over to me for hand-pleating, watched me work, and told me I had a knack for it. I have a knack for pleating, y'all! 
Keith and I hung the curtains together on Saturday. We used an adjustable rod/finial/bracket set from Lowe's. I chose this set for its pretty crystal ball finials. Seriously, look at those finials! Are they not the best?

Keith measured and installed the brackets and rods. I attached drapery hooks to the back of each pleat, and hung the hooks from curtain rings that have a small loop for drapery hooks under the main body of the ring. I avoided curtain rings with clips. Clip-on curtain rings are really easy to use, and they can be nice when you want a casual look. But I don't think alligator clips sticking out at the top of curtains look very professional. And after all the work I'd done, I wanted to get the most professional results possible.
Can you see the straight pins? Mom recommended pinning the pleats for the first week or so, to encourage them to retain their shape.
To prevent a gap between the edge of the curtain (aka the return) and the wall, I used this professional trick: I put small eye screws in the wall, right under the finials. Then I inserted a drapery hook at the end of each panel, and threaded the hooks through the eyes of the screws.
The curtains just hit the floor. Perfection.
To do: Paint dresser.
I'm so pleased with these curtains, I already want to make more. But the rooms that still need curtains are at the bottom of our project list. Womp womp! But I have plenty of other things to do. The guest room needs art, pretty shams, and a handmade pillow or two. And after Christmas, I'd like to paint the nightstands and dresser. I painted them black seven years ago, and they all need of a fresh coat of paint. I want to paint the nightstands white and the dresser a very bright, bold reddish-orange. I'm inspired by this piece.

Painted Campaign Dresser from Vintage Transformed
What do you think? Too bright and crazy, or just crazy enough to work?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

DIY Makeover: Thrift Store Ginger Jar Lamps

Silk shade, matte black, and shiny silver. Love. But I'm getting ahead of myself!
Last week I found out that my in-laws are coming to stay with us on Christmas Day, woo-hoo! I lucked out and married a guy with really nice parents. They say things in front of me like, "Keith, you're so lucky you married Jen." And then they take me to Disney World. Since I won the in-law lottery, I want to make the guest room especially nice for them before they arrive. As soon as I found out they're coming to town, I got started.

Step One: Lamps.

Let's rewind to one year ago. I was standing in a thrift store admiring the shape of two fugly burgundy lamps, priced at $5 each, and wondering how well they would take spray paint. As I studied them, an employee walked by and cheerfully said, "See the red sticker there? It means those lamps are only $1 each today!" SOLD. I needed two more lamps like I needed a hole in my head, but I knew we'd be moving to a bigger place soon. A matching pair of ginger jar lamps would probably come in handy someday.

The lamps sat, sad and unused, for a year.

When I started planning our guest room, I knew they would be perfect in there with a white shade and coat of black paint. Tuxedo style lamps? Yes, please! I kept the lamps simple because the curtains are going to be bold, and the overall color scheme isn't exactly tame. I wanted to give the eye a place to rest. And I figured it wouldn't hurt to make the lamps versatile, so they'll work in other rooms if I ever decide to move them around.

The actual makeover was easy: I covered the brass parts of the lamps with painter's tape, gave them two coats of matte black spray paint, and then put a few coats of silver Rub 'n' Buff on the brass. When using Rub 'n' Buff on metal, I recommend applying it, waiting a few minutes, buffing, and then waiting a few hours before applying the next coat. When the product has time to set, it works much better. The most time-consuming part was waiting for paint and Rub 'n' Buff to dry.

See the slubby silk? And the fancy shape? This shade was so worth the extra $22.
I looked for a bargain on lampshades, but the ones I saw at Target and Lowe's were about $30 each and completely unimpressive. They came in uninteresting shapes, and they were made of a cardboardish material. So I went to Hermitage Lighting Gallery, a super fancy and intimidating store downtown, and fell in love with a pair of gorgeous pagoda shaped silk shades. They were $52 each, and that felt like a big investment. But that's only $22 more than the shades at Target, and they look and feel a million times nicer. I've always been disappointed by the way Target lampshades sit crookedly, and these are straight as arrows. So I think the extra $22 was money well spent.

Now that the lamps are finished, I need to hang the headboard. And the mirror. And change the light fixture. And repaint the dresser. And buy fabric for the curtains. Okay, time to get to work. Bye!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Fresh off the Knitting Needles: Diamonds and Ruffles Scarf in Patons Lemongrass Wool

Just completed: A chartreuse scarf for me! No, I can't get enough of this color.

This crappy iPhone pic makes me look all glowy and airbrushed, haha. Nice.
Needles: Size 7
Stitches used: Knit, purl, K2tog, Kf/b
Yarn: Patons Classic Wool in Lemongrass, 2 skeins
Patterns: Moss Diamonds & Lozenges and the Garter Ridge Ruffle from Up, Down All-Around Stitch Dictionary

If this pattern looks familiar, it's because it's similar to the Asherton Scarf I made for Keith. I love the geometric design on his scarf so much that I made one for myself. This time, I used the diamond stitch pattern in my favorite knitting book, Up, Down All-Around Stitch Dictionary by Wendy Bernard. And to make my scarf a little girly, I added a garter stitch ruffle. Aww, ruffles!! Cute.

The Up, Down All-Around Stitch Dictionary has patterns for lots of decorative edges and ruffles. Some are lacy, some look simple and tailored, and some even look pleated. The book makes it easy to pick a stitch pattern for the body of an item, pick another pattern for a decorative edge, and put 'em together so you can customize all your hand-knitted items. And it tells you how to knit the fancy edge bottom-up or top-down, so you don't have to seam two pieces together to make a scarf with a decorative edge on both ends. I probably sound like an ad, but I promise this isn't a sponsored post. I'm just that crazy about the book!

Do you have a favorite knitting book? I'd love some recommendations--especially for knitting garments. I still haven't mastered the art of knitting tops and sweaters that fit well. Book recommendations that address this problem would be much appreciated!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ribbon Trimmed Roman Shades from Windows by Melissa on Etsy

How was your Thanksgiving? Ours was peaceful. We'd already gone through the debacle of cooking a giant bird, and on Thursday we spent a quiet day at the lake with my family. I caught up with my youngest sister, gorged myself on cranberry sauce (my favorite!) and stuffing, watched Christmas Vacation, and played a lot of Don't Starve with Keith. So peaceful. We spent the rest of the weekend avoiding shopping, seeing friends, and playing more Don't Starve. Having Keith at home all day, for 4 days, was wonderful.

But enough chitchat. Let's talk about Roman shades.

Roman Shades by Windows by Melissa on Etsy
When I first saw our house, I fell in love with its many tall windows. The windows and natural light were a big selling point. As soon as we moved in, though, I realized we were on display 24/7, and especially at night. Our house is on a corner, so it feels extra exposed. Even the den at the back of the house is exposed to the main road that runs through our neighborhood. Hi, neighbors!

Rewind to June: This room was TOTALLY exposed to the outside world.
As much as I love the curtains in our other rooms, I didn't want floor-length draperies in the den. I was looking for something more casual that would provide privacy while still letting in lots of light. Blinds would've been okay, but I really love the softly draped look of Roman shades. They don't look too fussy or perfect, but they're pretty. Especially when they're dressed up with a crisp bit of black ribbon trim. 

To make a long story short: I did some research, read a lot of reviews, waited a few months, saved up, and bought handmade Roman shades from Windows by Melissa on Etsy. It wasn't cheap, but we needed privacy at night. And I wanted to get something we really love, rather than buy something just okay that we'll want to replace in a few years.

Working with Melissa was easy. I sent her an inquiry and our window measurements. She sent me a few questions and made sure I understood their eight week turnaround time. I didn't mind waiting eight weeks, because they make everything by hand according to the customer's exact specifications. I wanted basic white fabric with black trim, but Melissa will work with any fabric you have in mind.

See those crisp folds? These shades are awesome.
Our shades arrived exactly when Melissa said they would, and we installed them a month ago. I wanted to live with them for a while before writing this, so I could tell you what they're really like. For the first five days, we had to pull the shades all the way up and leave them that way to train the fabric into shape. It was so, so, so, so hard not to use them! It was worth the wait, though, because now when we lift the shades, the pleats fold neatly.

Three sleepy pets and four Roman shades.
The shades provide privacy without blacking out the windows entirely during the day, which is exactly what I wanted. The only thing I don't completely love is that if the shades are lowered during the day, you can see the shadow of the "guts" inside the shade... you know, the mechanism that pulls it up. That's because they don't have blackout lining. I chose to have no blackout lining, because I didn't want the room to be too dark during the day. I normally solve the problem by lifting the shade higher during the day. In the picture above, though, I left one shade lower so you can see the shadow. 

If you're shopping for Roman shades, and a) you want to leave the shades lowered during the day, and b) the shadow would bother you a lot, then you'll probably want to pay a bit extra and get Roman shades with blackout lining.

As you've probably guessed, I'm very happy with them. I like supporting independent seamstresses, and I love the custom look and fit. And speaking of custom fitted window shades, be sure to measure each window--twice. Or even three times! My mother insisted I measure each window, even though they all looked the same. As it turns out, one of our windows is half an inch wider than the others, and I never would've guessed it. If I had measured one window and asked for five shades in that size, I would've made an expensive mistake. Thanks, Mom!

* This is a totally, completely, 100% unsponsored post.