Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dog Bed Follow-Up Note

My dog Bean Sidhe is almost always snoozing on my bed when I get home from work.  Yesterday, I came in to find her snoozing in HER new bed.  Yay!  She really likes it!  File this project under Very Successful.  :D

Easy-to-Sew Satin Curtains

A funny thing about relationships is that a trait which is perceived as an asset in the beginning can over time be seen as a major detriment.  For example, I am generally pretty sure what will work for me and therefore can make decisions with some confidence.  In the beginning of a relationship, this is seen as "It's so cool that you know what you want in life."  Later, it turns into "You are too picky."

Wait, this post is not about relationships; it's about curtains!  But the point is valid -- I typically do know precisely what I want.  The problem is that it usually doesn't exist.  This was true for my living room, dining room and kitchen curtains, which had to match but be radically different sizes.  What do I do when I can't find what I want?  Make it myself, of course!

I chose a beautiful reddish/burgundy fabric with an elegant satin finish. As I wrote in earlier posts, large items can be difficult to sew and satin is really slippery and annoying.  The only way to sew rod pockets that were anywhere close to straight would be to pin the heck out of the fabric.  Not just a pin here and there, but pinpinpinpinpinpinpinpinpin.  Uh... NO.  I hate pinning.  I came up with a cheat an alternate solution. :-)

A note on curtain widths:  Use fabric that is at least twice the width of your window.  For example, if your window is 36" wide, use at least 72" of fabric.  Two panels of 45" or 60" fabric, a total of 90" or 120", would work.  For a dressier, more elegant look, use more fabric.  On my 72" window, I used four panels of 60" fabric for a total of 240", or 3+ times the width of the window.

Got your elegant yet slippery fabric?  Let's do this.

Step one:  Decide how long your panels need to be.  I suggest putting up your curtain rods and measuring down from them.  I do not recommend breaking one of the finials, unless you want to practice your supergluing skills.  (I rate my skills a 7 out of 10.)

Cut the fabric to length, allowing for the bottom hem. 

Step two:  Hem the sides of your panels.

Step three:  Cut a strip of fabric which will form the back side of your rod pocket.  The length of the fabric strip should be the width of your curtain panel.  The width of the strip may vary depending on the size of your curtain rods.  I had 1" curtain rods and I wanted plenty of room for the curtains to slide, so I cut my strip 5" wide.

Step four:  Serge or sew the top of the strip to the front of your panel.  (I placed mine wrong side of strip to right side of panel so that the slippery "front" of the black satin strip would be on the inside of the rod pocket, making it easier to slide on the rod.)  Fold the strip over to the back side of the panel.  Topstitch along the top.  In the photo, the panel is folded over so you see the back (dull side) and the front (shiny side).  The stitches are difficult to see because I used matching thread -- burgundy in the needle and black in the bobbin.

Step five:  Sew the bottom seam of your rod pocket.  The proper way would be to fold the strip 1/4", fold again and stitch like a hem.  The less frustrating way is to serge the strip so it won't fray, then stitch the seam on the sewing machine.

Step six:  Hem the bottom of your panels.  I suggest hanging them to verify the length first.

Step seven:  Hang curtains and admire!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Paint It Black - Dog Bed

One of the treasures I picked up on a recent thrifting trip was a largish metal container for $5.  I don't know the intended purpose of the thing, but when I spotted it, I knew instantly it would make a perfect bed for my dog.

The container began life wearing a tacky (in my opinion) orange-gold color.

Like a good little goth, I painted it black.  I used a hammered finish spray paint.

Then I cut a piece of foam (from an old memory foam mattress topper) to fit.  A small bed pillow would also have worked.

I put the foam inside a black pillowcase for easy laundering.

I added a snuggly fleece throw, and Bean Sidhe climbed right in, resting her chin on the side.  :-)  Success!  It looks great with my living room decor.  I love it!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Paint It Black

"Paint it black" is probably the most fundamental tenet of gothic decorating on a budget.  I recently went thrifting and found several items that could be transformed into treasures with a coat of paint.  Behold the loot:

I tried several types of spray paint.
Rust-Oleum Universal - Metallic - Satin Nickel ($6):  I found the handle/spray button clunky and a little awkward. It was more like an atomizer, with the spray forming a cloud rather than hitting the object. Cap accurately represents the color. Final result looks good. Sometimes a goth needs a little shiny silver. :)
ColorPlace - Black Satin: To be blunt, this stuff is crap. Terrible coverage and the spray button spit out droplets. I think I paid two bucks; not worth it.
Krylon Indoor/Outdoor- Black Satin ($3.25):  Rotating spray button is a little odd; I didn't find any advantage in rotating it. Good coverage. Dries very quickly. Does not play well with plastic (but it doesn't purport to be for plastic).
Rust-Oleum - Black Satin ($4.75): I liked the wide spray button; easy to aim. Excellent coverage. Dries more slowly than Krylon. I would choose this over Krylon unless I was in a major hurry.
Rust-Oleum - Hammered - Black ($5.75): Great for giving a wrought iron look. Good coverage. Spray button will spit droplets if you don't shake the can frequently. Cap accurately represents the color and texture. Final result looks good.
Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane - Clear Satin ($7.50): Good stuff. I like it better than brush-on polyurethane because if sprayed properly, it gives an extremely smooth finish.
Rust-Oleum Painters' Touch - Primer and Satin Black (not shown) ($3.75):  Highly recommended.  Wide spray button is comfy and easy to aim.  Best coverage of any paint I tried. 
Rust-Oleum Painters' Touch - Metallic - Aluminum ($3.75):  I like this MUCH better than the Universal metallic.  The aluminum color is super shiny; I used it for coverage and then toned it down with a light coat of the Universal Satin Nickel.

In summary: Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch will be my first choice in the future. Krylon would be a good second choice.

Monday, August 22, 2011

DIY Platform Bed

I wanted a platform bed for my foam mattress but everything I found was too expensive, too high, the wrong size, and/or too modern in style.  Ultimately, I decided to make my own bed.

The bed I made is for a queen mattress, which measures 60” wide and 80” long.  If you have a different size mattress, you will need to alter the measurements accordingly.  I built my bed in two pieces (60” x 40” each) so it’s not too large or heavy for me to move.

Cost: $60
Tools needed:
  • Drill with bits and screwdriver
  • Wood screws in two sizes -- The #12 x 3” shown were overkill; #10 x 3” would have been better.  The #8 x 1.25” were great for attaching the OSB.
  • Tape measure
  • Marker
  • Square
  • Level
  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Jigsaw (optional)
  • Earplugs (optional)
  • Felt strips (optional – not shown)
You could consider safety glasses optional, I suppose, but I personally don’t want the option of a wood splinter in my eyeball. :P

Materials needed:
  • Four 60” long 2x10s
  • Six 37” long 2x10s
  • Two 40” x 60” pieces of OSB (not shown in photo)

Don’t have a power saw?  Home improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowe's will cut the wood for you.  They're supposed to charge 25 cents per cut after the first two, but the friendly orange-aproned employees have never charged me for cutting.
Why not 40” for the shorter 2x10s?  When you build a box, you need to allow for the thickness of the outer sides.  2x10s are 1.5” thick and you have two sides, so that’s an extra 3”.  Here is a diagram (most definitely not drawn to scale).
Assemble the first half of the bed using two of the 60” and three of the 37” 2x10s.  Pre-drill the holes, two per end (about .75” from the end of the board) and two in the middle of the 60” boards.  Drive in the larger wood screws.  Use the level and square as needed to ensure your bed isn’t (too) crooked.

Optional:  Cut a notch for wires.
I have an electric blanket, and the wires need to run to the foot of the bed.  I used a jigsaw to cut a notch for the wires to run through.

Place the OSB on top and attach it using the smaller screws.

Optional: Apply felt strips.
I didn’t want to chance any scratches to my brand-new floor, so I attached peel-and-stick felt strips to the bottom of the bed.

Repeat to assemble the second half of the bed.  Place the two halves of the bed together.  In the photo, you can see the black plug of the power strip at the head of the bed and the two electric blanket wires coming out at the foot of the bed.  The power strip, wires and transformers are hidden under the bed. :)

Because OSB is rough, cover it with fabric before putting on the mattress.  A bedskirt will do the trick, or use an old sheet.  Your bed is made!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tips for Painting with Dark Colors

The favored color palette for most goths is dark.  This works well for clothing, but decorating with dark colors can be challenging.  While I am generally a proponent of the “paint it black” philosophy of gothic decorating, I urge caution when applying this to your walls.  Black walls are illumination vampires – they suck up all the light, probably much more than you’d expect.  In the wrong situation, black walls can make you feel like you’re closed up in a coffin that’s one size too small. 

Consider the size of your room, the amount of natural light in your room, and perhaps most importantly, the intended use(s) of the room.  If you need to apply makeup and/or determine if your skirt and tights are the same shade of black, dark blood red may not be the best color choice for your walls.

Okay, you’ve read the cautions and you still want to go dark.  Great!  Dark walls can look fantastic if done right.  However, it’s surprisingly difficult to achieve good results with dark paint.

If you’re a painting newbie, I suggest watching HGTV’s show 10 Things You Must Know about interior painting, a good 20-minute primer on the basics.

Plan to paint multiple coats
It seems counterintuitive, but dark paint doesn’t cover well.  Put a coat of white paint on a burgundy wall, and it will look white.  Put a coat of burgundy on a white wall, and it will probably look patchy and uneven.

Buy quality brushes and rollers
Stay away from the econo-roller.  Good quality brushes and rollers shed less, hold more paint, and give a smoother finish.  This is particularly important with dark colors, which are not very forgiving.

Buy quality paint
Cheap paint is thin and drippy, and it covers poorly, especially in dark colors.  You’ll need twice as many coats, nullifying any cost savings and wasting a lot of your time.  The quality of specific paint brands is a hotly debated topic online (who knew?), but definitely avoid paint labeled “commercial” quality.  Typically, that’s the low-grade paint used by rental property managers and contractors.  Also be very skeptical of paint that costs $10 or $12 a gallon (U.S.).  Quality paint costs about twice that much.

Use primer
A coat of tinted primer plus a coat of paint will generally look better than two coats of paint.  For dark colors, you will need one coat of primer and at least one coat of paint.  For dark reds, you will probably need an additional coat(s) of paint.

Choose eggshell or satin
A glossier finish will magnify any imperfections in the wall and show every speck of dust.

Pictured below is my bedroom.  I used two coats of Behr Premium Plus Ultra, which is touted as primer and paint in one, in Wild Elderberry.  The ceiling, doors and trim are white to balance the dark.  So far, it's my favorite room in the house.
bedroom as it appeared when I first viewed the house
with carpet removed, ready for paint

with walls painted and flooring installed

with furniture, curtains, etc.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sewing for Newbies: Pretty, Annoying Fabrics

Be aware that the dressiest fabrics can be the most frustrating to sew.  Satin slides all over the place, chiffon unravels and puckers easily, panne velvet curls up along the edges, and lace… well, lace is full of holes.  And I won’t even describe the horror of tulle.  ;)  You might want to start with easier-to-sew fabrics such as double knit, suiting, or "quilting" cotton.  When you venture into the more difficult fabrics, save your sanity by choosing an easy pattern.

Butterick 5355 – a very easy pattern for loose-fitting pullover tops with wide raglan sleeves.  View D would look ethereal and romantic in black lace or chiffon.

New Look 6433 – an easy pattern for several skirt styles.  View B has a lace overlay, view C would look great with a lace or chiffon flounce, and view E would be a goth wardrobe staple in satin.

Sewing for Newbies: Start Easy

Start with easy-to-sew projects so you can have some early wins.  Some Simplicity patterns are designated “easy to sew,” “easy chic” and even “learn to sew” on the front of the pattern envelope.  Butterick rate their patterns “very easy,” “easy,” “average” and “advanced.”  Note that “easy” doesn’t necessarily equal “quick.”  An easy pattern may use only basic sewing techniques but have lots of pieces.

Simplicity 2314 – a “Learn to Sew” pattern for skirts in three lengths

Butterick 4688 – a very easy pattern for a jacket with princess seams

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sewing for Newbies: Start Small

One of my first sewing projects was a full-length velvet cloak lined in satin.  That was a bad idea for a several reasons, one being the sheer size of the thing.  In theory, a cloak is easy to sew.  In reality, it’s about 15 yards of fabric to maneuver through the sewing machine.  Also, you have to spread the fabric out on the floor to cut it unless you are sewing at the Jolly Green Giant's table.  Accurately cutting out fabric pieces while crawling around on your hands and knees is challenging and not at all fun.  My cloak turned out... less than perfect.  Actually, it was terrible.  I should have started small. 

I suggest a tote, top or short/mid-length skirt for your first two or three projects.  Smaller pattern and fabric pieces can be cut on a normal-size table and are more manageable while stitching.

Simplicity 2286 – a “Learn to Sew” pattern for a 16” long skirt with elastic waistband.

 Simplicity 2164 – a “Learn to Sew” pattern for bags
Butterick 4685 – a very easy pattern for peasant tops

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What Does Goth Smell Like?

What does goth smell like?  Cloves, perhaps?  For a spicy cinnamon and cloves aroma, put some cinnamon sticks and whole cloves in a pot of water and simmer on the stove.  The fragrance is yummy, and it's a natural, authentic smell, not artificial.  (Cinnamon can stain, so don't use your best pot.  Pictured is my $2 thrift store pot that I use specifically for cinnamon and cloves.)

You can also make sachets to hang in closets.  Cut a piece of tulle, put in some cloves and cinnamon sticks, and tie it with ribbon.

Spices at the grocery store are pricey.  I strongly recommend ordering in bulk online.  Even with the cost of shipping a two- or three-pound package, you will save a small fortune.  I got 200 cinnamon sticks and a pound of cloves for about $25 from Monterey Bay Spice Company.  Bought at a grocery store, that would cost about $350.  Yes, $25 vs. $350.  O.o

A Penny Saved is a Penny to Spend on Boots

Products packaged in squeeze tubes, such as sunblock or facial cleanser, are convenient... until I get to the last little bit in the package.  I know there's some left, lurking in the container, but it won't squeeze out no matter how I much I contort the package.  The solution?  Cut the end off the container! 

There's usually a lot more product in there than one would expect.  It's hard to gauge in the photo, but there's enough cleanser left in this bottle for at least 10 uses.  I just scoop it out with my finger.  (Use the top of your finger to keep product from gooping under your fingernail.)

To keep the product fresh, I just slide the cut-off portion back onto the tube.

This tip isn't goth-centric... but if you save money on your everyday products, you can buy those New Rocks sooner.  :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

No-Sew Cornice

A cornice, aka pelmet or valance board, is defined as "any of various ornamental horizontal moldings or bands, as for concealing hooks or rods from which curtains are hung or for supporting picture hooks."  Uh, okay.  In lay terms, a cornice is a fabric-covered box hung at the top of a window; curtain rods can be concealed behind it.

DIY cornice kits can be pricey.  For example, this one at Jo-Ann is $60 plus the cost of fabric.  Using cardboard, you can build your own cornice for 10 or 20 bucks, depending on how expensive your fabric is.

Cost: $10-25
Materials needed:
  • large piece of cardboard
  • duct tape
  • curtain rod with 3.5" projection
  • extenders for brackets
  • long straightedge
  • scissors
  • utility knife
  • small marker or pencil
  • measuring tape
  • fabric (about 1-1.5 yards, depending on the size of your cornice)
  • batting/padding fabric (optional)

Determine what size your cornice should be.  Pick the width and height that work best for you; the depth should be no more than 8".  The one shown in this project is 63" wide, 10" high and 8" deep.  Measure and mark a rectangle with a width equal to your cornice's width and a height equal to your cornice's height plus depth.  In this project, the rectangle was 63" wide and 18" high.   Measure and mark two pieces cornice height x cornice depth.  These will be the sides of your cornice.  For the example shown, the pieces were 10" x 8".  Cut the three pieces from the cardboard with a utility knife.

To form the top and front of your cornice, you will fold the cardboard lengthwise.  Measure and mark the fold line.  Score along the line with a utility knife.  Don't cut all the way through. 

Fold along the fold line.  I used a square to make sure my fold was... well, square.

Using duct tape, attach the side pieces to the top/front piece.

If desired, wrap the sides, front and top with batting/padding fabric (I used white fleece) and secure with tape.  The padding gives the cornice a softer look, and in this case, kept the brown cardboard from showing through the white stripes.  Shown below is the cornice from the back and from the front.
back of cornice
front of cornice
Wrap the sides, front and top with fabric and secure with tape.  Again, back and front are shown.
back of cornice
front of cornice

Install the brackets, bracket extenders and curtain rod.  The rod should project far enough from the wall to support the cornice.  In this case, I used three extenders for a total projection of 6.5" for an 8" deep cornice.

If you plan to hang curtains with the cornice, install a rod for those.

Place the cornice on top of the rod.  If your cornice is not too deep for the rod and is (relatively) square, it should sit securely on the rod.  Below is the view from underneath the cornice.

Ta-da!  Your cornice is complete!  This one is very basic.  You can, of course, make yours more elaborate.

Where is the window, you ask?  I made this cornice to hang behind the headboard of a queen size bed, something like this elegant room from HGTV: