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

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

Sewing for Newbies: Retail Patterns 101

In the States, there are two big players in the pattern game – Simplicity Creative Group and McCall Pattern Company.  Each markets multiple brands, including inexpensive “sub-brands” of easy-to-sew projects.  Simplicity Creative Group markets Simplicity, its sub-brand It’s So Easy, and New Look.  McCall Pattern Company markets McCall’s, its sub-brand Easy Stitch ‘N Save, Butterick, its sub-brand See & Sew, and Vogue.  Behold the handy table:
I never pay more than $4 for a pattern.  The pattern companies' websites run sales frequently, and fabric stores have patterns on sale for $.99 or $1.99 almost constantly.  The selection varies – one week it will be Butterick, the next Simplicity, and so forth.  You can check the sales flyers for fabric stores such as Jo-Ann and Hancock Fabrics to see which brand is on sale during certain dates.  The sub-brands don’t go on sale but are only $3-4 at regular price.  They can be found at some Wal-Marts as well as fabric stores.

Is one brand better than another?  In my experience, not really.  My personal preference is Simplicity, but I’ve used all the brands with relatively equal success.  The advantages of the sub-brands are they’re easy to sew and always inexpensive; no need to wait for a sale.  The advantage of the “top level” brands – Simplicity, Butterick, McCall’s and Vogue – is their greater variety of styles.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Window Treatments: Leave No Evidence

Most of the apartments I've occupied have had two things in common: miniblinds and rules against putting holes in the walls.  Not to be denied my drapey window treatments, I devised a way to hang curtains and still get my deposit back at the end of the lease.  This project will show you how to dress up your windows with no sewing, no tools, and no holes in the walls.

Cost:  $12+, depending on types of window treatments chosen
Materials needed:
  • spring clamps
  • curtain rod
  • sheet(s), fabric or window treatment(s)
  • rubber bands

You will need two spring clamps, which can be purchased from your local home improvement store for $2-3 each.  Make sure they open at least 1" so they won't crush the top rail of your blinds or bend the interior mechanism.  I'm using 4" x 1" opening clamps from Home Depot.  Place one clamp on each end of the rail.

Shirr your curtain panels onto a standard rod (available at most discount and home improvement stores for $3-5).  You can also use fabric or sheets instead of pre-made curtain panels.  Sheets are easy to use as curtains because the top hem makes a great rod pocket -- just snip holes in either end and run the rod through.  Place the rod on top of the clamps.  Use twist ties or rubber bands to secure the rod to the clamps if you wish.

For the top treatment, you will need a long piece of fabric.  The appropriate length will vary depending on the size of your window and the look you’re going for.  In these photos, I’m using a five-yard scarf valance (bought at a thrift store for $2.50) on a 48" window.  Run the fabric through two rubber bands.

Drape the fabric through the clamps.  Adjust so it's hanging evenly (or just the right amount of skewed, if you prefer).  Secure the fabric to the clamps with the rubber bands.

Run the end of the fabric through a rubber band until the band is a few inches below the clamp.

Pull the band up to the bottom of the clamp, making a loop with the fabric.  Secure the band to the clamp.  This will form a "pouf" which will hide the clamp.

Repeat on the other side.

If you don't like the pouf look, you can hide the clamps some other way -- big bows or draped scarves, for example.  You could even make a hole in the back of a pair of foam skulls and pop those over the clamps.  Spooky!

When it's time to depart, you can easily take down your window treatments and leave no evidence.