cushions · Slipcovers

Outdoor Living: Getting Ready Now

When I think of January, I think of hibernation.  I grew up in northern Minnesota and it was always the hardest month to get through. It was brutally cold, dark and “closed up”.   Hibernation, a period of rest and sleep, isn’t a bad idea considering we just went through an extremely busy holiday season.  Our body and minds need this period of decompression and reset.  And then just like that we wake up (usually around the third week of January) and feel renewed and ready to tackle whatever the new year brings.

Now that the cold dark days of January are behind us,  the days are getting a little longer,  and more importantly, Punxsutawney Phil hinted at an early spring, our minds turn to “springing” up our homes.   But it is also the perfect time to access your outdoor furniture and cushions.  Stores have replaced their seasonal spaces once filled with Christmas decorations with outdoor living.  If your cushions are sun bleached, worn or you are just over the color or pattern you might want to consider recovering your cushions.   Sure, you can purchase new cushions, but there are a couple of things to consider before you do.

FIT. Have you ever visited one of the bigger retail stores and walked down the aisles lined with colors and shapes of all sizes and thought, “surely this one is perfect” only to get home and find it is to narrow, too wide, too deep, too whatever?

I have. It can be frustrating almost to point of wanting to get new furniture.  Some outdoor furniture have cushions shaped to fit your unique piece as you can see in the pictures above.

FABRIC.  Not all outdoor fabric is equal.  One option is a less expensive outdoor polyester fabric that comes in all kinds of prints and colors.  Since the UV rating is lower this fabric would not be ideal for cushions that would be in direct sunlight but would be a good option for accent pillows. But even in this category of polyester fabric, there are exceptions and new brands are coming out with better UV ratings and construction processes that make them better for outdoor cushions.

The color and print are stamped on the fabric after the fabric is made therefore making it more prone to wear and fading a lot faster so in time the color will fade and look dull.

If your cushions will be in direct sunlight, you should consider upgrading to a Sunbrella or Outdura type of fabric in a solution-dyed acrylic fabric.

The color and pattern are actually woven into the fibers as the fabric is made making it a perfect long wearing fabric for outdoor cushions.  You can tell it is a solution-dyed acrylic as the print and color are actually visible on both sides of the fabric.

The take away is that every brand has its own manufacturing process and the warranty, UV rating and fabric rub rating should be considered in your unique situation and use.   In the long run, the little extra money you spend will be worth it.  So now when you look at the store-bought cushions tags, you will know the difference between polyester and acrylic.

If you have cushions that need updating and purchasing new cushions isn’t an option that will work for your furniture, you might want to consider having custom cushions made in the exact fabric, fit and style that you want.  Now is the perfect time to start the process so they are ready when you are to get outside.

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Decorating · Slipcovers

From Good to Better

I can definitely tell it’s January.   Once everything is neatly put away for the next ten to eleven months for Christmas, things are looking a little stark.  With this clean slate, you start to reimagine a space and want to fill it with something new.  Everyone is thinking about refreshing, renewing and (applaud)…repurposing.

Before Christmas I picked up this beautiful and comfortable second-hand chair from a client that she found for a steal. It could definitely slide into any decor with its creamy solid fabric that was still in excellent condition with very little wear or soiling.   But sometimes you just want a little more. That’s where I come in.   Emily didn’t have to think too hard about what fabric she wanted.  She had already used this “Fawn” printed fabric from Hobby Lobby on some dinette chairs seat cushions.

It washes beautifully with very few wrinkles so if need be, she can remove it, wash it and slip it back on.  The print and color fit perfectly into her beautiful neutral color scheme that is throughout the main level of her home.

This chair had a couple of questionable design elements to consider, the large scrolled arms and the attached back cushion.  My client wanted to keep the casual look of the arms so I created a slipcover with tucks around the arm curve and with the help of self-cording, followed the flow of the side.

The other challenge was what to do with the attached back. I had two options. 1. Detach the pillow case, leaving a fabric hole in the back, though it would be covered with the slipcover.  2.  After removing the pillow case with stuffing (did you know that there is a zipper on the bottom?), flatten the case and tuck into the back.   I decided to start with the second option to see if that would work so if she ever wanted to back to the original fabric, she could easily do it.  And it did.

Finishing the chair with a corded bottom really leaves the chair looking like it’s been reupholstered but with the flexibility for change and cleaning.

When I brought the chair back to Emily’s house this week, she had a space all ready for it where the Christmas tree had been.  Once placed it was like it was always meant to be there and gave the corner of the room a subtle punch of personality.  The nice thing is that she could still slide this chair into any corner of her house and it would look great and fit right in with her design.img_0601

Do you have a piece that you have been putting off updating? If you are wondering if it is a good candidate for a slipcover, I would be happy to help you decide.

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family · Food · Intentional Living

Traditions

With an early Thanksgiving we gained an extra week to get ready for Christmas.  I don’t know about you but I feel a little calmer and more prepared for Christmas than in years prior.  As I start to plan for our family get together I find myself reflecting a bit more on our family traditions and also reevaluating them.  Are they necessary or important? If I didn’t do something would anyone even miss it? Would I?

I started by asking my husband about his Christmas traditions growing up in rural Minnesota in a big family of ten.  

 The ones that stood out in his mind, were the opening of gifts on Christmas Eve, a big breakfast at their house after Midnight Mass with friends and family and the town priest often attending. His mom always made a duck and ham.

They would get homemade flannel pajamas from his grandma when he was younger, and of course a “taste” of Mogen David wine for all the kids.  They felt pretty special.

My traditions also centered around family gatherings.  We would go to bed early on Christmas Eve and then wake up to get ready to go to Midnight Mass.

We always opened gifts in the morning and then would pile in the car, all eight of us, and drive to my grandparents house about an hour away to spend the day with my aunts, uncles and lots of cousins.   We would have a big turkey “dinner” around noon complete with apple and pumpkin pie.   After my sisters and I did the mounds of dishes by hand, my grandpa would usually set up his reel-to-reel to show home movies. 

Grandma would pass out little glasses of ice cold apple cider and homemade caramel popcorn.  After, the kids would either play games, go outside to play in the snow or sit around and chat with each other. We then had the great Minnesota  potluck hamburger hot dish “supper” with potato chips, beans, homemade buns, ham, Jell-O and pickles.

I then asked my kids what traditions were important to them.  I was curious if my value on traditions had translated to them.  I found it pretty interesting.  Some things that I thought were definite musts weren’t even mentioned. Those that made the list were spritz cookies, chocolate covered cherries, going to a movie on Christmas day, new pajamas on Christmas Eve and handing out gifts with the Santa hat.  Why is it we do traditions anyway?

Traditions bring a sense of comfort and connection to the past.  For me it is a way to pay homage in a way to my upbringing in a large family where the value wasn’t on gift giving but rather on family and spending time together.  It was/is a way to remember my mom and dad.  We only had one TV with three channels, board games, cards and the great outdoors with lots of snow. 1966 normal year of snow in MinnesotaThere was no internet, no cell phones, no computers or distractions.   Simpler times.  The traditions were often developed and evolved over the things we did to pass the time and out of necessity.  They stuck and became tradition as a way to celebrate our heritage, our faith, our family. 

Traditions help us to “go back” and regroup or recharge.  They are an already planned event or food where  you don’t have to think about what to do, it is just something you do.  It helps us to pause and try to put the brakes on our hurried lives.

They evoke emotions.   Ask “Alexa” to put on Celine Dion’s “These are Special Times” or the Carpenter’s Christmas CD and I am instantly in the holiday mood and ready to bake or decorate.  Traditions can be songs we listen to, movies we watch, games we play, places we visit, or things we do.  My annual Christmas letter and photo has become a tradition I personally love, though some would argue against them.  It has taken different formats over the years as we moved into the computer and digital age (yes, I used to handwrite them back in the dark ages) but I find it a wonderful way to document the year that was, the good and the bad.   A journal of sorts.  This year I want to put them all in a book with our annual Christmas photos.

Is it a lot of work?  Sometimes.  Is it worth it?  That depends.  Does it bring you joy?  Does it bring others joy? If the answer to these is no, than probably not.   I think it is important to re-evaluate from time to time the traditions you have because they sometimes just aren’t practical at some point. Of course times are different.  When we were younger all of our families were close geographically.  Now we live in three states, thankfully on the same coast and still within a short days drive. But once the kids get married, have the in-laws to consider and then grandkids come along, things can get complicated.

The traditions that were once near and dear to our heart become obsolete and impossible to hold on to…just a memory.  One tradition we incorporated for several years as our kids became teenagers and young adults was to go to a movie on Christmas Day.

Though we would still love to do this, with four very young grandkids, it would be a bit challenging.  Kids grow, families grow and change and grandkids come along all giving the opportunity for a tradition adjustment.

This year will be our first Christmas Eve alone in 33 years.  I’m not sure I want to make a tradition out of that so for now I think I will do what makes me happy but in moderation.   I will make the spritz cookies for my daughters, caramel rolls (ode to mom), Italian food for our family gathering,  maybe show some of my home movies I recently converted to DVD’s or at least as much as the kids will tolerate (ode to grandpa).

I will have apple cider and caramel popcorn on hand (ode to grandma), play the game TROUBLE with my granddaughter (a game I played endlessly when younger).  Someone will wear the Santa hat to pass out the gifts.

We will still open one gift at a time to anticipate and appreciate. Traditions come and go and evolve, is what I have decided, but the important thing is that family is together to celebrate, no matter what the day. It is then that we repeat favorite foods and activities that in time will become new traditions for a new generation.

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Decorating · Lakehouse · Slipcovers

Home Alone

When my husband told me he was going to New Orleans for a week for a conference, I had two choices. I could go with him and kill time around the city (been there, done that), or I could spend the week at the lake house catching up with projects and cleaning that were either neglected or put on the back burner throughout the summer rush and busyness of welcoming two new grandbabies into our family.  Turns out I made the right choice.  It rained every day in New Orleans and it was a beautiful, 60’s-filled and sunny week at the lake, with fogged-over lake mornings, sunny days and full-moon nights. img_8630 I painted, decorated, cleaned, sewed, sat in the hot tub, shopped, and took naps. 

I had my lists of people to call, appointments to make and keep, emails to write, cleaning and projects to start and hopefully finish. I’d say I had a productive week. But as usual in the process of getting things done, I also added a lot of things to my list.

My painting projects included painting the master bedroom from a muted green color to Palladian blue.  The same color looks entirely different in this window-filled room as opposed to the windowless basement bathroom where I also used this color.  It instantly freshened and lifted the room.

I also started the process of repainting a used hutch I bought for our basement redo.   It’s a work in progress.  I don’t have a lot of experience using chalk paint and finding the perfect color can be tricky and expensive.   For instance, this Shiplap color I picked up at Target looked a lot more creamy on the can and but when I  painted my piece, it definitely was more white.   I think I need to get further along in the basement redo to finalize the color but for now I’m leaning on a Shiplap white for the inside and a linen color for the outer parts.

 Several years ago I snagged this old brown antique desk full of drawers with dividers and a glass top at a flee market in Raleigh.  I’ve always wanted to paint it as it traveled from room to room in this house, switching colors I thought I would paint it, from a distressed creamy color, to a Robin’s Egg with silver top and even barn red.

Now that I am pretty sure it is in it’s final place, I settled on a “Weekend” color of chalky paint from Magnolia Market.  This dark teal color finished with dark brown wax gave it depth and an updated aged  look.   I love it and it ties in so nice with the rest of room but keeps the richness of the dark wood.  

In between coats and during drying time on my paint projects, I cleaned ceiling fans, blinds, floors, and closets, and switched to my winter clothes.   

I took a break from painting and cleaning to also make a couple of slipcovers. As part of freshening up the basement, I had ordered a linen blend two-tone stripe tan fabric for the two table side chairs.  I just love how a little bit of new fabric can completely change the way a room looks.  It’s like getting new furniture.

With the falling temperatures and lots of falling leaves, we spend a little more time inside the house.  And with the holidays fast approaching, I of course, start thinking about where the trees will go, which then in turn leads me to “rethink” room arrangements which in turn leads to a mini makeover.   Actually it has just taken me over two years to figure out how to use my “rooms” in this open floor plan.  But I am happy and relieved to say that I have finally settled in on an arrangement….but my husband doesn’t believe it.  Bless his heart!  He is patient and goes with the flow and lets me exercise my creative spirit.  I’m lucky that way.  I look forward to the day when all my projects are done and I can just go to the lake house and not have an agenda.

Until next time,

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Slipcovers

Rethinking Pink

This little project was a true repurposing endeavor. Jane had an heirloom antique chair that she wanted to use for her daughter’s desk. Instead of purchasing new fabric and starting from scratch, she decided to reuse what she already had.  Normally I would get measurements and then quote a yardage amount of fabric needed for a project.  This time around, though, I was given a duvet cover and one window valance to work with.   I was tasked with making a slipcover for the chair and  a two-sided bed skirt to dress up the twin bed, originally the mom’s, to hide the trundle mattress underneath.

The first thing I did was to deconstruct the duvet and pillow sham into pieces that I could use.   I ripped and cut seams to provide me with pink fabric panels, stripe fabric strips, and floral pieces to create something new.

The Chair     Since the chair was wood, I knew slippage would be an issue.  My solution was to put a 1” foam seat cushion covered with muslin and stapled to underneath the chair. 

 It instantly provided a soft landing and one that would “stick” to the slipcover.  It also didn’t mess with the integrity of the chair and the beautiful cane seat. 

I also knew that the light weight pink cotton fabric would be see through.  A simple lining would not only help with the transparency but would give more body to the fabric. 

Cording made from the floral fabric  outlined the chair and set off the stripe banded bottom of the corner pleated floor length skirt.  A big floral bow and a small accent pillow made from scraps and finished off with a button from the valance,  finishes off this sweet chair.

The Bed Skirt     I still had plenty of pink fabric left to make the bed skirt for the twin bed.  Since the bed would always be up against the wall, it was only necessary to make a side and bottom skirt.  We decided on a gathered pink skirt with floral banded bottom again to give it some weight, definition and interest.  

  A simple banded top with loop Velcro attached would be simple to put on once they stapled the hook portion of the Velcro to inside of the bed frame. Easy on, easy off! 

After all these years of sewing, I can’t believe I only now discovered, or rather took the time to learn, a new method of gathering.  Gathers are a must for certain looks but I tend to shy away from them due to my aggravation in the construction.  In the “old” way, I would sew two seams close to each other within the seam allowance and down the length of the piece I wanted to gather.  I would then pull the 2 thread ends together, but inevitably a thread would break and I would have strings everywhere from fraying as I pulled.  After a lot of aggravation, I would eventually finish. I tend to avoid them all together.  But I discovered such a simple method!! I simply took some thin cord (like cotton crochet thread, roman shade string, floss), zig zagged over it being careful not to catch the cord.  That’s it.  You just pull the cord and it gathers beautifully! You can also buy a gathering band but I couldn’t get to the store in time to get that.

I guess you are never to old to learn a new trick.  That’s what I love about what I am doing. I am challenging myself to learn new methods of doing things I had done for years and to learn new skills in slipcovering and light upholstery. Next challenge is perfecting the illusive “invisible” zipper.

Until then,

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Slipcovers

Furniture Floral Arrangement

This sturdy little side chair came to me in desperate need of a new dress.  Originally an upholstered chair, it sported a very worn and ill-fitted, possibly shrunk, slipcover.

My client had already purchased and prewashed the heavy weight and large floral printed fabric, so when I got the chair and fabric, it was ready to go.  I wanted to pay special attention to the layout of the floral placements on the arms, front back, seat and back so that that overall very wild floral print would be tamed a bit and settle on a spot. I had limited fabric to work with and when all was said and done, literally had scraps left.

The original slipcover had a side zipper however, due to the shape of the chair I suspected it wouldn’t be needed for easy removal with the proper “tuck-in” fabric allowances in the inner corners.  I always like to try to get away with not installing a zipper if possible.  I think it adds to the overall “upholstered” look of the slipcover.

A simple corded trim on the bottom of the chair finishes it off.

I actually took this chair project to my lake house to work on since I was planning on being there for over a week. 

I was impressed with how this fabric selection fit so well into my decor and provided just the right pop of print and color no matter where I put it, in front of a black table, red door or my robin’s egg hutch. I love it and so did my client!

It’s been a busy summer of client projects, new granddaughter, trips, lake visits, festivals, and home projects. Now that fall is here my attention turns to fall decorating, rearranging furniture (again!…as my husband rolls his eyes and patiently goes along with my ideas), and smaller client projects all while anxiously waiting on the arrival of my fourth grandchild…but the first from my son!  Stay tuned for a blogging catch up!

Happy Fall Y’all!

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Slipcovers

Lovely Linen for Lynda

Lynda is in the process of redecorating her house and wanted to reuse a couple of comfortable chairs she had acquired from Calico Corner.  

 She was looking for a fabric that would blend in with other upholstered pieces she had and provide a classic fresh look.   After much consideration she landed on a beautiful Italian Viscose/Linen blend. 

I have to admit I didn’t know what Viscose was, so I did a little research.img_7291 Viscose, part of the rayon fabric family, is a semi-synthetic material manufactured from a plant-based material called cellulose.  It is typically made from woody plants, such as trees and bamboo.  Though it has many wonderful qualities such as being drapable, breathable, strong, inexpensive, silky and comfortable, it also has a few pitfalls such as being prone to shrinkage, wrinkling, and fibers that may weaken when wet or exposed to excessive light.  However, this fiber is best when blended with other fibers and is usually what you find in home decorating fabrics.  Linen, a natural fiber, is strong and resists dirt and stains, lint and pilling, abrasion, and moths.  This combination of linen gives you the best of both fibers. 

Some viscose materials can be machine washed on a delicate cycle, others hand washed, while some require dry cleaning.    I tested a yard of this blend and found that it shrunk almost four inches on a yard of fabric.  If you decide to take this chance it needs to be done before the slipcover is constructed or it will not fit!   It’s a tough call to make and one that only the client can make.   Since the supplier recommended “Dry Clean Only” for this fabric, my client decided to go with that.

Lynda also had a classic sea-foam green suede loveseat that she wanted to repurpose to a beach house. She decided to use the same fabric. This piece worked up beautifully.

Because of the single long nature of the cushion and no back cushions, and to work with the grain of the linen, I needed to seam the back, cushion and deck, just like the original upholstery. It actually added a nice design feature. The back seams were a perfect place to “hide” Velcro strips for an easy removal. Velcro sewn onto the piped bottom attaches to the underside of the chair, resulting in a very tailored and upholstered look. img_7397

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