Monday, March 31, 2014

40 Cents for an iPad Sleeve. I Do Not Kid.

Well hello there, friends...Happy Spring!  Sorry I've been MIA from project posts for a few weeks!!  I had to make a scheduled pit stop at my neighborhood hospital earlier this month for a quick, "Kick the tires, check the oil" surgery to make sure my organs were all playing nice with each other.  (They've been known to have knock 'em out fights in the past!)  So, for the past few weeks my brain has been raging with projects while my body has liquefied into a puddle on the couch. 

But now I'm back, and I'm ready to roll!  This week's project was so quick, cheap and silly that it'll probably take you longer to read this post than it will to make your own! 

Dave recently bought a new iPad, and got the magnetic cover at the Apple store that covers just the face of the iPad.  You know, this one?

When he's home, he just keeps that cover on the iPad, but he wants to buy a leather sleeve to protect it while he travels.  He'll keep it in his computer bag, so he doesn't need something heavily padded- just something simple.

Of course I balk at the idea of paying for a simple leather sleeve when I can OBVIOUSLY attempt to make it myself.  Before playing around with leather, though, I needed a prototype.

Sound the trumpets...da da da DAAA!!  Felt.  Just plain old felt.  The 20 cent variety felt you can find in your local craft store...that's all you need!

Here's the process:

First, I cut two pieces of felt into 8"x10.5" rectangles.  Simple enough.

Snip, Snip!

Next, I folded one of the pieces lengthwise, and drew a curve with a marker, and cut along the line.  (This is just to add a nice little cutout to make pulling the iPad out of the sleeve a bit easier).

She's got curves...

Copy the same process on the second piece of felt (you can use the first one as a template for consistency).

Symmetrical, right?

Then, sew your two pieces of felt together along the three straight edges.

Make sure to backstitch your ends for strength!

If you want to (or if your felt pieces aren't 100% even on the edges), trim the edges of your felt close to your seams.

Pop that iPad in, and you're done!  Even though this was my "prototype" for a future leather sleeve, this felt sleeve is great!  If you make one yourself, you could definitely fancy it up by using brightly colored felt, or by adding a pocket on the front to keep your cord in it.  The possibilities are endless!

Less than 10 minutes.  BAM.

Now that I've made the felt sleeve, I'm pretty confident that I can repeat the process with some leather.  I've got one of two options that I'll check out this weekend:

1. Buy a piece of leather at my local specialty fabric store.
2. Buy an old leather jacket at a resale shop.

I'll check out both options and see what's cheaper, and hopefully have a leather sleeve made for Dave's birthday in April.

For now, though, he's got a 40 cent felt sleeve that works just fine! 

So manly.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Peeling Back the Layers

Sometimes when Dave travels for work, my mind starts to wander.  (Ok, it wanders when he's here, too, but at least he's in the vicinity to snap me back to reality, right?)  The other day, my mind began to wander towards the kitchen.  Specifically, the kitchen floor.

When we moved in, the kitchen floor was a glorious 1970's gold vinyl.  I lived with it for a few months, until one day, I just couldn't take it anymore.  The footprint of the kitchen floor is small (the whole room is only 8'x12'), so I ran to Lowe's to find something, anything, to cover it up.  I ended up buying the ever popular peel and stick vinyl tiles, because:

A.  They were cheap
B.  I knew that somewhere down the line we'd gut the kitchen (still waiting on that one); and
C.  They were cheap.

During a sunny summer afternoon, I stuck those tiles on, hoping to give my kitchen a bit of a lipstick facelift.  It's worked for awhile, but now the tiles are starting to slide and gap a bit in some places, and push together too tight in others, causing them to pop up a bit.

Too close.
Too far apart.

Dave tripped over one of these tiles last week, looked at me, and said, "We have to refinish these floors".  Which, in theory, is an amazing idea, but Dave doesn't really understand that there are rules and timelines and order of events for such things.  In order to refinish the floors, we have to gut the kitchen.  Why, you ask?  Simple.  I have an amazon sized stove in my tiny little kitchen.  At some point, this stove will be replaced by a normal sized range, which will also mean that the cabinets next to it will need to change in size and shape.  Changing this also means pulling out the upper cabinets in order to install a vent hood.  While we're at it, that means that additional cabinets would need to be pulled out/moved in order to put in a dishwasher.  See what I mean?

There is no reason a stove this size needs to exist.  Period.

There's a domino effect here, that once started, can't be stopped.  The whole footprint of the kitchen has to change once any of these pieces actually happen, which means the floor is a no-go until then.  This job can't be done piecemeal.

Despite this huge letdown, my brain didn't stop moving.  What exactly, I wondered, would be under those floors once we started peeling back the layers?  Would I find layer upon layer of linoleum?  Would I have the shock of my life and find untouched, beautiful virgin wood floors?  In a house built in 1949, you've got to be prepared for surprises. 

Sooo...I decided to pull the refrigerator out from the wall.  I looked at the corner and thought to myself, Hmm.  With a little elbow grease, I could definitely pry some of the flooring away from the corner there.

Oh yes.  Destruction without ANY plans for reconstruction. 

Using my brute girl-strength, I pulled off the quarter-round moulding to make access in the corner easier, and got to work. First, I pried off the corner pieces of the peel and stick vinyl.  Then, I started off by using my paint scraper tool and a hammer to gouge out a small piece of the gold flooring.

Too late to turn back now!

Innnnteresting.  Underneath the gold flooring appeared to be a layer of subfloor/luann board.  Hmm. 

Margot ran away from the noises of a hammer and chisel at this point.
She'd had enough.

I kept digging, and got down to the next layer of floor, which I'm not quite sure how to classify.  It appears to be  some type of vinyl/plastic flooring, but I don't know what to call it.  I kept digging along a 2" strip on the back wall, just to see if this flooring was one big piece, or if it appeared to be tiles.

4 layers of floor.  Ugh.  How many more are there??

Hmm.  What IS that flooring?

It looks like it's one big piece.  Anybody out there know what this stuff is called? It looks like square bits of stone floating in Jell-o.

It feels plasticky/vinyly.  Yes, I know those aren't words.
It's fine.  You know what I mean.

At this point, I decided it might be in my best interest to stop digging at my floor.  I was worried that when I pushed the refrigerator back into the space, it might start to tip backwards due to the deep hole I was creating! looks like this treasure will have to remain only partially uncovered, and the surprise will have to wait for another day. 

Unfortunately, after moving the fridge back into its space, I can't stop thinking about it.  It's almost like having a zit you've been told not to pick.  You know it's there, you keep looking at it, and you want to pop it SO BAD.  (Yuck.  What a gross analogy.  Sorry for that.)  What do you think?  Should I keep digging back there, or leave it alone for now? 

Such a dilemma.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Brass and Drums: NOT a Marching Band Story.

So it's no big secret that I love giving old things new life.  I love antique stores, yard sales, estate sales, Craig's List (only for the furniture, people), etc.  I even tried to get tickets to  the Antiques Roadshow when they came into town last year, but wasn't able to.  Darn.

One of my own personal "jackpot" antique purchases is a set of brass lamps that I got eight years ago while visiting family in St. Louis over the holidays.  During our St. Louis trips, the girls usually take a quick trip to Kimmswick, MO for some holiday shopping and treats at The Blue Owl.  If you live in the Midwest and haven't been to Kimmswick, go.  It's a fun, tiny little walkable town, where almost every single small house is actually a gift shop or place to eat.  It's always decked out for the holidays, and the shops have thousands of Christmas decorations that are absolutely delightful.

In one of these shops, I found two tall brass lamps, sans shades.  I loved, loved, loved them, but was traveling home by plane, and couldn't very well carry two bulky lamps through security.  Thankfully, I have an amazing Nana and Papa who love to spoil me.  They offered to drive them home to NY in their car, where I could then pick them up the next time I traveled to see them.  DONE.  For $50, those two beautiful brass lamps were mine.

At the time, I was living in a tiny little rental house with Dave, and as we were fresh out of college, didn't have a pot to piss in.  I found two very cheap lampshades, and plopped these beauties on either side of the couch.  They didn't actually go with anything, but I didn't care.  I loved them all the same.

NOTHING in my house is red.  Except these lampshades.
Also, this photo is staged as of a week ago.  I didn't have that couch,
those walls, that dying plant, or that house when I used the red lampshades.
 The grandparents in the photo, though?
Those I did have:)

A short while later, we bought our first house, and the lamps went into storage in the basement.  I just couldn't find lampshades to fit them correctly, and one of the lamps had faulty wiring that kept cutting in and out.  I looked at those lamps lovingly every time I went into the basement, sighing for the wasted space that they'd become.

Fast forward to January 2014.  I began my gallery wall in the living room, and had a EUREKA moment that these lamps were the perfect compliment to the wall style I was going for.  The issue I still had?  These lamps still needed shades, and new wiring.  The wiring I'll save for another post-this one is about lampshades!

I searched around on the internet for appropriate lampshades- I knew I wanted a drum style shade in some tone of grey.  After lots and lots of searching, I came up empty.  I felt like Goldilocks.  Everything was either too short, or too fat, or too dark, or too light.  Nothing was perfect.  So what's the solution when you can't find what you're looking for?  Obviously...make it yourself!

I found a website that sold supplies to DIY lampshades, and bought what I needed.  Here's what I bought:

2 top spoke pieces- 11"
2 bottom circles- 11"
1 bottle of lamp glue (although it's pretty much the same as craft glue, so I could have left this out)
1 yard of Pressure Sensitive Styrene

I didn't buy these sizes on a whim- I actually took paper and made some templates that I taped around the lamp base before making my size decision.  After buying the 11' pieces, I also played around with how long I wanted the lampshades to be, too.  Measure twice, cut once, right?

Pretty high tech on the trial measurements, right?

I also went on the hunt for the perfect fabric, and bought a yard of that, too.  All of these materials cost me about $50, which is comparable to buying some ready-made lampshades.  DIY isn't always cheaper than buying ready-made, but you do get what you want!!

Obligatory fabric picture.  Notice how my pictures are always on the floor?
Yeah, I REALLY need a craft table.

After I had my supplies, I pretty much followed the directions from a website I found that gave instructions for lampshades.  You can check out the site here.  I'll still go through my process, but want to give ILikeThatLamp the credit; I didn't come up with this on my own.

First, I ironed the heck out of my fabric.  This HAS to be done. 

I wanted my lamps to be 15" in height, and with an 11" circumference circle, this gave me a measurement of 15" x 35" to work with.  I cut this out of my pressure sensitive styrene (2 pieces since I have 2 lampshades to make).  Just a note on this "pressure sensitive styrene":  All this really means is that you're buying bendable lampshade plastic that has a paper coating on one side that when taken off, reveals a sticky side where your fabric can be easily, and smoothly attached.  Makes things simple- no mess.

After cutting my styrene, I cut my fabric to 36" x 16".  I ended up leaving more than a one inch allowance on the 16" side, and just trimmed it when I was ready.  What I should have done, though, was pay 100% attention to the directions, which told me to attach my styrene to my fabric BEFORE cutting it.  This would have made it much easier, as it was tricky to lay the styrene down on the cut fabric while keeping it completely even on all sides.

Not easy to take a picture while holding sticky styrene and fabric at the same time.
This is the best visual you'll get.

So, at this point, what I had was a piece of fabric/styrene combo that is lined up on one short side, with 1/2' fabric allowance on the 35" sides of the styrene, and a 1" fabric allowance on the other short end. 
Look at those even lines- don't they give you shivers with how straight they are?

At this point, I folded over and glued my fabric on the 15" side down to the back of the styrene. 

Glue, fold over.  Done.

The hardest part came next.  Using lots of bulldog clips, I attached the styrene to the metal circles.  I spread glue on the inner edge of the fabric, waited a minute for it to get tacky, and folded it over the metal circle. 

The vision starts to become reality.  Yessss.

Here's where it got interesting.  I have an orange peeler from Pampered Chef that looks exactly the same as the tool that you can buy with the lamp shop supplies to make the fabric ends fold in nice and neat.  Repurposing kitchen tools into craft tools- hooray!  I followed the process of using the end of the orange peeler to tuck the fabric up under the metal ring after gluing it.  Yeah, didn't work.  My linen fabric frayed quite a bit.  The glue held the whole thing together, but the fabric edges were wonky looking, and didn't tuck up completely under the ring.  No worries.  Lots of lamps have small fabric edging on them that can cover these raw edges up.  We'll just do that later on.

Pampered Chef to the rescue again!  Maybe they should just start making a craft line?!?

After gluing one side of the circle, I waited a few minutes, and then flipped the drum over and repeated the process on the other side.  While this was still wet, I glued the inside vertical seam of the shade, smoothed everything out, and then set the shade down sideways to press the side seam flat while drying.

Remember- folded fabric edge goes on the OUTSIDE to create a clean look!

Whew.  That sounds like a lot, but it really took me a little over an hour to do.  Not bad.  When everything was dry, I slapped those drums on the lamps, even though I wasn't completely done.  I needed to make a quick run to the store for trim to cover those rough edges, and I wasn't waiting until then to see these beauties all lit up.

When unlit, the fabric is somewhat blackish, somewhat grey, and has undertones of tan running through it.  When lit, the texture of the linen really shows through.  And so does the ragged edge.  Yuck.

Rough edges.  That isn't gonna fly.  Not in this house.

Fast forward a week or so, and I finally had time to go to the store to buy a $1.99 spool of flat ribbon.  The process here was pretty simple.  Smear some glue on ribbon, attach to the inside of the drum.  Done.  Or so I thought.  

Raw edge of fabric.  It needs to be covered up.

Black ribbon smoothed down over the edge.  Looks good, right?

Urg.  I like this a lot less than I thought I would.  Too thick of a line, right?

Once I turned on the lamps, I really didn't like the thick line that showed through at the top and bottom edges.  Argh.  I spent too much time dreaming up these drum shades for them to not be perfect.  Back to the drawing board.

I got out a BRAND NEW razor blade, and decided to cross my fingers, use a light touch, and score the edges of the fabric to tear them off, leaving the clean edge that I originally wanted.  I knew I was playing with fire here, and the potential existed for me to completely cut through the drum shade, but I forged ahead.  I live for danger, y'all.

Being OH SO CAREFUL.  Are you holding your breath?  I was.

I felt like a surgeon, carefully slicing through my patient while trying to avoid crucial arteries.  

Whew.  We survived, and the edge is now smooth and thin.  

Once this was done, my lampshades were finally finished, and oh, aren't they gorgeous??  I'm in love, all over again.  They gleam, they sparkle, they're antique and modern looking, all at the same time.  They are FABULOUS, and I dare anyone to disagree:) 

It's really hard to take pictures of lamps while they're on and it's dark out,
hence the reflection of daylight behind the lamp.
I should probably take some photography lessons.
It's the little things that make a big difference.  So pretty!
Is it possible to hug a lamp?  Because I want to hug these every day.
Beautiful detail everywhere.  And yes, I added those pull-chains myself.
Amateur electricians of the world, holla!
Sweet lamp perfection. I'm pretty proud of myself, can you tell?

Wow.  You just read a really long blog post about lampshades.  You might as well just call it a night right now- that's plenty of excitement for one day.  You're Welcome.