The couch project is going pretty well. I got all the seat cushions done and was about to tackle the back cushions when Shmoogie and I took that trip to IKEA and I got a few throw pillows to add a little color and interest to the couch that otherwise makes me think of a bench in an airport waiting lounge. In 1968. Or something.
Being so excited about the new pillows, I took the old back cushions off the couch (so the yucky old material wouldn't be messing up my dreamy view of the future) and draped the remaining fabric behind the new pillows to get a sense of what it would look like. And that's when I realized I could solve a whole bunch of problems at once with just one more quick trip to IKEA.
The solution? Buy four more pillows and ditch the back cushions entirely. These pillows are made in China and you get them at IKEA, the covers flat folded and the feather-stuffed fillers rolled up super tight and shrink wrapped. They are ridiculously cheap. They may also be an environmental disaster and/or be made with slave labor (and they do shed a few feathers in the unwrapping and stuffing into covers process), but IKEA has a big sign out front about how green their company is and how much they believe in making an overall positive social impact on the world, so as long as I don't make my mental life difficult by googling on how bad everything IKEA does in China is (to be clear, it might be that everything IKEA does in China is perfectly fine or even great, I'm just pessimistic and uselessly guilt-ridden about these things) I can feel just fine about having a bright, fluffy (the one problem is this couch will now need frequent fluffing to not look like a deflated mess because, cheap down pillows, they squish and don't bounce back) nearly recovered couch with no need for a trip to the fabric store and no need to spend eight more hours sewing cushion covers.
Which is good because I probably have about 5 more hours of hand-tacking the remaining fabric to the couch base and that's plenty!
New couch, with handsewing detritis, laundry in need of folding, and poor lighting:
I picked the embroidered pillow because I liked it and the red calls out to the red-based carpet on the floor. And the blue cushions because they made the embroidered pillow even cuter and played up the blue, which I thought would be helpful because the linoleum on the floor is blue. And then today on the return trip to IKEA I piled and repiled and stared at combinations of, like, 10 different pillows and picked the orangey stripe because it was the only one available with that color, which pulls out the golden bits in the embroidery and also hopefully ties it all up with a few golden flecks in the oriental carpet on the floor and the golden chairs on the other side of the room. And then I put the grey pillows on the end because they actually match the bluish grey in the embroidery and also, believe it or not, match one of the stripes in the orange pillow, and also, I think, sort of tone the whole thing down (I kid myself the grey ones blend with the blue ones in the mind's eye) to better go with the floor, which is not dark blue, but kind of greyish or even slatey.
Whee! That photo and that last paragraph perfectly illustrate why I will never have a popular interior design blog! :)
Current project that I am not too thrilled to be undertaking (but apparently prefer to actually tackling another closet, since that's what I probably *should* be doing) is new slipcovers for the couch. The couch isn't even our couch; it's built in to the house we're renting. Which is cool. Sort of.
What's really not cool is that it clearly hasn't been reupholstered since the house was built more than 50 years ago. The fabric is pure fuzzy acrylic with a brick-red weft and thinner navy blue warp. It's noticably faded on the top edges. When anything happens that requires spot cleaning, the cushions do have zippered covers, so you can theoretically take them off and put them back on. But there's no thin cover over the inner cushion, which seriously pisses me off because it means that as you're struggling to get the cushion in or out of the cover (through a zipper opening that is, by the way, too small), the polyester batting that is simply wrapped around the foam of the cushion sticks like crazy to the disintegrating backing of the ancient cover fabric (latex? glue? who knows?).
I've put up with it for a almost a year and the time has come to put in the time and make it better for the next two years. Because it gives me an icky feeling to see the kids lying on this couch, but it will really give me the creeps to lay a new baby down on it if I don't put a fresh cover on it.
Inner cushion cover...
Outer cushion cover...
One cushion done today and if I could keep up that pace, it would only be a week until the whole thing was done. I just don't know if I can keep up that pace. :/ So many things I would rather be doing. Plus all the things that Shmoogie would rather I be doing. For instance, an elaborate pretend game today with the new baby doll (first, he was under her shirt about to be born, then he was "one year" old). "I'm just going to take baby on a plane now, I'll be back in a minute!" They were going to the grocery store. "I need to take baby on a plane again, I'll be back tomorrow!" This time, baby was being "dropped off" at "school". For "a few days". In Virginia. Then, suddenly, Shmoogie was back (on her own) and playing the part of a mover, here to pack up all our stuff and move us back to our old house. All our stuff would go on a flying truck and we would be taking an airplane. This would take a year, a few days, about a week, not so long, just a few minutes.
"Pause the game!" she cries every time she needs to explain something to me. "Unpause the game!" when she's done. And "But I want you to play with me!" when I sit at the sewing machine or go to the computer to tackle a quick but very important to-do, like paying the icon designer.
My children may be a particular challenge, particularly right now, I will admit that. But it could also be that those bloggers, the ones who make house painting projects with preschoolers sound like a charming good time, they could be lying.
Not that it was a total disaster. Both the kids were initially enthusiastic. Mr. P was so enthusiastic he was sobbing into the sandwich I was forcing him to eat before he got a paintbrush, "You're starting without me!!! You're starting without me!!" (Guess who had refused to eat lunch when it was served prior to the start of the project. Guess who gets unbearable when he's hungry.)
They were both initially conscientious and trying to be helpful, dipping their brushes as I'd shown them and painting the wall boards.
But then they got bored, which should not have surprised me, and started dunking the brushes past the hilt, dropping great puddles on the floor and stepping in them, painting their hands and arms and legs and each other. Asking when were going to do the RED paint. Whining about wanting to go inside. Whining that this is boring.
And when I say whining, in the case of Mr. P I actually mean screeching and face-contorting sobbing. I mean, I asked him several times what he would do if someone called the police. Because that seemed like a real possibility.
Then there was an extensive bath with scrubbing, but they are both still significantly paint encrusted.
Of course, it's not that they didn't somehow enjoy themselves (Shmoogie told me "I've never done such a big project before!") or learn something (like, how long it takes to paint the tiniest of rooms). And not that it wasn't worth it. It's looking a hundred times nicer in there and is going to be a fun place for them to hang out, have picnics, read (someday, surely).
But I'll be looking for chances to do the rest of it by myself. Maybe I'll get up at dawn tomorrow.
The best thing about owning your own home is being able to do quirky things to it for your own amusement or deeper happiness. Several years ago, "Ubi caritas et amor" got painted in the large arch and "Deus ibi est" in the small arch. It's in the center of our house, going from the living room to the kitchen, and those are words from a psalm we sang in college.
Where there is charity and love, there is God.
(For the DIY crowd: paint the letters in large calligraphy using a foam brush on a strip of paper cut so its height matches the thickness of your wall. Mark pencil guidelines top and bottom before lettering. Once you're done, you know how long your phrase will be and you can therefore center it in the arch. I transferred the outlines of the letters to the wall by coloring with a pencil on the back of the paper, taping it up, and tracing the front so the pencil on the back transferred. But it was hard to get rid of the pencil later. I would try a light washable chalk if I did it again. Use the foam brush again to paint the letters inside your outlines on the wall. I like the somewhat uneven, fresco look that comes from painting by hand.)
So, grad school kind of got in the way of a lot of my initial enthusiastic plans for cozying up this particular place. I did, just before Christmas, make a fitted oil cloth* cover for the kitchen table and a valance for that window which I flatter myself made a nice combination. (You can't really tell, but the blue in the valance is a near perfect match for the blue on the table legs.)
(Bonus glimpse of the Easter decor we still have hanging — Shmoogie's eggs and Mr. P's kind of disturbing bunny, which scared Shmoogie when she first saw it, but which Mr. P insists is a "nice" bunny, but "not an Easter bunny, Mommy." Whoops. Also, what good is a table without a dog under it?)
I was quite happy with the way that project turned out, as you can maybe tell. But I think I never got around to blogging it (or did I and I forgot? you have no idea what grad school did to my mind...) because I thought it would make a good tutorial, so I was saving it. And it would have made a good tutorial — check out Jess's take on it at Craftiness Is Not Optional (she even has the same pattern of oil cloth! in red!). :) I used plain bias binding as a casing and put cotton cord through it, which then cinched up to make the cover fitted. I did have to put a thumbtack in the middle of each side (under the table) to get things as nice and taught as I wanted.
Happily, I think the new place we're moving into this summer, on the other side of the country, has a similar kind of "breakfast" area (which we eat all our meals at, even with company — I can't really handle the idea of two different places to eat in the house, especially if one of them is carpeted**), so I might be able to just move the whole setup and feel like some decorating effort actually survived this iteration of upheaval. :)
* "Oil cloth" is such an annoying term because it's a lie. Or, not entirely, maybe, since plastic comes from oil? But I always imagined there was some "real" oil cloth out there that was actually cloth treated with oil (which, actually, there is, and ehow says you can make it yourself, but I'm not sure I'd want to make a permanent table cloth out of it). This is the PVC kind, with some woven something giving it some extra stability. It does NOT have the icky fuzzy backing, though. I hate the fuzzy backing and those kinds usually have really thin fragile plastic.
** Best thing about the new house?? The entire thing is floored in LINOLEUM. Which is a word I have loved since the age of three because of the way Bert sings it in the La La La song about the letter L, which you should be able to hear on YouTube, but which my browser doesn't want to let me hear right now, so I can't fully vouch for that link.
When we moved in, the blinds were down. Privacy, sure, but what a waste of a foyer window!
Much as I hated it, we didn't have any way to get up there to open the blind and we weren't really in favor of having it permanently open to the eyes of passersby, anyway. (It does look right in on the bedroom hallway and guest bathroom.)
This is where I took an aesthetic risk and bought "stained glass" static cling film for it.
Which sat in the closet for months because... we still didn't have any way to get up there.
But Saturday night, thanks to a borrowed ladder and a trying-hard-to-be-supportive Mr. Right (even though I hadn't put this particular project on his master "Before Christmas" list — whoops!) I was fifteen feet in the air, cleaning a filthy window and applying fake stained glass to it. (Mr. Right offered to be the one on the ladder, but I felt like having the smaller person steadied by the larger person made more sense than vice versa.)
The immediate result, after dark, was underwhelming from inside. Sadly, not too thrilling from outside, either, even with a candle in the window.
But the next morning? It's beautiful. (Both the kids said so, too.)
This glider is ten years old and has been through four babies (my sister had it first). Until a month ago, it still had the original denim-like cushions, which weren't washable and, as I'm sure you can imagine, had reached an unpleasant state in all that time.
I took the old cushions off, cut foam for a new seat cushion (decided to leave off the back pad), and then sat on the naked ugly foam for a month while I over-thought / avoided the project.
It took a few hours in the end - more than I felt like it should have - but there's finally another splash of cheer in poor Shmoogie's bare little room.
Next stop: curtains!
When I was a kid, we had family slide show nights, because all our family photos (including from back when my dad was a kid) were on slides and you couldn't look at them, really, unless you pulled out the slide projector after dark and took that one picture down to make a big blank wall and waited patiently while Dad fiddled with the boxes of slides and the inevitable jams of the projector.
It was big fun. Sitting in the dark, choosing which events to go back to, smelling the heat of the projector's lamp, listening to the loud ca-chunk of the next slide dropping into place. And in the blank spaces between boxes, our parents showed us how to make shadow puppets with our hands.
When I first thought of immortalizing shadow puppets on painted canvas for Shmoogie's room, it didn't really occur to me that our kids have never seen a shadow puppet. Ever.
But now they have. And they both chatter excitedly in their own way about watching me trace DiDi and PaPa's hand shadows of a mama and baby lama (that's what we're calling them). The bunnies and bird (the old stand-bys of my childhood) were done after bedtime.
This was a simple project, so if you'd like to try it yourself...
Have fun! I like how these turned out, especially the sentimental factor of my childhood memories and the shadows being the hands of family members.