Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Not All Who Wander...

My obsession with maps is out of control, as you know if you keep up with this blog or follow me on Pinterest.  But for a short time, I'm putting aside the maps-as-art pursuit to follow a more traditional use of maps: I'm on vacation! 

Please forgive my silence - I'll be back on August 6 ready to share tales of homeowner bliss...and of course, more about the quest for perfect map art.  I'll also have some great udpates for the travel blog to entertain you when real life just doesn't seem like a great idea.

Hasta la vista!

Floor Decor Failure

There's one thing I never miss about my apartment: the carpet.  My tile floors get dusty and I'd love to have someone else come use my beloved Swiffer every day, but at least I don't have to deal with carpet.

I haven't gotten serious about rugs, though it's on my list as a sort of finishing touch to every room.  I eye them at IKEA every time I visit, and I've become a regular ogler (yes, it's a word - I checked!) at West Elm's website....but no serious commitment has occurred. 

But the living room is edging ever closer to decor completion, so I thought it was worth a test run.  A test run that involved carrying a 9-foot rug through a crowded store.  And across a busy parking lot.  And cramming it into my trusty lil' car.  Yes, it was that sort of a test run.  The only casualty was an entire display of sunglasses - I'll be forever grateful to the Ross employee who kindly told me to feel free to leave the store with my rug burden while she cleaned up the scattered glasses.

The rug is lovely and it cost $69.99 for a 7.5' x 9' space so you really can't beat that...but it doesn't work in the living room at all.  While the coral color blends with my accent tangerine, the rest of the colors are just too dark and way too busy - my living room immediately looked like a Sesame Street show about shapes (circles on the wall, circles on the chair, squares and rectangles on the rug and in the air...shapes make Elmo happy!)

The rug got a chance in the dining room, too, but that was an even worse match.  Now comes the fun job of returning the poor thing to the store where it can find a good home.  Someone had better lock down the sunglasses case.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wrap It Up

I completed my own self-created Pinterest Challenge this weekend....this time, I first identified what I needed and then found ideas, rather than my usual method of finding projects I loved and then trying to fit them into my life.

I love wraps.  I love the food kind, the dress kind, the skirt kind, the shirt 'em.  I ran into a problem while preparing for vacation, however, because the two that I have are long sleeved and pretty heavy fabric.  It works for an overly-air-conditioned office in Phoenix but not so much for a Caribbean island.  I couldn't find any on sites like H&M and Forever 21, but I already had about three yards of jersey fabric that I bought at the bulk fabric store for a grand total of less than $10 so I turned to the Pinterest Gurus for inspiration. 

I like this idea - mostly because it involves no sewing and looks like even I can do it.  But I don't want a sleeveless wrap, I want short sleeves...and I didn't know if I could manage to make sleeves to sew into this:

Then I found the tutorial for this:

SOLD.  I ignored the maternity part and figured I could work around that...and I didn't even need to try to figure out how to print out a pattern because these measurements told me how to cut the pieces:

I won't recap the tutorial but here are the things I learned:

Seams matter.  I don't know why I always seem to sew something inside out, but this project was no exception.  Sleeves are tricky.  After sewing the sleeve perfectly to the body of the garment, I had to tear out the seam of the sleeve itself and resew it so the seam was inside.  Lame, but it did work out eventually.  And my seam ripper felt loved again.

Measurements matter.  Perhaps it was the stretchy nature of the jersey fabric...or perhaps I was far too lackadaisical in my approach to measuring the pieces.  But somehow I ended up with pieces that were larger than the sizes outlined.  I made it work, but it meant that the sleeves are a teensy bit bumpy because the front pieces were large and therefore the sleeve holes were bigger than the actual sleeves. 

Maternity matters. News flash: I'm not pregnant.  It was very naive of me to think that my body would need the extra fabric necessitated by those who are.  So when I'd completed the wrap, the front ends hung well over a foot lower than the rest of the wrap...they came to my knees!  A reasonable person would have calmly figured out adjustments to the pattern above, carefully marked a new line on the front and cut carefully.  I am not a reasonable person.

I grabbed a handful of fabric that hung too low and cut through it with scissors.  There is no explanation for my behavior except wait, yes there is.  I was tired, I was ready to move on and I thought I was invincible because every mistake I'd made already on the garment had been somewhat easily fixed.  Fortunately, I was right.  The edges of the new front pieces were jagged so it temporarily looked like a Curella Deville costume, but I just used scissors to smooth them up and whew!  It came out okay.

The sleeves aren't as short as I thought I wanted them but I like the elbow length, and the fabric is super, super thin and lightweight so I think it will be perfect.  I hope it will, anyway, since it's already stuffed in the bottom of my suitcase.

P.S. After gloating about my sewing success, I realized that I had broken the cardinal rule of the seamstress: ALWAYS CHECK ROSS FIRST!  I found a wrap just like this one except with cute ruched sleeves yesterday at Ross for $7.  UGH.  It's still on the rack, though, since I'm perfectly happy with mine.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Place for Pots

I have an undeniable addiction to flower pots.  I seem to collect them whether I'm at Goodwill or Target...and just about everywhere in between.  I'm not at all inspired to plant things this time of year, however - putting beautiful green things in the Phoenix sun might count as cruel and unusual punishment - so the pots have just piled up all over the yard.  This stash was especially problematic, since a spider had decorated the whole corner with one of those web-everwhere kind of looks.

Good news: I got the pots moved and the corner cleaned up.  Bad news: I met the owner.  Good thing he's as antisocial as I am.

I created a temporary but helpful potting shelf outside the garage with an old bookshelf.  Now there's one designated place for the empty pots and that blue bin of potting soil.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hem and Haw

After my sewing success last week, I felt ready to tackle the oft-postponed task of hemming.  I have a huge bin of clothing that is simply labeled "tailoring," and I've ignored it for years.  "Tailoring," in the context of that bin, means anything from simply fixing a button to completely remaking the garment to be either three sizes larger or smaller - that bin is my version of a magic box so all my garment dreams (no matter how impossible) go in there.  I decided to start with the simple stuff...I made a pile of everything that needed to be hemmed because it's too long.  Then I wept over the number of items in that category.  I'm short...the pile wasn't. 

Since I have only a week until I leave on vacation, I narrowed the to-be-hemmed pile down to the items that are 1)loose, 2)washable, and 3)not in need of other alterations.  I somehow convinced my sister to drive across town to get a double needle (thank you, Anna!) and I was ready to go.

I did some impressive crafty ad-libbing on this one.  While my machine welcomes double needles, it does not have two places for the two spools of thread necessary to feed into my magic needle.  So I threaded an extra bobbin and used the bobbin holder as the other source for thread.

I tested the needle on scrap fabric, and was thrilled - no need to try to get two seams perfectly parallel!  I made a note to myself to be sure to sew with the right side of the fabric up, since the back of the double-needle seam is rather sloppy.  And then, of course, I promptly forget and hemmed with the inside of the fabric up.  No bueno.  Good thing I bought that seam ripper "just in case."

Seams ripped and technique corrected, voila! I had a superbly perfect new hem.

Pretty impressive, since it looks very similar to this factory-perfected original seam.

I must confess that in my determination to get through the pile of need-to-be-renovated hems, I completely forgot to take any "after" photos that don't involve a ridiculously close-up shot.  I am not yet through the pile, however, so I'll be sure to more completely document my Sewing Basic Awesomeness soon.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Building A TeePee in My Front Yard

One of my favorite Family History Facts is that my parents lived in a teepee.  It was before I was born but somehow I always get cool points just for telling people that fact.  And now it looks like I'm following in their footsteps.

The Great Pantyhose Solution of 2012 was not a complete fix to the falling tree situation.  Another two days of wind and rainstorms (yay!!!) and the soft ground had allowed the support post to shift into a parallel line with the tipsy tree...not good.  I did not get a photo of this precarious situation because 1) It was raining, and 2) I was thinking as an annoyed homeowner and not as an optimistic blogger.

First I dug a deeper hole for the support pole, but the dirt was still wet (Did I mention it was raining?  In Arizona, we get excited about these things.) so it wasn't sturdy enough to hold the tree's weight yet.  I tried reinserting the small post that had been tied to it since it was installed, thinking it would help be a guide until the stronger pole was more secure, but it was impossible to get the wood deep enough so close to the roots of the tree.

So it became TeePee Time.  I got a third pole (yes, I have a whole supply in the backyard - I got them for free, and am convinced that someday they'll be the perfect ingredient for an truly amazing DIY project of some kind) and the shovel and began again.  In the rain.  I did not have very flattering things to say about the nursery that installed this gorgeous creation only four months ago - shouldn't they have installed this support system instead of one post that would just cause the tree trunk to grow too thin?  I think so, but that didn't fix my current predicament.

The third post went in perfectly, the pantyhose were adjusted accordingly, and I declared victory on round two of the Tipsy Tree Challenge.  For now.

On a more positive note, remember when I planted the Cape Honeysuckle in February?

It's not flowering at the moment but it's doubled in size.  (If you're my real friend, you'll ignore the pathetic state of the grass around it!)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Those Things Are Good for Something, After All

It started out as a simple upgrade.  The green stretchy plastic around the trunk of the gorgeous tree planted in my front yard were getting too tight as the tree grew:

So I gratefully accepted new green plastic from dad and began the supposed-to-be-easy project of tying new connections to the pole in the ground.  It went really well:

Until a bizarre storm hit in the middle of the night on Wednesday.  I'm all in favor of rain - it makes me feel like a dandelion that's been trampled and suddenly has inspiration and energy to dance in the sunlight again.  But this was wind.  Lots and lots of wind.  I've never liked wind but home ownership has deepended my loathing of it.  It creates messes everywhere.  My tree would probably agree with me, since when I woke up yesterday it looked like this:

I shed actual tears, then got to work.  The tree had slipped off the wooden stand next to it, so I got out the large tree stakes I got from a neighbor months ago and put them to work...I even reused the wired plastic and pipe contraption from the neighbor's old tree, so it had the chance of looking like it was supposed to.

Then I read this article, which seems to think that blowing around is good for a tree's stability and leftover pipe contraptions are not.  I'm not a fan of this new tree look but I'm willing to give it a try so the poor tree gets strong enough no not go through this danger every time the wind goes crazy.  So I took their advice and tused the one thing I could find that was sturdy but flexible: my archnemesis, pantyhose.

Seriously, it worked.  Cutting them up seemed much more satisfying than wearing them, so I agreed.  And so far (fingers crossed) it has worked out well.  The tree moves a lot more than it did when it was tied tightly to the old post, but those ties were so tight it left marks on the we'll trust the experts (at least temporarily) and hope the movement of the tree really is good for its growth. Phoenix friends, feel free to laugh when you drive by my front yard.

And can I just take a moment to brag about how awesome this tree is?  When it was planted in March it looked like this:

And now it's this gorgeous, leafy friend in my yard. 

It makes me want to do this:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pinterest Challenge: Sewing Edition

I have a board on Pinterest vaguely entitled "Projects."  It's a collection of things that are both beautiful and completely unlikely to ever enter my life as anything other than a photograph online.  But thanks to the great Pinterest Challenge, one of them actually jumped into my real live...via sewing machine.

It's a billion degrees in Phoenix right now, and maxi skirts have become a lifesaver - it's like wearing your favorite pjs in public and looking stylish.  Pinterest has all sorts of DIY options, like these:

A Small Snippet's maxi dress option, however, really stood I got out my buddy/enemy the sewing machine and got to work.  Months ago I'd purchased a few yards of jersey fabric when I visited the bulk fabric store nearby...I also bought more burlap than anyone will ever need in three lifetimes, but at least the learning experience didn't cost much.  Armed with the stretchy jersey fabric and my outstanding Pinterest-guided instructional, I delved in.

A quick note: if you want an effective tutorial on how to make a maxi dress or skirt, check out A Small Snippet's page.  If you want a guide to how to get around every single thing that could go wrong during the making of such a project, I'm your girl - keep reading.

Step One: I cut the fabric wide enough to wrap around me 1.5 times, and long enough to make me trip over it every time I moved.  Then I sewed the sides together to create a giant fabric loop.  Problem One: an enormous difference in fabric lengths at the end.  I ignored Problem One and hoped I could deal with it when I hemmed the skirt.,

Step Two: Elastic thread.  The maxi dress tutorial gave great instructions for how to use elastic thread, so I trekked to the crafts store to pick some up.  And then, when the first store didn't have any, I drove even farther to get to Michael's.  And once again, I was reminded that there are great inconveniences to living around the wonderful downtown Phoenix area.  My Michael's is apparently smaller than most stores and their sewing section is - I kid you not - three feet wide.  No elastic thread to be found, so I opted for this elastic cord instead. 

It created more work than the elastic thread would have, but it worked.  I sewed the top of the skirt to make a loop through which I could pull the elastic cord (thanks to a small safety pin attached to the end of the elastic).  I tied off the ends and sewed over the knot so it was anchored pretty well. (I'll skip the details about Problem Two, which involved me searching through that fabric loop for elastic and the safety pin several times before it was completed.)

I made sure the skirt was gathered evenly across the whole loop, ensured that it fit around my waist and then moved onto Step Three, where I got brave enough to sew the top onto the skirt.  I used a t-shirt that is too short to wear most of the time, so I didn't cut the shirt off.  The pinning went well until I ran into Problem Three: my failure to line up the back of the t-shirt with the seam of the skirt.  Easily solved, after numerous negative interactions with straight pins as I repinned the top and bottom together.

Step Four was an easy seam...and it worked great, except for Problem Four: when I realized I probably should have cut the seam off the bottom of the shirt, after all.  Or sewed a straight seam, which is seemingly impossible for me.

I took the visible seam as a sign that it was time for Step Five: belt options.  I made a matching one out of a strip of the same jersey fabric, then sewed a strip of elastic to make it gathered on both sides.  It's a stretchy loop that easily slides on if I want to wear it with the dress.

And I was thrilled to find that hemming did fix my Problem One - the ends of the fabric evened up!  I had cut the fabric way too long so had to trim about six inches off the bottom when I and learn.

Since I was already taking these awkward photographs of myself against my newly-painted wall, I threw in another Pinterest idea, as well.  This pin suggested adorable ribbons to dress up otherwise boring flat shoes.  Tried and tested: once I adjusted to the odd feeling of having ribbon wrapped around my foot, I loved the upgrade!

Check out hundreds of great Pinterest successes at these sites:

And if you'd like to see the other ideas posted boldly on my Projects board, follow me on Pinterest!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Snap Back to Reality

I hope your Fourth of July was enjoyable!  I love this holiday - partly because it's always been my sister's favorite day but also because I work in politics.  Any day to set aside bickering and celebrate our country's past, present and future is more than welcome.  We stretched out the holiday, enjoying a few days of relaxation at my parents' house.  Ate too much, slept enough (finally!) and caught up on reading that has been sitting on the bookshelf for weeks. 

Now it's time to delve back into an average, really really hot week.  But first, a few photos from my fun days.