27 August 2014

Magnolia Manor Reveal: Kitchen & Book Nook

What does one do when one's husband is out of town? Cereal for breakfast, early bedtimes for those who have school the next day, and an evening to load photos from the fancy camera to see what has been in limbo in the world of captured and unreleased.  Turns out, I have long overdue photos of two more areas of Magnolia Manor: The Kitchen and The Book Nook from a day when I cleaned so well, that I shall be sad to go into the kitchen and see what it really looks like today.
It's been so long, in fact, that I had a hard time finding my before pictures and when I did was again amazed at how much we've done since those first days of buying this great home.
The kitchen and the bathroom behind it were basically gutted.  We moved absolutely everything for several reasons.
The main reason was the size.  It was SO tiny, dark, and blocked off, while next to it was a huge room with these amazing windows and spacious ceilings (13' at the lowest point for reference--see tiny Drummer on the couch?)
When you move from apartment to apartment and house to house, you begin to make a mental (or physical, if you're more organized than I) list of what you want...one day, when you can choose it all.  And we got to, in this kitchen.  It was so much fun.
It's basically a kitchen, with an attached space to hang out.  We put a couch and the family computer because everybody wants to be where I am, and I'm usually doing laundry, dishes, or making a meal, which is all in this area, so now they can be with me, but not on or under me.

We wanted a nice big counter where guests can sit while we finish dinner prep and invite them to help and sit across from us while we chat and prepare.  Or a place where I can have an indoor greenhouse ;).
This is the wall we took down and opened up.  But, fun story: that little door up so high?  That's the access to the first roof deck from the original construction.  It's insulated, so the plan is to one day finish it and maybe build a little loft, or ladder for an additional room or just a fun place for the teenagers to hang out.
This first photo is a view from the bathroom behind the kitchen that was also gutted.  The second is before they took down the kitchen wall with the little window.
One of the things I love about this house is that you can see other parts of the house from almost every single room.  I don't know why that's so important to me, but I love that I can see from one side of the kitchen, clear to the parlor.  It makes me happy.
Originally the wall beneath the counter was painted white, which was a losing battle from day one when we put those chairs there.  I painted it with chalkboard paint for an "intended messy" look instead of "accidentally messy".  As they began the tear-down, I loved all the different flooring discovered.  A little map of the history this house has been and seen.  And then there was the time when I had a trench dug inside my house, complete with dirt.  That was weird to smell outside smell in my kitchen.  The half-bath toilet didn't drain properly, so they fixed that plumbing before the new floor was started.
The couch is from IKEA, black leather for easy cleaning.  I am surprised at how much we use this kitchen couch.  Probably more than our more formal couch in the parlor.  

We did keep the little pantry that's located behind the fireplace, but took out the closet that was across from it.
I've had this milk glass doorknob for ages, and have taken it from house to house, waiting for the perfect door.  I had to order the retrofit hardware, but it wasn't too difficult to put on...my perfect door. ;)
Another kitchen before.  There wasn't even a dishwasher. But...
...the ceilings!  These carried over from the parlor and we put in cupboards as high as they would accommodate.  We went with an induction stove that I have grown to love (and perhaps has spoiled me a bit...why does water take so long to boil on every other stove?!)  It's truly amazing.  It uses a magnetic current to heat, but doesn't get super hot to the touch (you can place a paper towel between your pan and stove and it won't burn), so it doesn't cook food onto the stovetop.  My only complaint is that when you use a cheaper pan with little food in it, there is an audible clicking you can hear while it heats.  If you get nicer cookware, it doesn't do that.

One thing that I have loved so much more than I though I would is the kitchen sink faucet.  It's touch sensitive, so if you're hands are all covered with sticky bread dough or raw meat juices, you just bump it with your arm and it turns on without getting your faucet all dirty.  
We did absolute black granite countertops which are, to be honest, really hard to keep clean.  I tried all the granite cleaners I could find and they all left big smears.  I found that the best way is to wipe them down with a wet cloth and dry them immediately with a flour sack towel.  That's it.  I may consider having them honed to a flat finish in a couple of years, but I really do love them when they're all shined up.

See how small?  There wasn't even a dishwasher and behind the lady with the purse was a drop-down ironing board that cut the tiny kitchen in half.

One of the hardest decisions was the hardware for the cabinets.  I wanted something simple and classy, but not white and not something that would detract from the simplicity of the whole kitchen.  I found these perfect glass knobs at Rejuvenation, which I could really use for my entire lighting and hardware  needs. Every single thing they have is stunning and flawlessly designed.
Right next to the kitchen is what was originally the dining area that we've changed into a booknook.  Does anyone really use a dining room anymore?  It just made more sense for us to use it as a snuggle up and read area.  We read a whole lot more than we formally dine. ;)
This was the before.  Ryan was surprised I wanted to keep the lighting.  Painted.  Of course.
Painting everything white really brightened up everything, and if you'll notice, we bought those stools from the estate sale and I just painted them black and white.  They've been great.
I used Dana's large Rollie Pollie pattern for the bean bags.  I really should make more because sometimes all of us cuddle on those bags.  It's such an inviting space.  We have to be careful, though, Drummer has taken to hiding under them when escaping his sisters, hehe!

And my kids are pretty good about keeping the books rainbowtized.  I actually find it therapeutic to put them back in order.  I'm weird.

The Magnolia Manor Renovations I've revealed so far:
And I know there are questions about flooring, but I will do a post on all the flooring in the house and hopefully catch all the questions in one post.

14 August 2014

Pleated Pencil Skirt: A Delia Pattern Review

Have you seen it, have you seen it?!  The pencil skirt of all pencil skirts.  That clever Delia has come up with THE pencil skirt pattern!  Look no further.  Are you convinced yet?  Or should I keep asking questions and punctuating with exclamation marks?!
Even if you have a hard time with sizing, Delia explains it all.  In fact, my waist is 2 sizes bigger than my hip size, a very decent reason to shy away from form fitted.  Basically, I'm a rectangle with hair and have never been very good friends with pencil skirts.  

Delia shows you how to make those differing sizes become one.  I merged those two numbers to make a number I would wear anywhere. (Say that 10 times fast.)  Also, she poses so much better for the camera than I can ever dream to.  I either look evil or eviler.  ;)
Despite the weather (this was the last 20 minutes of decent light and the clouds were hogging the sun) and my photographer (I won't name names) being uncooperative, I think you get the gist that I'm in love with my new skirt.  I love the taper toward the knees and the cute little kick pleat in the back that is cleverly created.
And not only is it a simple, quick sew (even with it being fully lined!), Delia has all sorts of variations.  The only thing I changed up was making the waistband a different color for a bit of pop, but now that I've got one under my belt (pun intended), I am dreaming of a whole closet of fits-me-just-right skirts.  Ryan's half of the closet might be feeling a little crowding once I get through.  You need this pencil in your life. 
Mwahahaha! Because that's my evil laugh to go with my photo.

26 July 2014

Kaftan Coverup Critique

One of the best things about sewing is that nobody has the same article of clothing anywhere.  I recently bought a cheap little coverup because I was lazy.  It was a week later when I saw someone else wearing the same thing.  Really, it's not that big of a deal, but I wanted to burn my cheap coverup and crawl into a hole.  It was probably the same week when Toni, of Make it Perfect, asked if I would review her Shearwater Kaftan pattern.

Perfect timing!  And she also a children's version, to which Olive was the recipient.
I didn't make any adjustments other than two small ones.  I thought it might be fun to have a little color peeking out from the facing. THEN I thought it would be even better if the facing was on the front. Now you know how I work.  I just make things up as a I go along, usually without a specific plan. ;) I modified the shape of the facing to mimic the pattern of my fabric (a batik which I think came from fabric.com) and added a bit of interfacing.
Mark the center where you will be sewing and pin the RIGHT side of the facing to the WRONG side of the fabric.  When I flipped it to the right side after sewing, I liked how the facing pulled a bit of the shirt fabric to look like piping, so I left it that way.
To finish it off, I did a satin stitch.  To finish it even more, I did a triple stitch (not shown here, but it's the stitch where the machine takes two stitches forward and then to backward and two forward again).  I also added some bands to the sleeves because I have monkey arms and they were too short. The fit is very generous and SO comfortable.
Olive's favorite color is yellow, so I did her facing in a bright yellow, the batik fabric also came from fabric.com.
They would also be cute with jeans or leggings (or jeggings! ;)  Or you could lengthen it for a fun summer dress.
Toni has all sorts of patterns that you'll want to check out. Oh.  And today I'm halfway to 70 years old. I bought myself a cheap hat, expensive perfume and a fake leather skirt. Wahoo!

30 June 2014

Vivienne Pattern Review & Giveaway!

I love saying yes to trying out new women's patterns because it forces me to sew for myself.  My-asymetrical-not-entirely-content-with-my-body-self.  (Is anyone ever entirely content with one's body?) Because sometimes we need to be forced to do good (hard) things.  So when the girls of Violette Field Threads asked if I'd try out their Vivienne skirt and blouse, I agreed. 

We've all seen the cute girl's pattern, and enough moms out there understandingly wanted it for themselves!
Basically, it's two skirts: one simple gathered skirt with rows of ruffles, and one overskirt that just wraps around.  The shirt pattern (not the one pictured above) is loosely shaped with buttons up (or would you say down?) the back, which makes it a bit difficult to get dressed by yourself, but it's always fun to feel pampered and maybe a bit nostalgic to have your loved one fasten you up. ;) And I'm always up for a challenge.
I made several minor alterations that I'll share, some very visible, some not so much. I wanted to make something that I feel comfortable and confident in and that I'll wear frequently, but you can, of course, sew this straight up and get great results:
 I added 2 additional darts (there are already two bust darts and I added two princess seam darts, you could also add a couple to the back as well) to the front of the shirt and took in the sides to make it fitted.  Blouse-y doesn't look good on me, so I felt much better about the more tailored look.
 I took the gathers out of the sleeves because I have very broad shoulders to begin with that any added poof makes me look more like a football player.
 I lengthened the underskirt by several inches (maybe 7?) and lengthened the overskirt by a few, so if you sew it up as is, the overskirt covers more of the ruffles than mine does.
 Instead of a casing for the waist, I used a thick ruffled elastic for the waistband.  Speaking of elastic, don't you love that it's ruffled?! I got it from my favorite ruffle fabric store.  I like to drool at all their amazing elastic (not to mention fabric!)  They even have aztec elastic! I know!
 I didn't do buttons on the overskirt for the closure.  The buttons are definitely a cute feature, but I was messing around with it and thought about tying it.  It's just long enough that you can tie it in a knot and since it's double-sided, it shows a peek of the lining fabric when you do. Fun!
The neckline is very sweet and flattering.  I considered adding a collar, but then decided to just make the appearance of a color with some tiny black lace.  
One of the great things about this is you can mix each piece up.  The shirt would be great with pants, you can wear the underskirt alone, you can tie the overskirt around some jeans or leggings.
All very versatile!
Over the years of making clothes for 6 girls (yes, I'm counting myself, too!) I've ruffled (more than) my fair share of ruffles.  I've figured a few things out, but I always learn something new. Some pointers for ruffling on this project:
 It's very helpful if you use a fabric that can rip easily to rip the strips of fabric.
 To hem the bottom of the strips, invest in a rolled hem foot for your sewing machine.  What this means is you don't have to spend hours and hours ironing the edge up once and then twice and then sewing.  It does it all at the same time.  Trust me.  You will thank me.
 To finish the top portion of the strips, use the rolled hem stitch on your serger. This just zips through your machine, nicely finishing the edges. You could also do a satin stitch on your sewing machine, but it would take longer.
 I used my ruffling foot to gather the strips.  Set it to the longest stitch length (5mm) which will prevent it from gathering too much.
For the "collar" I basted the edges of the lace so I could get it to curve.  Easy peasy.
(My knotty view from up here :)
It's become a game now, that my kids ask where I'm going to put "no big dill".  I went bigger than usual on this. ;) I would have written it in Chinese, but it's a little rusty.

It's hard to tell in the photos is a light cotton with tiny greyish/bluish fuzzy dots.  They are so varied in size and intensity (I don't think it's intended) that I didn't think I'd ever use this fabric, but ripping it up into strips and ruffling them was the perfect use. ;)
I laughed to myself as I was putting it all together as this is such an eclectic mix with the asian print, the batik fabric with the feminine touches of ruffles and lace.  Perhaps that's one of the advantages of sewing until 5 in the morning?
So.  How about a giveaway?  A chance to win one of three sets of mommy & daughter Vivienne Patterns!  How fun is that! 
✚ Simply leave a comment!
✚ I will leave it open for a week and then choose and contact 3 winners.
✚ PLEASE include an email if your contact information isn't included in your profile link so you don't forfeit your chance to win.
✚ Hooray!! Thanks, Violette Field Threads!