Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Demolition and Reconstruction

The first step in my doll house rehab was to pull off the broken trim and the cardboard surface of the rear roof. I didn't need any special equipment beyond a flat screwdriver, but I felt like I needed to call for a teeny tiny dumpster.

The new trim was cut from lengths of craft trim that I found at Michael's, the big box craft store. I took a sample with me from the pieces I had removed, and they had bins of the stuff. I decided to add shutters to the house, and they had the perfect trim, which I cut to size. I also bought a small craft saw and a utility knife.

Here's the old cardboard back roof. I pulled it off, but underneath the wood was bumpy with old glue and nails. The replacement came in the form of a roll of thin cork, which I found at the hardware store. Its intended use was to replace car engine gaskets. I cut it to size, and glued it down with heavy duty adhesive. All of the rest of the repair has been done with regular wood glue.

You can see the new rear roof in this photo. I painted it, and the front roof, with deck stain and sealant. All of the paints I used in this project have been leftovers I found in my garage.

Here's a shot of the house with it's old trim scraped off and with the roof repaired. The glue and stain were pretty stinky, so the house spent a lot of time on the back porch. The messy brick work around the entrance was sanded flat and pained to match the rest of the house.

The purple was a trial color for the body of the house. I though it might make a good choice for a bright and colorful fantasy palace, but this purple reminded me too much of those plastic Barbie houses, so it was not the final color selected. Next I'll show you the finished exterior, including the side yard.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Doll House

For awhile I've been thinking about getting a doll house. I scanned on-line sites, thinking I'd buy a doll house kit, which is a popular way of buying a new doll house, but all those little pieces put me off.

When I was a kid I had one of those tin doll houses with the rugs and wallpaper stamped on. It came with hollow plastic furniture all in one color. You can buy them now on eBay and I saw one in a local antiques store and almost bought it. But I wasn't quite ready, and it wasn't quite what I wanted.

Then in late April my dollhouse found me at the Methodist church rummage sale. It was ten dollars, and like some of the treasures I bring home, it needed a little love. Michael thought I was crazy, but he humored me and carried it to the car. He's good that way. He doesn't care much what I do as long as I'm happy.

A broken down doll house is full of possibilities. Each flaw is an opportunity for something new and wonderful.

The back roof of this one was dilapidated cardboard. The staircase is missing, and the interior is dark and full of wood veneer.

The outside is mismatched: a hodge podge of broken trim and unfinished details. I'm guessing it was a kit from the 80s. It's structurally sound, but it needs a face lift.

But what will it be? An artist's getaway? An idealized childhood home? A 60s college rooming house? It's full of choices, full of dreams and possibilities.

I'm going to chronicle my doll house rehab in the next few posts. I've finished the exterior face lift, and as soon as I order the new staircase, I'll start in on the interior. I'll buy furniture last. Watch to see how it turns out.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lots to Celebrate

I have a lot of reasons to celebrate these days. I rounded up the leftovers of some recent projects and made this little quilt. Maybe it will be a baby gift.

And I took out my pile of string blocks and pieced them into this scrappy quilt top. Even more impressive, I made backings and battings for several finished tops, and they're waiting to be pinned basted. I like to pin baste at night with an old movie, preferably one starring Joan Crawford. Maybe Mildred Pierce or The Women.

And I quilted this top for Allie for her birthday. I'd made it for myself, but then decided that a cake and flowers quilt was perfect for a 21st birthday.

Isn't she a saucy girl?

And my parents and my brother came to visit. Hey, this scenery is a cause for celebration too. This is at Patrick's Point where Alex's high school graduation was held.

Here's my happy boy.
He made a very successful graduation speech.

Life is good.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Well-Aged Quilt

This quilt has been a long time in the works, and now all the finished top needs is layering and quilting. The pattern is from Kaffe Fassett's book Passionate Patchwork. I love all of Kaffe's work. He combines fabrics in a fearless way.

Several years ago I started this quilt by collecting home dec sample books for the hatboxes at the center. The pieced border is also mostly made up of home dec fabrics from sample books. In the original version of this quilt, there are more hatboxes and less border.

Here are a few close ups of the hatboxes.

Once I got beyond the pieced border I got stuck. Without the blue border the quilt is 71x71," which I considered to be too big for a wall hanging, but I wasn't sure I wanted to use this as a bed quilt. I chose a blue outer border from this sweet toile fabric, but I got frustrated at the prospect of piecing it so it would fit across the width of the quilt, since the motifs didn't seem to line up. So I put the quilt aside for another day.

Recently I took the quilt out, put on my big girl pants, and cut the borders, pieced them and attached them to the quilt. It now seems perfect for a bed quilt at 85x85." Maybe quilts are like wine. They are ready in their own time. That's my story anyway, and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Projects New and Old

I made another crocheted bag: this time a smaller one, but from the same pattern as the last one.

This bag was a gift for my niece Maria, who just graduated from high school. I spent a lovely weekend visiting with my parents, sister (Maria's mom) and my brother and sister-in-law.

I drove the 6 hours and back by myself: I really like solo travel. I get to stop where and when I want and I get to pick the music I listen to in the car. I like to put my ipod on shuffle so that the next song is always a surprise. I also caught up on episodes of NPR's This American Life, and I started an audio book,
Fanny Herself, by Edna Ferber, which is a nicely-read free download from Librivox.

I lined this bag with a black and white fan print, since it's kinda girly.

And I finished piecing this quilt for Debra's charity efforts. It looks the same as the last time I showed it (though the stripes were going the other way in earlier photos), but now it's actually sewn together and soon I'll get it in the mail. Soon.

Thank you for all you sweet comments on the Fall Madonna. Having finished these two projects, I'm now working on some UFOs. I quilted one, and put borders on another. Photos will follow.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


The Quilt Studio web ring is encouraging members to post on their experiences with fusibles. Since I used fusible web on the Fall Madonna, I'm going to throw in my two cents.

I generally stick to the basics in terms of products: I use Heat and Bond, both the sewable and the no-sew versions. The no-sew version has a stronger glue, and it is stiffer. However, it will not last forever through repeated washings nor through hard wear. The sewable version will hold as long as your stitching holds up because you don't have to rely on the product alone to keep your pieces together. It also has a softer hand.

If you try to sew through the non-sewable one, your needle will get gunked up with the glue and you'll have to keep cleaning it, which will drive you crazy. Recently I made denim patches with the non-sewable Heat and Bond by mistake, and patched some jeans, and since I needed to also sew through the patches, I cursed my way through the whole thing, though I did finish it.

In the Fall Madonna I fused individual motifs on the sunflower fabric with small pieces of Heat and Bond (no-sew). Because it will not be worn or handled, I'm not worried about the motifs coming off. I cut a piece of the product slightly larger than the motifs I wanted, and I ironed it down on the back of the floral fabric. Then I cut out exactly the motifs I wanted, positioned them on my background, and ironed them down. I used to be very precise in following the manufacturer's directions about how long to fuse and at what iron setting, but lately I just wing it, and everything seems to turn out.

On the Fall Madonna, I also ended up doing silk ribbon embroidery through the fused motifs, and my fingers were screaming in protest by the end. It would've been better to have used the sewable version, but I used what I had on hand, and wasn't thinking ahead very clearly.

When I'm working with any thing sticky, I iron a piece of freezer paper to my ironing board to keep it clean. I've also found that a crumpled up piece of waxed paper rubbed on a hot iron's surface will clean it thoroughly.

Sweater Genesis

  A few years ago I learned to harvest yarn from old wool sweaters.  I don't do it so much anymore, with the exception of if I find...