Friday, July 24, 2020

Living Room Updates 2020

I thought it would be a good time to share more pictures of the living room, especially since we just got a new rug! Now, that sounds simple but of course there is a long Rug Story!

It has taken us about a year to find one we like! I know! We are particular. It had to be soft, plushy, but not to thick, not too dark, busy or too light colored. Nothing that would clash with the curtains, which was the biggest problem! We looked at so many! But I think we only tried five.... Still that seemed like a lot! 
Before I forget to mention, we finally decided on the Mohawk Marrakesh Damask. Mom loves the Mohawk brand and it is made in the USA! (We still had to air it out on the front porch for a week before bringing it inside. Not sure why rugs have to stink so much!)

We actually start looking for a new rug last summer as our old one didn't recover from a washing. But we were ready for a new one and it was starting to look sad and worn. In the fall, right before we started the radiator project we tried out a couple of rugs and didn't like any. Then we decided to post-pone a new rug as it was a bit of a construction zone! (I think Kerri Dog missed having a rug!)

We did learn things from our first batch of rug trials. The curtains kind of clash with any pattern, navy blue was too dark on the dark floors, and rug shopping is hard work! Lol!
This rug comes in a couple of different colors and I hadn't realized at first that last fall we tried the navy blue one (which is the only color our local Lowes carried.) So glad I took another look online and found this one! 

This wall is still rather blank... but I am thinking on it! 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Renewing Floors- 2020 Edition

Guess what we did this weekend?!? 
Yes, we shellacked the floors again! The last time was back in.... 2014! I just checked and if you are interested HERE is the link to the post about it. Goodness! All things considering the floors have held up great for six years. 
Other floors posts can be found here and here.

As you can see, there was worn patches and scratches. And I probably should have done this last year, but I had just finished up the Brick House floors and wasn't really ready to tackle more floors. That turned out to be okay as moving the radiators around put a few more scrapes and scratches in the floors. Not to mention the patching of the cold air returns.

There is something refreshing about moving all the furniture out and cleaning the floors and baseboards really well. (Actually, the dining room table, bookshelf and the sofa stayed. Everything else we managed to cram on the front porch and in the bedrooms!)
Part of this project was also redoing the little hallway floor. I never liked how it turned out, but since it was a small portion of the floor we just lived with it. Above  is the "after" with finish on it. It was quite the process to get there!

This is what I started with. I hadn't realized how scratch up it was. And obviously I needed to blend the patch with the rest of the floor.

The first step was to remove the current finish which was shellac I had put on it 2013. I tried not to use a sander as the dust gets everywhere. Instead I tried scraping it by hand with a vintage Stanley 82 scraper. It worked fairly well, but was very slow on taking off the finish. So I eventually got out a small belt sander.

Because this is maple which I tried to stain, the belt sander wasn't evening it out very well and I ended up doing a final sanding by hand with 50 grit sand paper, then hand scraping it thoroughly to smooth it. This method worked very well and I felt like it was a reasonably good place to be. I wasn't ready to spend another week sanding to try and get down below all the stain.

 The first coat was a light amber button shellac similar to what I used at the Brick House (a detailed post here). I used the same button type shellac from , just in a different shade. Yes, shellac comes in different shades! It just depends on how dark you want your orange. Lol! There isn't too much difference between the shades, but it is nice to have options.

And this is with the next coat of shellac which I put Brown Mahogany dye in. (Also from I love how the dye worked! It is still a bit blotchy from the previous stain job and old sanding marks. I am not sure if it that much different from how it started, but at lest the cold air patch is blended a bit more! And the tone matches better.

  At the same time as putting the first coat on the hallway, we put a coat on the dining room. You can see the line in the picture above of "coated" and "uncoated". The button shellac is so different from the pre-mixed shellac you buy in the store. I know it is hard to tell in this picture, but the buttons are a lot less shiny, it also dries faster and harder. And for some reason not as glossy smooth. Still trying to figure that one out....

I love the afternoon sun coming in the piano window! Just waiting for everything to dry!

 We have been enjoying a clean and uncluttered look!

Now we are working on finding a new rug we like and wall art. This long wall has kinda been a stumper!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Patching Floors

Hello Friends! We are all well. I haven't been motivated this winter to blog. And everything going on in the world didn't help motivate me either. But the sun is shining, we are getting back to normal and things are looking up! I hope all of you are well.
Today, I am here to talk about patching floors. And in this case, patching old cold air returns. True to 1920's science at the time, the cold air returns were huge! 
First, I will briefly mention the cold air return in the picture above. My brother did this one so I can't take credit. But I did watch carefully and that gave me courage to tackle the other two! This cold air return was also a lot smaller as it was a later edition. I suspect it must of been cut in the late 40's/50's when the heating system was updated.

Not so large at all!

Before the sub-floor was patched, but after the floor boards are cut back.

 This is the dining room cold air return. Inconveniently placed just behind the dining room table. (And yes, we had a couple of incidents of chairs legs getting stuck in the grate and people suddenly falling off their chairs.) We were glad to see this one go!
Mandy and I added a couple of new blocks on the edges to make sure the subfloor would be stable. In the photo above you can also see that part of this area has a decided tip. It is a small window bump out. And given that it is a few years shy of 100 years old, a bit saggy. Which made it a little tricky getting the new plywood sub floor mostly level!

 We finally got approximately level. Then the next step was cutting back the old floor boards to "feather" in new. As you can see, the "new" boards match almost perfectly! I raided my older brother's stash of old flooring and after a good clean, the boards blend right in! That is one advantage of using the same shellac finish as old flooring! 

And after a bit of hammering, screwing and cutting, the new boards are in! On this patch we were lucky as the tongues were facing toward the wall. Which means we started laying the boards from the front edge of the hole to the back. And the last board is held in place with a couple of face nails or nails through the top of the board. 

 Naturally, the cold air return across the room in the hallway was quite as easy.....
For one thing, the tongues go the other way, meaning we had to start at the wall and work out from there. But first I had a little trouble locating a couple of old maple floor boards. Our local salvage place was out, the older brother didn't have any the right width... finally I discovered my brother-in-law had a stash! Yey for family members that are also into old houses!!

 One tool I would highly recommend for a project like this is oscillating multi tool saw. Very neat tool! It is a little hard to cut super straight when cutting straight down with a vibrating tool, but a lot neater than a hammer and chisel.
Once the old boards were cut back, new boards cut to length we were ready to screw in the boards. That is when we discovered we should be working from the wall out! Opps! Just a few screws to unscrew and we were headed in the right direction. All went good until we got to the last board next to the old floor. The tongue on the old flooring was also ready cut off , so that was good. But the new board was warped and refused to go in it's place. (Even when boards aren't warped it is tricky getting the last board in place!) So we unscrewed the next to last board, wedged the warped board in place and screwed it down and then put the next to last board in. Except it was a close call..... We hammered and wedged and pushed for all we were worth and it would not go! We scraped and chiseled edges and it still would not go. Mandy and I just kept banging away and just about the time we were going to give up, it popped into place! 
I told Mandy to sit on it while I ran to get the trim nails! We did not want it to even think about coming out!

This one was a bit odd to feather in. At the one end is my bedroom door, so couldn't go that way. The other end is the bathroom door way. And since I am not 100% sure how well I am going to get the old and new to blend I didn't want to feather into the doorway. 
So I ended up only feathering an inch or inch and half. It still turned out really well! So I am happy!
The next project is to try and figure out how to blend the old and new. The old floor is maple. It was covered with 1940's linoleum when I bought the house. After pulling up the linoleum, we used a steam mop to heat the black tar/glue stuff to get it off. The heat and steam opened the pores in the wood and allowed it to take up stain. (Normally maple is notoriously hard to stain! But I didn't know that!) I am not sure I can replicate that whole scenario on the new boards.
But I will keep you posted!

Monday, April 13, 2020

Mask Tutorial- A Speedy Seamtress' Method

 Like a lot of sewers/crafters Mandy and I have been making masks for our local hospitals and family/friends. We have been asked to make THIS mask. And while they have a nice video and directions posted, I thought the process could be made a little more intuitive and streamlined. This post is mainly for others who are sewing the same "Mask Alternative". But maybe you will glean a few tips for your mask sewing too!
(Pictures illustrating the steps are show below the written directions.) Speed Sewing
To speed up the sewing  process and not waste thread, sew quilter style by not cutting between ties. Once you have finished sewing the particular step you are on, lift your pressure foot and pull the tie or mask back about ½” -1” and place the next tie or mask under the foot, then keep sewing! (The length of the thread you will need to pull depends on what you are sewing. For ties, the thread between doesn’t even need to be as long as ½”. For the small darts on the mask you need more thread length between so you can maneuver better.)

Step 1: Cutting Masks
Do not use pins. Instead trace around your mask pattern. When you cut the masks out, cut to the inside of the pen line. This way you will leave no pen mark on the finished mask.
 Place masks as close together as possible to maximize fabric. We averaged about 50 masks per 54” x 54” cloth or 30 masks and 30 ties per cloth.

While tracing the mask pattern, also mark the placement for the ties and place a dot where the channel for the nose wire starts and ends. (This dot will be about ¾” from the mask edge.)

Step 2: Cutting Ties
Cut ties 18” x 1”. (Because 54” is divisible by 18”!) A rotary cutter is very useful for this.We like to loosely tie 4 ties together for ease of counting. (Remember, ties are only one layer of fabric! You will need 2 blue and 2 white per mask.) Also cut lengths of yarn 36” long. (Twice the length of the ties as the yarn will be folded in half before sewing in.) Yarn can be a bit tricky to cut as it has so much stretch. We have found stretching slightly, but not too taunt is usually good. The yarn does get stretched a bit while sewing.

Step 3: Sewing Ties
Place a folded length of yarn in the center of a tie and fold tie over lengthwise. To make the process more streamlined we have found it helpful to clip one end of the tie and yarn folded together with a clothespin (any clipping device will also work, even paperclips!). Clip as many ties and yarn together as you have clothespins and then you are ready to sew!

We found sewing a zig-zag down the center of the tie made it go faster. The zig-zag catches the yarn securely and you don’t have to worry about sewing along an edge. Use a fairly large stitch width and length (A 4 for both length and width was perfect on our machine.)

To also speed up the process and not waste thread, sew quilter style by not cutting between ties. Once you have finished sewing a tie, lift your pressure foot and place the next tie under the foot, then keep sewing!

Step 4: Sewing the Wire Channel
The first step of the mask is sewing the wire channel (This just seemed to make more sense to me!) Place the mask under the pressure foot starting at the edge of the mask going into the middle. This should be about half an inch away from the tie mark. Sew a straight stitch from the edge to the dot.

Lift your foot and turn to sew down to the other dot.
Lift your foot again and sew toward the edge of the mask.   
 Finished channel.  

If you aren’t confident of sewing a semi straight line for the channel, place a piece of tape on your sewing machine 3/4” from your needle. Then use the edge of the tape as your guide.
You can speed sew the channels like you sewed the ties. Simply lift your presser foot when done sewing, pull the thread about an inch and start the next mask.

Step 5: Sewing the Small Darts
The small darts on either side should have been cut out when cutting the mask. Gently hold the edges of the dart together. Starting at the tip of the dart, sew down to the edge tapering out to ¼” at the edge. (The seam allowance is marked on the pattern to help you visualize.)

I don’t get too hung up on the shape or how far from the point I start. No one will notice if they aren’t even! I do try and start no more than ¼” from the tip. On my machine I try and start sewing with the edge of the foot opening on the tip of the dart.

Sew one dart per mask at a time so you can speed sew! (Just like you did the wire channels.) Though you will need to pull extra thread between the masks to maneuver.
Once the darts have been sewn, clip the threads and trim seam allowance to ⅛”. Repeat for the other side dart.

Step 6: Attaching Ties and Topstitching
In this step there is a lot going on, but the masks are almost done!
Start topstitching ¼” away from the edge of the mask at the bottom left hand corner, topstitching over the small dart (it doesn’t matter which direction the dart seam lays. I just try and sew it the same way on both sides.)

About an inch from the first tie placement mark, stop and place a tie between the fabric layers.

Continue topstitching until just over the tie, back stitch to the opposite edge of the tie and continue topstitching. You will have stitched over the tie three times.

Topstitch to about an inch from the next tie mark, insert tie between fabric layers, topstitch, backstitch and topstitch tie like the first.

You will now be at the wire channel, continue topstitching along the edge until about 2” from the end of the wire channel.

Make sure your needle is down, raise your presser foot and insert wire into channel. We have found the easiest way to get the wire in, is to push the wire into the channel as far as it will go, then hold the opposite end of the wire (that is already in the channel) and push it toward the edge of the mask. This swings the free end into the correct place.

Once the wire is situated, continue topstitching, sewing the ties in between the fabric layers and backstitching like you did previously until you reach the right hand corner of the mask. 

Step 7: Sewing Front Seam
You are now on the last step! Fold the mask in half matching the center fronts. You will  have to bend the nose wire to be able to do this.

Starting at one end, back stitch and then stitch the seam curving the seam line slightly as you go around the corner.  End the seam by back stitching.

Trim seam allowance to 1/8" and clip threads.

And you’re done!

And here is a printer friendly version of all the steps! No pictures included for faster printing.

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like a step clarified.
Happy Sewing! And stay healthy and safe!