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The place that dreams are made of: my new sewing space

It has been over a week since my last post because I have been busy, busy, busy.  Not necessarily with sewing, just with life- work/interview (for full-time- yikes!) and Halloween craziness.  BUT- my largest project of all over the last few weeks has been the transformation of my attic sewing studio!  Woo hoo!  I cannot believe I am lucky enough to have a space like this all to myself- I am in LOVE.  I turned a once dirty baby blue/grey and white space into a bright white dream oasis.  Really, I can’t stop gushing over the transformation.  This is a really long post- lots of pictures- bear with me!  First lets start with the Before!  I loved this Library sign on the door- of course I am going to leave it.

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I was so excited to get started I didn’t start snapping pictures until midway through- darn it.  But, you will have to picture it…mismatched furniture, tons of fabric and scraps and threads all over the floor.  A huge mess, with the girls sewing supplies scattered around no real flow.  Not to mention the old attic floor which had been painted grey/blue at one point and had been splattered with some sort of resin or shellac which also was splashed over blue and white walls.   The previous owner of our house built furniture, so I imagine he used this space to finish his pieces?  Either way it was horrible, but with so much potential!  A bright space in the attic, with finished walls, electricity and heat.  ALL TO MYSELF.

Here is a mid-process shots of the space. Already starting to improve!

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This is after I cleared out all of my old furniture, bins, fabric, and “junk”.  You can see the charm already; the slanted ceilings, the large windows and painted wood floors.  I chose to paint everything white…and I love it.  I probably could have used another coat of paint but I couldn’t wait to set up.  I had to do a coat of oil primer on all of the walls and slanted ceilings since I tested the original blue paint and it came up as oil.  I used my favorite primer- zinsser cover stain oil primer.  It covers everything- including the shellac splatters.  Awesome stuff (but pretty smelly- so use ventilation!).  I also primed the floor with a coat of this primer as well, to ensure my topcoat would cover well.  After my coat of primer on the walls I covered them in 2 coats of white paint- mixing whatever random white paint I had in my basement- I was trying to be thrifty (or cheap).  The floors were painted with 2 coats of Sherwin Williams Porch and Floor paint in white.  I can’t say enough good things about Sherwin Williams paint- it is more expensive but well worth the $$…I need this floor finish to last!

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What is a sewing space without furniture?  I ordered all of my furniture from IKEA online, and had it shipped right to my door- so easy.  I ordered the separate tables and legs (where else can you do this besides IKEA?) and it worked out perfectly.  I was able to get two drawer cabinets and a large tabletop (extra long to fit my serger and sewing machine) for my main work space (with an extra leg for support in the center) and another table top with extendable sawhorse legs to raise it up to counter height- perfect for my cutting table.  I love that they include shelves for storage, and can easily be lowered down if the girls want to pull up a chair for a special project.  I also ordered a bookcase to store my fabric- worked out perfect.

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When all was said and done I still had plenty of space to fit in a retro chrome and white round table I had, along with a few wooden chairs I used to use in my kitchen.  I think this will provide a great craft space for the girls, so that they can work in there with me while I sew.  Now that Isabel has been showing such an interest in sewing herself she can even set up her little machine there and claim out her own little space- which she did right away!

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I can’t wait to finish decorating the space and setting up all of my stuff, but for now I am really enjoying the minimalism and “clean” look of how it is now!  I know this won’t last long….

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The details:

From Ikea

Sewing/Serging table:

LINNMON Table top, white (Length: 78 3/4 x Width: 23 5/8 “)

1 SJUNNE Leg (in center for support)

2 Alex Drawer units, white

Cutting Table:

2 Finnvard Trestle with shelf, white

Linnmon Table top, white (Length: 59 ” Width: 29 1/2 “)

Shelf- Expedit

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What’s black and blue and (then) red all over?

I am hilarious.  Remember that joke?  What is black and white and red all over?  A newspaper!  Ha Ha.  Get it Red-Read?  I don’t know why I thought of this.  Anyways, the answer to my question is my milk door.  Yes, I said my milk door.  I imagine there are many people reading this (yes I actually think many people will read this!) who have no idea what I am talking about.  Let me clarify.  My house was built in 1910, back in the days before refrigeration.  There is a small door next to my side door that opens and is now used as my mailbox, but back in the day would be the storage for fresh milk delivered by the local milkman.  Pretty neat stuff.  I wasn’t too clear on the time frame and details so I did a bit of internet research ( I am a librarian after all!) and found this: http://www.historicnewengland.org/collections-archives-exhibitions/online-exhibitions/From_Diary_to_Doorstep

I do not live in New England, but the idea is the same.  Apparently the golden age of milk delivery was between 1860-1960…so I imagine for the first 50 years or so that my house was around this little milk door was in use every day.  To quote the site:

“By the 1960s, the housewife in the family car had replaced the milkman on his delivery route. Supermarkets, refrigerators, and affordable automobiles made the milkman obsolete, and home milk delivery as a reassuring staple of city and village life receded into memory.”

Pretty neat.  Even though the milkman no longer pays my house a visit the milk door still serves a useful function as our mailbox.  Unfortunately it was looking pretty bad, with glossy blue and black paint.  Not a color scheme I am fond of.  Now that both girls are in school and I have returned to work I have also returned to “work mode” on the house…determined to wrap up a number of projects before the snow falls.  The first project is painting all of my exterior doors- starting with this little milk door.  I have been pretty absent from blogging…but I have been busy!

Here is what I was starting out with:

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Do not make the same mistakes as me, I will embarrassingly tell you about all of my missteps so that you can avoid spending two days painting what seems like a simple and tiny area!  First, do not assume it was painted with latex paint.  If your house is as old as mine it probably wasn’t.  I did not think of this and tried painting right over the blue/black paint with my red paint.  Not a smart idea.  I had to wipe it off, sand it off and start over.  It was not even sticking, but rather streaking across the door.  Not pretty.

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Because I am cheap I then decided to cover it up with an oil based primer I had laying around.  Kilz I believe.  Remember- you can cover oil based primer with latex, but you can’t cover oil based paint with latex.  I then painted 4 coats of my red over this primer layer.  Still did not work very well.  Red is a very hard color to get right!  Since I knew I was also painting two full size doors this color I headed to the hardware store to purchase the right supplies to make my life easier- small rollers, sanding block and most importantly tinted primer!

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I then re-primed with the tinted primer (essentially starting all over again!) and covered it with 3 coats of paint.  Voila.  NOW it looks good!  Not the most direct route to success, but my trial and error will make my other doors go that much faster.  Until then, take a look at my beautiful shiny red milk door.  Love it.

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I took what I learned and painted my side and front doors too…much easier the second time around.  Post to come.  Once I make it through all of my home projects I will get back to sewing…I have made a few things since I last blogged but finding time to sew/paint/clean/work/prepare kids for school is stressing me out.  Once my routine becomes easier I will get back to sewing.  I miss it!

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Simple summer fun: A day on our ‘hood.

Enjoying our home, our neighborhood and surroundings.  I am so happy to live where we live, in an old city, with sidewalks, beautiful architecture, shady mature trees and a real sense of community.  Simple pleasures like riding bikes, playing in the grass, having a picnic on our front lawn and relaxing.

Here are some pictures of our day today.  At home.  In what we proudly call our ‘hood.

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bike ride/fashion show

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little library
little library
afternoon activity
afternoon activity
when I look up
when I look up

 

lunch on the lawn
lunch on the lawn

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our garden
our garden
lamppost
lamppost
secret clubhouse
secret clubhouse

 

 

 

 

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Joys of owning an old home

I was sitting around the other day thinking about where I wanted to go with this blog.  Do I want to focus on my sewing passion (or obsession!) and tie it into my etsy shop?  Do I want it to be about my love of vintage- fabrics/patterns/thrifting?  Can I do just one of these without talking about my house, my kids and my regular life?  Is that even possible?

I started thinking about all of the blogs I read on an almost daily basis and what appealed to me about them.  Sure, the sewing techniques, patterns and craft community was great but it was also the personal voice that came from discussing their lives, their kids that made it feel like “hey, they are like me.  If they can do xyz, then so can I”.  My biggest wish is that I had friends to share in my passions, some like minded people to bounce ideas off of and share tips and tricks.  Someone to go fabric shopping with (other than my crazy little girls).  Someone who would actually WANT to go and stare at bolts of fabric for a few hours.  Until I meet this local “friend” the online blog community has served this role- albeit virtually.

I decided I want to try to model this blog after the one’s I have followed over the past few years.  The balance of being honest and open against privacy, especially regarding my kids will be rough but time will tell.

So, that being said let’s get right into it.  My love of all things vintage extends far beyond fabric.  I love old houses.  Long before I was pouring over craft and sewing blogs I spent countless hours on home renovation blogs, and even started one of my own when we first purchased our previous home- a 1914 Arts and Crafts Bungalow.  I followed along as homeowners in Chicago tore up their fixer uppers and rebuilt cabinetry and replaced light fixtures.  I searched online forums for tips on patching old plaster and removing wallpaper.  After having kids and repainting every room in the house we ran out of space and moved into our current space this past summer.  Our new house has proved to be more of a challenge!  Built in 1910 the home is in great shape given it’s age, but the previous owners lived here for roughly 50 years so updating was in order.  Wallpaper, wallpaper, wallpaper.  Count em’ 12 different prints of wallpaer.  Yikes.  That is for another post.  I could write a book on removing wallpaper and what is discovered underneath.

My biggest pet peeve about this house though has been the kitchen floor.  Red/brown faux brick vinyl.  Not exaclty the classic look I am heading for in by decor.  Fortunately hardwood floors flow throughout the rest of the house, but the kitchen is smack dab in the middle of the house- so wherever you look you saw that old vinyl floor.  It became all I could see…it had to go!

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beginning the process of doing the demo…oh the innocence. Not knowing what was to come

I thought, how bad could it be- could the hardwood run through the room under the vinyl?  So we took a look and sure- there was hardwood!!!  Three weeks of hard labor on days off and evenings were to follow.  Days I wished I had never discovered said hardwoods and ordered new replacement floors. Image

Days spent on my hands and knees with an old bottle/can opener tool removing thousands and thousands of staples one by one by one.  Days spent scraping off old black felt paper that stood between me and those wood floors.  It turned out that removing the vinyl and subfloor was the EASY part.  Then, finally.  Finally we were ready to turn it over to a professional to sand and seal the hardwoods.  Image

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No more staples or dirty paper to walk on!
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even though the kitchen is still in shambles, the floors are done and look amazing!

Looking back now it was all worth it.  Even the two nights spent sharing a bed with the girls in a gross motel when we had to escape the polyurethane fumes.  Even after the expense and frustration.  Funny how you forget the blood, sweat and tears (literally).  Thankfully I took pictures of the process to remind me of how far we’ve come!  My favorite part is knowing we brought a part of this home back to life.  Thinking about all of the people who have walked on these floors, the women who stood in this kitchen back in the 20’s making dinner for their family.  The kids who probably slid across and down the hallway like my girls do when they run in and out of the house.  It is more than just loving things from the past, it is the sense of history that comes along with it that makes owning an old home so special.