Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fast and Easy Ribbon Storage

When I was a little girl, my mother would always put ribbon around my pony or pig tails. I don't know when that stopped, but I really think my affinity for ribbon comes from always having them in my hair as a child. When I see the ribbons she used (either grosgrain or feather edge) at the store, I always feel nostalgic.

I've wound up with small ribbon collection and up until now, it has lived in a box. Whenever I need to wrap something, I find myself digging around and promising myself that I'll organize at least my favorite ribbons at some point. Getting a counter-height craft table gave me the opportunity.


I originally envisioned finding smaller versions of the hardware used to hold a closet clothing rod in place, but a staff member at Lowes told me such pieces don't exist. My solution was to use a hook-and-eye set up.


I picked up a dowel that would hold the ribbon at Michael's and was pretty confident that the plan was going to work.


I picked out a spot on the side of the craft table and played with my favorite spoils of ribbon to figure out where the hardware should go. 




This next part was a little scary...I made a small pilot hole and then put the hooks in place. After that, I cut the dowel to the right length, taking the "eye" hardware into consideration. 


A second pilot hole in the dowel made getting the eye hardware into the dowel a little easier, but I still needed Marc to finish that part of the job. 


A very light coat of white spray paint and the whole thing was done!

I think I might install a second dowel since this one is only long enough for some of my ribbon. I still have a bunch sitting in a box. 


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Monday, July 28, 2014

Finding a Craft Table for my Studio

Even when the room that is going to be my office and embroidery studio was just a storage room, I kept an eye out for a table that I could use for my embroidery work. Pottery Barn's Bedford "Project Table" was one piece that interested me for a while, but it was much bigger than I wanted. It's the kind of table you'd put in the middle of a room and since I want the room to serve two purposes, that wasn't idea.


I also considered an island from Ikea that was used in this office, which was in my inspiration file:


Again, it was meant to float in a room and I wanted the table to go against the wall on one side of the room so I could have my desk on the other side. Plus, I really didn't want to go to Ikea. Am I the only person who doesn't like going in there? I feel like you make at least a 90 minute commitment when you just walk in the door of that place.

I knew I wanted a table that was counter height (as opposed to the taller bar height) and that I wanted it to be white. I did a lot of scrolling on Craigslist and a lot of googling. I also flipped through tons of craft blogs in which people showed their sewing or embroidery studios.

One day, I found the perfect table while reading craft blogs...and I looked it up. It's from the Martha Stewart Craft collection that is carried by Home Decorators (aka Home Depot). It's not the finest piece of furniture in the world (the only made in the USA route for a craft table that I could find was to go with Ana White), but it is substantial enough to hold my embroidery machine and its dedicated laptop with room to spare. The height lets me stand instead of crouch over my machine. It's also deep enough that I can walk to the side of the table and see into my machine from the top (which is nice, but not necessary).

I debated taking the cords out, but whatever.

The two drawers are as deep as the table, so I can store my hoops in one and my needles/scissors/bobbins in the other. I ordered a new, larger thread rack to mount on the wall to the right, too.

My goal was to have this room finished by the end of the month. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm getting close.


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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Three Fantastic Sources for Vintage Linens

I love vintage or antique linens. Since developing my embroidery skills, they've become more attractive then ever. I've invested a bit of time developing a collection of heirloom-style fonts and while they look great on new napkins and towels, I think they look even better on vintage linens.

You can spend a lot on heirloom linens (just poke around this website for a while and you'll see). I try to be a little creative with my sources. I'm not finding precious French or Italian linens, but I can often find Irish linens in excellent condition at these places:

1. Lower-Tier Antique Shops
I hesitated to use the term "lower-tier" there, but I think that conveys my message. Antique shops that aren't carrying high end pieces will often have bins of linens. They're rarely organized and sometimes there are items that aren't in the best condition, but I've been able to find nice sets of linen napkins several times.

Heirloom style monogram on vintage, Irish linen

2. Goodwill
I have to admit that I'm not really a Goodwill shopper, but the manager of one of the antique stores in the area swears by Goodwill when it comes to linens. Your mileage may vary, obviously.

3. Estate Sales
There was a time when many households had heaps of cloth napkins, runners, and place mats. These days, it seems more people are into disposable items and only use cloth table linens for special occasions (if at all). While I do pick up pretty cloth napkins at home stores, I can also find nice sets at estate sales.

Last weekend, Marc and I stopped at a sale and once I told the woman that I liked cloth napkins, she dragged a massive bag out of a closet and we found a few good sets for me to buy. I even got one very lovely and delicate handkerchief.


By the way, do you know what the buttonhole is for in the white napkin with the blue border above? I guessed that it was so I man could attach the napkin to his shirt while eating something super messy. I was right!


I hope to share another update from the office/studio tomorrow!
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Embroidered Fabric for the Embroidery Studio!

I shared a few fabric options for the window in my office/sewing studio the other day. When I went by U-Fab to look at the options again, my favorite of the options they had was gone from the racks. Luckily, U-fab's Kendall and Linda had it tucked away and I was able to get about three and a half yards.

U-Fab is moving from their store off our highway to a location a little closer to downtown (in Patina Antique's old space) and to lighten the loads they'll have to take over to the new space, they are having a massive sale on all fabric.


The little yellow dot on my fabric meant I spent about $55 on fabric. Some of the fabric I was considering was running that much per yard, so I was pretty pleased with the deal I got.


I figured that I would use some of the fabric for a window valance or shade and then use the rest to reupholster the seat on a desk chair or some counter stools. I guess I should look for a desk chair or some stools at some point.


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Monday, July 21, 2014

Our New Dining Table

Over the weekend, I took a quick look at Craigslist and thought the number of interesting things I saw warranted one of my "Craigslist Alert" posts. As I started opening tabs for each item I liked, I came across a listing for a dining room table and six chairs that seemed to good to be true.

The table looked beautiful and the description said it was in great condition. The chairs were described as "fair," but I wasn't really deterred by that. After a few emails back and forth with the seller and a couple of text messages, we headed to a student neighborhood to pick the table and chairs up.

The house where the seller lived with his five roommates is massive. It's on a road that is full of student houses, but is set so far back that we never noticed it. It has stately columns, elaborate trim work, and original pocket doors in the massive doorways. Like many sought after student apartments, the house has passed from one group of students to the next, all in the same academic program (the local university's law school). The student selling the table decided to restore it and he did a beautiful job. He also refinished two of the three leaves that go into the table (fully extended, it's about 92" long). 


The finish on the rest of our dining room furniture is a very dark, almost-black, espresso brown, but I couldn't fathom passing up on the beautiful table.


I had always hoped to move our black table into the kitchen and having a table with leaves in the dining room so we could host holiday dinners at the house.


The student was apologetic about not finding the third leaf while he was refinishing the table and sent us home with the leftover stain he had used. He and his roommates were so nice!


Within hours of getting the table, I was packing to go to a conference, so I haven't even had a chance to really enjoy it. These pictures are all I have so far. I can't wait to get home to see it again!
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Friday, July 18, 2014

Office/Sewing Studio Developments

Work on my office is moving along and I need to figure out what I'm going to do about the small, high window in the room and several folding doors that cover some deep shelves along one wall and the closet on the other wall.

As a reminder, here's what the room looked like when we first looked at the house:


And here's a wide shot that I took on inspection day:


After a lot of painting, here is what the office looks like right now:


Maybe that's not the most exciting update, but it feels so much better now that there is a nice color on the walls (Benjamin Moore Silver Crest) and the ceiling and trim are painted white (White Dove, specifically).


The doors and tracks on the closets aren't in the best shape, so I think I'm going to pull them out of the room (I originally considered painting them). In an ideal world, I'd install traditional doors instead or maybe put up curtains. Curtains might look funny since they wouldn't fall from the ceiling, though.

I briefly thought about taking the shelves out completely. They're about a foot and a half deep, so they reduce the footprint of the room a bit. I know it seems insane to remove storage when so many people are desperate for it, but we have another set of closets that look just like them one room away and we will eventually redo the adjacent laundry room and add storage in there. Regardless, it's not the right time to pull the shelves. They're holding a lot of things that will eventually go into the kitchen, but I didn't want to load those cabinets yet since we'll be painting them at some point in the near future.


Regarding the window, I decided that this room is going to receive my first set of homemade window treatments. What kind of window treatments is up for debate. My standard route is to hang drapes "high and wide" to make a window look larger. However, I need to the walls to hang embroidery supplies (my hoops, stabilizers, and thread rack), so I might have to go with a roman shade or a very simple valance-style curtain.

I've seen several fabrics that I like. These first three are from U-Fab here in Charlottesville. Two have embroidery on them, which seems appropriate.



  
These last few were ones I saw online.





I haven't investigated minimums on these fabrics, though I know one of the U-Fab options is special order, so there's probably a requirement. The other two U-Fab options are right in the store, so I could go get a yard or two today.

I hope to have a few decisions made by next week.
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fabric Lover's Motherload

I've been chirping about sales for two weeks and today I'm sharing the motherload. If you love fabric and you live anywhere near Virginia, this is going to get you excited.

Back in 2011, I shared pictures from a trip to Haute, an incredible fabric store in Marshall, a town near Middleburg, VA. Back then, I described it as a hoard. The store is in a house and I counted 15 rooms full of fabric. When I say full, I mean FULL.


The fabric was everywhere. I was actually a bit overwhelmed.


There were also a few areas with shelves packed full of beautiful trim.


I got an email yesterday that Haute's Marshall location is closing. The Arlington store will still be around, but the Haute ladies are clearing out that house and selling all the fabric for $15 per yard.



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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sneak Peek at Jonathan Adler's Online Warehouse Sale!

The super lovely and chic people chez Jonathan Adler gave me a sneak peek at a couple goodies that will be on super duper, deep discount tomorrow for their Warehouse Sale.

Bobo Waves Pillow - was $88, will be $25.99

 Lena Lamp - was $595, will be $356.99

Pop Sugar Candle - was $38, will be $18.99

Siamese Cat - was $88, will be $23.99

Unicorn Salt & Pepper Shakers - were $48, will be $27.99


I might be including that last one as a reminder to myself. I love those little guys!

That's just a taste...there will be plenty more on sale tomorrow.




BTW, remember when Jonathan was a judge on Bravo's Top Design (RIP)? The show only lasted two seasons, but it was Project Runway for the interior design set. Eddie Ross was on the first season. I found this quick video about what it was like behind-the-scenes...




Even if it was "JV," I miss that show! Design shows seem to be few and far between these days. There's so much more time given to real estate shows and I'm a little sad about that. Come on Bravo and HGTV, show us more design!
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jonathan Adler's Warehouse Sale is Coming!

Ever since I wrote my post about American made furniture, it seems as though I've gotten one email after another about great companies having sales. I have yet another sale to pass along.

This Thursday (July 17th), Jonathan Adler's Online Warehouse Sale will start and run through next Tuesday. Some items will be up to 70% off.

Adler's team says that the sale crashed their site last year, but their system is more robust this year and will be able to handle the load. Happy shopping!



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Monday, July 14, 2014

When the White Paint You Pick isn't the Right White

Marc is always amused when I have to pick white paint. To him, I'm staring at parts of the fan deck that show the exact same color. In the condo, White Dove and Alabaster were my "go to" which paints. However,  I had picked a different white, Benjamin Moore's White Heron, to go with our dining room paint (BM Chrystalline) and loved it, so I thought I'd pick another white to go with the front hall paint, BM Hydrangea Flowers mixed at 50%.


After quite a bit of scrutinizing the my paint fan decks, I arrived at Benjamin Moore's Paper Mache for the trim. The meant we had four different whites in the house.


I thought that one white paint for the whole house was lame and boring. Having a different white for each room meant that I was super attentive to details and very designer-y, right?

Wrong.

Within a few minutes of putting the Paper Mache on the trim in the front hall, I hated it. It was too stark and part of me thought it was reading a touch...green. In the picture below, the ceiling and crown are as they were when we moved in. The chair rail is painted with Paper Mache.


I think there's a reason White Dove is so popular. It works. It looks great in natural and artificial light. It isn't too stark.

I made a mistake. While the White Heron looks great in the dining room, against BM Crystalline, I don't need a different white in every room. Lesson learned. Back to White Dove!
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Friday, July 11, 2014

To Etsy or Not to Etsy

It seems as though every time I share embroidery projects here, on Instagram, or on Facebook, someone tells me that I need to be listing things on Etsy. Besides feeling immensely flattered that someone thinks my embroidery work is nice, there's some fear of moving to the "next" level.


I Like Working for People I Know

I like doing projects for people I know (or for people with whom I share a mutual friend). There's something nice about getting an email a friend who wants me to make something for their niece, the friend of someone who has one of my bags, or a wedding planner friend whose bride wants a big monogram on their table runner. There's something really nice about getting tagged by a friend in a picture of something I made.

I can't tell you how happy this photo made me when I was tagged in it!

I'm Not Ready for Mass Production

There are embroidery businesses that have the capacity to embroidery a lot of goods at a high rate of speed. I'd venture that those companies don't do the kind of embroidery I do. My physical set up has me doing one project at a time, slowly and carefully. In my experience, industrial embroidery shops are great with logos and standard monograms, but if you want something large or ornate, it's better to go with a smaller operation.

Multi-head embroidery machines can churn out a lot of projects!

My embroidery style doesn't really lend itself to mass production, either. Just the other day, I was discussing designs with some women who do embroidery and some said they would not promote the interlaced vine design that I love so much because it has too many stitches (which means it takes a long time to stitch a monogram in that design, thus tying up the embroidery machine for while). I would hate to get to the point where I wouldn't want to do one of my beautiful, ornate designs because it had a high "opportunity cost."  Some of my favorite designs are big and take the better part of an hour to stitch.

That interlocking vine design that some embroidery folks don't want to do.

I Hear Complaints about Etsy

The last thing that worries me is the fact that lots of Etsy sellers complain about Etsy. The sheer number of sellers makes it hard to be seen on the site these days. I also see complaints about the fees on the site. I believe Etsy takes 3.5% of a sale, so you have to mark up to cover that price. I think the fees change as you list more items, but I could be wrong.

I really think the saturation of the market is what keeps me away. There will always be someone with a cheaper machine, using cheaper supplies, offering to monogram things for less than it costs me to so the same work. I'd rather stick to using my beautiful thread and needles and stabilizers I trust. A few months ago, I bought some cheaper thread and I don't like using it. It doesn't have the same texture or vibrant color that I get from my [expensive] threads. 

I've noticed people moving to hosting a shop on their own website, but might be an option if I get to the point that I think I'm ready for a real "store." For now, I enjoy doing projects on a small scale, for people I know.    

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