Monday, January 28, 2013

T-shirt Quilts

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about a denim quilt that I made for my son's girlfriend for Christmas.  This weekend, I intended to start one for my stepson Jesse's 28th birthday in April, but reading won out over sewing, and two novels later, it's Monday and I did nothing interesting all weekend to post about.

So I'm going back into the archives of life and pulling out pix of some other quilts I've made over the past couple of years.

I got started on T-shirt quilts several years ago because I'm a runner, and anyone who does a lot of races ends up with a lot of shirts. I made a few quilts for myself and other runners and then branched out into other subjects.  This one was made for a client who worked at a summer camp and wanted a gift for her boss:  The shirts all had the same logo, but the variety of colors helped liven it up.  I used a menswear-looking oxford stripe fabric that I had bought at a thrift store for the borders and red flannel for a decorative top and the back:

This one is made out of my great-niece Anna's baby clothes from her first year.  My niece Danielle sent me a box of clothes, and I used literally every scrap to make this work.  The lilac check and stripe sheets are from L.L. Bean:

My daughter Christine played travel soccer for 15 years, and I made her several quilts out of tournament and practice shirts.  I surprised her when she came back from a summer in Nantucket with this one made from shirt backs with just numbers on them.  I made the quilt back and border with a dark plaid cotton sheet from Ralph Lauren (Goodwill), and the sashing was remnants from Anna's quilt:

A year later, I had this crazy quilt made for her when she got back from New Zealand. The freeform organization of the T-shirts makes for a cool design, but it was a nightmare to put together.  I told her she got the only one like that I will ever make:

This one was made for a client -- a young woman whose husband had died.  She wanted something for her six-year-old son to remember him by.  She didn't have a lot to work with, but I was able to use one of her husband's flannel shirts for the vertical sashing to break up the plain T-shirts.  I also salvaged the pockets and appliqued them to two of the plain shirts.  The border, back, and horizontal sashing were made from a king-size duvet cover that I bought at a thrift store:

I made this one for a client from his Army fatigues. The picture isn't very good, but I was able to use the buttons and name tags as well as the fabric.

I'm not a highly technical seamstress, and I sew with a 1970s avocado-green portable Kenmore machine.  My quilting is all done with yarn--these are all "tied quilts."  What excites me is the design--I love that moment of opening a bag or box of shirts and figuring out what to do with them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Banishing the 80s Apples

Doesn't this little gem take you right back to the late 1980s? I can just see it in the corner of a kitchen with potatoes and onions in the drawers....

In addition to the apples and leaves painted on the drawers, it even had a cute little leaf on the top:

I almost passed it by in Goodwill when Doug and I walked there on a balmy afternoon last weekend.  It was marked $30, which seemed kind of high.  But when I shook it, I realized that it was solid wood, including all of the shelves, drawers, and even the back. Not a piece of particle board in sight.

So we paid for it, taped a sold sign to the top, walked home, and came back with the car to pick it up a half hour later.

I envisioned it painted a glossy white, but it wasn't until the next morning that I realized what I wanted to do with it.  Our 1930s bungalow has a tiny bathroom on the first floor with just a pedestal sink--no cabinet, no linen closet, so of course no storage.  

I had a vintage hamper filled with extra bath towels right inside the door, and I was willing to give that up for some drawers that would hold stuff like bandaids, ointments, extra tubes of toothpaste, soap, toilet paper, etc.

So I primed the wood with blocking primer, but those cute little apples kept showing through. The yellow wood didn't want to be subdued either, but four coats of paint finally took care of it.  

After the paint dried, I reinstalled the black hardware on the door and replaced the faux ceramic (i.e., plastic) knobs with glass ones from Home Depot (total cost for 3 knobs = $11.91).  I think it fits perfectly into our little vintage black and white bathroom:

The side compartment holds toilet paper and a few other items:

We have a drawer for brushes and makeup:

And one for extra toothpaste, mouthwash, and dental floss:

And maybe now we can actually find a bandaid when we need one:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Denim Scrap Quilt

Old jeans make great quilts, although cutting them up is kind of painstaking work, and you need a good sharp cutting wheel to get the job done. I've made a few already for family members, clients, and friends. Here's one that I made for a wedding gift for one of Christine's friends:

This Christmas, I decided to make one for Alex's girlfriend, Ashleigh, who is already a much-loved member of our extended family.  I still had some of the plaid flannel left over from the other quilt, so I decided to use that for sashing--borders that I sometimes put between the denim blocks:

For the backing, I searched through my supplies and found three brand-new blue-and-white-checked Pottery Barn Kids crib sheets that Doug had picked up for me at Goodwill for $3 each several months ago.  They were small, but I figured out that one would work for the back if I ripped out all of the generous hems and pressed it flat.  I cut up the other two for the vertical and horizontal outside borders.

I think Ashleigh might have suspected she was getting a quilt when she picked up the squishy package on Christmas afternoon....

She obviously liked it because she sat with it around her shoulders while we opened the rest of our gifts:

And Honey, her sweet Lab puppy, found it comfortable when she had an ear infection last week:

This picture has nothing to do with the quilt, but I couldn't resist including it.  Today, Ash and Honey are both dressed in their purple finery to get ready for football this weekend.  Purple Pandemonium--go Ravens!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Shopping in Your Own House

I've been helping my 26-year-old son Alex renovate his grandparents' 1950s brick ranch house so that it can be put on the market, as they are now in assisted living.

We've gone through close to 20 gallons of paint, torn up old carpet, and filled a Dumpster with junk.  There is still lots to do, including getting rid of several large pieces of furniture that no one seems to want.

But this weekend, I got a chance to start doing some of the staging needed so that the house looks good when it goes up for sale.

First, I found an old wooden bookcase out on the porch.  It had some mid-century-modern looking legs on it that were wobbly and not too attractive, so we unscrewed them and moved the bookcase into the den.  My former father-in-law was an avid reader, and there was a barrel full of his old books on the porch as well.  I sorted through, looking for nice hardbacks and passing up dog-eared paperbacks and spiral-bound community-organization cookbooks.

Then I "shopped" through the house for some things to make the setup look more interesting.  I found a vintage slide viewer, a 1950s wind-up alarm clock from Westclox, some blue mason jars, an old Coke bottle, a green carafe, and a well-used dart board.  Here it is, all arranged in the freshly painted den with its newly exposed hardwood floors:

We also made up the beds in the two bedrooms, using bedding that I already had.  In the master, we're using my Pottery Barn white quilted bedspread and shams with some plaid L. L. Bean pillowcases, a blue plaid quilt, a plaid bedskirt, and a striped afghan that my former mother-in-law crocheted. I also brought the round braided rug--it went into our surplus plus pile when we found all-wool L. L. Bean braided rugs at Goodwill a few months ago:

We staged the smaller bedroom as a kids' room.  I washed the beige bedskirts that were already on the beds, used two of the T-shirt quilts I made for Christine, brought two denim bolsters that go with our futon, and found two brand-new white pillow shams and two vintage crocheted throw pillows in the basement. I grabbed the blue fleece blankets out of the trunk of my car. I still need to add another folded blanket to the end of the bed on the right (to complement the red one):

Alex is keeping the desk once the house is sold, so we moved that in, and next time I come, I'll bring a wooden stool from our house to put with the it.  We topped the desk with a Charlie Brown corkboard that we found in the basement. We also found the Oriental rug runner in the basement.  In between the beds, I put an old accordian in a battered suitcase and a knitting basket, both found in closets in the house. 

It's amazing what you can find if you just look through what you already have.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Burning Barrel

When we met the previous owners of our beach property at settlement, we noticed that the guy was obsessed with one thing that he left behind--his "burning barrel."  He kept saying how much he wanted it but had no way to move it.  We had no real interest in keeping it, but we sure we were NOT about to provide any sort of aid to people who had left us with such a mess.

Well, this weekend, we decided to actually use the barrel.

It has been unseasonably warm in Delaware, and we decided to take advantage of the 55-degree day to clean out the shed, which not surprisingly, was almost as disgusting as the house.

Mice had shredded old insulation to make nests, and the floor was so caked with dirt that I actually had to use a scraper to loosen it before I could sweep.  

The first thing we did was empty the barrel.  The idiot had left it in the shed filled to overflowing with scrap wood--it was too heavy to move and too full to light.  

Once it was empty enough to move, we got it outside and Doug got it going with some newspaper that we brought:


Doug tended the fire while I bagged trash that we couldn't burn:

Once the shed was cleaned and organized, I was able to move all of the tools, paint, and other supplies that we had left on the porch.  Now we have an empty porch, ready for renovation when spring comes, and a relatively neat shed:

We came home with the back of our pickup truck full of junk that wasn't salvageable or burnable: an old air conditioner, a pressboard table leaf, 40 or 50 empty plastic containers from landscape plants, four contractors bags of trash, and about 20 partially used cans of old paint that will need to go to a recycling center.

The burning barrel turned out to be one of the few things left behind that actually turned out to be useful.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Turquoise Teaser

When cottage and camp design guru Tereasa Surratt bought an old summer camp with her husband, she discovered a treasure trove of abandoned vintage items, from potholders, aprons, glasses, and Fiestaware to picnic tins, blankets, lanterns, and fishing poles.  The random items launched her on a mission to find similar treasures and build collections--a five-year process that she details in a book called Found, Free & Flea:

Anyone who reads my blog knows that when Doug and I bought our little beach cottage, there was virtually nothing worth saving--the bedding was moth-eaten, the rugs were filthy, and the kitchen cabinets were filled with more junk than dinnerware.

However, we did find one item amidst the potting soil and garden chemicals in the worst of the kitchen cabinets: a square refrigerator dish in the Amish pattern, complete with lid, in perfect condition.  I took it home, ran it through the dishwasher, and brought it back to the cottage to house my stash of string cheese:

Now, it seems that this one dish has launched me on a Tereasa-Surratt-like hunt for more pieces in this pattern.

First, I found a casserole dish like this one at a Goodwill store for just $3:

Then Doug bought me this cute little refrigerator dish for Christmas. I think it would be perfect for butter:

Note that the farmer and his wife who appear on the larger dish are missing from this small version, which has only the rooster and the corn stalks.

This past weekend, we visited the Beebe Hospital Thrift Store in Lewes, Del., and found this set of three nesting bowls for just $7.50:

A few hours later, we spotted the same set with the fourth (and largest) bowl included for $79.50!  I can be patient--the large bowl is waiting for me somewhere, all by itself and looking for its former mates.

I'm feeling a large collection coming on--it would look perfect displayed on our vintage Cosco cart at the beach cottage. The colors couldn't be more perfect:

In the epilogue to Found, Free & Flea, Tereasa Surratt recounts hearing an antique dealer say that she liked to walk into a room full of her favorite antiques and imagine being greeted by the good-kharma ghosts of the original owners of these items.  I have to admit that we didn't feel too much good kharma when we walked into our beach cottage for the first time, but I'm glad we found something that not only was worth saving but also had the power to launch us on a new collecting mission.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

One Man's Trash

I think our friend Martin admires the results of our junking, but he also loves to tease us about it.

During the renovation of his and Jenn's master bathroom, he tore out a wall that had a strange little cabinet between the studs and an even stranger door made from a piece of rustic wood with a twisted vine for a handle.

When we arrived at their house one day, he told us to open the trunk of our car, so he could give us something -- it turned out to be the little door, which he obviously viewed as total trash.

When we got home that night, we were going to toss it into the pile of firewood for our outdoor fire pit, but I realized that the best revenge against an Englishman and his trash was to turn that trash into a treasure.  (Unfortunately, I didn't bother to take a picture at the trash stage....)

I had seen signs in beach towns like Nantucket, Mass. and Duck, N.C. with the names of other beach towns and the distances to them.  This one in Nantucket is pretty intricate and fancy:

I liked this idea, so I asked Doug to make me something like it for our Kitts Hummock cottage, and once again, my personal Santa got to work in his shop. On Christmas morning, I unwrapped this very personalized gift from my dear husband:

Doug chose mostly other towns in Delaware, including Newark, where we live, but he also included Duck, since that's one of our favorite places to visit.

He painted the sign itself with our ever-present Sherwin Williams sea salt but left the vine in its natural state.  He also added a compass rose and painted a crow at the bottom to signify that the distances were "as the crow flies."

I can't wait to hang it on our beach cottage porch -- once that project is done this spring. In the meantime, Doug and I will have to beware of what mad Englishmen put in our trunk when we're not looking.