Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Linen Christmas

I'm lovin' linen this year!  I love the natural, rich feel.  Burlap has been big in decorating the past year, but I think it's too coarse and then there's the smell.  Linen has a soft feel with a great natural color that can be cool or warm.

When I saw the Christmas ornament pillows in Ballard Design this fall, I was immediately inspired.  I started with the obvious red and green combo.

OK, that's fun.  Then, I looked at the leftover fabric I had from my Sweet Harmony handbag from this summer.  Be still my beating heart!

Then a friend suggested a red bow.  Love, love, love!

I made about ten of the pillows.  Whew!  Linen is great, but slippery to cut, so I needed a break.  I scored some poinsettia-printed fabric at a Veteran's Day sale.  I really didn't realize how much I was ready to unfurl it for pre-washing.  Good grief!

But isn't it cute with the linen in this holiday tote?

And finally there's the poinsettia apron that was the mannequin's first modeling job.

I made extras to share with you too!  You can find them in my etsy shop.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Heritage Turkeys

I really meant to get this posted yesterday, but after getting up early to finish cleaning the house, preparing a DELICIOUS Thanksgiving dinner, packing away the leftovers and hand-washing what seemed to be a million wine glasses, Mr. Tallgrass and I literally crashed after everyone left.  I slept for eleven hours last night and it felt wonderful.

I must say that the heritage turkey from Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch was FANTASTIC.  We usually follow Alton Brown's method of cooking turkey, so normally we brine. 

When I tested the Alton Brown link, I noticed that he doesn't mention in this recipe the application of an aluminum foil breast "shield" when the oven temperature is lowered from 500 degrees to 350 degrees. We've seen this in his turkey recipes in the past and our birds always come out of the oven beautifully golden when we use the foil shield.

Since heritage turkeys are free range and have a slower growth rate, the was no need to brine it to bring back flavor and moisture.  Mr. Tallgrass just gave it a butter massage and slipped a roughly cut apple, lemon, onion and  some celery into the cavity before sliding it into the oven. 

It was amazingly moist, flavorful and delicious.  It was also $4.99 per pound.  Gasp! 

"It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up."
- Ferris Bueller

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Dummy

When I made this cute Christmas apron, I found that I was having difficulty taking good pictures of it.  Considering I think of myself as "15 pounds too comfortable," I'm not willing to stand in as a model.  What I needed was a mannequin.

Ever priced a mannequin or a dressmaker's dummy?  They are expensive!  But I did find a lot of tutorials of how to make your own dressmaker dummy from duct tape.  That got me thinking...I could make my mannequin from duct tape.  But, I didn't want it to be MY body double and I didn't want to subject any of my family or friends to the torture of being wrapped in duct tape. 

You have such a cute figure, could I wrap you in duct tape?

Then, an idea came to me while I was drifting in and out of sleep early one morning.  Why not shape a pillow into a human form?

We had a pillow that we bought years ago taking up space in a spare closet because it was too rigid for our liking.  Since I didn't want to destroy the pillow by wrapping it in duct tape, I started with putting the pillow inside a dry cleaner bag.

Next, I taped down the tips of the pillow so that it would be a more rounded shape.  Then, about two-thirds the way down the pillow, I wrapped strips of tape around the middle to form a waist.  I continued to wrap 6- to 8-inch strips of tape around the pillow in order to give the effect of a rib cage and hips.

Since I wanted my mannequin to be FEMALE, I dug around the bottom of my dresser drawer for an old bra.  It didn't need to be a perfect fit since I would be holding it in place with more tape.  I stuffed the cups with my favorite filler, plastic grocery bags.  I really over-filled the cups because they'll get a little mashed when the bra is taped to the form.

I taped the sternum first, did a "cross your heart," radiated tape from the cups, ran tape along the shoulder straps and finished with a long strip under the bust.  Now I had a good representation of the female form.  (I ran out of duct tape, so the bust is two colors.)  Mr. Tallgrass thought she was pretty skinny.  Bless his heart!  No matter, I told him, a camera will add 10 pounds to it.  ;-)

To make it in this world, she'd need a backbone, so I used a piece of scrap trim that's about two inches wide and about three-eights of an inch thick.  I gently pressed it into the backside and duct taped it into place.  I applied the tape in a basket-weave pattern for additional strength:

8" pieces placed horizontally, about three inches apart.
Two long pieces, placed vertically right against the trim
More 8" horizontal pieces between first set of tape strips
Two more long pieces, placed vertically against the trim
Then I put one longer 12" piece horizontally at the top, slightly overlapping the wood

The main stand is a 2x2 that I picked up at Home Depot.  I cut a piece of foam core board the size of the bottom of the mannequin and stapled it to the top of the 2x2 so her torso would have a base for a little more support.  Next, I nailed the "spine" to the 2x2 using small brads.

Thankfully, it's Christmas time, so I figured I could use a tree stand as a base.  And I knew I was going to dress her in a small black tee shirt so it would be form-fitting.  Since I'm more of a medium-sized gal, I went to my favorite thrift store for a cheap black tiny tee and scored a tree stand there too!

I did discover when I was dressing her that the duct tape gave her a bumpy bustline.  I thought about putting another bra on her, but she was too "firm" for a regular bra.  So, I dug at the bottom of my dresser drawer again for an old sports bra and used straight pins to bring back her d√©colletage.  The neckline is just a scrape piece tea-stained broadcloth.  I neatly folded the cap sleeves of the tee shirt to the back and pinned them in place.

A dressmaker's dummy cost about $100.  So do most of the mannequins on eBay.  Here's my cost breakdown:

Old pillow.....$0
A roll of duct tape.....$4
Two old bras.....$0
Wood 2x2 base....$6
Wood for spine...$0 (used trim scrap)
Small black tee shirt.....$3
Christmas tree base.....$5

So for only $18, I have my very own mannequin, more drawer space and a gap on a closet shelf.  Hurrah!

Obviously, if you already have a Christmas tree base, you could use it instead of buying another one.  But, our tree will go up the day after Thanksgiving and it will stay up until New Year's Day.  Since I scored a tree stand at a thrift store, it was worth the $5 to have it for a dedicated mannequin base.  You could probably hit the sales for something after the holidays.  Or, even better, scan the curbs for one on trash day after Christmas!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Message Boards, Part 2

Last week I was busy painting the salvaged cabinet doors I was turning into message boards in my garage and having fun playing with the various leaves that blew in and threatened to disrupt the project.  Well, the message boards are mostly complete and I feel like I'm really starting to get a feel for glazing.  I really like how the glazing brings out the nooks and crannies and subtle distress of the wood.

Love the Peacock Blue!  Of course, I had to do one in Heirloom White.

I had found a can of spray paint in Seafoam on the clearance rack.  Not my usual color choice, but I couldn't pass up the price.  I figured it might be good for something.  I was surprised how well it turned out once I put some brown glaze on it.  Makes me think of a shabby chic cottage by the sea.  So romantic.

The color I was most looking forward to trying was Avacado.  It's amazing that Avacado green is back.  I remember the appliances we had when I was a kid were Avacado green.  The ones in the next door neighbor's house were Harvest Gold.  And flocked wallpaper everywhere.  That stuff was a nightmare to remove.  By the eighties, it all looked TOTALLY GROSS.  After a rub down with glaze, the my Avacado was more like Guacamole.

I think it's my favorite.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Simple Valances

I love the "mistreatment" trend.  If you haven't heard of mistreatments, they are basically no-sew window treatments and some of them are really quite clever.

Thankfully, I can sew a little.  And my living room has been making me itchy.  Brew a cup of coffee and make a sandwich.  This is a l-o-n-g post.

A - Wall color (Olive Grove by Sherwin Williams)
B - Lampshades
C - Fireplace surround tile
D - Sofa & Loveseat
E - Valace (fabric from Joann)
F - Area Rug
G - Throw pillows (fabric from Joann)
H - Wall color from adjoing foyer (White Raisin by Sherwin Williams)

Here's the low-down on my decorating problems:
1. The fireplace surround is blue tile. As I've mentioned before, our house was built in 1993 when jewel tones ruled.
2. Our sofa and loveseat are also blue. They looked great in our FIRST house which featured a 20 foot knotty pine cathedral ceiling, a chunky limestone fireplace and a blue accent wall. It was kind of a cabin look.
3. About two years ago, during the height of the "Earthtone Browns Era," I decided to ditch the enormous, jewel-tone, multi-layered, faded floral swag that the previous owners left behind. Seeing that our uber-traditional house wasn't going to transform into brown-chic without major investment, I did the next best thing. Painted. I used Sherwin Williams's Olive Grove in an attempt to move away from the blueness of the room. Olive Grove turned out to be darker than expected. Not happy.
4. So I bought a red rug that included same green tones to brighten the room. And our existing yellowish lamp shades looked good with it. I recovered the toss pillows for the sofa in a red fabric.
5. And I still wasn't happy.
6. Fast-forward to 2010. Now, blue is EVERYWHERE. Mr. Tallgrass is frowning on repainting again (even though I'd be the one repainting it). And there's a fair amount of $$$ invested in the huge RED area rug
I turned to the windows as my last resort since they hadn't been touched since I pulled down the old swag and had 2.5" white blinds installed. I found a great print that I thought would FINALLY tie the room together.
Since the spousal unit is grumbling about putting anything on the windows, I figured I would keep it simple.  And simple it was.

If you can draw a straight line, cut a straight line and sew a straight line, you can make this simple valance too.  Here's what you'll need:

A. Enough fabric for your window(s).  I'll be calling this the feature fabric.
B. Same amount of drape liner.  This stuff is what separates the men from the boys, so don't skip it.  It's not expensive and it's often on sale at 50% off.
C. Fusible interfacing.  I use Decor Bond.  You'll need enough to cover the width of your window.
D.  You can save yourself a lot of time if you have a rotary cutter, a straight edge and a self-healing mat.  Other than trimming the interfacing in Step 9, I didn't use scissors to cut any of the material.

1. Measure your window and determine how wide you want your valance to be.  I have a bay window in the living room, so this example is for a valance I want to be 30" wide to fit one of the smaller windows.  It will be 20" long at its tip.

2. I added 7" to this measurement to accommodate the side returns.  Divide this number in half.  That's 18.5" for the mathematically challenged.  :-)
3.  Usually decorator fabric is 54" wide.  I folded it in half, matching the selvaged ends, then cut a little off the end with a straight edge to ensure I was starting with an even edge.

4.  Keep the fabric folded in half.  Measure 23" and cut straight across.

Keep the fabric folded.  Since my magic number from Step 2 is 18.5 inches, I measure 18.5" from the FOLD and cut a straight edge.

5.  Don't unfold the fabric yet.  Measure 6.5 inches from the bottom on the loose end and make a small mark on the edge of the fabric.  Using a yard stick* I line up this mark with the bottom of the opposite (i.e. folded) side and draw a line to connect the two points and trim along this line.

*I recommend investing in a METAL yard stick.  The first time I tried to make a window treatment, I used a wooden yard stick.  Who would have thought that it wouldn't have a truly straight edge!  Save yourself the drama and headache and invest in a metal yard stick that won't warp.

6.  Repeat the same process on the liner fabric.

7.  From the Decor Bond, cut a piece that is 14" tall and as wide as the FIRST number from Step 2.  So my piece of Decor Bond is 14" tall and 37" wide.

8. Fuse the Decor Bond to the wrong side of the pointed end of feature fabric by following the manufacturer's instructions.  I like to fold the Decor Bond in half before I start this process as the center crease helps me line up the Decor Bond with the pointed end of the feature fabric.

9.  Trim the excess Decor Bond from the feature fabric.

10.  Pin the feature fabric to the drape liner, right sides facing each other.  I'm not a great seamstress.  No matter how well I pin, the two pieces of fabric are never even at the end of a long seam.  So, rather than starting at the top and stitching all the way around, I like to start AT THE POINT.  With a light pencil, I draw a one inch line along the crease that I made in Step 8 so I know where to start.  Using a 1/2" seam allowance*, sew from the center point to the end.  Repeat on the other side.  By starting in the center, I'm ensured to have a crisp point.

*My sewing machine's mark for the 1/2" seam allowance is tiny, so I use blue painter's tape to mark it more clearly.

11.  Trim the excess from the three corners along the bottom, taking care not to cut through the stitches.

12.  Turn the valance right side out and carefully push out the corners.  These aren't tight angles, but if you are having trouble pushing out the corners, a wooden chopstick works great.

13. I like to finger press the seams before flattening them with an iron.

14.  Zig-zag stitch the top closed.  Yeah, I'm a lousy zig-zagger.

OK, this is where the project gets a little shady.  Call me commitment-phobic, but I HATE drilling holes in my walls.  Usually valance patterns call for you to staple the valance on a 1x3 piece of lumber and then it's anchored on the wall with brackets.  I've got a piece of fabric that weighs about as much as a man's t-shirt and I'm going to have to drill drywall anchors into the wall?  I don't think so!  My final outcome will simply perch on top of the existing blind valance and gravity and friction will do the rest.

DISCLAIMERS:  1) These valances are going in a room with a 9 foot ceilings, so the top is about 8 feet from the floor.  And there is a loveseat under the windows.  Not much chance they'll be bumped.  2) We do not have children.  I do not recommend using the following technique in the bedroom of a rambunctious four year old.  3) We do not live in an earthquake prone area.  4) Our windows are tall and open from the bottom (if we can get them to open at all since they like to stick), so this may not be appropriate if you have casement windows.

USE YOUR BEST JUDGMENT.  If in doubt, attach the valance to a 1x3 and mount the sucker to the wall with L brackets and drywall anchors.

15.  MY WAY:  Rather than using a 1x3 piece of lumber, I cut two pieces of foam core board that are 3 inches by 30 inches.  Remember that 30" is the width of my finished valance.  Tape the two pieces of foam board together for added stability.  Foam core board is 30" long.  For the larger, 42" window, I just spliced two pieces together, making sure that I offset the cut ends for stability.

16. Center the valance on the foam board.  Using a heavy duty stapler, attach the valance to the foam board.  DO NOT DO THIS ON A SURFACE THAT COULD BE DAMAGED BY THE STAPLE POKING THROUGH ON THE OTHER SIDE.  Like a dining room table.  (For the record, NO furniture was marred during this project).  My staples just barely poked through, so I just tapped the points gently with a hammer.

17.  Wrap the return around the short end of the foam board and carefully staple as close to the end as possible.  Fold the excess onto the top and staple again.

18.  At this stage, the returns have "wings" at the bottom.  I measure 3" at the bottom and finger press along the side to coach the fabric into a nice even edge.  When I'm happy with it, I use an iron to press the crease.  Repeat on the other side.

19.  Place finished valance on top of the blinds.  The returns should fit snugly around the top of the blinds.

And I'm not itching to paint anymore!

Final Note: Astute eyes might notice that the angle is not quite the same on the big center window as the smaller side windows.  I was concerned about this too. 

And I got a B+ in high school Geometry.  Twenty-one years ago.

I made the largest valance first, which was 42" wide finished.  I followed the same formula on the smaller ones, measuring 6.5" up on each side for the angle cut.  Afterwards, I thought maybe I should have just started the small valance by making another large one and then trim it to 37" wide so the angles would be the same.  I sat on the sofa a long time studying it.  Then I realized that if I made the ANGLES the same, the SIDES won't line up.  That's not good.

I'm sure there's some theorem or formula for this that I've forgotten.  Probably forgot it twenty years ago.

Maybe I'll find a use for algebra today.

I'm linkin' up...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Blowing in the Wind

The leaves are really coming down from the trees now but yesterday's temperature was around 74 degrees, which is amazing for November in Kansas!  I took advantage of the warm day to paint more the cabinet doors I'm making into message boards.  It was waaaaay to windy to paint outside, so I set up in the garage.  After the first coat, I went into the house to refresh my coffee and came back outside to find this:

ARGH!!!  The leaves were blowing into the garage where the cabinet doors were drying!  Fortunately, the paint was drying quickly, so no harm was done.  And the colors were so pretty together.

Which one is your favorite?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Etsy Shop Now Open

Finally!  I am now open for business on Etsy at tallgrassdesign.etsy.com.  I'm featuring purses of MY OWN DESIGN (squeal!) and vintage jewelry. 

Eventually, I'll add some of my original artwork too, so check often.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Color of Autumn

I know that EVERYONE has been posting their autumn pics, but the color is so glorious this time of year.  There was a stiff wind from the north a couple of days ago and I knew I needed to get outside to start taking down the garden for winter.  I think we've already had a light frost, but there were still a few small flowers hanging on.

And then there are the herbs!  I always try new lavender plants each year.  Some are winter-hardy and some aren't.  They all smell like heaven.

Oregano grows like a weed in our yard. I dry herbs in a shower stall of one of the bathrooms that rarely gets used in our house. Dark, dry, and easy to clean afterwards. Wish I had a picture from this year's drying!

Love working in this part of yard! Makes me hungry for some good pasta and a great bottle of wine.

Thyme does exceptionally well too.  Cut a few springs and use it to cook shrimp.  Yum!

And finally, sage!  We'll see you soon at Thanksgiving in our dressing.

I can hardly wait!