Thursday, April 12, 2012

DIY Project: Baby Quilt

I've been inspired by a lot of quilts lately, which I found rather odd, since I've never made a quilt in my life. A few weekends ago, I finally took the plunge, and made my very first ever quilt, as a gift for my friend's baby. I waited until now to post it, as I didn't want to ruin the surprise for my friend. I'm gifting it today, so finally it is safe to post.

I drew the design for each side myself, and improvised the process while I went along, which really were the easy bits. Then came the actual quilting, the process of joining the layers together. Instead of a simple square, or fancy pattern, I chose to quilt the layers together in small, evenly spaced stitches, to keep the quilt fluffy. Keeping all layers wrinkle free proved to be quite the challenge, but it worked out in the end. For the binding I used one of the fabrics in the quilt, ironed into a long, double-folded strip. Both the quilting & the binding were the biggest PITA of the whole project, and neither turned out perfectly.

I didn't bother taking photos during the process, since I figured a quilt tutorial from me to anyone else would be the equivalent of the blind leading the blind. Luckily, if improvised crafting is not your thing, there are a lot of great quilting tutorials out there, from people who actually do know what they are doing.

Here is my finished quilt:

I never knew quilts were so tricky to photograph.

I think it turned out pretty cute, and I'm happy with it, especially for it being my first try. I really love the bunting design side, (I'm so glad I added it, since I had originally planned on using just a patterned fabric on that side), and the random patchwork turned out pretty well, although I will definitely try a more precise pattern next time.

Is it weird giving an imperfect quilt that you cluelessly made?

Monday, April 9, 2012

DIY Project: Double Row of Hooks

While redoing my office, I realized that the tufted leather storage bench I used to keep under my window no longer had a home. So I decided to move it to this awkward little corner of our house that is between the front door, the kitchen, and the hallway to the back of the house, and finally make this area into an entry.

The tufted bench, a pretty rug, and an umbrella stand later, I was well on my way to completing the entry (I'll post the completed entry makeover in a few days when it's done). But the coat rack I already had didn't work for this space, so while hunting for other hanging options, I came across this Row of 6 Hooks at Pottery Barn. It was perfect. However, I wanted 2, and the cost of the over priced store version really started to add up. $200 for a few hooks?!? That is ridiculous. Then I remembered the wood I still had left after building my own trundle. Surely I could make something similar myself.

Looking through my supplies I realized I also had the paint needed, and after a quick trip to Home Depot for the double hooks I was ready to begin.

DIY Project: Double Row of Hooks

What you'll need:

  • 2 pieces of wood, or composite board, cut into two long rectangles - adjust length to fit your space. My pieces were 32" long, and 5 1/2" wide
  • 8-12 hooks - I used 5 double hooks per piece, but it depends on the length on your boards and the size of your hooks
  • hardware - both to attach the hooks (mine came with screws), and to secure boards to your wall
  • fine sandpaper
  • paint of choice - I used 2 colors
  • painter's tape
  • paintbrush - I used foam brushes, for a thin, even application, which also cut down on drying time
  • electric drill
  • tape measure
  • pencil
  • Level

What to do:

1. Start by sanding your wood pieces, to remove any splinters and rough edges. Wipe off dust with moist cloth, and let dry.
2. Prime (if applicable - I didn't since I used a paint with primer included) and then coat wood with a thin coat of your base color, in my case, white. Let dry completely, and add another thin coat (image 1).
3. When the paint is completely dry, sand lightly to remove brush marks and touch spots. Wipe off any sanding dust, and let dry.
4. Determine your pattern, and start taping. I lightly traced a grid on each board, and used the grid as guidelines for taping my chevron pattern.
5. Cover tape with one more thin coat of your base color. This will prevent your sharp edges from being ruined if paint should bleed under the tape (image 2).
6. When the last coat is completely dry, add thin coat of your top color, and let dry. Add a second coat, if needed.
7. When paint is completely dry, remove the tape (image 3), and lightly sand the paint to remove any marks or rough edges. Scuff edges for a slightly worn look.
8. Mark where your hooks will go - Since my boards were slightly shorter than the Pottery Barn version, I decided to only use 5 hooks on each board, instead of 6. Measure to make sure your hooks are evenly spaced (image 4).
9. Predrill holes for both the hooks and the wall installation. Attach hooks.
10. Install completed Row of Hooks - I put one above the other, using a lever to ensure they are straight. Make sure to use appropriate screws for your walls, and for the weight of the hooks.
11. Done! Step back & admire your work. P.s. You might want to cover the screw heads with a small dab of paint.

Here are my finished hooks:

This picture is a bit deceiving. Both rows really are the same size, and they are both hanging straight.

This project took a couple of hours, including paint drying time, and I really like the splash of color my hooks add to this otherwise pretty dark corner. I'm happy with this project, it is the perfect addition to my new entry. What made me even happier with it? This.

Price Comparison:

Pottery Barn Version: $237.07 ($99 ea x 2 + $39.07 shipping/tax)

DIY Version: $42.50 ($4.25 ea hook x 10 including tax, & all other supplies used were leftovers from another project).

I shaved almost $200 off the price by doing it myself! So much more reasonable a price for a few hooks.

I can't wait to show you my completed entry!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Swedish Easter.

Glad Påsk & Happy Easter!

I know for a lot of people Easter is a very import, religious holiday. It is an important holiday for me too, but for other reasons. Lately, I've come across some people seemingly unaware of the fact that Easter is celebrated in different ways in different places, and that it's meaning vary as well. I figured I would share my Easter traditions, to offer a different view on this Easter holiday. Påsk, which is what Easter is called in Sweden, was always one of my favorites as a kid. I haven't lived in Sweden for a decade, but I still love celebrating Påsk, and I guess I always will.

So, what is Swedish Easter?
It's a celebration of Spring, that involves heaps of candy (Swedes LOVE candy, on average 18Kg of candy are consumed per person each year - a large portion of which gets eaten during Påsk celebrations), big bonfires in fields all over the countryside, witches, a variation of trick-or-treat-ing, and a Spring Feast. AND you get time off from school. As a kid, it was AWESOME! As an adult, it is still pretty awesome.

Before Easter week, Swedes decorate their homes for Påsk with large vases filled with Spring branches and twigs, still covered with Spring buds, and colorful feathers are added to the branches. Painted eggs, Videung (pussy willow) branches, and big bouquets of Daffodils are also a must.

A traditional Swedish Påsk ris

According to Swedish folklore, on skärtorsdagen (Maundy Thursday) all the witches in the land would fly across the night sky on their brooms, all converging on Blåkulla (Blue Hill) for their annual Witches' Meeting. So, on this same day, Swedish kids dress up as witches, in aprons, and freckles, and brooms, and walk around the neighborhood knocking on doors, much like Halloween's trick-or-treating here in the US.

Instead of "trick or treat", we would give each person an Easter Letter, a homemade Spring-themed drawing, folded up in a triangle, and in return we would get candy or money. I remember many evenings leading up to Påsk spent sprawled on the family room floor with my friends, drawing little yellow chicks, daffodils, trees with tiny breaking-out leaves, eggs, broom-flying witches, and bunnies. Everything that means Spring.

Swedish Påskbrev from early 1900's
Image Source: Sagomuseet

By Thursday I'd have a big basket full of completed letters. All decked out in my witch's outfit, I'd carry that basket, exchanging letters for candy, until my arm fell off, or the all my letters were gone, which ever came first. Lucky for me, it was always the letters. Either way, we always had such a fun time! As a kid growing up in Sweden, skärtorsdagen was one of the most epic days of the year, and I have very fond childhood memories of this day.

Swedish kids dressed up as Easter Witches
Image Source: Lena Granefelt

As if all of that wasn't enough, the festivities of skärtorsdagen are followed by a Påsk feast on Saturday, which is Påskafton, (the Eve of Easter). Traditionally a smorgåsbord of Spring-themed foods are served, including lots of egg dishes, lamb, and other tasty things, representing the rebirth of the year after the long winter. Everything is washed down with Påskmust (a special soda only available during Easter), Påsköl (Easter beer), snaps, & drinking songs. That evening, to deter the witches from stopping to cause trouble in your neck of the woods on their way home from Blue Hill, large bonfires are lit in the fields all around [some parts of] the country. The firewood for these Påsk fires have been collected for months, and include everything from Christmas trees to branches blown down in winter storms.

Påskbrasa, Swedish Easter fire

In the evening, my family would always go to one of these bonfires nearby. It is cold still in Sweden at that time of year, and dark too. But there were always lots of people around the fire, and someone brought hot cocoa, another brought mugs, and all the children would get to stay up late, running around the fire and the dark fields. It was magical.

On Sunday, we would get our highly anticipated Påskägg, a large paper mache egg, filled with candy (as a Swede, there is no such thing as too much candy). In my family, our eggs would be hidden, usually indoors, but outside as well weather permitting, and we would have to find them, which was very fun. However, this tradition varies, as some of my friends were given their egg sans the hunt. We would then snack on candy & leftover Easter foods all day.

My husband's Påskägg this year.

No matter what your Easter traditions are, I wish you a very Happy Easter.
Glad Påsk, everyone!