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Homeowner's Handbook

Home Decorating and Design Ideas

Updated: 2018-03-05T17:24:55.704-08:00


How-To: Homemade Soap - Recipes


Basic Soaps

Lard Soap- Hand stir method
2 pound recipe

Basic soap

  • 1 ½ cups of melted tallow
  • ½ cup of olive oil (can substitute with extra tallow)
  • 6oz of cold, distilled water
  • 4 Tbs. of lye
  • molds

  • essential oils or fragrance oils- about 1 tsp. per pound of fat
  • preservative of your choice
  • colorant of your choice
  1. Prepare the lye solution by adding 4 Tbs.'s of lye to 6oz of distilled water. Stir it constantly until the granules have completely dissolved. Let it sit until cooled to room temperature.
  2. Melt the fats and oils together in a large glass or stainless steel container. The fats should also be at room temperature when you mix it with the lye solution. (This can be checked by simply feeling the outside edges of the container. Never dip your fingers in to check.)
  3. When both the lye solution and the fats are at room temperature, slowly and carefully pour the lye solution into the fats. Stir immediately and continue to stir for 15 minutes (if you are using grapefruit seed extract as a preservative, this is when you should add it). You can then take a break for 5 minutes, then stir for 5 minutes (the 5-5 method). Do this until the soap mixture traces. This particular soap usually takes an hour. If you are using grapefruit seed extract, the trace time is significantly decreased. Don?t be alarmed, just be ready to pour your soap!
  4. At trace, add your essential oils, herbs, or colorants if you choose and make sure to fully incorporate them into the soap mixture.
  5. Now you are ready to pour your soap into the molds. Be careful while pouring because the mixture has active lye in it. Insulate your molds and leave them covered for at least 24 hours (old towels or blankets will do quite nicely for this purpose).
  6. After 24 hours, unmold you soap and cut into bars if necessary. Store it in a dry place with good ventilation for 2-4 weeks.

Hand Milled Soaps

Lemon Scrubber

This bar is considered to be an abrasive soap and is good for toning the skin and removing dead skin cells. Lemongrass adds a zesty aroma which is uplifting and fresh.

  • 1/8 cup of yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. of Lemongrass essential oil
  • ½ tsp. vitamin E oil
  • 3 oz. Water
  • 1/3 pd. Grated soap

Lavender Scrubber
This bar is an abrasive soap and is good for toning the skin and removing dead skin cells. The lavender in the bar is antiseptic and soothing. The blue cornmeal in this bar gives it a light lavender color.

  • 1/8 cup of blue cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. of Lavender essential oil
  • ½ tsp. vitamin E oil
  • 3 oz. Water
  • 1/3 pd. Grated soap

Pumice Soap

This bar contains pumice and is considered to be abrasive. You should not use this particular bar if you have very sensitive skin due to the risk of scratching. Be sure that the pumice you use is very finely ground.

  • 1 Tbs. pumice
  • 2 tsp. Musk fragrance oil
  • ½ tsp. vitamin E oil
  • 3 oz. water (replace half the water in the recipe with goat milk or milk)
  • 1/3 pd. Grated soap

How-To: Homemade Soap - Required and Optional Supplies


BlenderA blender is in the supply list because some of the recipes in this booklet are designed to be made in the BLENDER (there are also "hand stir" recipes given). I know this may sound strange but it can save you hours of work and heartache. The only drawback to using this method is that you are limited to making 1 pound batches or possibly 1 1/2 pounds. As a beginner, it is best to start out with smaller batches anyway and begin your experimenting from that point. The blender that you use should be used only for making soap and you should never use it for edible items after exposing it to lye.ScaleA kitchen scale which measures in ounces is needed to measure the lye. It is not necessary to purchase an expensive scale (I bought mine for $5.00) unless you want to use the exact saponification values and need a scale which reads digitally. The digital scales can usually be purchased for around $60.00 through mail order or at an office supply store.Rubber or plastic glovesRubber or plastic gloves are necessary to protect your delicate hands from the lye. No matter how careful you may be, there is always the possibility of spilling your lye solution or touching the soap which has the active lye in it.Wooden spoonsWooden spoons are necessary because you should never expose lye to aluminum. It is safe to use stainless steel but I prefer wooden for their cost. They can usually be purchased in packets with five or more for about a dollar at variety stores. This gives you the piece of mind to throw them away when you feel they have "had it"! I use only two spoons for making soap, so I have a nice supply waiting when I need them.Measuring cupsA heavy plastic or glass measuring cup is necessary for measuring and mixing the lye solution. I use an 8oz Pyrex cup with a pouring spout. Whatever you decide to use for this purpose, you need to be sure that it pours easily. You will be adding the lye solution to the fats directly from this container and you do not want to chance spilling the solution. To weigh the lye, I simply use an old measuring cup which I place on the scale. I set the scale to zero and begin spooning in lye until I reach the desired amount.MoldsMolds can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Any container that can withstand heat and is semi-flexible will be suitable for holding your soaps. Some suggestions include: microwave containers; candy molds; candle molds; PVC pipe cut into small sections; or small cardboard boxes lined with saran wrap. The possibilities are endless and you will soon find yourself searching for a potential mold everywhere you go.LyeLye can be purchased in most supermarkets or home centers. Simply look where they display the drain openers such as Draino and Liquid Plumber but please do not confuse these with lye. The brand which is most readily available is Red Devil and it is 100% lye. It contains crystals or granules and has a very difficult to open cap. Lye should always be stored where children and pets do not have access to it. There are safety measures you must take when handling it and always use common sense when using chemicals. The following are some general safety precautions to follow while handling lye:Wear your gloves to prevent burns. Try to avoid breathing in fumes from your lye solution. There will be some definite fumes at times depending on the liquid you choose to use for a batch of soap.Some soapmakers may even wear goggles to protect their eyes from the fumes. Carefully pour your lye solution to prevent spillage. Never use your materials for anything other than making soap once they have been exposed to lye.Never use aluminum utensils, pans, bowls, molds, or anything with lye. It will "eat" right through it. Always remember to add the lye to the liquid, never the other way around.Use a mixture of 50/50 water and vinegar to rinse your skin if you happen to spill or splatter lye on your skin.I always measure the liquid in my Pyrex measuring cup then add the proper amount of lye to it. You must stir until the lye is completely dissolved into the [...]

Stop Pipe Water Leaks


Diagnosing plumbing leaks

Pipes leak or burst for a number of reasons — freezing, blockages, corrosion, and failed joints and seals, to name a few. To stop a plumbing leak, determine if the source is the home's water-supply or water- and waste-removal system. Supply lines are under constant pressure. When a fitting or pipe springs a leak, water will spray or pour from the break. Water quickly pooling on the floor or dripping from the ceiling is a good indication of a supply-line problem. Shut the supply off, either at a fixture or elsewhere in the plumbing system, to stop the flow. Pinpointing the exact location of the leak can be difficult. Be prepared to search behind walls or remove a portion of the ceiling to make a repair. Loose fittings and blockages cause most leaks in the drainage system. Leaks usually appear as a slow drip under or near fixtures. Clearing blockages will prevent toilets and sinks from overflowing.

Temporary Fixes for Broken Pipes

After you've located the leak, there are a few quick fixes you can make. Using a hose clamp or a C-clamp and a piece of wood, secure a piece of rubber over the leak until a full repair can be made. Or buy an emergency plumbing-repair kit, available at most hardware stores. An old plumbers' tip: If you find a pinhole leak, break off the tip of a pencil in the hole and then cover it.

Shutting down the water supply

Most plumbing systems have shut-off valves at numerous locations, allowing you to isolate problems. Find the one nearest to the leak and turn it off while you make repairs. Faucets, toilets, and appliances such as water heaters have individual shut-off valves. Find the valve and turn it clockwise to stop the flow. On gas-fueled water heaters, don't confuse the flexible gas line with the water-supply line. The water-supply line usually enters through the top.

Turn off the main water supply if you can't find a valve close to a leaking or burst pipe. Normally, a single pipe delivers water to your home. Find the valve located where the supply pipe enters the house — or the one next to your water meter — and turn it off. This cuts off water to the entire house. Every family member should know where this is located. Then look for a valve closer to the fixture so you can restore water service to the remainder of the house while you fix the problem.

Stop Roof Water Leaks


Roof leaks can be very deceiving; they rarely become evident at the source. Typically, water enters through broken shingles or flashing, then flows along roof sheathing or attic rafters until it finds a convenient place to drip down (see inset at right). There are several likely sources.

Broken shingles are a good tip-off. Anything that protrudes through the roof — such as chimneys, vent stacks, dormers, and skylights — is a possible source. Scan your roof (use binoculars) and look for broken shingles or damaged flashing. If there is no obvious problem, head to the attic during daylight hours.

Look for wet spots or, in dry weather, water marks on the wood. Track the evidence of dampness to its source, then look for a small ray of light coming through the ceiling — the offending hole.

Quick Cover-up

To stop a roof leak temporarily, unroll enough 6-mil polyethylene sheeting to cover the leaky area, plus enough extra to extend several feet over the roof ridge. Wrap each end around a 2-by-4 and staple along the fold; sandwich the sheeting with a second 2-by-4. Place this assembly over the ridge, toward the non-leaking side, then spread the sheeting over the leaking section.

Repair a Broken Asphalt Shingle

1. Remove the nails from the broken shingle, taking care not to damage the shingle overlapping the broken one.

2. Nail down a new shingle. Use a utility bar to drive the nails to avoid damaging the overlapping shingle.

3. Apply roofing cement. Dab it over the new nails and under the edges of all the shingles you disturbed.

Keeping Your Asphalt Driveway in Top Shape


Maintaining and repairing your driveway on a regular basis will help ensure many years of service. Fortunately most driveway maintenance is a job that most home owners can do themselves. Although not difficult, it can be messy when it comes to applying sealer. Be sure to wear old clothes and a pair of shoes that you can throw away when you are done.The first step in maintaining your driveway is to see what problems you will need to repair. Take a slow walk across and down your driveway. If you see impressions left by car tires or tilting, or buckling or cracking, then you will need to call in an asphalt driveway contractor to rebuild the drive. Unless your driveway is very old and has been neglected, you'll probably see minor cracks, crumbling and small chuck holes. These problems can be repaired by the average do-it-yourselfer. If your driveway has large cracks and potholes, the repair materials will need to cure before seal coating. This may take several days or longer depending on the plan accordingly.What to BuyIf you have cracks you will need to purchase crack filler which typically comes in a caulking tube or a pour bottle. Chuck holes require asphalt cold patch which comes in a bag similar to redi-mix concrete. To complete the job you will need a good sealer. Sealers usually are sold in a "Good" "Better" "Best" selection. Just like paint, it's best to purchase top-quality material...the job will last longer, look better, give better service and in the long run save you the time of having to re-do the job sooner.Tools Squeegee/broom for sealing Detergent Trowel Masonry Chisel Machinist's Hammer Stiff Bristle Broom Garden Hose w/Pressure Nozzle Wire Brush Oil Spot Primer Asphalt Driveway Cleaner Gloves Shovel Safety Glasses Tamper or 4"x4"x6' Safety PrecautionsWhen working with asphalt materials, avoid prolonged contact with skin and excessive breathing of fumes. When chipping or chiseling old blacktop wear safety glasses. Keep all materials away from high heat or open flames. Be sure to read all manufacturer's instructions.Repairing CracksIt's important that cracks be filled properly to prevent water from getting under the slab and causing more serious problems. If the crack is less than 1/2" wide it can be filled with crack filler. Anything over 1/2" must be filled with asphalt cold patch. The most important thing to remember when you are repairing cracks is that the crack must be completely cleaned or the repair will not hold. For narrow cracks, sweep out all the dust and dirt that you can. You may need to use an old screw driver and wire brush to loosen. Then use your garden hose and spray nozzle to "blast" away any dirt that remains deep in the crack. Be sure to wear safety glasses when doing this job.If any area being repaired is covered with oil or grease drippings it must be scrubbed with a driveway cleaning agent and thoroughly rinsed. Cracks over 1" also need to be thoroughly cleaned and then filled with asphalt cold patch.Pot Holes Pot holes are repaired with asphalt cold patch which is a heavy duty stone and asphalt mix. First dig out any loose material and dirt down to a solid base. Then undercut the edges so they slope in slightly to provide a "key" for the patching material. Next clean all dust and debris from the hole and surrounding areas. Clean off any oil or grease that might be surrounding the hole. If the hole is very deep it should be filled within 4" of the top with gravel. Be sure to tamp the gravel before filling the hole with patch. Apply 2" of cold patch and tamp, then apply the remaining 2" and tamp. Now add enough material to form a slight mound and tamp again. The patch should be rolled which can be done by placing an old piece of plywood over the area and then driving over the plywood slowly back and forth. If you have repaired any major holes with asphalt cold sealer, you will have to allow the patch to cure before sealing. This typically would[...]

Shutters: A Hot New Architectural Element


Shutters have been a traditionally favored trim that has been used on the exterior of American homes for many years. In recent years, however, shutters have made an appearance not only as an exterior window covering but also as an innovative architectural element gracing the interior of contemporary homes.

Classic shutter styles may be purchased at virtually any home improvement center. You may also be fortunate enough to locate shutters at yard sales and flea markets. A great place to search for unusual shutter designs is at a new "hang out" for many interior designers. Commonly referred to as "Architectural Salvage Yards", one can find everything at these design treasures, from mismatched fencing and fountains that have minor flaws to vintage trims and moldings.

Classic wooden shutters can be painted or stained in any color of the rainbow. Shutters also lend themselves to many of the innovative faux paint techniques that are currently hot in today?s design market. Other decorative options include rubber-stamping and stenciling of patterns onto shutters.

With a bit of imagination and a dedicated investment of time, a do-it-yourselfer can transform a wooden shutter into various creative uses and applications. Shutters can easily be hinged together (standing vertically) and used as decorative screen dividers for a designated space. Or, place hinged shutters behind any bed and you've got a brand new headboard, for significantly less of an investment than had you purchased the headboard at a retail store.

If you are looking for an inexpensive coffee table, why not design one, by transforming two classic shutters? Simply cut one shutter in half and attach each half at either end of the uncut horizontal shutter. You have created an instant whimsical coffee table. Customize by applying a coordinating paint technique that matches your room?s interior.

Create a faux window for a dark room by hanging hinged shutters on a wall leaving space for your imaginary window between the shutters. Close shutters in the evening or open up to expose your faux window on the wall.

Shutters are popping up quite often in contemporary homes in the form of unique wall art. One idea is to hang a shutter on either side of a favorite framed print, to provide symmetry. Shutters used as wall art add depth and texture to an otherwise flat wall.

In children's rooms, consider converting simple shutters into shelving and use for storage of toys and books. With the help of your local hardware store or home improvement warehouse, it is often easier than you may have expected to devise a simple plan that will bring your home improvement project to life.

For a modest price, shutters can dress up a decorative wall niche near the ceiling. Simply prop up a hinged shutter and place in a grouping with an interesting piece of pottery, behind a silk or dried flower arrangement or adjacent to an interesting piece of artwork. Shutters often provide the much-needed height to compliment the tops of kitchen cabinets, a hutch or an armoire.

On your next shopping adventure, if you are fortunate enough to spot a closeout, marked down or slightly damaged pair of shutters, grab them and create a stylish decorative accessory that will blend in with most any room of your home.

Wallpaper: Spruce Up Your Home; Enhance Your Mood


Take a fresh look at your surroundings and consider redecorating. Whether you are considering some touches to simply brighten a room and celebrate the season, or a major decorating project, wallpaper is one tool you should not overlook.The New World of Wallpaper Today's technology has transformed the world of wallpaper that our grandparents knew. From the wide range of patterns available, to its ease and affordability, consumers are discovering a whole new world of wallpaper. Wallpaper can help you create a fresh new look in your home. In today's hectic, fast-paced society, the most important thing about decorating your home is to create an environment that provides you with a sense of comfort and serenity. A home should soothe your soul and offer a warm, comfortable retreat that you enjoy going to each and every day. Wallpaper can transform a room and help you can create almost any mood you like. Wallpaper is Turning Up EverywhereAlthough kitchens and baths are the two most popular rooms to wallpaper, you should consider wallpaper's potential for every room in your home. You can wallpaper entire walls or simply choose a special border to add personality or create a particular ambiance. Consider working with a select manufacturer that has a few selections to choose from with the same pattern or color scheme; you can mix and match wallpaper patterns from the same "family" - instantly creating a pulled-together look.For example, some designers or homeowners put a border or molding along the walls (horizontally) so they can mix and match two different wallpapers on either side. With wallpaper you can be creative and develop almost any look you like. Today, designers are finding unique ways to use wallpaper, from lining the interior of special armoires, to glow-in-the-dark wallpaper borders for young boys and girls. The possibilities are endless.The Importance of Light and ColorLight and color are two of the most critical considerations when decorating and have a significant impact on the final result. Here are just a few important guidelines:Using light bright colored wallpaper can make a room appear larger and airy. Using large patterns help create the feel of a small and cozy space. Small patterns create a feeling of more space.Consumers can also solve a wide range of decorating challenges with wallpaper. For example, vertical stripes make a ceiling appear higher, while horizontal stripes make a narrow room seem wider.Color for 21 centurySpice colors such as terra cotta, sage, red, and olive tones are especially popular right now. Spice colors create a warm and inviting feeling and can be used in lighter shades, too. Another emerging trend is the use of white and black, in a wide spectrum of hues, from pale grays to deep grays.Metallic colors are also hot this year, such as silver, gold, pewter and copper. The most important color of the year is blue. Blue will increasingly be found in many hues, from icy blue to country rich blue, traditional blue and white combinations, and navy blue. Blues create a cooler feeling and "open" a room. One of the hottest color combinations of the season is a metallic color, such as silver and blue. Color is one of the most important tools to consider when decorating because it can change your mood and the feeling of a room.Adding Texture to Your WallsThere are many different types of textiles used to create a variety of textures in wallpaper. Some of these include fabric, vinyl, grass cloth, fiberglass and silk or satin. Vinyl wallpapers are the most durable and can help protect your walls from mold, mildew, stains and other problems. Not all wallpapers are stain resistant, but if you clean an unexpected stain correctly and do not let the stain penetrate the wallpaper texture, almost any stain can be easily removed.International Flavor: Bringing Home the WorldToday's global society doesn't just impact how easily it is to communi[...]

What to Do with Ugly Paneling


Here are six great paint treatments designed to ease the pain of living with dated paneling. From knock-your-socks-off color and pattern combinations to country crackle and cottage whitewash finishes, these techniques turn pedestrian partitions into winning walls. Getting Started Make sure your walls are free of dust and grease. We used 60-grit sandpaper and a palm sander to rough up the surface and remove the paneling's shiny finish before priming. For some types of paneling, you may be able to skip the sanding step and simply prime the walls. Ask your paint dealer which primer will work best on your paneling. After sanding, wipe the walls to get rid of the dust and use a roller with a 3/8-in. nap to apply a coat of primer. When the primer dries, fill the nail holes with putty, sanding the putty for a smooth surface. Apply your base coat color with a 3/8-in.-nap roller. After the base coat dries for two days, it's time for the fun to begin. Look into our designs for painting inspiration or come up with your own special treatment. Remember, it's only paint - if you're not happy with your design, paint over it and start again. Whitewashed Pine Create charming cottage appeal with a simple rag-off technique. Base-coat the paneling with a latex flat or eggshell paint that matches the wood tones in your home. If your wood finishes are warm, use colors that have a yellow undertone; if they're cool, use deeper putty-colored browns. For whitewashing, start with white or off-white oil or alkyd paint and a pile of lint-free, cotton rags. Alkyd paints have a prolonged drying time, allowing you more time to work. Working in 2-ft. sections, apply paint to the wall with a roller. Dampen a rag with paint thinner and place the wrinkled (but not balled) rag on the painted section. Pull the rag off. Because it's important the paint stays wet, this technique works best with two people; one rolls on the paint, the other follows with the rag. Experiment, removing the paint until you get the texture you desire. If you apply too little or remove too much, simply roll more paint on and rag it off. As you go around your room, keep the look evenly random, making sure that you can't tell where the sections start or end. Tone on Tone Paneling provides a perfect template for a vibrant striped paint treatment. Our designers say this technique works best when you use variations of the same color. Choose three to five shades nearest each other on a paint card, and you're ready to go. Base-coat the walls with the lightest shade of paint. Let dry two days. Apply painter's tape to the panel lines to mask off your stripes. (For not-so-perfect stripes with slightly wavy edges, skip the tape and just paint between the lines!) Use a 3-in. latex or nylon-bristle trim brush to paint between the strips of tape. Apply the paints in a set sequence (say, light blue, medium blue, and dark blue) or mix up your stripes in a random manner (medium blue, medium blue, dark blue, light blue). This treatment works as well with pastels as it does with jewel tones. If you want to make a room appear larger, try using off-white tones mixed with creams or light taupes. Vibrant and Funky Color-splashed and pulsating with pattern, this paint treatment supplies feel-good, bright-as-a-rainbow cheer. Okay, it might be a bit too much for your living or dining room, but it's perfect for a kid's room, a basement rec room, or a small breakfast nook. If you like the look, but are afraid it might overpower a small space, try using it on just one wall and paint the rest of the walls a solid color that coordinates with your design. Start with a base coat of a medium-tone latex paint. Plan your design on a piece of paper; incorporate stencils or finger-painted curlicues if you wish. Using the panel lines as guides, alternate freehand diamonds and vines painted with an artist's or foam brush and acrylic p[...]

Decorating Basics for Home Offices


When it comes to decorating a home office, you want to be sure that the flooring and wallcoverings you choose are both easy to care for and durable. But this doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice beauty in order to achieve them. Flooring Hardwood. Wooden floors offer warmth and character to any decor. They are durable and come in any number of wood types and finishes. Many are stained and sealed with a clear hard urethane in matte or gloss finish. Other finishing choices include stained, bleached, or painted. Wooden floorboards come in various sizes, but the standard is a 2.5-inch strip or plank with a tongue-and-groove edge to ease installation. The types of wood available include oak, mahogany, maple, walnut, pine, cherry, beech, and ash. Parquet flooring is squares made from short pieces of wood that are glued together to create a pattern in various tones. Standard size is 12 x 12-inch squares. Parquet flooring adds visual texture and polish to an area. Hardwood floors are a great choice for all decorating styles. Light oak compliments a country decor, dark, high-gloss walnut or cherry works well with a light and airy modern interior, and knotty pine planks are great with casual furnishings. Tile. Tile flooring adds beauty to a room along with durability and minimal upkeep. The many materials available include marble, ceramic, slate, terra-cotta, and stone. Ceramic tile is one of the most versatile and popular flooring options. It is made from fire-hardened clay that is usually glazed, making the surface stain-resistant. It resists moisture and can be cleaned easily. Ceramic tile comes in numerous colors and hues to fit any decor. Quarry tile is fired clay that usually comes in earth tones like terra-cotta. Its natural-looking stone quality is ideal for informal decors. Mosaic tiles are small squares that are attached to a grid for installation. They come in many colors and are made of glazed or unglazed clay or glass. Vinyl. There are two types of resilient flooring: sheet vinyl that is sold in rolls of 6-, 9-, or 12-foot widths and individual square tiles that are generally 12 inches square. Both types are good choices for installation over any type of flooring including basements. Sheet vinyls are more expensive than the same quality in tiles, but come in a wider range of colors and designs and provide the advantage of seamless construction. Inlaid vinyl is the best sheet flooring that you can buy because it is constructed of solid vinyl made of layers of vinyl granules that are fused and built up to make it thick and highly wearable. The other type of sheet flooring is rotovinyl, which is constructed by using photography of a floor design, such as stone or brick, and layers of clear vinyl on top. The thickness of the top layers determines wearability. Consider a thickness of between 10 mils to a maximum of 25 mils for true durability. Vinyl tiles are also easy to install because they are lightweight and maneuverable for cutting and fitting. Carpeting Unlike hardwood, vinyl, and tile, carpet enhances a room by unifying the furnishings, walls, and accessories. There are many different choices in style, color, and construction methods from which to select when buying carpeting. Most carpets come in standard widths ranging from 9 ft. to 15 ft. Density is important to the durability of the carpet. To check, pull back the pile and see how much of the backing shows. If you see much backing, you have less carpet fiber to stand wear. Remember, durability is what you're looking for in home office carpet. Listed below are the various fibers from which carpets and rugs are constructed: Wool. Offers a deep, rich look with exceptional resilience and durability. Expensive. Resists soil, but requires special cleaning. Acrylic and Modacrylic. Nonallergenic, close to the characteristics of wool. Available in a wide[...]

Decorative Painting Tips


Using paint to decorate a room or furniture has never been so popular, probably because it's never been easier. Even the not-so-artistic do-it-yourselfer can create paint finishes and glazes that rival the professionals. All it takes is a little imagination and some paint to transform Plain Jane walls into an interesting and appealing accent. A piece of discarded furniture can become the focal point of a room with a little creative painting.


For an interesting effect on painted surfaces, try sponging or ragging them with a topcoat of paint. The techniques are good coverups because they give a surface depth and dimension and distract the eye from imperfections. Use a tone-on-tone effect by top coating a color with a lighter or darker shade that blends with it. For example, on pale pink wall, choose a more intense shade of coral or rose to deepen the color. Cover a dark color with a lighter shade to brighten it. For these glazing techniques use latex paint because it's easy to work with and clean up afterwards. Before you try these special effects, experiment on paper and practice creating the effects you like best.

Start with a clean painted surface and apply the glaze coat to one area at a time, which helps keep the pattern uniform. If you are working on a piece of furniture, glaze one leg or drawer front at a time, if it's a wall, work on a 4-ft. wide section from top to bottom.

To produce a stippled effect, apply the paint with applicators made of small pieces of sponge. The random holes in the sponge create an interesting relief-like pattern. Pour the paint in a flat open container, i.e., a Styrofoam food tray. Dab the sponge applicator in the paint and squeeze it out to remove excess paint. Then push the sponge pattern on the surface. Try to be consistent with the pressure you apply and turn the sponge over several times to vary the pattern. When the pores of the sponge fill with paint, it's time to change to another applicator. Cut small sponge wedge to get paint into tight corners.


Ragging a surface produces a completely different effect, which is very attractive. The preparation is the same as for sponging but use rags or wads of plastic food wrap as an applicator. Change them frequently as they become soaked with paint.


Pickling is a technique used on unfinished wood to create a transparent finish that highlights the wood's natural grain patterns. It's best achieved using flat alkyd (oil-base) paint that dries slower than latex so there's time to work with it before it sets up. Some alkyd paints are thick and can be difficult to wipe off. Spread the paint on a small test area, and if it doesn't wipe off easily, add a few ounces of mineral spirits (not more that 2 oz. per gallon) to thin the paint.

To pickle a surface, brush on a light coat of paint to a small area and then wipe it off with a scrap of burlap or other heavy material. The more paint you rub off, the more the wood grain shows. If the paint begins to set up and gets too sticky to wipe, switch to a rag dampened in mineral spirits. It is better to remove more paint than you think necessary because if the finish is too light you can always go back and add another coat. The opposite is not true if you allow a heavy coating of paint to dry.

When you've pickled the surface entirely, let it dry completely. For added protection apply a topcoat of satin water-based polyurethane.

Reupholstering a Bench


Level: Easy

This is an easy reupholstering project that anyone can tackle. It actually doesn't involve any sewing. Reupholstering a vanity bench finishes off a bedroom for example, to match the new drapes, a dust ruffle, toss pillows, and fabric-trimmed lamp shades. It was the finishing touch my guest bedroom needed to coordinate everything perfectly.

Make sure you use a drapery-weight fabric that blends with the rest of the room, or one of the fabrics you have used elsewhere in the room. The project is still simple even if the vanity bench needs new padding. Read on:

enough fabric to cover your bench, plus extra
staple gun or upholstery tacks


1. Using a soft measuring tape, not a carpenter's rule, find the length and width of the bench. Measure over the top of the existing cover. It may not be necessary to remove the old cover unless the color or pattern shows through the new fabric.

2. Decide on what direction the pattern will sit on your bench and whether it is necessary to center it before cutting the fabric. Allow plenty of extra fabric under the bench because you can always cut away the excess.

3. If new padding is needed try to find upholstering batting that is stiffer and more resilient than quilter's batting. Don't wrap this batting around the seat board because it will add too much bulk. Instead, cut a piece the size of the seat board. Two layers of this batting will be plenty and make it more comfortable to sit on.

4. Remove the screws that hold the seat to the bench and remember where the holes are positioned so you don't cover them up when attaching the new covering.

5. Work upside down on a solid surface and line up your layers before beginning. New fabric should be wrong side up, then the batting, and lastly the seat board. Upholstery tacks will work but a staple gun is much faster and easier.

6. Starting in the center of one long side of the seat begin stapling. It is necessary to keep the fabric in a straight line but not pulled tight at this point. Having a second person to help hold the fabric straight will make the job easier. Now work from the opposite side and pull the fabric taught before you staple. Don't staple the entire bench until you check to see if the fabric is straight and centered. Occasionally turn the bench over to see how it looks.

7. The corners are tricky on any upholstery job so make sure they are smooth and as flat as possible. The heavier fabrics will make this project easier. Try a corner before attaching the fabric to the short side of the bench because the job is easier when you have loose fabric to fold and play with until you get the fold you like. Sometimes it is necessary to cut away fabric to make a neat corner but do this carefully and thoughtfully so you don't cut away too much.

8. After attaching the new fabric around the bench, cut away the excess to make the back neat and so that nothing shows when the bench is put back together. Attach the screws that you removed so that the seat is firmly anchored to the bench. Now you have a new bench. Good job.

A Heart-Shaped Pillow for Your Sweetheart


Level: EasyAnyone can buy flowers, candy or perfume for a sweetheart on Valentine's Day but it's fun to be more creative and make a lasting gift. All sewers have a stash of fabric that are in small oddball sizes and shapes. If you would like a way to use the scraps and have fun doing it, then follow these step-by-step directions for a strip-quilted, heart-shaped pillow.Supplies:1/2 yd. of muslin (washed)red scraps or 1/8 yds. of 5 or 6 red fabrics12 in. square of red backing fabricred threadlaces and ribbon for embellishment (optional)package of loose Fiberfil for stuffingStep-by-Step:1. Cut a brown paper grocery bag into a square approximately 12 in. by 12 in. Fold this square in half and then draw only one side of a heart shape on this folded paper - with the fold lining up with the dip and the point of the heart. Draw the shape until you get something that is filling up most of the paper and is a pleasing round and plump heart shape.2. When you like the shape, using your paper scissors, cut on the drawn line to make a pattern for your eventual pillow. Cutting both layers at the same time allows you to make a perfectly symmetrical heart without much effort.3. Tear a piece of muslin approximately 12 in. by 12 in. and lightly draw around your heart shape onto the muslin - don't cut this muslin yet.4. Sort your red and white scraps trying to find four or five or more, dark and light prints that remind you of Valentine's Day.5. Cut some of these scraps into strips that vary between 1 in. and 3 in. and are all different lengths.6. Lay the first piece of fabric strip in the center of the muslin square which will be in the center of the heart shape. Lay the next strip face down on top of the first scrap lining up the raw edges on one side of the scrap. Sew these two pieces to the base muslin by making a seam along that one raw edge. Don't worry if it doesn't cover from one edge of the heart to the other.7. Add strips of fabric trying to vary light and dark, until you cover the entire heart shape that you drew on the muslin. This method of creating a new piece of unique fabric is called strip quilting and it has many uses.8. Once all the raw edges have been covered and the piece of muslin is now covered with red fabric, you can use your heart shaped pattern again to actually cut a heart shape from this new piece of fabric.9. Lace or ribbon can be sewn on top of the strips on the seam lines criss crossing each other to create added embellishment.10. Before sewing the back on the pillow cut a piece of eyelet trim to fit around the outside edge of the heart shape. Sew this onto the pillow top beginning at the dip between the two parts of the heart shape. The heavy edge of the eyelet will be on the seam line and the decorative part will be toward the center of the pillow top. Baste this in place before sewing it on.11. Now for the back of the pillow. Cut a 12 in. square from a red fabric. But don't use your heart-shaped pattern this time. A square work well. Lay this square on top of your pillow front, right sides together and using the shape of the heart to guide you, pin these two layers together. Don't cut this backing piece until after you do the final sewing. Start sewing the layers together along the long side of the heart leaving a 4-in. opening for turning. Now you can trim away the backing and clip into the dip between the two lobes of the heart before carefully turning the pillow right side out through the 4 in. opening in the side seam.12. Lightly press the pillow shape before stuffing with loose Fiberfil. This is better to use for stuffing a shaped pillow but it is necessary to use plenty of it and to carefully poke it into all the point areas as well as the lobes of the heart shape.13. Using matching thread and a small han[...]

Creating A Designer Lampshade


Level: Easy

When I recently redecorated a guest bedroom I realized how difficult it sometimes is to find all the accessory items to finish the job. In the case of the bedroom I needed two wall lamps above the bed to serve as reading lamps and general lighting.

I didn't want swing arm lamps that would hang out over the bed and be in the way. It seemed to be all that I could find. The other problem was that my electrical situation called for permanently or hard wired lamps and not wall mounted fixtures. Here is how I solved the problem of wiring as well as decorating.

I bought two, small wooden light fixtures that I knew could be painted easily. The only thing I didn't like was the fact that the shades were very uninteresting - plain white. All the beautiful fabrics I had been using in the room needed to be on these white lampshades so I got busy to see what could be done. I have covered lampshades before so I knew that was more than I wanted to do.

Going around the bottom of the shades with a narrow strip of the drapery fabric solved the problem. From my sewing experience I knew that to accomplish this I would have to cut my strip on the bias for maximum stretch. When you go around a curve such as the bottom of a shade it is necessary to have enough stretch in the fabric to hug both dimensions.

To cut a true bias you need to fold the fabric at right angles and cut on the fold. Measure around the shade to find the length of strip needed and then fold the fabric in order to get this length. It takes more fabric to cut on the bias but it is necessary. Use the leftover fabric to do another project in the room.

Now that you have a bias cut you need to make the bias strip. I wanted my shade to have approximately 3/4 in. trim at the bottom so I cut the bias strip 3 1/2 in. wide. Fold both cut edges toward the center and carefully press the strip. Either hot glue or heavy tacky glue can be used to attach the strip to the shade. Light white glue doesn't dry fast enough and might bleed through the fabric.

When the strip is glued to the shade half of the strip will be on the inside and half will be on the outside and both will have folded finished edges. If the fabric is tightly woven and won't ravel then you can just cut the strip after you have enough to go around the bottom but you might have to turn this end under and glue it in place. When gluing the strip on you might need to stretch it slightly in order that the folded edge conform to the shade shape. I think you will be pleased with the transformation from a plain white lampshade to a decorator's custom shade. So easy!!!

Now a quick word on the conversion of a lamp with a cord to a hard-wired or permanently-wired lamp with no cord. I purchased metal surface mounted circular junction boxes by Wire Mold and wired the lamps into these small boxes which I painted to match the wall color of the room. Because of this I didn't have to see cords running down the wall and I still had decorative stylish lamps in the newly finished bedroom. If you feel uncertain of doing this yourself call your friendly electrician and see if he or she can help. Good Luck!

Add Variety With Accent Pillows


Level: Easy

Decorative or accent pillows have always been used to spark up almost any decor, whether it be on a sofa or a bed. When you want a quick spruce up on top of a bedspread or a well-worn sofa consider making new toss pillows in bright colors or bold patterns. It will appear as though you have re-decorated the whole room. Shop for remnants or mill ends in a drapery department and look for pillow forms when they are on sale. Go bold with 14- or 16-inch pillow forms. And don't stuff them with loose fiberfil because you won't get a professional-looking pillow.

Supplies needed:

1 � yds. decorator fabric 54 inches wide
12-inch zipper
thread to match fabric
two pillow forms

Step-by-Step for a flat ruffled pillow:

1. Cut 2 squares of fabric that measure 6 inches larger than your pillow form (ie. 14-in. pillow form + 6 inches = 20-in. square of fabric). These squares will be your pillow tops.

2. Using an erasable fabric pen mark a 14-in. square in the center of this 20-in. piece of fabric.

3. If you desire trim or flat lace, sew it on the outside of the square now. Use the marked square as your guide for attaching this trim. Simply sew the trim onto the flat piece of fabric with a pivot at the corners or cut four pieces of trim and overlap them at the corners.

4. Cut the pillow backs to measure 20 in. by 25 in. Cut this piece in half to make 2 pieces that measure 20 in. x 12 � in.

5. Sew the 12-in. zipper between the two backing pieces. There will be extra fabric on each end of the zipper.

6. Center this backing piece over the pillow front with the right sides together. Carefully pin this sandwich together and then sew these two pieces together using a 5/8-in. seam. The pillow back may be larger than the pillow front depending on how you installed the zipper so sew them together using the pillow top as your guide for the seam allowance.

7. Trim the excess from the seam allowance and the corners so that when you turn the fabric right side out you have sharp points. Open the zipper to turn this right side out and carefully press. It should measure about 19 in.

8. Using the 14-in. square that you have already marked, stitch a square through all the layers pivoting at the corners, so that a pillow form fits snugly inside the stitching lines. Many pillow forms are skimpy so if the form doesn't fill up the pillow, the square needs to be smaller. Remove the form and resew the square to be smaller.

9. Unzip the zipper and insert the form making sure the corners are filled with the corners of the pillow form. The zipper makes this pillow very easy to wash when necessary.

Grand Garlands


Deck your halls with fragrant and fanciful festoons.Gardener's Delight GarlandSupplies and Tools 1 package of eucalyptus 1 package of dried hydrangea blossoms 1 package of raffia 1" clay pots Paperwhite and crocus bulbs 6"-wide woven ribbon or netting Variety of seeds (e.g., peas, corn, etc.) Floral wire Wire cutters Hot glue gun, glue sticks 1. Braid several strands of raffia to create a garland of desired length. Secure ends of raffia with floral wire. 2. Run a length of floral wire through the hole in the bottom of each clay pot and up over the rim. Hot glue paperwhite bulbs into clay pots. 3. Cut squares of ribbon or netting and fill with crocus bulbs and different seeds. Gather ends of ribbon and secure at top with wire to form a pouch. 4. Wire the filled ribbon pouches and clay pots onto the raffia braid. 5. Hot glue sprigs of eucalyptus and hydrangea behind the pots.Spicy Fruit GarlandSupplies and Tool Raffia Kitchen string Apples Oranges Cranberries Bay leaves Whole cloves Whole allspice Cinnamon sticks Lemon juice Large needle Scissors Glue gun, low-temp glue 1. Cut apples in thin slices crossways. Dip in lemon juice. Set on a cookie sheet and place in a 200° oven until dry. 2. Cut oranges into 1/4"-thick slices. Set on a cookie sheet and place in a 200° oven until dry. 3. For a 3' strand of garland, cut 5' to 6' of string. On one end, make a loop about 12" to 14" long. Knot. Thread needle onto string. Thread cranberries first. Press a whole clove into each cranberry to allow berry to dry naturally. Vary the order of other items as desired. Choose from cinnamon sticks, two slices of apple glued together with string in between the apples; two slices of orange glued together with string in between the oranges; and/or bay leaves. 4. Decorate the apple and orange slices with cloves, allspice, bay leaves, and/or cranberries. Complete the pattern to a 1 1/2' length. Repeat the pattern in reverse order for the second half of the garland. 5. When the 3' length is completed, tie string into second loop, making it the same size as the first loop. At each end of the garland, tie two approximately 2' lengths of raffia into a bow.Snowbird's Feast GarlandSupplies and Tools Preserved or fresh cedar branches Small gourds Sunflower heads Barley stalks Wheat stalks Birdseed Floral wire Wire cutters Hot glue gun, glue sticks Drill, drill bit Sandpaper 1. Wire cedar branches together to form garland base. Continue to add branches to the desired length. 2. Drill several holes close together in each gourd to create one large hole that allows birds to reach seeds. Sand edges smooth. Drill two small holes in the back of each gourd so wire can be inserted for attaching the gourds to the garland. Wire the gourds in place. 3. Glue wheat and barley stalks and sunflower heads to garland. 4. Fill gourds with seeds.[...]

Make a Grapevine Basket


Several years ago I took a class to learn how to make a vine basket that I've since used for just about everything. In the fall I fill it with pinecones and ghords, in the spring and summer it goes outside with pansies or petunias and come Christmas it collects our Christmas cards.

This is sometimes called a random-weave basket because there's no two alike. Making this type of basket is suprisingly physical. Twisting and turning the vines is rough on your hands, and it's messy as can be weaving the wetted-down vines back and forth as you create the framework and then fill it in. But it's well worth the time and effort.

You need bundles of grapevine, honeysuckle vines or any plant that's native to your area with long, spindly vines that go on forever. You'll need a pair a garden clippers, a wide-mouthed bucket or barrel with warm water and a pair of work gloves.

Here's the basic steps to make a vine basket:

1. Remove leaves and tendrils from strands of vine and then soak it in warm water so it becomes more pliable.

2. The height and width of the basket are determined by one long continuous piece of vine that you use to form two large hoops. Determine the approximate height of the basket you want and wind the vine around creating a hook double that height. One side of the hoop will be the handle and its opposite side will be the bottom rib of the basket.

3. Continue with the same piece of vine to make another hoop at right angles to the handle/bottom hoop. Where they join lash or weave the two hoops together. Set the basket on a surface with the handle upright and you'll be able to see that the second hoop forms the rim around the basket and creates its shape.

4. You can reinforce the hoops by lashing them together with short sections of vine.

5. The next step is filling in the sides and bottom of the basket beginning at the rim and working down. Use short sections of vine and twist and turn them to fill in the framework.

6. Turn the basket over and fill in the bottom beginning in the center or bottom rib and moving toward the rim on the sides. Use shorter strands of vine and weave them back and forth to fill in the open spaces. Weave the vine completely around the rim every time to secure it.

7. Use the garden snippers to cut off any loose jagged edges of the vine.

Decorative Paint Techniques: Stencil a Wall or Border


Skill Level: BeginnerStenciling is perhaps the most widely used decorative painting technique. In part, the reason must be its aesthetic appeal and that it takes no particular skill or talent. Anyone can stencil anything. Stenciling also can be an inexpensive fix for decorating and architectural problems. Border a too-small window to make it appear larger. Use a border on a wall just below the ceiling to warm up a cold room or to make a high-ceilinged room more cozy. If you like the look of a chair-rail molding but aren't up to the carpentry involved, try a stenciled border there, too. You need very little paint but likely several colors. Choose colors that coordinate with your furnishings.Tips Live in an apartment and can't paint the walls? Pulverize colored chalk, add a little water, and you have a completely removable "paint."Bring a dimensioned sketch and some fabric samples as you shop for stencils and paints.Materials ListTape measure Ladder or stepstool as neededStencils Spray mounting adhesiveCraft knife Latex, acrylic, or stencil paintsPainter's tape Stenciling brushes (1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and/or 1")...orStraightedge Mini foam paint rollerMarking pen and pencil Numerous shallow containers for paintsLevel (2' or longer) Drop cloth1. Purchase or Make a StencilWhatever your taste - teddies holding hands, bold geometrics, or subtle floral designs - there are precut stencils you can buy at paint, decorating, craft and hardware stores. Generally, the less formal designs such as flowers and vines are easier to work with than geometric patterns, especially for borders around windows and doors, which have mitered corners.Feeling ambitious? Find a design you like from books or wallpaper sample books. Using a copy machine, enlarge/reduce it as needed. Then trace it onto 7-mil Mylar or a clear plastic file folder with a marking pen; or use the copier to transfer it to clear acetate. Using a craft knife, carefully cut out the areas that you want to paint. Make extra copies if you are making a separate stencil for each color. Stack the stencils together and use a hole punch to create registration marks (see Step 4) on the lower edge of the stencils about 1 inch in from each end.TipsAcetate or Mylar stencils are transparent so you can see previously applied colors. This makes it easier to align the pattern as you move the stencil along the surface in Step 7. Make extra copies so you can bend or cut them as needed at corners.2. Draw a GuidelineTo keep your lines straight, level, plumb, and parallel to ceilings and trim, you may want to align your stencil on a guideline. If for example you want the bottom of the stencil to be 12 inches below the ceiling line, measure down 12 inches from each corner and make a mark. Make additional marks as needed to connect them with a long straightedge, and very lightly pencil a line.Safety Tip!If the area being stenciled is out of easy reach use a sturdy ladder, stepstool, or low scaffold to gain access, not chairs or other unreliable jury-rigged setups.3. Mask CutoutsWhile it's faster to apply several colors at a time, doing so may increase chances for error. Beginners especially should mask the cutouts for all of the colors except one (unless, of course there's one stencil for each color).4. Affix the Stencil to the WallSpray mounting adhesive onto the back of the stencil and carefully align it with your guideline. (Or use low-tack painter's masking tape.) Place a small piece of masking tape on the surface under the registration holes. With continuous designs start in any corner. With noncontinuous designs plan each wall separately so the pattern stops equidist[...]

Create An Alphabet Quilt


Difficulty: ModerateIf you have ever given a baby shower and wondered how to get your guests acquainted and relaxed but entertain them at the same time, here is an idea for you. This baby quilt is definitely a group activity. Everyone attending the shower can help as well as those who are far away.Instead of playing traditional baby shower games, let the guests help design and make the blocks for this quilt. The quilt will then be finished after the shower and given to the baby as a group gift.Supplies:Fabric for blocks - sashing - backing - binding (100% cotton)1 - 1 � yds. - blocks1 � yd. - sashing1 � yds. - backing� -¾ yd. - bindingThread to match fabricPolyester quilt battingPinsPermanent fabric markers - found in craft stores or quilt shopsMasking tape3 or 4-in. letters to trace or stencilStep-by-Steps:As an example, it's nice when the blocks are signed by the guests. It becomes a lovely memento for the mother and the new baby. The preparation for this project is simple and inexpensive and could be divided among the guests. The largest expense is the fabric and batting, so the cost would be minimal if everyone wanted to contribute. The sewing is simple but some experience putting a quilt together would be helpful.1. Purchase and wash 1 yd. of 100% cotton fabric for the squares - light color or muslin works best.2. Cut or tear the fabric into (26) 8 x 8-in. squares.3. Purchase a selection of colored fabric pens with various size points or tips. Be sure they are permanent on fabric and will not bleed.4. Purchase a set of foam letters - usually sold as bath tub toys for small children - about 3-4 in.5. Let the guests each choose a letter to use on their block and explain that they will use that letter in a bit of advise or wisdom for the new mother, father, or the new baby. Their message just has to use the letter, not necessarily begin with the letter. Suggest that they embellish the message in creative ways that will make the blocks very colorful.6. Prepare a counter top or table where the blocks can be taped down with masking tape securely before beginning.7. Mark each square so there is at least a 1/2-in. border on all sides. This allows plenty of room for sewing the blocks together.8. Have a few extra squares cut to size in case of mistakes. The number of people attending will determine how many squares each person needs to do but don't forget to save some squares for missing guests or relatives.9. The best arrangement of these blocks or setting for the quilt is 5 blocks by 5 blocks. The left-over square, the Z block, can easily be appliqu�d to the back of the quilt.10. Ask the mother-to-be to get involved with the choice of a fabric for sashing between the blocks and for the backing and binding fabric. It's especially nice if the quilt matches a color scheme or theme in the nursery. Purchase about 1 � yards of fabric for sashing.11. Cut or tear this sashing fabric into 2 � in. strips. Then cut some of these strips into 8 in. lengths. Join the blocks together horizontally, and then use the remaining strips to join them vertically. When all the blocks are joined together it should measure approximately 45 in. square12. Cut or tear strips to border this square on all four sides. I used a 4-in. wide border. Sew this border on to opposite sides of your quilt top and then to the top and bottom of your quilt. It is not necessary to miter the corners.13. Prepare the backing piece after measuring your finished quilt top to determine the size back you need. Be sure to give yourself an extra 2 inches of fabric on all sides for the back. Your quilt top i[...]

Affordable Decorating: Fabric Boxes


Level: EasyI imagine that boxes have always been used to store things, but boxes are now used as a decorative accent in many room decors. That doesn't mean they can't still be used to store things though.Think of all the little worldly possessions that you can stash away in these wonderful covered boxes. I think you'll find that this is a fun project for all ages.Supplies:BoxFabricHeavy weight white glueScissorsBatting/fleece-optionalStep-by-Steps:1) Boxes will add to the finished look of a bedroom because you can coordinate colors and fabrics in the room. You can use some of the left over fabric scraps from the drapes, upholstery, or a dust ruffle. Let your creative juices flow and combine all those wonderful fabrics you have used in the room.I used striped fabric from the dust ruffle. Any box can be covered but it must be a rigid, sturdy box that will hold its shape. I found heart shaped boxes in two different sizes at the local fabric and craft store.2) I wanted these boxes to be soft so I started by covering them with a layer of fleece and/or batting that a quilter or crafter would use. Lay the lid of the box on the fleece and trace around it to get the shape for the top and the bottom of the box. Measure all around the sides and cut a strip to wrap around the sides.3) Lightly glue these fleece pieces in place on the box. Begin by covering the bottom first. That way you can practice in an area that will not show before working to the top that show.4) Trace around the bottom again as you did before but this time allow an extra inch to overlap on the sides. If you are covering a round or heart shape box, it will be necessary to cut slits around the curves to eliminate the fullness when you glue it in place.5) Once the bottom piece is glued in place, measure and glue the side strip. Again, allow an extra inch for a fold at the bottom edge of the box and an extra inch to fold over the top of the box toward the inside of the box.6) The strip can be from the straight grain of the fabric. This is where a stripe fabric can help you cut and fold straight. On this strip of fabric for the sides, press the bottom inch up with an iron before you glue it in place. This folded edge will cover the overlap from the bottom of the box. The top edge will be turned over toward the inside of the box and then glued in place.7) If you were covering a heart shaped box I would start by attaching the side strip at the dip of the heart. A narrow turn down at the end of the strip will finish it nicely and prevent raveling of the fabric.8) Use a heavy weight white glue so that it doesn't saturate the fabric and bleed through, which will dry as a stiff hard piece of fabric. Hot glue is not recommended for this job.9) The inside of the box needs to be finished in the same way so that when you open it you see something pretty and finished. You can use a different fabric that coordinates with what you put on the outside. Glue the interior fabric much like you did for the exterior of the box. The only difference is that you'll put the folded and pressed edge of the strip to the top edge of the inside and overlap on the bottom slightly.10) Then cut a piece of shirt cardboard the size of the bottom of the box. Cover that piece of cardboard with the fleece and then the fabric and slip it into the bottom of the box. It should fit snuggly in place and cover all the overlaps to create a beautifully finished box. If you need to hide any glue joints, add a lace or trim used for lampshade edging. It can be glued in place and hide any problems on this cloth-covered box.[...]

A 'Log Cabin' Trivet


Level: ModerateThis colorful block of fabrics can be made in many colors and used for many things - a quilt block, a pot holder, table decoration, a pad for a flower pot, or a trivet. And when the holidays approach, I like to have an extra gift on hand just in case. I prefer to give a home-made gift so I try to have many small things on hand to wrap for the season.These log cabin blocks can be made in quantity by assembling them all at once. Follow these easy new quilting techniques and you will be very pleased with the results. I like to use squares of old cotton-filled mattress pads as the inside padding because it insulates better than polyester batting. Sometimes it is possible to buy a silver metallic fabric that is designed just for pot holders. It better protects your table and hands from hot things from the oven.Supplies:1/8 yd. of 7 fabrics. For example: 1 yellow, 3 red, and 3 greenNeutral sewing threadBatting or insulated fabric16-inch square of backing fabric (color of choice)Step-by-Steps:1. Purchase fabric. In the figures below, we use 3 red fabrics, 3 green fabrics, and 1 bright yellow fabric. Amount of fabric depends on how many blocks you plan to make. One strip of each fabric will make two log cabin blocks.2. Cut 2 1/2-inch strips from each color of the fabric from selvage to selvage. If you are using a rotary cutter stack the fabrics and cut three or four of them at the same time. Using a rotary cutter makes the strips very accurate and precisely cut. If scissors are used carefully mark and then cut the strips.3. Two or many more log cabin blocks can be made using this method, so determine how many blocks you want to make and then begin. It is a sew-and-cut method so it's different than the traditional log cabin construction.4. Begin sewing by laying the red strip right side up on the sewing machine. Lay the right side of the yellow strip face down on the red strip and sew along the right hand edge using a �-in. seam allowance. Sew the whole length of the strips together if you intend to make many blocks - sew only 6 inches of the strips together if you intend to make two blocks. Carefully cut the unopened and unpressed strip into 2 �-inch lengths. If you sewed the whole length together you will get about 17 pieces. If you sewed only 6 inches of the strips, you will have two pieces that will be the log cabin centers. Now, open this piece and press the seam allowances toward the red fabric. Add this piece to all the other strips in the following steps.5. Place another strip of red fabric face up on the sewing machine. The pieces you sewed and cut from step 4 will be placed face down on the red strip with the yellow fabric at the bottom, seam the pieces to the strip along the right hand edge. The raw edges between the pieces will be butted against each other as they are attached to the red strip. After the sewing is complete you will cut between these raw edges before opening and pressing. The small center now has one yellow fabric and two red fabrics. 6. Place a green strip face up on the sewing machine and place the small center block right side down to the green strip and sew along the right hand edge using a 1/4-inch seam allowance. The red fabric that you last added is toward the top of the strip. Butt the edges against each other and sew until all the pieces are attached. Cut between the pieces before opening and pressing, and now you have a center yellow with two red pieces and one green piece attached. Press the seam away from the center.7. Place another green strip face up on the mac[...]

A Fanciful Ruffled Pillow


Level: ModerateHow would you like to make a colorful toss pillow with a 3-inch ruffled edge? Make it festive for the holidays with appropriate fabric and easy quilting techniques as shown in the photograph. If you're interested in making this log cabin pillow, follow these instructions. When the piecing aspect of this is complete, follow the directions below for the final touches for a ruffled pillow. If you would prefer a solid front for your ruffled pillow, keep reading.Ruffled pillows are simple to make and add spark to any room in the house. The pillow in the photo uses one of the fabrics in the quilt block for the ruffle. Let your own color scheme help you decide what fabric to use for the ruffle. Make extra ruffled pillows as wonderful gifts for special friends.Supplies:15-inch log cabin block or square of fabric14- to 16-inch pillow form1-1/4 yd. fabric for back and ruffleAbout 3 yards of lightweight string or heavyweight thread15-inch square of light battingThread to match fabricStep-by-Steps:Once you have made the log cabin square or have a 15-in. piece of appropriate fabric, begin the following steps.1. Prepare the strip for the ruffle by tearing 7-in. strips of fabric. A ruffle needs to be full enough to be gathered and sewn to the outside edge of the pillow top. Therefore, tear 2 or 3 strips of 44- to 45-in. fabric.Tip! It is possible to have the ruffle too full especially if the fabric is too heavy.This 14- to 16-in. pillow form (pictured) needed 3 strips of fabric for the ruffle because of its size.HINT: Always measure your pillow form because manufacturers vary in their quoted pillow form measurements. What you think is a 14-in. pillow form may actually be 15 inches by your measurements.2. Sew the short ends of the strips together to make one continuous strip. Press seams open. Fold this strip in half with the wrong sides together and press so the raw edges are together. Divide this long strip into 4 equal segments and mark these points with a safety pin. This will be your 3-in. wide ruffle.3. To gather the ruffle, use a lightweight string or heavyweight thread as long as the ruffle strip. Lay the string a 1/2 inch from the raw edge of the strip. Using normal thread in your sewing machine, zigzag over the string. Don't catch the string in the zigzag stitches because the string will be pulled to gather the ruffle to the dimension of the pillow.Tip! It's important to use a lightweight string or heavyweight thread for the ruffling process. It can withstand a lot of tension as you pull and tug on it and will be less likely to break.4. Prepare the pillow top by layering a piece of quilt batting under the log cabin block or 15-in.-square of fabric. Stitch around the outside edge of the square to attach the batting to the top square. The layer of batting gives more body to the pillow top. Machine quilting along the seams would hold these layers together but isn't necessary.5. Prepare the ruffle by pulling the string from both ends to gather the strip to fit the top. The pins you placed in the ruffle strip will help to evenly distribute the gathers.6. Carefully pin the ruffle to the prepared pillow top. Place the right side of the ruffle against the right side of the pillow top. The gathered edge will be on the outside edge of the pillow top.Tip! The finished edge of the ruffle will be temporarily facing the center of the pillow.Adjust the gathers and allow extra fullness at the corners.7. Sew around all four sides of the pillow attaching the ruffle as you sew. The seam allowan[...]

Ribbons, Bows and Baskets


Level: EasyBaskets have been used decoratively for years but they are also great containers for organizing and keeping things in place. Baskets in the kitchen, bath, or the bedroom add a new dimension to storage. We all seem to need more storage, whether it's for kitchen tools, bath towels, or hats and gloves.The use of decorator fabric makes an ordinary basket into something extraordinary. Use a strip of left over drapery fabric or something that coordinates with your decor and even a small basket becomes noticeable. This project can be done by anyone who doesn't sew but loves to accessorize his or her home with unique and colorful custom-made items. First, find a sturdy and sizable basket for the things you need to store and then decide on the fabric for your ribbon and bow.Decorating a basket with fabric allows you to match the decor but also allows for making a generous and full bow with flowing streamers. The fabric is treated with a fabric stiffener, which makes the bow molding an easy and fun project. After the fabric stiffener dries it is permanent and humidity resistant. If the bow eventually needs to be dusted a damp rag can be used and it won't hurt the finish on the fabric.Supplies:Basket - 3/4 yd. fabric8 oz. Fabric StiffenerHot glue gunStep-by-Steps:1. Cut a long strip of fabric after determining how wide the bow and streamers will be on your basket. The bow and streamers used on the basket in the photo are 3 inches wide. The fabric was cut in 8-inch-long strips because the fabric is folded so that the raw edges are hidden on the underside.2. The streamers are formed before the bow is created and uses a separate strip of fabric. This streamer is gracefully draped over the shape of the basket and therefore the length of the strip will be determined by the size of the basket. This basket starts with a 50-in. strip, for example. Using your iron, press this strip so that the raw edges are overlapped on the underside and the strip is about 3 inches wide. Don't trim the ends until the streamer has been stiffened and placed where you want it to be.3. Cut two more strips - 8 in. by 24 in. and 8 in. by 16 in. - to form the bow4. Cut a final strip to form the center of the bow - 6 in. by 5 in.5. Press these strips as you did for the streamers with the strip for the center of the bow being only 2 in. wide when overlapped.6. The product for stiffening is water based and non-toxic and is easily cleaned but looks like white glue when used. It stiffens as it dries so it is necessary to give things a shape before it dries completely. Saturate the strips of fabric that you have pressed and place them on a waxed paper covered surface to dry 45 minutes until slightly damp. If your have excess fabric stiffener on the strips don't squeeze the fabric but use a rubber spatula or your fingers to remove the excess.7. When the strips are still damp, but no longer sticky, you will form them into the shapes you desire. Start with the long streamer and decide where on the basket it will sit. It looks good to make the streamer rippled as it sits on the basket, so make the necessary tucks and folds to accomplish this look.8. The bow is constructed rather than tied so use each strip you cut to form the loops of the bow. To maintain the shape while the stiffener is drying stuff the loops of the bow with plastic bags after you have shaped them. Use the small piece - 6 in. by 5 in. - to make the center tie for the bow. It will be only 2 in. wide after you fold the raw edges unde[...]

Furniture: Achieve the Look You Want


Ready-to-finish furniture is quite affordable and it's easy to decorate with paint, stain, faux finishing techniques, and other quick and easy crafting tricks.Multi-Colored High ChairGive a high chair a spirited look by painting each of the rungs and spokes a different color. Use shades of pastels for a soft look, or combine primary colors for a bright chair. First apply a primer coat of white. Then paint each rung, spoke or leg in a different color. Next, paint the high chair tray one color and the trim another color. Add a stencil design of random circles, squares and triangles. Cut the shapes from a hard sponge. Press each shape onto one of the paint colors and press over the high chair tray as if you were rubber stamping it.Country Jelly CabinetAn old-fashioned jelly cabinet is a versatile storage unit. It's handy for files, books, linens, or extra dishes and glassware. It's also great for storing sewing supplies. Decorate the front panels with a simple illustration. First paint the top and sides. Next, trace a design or illustration from a book or other source that will fit on the front. Tape the tracing face down on the cabinet and retrace on the back of the lines to transfer the design. Remove the tracing and fill in the outlines with acrylic paint colors of your choice.Spatter Paint Kitchen ChairsGive plain wooden kitchen chairs character with a spatter paint finish. First use semi-gloss latex to paint the chair in the color of your choice. Then dip a toothbrush into a contrasting color and run your finger over the bristles to spritz the paint over the entire surface of the chair. You can do this over and over with many different colors for a multi-colored effect.Chair WrapCut out designs from pretty wrapping paper and glue them at random on the painted chair. Three coats of polyurethane protects it all. It's an easy way to make an ordinary chair fanciful.Divider ScreenCombine a background of a faux finish with pretty floral greeting cards on the panels of a divider screen. First paint the screen with a background color, then add an overall faux technique of sponging, combing or strie. Glue the cards to the center of each panel and frame each one with a narrow strip of velvet ribbon in a color to match each flower.Distressing FactsPaint an unfinished armoire a country color. Then give it an old and distressed look with antiquing. Finally remove some of the paint by rubbing the surface down with fine sandpaper, and then steel wool so the wood shows through. This is a good way to create a worn, country look from a new piece of furniture. Satin polyurethane protects the furniture with a matte sheen.Covered With RosesPaint a small, occasional table a pale shade of pink. With a light pencil, create a 1-inch diamond grid on the diagonal over the table top. Dip an artist's brush in green paint and go over the grid lines freehand to make graceful weaving vines. Apply rose decals evenly spaced on either sides of the vines for a rose-covered trellis.Blanket ChestApply a light wood stain to the sides of a blanket chest. For contrast, stain the lid a darker color stain. Apply semi-gloss polyurethane and let dry. Dip fine black sandpaper in sudsy water and rub lightly over the entire surface. Wipe clean and the finish will be satin smooth. A coating of bowling alley paste wax, such as Johnson's or Butcher's will give the piece a beautiful sheen and the chest will look like expensive furniture.Decorative Touches With StencilsPaint or sta[...]

Special Accent: Padded Hangers


Level: Easy

After all the sewing projects for decorating your home are finished and you think there are no more new ways to use that beautiful fabric you have left over, then one more idea comes to your imagination. How about making covered and padded hangers for that special occasion dress? And they make great gifts, too. Padded hangers are especially nice covered in satin for a wedding gift or from matching fabric for the bridesmaids, done in elegant fabric to coordinate with the dresses. There is no end to fun sewing ideas if you keep looking for them.

1/4 yd. print or satin fabric
Scrap quilt batting or loose Fiberfil
hanger - wooden or wire
1 yd. -in. wide ribbon

Step-by Steps:
1. Find a plain old wooden hanger to use as the base. A wire hanger can also be used but needs to be bent and shaped before covering it. Shape the wire hanger by squeezing the wire hanger together to form a narrow shaped hanger so that the open center part is flattened and close together.

2. Using any type of quilt batting, cut about 3 in. wide strips and wrap these strips around the hanger from the hook in the center to the end of the hanger and back again until the whole hanger is evenly covered in a layer of soft batting. Wrap the batting with sewing thread to hold it in place and secure it to the hanger.

3. Cut two narrow strips of fabric measuring 3 1/4 in. by 15 1/2 in. and two more strips that measure 3 1/4 in. by 9 in. Round off one end of each of these four strips.

4. Sew a gathering row of stitches around the two sides and the rounded end of the longer two strips of fabric about 1/4 in. from the outside edge.

5. Pull up the gathers to fit the shorter two strips of fabric.

6. Sew the two pieces together after distributing the gathers evenly along the length of the strips with the right side of the strips facing each other using a -in. seam allowance. Leave one end of each strip open to slip over the padded hanger. The two tubes you have created will meet in the middle around the hook of the hanger.

7. Carefully thread the gathered tube over the batting-covered hanger and adjust so that the gathered side is facing up toward the hook of the hanger.

8. With a needle and thread sew these two sleeves together in the middle or just under the hook of the hanger.

9. Now cover the area where the two sides have come together with a -in. ribbon in a coordinating color. This ribbon is woven in a figure eight pattern around the hook and then around the bottom of the fabric tubes with enough ribbon left to tie a small bow around the base of the hook of the hanger.

10. One additional step is to create a small sachet bag to hang around the hook to add that special hand made touch. Use a small rectangle of fabric and sew around three sides to make a pouch to hold a small amount of fragrant, sweet smelling potpourri. Gather and tie a ribbon securely around the top edge of the pouch and attach it to the hanger around the base of the hook.

11. To customize the sachet for a special occasion such as a wedding, embroider the initials and date on the sachet bag before filling it with potpourri.

A Snuggly Baby Blanket


Level: Easy (if you crochet)Moderate (if you must learn crocheting)If you want to pamper a new mother and baby with a beautiful, hand made gift that becomes the most treasured gift of all, make a very special receiving blanket. This blanket is so much more than just a receiving blanket. Every mother melts when she opens this gift.What makes it even more special is a customized crocheted edging. It then becomes a gift of yourself. This is, after all, the reason we like to make hand made gifts - to let the person know that we thought of them enough to make something special that took time, thought, and love to create.While stitching around the edge of this ample flannel blanket, I like to think of the love bestowed upon the new baby who will sleep under its warm protection.Supplies:1 1/3 yds. printed cotton flannel1 1/3 yds. coordinating printed cotton flannelThreadCrochet cottonCrochet hook size 6 or 7 (optional)Step-by Steps:1. Purchase 1 1/3 yd. each of two baby print flannel fabrics. There are so many available in the fabric stores that it will be hard to decide your two favorites. I like to use one colorful and busy pattern on one side and a coordinating print for the other side that is less patterned and colorful.2. Wash both fabrics in hot water and detergent, then dry in the drier. You know it will be washed many times in the future and this insures that the flannel will be especially soft and pre-shrunk before it is sewn.3. Measure the width of the flannel from selvage to selvage after washing to determine how large of a square you can make. Most fabrics vary in width but try to make as big of a square as the fabric will allow. It will be necessary to mark the four corners with a square object to use as a sewing guide after putting the right sides of the fabric together. Pin the two layers together and sew around all four sides but leave a small opening to allow for turning the blanket right side out.4. After sewing the two layers together the seam will be trimmed and the corners clipped and then the blanket can be turned right side out.5. Use a pointed object and poke out the corners and then carefully press the four edges of the blanket so that the seams lay flat. Hand sew the opening closed.6. Cut a very long thread of crochet cotton and thread a sharp, large-eyed needle with a double strand. If you thread the two cut ends through the needle you can use the loop at the other end as a knot.7. Begin along one edge and sew a blanket stitch with this doubled thread with the stitches spaced approximately 1/2 in. deep and 1/2 in. apart. When you reach the corner take three stitches in the same hole and the corner will look as even as the sides.8. When you run out of thread you will need to end the one and begin the new thread. Do this as neatly as possible. I work with an especially long thread so I don't have to start and stop very often.9. The blanket is usable now but if you can crochet and would like to spend the extra time, it looks very special when a narrow edging is added. I use a small crochet hook and crochet into the loose edge of the blanket stitches. I put 3 single crochet stitches in one space, then 1 double crochet, and a triple crochet, and another double crochet in the next space. Repeat the pattern. Be sure to secure the ends by weaving them in and attaching them firmly. This blanket will be used daily and needs to be very washable and sturdy.[...]