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With a couple of sizeable baby purchases lately/in the wings, I’ve been stretching my creativity around the home.  Right now I’ve got a temporary rule that anything I do ought to be done using stuff I already have, or cost less than $10.  When you’ve been doing DIY for a couple years, you’re bound to have odds and ends of various supplies sitting around taking up space, and I’ve discovered a few fun uses for them.

1.  Temporary ribbon trim on curtains.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get a little bored with my plain white curtains.  The reason my living room drapes are white is because I have never been able to settle on what else I’d want there.  Do I want a color?  A contrasting band at the bottom?  Some sort of wide or narrow stripe of ribbon trim?  After the last ribbon trim I glued on got old fast, this time I decided to SAFETY PIN my ribbon trim on.

I save good ribbon to use on holidays and for gift wrapping, and I had a couple long pieces of gold ribbon that I grabbed one day to test out on the leading edge of my living room curtains.  Though that particular shade of gold was too mustardy for me, it inspired me to go spend $4 at JoAnn’s for a 9-yard roll of gold satin ribbon.  Then, in case I get tired of it, I just looped the ribbon through my tiebacks and safety pinned it at the top and the bottom.

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See?  Totally works.

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This will work on any curtains that don’t get drawn often (we use the miniblinds in the living room).  Sometimes you have to adjust the fall of the ribbon so it stays looking attached all the way down, but it’s still a great method for trying out a new trim or letting you change it up a few times a year.

2. Using up small bits of fabric.

Whenever I sew something, I keep any scraps that appear to be of a potentially useful size.  This week I used a scrap from my french door curtains:

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and another from my lampshade project:

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…to make my baby’s swaddle wraps one size bigger.  I swaddle her when she sleeps, and lately she has been on the verge of outgrowing these essential items.

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I bought a swaddle the next size up with a gift card, but although it was long enough it was far too wide in the body.  So I took my scrap fabrics and cut out a piece shaped like an elongated eye (narrow at the ends and wide in the middle) to extend and widen just the legs portion of her two swaddle wraps.  I didn’t do pretty sewing, but it does the job.  She now has lots of room on both her swaddles to let her hips swing open and to kick out her legs straight.

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3.  Art from books.

A while back I bought a nice coffee table book that was on clearance.  It highlighted innovations in typesetting and text layout over the last century… woohoo, right?  Well my dad did typesetting before computers got common and my dear graphic designer friend Amy geeks out about fonts so I guess it’s part of my world :)  Anyway,  I bought this book specifically to cut up for art but have barely used anything from it.

I had a blank spot in my kitchen wall that was begging for art and I’d previously considered getting this piece:

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but in the end I decided I had enough “wow” things happening in the kitchen/dining room already and needed something a lot quieter in that space.  I searched online for pen and ink drawings and even printed out some tree sketches but they weren’t really doing it once I lived with them.

Then I remembered my typesetting book!  I found four pages that balanced each other well, cut them out with a razor, and simply taped them to the wall with a small loop of scotch tape on the back.  Why not?

I do plan to frame them eventually (almost grabbed four $6 clearance frames with mats at Michael’s but that would break my spending rule!  They always have great clearance frames and I just need to wait) but in the meantime, I am really enjoying my art solution.  Forgive the early morning light in my photos – it makes everything look more monochromatic that in real life.

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The four pieces not only look good, they all have some sort of meaning to me.  There are pages from some French fables, the Book of Common Prayer, Genesis, and something with my husband’s name.

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What are your favorite $10 or less changes around the home?

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I thought it would be fun to share one of those things that could have turned out awesome but, um, didn’t.  In the land of DIY, not all projects turn out exactly the way you envisioned, and that’s totally fine because that’s real life.

Our kitchen window looks out onto the street so of course it has nice thick curtains to keep us from being the neighborhood entertainment at night.  They’re plain white cotton canvas (washable is imperative!) tab top cafe curtains from Wal-Mart, I believe.

I thought I had a better “before” picture but I cannot find it.  Hm.  Sorry about that.  This is a photo from when we were painting the dining area, and the pantry (on the right) is not normally one foot away from the fridge in the middle of the room.

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We recently repainted the kitchen from beige to off white (Behr Swiss Coffee) when we remodeled the dining area, and the white cafe curtains against the white walls were getting to me.  In a recent post, I shared how I put up huge green and white curtains on the french doors.  That went so well I decided to do something colorful to the cafe curtains at the other end of the room.  I recalled the various bloggers I’d seen who painted stripes on plain curtains and rugs and thought I’d invest $5 in craft paints to paint me some stripes too.  Hey, it worked when I put chevrons on our living room rug two years ago.

So I took my coupon and got a few bottles of craft paint and fabric medium from Michael’s, came home, mixed my custom color, and taped off some 4″ stripes on the first curtain.  Here, the tape has been removed from the first three stripes.

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It was looking good but I had one little problem.

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I was out of paint.

And I still had the other curtain to do.

Well, it was late and I had other things to do for the next few days so I just let the one striped curtain dry overnight and hung it up the next morning.  That’s when I discovered that those stripes were not so pretty when they were backlit.  In fact they looked radically unattractive.  “So this is why the bloggers say you might need to do two coats,” I mused, looking at my empty cup of custom mixed paint.  “I wonder if using a small foam roller might have applied the paint more evenly than my good brush.”  (The world may never know.)

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I just left the lonely single curtain hanging there while I thought about what to do.  Because it turned out so stiff and patchy, I didn’t want to continue with the other curtain.

And that, my friends, is how things stayed for three or four weeks…

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Then I had a brainwave.

An awning!  This thing had awning stripes on it, and I had a roommate once with an awesome indoor burlap awning in her breakfast nook, so maybe I could do an indoor awning.

I was inspired.  I took my ugly striped curtain down, re-taped the stripes, painted a second coat of non-custom green, and took to cutting and sewing and lining until I had a nice looking rectangle to use.  Did I take any pictures?  I did not.  I did this project on a weekend the Chief was gone and my goal was to blast through as many projects as I could from stuff I already had on hand.  I didn’t even think about grabbing my camera, I was working so hard.  Basically I followed the tutorial that I found here, and I also invented some parts as I went along (like only stitching the lining onto the white stripes and not across the green painted stripes, to avoid white stitches on green stripes, and using hot glue in the places my sewing machine couldn’t go).

….Are you ready to see the awning?

Wait, first I have to make an excuse for the kitchen.

You haven’t seen much of the kitchen because it’s dated and we’re not doing any remodels at this point.  The cabinets are (I believe original) knotty pine that has seen better days, with a few additional pressboard uppers in the same color; there is one cabinet door that has been stripped but not refinished; the window needs an overhaul; and the counters are indestructible wood grain print formica.  Yummm ;-)  You know what though, the layout works GREAT for practical use.   So there.

Before:  Just to remind you of the first shot, we started with plain curtains, an old window, and a vacant space to the ceiling.

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After: cheery awning on two tension rods makes this side of the kitchen/dining area look MUCH more finished and ties it in to the green curtains on the other side of the room!

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What do you think of this small change – does it have the impact I think it does?  Have you ever considered an indoor awning? What are some other ways you’ve tried to enliven the dead area over a sink?

So I previously mentioned that fun prints aren’t really my favorite way to jazz up a room.  I tried it, I didn’t like it, and I decided to stick with my palette of solids, textures, and subdued, traditional prints.

In a stunning and unexpected turn of events, today’s post is the reveal of the vast swath of graphic printed curtains covering the six foot french doors in the dining room!  Because it’s not true that I hate prints.  I like a lot of prints – and some of the ones I like even look good in my house!  I’m talking about anything muted, or with a damask type of pattern, anything that feels kind of organic/botanical, and doesn’t have too many different colors going on.

But to get back to the story, the dining room was looking awfully anemic.

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Yeah.  White on rice.

I knew I wanted a green/blue/yellow color scheme with a fresh Mediterranean feel going on in the kitchen and dining room.  This is an inspiration picture similar to the actual inspiration photo that I tore out of a magazine years ago.

For Mary Fedden

So I went big on the dining room curtains.

After considering many options, the least expensive and least labor intensive option turned out to be making window curtains out of shower curtains.  They come extra wide (72″, I believe) so if you get two, that will cover a 72″ french door very nicely when drawn shut.  I found some great shower curtains at Target that were 100% cotton, soft and drapey, and machine washable, in a green and white print that reminds me of a hedge maze.  I though they would look great framing the backyard and sky and our potted lemon tree on the patio.

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They were way too short for floor to ceiling drapes, so I used one of my trusty JoAnn coupons to buy a few yards of a darker green linen/cotton blend.  After washing and drying everything first, naturellement, I hemmed the edges of the extra yardage (but left the bottom edge long to hem in place) and attached the pieces to the shower curtains.  Somehow where I started on one side ended up almost half an inch off, and I didn’t notice till the whole panel was done!  Oh well.  I’m not unpicking all those stitches, believe me.

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I’m glad I marked the curtains for hemming as they hung in place, because those shower curtains did NOT shrink evenly.  The dark green bottom panel is shortest at the far right of the doors and longest at the far left.  In fact, let me get my tape measure… yep, it starts 19 1/2 inches from the ground on the right and 21 1/4 inches from the ground on the left, so that’s a rise of almost 2″ across six feet of door.   Let that be a lesson to you.  Always mark the hem in place.  Oh, and as for the top hem, the shower curtain had little buttonholes sewn in there which would’ve look weird, so I just folded that hem over once more and sewed it down before clipping on some curtain rings.

Here they are, looking fresh and beautiful if I do say so myself.  They’re hung high and wide on a $14 curtain rod from Ross and with 10 clip-on curtain rings per panel.

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When we had our New Year’s Party, one of the guests commented on how popular the solid stripe at the bottom of window panels was getting.   She was very impressed that I made them myself because the shower curtains were just too short.  Don’t you love it when you inadavertently do something popular?

So what do you like to do with your window treatments?  I was rocking all-white curtains up till this.  Do you like lots of color?  Something different in every room? Or do you like the cohesion of plain panels and simple treatments?

I said in this post that though I was very happy with the overall results with the living room curtains, I’d fastened the tieback hooks a bit too far out from the curtains for perfect aesthetics but was going to leave them that way unless they kept bugging me.  Well, they bugged me every time I looked at them for two weeks.  That meant it was time to redo them.

This time around I stuck pushpins in the wall where I thought it would work and looped the tiebacks over the pins, then stepped back (what I should have done the first time) to survey the results.  I made a number of small holes in the wall, but having to do 10 minutes’ worth of patching and painting this week will be worth it for finally getting the perfect placement.

The first thing I realized was that my tiebacks were going to be too long for their new placement.  I frowned at them for a minute, considering cutting and regluing and all that hassle, then realized the quickest way to shorten a piece of rope is to tie a knot in it.  Bingo!  I literally took a tieback in my hands, said, “Self, tie a sailor’s knot in this,” and my hands made this:

I googled it and I don’t think it’s a kosher knot, but hey, it works for me and my curtains.

Know what? The knots make the curtains look even richer.  Talk about a win/win situation.  Here’s what we ended up with.

Before:

 

After:  not only are the proportions better and the knotting more elegant, you can now see the beautiful corner block molding that the Chief installed.  All in all it makes a nice detail for the room.

Now for a full view.

Before:

 

After:  See how the curtain doesn’t look dragged off to the side anymore?  Much better.

 

So that really is it for this project.  I’m really glad to have it crossed off the list and not bugging me any more.

 

Ahh, harmony.

How about you?

Does it bug you when proportions are a little off?  Any little tweaks you need to get around to so that you stop noticing it every time you go by?  Or do you think curtains are just a hassle to get right every time?

When I did the major overhaul on the living room arrangement, I rested from my labors and saw that it was good. Good, but, you know, I saw some room for improvement. My little list of next steps were:
1. A quality rug
2. More expensive-looking and substantial curtains
3. Bigger entryway table

Well the curtains have arrived!
One day I was browsing Ikea to see what was new.  I did my habitual stop by the as-is bin on my way out and found two sets of perfect off-white curtains missing their tiebacks, one set for the living room, and one for our bedroom which needed a similar drapery upgrade.  They look a bit gray in this photo, but they’re not.

Each panel was individually priced, so the total was $16 for the living room pair (RITVA, I think) and $10 for the other (can’t find them on Ikea’s website – tab top cotton canvas with a self pinstripe every 5″).

Before, I had a very cheap pair of curtains up in the LR.  They were better than nothing, and I tried to spruce them up with some bold ribbon trim, but…

So after washing, ironing, and putting up just the first new curtain, I took a comparison shot.  I am still a newbie photographer/digital editor and it is hard photographing a window straight on!  – but you can see the difference.  Old curtain on the right… a bit draggly and cheap looking.  New curtain on the left… much more well behaved, proud of itself, and sleek.

The houndstooth ribbon tieback wasn’t quite working for me because it looked flimsy and thin next to the curtain, and it’s directly next to the front door so you notice that going in and out.  But I liked how its contrast brought the eye to the big picture window view, so I took some deep brown rope trim I had left over from making the drum seats and turned them into tiebacks.  I finger-crocheted loops for the ends out of rickrack trim and hot glued rickrack around the last inch of rope.   You can also see the nice weave in the cloth in this shot.

Now to measure for the tieback hooks.  I played with tape to hold the tiebacks to the wall so I could find the exact right spot that looked proprotionally pleasing.  I like my ties down low for a French look like this (I imagine :) ) rather than a country look or the more modern no-tiebacks straight look.

I could have saved myself some eyeballing by just following the rule of thirds – measuring  1/3 of the way up from the bottom of the panel and simply adjusting the measurement for tieback droop.   Learn from my fail.

Unfortunately I did not look at too many inspiration pictures before drilling holes in my wall for the tieback hooks (just simple white cup hooks) and I put them too far outside the curtains’ outer edges.  You can see in the above photo that the pros place the hooks just outside the fall line of the curtains.  I’ll probably quit noticing it in a few weeks.  If not, I will patch the holes and redo it.  C’est la vie!

The living room curtains are now DONE-ZO.  The final look:

 

And here is the view they frame so well.

One of our kitties, Ophelia, on the windowsill

Your turn!  What is your favorite curtain (mis)adventure?  What are your preferences when it comes to window treatments?  Do you like dramatic, romantic windows or does a more straightforward look suit you better?