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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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There’s a big blank wall in my kitchen that has been crying out to me for a fantastic piece of art. The space is between cabinets, just above the cutting board where I spend 98% of my time doing prep work.

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Big. Blank. Space.

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So it clearly needs something. A couple times over the last several months I’ve browsed art.com and allposters.com for cheap prints that would work there. The main colors in the kitchen/dining area are orangey wood (cabinets and table), leaf green, and a bit of yellow, red, and cobalt to boot. I would never advise picking art because it matches your room colors – my mom has worked in the fine art world for decades and at least partly because of her influence I believe you should hang art that you love, whether it cost $1 or $1000. Still, I want something that looks like it belongs in here.

Another factor is that I’m most frequently drawn to landscapes that use most of the colors of the rainbow. It’s a plus if they include curves of coastline. Witness some of my other favorite pieces of art from around the house.  Sorry about the reflections on some of these!

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See? I’m predictable. Plenty of blue, some red, some yellow, scenic.  This is totally my favorite type of piece. Although thankfully I don’t have a house full of landscapes – sometimes I go for quirky graphic pieces too.

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(The text under the lobster says, “The next time You find Yourself in a Pinch to deliver the Ultimate in Foil Stamping and Blind Embossing, Remeber, Aladdin Litho…For quality work, guaranteed to get You out of hot Water in a Snap!”  It’s a trade show sample back from when my parents owned a typesetting business in the 80’s.  Awesome.)

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Yes, that is an internet meme that I blew up to 8×10 and framed.

So as for the kitchen, I found this piece I love for $40 after coupon, shipping, and tax, and am wondering whether I should click on that oh-so-easy Paypal button. I’m planning to sit on the decision for at least 24 hours anyway, but I wanted to know your vote. It’s about $15 more than I was initially planning to spend, but apart from the lines of image itself I also love the colors and the brush technique and the illusion of flatness in the depth of field.

This is the piece – it’s about 26″x20″ before framing and matting – with a digital frame rendered in.  I’d get a frame that fits the image from the thrift store.

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And here’s a mockup of it framed and in situ, Before/After.

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This painting is so “me” and yet I find I’m hesitant to pull the trigger simply because I’ve been looking so long.  Maybe I’ll find something just as awesome for less money… maybe it doesn’t look as good in person… maybe I finally found something I love for almost the right price and I should get it?  What do you think?

I found the greatest runner and matching throw rug at Target for the kitchen/dining room.  They are mostly cotton with a bit of sisal as well, and they have a diamond pattern weave.  I know my house and the boots that tromp through it from the backyard, so I’m thrilled that they’re already dirt colored!  The runner goes in front of the french doors, and the 2×3 rug goes at the other end of the room in front of the kitchen sink.  I love how this adds cohesion across the space.  It took a while to find something that looked good, would hide dirt tracked in through the french doors, AND was machine washable.  These three things do not often go together.  I paid a bit more than I usually would ($35 for the runner, maybe $12 for the throw rug?) because they were Just Right, and sometimes that is worth loosening the frugal wallet for.

However, it ended up that I had a problem with the runner.

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Actually it’s not Ana-Banana there who is the problem cat (that would be Ophelia) but she happened to be the kitty on the rug at the time I was taking pictures.  Ophelia plays soccer all night long with that little red ball you can see in the upper left, and she leaves the runner like this or worse.  Aargh!  Perpetually straightening the runner is not my idea of fun.

I tried non-slip rug pads already, but that did not help very much.

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So I needed some sort of solution that would cause the runner to lie flat, while still allowing it to be washed when needed.  I googled my situation but the internet failed me for once.  Instead I was forced to brainstorm.  Rhino tape – basically permanent on both the rug and the floor, not an option. Thumbtacks won’t work with linoleum over cement.  I considered sewing some sort of flat metal or stiff plastic strip along the long edges of the runner , maybe threading it through loops on the underside with little pockets for the ends to go into so that it would be removable for washing, but that just seemed too fussy and labor intensive.

Finally I figured out a solution.  I wanted this runner to lie flat and heavy like one of those indoor/outdoor mats with rubber backing, you know, these guys:

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So I figured out that if I got rubber matting at Home Depot and velcroed the runner to the matting, I would have my heavy, flat runner that was still removable from the matting for washing!  Genius!

They had rolls of various runner material that you could purchase in any length and I chose some medium-weight clear vinyl in a length a few inches shorter than the runner.

It was too wide (I didn’t want it to show underneath) so I marked my desired width at a few intervals down the length of the matting.

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Then I grabbed the nearest straight edge and drew a line for cutting.

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Kitchen scissors were sufficient to cut through the medium weight vinyl.

Next, I grabbed my velcro.  I had some big velcro dots on hand with sticky adhesive backing, which turned out perfectly.  There were 4 dot-sets per package, so I put one at each corner.  I may come back with another package and add some in the middle if it seems like it needs it.

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First I stuck the stiffer side of the velcro dot to the vinyl mat. 

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Then I placed the runner over the matting where I wanted it, making sure it was centered, and carefully folded back the ends of the runner to reveal the velcro on the matting.  Next I actually velcroed the second velcro dot to the first one so that the adhesive was pointing to the ceiling and I had a double dot stuck to the matting.  This way I didn’t have to worry about trying to line up the dots on two faces of material. 

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Lastly, I folded the runner back down over the matting and stood on the corners to get the adhesive from the soft & fuzzy velcro to stick well to the runner.  The softer side of the velcro seems more washable so that’s why I put that one on the washable runner.  I peeled it back to make sure it took, and voila!

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Perfect, just like I wanted.

I may take some heavy-duty thread and sew that upper dot onto the runner in a couple spots just to make sure it holds fast over time and in the wash.  But basically this has worked soooo well to keep the runner flat despite boots and cats and boots and cats messing with it.  Plus, I can still wash it!

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I am happy.

Hope this helps someone solve their problem with a runner on a slippery floor!  PS.  You may want to wash and dry your runner first before doing this, as you could get some shrinkage.

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?