Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Office Makeover

After a long three months the office is finally done. I’m not even sure I can call it an office anymore, more like an office/sitting room?



Here’s how the office looked before. Yellow walls (not quite as yellow as these photos), turquoise desk, Ikea couch, shag carpet. That’s pretty much it.


The room, as an office, was just fine (well, not terribly stylish) but I really wanted to create more space in these tiny little rooms in the front of my house.

roman shades 2 (8) copy[4]

photo 2

I wanted to move the desk from the main wall to the opposite wall. That way it wouldn’t be the first thing you saw when you walked into my house. The hideous entry way travertine tile was replaced as well as the shag carpet.

photo 1


1) Create a “formal” front room—a place I could visit with guests away from the family room—meaning away from the noisy TV.

2) The room needed to flow into the super tiny piano room adjacent to the foyer. I felt like whenever we played the piano for guests they had to stand right next to you—like a lounge singer. Or sit awkwardly right behind you. That room is the size of a postage stamp. What were the previous owners (who built this house) thinking.

3) The room still needed to have a computer in an open space. I don’t believe in letting children have a computer or internet access in their rooms (too much bad stuff out there) so we still needed a family computer in an open space where I can check up on the kids.

4) A place where Paul and I could get away from the noisy children and be alone to read a good book or visit about our day without eavesdroppers. The doors close in the office so privacy can be created easily.

Those are a lot of goals for a tiny 11 feet x 11 feet room!


Here are some pictures during the remodel—shaggy carpet is still in, walls have been painted white, baseboards are being painted.




Don’t I look cool holding an orbit sander with dust all over my butt. Classy.


My girls have been begging to learn to paint so I figured this was the right project because the carpet was being ripped out. No drop cloths necessary and I didn’t fret over drips. Yes.



Shaggy carpet gone, super dark wood floors are in! It is a small room, only about 11 feet x 11 feet. During the remodel we switched to Google Fiber so I had them put the internet switches (I have no idea what you call those kind of outlets) in the opposite corner of where the desk used to be. That’s why the photo below looks ridiculous with internet wires everywhere.


The wood floors were a real bargain from RC Willey. A really dark stained Hickory. They were $2.99/ft. and with labor I think both rooms (office and adjacent piano room) came to around $1200. What a deal.

Since we went with white walls I wanted to frame the window with some casing otherwise it would be too plain. My father was in town from  California a couple months ago so I enlisted his help. And by help I mean I bought the wood and he did all of the work. He is an amazing carpenter.


Every girl should have a handy dad. (My girls don’t, but I do. Paul has other talents—he’ll be able to do his kids’ taxes.)


Big purchases first. I knew I had a good budget for the sofa and the wingback chair. Once I priced the chair and sofa I realized I would have to bargain shop for everything else. I headed to Alice Lane where everything is luxurious, classy and timeless. If money grew on trees I would have them decorate the entire room floor to ceiling. Ok, they’d decorate my entire house.  A stylist at Alice Lane helped me pick the London Sofa in a gray/taupe velvet. I was giddy when she suggested that sofa because I have had my eye on it ever since I saw it in last year’s Parade of Homes. (Click here to see it in turquoise velvet in that beautiful Parade home.) A note about picking fabrics—this velvet was the cheapest grade of fabric I could get. My first choice was a true gray velvet but that doubled the price of the sofa. So this was a very happy second choice.



Here I am the day the couch arrived a few weeks ago. Slooowly getting there!

office makeover (2)

I love a classic wingback chair but it has to be modernized with simple lines. I went with Kalinda’s Chair in a warm cognac leather. Actually, my husband Paul picked that leather. It’s very manly but I love the crackly-worn finish of it. Timeless.



The cute chrome & glass side table came from Four Chairs furniture. The ottoman is the Klippan footstool from Ikea.  I’ve had it for years but now they’re discontinued. I recovered it once again in this Ikat fabric.


The 5’x8’  navy/white herringbone rug was only $75 at Rugs USA. Love that website.

Finally the desk. I would have loved to have the budget for a fancy desk. Something sleek and modern. But splurging on the couch and leather chair meant going cheap on the desk. For now, this Ikea ensemble works just fine. I first saw it in this office makeover and knew I could make it work too. If it wasn’t for the ugly black printer I think I would like this space better. (Ironically a wireless printer has to be wired to at least one computer. Or at least this one does.)


The Ikea table top is Linnmon, which sits on the Alex cabinet and two silver legs. The file cabinet is Micke which had to be on wheels so we could still close the French doors. The space is a tight space for the desk (and everything that is needed to house a computer) but I am very happy with how this corner looks now, especially considering it was about $120 for everything. Thanks Ikea.


The Janette gray chair is from Overstock. The retro telephone is from Amazon.


The blue bookshelf was dragged from somewhere else in the house. My dad and I sprayed it blue a couple years ago. It was providence to have something fit that space that I didn’t have to pay for. Well, I paid for it years ago, but you know what I mean.



I made a new roman shade for the window.  Don’t forget, I have tutorials on this blog to teach you how to make your own roman shade. See the the sidebar. This is the fabric I used.


The sewing continued by making all the pillows. Below is my favorite pillow for the room. I took blue linen and white linen strips and sewed them together and then made blue/gray piping. Yum.

office makeover (4)

office makeover (1)

All the pillows coordinate but don’t match too much. I hate it when everything is matchy-matchy.  The coral print is Amy Butler. All the fabrics came from


D7K_6527 cropped

Finishing off the pillows are a blue velvet pillow with shell buttons, a plaid men’s suiting pillow, an embroidered pillow with my Triangles Scattered design on linen, and a white linen pillow with my pineapple design also in white.



With white walls (Benjamin Moore White Dove—same as my kitchen cabinets) I knew we had to have lots of colorful artwork.

I’ve been noticing the style right now is a floating frame around a canvas.


I went classic with some Van Gogh prints from Great Big Canvas for the main wall. Make sure you wait until they have a 40-50% coupon. Each canvas framed was $120.


The watercolor is from So Very Happy Art on Etsy. I had it custom framed at Provo Art & Frame with a double mat in navy and white and a bronze-y frame. I always love how they frame my prints.


The watercolor is the perfect modern touch over the very traditional wing chair.



The lamp was purchased at TJ Maxx and was originally white. But I sprayed it orange.


The prints above the desk are from Yao Cheng which I put into cheap frames I’ve had for years. I bought them at Michael’s and love how thick the mats are. The prints are only 8”x10” but with such large frames/mats they look bigger. And custom. You can see in my “before” photos at the beginning of this post that I’ve used these frames for years.


The bookcase needed some art as well but with so much art around the room already I needed something neutral—like a mirror. I found this mirror at Target.

The TJ Maxx silver lamp (dragged from elsewhere in the house) is too short so it is standing on books to give it height. I’m still looking for a better lamp. Most of the accessories are either from TJ Maxx or West Elm. The vintage Brownie camera was found in Nashville last summer at an antique mall. A great score for this amateur hobby photographer.


Finally it’s all done and my family of five can enjoy it for years to come.




Monday, April 14, 2014

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

The Holy Grail of Cinnamon Bread has been found. I’ve made six loaves of this goodness already and plan to make more this week. I’ve given some to a sick friend (better than Tylenol right?), to a friend for her birthday, and to my ungrateful family. I warn you—this bread goes down easy. And by easy I mean I can easily eat 4 slices in 10 minutes and still want to go back for more. Dangerous to your waistline. The first time I made it I left home for half the day, dreaming of eating a couple more slices only to arrive home and find the teenagers had finished it off without saving me the last slice. Savages.


If you don’t already have a digital scale, get one. Please invest $30 because I can see how easy it would be to make this dough too dry by adding too much flour. The dough is VERY sticky and I would have thought something was wrong if I had not weighed out my flour.


The recipe is from The Cook’s Illustrated Baking book. I’m quickly making my way through this amazing book. Have mercy. It’s also on their website.

This bread is not a fast bread. You have to let it rise 4 different times, maybe 5, I can’t remember. Yes, the rise times are kinda short—around half an hour to one hour for each rise. But don’t think you’re gonna make this when you have errands to run. Make it when you are cleaning your house or working from home that day. It’s easy but messy and requires a good 4 hours of your time. Just look at my counters? The dough needs to rest too after I roll it up—yup, more rise time. You have to let it rest like this for a few minutes before you cut the logs in half lengthwise and twist together.



Once twisted, they go in a pan, rise some more, get a bath with an egg, and then finally you can bake.


You’ll have to cover them with foil the last little bit in the oven or else they’ll burn. They do get really brown but don’t worry, they won’t burn. Unless you skip the foil tent. Don’t do that.


I am not a huge fan of raisins in desserts (definitely not in my cinnamon rolls) but this recipe convinced me otherwise. My son thinks it needs even more raisins but I like the current ratio. I don’t use golden raisins—just regular brown ones. The texture is light and fluffy which you can’t say about most cinnamon swirl breads. Not heavy at all! It has just the right amount of sweetness too. Perfect for toasting and adding butter.


I would suggest getting the recipe from the website (watching the video really helps too) or the book because the illustrations really do help. This just isn’t a beginner recipe for bakers without the extra help. Here’s the written recipe though if you don’t need photos/video help. (A paid subscription is necessary to to view videos. Best money I spend every year.)


Friday, April 04, 2014

Embroidered Wallet Tutorial

I’ve been making my own wallets for about 6 years now. Wallets are fun to make because it’s something you see, everyday, well assuming you go shopping everyday. I always get lots of compliments from store clerks when I pull out my embroidered wallet. Nobody else will have your wallet—totally unique. So what are you waiting for, throw out that faux leather boring black wallet away and make yourself a new one!Obviously you can use printed fabric if you don’t have an embroidery machine.


Disclaimer, this not a beginner’s project. The hardest part will be binding the wallet at the end. If you have ever bound a quilt this will be super easy. If not, please, please, PLEASE, practice binding a small item first—like maybe making some pot holders? The second hardest part will be installing the zipper. It will help if you have some zipper experience but if not, I will do my best to help you. If you are new to zipper sewing please read through this project first and if it sounds difficult, practice first! If you are a beginner and you want to try this project, go ahead. Just know that your first wallet (or two) might be gifts to little girls playing house. And there’s nuttin’ wrong with that.

This is a blue linen wallet with my Triangles Stacked design stitched for an ombre effect—starting with dark navy blue then gradually fading all the way to white.


Here’s a wallet with beige linen, stitched with the Mum design.


Here’s the inside:


Here’s the back:



What you’ll need: 

1. Regular weight linen or cotton. I used the all-purpose linen (5oz. weight) found at Linen embroiders beautifully—never puckers. I also used solid Kona cottons or other patterned quilting weight cottons for the interior. Don’t use canvas or denim—too heavy. Well, a lightweight denim or lightweight twill will work fine. Starch all fabrics heavily. Pre-washing the fabrics doesn’t matter for this project as you won’t be tossing your wallet in the wash—spot clean the wallet only.

2. Heavy fusible interfacing. I used Craft Fuse by Pellon.

3. Magnetic snap. I buy mine at Joann Fabrics (3 for $1.99) but most craft stores should have them nowadays. Velcro can be used instead but it just isn’t as professional looking. 

4. 7-inch zipper

While your fabric embroiders you’ll be making the interior of the wallet. (Assuming you have two machines. If not, at least cut out your wallet while the embroidery process is going.)So let’s get the embroidery machine going first!


Choose a design that is around 5”x7” or up to 8”x8” if possible. If you only have a 4”x4” hoop, no problem.   For this example I chose the honeycombs design size 5”x8”.


Hoop your heavily-starched linen and embroider your design. Obviously I am using a piece of fabric way bigger than I’ll need. Make sure your piece of fabric is cut at least 14”x14”. That will give you more flexibility when it comes time for placement of the design on your wallet.



While the exterior of the wallet is being embroidered, we will make the interior of the wallet. First cut the interior piece 11”x11”. We will eventually cut this way down but it’s easier to work with excess fabric and square up later. Interface this piece of fabric.



These can hold stacks of cards so don’t be afraid that this only make 6 slots.

Cut out your four interior credit card pockets, each in the following sizes: 8”x10” (1), 7”x10” (1), 6”x10”(2)

Take one of the 6”x10” pieces and fold it lengthwise, right sides together. Sew the long side, turn right side out and press.


For the remaining pockets, fold them in half on the long side, wrong sides together. Press and starch heavily.


If you stack all four pockets, this is how they should look now. Pockets #1-3 have raw edges along the bottom, pocket #4 has a seam along the bottom.


Now we need to sew all the card pockets. A credit card is 2 1/4” x 3 1/2”.


Take piece #1 and #2 and stack them, raw edges even along the bottom. Mark from the top of pocket #1 down 2 1/4” inches. Mark a line all the way across and stitch together.


Trim off a little bit of pocket #2 to help avoid bulk for the final topstitching. Not too much, maybe 1/2”


Repeat for pocket #3


Stitch and trim pocket #3


Now you need to trim about 1/4” off of pocket #1. Y0u don’t have to do this step but it helps for the final topstitching if there isn’t a lot of bulky fabric underneath the final topstitching.


Repeat for pocket #4, but this time you’ll be moving pocket #4 down about 1/4” from the newly-cut raw edge of pocket #1. Pin together.


Sew your horizontal line 2 1/4” like you did on the other pockets. And then stitch a vertical line through all four layers directly through all of the pockets. Use a triple stitch for strength.


Place your pockets 1 1/2” down from the inside body edge and pin in place. (You’ll have an extra body fabric of about a 1/2” on both sides of the pockets.)


Sew the pockets to the body along the sides and the bottom. Then you’ll sew a vertical line 3 3/4” away from the middle line. The purpose of this line is to keep the credit cards tightly held in the pockets otherwise they’ll be loose and fall out. That would be bad if you lost a credit card. Bad.


Also, please match your thread unlike myself. I chose to use white thread even though the pocket is black just so you could see my stitching lines for this tutorial. But it would look so much better if it matched. Matching threads hides uneven lines as well.


For the zipper pouch, cut 4 pieces of fabric 5”x10”. (Again we will cut this down to finished size later.) Take one piece of pouch fabric and lay the 7” zipper face down centered:


Lay another piece of pouch fabric on top of the zipper, right side down. (In the photo below I’ve already done the other side so don’t be confused by the photo.)


You can either use your zipper foot, or just move the needle all the way to the left and sew, feeling the coils of the zipper teeth between your fabric as a guide. (If this is confusing, google “how to sew a zipper pouch” and watch some tutorials. I know I kinda speed through the process.)


This is what it looks like now:


Fold fabric together, wrong sides together, then pull zipper taut away from fabric, iron and topstitch.


Repeat with the remaining fabric pieces. It should now look like this from the front….


….and this from the back.


Fold your pouch in half along the zipper, iron, and trim bottom so that it is even and so that pouch is 4” wide.


Baste all four layers together along the bottom.


Using a 1/4” seam allowance, sew zipper pouch (along bottom) to bottom of interior body. (Optional: To make the final wallet a little more compact you can opt to leave a half-inch space of the body along the bottom. In other words, don’t line up the raw edge of the zipper pouch with the raw edge of the body bottom. Move the zipper pouch up about 1/2”. )


Now it’s time to finally trim up the wallet to the final size! Square up the inside body to approximately 8.5”x9”. I say approximately because the goal is to have about 1/2”-3/4” border on the sides of the zipper (you don’t want to sew through the metal of the zipper and break a needle like I have when doing the final binding). The black and pink version pictured here ended up being larger, around 10.5”x8.75”. It’s all good!



Trimming the sides:


You also want to have about 1/2-3/4” border at the top of wallet.


Now the body is all trimmed up! This is the final size of your wallet. Here it is in the blue. Final measurement of the blue: 8.75”x9”.


Now it’s time to figure out the placement of your embroidery design for the exterior. this is the blue triangle version we need to cut out. I used the Triangles Stacked design.


This is the black honeycomb version we need to cut out.


Take your squared up interior piece and lay it on top of your embroidered piece. (If possible, trace the interior body piece onto thin tissue paper and use that instead.)


I opted to use the tissue pattern for the black honeycomb wallet so I could see through the paper and more easily figure out where I wanted my embroidery design placed. My placement was off a little for blue triangle wallet. I didn’t want to make that mistake again! It would help if you marked the tissue paper as to where the front will be so you don’t get mixed up.


Fold the interior piece in half and move it around the embroidered linen until you have the ideal placement. The ideal placement would be as much of the design on the front as possible without the design going too close to any of the edges. You don’t want to have to puncture any of the embroidery for the magnetic snap. You also don’t want the embroidery design going off the edge as all your beautiful stitches will be a waste of time if you’re just going to cut them off!


Using the body interior piece as a pattern, (or a tissue pattern) cut out the body exterior (the embroidered linen).


Once it is cut out you can place the two body pieces together, pinned, and if you fold it in half you’ll be able to see how your final wallet is going to look. Pretty!


I like to interface the body exterior along the middle since the middle section is where the snap will go and also where the strap will be sewn. You can interface the entire exterior body if your fabric is very thin. For this 5-oz. linen it wasn’t necessary.


Attach the snap 1 1/2’ up from the edge and centered.


Now to make the strap. Cut out a piece of linen 7”x4” and a piece of interfacing 1/2” smaller. Fuse together.


Iron up all the edges 1/2”. Attach the other half of the snap, centered and 1” from the edge.


Pin the strap closed and topstitch around all four sides about 1/8” inch. If possible, use your zipper foot to make going around the snap easier.


Pin the strap to the back of the wallet, centered. The goal here is to have the strap just ever-so-slightly loose right now. Once the wallet is filled with 100-dollar-bills, coins, and credit cards it will be thicker. So this ‘dry’ fitting is important. Too tight and you’ll wrinkle the wallet. Too loose and your wallet will shift and your stuff will fall out.


Sew the strap down with about a 1” x-pattern.



There are some amazing tutorials out there for binding so I am not going to reinvent the wheel. I like this one from You go Girl, this one from Bloomin’ Workshop. Follow any method you  like for a finished 1/2” binding.

You’ll need to make about 1 1/4” yards of binding. I don’t cut my strips on the bias but on the cross grain. That  means your strips should be a bit stretchy.


To prep your wallet for binding I like to serge the edges (don’t cut off any of the wallet though with the serger knives!). Or use the zig-zag on your sewing machine.


I attach the binding to the inside of the wallet first.


Then flip it over to the exterior of the wallet and topstitch.


Doesn’t that topstitching look lovely? This honeycombs design is one of my favorites. Click here for Honeycombs.


Here’s the inside of wallet. I used the Lady Fern design on the inside.


I do NOT suggest rounding the corners of your wallet. In early attempts at writing this tutorial I thought it would be easier to teach you to bind rounded corners rather than having to miter square corners. Wrong. It doesn’t look as good as the square corners and getting the rounded corners to look perfect was impossible. (And yes, I did cut the pink on the true 45-degree bias for that one.)

Triangles Scattered design on orange linen. The triangles are stitched all in various shades of pink. The pink binding is 100% quilting-weight cotton. 


Triangles Stacked on blue linen with Kona cotton binding.



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