Darcy Lewis Design

Adventures in "Good Enough" Design

Archive for the category “Crafty”

Baldwin Center (Act II)

You may recall the remade garments I’m patterning for the Baldwin Center, a community charity in Pontiac, MI.  This has been keeping me too busy to post as much as usual, but here are the latest two garments (which were featured on TV last week!!):

We started with a lovely sandy tan silk shirt (with a wonderful hand!).  I cut it in half from underarm to underarm.

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I liked the idea of preserving the button placket as a functional detail that could be undone all the up (Oooh!  How risque!), but obviously it need a bit of dressing up and if we were going to have the buttons open, there might as well be something to look at!  So I took black lace yardage and made a second skirt a HAIR smaller than the silk – so they laid together nicely and didn’t cramp your movements.  I also took a strip of our French black velvet burnout lace knit (which was a nice blend of a tan base with black velvet flocking), and made an elastic waist casing at the top.  I scalloped the lace and left it long enough to just show underneath, but it still needed a little more…. So I encased a 2″ strip of very narrow elastic in the side seam allowance at the hem to ruch it up a little and added cream and tan satin ribbon bows to each side.  The finished look is ideal for a day-to-evening outfit!  Simply pair with a cream blouse and black jacket!

 

The second garment started life as a lovely blue satin robe with self belt.  I really wanted to use that belt, but there wasn’t much fabric in the robe.  So I cut a whole halter top front out of it, and paired it with some blue and white lace from the shop.  The belt becomes the tie that holds the front and back together in a pretty bow, while the otherwise-plain front gets some drama with some blue-gray ombred fringe!

What do you think?  I want to make this halter top for me!

DIY Fabric Storage Bins for Tall Bolts

I have many tall bolts of fabric for my business, and I stick them along the walls, bracketed by bookshelves – but this is really inefficient – they slide, shift, and fall; they take up lots of space, and it’s difficult to move them.  I’ve been wanting a professional solution, but it’s been SHOCKINGLY hard to find anything, even the nicely wheely bins that JoAnn Fabrics has – even from store fitting companies!! JoAnn Fabrics is, of course, supplied by their HQ so they have no idea where it comes from or where to buy….

The one thing I could find on the market (which I can’t show you, because it seems to be discontinued), was close to $1,000…. not ideal…. Ok, let’s be real, not even remotely in my budget!

SO! My awesome husband designed and built rolling bins for me that I can also use for my booth at Sew Expo!!

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Total Cost: About $150                                                                                                                             Total Time: About 6 hours – including shopping for lumber and having it cut

I was bad and didn’t take in process photos – largely because he built it while I wasn’t around, but also because I’m bad at this blogging thing  😉  (mea culpa)

So, the big thing was that the inside of the box be smooth and safe for the fabric, and the easiest way to make sure of that was to totally line the inside of the wooden box with a cardboard box. We had some 4.5 moving boxes left over from our move, and they are about 18″ x 24″ and about 18″ tall – these were almost the same dimensions as the JoAnn Fabric bins, so they were perfect – and with the flaps up, the sides come up to the right height and the wooden boxes become totally fabric-safe!

The sides are framed in with 2x4s – Home Depot did all the cutting for us – so things are not quite perfectly aligned, but close enough.  We used corner brackets for the frame for extra stability – these were the single most expensive part of the project. We used self-drilling screws to make our life easier – you don’t have to pre-drill the holes, just sink the screws in. The sides are 1/4″ OSB (oriented strand board), and I covered the sides with a roll of heavy wallpaper I had gotten from the free bin of a design store that just wanted this partial roll leftover from a project gone.

The bottoms are 1/2″ OSB, heavily screwed together, and then there are 4 small wheels – 1 at each corner – fully swiveling, non-braking, 90lb-bearing.  These are only screwed in at 3 holes, since the forth screw would be in the middle of the floor, and thus in our way…

We will be mounting big thick handles on the sides to make it easier to move and lift.

You like my pretty shabby chic industrial-look fabric storage bins??!!

 

These instructions are a bit rough, so if you have any questions, please let me know!!

 

 

Sew Expo and a Workshop with Stephanie Kimura!!

I know I’ve been AWOL for a month and a half, but I’ve been so busy trying to grow my business, and getting to do a workshop with author and designer Stephanie Kimura (a really delightful woman!), and teaching and getting ready to teach a half-day class at Sew Expo in Novi, MI at the end of September (on the subject of 3-D Quilting Techniques!!), AND studying for my LSAT exams!  That’s right… in addition to all the sewing and design stuff I’m doing (and will continue to do), I am applying for law school – with the intent of learning art-related law (intellectual property and small business) so I can help more artists!

Meanwhile, in Stephanie’s workshop we were supposed to make a little eye glass case… well, I decided that instead of folding my fabrics in half, I would leave them full size and make a larger (and for me, much more useful) purse.  So I used her kit inside and outside pieces as the front and back of my purse, but then was really stuck on what to do with the inside lining?!  I didn’t want to leave it as plain muslin with my seam allowances showing!  She had some pretty batiks for sale, but in turquoise, which wasn’t really what I was looking for…. LAZINESS TO THE RESCUE!!  I HAPPENED to have a large book of upholstery fabric swatches in my car that I hadn’t gotten around to taking out, and there just HAPPENED to be a Japanese embroidered koi design and complimentary solid in the book!!  So I cut those out and got really lucky – the paper backing peeled cleanly off with just a touch of the iron.  It left the fabric a little sticky, but since it was the lining, that was ok – it would just hold together better!  I also changed the construction of the purse a little, but I’m pretty happy with the results!  I will admit, stuffing the fabric into the channels of the snap-top frame was a @#$@% !!!  And this is why I don’t make purses….(I say as I work on the design of another purse for a magazine! Though this one DOES NOT use a top frame!)

I haven’t decided yet about straps, beading, and other embellishments, though I do HAPPEN to have some beautiful metal enamel antique-looking cherry blossom buttons which would make a gorgeous embellishment…

But here is the purse in its current state (try not to notice the smudge of dried glue on the red fabric inside where it meets the frame… we put glue in the channels then rammed that fabric up there until it held… it oozed a little…)

 

Beautiful Wool Plaid Couch Throw

You may be familiar with those upholstery sample books – they look like this:

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Well, I acquired one of BEAUTIFUL virgin wools in several designs, mainly plaids, and some jacquards in matching colors.  I HAD TO HAVE IT! And I had to make something with it.  This is the plaids book:

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I took it apart (no mean feat – these stupid books are usually held together with an amazing combination of glue and industrial spike staples), but even so, the pieces were small, and the backs were mounted on paper:

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I decided I could make a throw blanket for the couch – always seem to be in short supply (Why?  We have enough blankets.  Is there some kind of couch monster that eats them?  Why do I never have one handy when I’m cold???).  Which left me with a usable area that was only about 5″ x 7″…  Really wanted the whole sample…without the paper…. I was really crushing on that plaid wool….  So I searched the internet for tips, and found that the paper backing MIGHT come off if I ironed it – get it hot enough to melt or just loosen the glue….

So I put a movie on, and I ironed for glory…  Less than an hour later, I had a stack of 40 squares, each now 7″ x 10″ – with varying amounts of paper and glue residue on their backs…

Here are two – you can see the amount of variance!

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Laid them all out on my design table, and then quickly sewed everything together.  Then I decided (why?!) that I should try FELTING the blanket – make the blanket a little fluffier and less crisp and flat, and also would help remove the paper and glue remains on the backs.

So, tossed the whole thing in the washer (recommend doing this with tennis balls, I couldn’t FIND my special already-dead washing machine tennis balls, and while my awesome husband volunteered to go buy more in the middle of the night (I WANTED IT NOW!!!), I declined and washed it without… ), ran it through on extra-hot, extra-agitation, extra rinse cycle, and then dried it.

Obviously, the plaids and the jacquards did not shrink evenly, but I’m pretty happy with the overall look (also trying to learn to be ok with puckers and shrinkage).  It still needs to be backed (in herringbone wool?), and I may put a border around it to make it a little larger, but I’m pleased with the results of my roughly 4 hours of work and free wool sample book…

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My husband finally confessed that it was a little too rustic/homespun for his taste, but I love the colors (and the wool!  and the PLAID!!)…  So, the next time you find one of those books, think about what you can do with them, don’t just walk away from it!!

Have you ever made something from one of those? Or from upholstery samples in general?  I’d love to see it!

A Return to Subject – My Office!

FINALLY, we are getting back to the original point of this – my adventures in art!

Here’s the Before and After if you just want the summary without my long-winded exposition…

If you are still reading, the exposition:

One of the HUGE frustrations with the house has been my business offices and warehousing rooms.  When we first bought the house, I decided my main office MUST have a color change and a mural (hand-painted by me of course – because I have SO much free time and energy….NOT!), and my sewing studio was so hideously painted I really had no choice but to redo it.  My space for my Beautiful Textiles business had a mocked-up cutting table which was less than ideal and was slowly killing me.

After a YEAR of being mostly sick and not working on anything, the mural in the office is finally officially half done!  Hope to have the other half done this week… Husband helped me put up trim last weekend.  Originally, I’d planned on painting faux wainscotting panels on the wall, but now we are undecided so I think I will just leave the bottom half of the wall plain for now, and live with it a little and see what I want to do.

So, here is my project story:

I started with this:

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Removed the floating shelves (which were incorrectly installed and so took a chunk of wall with them, which required patching…) and also took down the valance (not sure if it will go back up ever – probably not).  This room was WAY too beige for me (I’m a color girl!), and I envisioned a room in deep eggplant – something more like this:

dark purple wall

I wanted a deep aubergine color that SANG – nothing too dark, and I liked the contrast of the white to brighten it.  Then I saw this and decided to do wainscotting and bottom panels:

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Only, the bottom wainscotting panels should look (I decided) like those hand-drawn frames…  (This was an especially insane idea because I’m too OCD for this unevenness…)

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and decided to do that on the bottom outlined in the purple instead of real white panels.  Oh, and of course, they should have a complicated Chinese knot in the corners to tie in with the top part of the walls….Which I had suddenly decided should have a beautiful Chinoiserie stenciled design – kinda like this:

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First, this is a little too busy for me, second, the stencils I was seeing cost hundredof dollars.  One hundred wasn’t really my budget, but several?  Forget it!!  So I figured I’d hand-paint it, how hard could THAT be?!   Because I’m insane  picky an artist, I auditioned the whole look and paint colors first by buying some white posterboard at the dollar store, and some 3oz tester cans of the colors I wanted, and painted a very rough idea of what I wanted on the posterboard:

office mockup

Isn’t it fabulous?!  I can’t paint birds, or butterflies, or anything live, so this was going to be SO. MUCH. FUN. (Not at all crazy-making… no, no,… why would you even think that…)

I was planning out my sparser version, when I stumbled on this FABULOUS hand-painted De Gournay silk wallpaper….

de gournay plum blossom

That was it.  I was SO in love!  It was sparse, but not cold, elegant and beautiful, and…. so unbelievably expensive it wasn’t even in the realm of my reality.  So I found the best photo of the design I could (which wasn’t much back then – a blurry, rough design sketch.  Looking things up to write this, I find there are now MUCH better pictures now available!  Oh well…), and used that as my reference to do my painting (Bonus – very few birds or other creatures!).  I decided on a fairly monochromatic color scheme to enhance the elegant simplicity I was going for, and went with metallic silver branches, with white blossoms (the same white as the bottom part of the wall), and purple centers (the same as the top part).

 

Our walls repeatedly rejected paint, so we finally hired someone to do the base coat.  I think they were VERY sorry for the low price they’d quoted for such a “simple job”.  It took him about 6 coats of paint, 2 different brands, before we ended up with our base coat!  I drew a line around the wall where the chair rail trim would go, and told him not to worry about getting it neat there, just paint the top part purple and the bottom white.

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Then we dithered about white chair rail or dark wood that almost exactly matched the existing trim….

And finally, almost a year later, we have this (note, it’s not quite done!!)

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Oh, and of course, you need a terrible photo of my adorable husband putting up my trim:

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I’ve been asked to include close-ups of my flowers and some details:

So, there you have it… I’m not going to put De Gournay out of business, but I like it (well mostly… Like most artists, I hate a lot of my work and critique it endlessly. I should probably go to therapy about this, but then I wouldn’t have any hobbies…But remember, this is about GOOD ENOUGH…), and I can’t wait for it to be finished and then to start unpacking and furnishing the room….

PLEASE DO NOT USE OR REPOST ANY OF THESE IMAGES WITHOUT PROPER CREDIT AND LINK-BACK!!  Thank you!

 

 

The Sound of Silence…

I know I haven’t posted in a couple months.  I spent half of January visiting the wonderful textile markets of LA, and friends in Seattle, came back in Feb. with the flu and spent the rest of the month in bed, exhausted.

I’m feeling creatively stifled and desperate to make something and break out of this ‘being sick’ cloud.  To that end, I’ve been frantically combing through Pinterest trying to find some little thing to jumpstart me and get me going, and I have to say, I’M SO FRUSTRATED with what I find!!  I have complained about this before, but I honestly don’t understand how some of these people become so popular!

So many of the projects I see look really exciting but are subject to the following failings:

  • The Impossible Score:  The entire project hinges on this one incredibly fabulous piece they ‘happened’ to score for $5 at the local flea market/thrift store/craigslist, but that none of us will ever find – let alone for $5!
  • The Non-Tutorial:  They include ‘tutorials’ which actually somehow take up an entire page with pictures and text and yet have no actual instructions or information on how to copy the look.
  • The Partial Tutorial: “We painted this filing cabinet with Benjamin Moore paint in Petal Pink.”  Sounds helpful, doesn’t it?  But no information on how they prepped the cabinet to take the paint (painting a metal filing cabinet is NOT like painting your wall!), or on how they removed the embedded hardware to repaint that.
  • The Budget Makeover:  This often uses the Impossible Score and the Non-Tutorial as part of it, but the other part is that one person’s budget is another’s luxury.  One ‘designer’ talked about how she sold the entire contents of her apartment in just 6 days on Craigslist (I can’t even get people to reliably pick up high-demand items in less than 6 days! And to sell them that fast, they were probably priced fairly cheaply.), then redid her entire apartment with a really small budget – starting with the small $300 used rug, custom flooring in other rooms, custom furniture (no mention of how much those were).  Bonus point for me?  The before and after photos of the apartment were identical!  Same color schemes, same furniture styles, it just looked like a minor rearrangement of decorations and small furniture.

(Bonus rant: Who are these people who keep posting about “how to stage a bookshelf” by painting the inside back wall and arranging, like, 5 books on each shelf, interspersed with objets d’art and stunning ‘casual’ photos?!?!??!  (Like most of us, I don’t have any stunning ‘casual’ photos.  Does anyone really want to see my blurry awkward family photos?!)  My bookshelves are entirely solidly filled with books, there is no room for objets d’art, you can’t see the back of the case, and I still need more bookshelves despite that being the primary furniture in our house!)

But remember, YOU, TOO, CAN HAVE THIS SAME LOOK!!!  Do you find these problems too?  What drives you crazy about these blogs and Pinterest boards?

Baking!

Gosh, I know I’ve been so bad at keeping this updated!  It seems like I wake up, do the bare minimum to keep my business and life running, and suddenly it’s 1am and bedtime!  Every day feels like nothing got done, but I know that isn’t true and vast amounts of unpacking, settling in, organizing, and LIVING are happening.

So, some highlights of the past month (as proof 😉  ):

ONE OF MY JACKETS WAS FEATURED ON TELEVISION!

On a local morning talk show, to be precise!  That was tremendously exciting, and I only found out about it the night before!  They’d seen my work in one of the galleries I show in here, and decided to grab it!

Also, have been asked to teach several workshops, some open to the public, some not.  So if you are local, or visiting the Greater Detroit area and you’re a member of ASG, I will be doing 3D Quilting in March and Velvet Embossing in May for 2 different local chapters.  You are welcome to come join.

Tried my hand at decorating for winter for the first time this year.  Hopefully, will improve with experience 😉

Strung one of our smallest trees with ornaments (no lights ;(  )…

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Hung up 2 large lanterns filled with twinkle lights and ornaments… 1 at the end of the drive, 1 on the front porch by the door.P1000229

I decorated the wreath myself!  (Very proud of my first attempt 😉  ) – this is hung by the garage door we use most.P1000230

Put a little reindeer by the porch… he needed a nose, but not red (I hate the story of Rudolph.  Moral: People will come to like you when they realize they need you?!), gold seemed to match…P1000248

My husband decided this wasn’t enough, so he wrapped ME in lights and planted me on the porch.  We are not amused….P1000234

 

AND, I’ve spent the past month baking up a storm!!!  Husband waited (3 times!) until the last minute to ask me to make something for the company bake sale fundraiser for Toys for Tots, then there was the company potluck, then he wanted something to bring as a present for colleagues, then he ambushes me with a demand for more (he miscounted), PLUS could I make a special batch for one person who is gluten-free (well, his diet is).  Ok, that was actually more like 5 times, wasn’t it?

So I bought a ton of the mini-loaf pans (Bed, Bath, and Beyond has a set of 4 for $10, don’t forget your coupon!) and an average cake recipe divides neatly into 4 minis!  Yay math!

I made lots of cranberry cakes, many different versions! (Note, I skipped the nuts in all these recipes because they were for gifts and I didn’t know who had allergies.)

Our favorite ended up being this delicious coffee-cake version from Cookie Monster Cooking – though I skipped the almond extract.  (Confession: The first time I made it, I didn’t have a spring-form pan handy, so I poured the batter into a bundt cake pan, carefully putting the streusel topping on the bottom of the pan first. This worked out shockingly well!!!  It was QUITE good!)

Topped with the frosted cranberries from Life, Love, and Sugar (which were awesomely good!).  We don’t like white chocolate, so I skipped that part of the LLS recipe, and found that without it the cake was ok – very dense and heavy, but we preferred the lighter, more open crumb of the CMC recipe.

For the gluten-free recipe, I found this recipe from Martha Stewart which really did come out quite well!!  I used the gluten-free flour blend from Krusteaz that was available at my Kroger grocery.

I found a super handy trick for using mini-loaf pans, that surely will work just as well with almost any pan… Use a strip of parchment paper (does not have to full cover the bottom of the pan, can be less than half the pan in width) to line the pan first, pour your batter on top of this, and then gently pull the tabs of paper up to release the baked cake!  I’ve seen recipes that call for lining the pans, but never suggesting just a little strip.  It makes all the difference in the world!  Those little cakes popped right out, neat as could be.  Any batter that had stuck to the paper and burnt on could just be brushed off gently and did not adhere to the cake, and all the little cakes (I made about 50 mini and full size cakes this month, and have a request for another 2 dozen!) came out beautifully!

Here is what it looks like before, waiting to receive the batter… (forgot to take the other pictures (during and after), so just try to imagine how they’d look…)

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Happy holidays, everyone!!!  Wishing you all a year full of joy, health, happiness, friendship, peace, and love!

Bad DIY…

I’m looking at lots of DIY tutorials for ideas to solve some of the furnishing problems I have, and am really frustrated by the number of them that offer things like:

“LEARN HOW TO MAKE THIS FABULOUS FRENCH CHANDELIER FOR LESS THAN $20!!”

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I’m thinking, wow, $20?!  Yes, please tell me how to DIY it for less than $20!

“Step 1: I take this gorgeous chandelier I happened to already have that I found at the flea market for 5 dollars 50 years ago that’s just been sitting around since my great grandma (an heiress) left it to me, and I spray paint it to change the color, and I add 3 replacement crystals for the ones that were missing, and

TA-DA!!!  A fabulous French chandelier that cost $19.95 for 2 cans of spray paint and 3 crystals, and looks like a million bucks!!”

Are you as sick of these idiotic teaser projects as I am?

Repainting Grandma’s Room…

Spent the past week visiting the in-laws and ended up spending most of it repainting Grandma’s bedroom.  Had a lot of fun faux finishing it.  This was definitely an example of Good Enough…the paint store told me that no matter what I used, I wouldn’t be able to cover the dark green with one coat of anything – even paint and primer in one.  Not only did we cover the green (with pale orchid!) in one coat, but the edge at the ceiling and floor couldn’t be perfectly done (previous painters had smeared some of the dark green on the ceiling, couldn’t cover that), but on the next visit we will put up crown moulding and maybe rip up the old stained carpet and lay some wood floors and put on a nice baseboard, repaint the ceiling and trim…  This will totally do her for the year until we go out again and finish the job.

Grandma’s room before – the photo cannot begin to capture how dark and depressing this color really was. Darkest army green, that sucked up all the light in the room and made it look like a miserable troll cave. Poor grandma….

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Grandma’s room after… I repainted it this lovely soft orchid color, and then sponged cream and gold over it, relayering the orchid over it where the cream was too heavy.  I also found the bedframe (before she had none – just the bed with no frame) and repainted that too in gloss white. So much nicer!!

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Which room in your house do you want to redo and why?

The Joys of Meetup – Building Your Own Community

One of the hardest parts for me of being a self-employed creative is that you basically work in isolation.  It’s also very hard to build friendships among artists, all of whom are focused on their art and families, and who may be jealous or competitive.  So I was thrilled to find several artistic groups on Meetup that were near me and offered the kind of community I have so sorely missed.  It’s great to be able to talk to others in the same ‘language’ about art, compare projects, brainstorm, problem-solve, collaborate, etc.

How have you found your artistic community and what are you still looking for?

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