better than malted milk :: a cross stitched chair

before

I had a wee bit of the glums today.  It happens.  Usually a week or so before my period.  Must be a huge hormonal swing of some sort.  I feel it creeping up, find myself feeling very sad, wonder why life is so hard, then remember to tell myself … ah, you feel glum because it’s just that time of the month.  So I stood in the pantry doorway and ate malted milk powder from the jar.  It didn’t really help.  And it made my mouth gummy and I choked a bit and had to dash down a glass of water.

Much better to text Julian in Las Vegas so he knows you feel glum and will call (which he did, straight away, he’s lovely like that).  Then find something simple to do that will let you just be with the feeling but also allow you to find some sweetness. Tried and true recipe for beating the glums.

So today, I vacuumed.  It wasn’t especially sweet, but it did make me feel virtuous – I loathe vacuuming – actually, I loathe all housework.  This allowed me to look at the bathroom with a critical eye – the bath tub had the blue bentwood chair and the clothes hamper sitting in it.  Not exactly conducive to bathing.  So I pulled it all out and cleaned the bath.  Again – big ticks on the virtuous scale – I loathe cleaning the bathroom.

Then I had the blue chair to do something with.  And as I looked at that lovely blue rattan … I thought of something I’d seen on Pinterest!  Check it out … cute as! Simple.  And something that would definitely provide a bit of sweetness :-)
book and fabric

So I got out some red gingham … I bought this gingham at the Vinnies in Bega on our spring break.  It was 5 metres for $3.  Only it was half price day.  So I got 5 metres for $1.50!  I made a skirt with a floral reprodepot trim, now I’ve cross stitched a chair, and I still have heaps left!  That’s a sweet bargain.

And I flipped through one of my all time favourite cross stitch books for a pretty pattern that had just the right number of stitches – couldn’t be more than 24 squares.

the pattern

Perfect!  And making this snowflake on that beautiful blue with the red and white gingham would look very Nordic.  Sweet and perfect!

the strips

I cut (hacked) my strips (just with the scissors) 3 squares wide.  Man do I love fabric that comes with self cutting lines.

fu

Settled onto the hallway floor with my sweet companion.  The only thing she won’t do with me is vacuum.  She’s a sensible dog.

stitching

And set to work.  As more and more of the pattern appeared, I felt those glums subsiding.  I felt stronger, more cheerful … content.  Especially when Abby came home.  There’s nothing like the lovely company of my Abby, Julian, or Mum to shove those glums away.

done

And in less than 2 hours … voila!  I must add … this is a hard rubbish chair.  Picked up from the footpath on the Nepean Highway on our way to Southlands one day.  It has a pair – the pair doesn’t have a seat.  I’m now inspired to finally buy that rattan and fix it just so’s I can cross stitch it!

Can you imagine a farm house kitchen with these lovely bentwood chairs in all different colours pushed in around a scrubbed table, all with red gingham cross stitch?  Oh I can.  It will be an immensely popular photo on Pinterest (hee! hee! hee!) And the best bit is – I see these chairs on the side of the road regularly – yes!

seat

closeup back

texture

Sigh …. look at that nubbly texture … so pretty.  And I love how, with a wee bit of distance, the gingham makes it look like wonderfully thread variegated yarn.

sideon back

And the  colours …. swoon!

side on

Yes, a quick bit of gingham cross stitch was a lovely balm on what was shaping up to be a pretty flat day.  And for that I am very grateful.

 

do you remember the old dresser?

attach to shelf edge with tacks

Do you remember the old dresser that Mum and I wheeled/dragged 2km home last year?  Oh my goodness that was so funny!  Every time Mum and I drive past the house we collected it from (well, their footpath) I have a giggle and think of it. It may well be our most intrepid hard rubbish adventure ever.

Well, a lovely reader asked me recently what became of it.  And I realised I didn’t ever share the restoration of the dresser with you.  Probably because it has not currently reached a finish I am totally pleased with.  I spent a few days scrubbing it back til the wood was smooth and clean.  I oiled it with Danish Oil and then, with Abby’s help, lugged it into the Spare ‘Oom.  Yes, we do live in the Tardis.

But it didn’t have any doors on the lower half.  They’d been removed by a previous owner for goodness only knows what reason (actually, I DO know just the reason – I’ve removed many doors so as to make for easier restoration and then left them gathering dust, propped up in the corner of the shed, before I finally become fed up with looking at their gaping “owner”  and talk Julian into putting them back on – I’m useless with a screw driver).  Alas, these ones were not only not put back on but they didn’t make it out to the footpath either.

So I fancied I could make some doors – and bought some highly inappropriate wood and fiddled about with a tenon saw and mitre box for a weekend and produced nothing useful. Never mind – when I’m an earning nurse, I shall pay the lovely cabinet maker down the road to make me three.

However, back to the tale of what the dresser is doing now.  So there it was in the Spare ‘Oom with clutter on the bottom shelves (not hidden by the missing doors) and a motley collection of children’s novels on the shelves.  It never really sang.

Then one morning recently I was looking at the china which sat on the shelves near the back door – it gets putridly dirty with a dark grey dust that I can only imagine comes from the main road and tram tracks we live on – imagine our lungs! – thinking it really needed to sit somewhere cleaner so that we could actually use it!  Up until this moment, every time we wanted to use it, we had to wash it in hot soapy water first.  Ugh!

Behind me stood the lovely, completely under utilised kitchen dresser – if you turn to your left whilst standing at our kitchen sink you look straight into the Spare ‘Oom and at the dresser.  I knew exactly what needed to happen!

dresser before

China was shifted and washed.  Shelves were washed.  Books were moved (yes they’ll get dusty now but we’re not going to be eating off them anytime soon). China was neatly arranged on dresser.  Hmmm … much nicer than books but the bottom shelves still looked a bit ew.  The solution – fabric of course!  I might be overwhelmed by a tenon saw and timber, but there’s almost nothing I can’t achieve with fabric!

dresser after

As I’m sure you’ll believe, I initially thought of trooping up the road to Darn Cheap and BUYING some fabric.  But then I reminded myself that stashes are for using, not storing, so hunted through the sewing shed instead.  And came up with the perfect, huge piece of Civil War cotton I bought yonks ago to use as a backing on a quilt that has not been finished.  Pft! I don’t believe in being precious with my fabrics’ original purposes :-) And let’s face, when said quilt is done, it will be stitched onto a blanket.

So I made a gorgeous, voluminous, gathered skirt.  Whacked it on with blued tacks.  Then whipped up some lovely prairie points and whacked them on too.  Now … a sensible person would have whacked on the prairie points BEFORE putting the china on the shelves.  I’ve never claimed to be sensible.  It was such a thrilling experience – hoping that nothing would leap off the shelves or chip its neighbour with each blow of the hammer.  It didn’t :-)

denby teddy corner close up of tack teacups green teaset pyrex japanese dollies coloured cups

Now, I’m truly happy with the old kitchen dresser.  It looks so cheery and bright.  The china is all sparkly and clean and ready/easy to use.  And at night, when I look in from the kitchen this is the pretty sight that greets me.

so cosy

Lovely!  And so worth that 2 km madcap trek and a bit of quilt backing.

the ultimate transformation from horror to sweet :: a sewing desk

sad desk

If you happen to follow my instagram, you may have noticed that I picked up a truly dreadful piece of hard rubbish a couple of weeks back.  I was on my way into university to have documents certified for the final grad interview the next day, when I spied an old 60s (?) desk outside a block of dodgy flats.  It was perched amongst a heap of awful rubbish – the kind where you wonder what on earth the people who threw it all there were thinking and why on earth didn’t they put it in their wheelie bins – but I could spy potential.

I checked the time – still had an hour to get to uni and get my documents sorted.  I pulled over, flipped the back seats down and approached the desk.  Ugh.  It was filthy.  But I had a vision :-)  I picked the desk up – the drawers were full.  Gingerly, I opened them – the top drawer had mostly old sewing stuff – but all damp and full of rubbish as well.  The next three drawers were worse.  There were old cards and family photos – some in frames – and just so many bits and pieces.  And it was all icky.  I have a very high ick tolerance – but this was  …  shudder-worthy.  I spied a couple of barely filled shopping bags – stinking of cigarette ash – and carefully tipped the contents of the drawers into them.  Shudder.

By the time I was done, my hands felt revolting and I only had 20 minutes before the clinical office closed at the university.  Hopeless.  So it was back home with the desk.  Unload.  A thorough hand washing with the hottest water I could bear.  And a couple of hours later, when the clinical office was reopened (they keep the most unhelpful hours), I set off once again.

even grafittied very scratched

off with the top

I sent Mum several photos of my fabulous find – oh yes, she exclaimed, I can really see why you just had to stop for it.  NOT.  It was grim.  The top was a complete write-off.  The drawer handles were buggered.  The legs were scratched.  It had even been grafittied.  Oh it was grim.

But I just knew it’s old timber would come up lovely and just where it would fit perfectly into our home and lives.  So last week, on a warm sunny day, I pulled on my summer work clothes and a hat, gathered supplies and set to work, removing all that grime and spray paint and old varnish.  Sadly, it was not a metho scrub moment.  It needed the full strength paint stripper.  And even that was tough work.  But as soon as I began washing the stripper off, I could see that old timber beginning to gleam.

I am the worst at anthropomorphising – I always imagine the timber of my furniture sighing with relief as I scrub it free of decades of dirt and varnish.  Then, it must wriggle with delight as I rub in the Danish oil.  It’s the very odd occasion I can bring myself to paint bare timber – I imagine the poor grain suffocating under the heavy wetness of paint.  Awful!  So Danish oil it is.

scrape and scrub

I spent many many hours pondering what to replace the top with and finally settled on a thick piece of ply from the hardware store that I would cover with some lovely Orla Kiely oilcloth from The Fabric Store in Fitzroy.  I even drove in and bought the jolly fabric – and it was even lovelier in real life than it was on the screen.

But then, I called into Ikea on the way home for new knobs for the desk drawers – the old ones were crap – I love their little black brushed metal knobs – and checked the bargain corner (of course).  There was a kitchen bench top that I had admired online but dismissed from consideration because it was way to expensive.  Only this one wasn’t.  It was a display piece with scuff marks (which rubbed off in seconds with a bit of steel wool) and dramatically reduced.  Eeeeeee!

finished

In a perfect world, the top would be a bit smaller – but hey!  All the more space to craft and it sits as sturdy as.  Can you believe the transformation?!?  I’m in awe.  Look at how that timber gleams.  The knobs are so cute.  It’s a miracle!

only a hint

It wasn’t until I looked at this photo later that I realised you can still see the outlines of the tagging.  I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed that panel.  It’s ply – and that spray paint just got deep into the grain and – well, that’s the best I could do.  But you know – in real life you just don’t notice it.  And besides – it’s quite funny really.  It’s like this conservative, simple, modest little desk is having a wink and saying “Oh yeah, I’ve seen it all!”

drawers rounded end closeup

And the scratches – most of them are gone – there’s still a few of the deeper ones left, but the wood came up so beautifully rich and syruppy that now they’re just character.  Signs of a life busily led.

original top beautiful top

Now, just in case you didn’t get a good look at the desk top, we have before … hideous old fake wood melamine WITH GRAFITTI !  And after – beautiful, solid, smooth, crisp, clean wood.  I’ve oiled it too.

with machine

And look who looks right at home there!  By the way – have I ever told you the story of this little green machine – my Husqvarna Viking 21 (circa 1950s)?  She too is hard rubbish.  Yep.  I found her having her cords chopped off by a very grumpy man behind an op shop.  “Oh no!  I exclaimed, “that’s a beautiful old Husqvarna!”  “It’s rubbish.” he snarled, shoved her back into her original tartan travelling case and HURLED HER INTO A SKIP!!!!  “Oh that’s terrible!”  I protested.  “You don’t know what you’re throwing away!”  And I promptly climbed into the skip and pulled her back out.  He ignored me.

I took the sweet little green machine straight to the sewing machine shop in Camberwell where I have my machines serviced and they fixed her up.  They had to find new cords for her power and foot, but they did.  And the service man said she was that kind of beauty they just don’t make any more.  He loved her – and loved the story too.  She sews like a dream – lovely straight, strong stitches, and makes the prettiest hum.  If I’ve told you all this before, I am sorry :-)  I’m getting a bit like dear old Grandad – can’t remember which stories I’ve shared with which folk!  But it’s such a good story anyway – yes? :-)

drawers with placemats tool drawer

And here’s a glimpse of the sweet little desk all set up and ready for action!  Wait til you see where she is!

p.s. I was right to stop wasn’t I :-)

 

the great DMC wool caper

cold and dark

Monday morning … Abby returned to school, Mum and Lucy headed back across the Gippsland to their beachside home, and I had the whole day ahead of me.  It was so bleak and cold – with a heavy hand of dampness to the air – the lovely thing to do would be light the lamps, make tea and settle into an armchair with my knitting and a nice audio book.  Yes!

No.  As those of you who follow along on my Instagram might have noticed, there’s been quite the DMC wool caper going on here at Bootville over the last week.  Spotlight – Australia’s large fabric/craft/homewares merchant – has decided – in all its wisdom – to stop selling DMC embroidery wool.  Instead they are going to stock Semco.  What?  I hear you say.  That’s right – Semco.  A much cheaper range of wool – poorer quality, far smaller colour range and let’s face it – who designs wool embroidery and needlepoint for Semco – um, nobody.  I sought out the manager of the embroidery section of my local Spotlight store and had words – thoughtful, reasonable, polite, grown up words but words nonetheless.  I didn’t want her to be under any illusion that replacing DMC wool with Semco was in any way a considerate thing to do for a business that purports to love and support creativity and those who create.

In fact – I related the story shared with me by the manager of the embroidery section of my local Spotlight 15 years ago when they stopped selling needlepoint canvas – the manager that suggested Spotlight’s business model at the time was to stock what all the local independent stores were stocking, undercut them on price because they could, then once they’d put the little independents out of business – drop any lines that weren’t highly profitable for them with a quick turnover – like needlepoint canvas.  She agreed that yes, that did seem a reasonable assumption to make and no, she could not understand the logic of the national buyer at all.  Nice!  During those years I watched 4 stores I regularly visited and attended classes at – all run by imaginative and passionate women who DID love and support creativity and those who create – who put their whole lives into building communities of creativity and passion – close because they simply couldn’t compete with the juggernaut that is Spotlight.

Does this make me spit my teeth out.  Why yes it does.  But we won’t go any further down this ranty path :-)  Suffice to say – I have spent the grocery budget and more on DMC embroidery wool – it’s just hard to stop when it’s only 25c a skein, you truly adore needlepoint and wool embroidery, and you know it’s going to be that much harder to buy from now on.

And to make the bundles of wool piling up on my sideboards and bookshelves even sweeter – I’d recently hard rubbished a dear little chest of drawers that I thought would be perfect for storing my suddenly growing stash.  I had visions of Julian cutting me little thin dividers of ply and all my wool neatly and numerically arranged.  As it turns out – I’m hopeless at judging size and it’s a wee bit on the small side.  There’ll be no little thin dividers of ply :-)  Instead, there’s mildly organised squashing.  Oh well.

bit grotty

So back to Monday morning – I put on my dirty clothes, dragged the chest out into the driveway and got to work.  I was hopeful it was a job for my usual friends – steelwool and metho – alas it was a stripper number and I had to go buy a tin of toxic burning jelly – ugh.

usual companions lovely flame damaged top

I scraped and scrubbed and scraped and scrubbed until all the old varnish was off, my fingers were stiff and frozen, and my nose was dripping onto my shirt.  There was certainly more I could have achieved if I’d wanted to put in another day of sanding – but I didn’t.  Julian was home on Wednesday morning and I needed this baby oiled, inside and stuffed.

all open

By Tuesday night it was!

neutrals and browns yellows and greens mostly blues pinks purples and reds

There are four drawers – first is neutrals, greys and browns.  Abby and I debated over many of these colours – it would seem I see purple everywhere whereas Abby swore black and blue it was grey.  I capitulated.  Next is yellows, oranges and greens – no problems here.  Third down are the end of the greens, the beginning of the purples and the all the blues.  I feel a bit light on with the blues but … the drawers are full so I’m not sure if I’ll go back for more.  Finally – the rest of the purples (sans all those lovely purples Abby shoved into the grey and brown drawer), all of the pinks and reds.  I DID go back for pinks – and oh my, I now have a lot – I probably have enough to needlepoint bed curtains!

close up blues close up orange close up pinks

Oh I am such a lover of colour.  I keep opening the drawers and just staring dreamily into all that gorgeousness.  And yet – as I begin to think of new projects I feel a shiver of fear – oh no!  I can’t use my lovely colours!  If I use that green there’ll be none left.  They’ll run out!  Yeeeeeees.  Wee bit irrational.

lower left corner lovely wood

And the chest of drawers – despite its quick turnaround, I’m very pleased with the end result and think the lovely flamey grain of the wood has come up a warm, syruppy treat.  I do love me some old and pretty wood :-)

with it's own needlepoint for company with skull top

Here it is – tucked into the corner of the library.  I hung a needlepoint over it to make it feel at home – one of the first needlepoints I did – stitched through the summer of Abby’s birth.  It’s from Mary Norden’s book of Folk Needlepoint – the Swedish Horseman – he has a mate who’s just waiting on the background to be finished.  One day they’ll hang side by side.  And it’s a lovely match for the chess set – the top of the chest really didn’t come up that well – totally different wood to the rest – no warmth at all.  So an all covering chess board is just the ticket.  With a little art deco mirror (from my Nanny Dougall’s beach side cottage in Harrington) and a sheep’s skull (Grandad collected for Abby when he went way out west with Mum a few years back) to give it that old library feel!

jump in

Look at that – so much prettiness.  I just want to sit down, finish the needlepoint pattern I’m working on – it will be a cushion cover based on Turkish rugs that will fit a 24 inch square duck feather cushion insert I have – and get stitching.  Alas, I have a clinical portfolio to edit and deliver to university by this afternoon.  I’d better hop to it.

And shut that tempting drawer.