Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Decorating with Four Kinds of Wallpaper and Why Anyone Would Do This to a Rental

I haven't been doing much sewing in the last six months. We remodeled and sold our house and moved to an apartment and I have been busy doing some painting and wallpapering in our new place*. Wallpaper seemed to have gone out of fashion for many years and now it is back with some great new designs. I got the idea after watching Flipping Out with Jeff Lewis (available on Hulu and totally addictive even if you usually aren't into reality TV like me) and the amazing paper they used, I knew I wanted to decorate with it, too.

There are four different wallpapers that I worked with and I wanted to give an overview on what it was like to work with all of them. Hopefully, if you are looking at buying wallpaper, it will save you some research time. I used pre-pasted, paste the wall, self-stick removable, and lastly, used fabric as wall paper.

*see explanation below if you are curious about why anyone would to this to a rental.

1. Pre-pasted Wallpaper

The pre-pasted wall paper is the first one I tried.  As you can gather from the name, the paper has paste on it already and the idea is to dip it in water before putting it on the wall, kind of like licking a stamp before putting it on an envelope.   It wasn't my favorite method.   I had to get a shallow plastic container that was wide enough for the paper, fill it with water, dip it all quickly, drip all over the floor, then try and keep it from sticking to itself and everything else (including my hair and face) while trying to have it stick only to the wall. It was also difficult to keep the wet paper from folding over itself and making creases that marred the design.

The first strip was the hardest because I didn't know what to expect.  That is the one with some of the folding blemishes that showed up in the black part of the design.   Luckily, they were all in black areas, so I fixed those with some permanent black marker.  After that I learned to control it a little better and you really don't notice the spots that were blemished. 

I love how it looks. I got the paper at Amazon, but I can't find the exact paper any more. I see similar ones here and here.

Bottom line: a little tricky to install and messy.

2. Paste the Wall Paper

I love this wallpaper.  I can't say enough nice things about it. I also got it from Amazon and it looks like they still have the same paper in stock

As the name implies, this is not pre-pasted - you need to apply the paste to the wall, then apply the paper to it.  I was a little apprehensive about the process since it required extra tools and I didn't know what kind of paste to get.  Here is a link to some paste which you can get online, but I just went to Home Depot and got one they had in stock and it worked great and I avoided the shipping charges.  I also saw special wallpaper paste brushes which look like small brooms, but I bought a cheap paint roller and tray and they worked great - no special brushes needed. You can get the roller and tray at Home Depot or Lowe's for about the same price, which is handy if you are there for the paste, anyway.

I poured the paste in the paint tray, then rolled it on the wall in a generous layer with the roller as if it were paint.  Then, after measuring and cutting, I put the first paper strip on the wall.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much easier and less messy than the pre-pasted. 

Bottom line: This was relatively easy and mess-free.

On a side note, I see that the same wallpaper has been seen in Mad Men. I didn't know until after I installed it.  It is famous!

*And now a little back-story...

As I mentioned above, I live in a rented apartment.  And I feel like I need to give a little explanation about the fact that I am wallpapering a rental.  We sold our house in October and it was hard to find a place to rent.  There were plenty of apartments, but the choices were so corporate with no character.  When we saw this place, it  was the right price and location, but also it is the farthest thing from corporate cookie cutter as it gets.

The building was constructed in 1959 and many things haven't changed since it was built.  We have original cabinetry, counter tops, sinks, bathtubs (powder blue and pink!), tile work (with atomic designs) and gorgeous wood floors.  We also have no dishwasher and no washer/dryer in the apartment, so there are trade-offs.

We live in a hipster neighborhood with some seriously ironic facial hair everywhere.  Our neighbors are artists and yoga instructors with names like Giovanni and Skye.  They are pickers and thrift store resellers and wait staff at the local hip restaurants.  And they have done some serious renovations on their rental apartments beyond what is wise.  Far beyond.

The picture below is the art installation outside the window of one of my neighbor's apartment.  That is a mannequin with a TV for an upper body next to a pink lion and flamingo.  I am not sure of the message it is trying to convey, I just know I really, really like living near it.

Here is the inside one of my neighbor's places taken from the window. I was walking by his place and he had left the curtains open.  (I am aware that I have no shame, for the record.)  He has put in wood paneling and decorated everything like it is 1971.
I love the antique TV set and the lights. In the next photo you get a better view of the wood paneling  and the deer head and bear skins.  I could do without the dead animal menagerie, but, hey, it isn't my apartment.
Here you see his orange chiminea/fireplace hooked up to nothing.  I hope he doesn't use it, but you never know.

Other neighbors have done equally crazy things to their places, including installing custom wall book cases and putting in a four foot high sculpture made of broken mirror pieces where the guest bathtub is because they "don't take baths, anyway". One neighbor mentioned his next task was to take out the popcorn ceiling... on his rental.  These people are nuts.

I wondered how everyone could get away with these changes.  I even made a quick call to the owner of the building and asked before making any changes.  He just wants it to look "OK" after we move out, which seems scarily subjective to me, but apparently he has a wide range of what "OK" means.  I even talked to the maintenance guy who said, "yeah, we never hold anyone accountable for anything around here."  That was all I needed. They were beautiful words.

All this is to explain why painting and wallpapering our apartment did not seem so crazy.  I just wanted to make it a little more homey during the time when we do not own our own home.  My next post will be showing the removable self-stick wallpaper and how-to use fabric as wallpaper with pictures of the process.  If I am lucky I will also be able to snap a quick picture of the bust my downstairs neighbor made out of an old typewriter he found in alley behind our building.  He welded it together (in his apartment!) and didn't burn anything down which is always a plus.  But definitely more wallpaper.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

New Project - A Wedding Dress

After 6 months, I am finally able to sew again. I had to pack up my sewing room while we were fixing up our house to sell it and keep it in storage while we were selling. It actually sold to the very first person who looked at it, but until the deal is finished, you still show the house, so the process took many months.  It is exhausting to constantly be living in a showroom. I also completely underestimated how creepy it is to have strangers in your house when you are not there. I would see little stuff randomly moved around, lights left on or off, footprints in the carpet. Nothing dramatic, but still, people you don't know are touching your stuff. It has an ick factor for me.

We are now renting an apartment and are since it is no longer a showplace, I finally got my sewing machines out of storage and am focused on a new project - I am going to sew my wedding dress for our wedding in May.

I have been drooling over two different dresses.  This one, I found on the Vogue Patterns Facebook page.
I love the champagne colored ribbon.  It really makes the dress.  It looks like there is a clasp at the front, which I think is a clever plan for not having to tie the ribbon by hand.  You can sew a perfect bow and then just attach it like a belt.  I am thinking I could add a little elastic to the sides of the knot under the bow, as well.  You can find a picture of the dress on Vogue's blog, as well.
 It is so pretty.  I love the lace sleeves and the buttons in the back.  Apparently, the person who sewed it used this pattern from Vintage Vogue V1084.
 And I can't find it on a blog anywhere, but it looks like there have been some serious adjustments to the pattern.  The front neckline looks lowered, the back bow has been taken out and replaced with buttons and a slip underneath looks like it was made into a camisole and attached.

The next dress I saw online was this one from  BHLDN.  The price is listed at $1,300 (on sale!).  It is a way above my price range and that makes buying it not an option, but just look at it.
For the BHLDN dress, I think it is closer to V8766, which I have sewn twice - once in view C, (the strapless version) and once in view F, which I made from a stretch knit.  The advantage to using this pattern is that I would only have to add some narrow straps for the slip, then sew the other view in lace and combine them.
The BHDLN dress might also be close to B5748.  I have sewn view B before and was fairly happy with the results.  With this one, I'd  make some adjustments to the skirt, since a circle skirt won't work with the border on the lace.
I bought seven yards of lace with a nice border. I also bought some champagne colored charmeuse for the slip.  It is so pretty in person, but the photo doesn't do it justice.  I don't normally spend very much on fabric, but I had to make an exception for the lace.  It was almost 30.00 a yard.  It seems very reasonable for this kind of lace, but way above what I usually spend. 
My next task is to make a trial dress in some much cheaper fabric. I don't want to cut into my nice fabric right away.  I have a couple of different options that I picked up on sale.  I can't decide which pattern I will start with - maybe it will be a combination of all three.  With any luck, I could end up with a nice cocktail dress.  To be continued...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Destashing for a Good Cause

This is a short post today about de-stashing for a good cause. We are getting ready to sell our house and we are going through all of the stuff we have accumulated in 10 years. I had to come face-to face with how much fabric I had accumulated over the years.  It was borderline "looks-like-a-hoarder-lives-here" territory. I got a lot of it I got when I was still learning what fabrics work best for the things I like to sew.  It was a great deal or really pretty, but some of it, although it is great fabric, will never really work for me.

I was thinking about donating it all to Goodwill with some furniture and clothing we are getting rid of, but I was worried about it just being thrown away.  I recently saw a report that mentioned a shocking number of items donated to thrift stores are thrown away.  It isn't that the thrift store is being wasteful, it is that a lot of people donate junk.  They just don't have the resources to clean or repair things to get it to a sellable state.
My Donation - 12 bags worth
I didn't want the fabric to land in the junk yard because the fine people at Goodwill might not sew or recognize it as anything but trash.  I searched the internet and stumbled across fantastic charity called Stitches of Love.  They are currently working on a Back to School clothing drive for children.  They also have other charities they sew for, so they don't waste any fabric.  I emailed them, and the coordinator, Juereta, responded right away.  She even drove to my house to take the fabric! She was so lovely!

When we are done moving, I am going to contact Juereta again to volunteer some time.  I'm glad I found them! If you are in the Phoenix area and looking to de-stash or volunteer, check them out! I am sure other cities have similar organizations, as well. 
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