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an overjoyed sam at the statue of a giant thimble and buttons in toronto

I'm Samantha (Sam), a mechanical engineer, seamstress, crafter, & entrepreneur. Enjoy perusing photos of my sewing and craft-related adventures. I hope my blog brings inspiration and happiness to your day!

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wiwo wednesday: tearing apart a chair

I’m joining Marie for wiwo wednesday (What I’m Working On). I always love to see what my favorite crafters are up to, and in-progress shots often tell an even better story than the finished product.

reupholstered-chreupholstered chair - before

Last week, it was actually warm on the balcony. Instead of “warm with a blanket and mocassins”, it was “warm enough to tear apart a chair in shorts and a t-shirt”. It was the last of these warm days, and I had to take advantage of it.

I bought the chair, above, for $20 at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I think it’s cute, and it will be really cute once it’s covered in a good fabric, rather than this particular shade of “ugliest fabric known to man”. Plus, it’s very wide, so it will be perfect for sitting sideways and reading. Finally, fingers crossed, it looks like it won’t be very difficult to recover.

reupholstered chair - tearing it apart

I dragged the chair onto my balcony in anticipation of the 30-year-old dust that was about to pour out of this thing. That was an excellent decision. The piping was hot-glued on. I started to take the staples out, one by one, but after seeing the number of staples involved, I resorted to tearing the fabric away from the frame. This loosened the staples, and I can pull them all out later – but I wanted to get all the foam and dust out of the chair while I still had a warm balcony to work from. I made sure to pull the fabric carefully so it would retain the pattern shape… but it wasn’t a very gentle process.

diy dust mask: cow bandana

robbing a train… or tearing a chair apart?

The dust was unbelievable. I resorted to tying a sweet bull bandana around my nose and mouth to avoid breathing in 30-year-old foam dust. My mini shop vac was a big help here.

reupholstered chair - tearing it apart

I stripped away the fabric, and then the cotton, and then the burlap (ugh, old burlap!), and then the cardboard. I think this chair was built by an amateur – but I may also be considered an amateur, so it will work out.

Before the sun had gone down on that warm evening, I had the chair to bare bones. I saved the fabric pieces to use as a pattern, and everything else – cotton, foam, that nasty burlap, and even the penny I found inside the cushion – went straight to the trash.

vintage pyrex: cinderella salad bowl

What else have I been working on? Salads from my Pyrex salad bowl, curtains and a sewing lesson for my friend Claire, perfecting pork chops (hint: mojo criollo), and generally adjusting to the current weather that is ANYTHING BUT “warm balcony weather”.

What are you working on this week?

vintage pyrex galore

vintage pyrex assortment on my coffee table

I was still knee-deep in fabric laundry from the rummage sale, but Halloween was approaching and I didn’t have any ideas left. So I stopped by my favorite thrift store since it was a Monday – 25% off everything, every Monday – and I had a good feeling.

No luck with Halloween, but that doesn’t mean no luck.

cart full of vintage pyrex

happy birthday to me!

I made my usual rounds, checking the clothes for costume inspiration (none), checking the furniture just in case, checking the fabric because I love to ever challenge my fabric storage capacities. Housewares comes last in my standard counter-clockwise lap of this particular thrift store, but when I went down the first aisle, I knew it would be good. Two vintage Pyrex bowls! They always sell so quickly – and there were two! What a lucky day!

vintage pyrex assortment on my coffee table

Then I turned down the next aisle, and there were shelves full. I probably stared for a second with my mouth agape… and then I realized another lady was looking intently through them. So I did something slightly rude: I started to grab random Pyrex from the shelf and stack them in my cart. I’d sort later, but I wanted to claim as many as I could.

vintage pyrex - americana and gooseberry

My rival and I quickly made amends. She did not call me out on my rudeness (to be fair, a lot of rudeness happens at this particular store). When we both ignored a particularly ugly print, I laughed, “it’s so ugly!” and she replied, “The uglier the better.” I told her about my incredibly ugly Cinderella bowl that’s tan, with brown speckles and brown mushrooms, and how I just love it, and she laughed, “I think I have a trivet of that!” By the end of the shopping trip, I had relinquished half the contents of my hastily gathered cart, and she had volunteered a few pieces that matched the ones I wanted to buy. We had become Pyrex buddies: crazy together.

vintage pyrex - quilt stars

I ended up with a healthy cart full… 12 in all. I couldn’t pass them up. Almost every single one is in perfect condition, and when one is smooth to the touch on the inside and without scuffs on the outside, I simply must give it a good home. Plus, it was two days after my birthday: I had no chance at trying to deny myself a splurge.

I already have a good collection of Pyrex bowls and casseroles. I hate to call it a collection, but I don’t think I can deny it after this trip. I try and keep them in constant rotation in my kitchen: mixing bowls, salad bowls, casserole dishes; and when I have a group of friends over for dinner, I love using an assortment for serving. I try and keep as many as I can from collecting dust – even though the insides are shiny and white, they look even better when loaded with food.

diy quilted dish drying mat

quilted dish drying mat DIY

It must be Germany fabric week around here, because this project features another fabric from the pile I brought home last summer. This is an American fabric, not German or even European, but it’s still a special reminder of that trip.

I made this dish mat for two reasons: first, I wanted the mat to fit perfectly underneath my drying rack; and second, I was getting really tired of spending money on furnishings and supplies for my apartment (it’s like the list never ends!). This was a quick and easy project that helps me showcase a beloved fabric in a super useful way.

quilted dish drying mat DIY

I took an old white kitchen towel that wasn’t so white anymore, chopped it in half and cut off its binding. I used two layers of towel in between my cotton outer layers.

DIY quilted dish drying mat

the quilting was just disastrous!

I quilted along the lines of the spatula pattern, and everything shifted while I was quilting. It was a mess! But I just trimmed the edges so they were square again. No worries.

As you can see, the stripe of the towel shows through on the yellow side of the dish mat. That’s the bottom, so I don’t care!

quilted dish drying mat DIY

I cut my own binding from the yellow cotton – straight binding, not on the bias. Because of the thickness, I used Heather Bailey’s Quilt Binding Tutorial, a great way to flawlessly bind quilted items, especially when you’re using homemade binding.

After stitching the binding right-to-right to the front of the mat, I decided to go for it and secure the binding to the back side by machine, rather than hand-stitching. I used a ton of clips and managed to catch all the binding, which always feels great.

quilted dish drying mat DIY

Of course, in day-to-day life, the mat hides underneath my dish rack like this. But the cheeriness of the bright spatulas manages to peek through my mountains of dishes, and my countertop stays dry. A win for sure. I’m planning to make another to have on hand for baking days, when I have too many dishes for the dish rack and am forced to lay them out on a towel on the counter. This is a much more elegant solution!

wiwo wednesday: relaxing stitches

This week I’m joining Marie for wiwo wednesday (What I’m Working On). I always love to see what my favorite crafters are up to, and in-progress shots often tell an even better story than the finished product.

wiwo: it's a small world cross stitch

I’m savoring my balcony days before it gets too cold and dark. I already need to bundle under my cozy quilt if I’m going to be sitting still out there, but it’s nice to see the sun for a short while every day before it goes down so early!

I’ve been working on this It’s a Small World cross stitch for a little over a year now. Cross stitching is always a tedious process, especially since I’m not leaving any white space between squares with this design. And, of course, the fact that I’m writing the pattern myself as I go doesn’t make it any faster! But it’s always nice to have a project that allows me to sit and work on a few stitches at a time. This cross stitch has also accompanied me on a few trips! Such a nice, portable craft.

wiwo: gray pillow with orange threads

My other relaxing stitching project is a set of couch pillows inspired by a hand-detailed pillow at Crate & Barrel. I like how the tiny X’s lend just enough texture. This, too, is coming together much more slowly than I’d anticipated, but it’s still wonderful that I get to sit and stitch in the evenings.

What are you working on this week?

berlin map: fabric canvas art

berlin map fabric canvas wall art

Since the day I moved in, my poor white couch has been dying for some color against that white wall. This was obviously not a job my black-and-white photo prints could fix, and I wanted something large, something with character. When I unearthed this gorgeous fabric that I bought in Berlin, a Japanese linen screenprinted with a stylized map of Berlin, I knew it would be the perfect thing to save that wall from its intense whiteness.

paint-speckled canvas frame

I considered buying an artist’s canvas to cover, but in that size they cost more than I like to spend (especially since that fabric was, allegedly, “the most expensive fabric I’ve ever bought”). So I waited, checking the thrift stores for ugly canvases in need of a coverup. Of course, my beloved rummage sale delivered just what I needed: a wooden frame in the perfect size, complete with paint speckles from its former life.

fabric canvas wall art

the size of the frame could not be more perfect.

I doubt I ever would have been able to cut into this fabric, anyway… it’s one of those super-special fabrics that I just love too much to use. Can you relate? Plus, the repeat of this print is huge… in my 1-yard cut I barely have a repeat.

Assembly couldn’t have been easier. I just wrapped the fabric squarely around the sides, pulling tight but not too tight, and used my not-so-trusty staple gun to tack it in place. I took extra care around the corners to make sure they stayed neat and square.

berlin map fabric screenprinted japanese linen

Here’s a detail shot, including a few of my favorite things: Foto-Laden, photo store; Tempelhof, the old Berlin airport, now used for open-air festivals, concerts, etc.; and of course Pommes Frites, which would be incomplete without currywurst on the side, and mayonnaise on top!

It was a simple project that’s become a wonderful statement piece in my apartment. This space gets more colorful by the day.