Halloween Inspiration

As the hubby and I were cashing in the first day of our annual Disneyland passes, I was excited to see the park at Halloween time. We even picked up a little inspiration for our own house at the Haunted Mansion.

Of course Disneyland was sure to boast happy pumpkin versions of favorite characters our front so as not to scare the kiddies.

DSCN3565 DSCN3579 The whole of Main Street was decked out with pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns, and general fall decor.DSCN3571 DSCN3568 DSCN3577 In the New Orleans portion of the park though, things got a little more dark.DSCN3574 The Haunted Mansion was spectacularly decorated for the season, and was especially fun to see at night. It’s lined with flickering flameless candles, glowing jack-o-lanterns, skulls, cobwebs, and black and purple ribbons. DSCN3606 So we brought some of those ideas back home with us. We threw a Halloween party and practically plastered the house in cobwebs (equipped with little black spiders) in time for the festivities.DSCN3638 We lined the mantel with flickering flameless candles and left the main lamp in the living room off to create a dark, spooky glow about the room.DSCN3637 I created one pumpkin and skull vignette on the coffee table…DSCN3642

…and another on the dining room table. I think it sort of says “Maybe we’ll eat YOU for dinner.”
DSCN3644 One friend pointed out that we could not have gotten to our books if we’d wanted to! But it’s amazing what a plethora of cobwebs will do to make even the newest of book collections seem ancient.DSCN3643 And of course, no Halloween house would be complete without ghosts! The great thing about placing this one in the window is that it also creates a ghost silhouette when looking into the house from outside. A perfect greeting for party guests as they made their way up the steps to our front door.DSCN3639 I found these little black birds online and perched them atop the lamps, silhouetting them a bit and creating the illusion that they are looking down on you, maybe even watching you.DSCN3641 DSCN3647 We even strung cobwebs from the dining room ceiling, creating a seeming canopy of creepy crawlies.DSCN3645 DSCN3648 Outside next to the beer cooler, we created a spooky graveyard, complete with bones and dismembered limbs.DSCN3630 Even an unfortunate soul “unearthed” in the vegetable garden.DSCN3631 And of course more flameless candles in a row of jack-o-lanterns on the hedge and in a lantern by our outdoor lounge furniture.DSCN3635 DSCN3636What is your favorite thing to see in Halloween decorations this time of year?

Let’s catch up. I’ve missed you.

Well, it’s been a wild two weeks! Between my awesome new job and final projects for three classes, let’s just say there’s been no time to feel bored. So what have I been up to?

I made a lighting fixture out of birch veneer strips. (It lives in my guest room now.)

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I designed a lighting  plan for a theoretical Downtown LA loft.

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PS. I love these table lamps I used in the lighting layout!

I redesigned my living room. (Stay tuned for a low budget “how-to” living room makeover, with a partial execution of this plan!)

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I created a repeating pattern with gouache paint.

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I finished a full rendering of Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion.

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And I bought an awesome second-hand drafting table. After a little elbow grease it’s as good as new! I’ll be spending the better part of the next three month at this set up.

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I’m looking forward to getting back to regular blogging again. I’ve missed you! Have you missed me?

Happy Tuesday, Anecdote Lovers!

Happy Tuesday everyone, and I hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend! I just wanted to post a quick update. For the first time since I started this blog, I am taking a short hiatus while I finish up my final projects for the summer quarter. I miss writing, and finding new adventures to write about! But I promise to be back in two weeks with new anecdotes.

Here’s a peek at one of the projects I’ve been working on. Enjoy!

Handmade Lighting Fixture

Pendant light made from birch veneer and copper wire.

The Goat Can Knit

(aka Vanna White Makes Yarn: Part 2)

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about starting back up an old knitting hobby. It had been quite a while since I had last done any knitting, and I told you I’d let you know how it went. Well, so far so good! I will admit it took a little practice, but once you get into a rhythm, it starts feeling easy and fun!

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The first scarf I made with Vanna White’s yarn turned out pretty well. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, sometimes having to unravel a row or two in order to go back and try again. Plus, with this one I decided to worry less about it being perfect and more about learning from those mistakes. Sometimes I’d pick up an extra loop, or drop one. Once the scarf got long enough, I added the stripe of color after looping together the scarf instead of before hand, and that made the stripe of color turn out tighter than the rest of the scarf. But all in all, it looks good on and it’s still warm!

Once I had learned a few things and built up a little confidence in my knitting abilities, I decided to make another one. This one was a birthday present for my best friend on the east coast. (And they are about to get pummeled with snow, so I sent it to her just in time for her to bundle up with it!)

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This time a chose a thicker yarn, part wool, because I knew she’d need the warmth more than I do here in California. I also chose a brighter color, because while I mentioned in Vanna White Makes Yarn that I’m an earth tone kind of gal, this friend is definitely a bright colors kind of gal. Plus, even though it’s still cold on the east coast, the first day of Spring is still right around the corner! For this scarf I still didn’t quite follow the exact pattern that inspired this whole project, but I was close, and it turned out great!

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I will definitely be continuing to knit. I’ll probably try a couple more of the cowls until I get it just right, but since spring is coming I also want to experiment with some lighter projects. I want to get back into doing more crocheting too. So stay tuned, there may be more yarn projects in my future!

Do you have any fun projects in the works? I’d love to hear about it!

DIY Burlap Throw Pillow Covers

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When it came to furnishing the living room in my new house, it was easy! I would see the right piece of furniture (like the coffee table or sofa) and know right away it was perfect. Even the rug was an easy decision. But for some reason, finding the right accessories has been less intuitive, especially because I really want to bring out some of the yellow that’s in the detailing of the rug. So after much searching for the perfect throw pillow cases and not really finding exactly what I wanted, I decided to make them instead!

This project is simple, and would be a great way to refresh your own living room for spring. I used gray and yellow for my colors, but you can substitute these colors for whatever colors work well in your own living room. And have fun with it!

You Will Need

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  • burlap fabric – neutral  (1 yd)
  • burlap fabric – color of your choice (1 yd)
  • scissors
  • rotary cutter (optional)
  • cutting mat (if you use a rotary cutter)
  • ruler (at least 20+ inches long; quilting ruler is ideal)
  • pen
  • thread in two colors of your choice
  • upholstery thread (optional)
  • safety pins
  • hook-and-eye (2 sets)
  • slim darning needle (optional)
  • standard sewing needle
  • sewing machine
  • iron

Step One – cut your fabric

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You will need a square 20” x 20” in your neutral burlap, a square 20” x 20” in your color burlap, and a rectangle 10” x 20” in your color burlap. Be aware that burlap can be a little “wiggly” to work with. (I know that’s not a technical term, but you’ll see what I mean.) The straight line you cut on may not perfectly align with the weave of the burlap, so be sure to create your own straight line and stick with it.

Step Two – draw on your line design

I recommend starting with the outside lines on either side and work your way inward. I started with lines 4” from each side by marking a 4” point toward the top and again at the bottom, and then connecting the dots.

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Do your best to make sure the edge of the fabric stays straight and then use the length of your ruler to draw the whole line top to bottom. My next 3 lines on either side worked their way inward 1” at a time. Then I left 2” between the next line, followed by a series of lines ¼” apart from each other in the center. This pattern makes for a nice variation in the design while still looking structured, clean, and intentional.

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Step Three – sew along your line design

This is where those colors start to come to life! Use the lines you drew to be sure the needle on your sewing machine stays in a straight line as your fabric moves through it.

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Each time you you finish one line of thread, gently stretch it out to avoid bunching.

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Depending on your fabric and how bold you want your colors to show, you may want to go over it a couple of times. I found that three runs for each line gave me the look I wanted. Also, remember you have 2 colors, so alternate the colors you use for each line. You can do all your lines of one color on every other draw line, then switch the thread in your sewing machine and do the alternating lines you skipped the first time around with your second color.

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**Be sure that the thread in your bobbin always matches the thread in your needle; we will be flipping this design over and using the back side as the outward-facing side of the pillow cover.

When you are done with the line design, flip it over and take a look at what will soon be the front of your pillow. Pretty cool, huh? You can start to see it coming together! Because you will be using what was the back of the sewn fabric as the front of your pillow, you may notice some stray threads from where you may have lost a thread and had to pick it back up, or maybe the top end of the thread from your previous line got caught up in the next one. Since the weave of the burlap is so loose, I found it easiest to use a thin darning needle to thread the stray ones and push them back through to the other side. Take a few minutes to make sure you have pushed through and secured any stray threads, and freed any threads that may have gotten accidentally sewn into the design.

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Then cut the edges of the thread at the top and the bottom so they are only about ½” long on either end.

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Step Four – prep and hem the edges for the back of the pillow cover

This side is in two pieces to make it easy to get your pillow insert in and out for cleaning. For each the 20” x 20” color burlap square and the 10” x 20” color burlap rectangle, you will need to fold one 20” side down about 2” and iron down the fold.

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Then fold it over again maintaining an approx. 2” overlap, and iron down the second fold.

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Take your two 2” folded edges to your sewing machine (remember, there should only be one 20” long hem for each color burlap piece) and sew a hem approximately ½” from the second fold. Use thread the same color as your burlap to keep the hem hidden and the opening on the back of your pillow less noticeable.

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Step Five – prep and sew together all the pieces

Lay down your neutral burlap square (the one with the line design) so that the outside of your pillow cover faces upward. Next, lay down the smaller of your color burlap pieces so that the rough 20” edge is lined up with the top edge of the neutral burlap square and the smooth side of the hem is facing downward.

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Finally, lay down the bigger of your color burlap pieces with the rough 20” edge lined up with the bottom edge of the neutral burlap square and the smooth side of the hem should also be facing downward.

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Now you’ll need to pin it all into place. Because the weave of the burlap is so loose, I recommend using safety pins so the pins won’t slip out unexpectedly. Use the safety pins to secure all four sides, about  1½” from the edge to allow enough room for the sewing machine foot to move along the edge without you having to take out the pins as you go.

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Next you will sew the pieces together! I used a strong upholstery thread for a little extra durability when putting the pillow insert in or out of the cover.

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Simply sew along each side about ½” from the edge.

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You now have a pillow cover! Flip it right side out, and see the fruits of your labor!

Step Six – add hooks and eyes

This final step on your pillow cover is meant to keep the back closed so the pillow insert doesn’t bulge out. You’ll need to hand-sew two eyes to the hem of the larger back piece.

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I found placing each of them about 4” horizontally from the center in each direction, and about ¾” from the folded top, works pretty well.

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Then sew the corresponding hooks to the smaller back piece. You’ll need to be sure that the hook lines up vertically with the corresponding eye. Then sew it on the inside of your pillow case, just below the thread of your hem.

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This will allow you to sew through to the other side of the excess folded fabric so you won’t have any thread showing on the back side of your pillow cover. Make sure your hook is facing the proper direction to hook onto the eye and keep your pillow cover closed.

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Congratulations, you now have a new throw pillow cover! Stuff that pillow insert in there and enjoy.

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And when people ask where you got it, you can proudly say you made it yourself! I love a good project with a tangible outcome that I can be proud of.

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I’d love to hear your feedback on this project, so if you try it out, let me know how it goes!

Vanna White Makes Yarn

Yarn from Vanna White's yarn line.

Yarn from Vanna White’s yarn line.

After reading a couple of posts about knitting on Design Sponge (one of my favorite design blogs!), I have recently become inspired to start a new knitting project! One of the Design Sponge posts was on knitting basics, and the second was a DIY post on how to make Danielle Henderson’s chunky cowl. I have knitted before but it’s been a while, so to get back into it I thought I’d start with a quick trip to Joann Fabric, which is easier said than done in L.A.! I have had terrible luck over the years finding a decent one in the area. Somehow they are always closed or practically pilfered by the time I arrive! So my solution last weekend was to make a stop at a Joann’s in Simi Valley on my way up to a friends house, with much success.

I picked out two colors of yarn for my cowl. I’m an earth-tone kind of gal, so I chose a soft brown colored yarn with little white, gray, and black speckles that give it a home-spun organic look, and a rusty red color for the accent on the cowl. Both are 75% wool and quite soft! Of course I didn’t notice until I got them home that they are part of Vanna White’s line of yarn and knitting products. (Who knew, she makes yarn!? Weird!)

Danielle Henderson’s design calls for 5 purl stitches (for the non-knitters out there, it’s kind of like a backwards stitch), then 15 knit stitches, followed by 5 more purls. As I got started, somehow I kept either adding or dropping stitches, no matter how meticulous I thought I was being! I do realize that practice makes perfect. But for the sake of getting a rhythm on my first back-at-knitting project, I decided to start out simple, with just straight knit stitches for the whole cowl. Success so far!

The beginnings of my cowl!

The beginnings of my cowl!

I’ll let you know how my cowl turns out. Wish me luck!

Have you started any fun knitting or crocheting projects lately? What do you find challenging about it?