Monday, September 11, 2017

Modern Chevron Cork Tiles (with another tutorial)


Back in my sad little cube, I had a wall near my computer of what was likely corrugated cardboard covered in sad gray fabric where I could hang notes, reminders, and my kitsch. My fancy new office, while lovely, had no such built in feature.

I scoured the internet for something that might work and found many, many pinterest tutorials on how to paint chevrons on cork tiles. But, they emphasize how to make perfect "zig zag" chevrons that frankly, are tired and not what I would want in my office. So, while the world does not need another one, but I'm doing it again anyway, because I like mine better.

You will need:
  • 12" x 12" Cork tiles (I bought the dark colored ones because they were about 1/4" thicker than the lighter ones)
  • Masking tape (1" wide, the cheaper the better, you'll need a lot)
  • Three shades of paint
  • Ruler
  • More time than good sense

Step 1: Mask

If you're working with 12"x12" tiles and 1" masking tape, the task is simple. You need 3 columns each 4" wide, and 12 rows of stripes, each 1" wide.

If you happen to be the type of person who hoards craft supplies, like I do, and you have a clear quilt rule around somewhere, go find it. It will make this much easier.

Measure 4" from one end of the cork square
Run a line of masking tape down the length of the tile. Repeat 4" in from the other side.
While you're at it. I would just suggest doing all 4 tiles at once. You'll get in the groove this way and can paint them all at the same time.

Next, using your clear ruler, mark one inch distances on the masking tape with a sharpie so that you have hash marks running all the way down the outside edge of each line of tape.

This will make it easy to leave the ruler off of the cork tile and know where your tape lines should end. Be sure that you're only "rising" one inch on each diagonal. The finished product should look like this.

I realized once this was done, that I could have run the tape all the way across from end to end as long as I was careful about measuring, but I only had the one ruler, so this was easier. 

Once you've done ONE of these, stop and think about the pattern that you want to create with your chevrons. If you want a continuous dark/light pattern across the corks, you need to be intentional in creating it. Stop and number the tiles (you can call the first one "2" and work from both sides of it) and line them up on your work surface (yes, my floor is my work surface). I would write the numbers on the back if I were to do this again...

If you want continuous dark/light chevrons to match the pattern across tiles, you should mask off the next tile like the one on the left. Notice how the painted segments (I'm cheating here, because I learned this the hard way) match up with the masking tape? If you're doing all of your masking at once, remember that you'll have tape on the DARK segments of the tile shown on the right here, so you'll want to create a black and white version of the pattern you're creating). But, notice how they're heading the opposite direction (positive slope instead of negative?). That is what you want. 

I strongly recommend laying out all 4 tiles in masking tape and numbering them before you start to paint... seriously....

Step 2: Paint

Since I was trying to accent with the lighter orange on these, I painted 7-8 stripes on each cork tile the light color to start. I was going for random, so I just tried my best not to be too systematic. If you have a pattern in mind, that works too. 
Next, I filled in all of the other colors, aiming for 4-5 of the dark orange and 2-3 of the silver. I found once I did this that the light needed a second coat, so I globbed a little more paint on and just made thicker coats. 
As soon as you get this far, remove the masking tape. Yes, all of it. Yes, this feels wasteful. But, if you wait for the paint to dry it will come off with the tape!

Step 3: Mask some more

Once your paint dries, pull back out your quilt measure and run a straight line of tape down each side exactly 3 inches in from the edge. This should line up perfectly with the edge of the painted section such that the painted sections are partially covered with tape. 
One very nice thing is that this part is much harder to mess up, and requires no measuring. Simply run the tape from painted section to painted section, making sure that the slope of the tape is running opposite to the slope of the painted sections. 

(If you want continuous chevrons a la 2014, you'd want to leave the sections I have tape on exposed, but the slope change should be the same)

Step 4: Paint some more

Use the same painting strategy for these inner sections as you did for the outer ones (3-4 of light, 2-3 of dark, 1-2 silver)

Step 5: Mount

These cork tiles generally come with squares of mounting tape to attach them to the wall. If not, cheap mounting tape will do the trick. Check the numbers that you marked them with (you did mark them, didn't you?) and hang them in that order to ensure that your pattern is correct. 

I failed to do so, and my pattern got messed up, but they're permanently mounted now... let this be a cautionary tale. 




Monday, September 4, 2017

Cornice Board on the Cheap (with tutorial)

After spending far too much on paint and supplies, and knowing that more expenses were yet to come, I didn't want to spend much on window coverings for the office. I had originally hoped for a sort of midcentury modern vibe, a la Mad Men, so I knew that I wanted the most simple and clean cover for that ugly window situation that I could find.

Given that I was trying to do this on a budget, and I have an 8ft window and a 6ft car, my cornice board dreams seemed somewhat unattainable. This probably explains the ugly floral swag situation that came with the office. But then, when has unattainable ever stopped me?

While generally Pinterest has been of exactly zero help on this project, because apparently it's unusual to be given full creative reign to decorate your own workspace and most people on Pinterest don't have offices, I was able to find some help from Pinterest on a cornice board. This post at Rappsody in Rooms walks through the process of making a foam core cornice. The benefits of foam core? It's cheap, it comes in 30 inch spans and can fit in a Toyota Echo, and it's light enough that I figured it would be really easy to hang on a concrete block wall (spoiler alert, it wasn't). 

So, I bought three sheets of foam core and chopped it up into 10 inch wide lengths. To fit my 8 ft window, ended up with four 30"x 10" spans from 2 sheets, and chopped the last sheet into three 20" x 10" spans that I used for reinforcing the joints. From the extra at the ends of the longer spans, I chopped three 3" by 10" strips that I used to make my side pieces. 

Because I was working with an 8ft span instead of the much smaller windows that most crafters have taken on with foam core I decided to use multiple layers to reinforce the joints. 

The other blogs do a pretty good job explaining how to reinforce the corners to create the "sides" of the cornice, but I tried to improve on them by adding a triangle of foam core to the top and bottom at each corner. Basically, I made two 3" x 3" squares out of one of the strips I mentioned earlier, cut each on the diagonal, and taped them into the inner corners where the front met the sides of the cornice. I distinctly remember taking a photo of this, but alas, it doesn't seem to exist. 

Once I had my 8' span with 3" sides attached, I covered it in 1/2 yard of 90" wide batting from end to end and attached the batting with staples. To create cleaner lines, I only ran the batting as far as the front edge of the cornice, not around the corners. This is the back of the cornice where I stapled the batting on. 
The next layer was orange quilting cotton I found on sale at Joanns. It was nothing fancy, and there wan't quite enough so I had to put in a couple of seams on the sides, but it only cost about $8 for 2 1/2 yards of 44" wide fabric. I had to cut it in half to lengthen each side, so if you're okay with seams, you can get way with 1/2 as much fabric as you need. The 22" width of 44" wide cotton was a perfect fit. If you're counting, we're now up to about $15 in materials.
Folding in the corners neatly was the hardest part, so I sort of did it like wrapping a present. First I folded in the corners (see bottom left) and stapled, then I folded down the long edge (see top) and stapled, then I folded under the extra (see bottom right) and stapled some more. I'll admit, this is where the staples began to fail me a bit and just fall out. So, I just added more.
Next, I needed to come up with a way to hang this sucker. Having worked with foam core before on the headboard and the jewelry hanger before that, I know that a picture hook will not do the job. It will fall off the same way that a staple will fall out. So, I went back to Joanns and bought some upholstery screws for holding doilies on your sofa arms (don't ask how I know this) and used those to attach some ribbon I had kicking around to the back of the board. I used 7 inch lengths of 3/4" satin ribbon and spaced them out with one at each end at one at the middle. 
I'll have you know at this point I was really quite pleased with myself. I had made a cornice for under $20 and it looked damn good. But, you might notice, I hadn't yet hung it to the wall. Other bloggers had used curtain rods to hang their cornices, but I had nothing to attach a curtain rod to...  I had a small header board someone used to hang mini blinds, and a whole lot of concrete.

My first attempt was to put three screws in the header board, but the screws I had weren't long enough. In fact, I couldn't find any screws in Marin County long enough to properly hold my cornice. I put nice aesthetic 3" sides on it, and the head of a screw isn't exactly the best thing to hold a piece of satin ribbon in place. I should note that my dad saw the project at this phase as I asked him to sift through his garage for the longest screws he could find and he said, "You need cuphooks, Veronica." I didn't believe him. 

So, back to the dollar store I went where I found these cheap "universal tool hangers" which I was sure would do the trick (always have a plan B, right?) I brought them back to the office and found that they couldn't fit flush against the header board because of the mini blinds (don't even get me started on how I feel about mini blinds). So, I used heavy duty mounting tape that I already had sitting around. I mounted the three hooks in the right spots to hold the ribbon, hung the cornice, and sat back, pleased with myself. 
This solution, as you might imagine, lasted about 20 minutes before the cornice came crashing to the floor. So, it was onto Plan C... Google, when asked, informed me that there is no good way to glue metal on concrete and that I shouldn't even try. But that sounds like the advice of a quitter, right? Instead I listened to the advice of some shmuck on a DIY board who suggested Liquid Nails. I've used it before; it's amazing stuff. I was sure it would work!
So, I cleaned the wall, I cleaned the mounting tape off the hooks, and I applied a generous coat of Liquid Nails. I put a little scotch tape up to hold the hook in place while it dried, and I left it alone for a full 48 hours. The tube says 24 hours to cure, but I wasn't taking any chances. On Monday I returned to work, I hung my cornice. I worked for 4 hours, and I went home. That night, I received this email from our administrative coordinator. 
When I got back to the office I found that the glue had never fully dried and 2 of my three hooks had come down. Not ready to give up on this, my $3 plan, I dutifully re-glued them and decided that I just hadn't given them enough time to cure. 

I gave the glue the rest of the week, then came in on Friday morning to give the hook that had survived the fall a stress test: one little tug before even considering hanging the valance on it. After a full week to cure it came off in my hand, a gooey wet mess. Apparently Liquid Nails doesn't dry between concrete and metal. Who knew?

Defeated, I got on Amazon. I ordered a $5 set of 2 inch cup hooks. I waited 2 days for them to show up in my mailbox, and I hand screwed them in to the holes left behind from the screws I used in the first place. 
Score another one for dear old Dad.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Think outside the cubical: My office redecoration

As I wrap up my first year at my new university, one of my colleagues is moving into retirement. After about 40 years of service, most of which were spent in the same office, our most senior faculty traded offices with me, moving into my cozy little cubical and passing along her great big office full of furniture.

When I walked into the office, this is roughly was I was working with. I would love to say that it wasn't as not as bad as it looks... but it really was as bad as it looks. In fact, the (missing in this photo) floral fabric swag and art may have actually made it worse.

But, if there is one thing homeownership taught me it is that any space has potential. Also, my university has completely given up on the old building in which I work (like they wouldn't even wipe down the bookshelves), so I was told that I could pretty much do whatever I want. So, I dissembled the furniture and got to work. 

The first step, in my opinion, is always paint. A fresh coat of paint in a pleasant color can hide a multitude of uglies. So, I selected a nice light gray/blue called Bluegrass White by Glidden. I looked up photos of it online and it read nice and light. So, I spent three days covering the walls with Bluegrass white and the trim and doors with a gallon of eggshell "oops white" from home depot that turned out to be pretty darn close to pure white. 
Now these photos really cannot do justice to just how blue "bluegrass white" turned out to be. As it turns out, photos on the internet lie (and these do too... btw). This room turned out blue like a baby boy's bedroom. My plans for an orange accent wall against the gray were clearly foiled, as you see Behr Orioles Orange on the wall looking like I'm preparing for children's party or a circus. 

After much heartache and many, many samples of paint from Home Depot (the girls were laughing when they saw me coming by the end), I settled on Behr Tornado Season for my accent wall and Behr Anonymous for my bookshelves.  

Just this little bit of paint and a solid 2 weeks of painting over the ugly made a huge difference in making this place my own... but I still had far to go. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Baby Quilts... so many baby quilts

You may recall just a few short years ago when I jokingly blogged about the many crafts of "wedding season." From flower girl dresses to ribbon wands to carefully made centerpieces, I dedicated at least 3 summers to wedding crafts. But, now, suddenly, the weddings have slowed to a trickle (don't worry, those of you still getting married, I'm just a text message away and your flower girls will be adorned in tulle!) and we've entered a new phase of life: Baby Season.

So, the good old days of wedding crafts are over and it's time for baby crafts, my favorite of which is the baby quilt. I've already written about the chevron quilt for baby Patrick, but over the past two years while I've been MIA I have worked on about 7 baby quilts.

It all started with my siblings and cousins having babies. First, I made a cowboy quilt for baby Bentley in Texas.



Then, when my other cousin announced that baby Tatum was on the way, I made a little lavender link quilt for her (and tried to bind it while pet sitting, which was a mistake)


My brother and his wife welcomed baby Bryce, and in the chaos that was a baby at Christmas, I didn't get a photo of it... but there were dinosaurs, and I tried out a new pattern that made me want to pull my hair out.


Then just as I recovered from the doubling in size of my family, my friends began to fall pregnant, which meant collaborative baby quilting with my Whitewater friends. It felt very midwestern, and I loved it. We made a science themed quilt for baby Jordi because his parents are biologists.


Baby Josie was born to a math professor and and engineer, so naturally, we went geometric.


As baby season in Whitewater came to a close, baby Rowan was born to Philosophy scholars... we didn't think that would make a very good baby quilt theme, so we aimed for his mom's favorite colors and his dad's traditional style with a funky log cabin.


Between October of 2016 and August of 2017, no one in my immediate inner circle had a baby (this was the longest gap since Patrick I'll have you know), so I was all to excited to dust off my sewing machine for this updated take on a chevron quilt for baby Greyson's darling hipster nursery.



So there you have it, a year in review of baby quilts. Now that I have that out of my system, let's get back to the good stuff.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Mess of the Month Part IV: Backsplash and finishing touches

If you've been following along, worked slowly on a kitchen renovation project for 2 about months... then forgot to ever post the final installment of my remodel. In the spirit of keeping my sanity, I broke the project up into four posts, then dropped the ball for 2 years and never put the final post together. But now you've finally (can you believe it, I can't) reached the last one. You can see the back story below.

Part III: Flooring, Appliances, and Hardware
Part IV: Backsplash and Finishing Touches

After the floor was finally in, the next big hinderance to my well-being as a kitchen owner was that all of my baking supplies were sitting on my countertops, and my mixing bowls were still in the living room on my bookshelves.

So, to deal with the problem at hand I was finally motivated to hang the open shelving I'd been so excited about when I planned my kitchen.

I bought 8 ft of Whitewood 12 x 1 at the Home Depot and cut it down to three 29.5" shelves. I stained all three, now using a well, stirred version of the Red Oak stain that was pretty close to the same color as my counter tops. Then, I gave each shelf two coats of inexpensive wipe on polyuethanine from Minwax (left over from the desk project).

Per Dad's advice, I wanted to attach the shelf cleats to the cabinets rather than the wall. So, I found a 6 ft scrap of 1x3 pine (left over from the closet project) and chopped it into 11" lengths. I gave each a couple of coats of white, high gloss paint I'd had mixed to match the color of my cabinets, and set them with two screws each into the cabinets. This was sort of a painful process. It hurt a bit to drill holes in my pretty (and expensive) new cabinets. But, the result was worth the pain.

Once I patched the screw holes and covered them with matching paint, I had lovely open shelving just like on Pintrest. You like the jars? They're Anchor brand, they came from Target. They're one of my favorite things in the kitchen.

By this point, school had started back up and I had transitioned rapidly from "let's make my kitchen beautiful" mode to "let's make my kitchen livable" mode. So, decorative touches like trim and baseboard sort of took the backseat to more pressing matters like backsplash and lecture prep.

I had originally planned on beadboard for my backsplash, but friends and family insisted that tile would be a bigger improvement, and thus add more to the value of my home in the long run. Although I'm well aware that someone is going to walk into my kitchen in 10 years and groan at the distinctly 2015 look of subway tile, I like subway tile. Also, having lived in a couple of apartments with white tile and white grout in the kitchen I feel very strongly that the kitchen is no place for white grout. Anyone who uses white grout in their kitchen better have a cleaning lady, because white grout will quickly become gray-brown grout. Instead I went with slate gray grout a la my homegirl the Nichole Rehab Addict. 

If I knew then what I know now, I may have stuck with beadboard. But, I didn't. So, I valiantly purchased subway tile, thin-set, grout, and a tile setting kit. In the interest of simplicity, I used these mosaic tile sheets instead of individual tiles.

After reading a number of tutorials online about how to lay backsplash, and a number of pep talks from friends and family (thanks Aunt Ellie!) I started in on the project. The one thing no one online told me was that tile work is a big damn mess. You should put a drop cloth down over everything, especially your new countertops and flooring.
I pulled out the stove and gave the walls a rough sand with 80 grit sand paper then, on a wing and a prayer, smooshed some thin-set all over the wall (and floor, and countertops, and myself) then set the tile. I used a tile snap I'd borrowed from a friend to try to cut tile down to size. They all ended up crooked and funny looking. That's what quarter round is for, right? There are clearly a few spots where I should have cut little tiny pieces of tile and didn't. Meh. Tile is hard.
Because of the humidity and the fact that laying the tile was a two day process, I waited 48 hours to grout. I mixed up about 5 lbs of unsanded grout and just went nuts. If there is one thing I learned in this process it's that grout is easy to clean off of things. Just smear that stuff in every nook you see. Smear it liberally. Not sure if it really needs to be in that gap? Fill it anyway. You can get clean it up if you change your mind. Did the walls end up covered in grout? Yep. Countertops. Yep. But you know what, grout is easy to clean up and paint over.

At the advice of the internet I tried to use "grout caulk" on the edges to make a clean line. Grout caulk is not easy to clean up. Grout caulk is a mess. It doesn't make a straight line. It can't be flattened out. It's the worst! I ended up throwing the whole tube in the trash and filling the edges, corners, and seams with actual grout and just cleaned it up where it didn't belong. Once all the grout was dry I pulled out some paint and covered up the grout and thin set I hadn't properly cleaned up.

I reinstalled my light plate covers (okay, I may have had to buy some slightly larger plate covers) and glued (yep, glued, I'm getting tired of this project) my window sill back on. I touched up some trim paint and slid the stove back in place. With the semester back in full swing I had no time for a chaotic kitchen!

The next issue I ran into in the new kitchen (you notice, still no baseboard?) was the lack of a good cutting board. My old kitchen had a slide out cutting board built in that was so scuzzy I once had to throw away a loaf of banana bread because it sat on the board too long and started tasting like 70 year old dirt. It was upsetting.

My brother recently remodeled his kitchen and installed butcher block, and had the the awesome idea to take a scrap of countertop (his came from the hole he cut to install his stove) and added some legs to make it a butcher block cutting board.

Since I still had a fair amount of left over countertop in the basement, I chopped a 14" x 20" chunk out of a scrap, stained it and sealed it with copious amounts of waterlox. I ordered a set of "rubber bumpers" off of amazon ($2), and added them to serve as feet. It was an easy, cheap side project that I'll enjoy every time I need to chop anything.




With a fully functioning kitchen, I turned to the now somewhat distracting problem of the trim boards I'd removed (now 2 month ago) that were still sitting in the basement...

I bought baseboard at home deport that I though was going to work. I painted it and cut it to length. Then, I went to install it and learned that it was just a bit too wide to fit... of course. Then I pulled out the trip piece for above the window (which I had saved when we took out the old cabinets), and it was a bit too short (of course).

About this time it was Christmas, and I darted off for the holidays in California. By spring break, I was interviewing for a job in California, and by summer, I was packing up to move...

So, I took some leftover white paint from the trim and I gave the whole area under the cabinets a good couple of coats of white. My mom will read this and shake her head at me, as my dad has yet to install the baseboards in the kitchen in their home that he remodeled in 1991. But alas, I rented out my house and moved to California with no baseboards... and that's life. I made my dream kitchen, but I had to let it go.





Saturday, August 5, 2017

That Catholic (School) Guilt

So, my friends, I never put baseboard in my kitchen. I thought I would, really, but then suddenly, life took a turn.

In spring of 2016 I was offered a job back in California at a small private school in Marin county. Crafts took a back seat as I got rid of about 2/3 of my stuff and moved across the country for yet another new job. A trained eye will notice my crafted treasures among the yard sale goods. It made me very, very sad.



Barely and I had more adventures along the way and landed in California to move into a 400 sq. ft. studio apartment.






I was happy to have a job near my family, but alas, had very little space for crafts.


So between the sad of leaving my home and the sheer guilt of never finishing the posts about my kitchen, I just failed and didn't post anything for two years... and friends, not crafting just made me more sad and more guilty.

But this summer I was given the opportunity for an exciting new set of crafts--- a new office at my new university. So, I'll update you along the way as to what's been going on over these last 2 years, but most importantly, it's time to start making messes again.