Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Rugs!

Apparently I've mentioned several times how much I hate the rug in the living room. This beige behemoth was left behind by the previous owner of our last house. We never liked it, but couldn't pass up a free, massive rug. The problem is that the color is almost the same as the couches (which we also hate), and only slightly different than the wall color, so it all blends together in a massive beigey boring blah. On top of that, it's solid colored, so it shows every stain and hairball clearly. Plus, it's real wool, which is nice in concept, but really scratchy and uncomfortable to sit on. Basically, I hate this rug.
the dreadful rug

so much beige

ugly couch practically disappears

At the same time, I bought a new rug for the fireplace room just after we moved into this house. I found it on one of those flash-sale sites, and thought it was perfect because it was my color scheme and vaguely trendy. Well, as soon as it arrived, it was clearly a bad fit for the house. The color scheme was boring while the pattern was frenetic, and it turns out we're just not trendy. I tried to decorate the room around it, but it just didn't work. Every time we walked through the room (which is all the time), I cringed at this out-of-place rug.

the blue and white rug

a fireplace room that just isn't working

Then Christmas arrived, and we got a fabulous gift. My mother in law gave us money to buy a new living room rug, but because of a deal, we were able to stretch the money to buy a new rug for the fireplace room too. We got some extra fluffy rug pads from Amazon as well, and now everything has arrived. We happily threw the old rugs out of the way, and unrolled the new ones.

the new living room rug

living room is looking more interesting

the couch no longer disappears against the rug

the new fireplace room rug

fireplace room looking a bit nicer

Then the old rugs were repurposed elsewhere in the house. Eventually I would love to get rid of them altogether, but until then, they are still useful to have around. The beige behemoth got moved to the dining room, which also needed a rug, where it is less ugly because there's more contrast with the furniture and walls. This gives us another padded place for the boy to play while we're in the kitchen - so that's really helpful. The blue and white rug moved upstairs to our spare room which is currently sort of my closet and had an awkward echo happening.

blue and white rug upstairs in the spare room

beige behemoth in the dining room-- not so bad, right? 

Yay Christmas!!! Thank you! Now let me tell you how much I hate the kitchen...

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Gussied Up Toy Bags

This Christmas we were shopping not only for our own little person, but for our four nieces and nephews as well - ie, we bought a whole bunch of toys from Amazon. For the toys with smallish or numerous parts (like blocks and shapes, etc), I was feeling a little guilty/preemptively annoyed that they would be opened on Christmas day, quickly poured all over the floor, and stepped on, with some pieces never to be seen again. To keep things together and organized- I thought it might be helpful to make little bags. I like the idea of making homemade gifts anyway, and we still have a lot of leftover fabric from the kid's room projects to use up - so this is perfect.

Note: I actually made drawstring bags after thinking through the process and building my own pattern. Once I was done, I was devastated that my bags wouldn't close all the way - leaving an opening about the size of a hand that toys would easily fall through. A quick search of mom blogs and pinterest suggests that everyone else has the same problem (it's the same reason that pole-pocket curtains won't open all the way, you're trying to compress fabric without giving it anywhere to go). So I decided to go back and retrofit my nearly-finished bags to have zippers instead so that they would actually close all the way. The directions below are what I should've done from the start, based on the infinite wisdom of Martha.

Step 1. Shopping and Prep
First up, find a good sturdy fabric that can take some abuse (I used leftover cotton drapery fabric), and wash and dry it to preshrink. Then iron and cut out two large rectangles, sized to whatever you're trying to hold. (I used a large cutting board as a pattern). Then take the lining fabric and cut out two rectangles the same size as the exterior pieces. I also bought a pack of multicolored zippers to close the top.

Step 2. Make it Fancy
This is totally unnecessary, but a fun step to make things a little more personal/difficult. Using another Martha idea, with some variegated embroidery thread and an embroidery needle, I just made some simple running stitches and backstitches to add highlights and trace around some of the patterns in the fabric. The idea is just to add a little texture and visual interest, nothing super complicated. This step is easier to do now before the bag is put together so that you can access the back of the fabric, but be careful to stay away from the edges of the fabric, which may get cut off when the bag is put together. [FYI - this is why the bag is lined. If it weren't lined, you'd be able to see the backside of all this stitching, which is unattractive and could snag on toys.]

embroidering around a starfish

closeup - note the cool ombre thread happening

Step 3. Sew the Fabric to the Zipper
Once the detail work is done, it's time to put the bag together. Layer the exterior fabric on the bottom (facing up), then the zipper (facing down), then the liner (facing up). Then sew across the top. Flip, and repeat for the other half of the bag.

Step 4. Sew Panels Together
Now all four pieces of fabric are sewn to the zipper, but not each other. So pull the liners together (facing each other) and the exterior pieces together (facing each other) and sew the three sides of each panel. Don't sew over the zipper, and don't sew the liners all the way closed.

Step 5. Flip and Hand Stitch
Using the remaining opening in the liners, flip the bag right-side out. Hand stitch the remaining gap in the panels, then push the liners through the zipper into the exterior panels. The bag should now be finished.

Step 6. Add Ribbon, stuff with toys
Lastly, I added a couple inches of ribbon to the zipper pull, just to make it a little easier to grab. Then the bags are truly all the way done and ready to be stuffed with whatever needs to be put away. For us right now, it's small teething toys.

a bit of ribbon added to the zipper makes it easier to pull

finished bag holding our many teething toys

soooo many teething toys.