Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New Batty Skirts

Just a quick post showing two new skirts I made with my go-to pattern Simplicity 2449 view B... because I can never have too many skirts with bats. :) Both are made of cotton so they're great for the upcoming summer weather.

First up, black with a small-scale print of lime green bats. I bought this fabric last week at Jo-Ann (with a 40% off coupon, yay!).

 The fabric is darker than it looks in the photo.

Second, a larger scale print of bats in black and grey. This fabric had been in my stash for so long, I can't remember where I got it.

Anyone else have plans for summer sewing?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

2013 Halloween Fabrics

Looks like 2013 is going to be a good year for "Halloween" fabrics! (I use quotes because in my world these prints are worn year-round.) Let's take a peek at some of them.

How about if we start with dessert? And what could be better than Goth cupcakes? This one is so much fun! I especially love the ripped fishnet with safety pins.
Black Goth Cupcakes by Michael Miller
I'm not a huge fan of skulls, but I bet some of you will like this pile o' skulls fabric:
from Ghosts and Ghouls by Windham Fabrics
I prefer the cuter, smaller scale skulls:
Eerie Halloween Black Skull and Crossbones
Chandelier motifs have been popular for a while:
Scary Lighting by Michael Miller

Alexander Henry can always be counted on for interesting designs. I like this in white:
After Dark by Alexander Henry
It also comes in pink, grey and red:

I like both the grey and the purple of this print of owls and ravens in spooky trees, though it kind of looks like the owl is peering through binoculars:
from Ghosts and Ghouls by Windham Fabrics
For those who like their owls cute, there's this:
Eerie Halloween Black Halloween Owls

I love the cute swirls on the webs in this spiderweb print, which is available in grey, black and purple:
Too Cute to Spook Spiderwebs
For a more subtle spiderweb experience, there's this one:
Who's Watching Black Spiderwebs
 And for cute smiling spiders, this one:
Spooky Eve Grey Spiderwebs
Then there's this spideriferous lime green fabric which kind of freaks me out.
from Ghosts and Ghouls by Windham Fabrics
But that's nothing compared to the absolute HORROR of this one. It's a fabric adapted from a movie adapted from a book! :P
October Moon Pin-Up
Okay, enough of the shirtless wolf boys and sparkly vampires. Let's move on to the glow-in-the-dark spiderwebs:
Spider Web Glow in the Dark
 This bat print is from last year but still available. I can never have too many bat prints!
Trick or Treat Bats
I like that this one has moons as well as bats:
from Ghosts and Ghouls by Windham Fabrics
Orange says "Halloween," but this is more of a red-orange, so I might not limit it to October:
Kanvas Spooktacular Going Batty

And finally, my personal holy grail of fabrics -- purple with black bats. If I only buy one fabric this year (yeah, right!), it will be this one.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sunblock Reviews

Warning: The first portion of this post is a bunch of ranty nonsense. Feel free to skip down to the review portion below the dotted line. :)

I half-jokingly refer to Colorado as "Solarado" because it is sunny most of the time. Sometimes it's even sunny while it's raining. Truly. Just today, I was wearing sunglasses while driving in the rain.

And it's not just sunny but SUNNY. Intensely sunny. No matter the season, when you step into the sunlight, you can immediately feel the heat on your skin.

Many people love this feeling. I suppose it's the same kind of pleasurable feeling that leads cats (and my dog) to bask in the sun.

I do not love this feeling. When the sun hits me, I feel like I'm being cooked. It's like I can feel the sun burning my skin. All I can think about is getting indoors or into the shade. I'm not precisely heliophobic, but being in the sun makes me VERY uncomfortable. This is mostly due to a bad experience I had at age 18.

I suppose shunning the sun earns me Goth Points. But the reality is that it's horribly inconvenient. I need to mow the lawn... but it's sunny. I want to go for a walk... but it's sunny. My neighborhood is great for walking, but I'm thinking of joining the gym so I can walk inside. It's ridiculous.

Fortunately, fabric is enough of a barrier for me to feel okay in the sun. Thus I wear long sleeves year-round. For summer, I have a couple of "suncoats" -- button-front cotton shirts with a collar and long sleeves -- that I can wear when I'm out. But I get awfully hot. :(

This year, I wanted to conquer my fear enough that I wouldn't have to wear long sleeves all the time. A warm, sunny day came along, and I decided to brave it. I put sunblock on my arms and set off to run some errands. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for wearing short sleeves on a sunny day... until I returned to my car and noticed white smudges on the interior. All over the interior.
smudges on the door
smudges on the side of the seat
smudges all over the console

The sunblock was leaving white residue everywhere my arms touched. This angered me because I am very particular about my car. Through 48,000 miles, I have kept the interior practically immaculate.

Luckily, I was able to clean off all the sunblock smudges. Phew!

I'm back to wearing long sleeves. :/



We're all advised to wear sunblock daily to ward off sunburn and premature aging. So we put sunblock on our face... and we discover that it feels greasy or causes acne or makes our skin shiny or ruins our makeup. :( It can be difficult to find a sunblock that is face-friendly.

I tried many before finding one I liked -- Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30 from DeVita. This stuff was awesome! It went on smoothly and then disappeared. It was expensive but I willingly paid the higher price because it was exponentially better than any other sunblock I'd tried. I used it happily for about 3 1/2 years. Then, inexplicably and with no warning, they changed the formula. It was terrible! It would not smooth on, instead gooping up into little balls and flakes, and it left a white cast on my face. SO disappointing! Alas, it was back to square one to search for a new sunblock. :(  I've tried two so far:

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF 70: The claim that it's lightweight is fairly accurate; that it has a "clean feel"... not so much. It leaves white streaks wherever the skin creases, such as on my neck. It also leaves white smudges on surfaces that I touch, such as my clothes and the interior of my car. I don't consider white smudges all over everything "clean." :P

Target's version of Aveeno Positively Radiant Moisturizer SPF 15: Goes on smoothly, but makes my skin shiny. Even with powder, my face looks shiny within half an hour. Maybe that's what they consider "radiance"? It is acceptable for now (as long as I carry powder for frequent touch-ups!) but I will continue the search.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Kitchen Makeover: The Reveal

Whew! The kitchen is finally done*! I'd hoped to finish some time ago, but I spent February and March flattened by a health issue. Thanks, everyone, for sticking around.

*Well, it's about 90% done. It still needs a few small things -- knobs/pulls, a window treatment, some decor on the walls -- but I think the 90% mark is sufficient for pictures. :D

(By the way, the black cloth on the window is just to cut the glare so I could take photos that don't look like the TV from "Poltergeist"...)
Carol Anne... Do not go into the light!

Without further ado, here's a tour of my made-over kitchen, hosted by photobombing miniature pinscher Bean Sidhe:
"We're in the kitchen. That means food, right?"
painted cabinets, faux granite countertops, open shelves replacing wall cabinets, new sink and faucet
DIY refrigerator cabinet, beadboard wallpaper on peninsula
And now on to the before and after comparisons! What I'm calling "before" is actually a middle stage after I'd replaced all the appliances, installed new flooring, and removed the ceiling-mounted cabinets. The kitchen looked like this when I bought the house...

but I've lived with it in the condition that I'm calling "before."
view facing the window
view upon entering from the garage
view from the living area
Total cost of the makeover was about $970. Of this, $760 was for the new sink, disposal and faucet (with installation). The other changes totaled about $210. If I go back and include the new appliances and flooring that I bought three years ago, the entire cost was about $2,300.

(For those wondering about the dining room... I finally found some chairs to put with my new purple table, but they need serious GIYing. Look for the results in a future post!)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Kitchen Makeover: Faux Granite Counter

Lots of people have laminate counters when they'd rather have natural stone. Real stone is expensive, but with the availability of primers that stick to laminate surfaces, painting a faux stone finish is now a feasible low-cost option. I decided to go this route for my kitchen counter and chose to try for a granite look because it seemed to require the least artistic ability to achieve. (My counter was in bad shape and needed repairs prior to painting. I painted on wood surfaces, but the same techniques can be used on laminate.)

Supplies Needed:
Primer: I used Glidden Gripper. Straight from the can, this stuff is as thick as glue and dries in about three seconds. Mixing in some Floetrol paint conditioner makes it much easier to roll on. The Gripper worked very well on my wood surfaces. It is supposed to work on laminates also, but I haven't tried it.

Paint: I suggest using a base coat color plus at least four accent colors for the most realistic granite-like result. A metallic accent color will help replicate the glint seen in real granite. I used Behr latex paint in Pewter Mug (cool grey), Porpoise (warmer grey) and Beluga (black), Ceramcoat acrylic paint in Bamboo (beige), and FolkArt acrylic paint in Metallic Silver. The latex and acrylic paints worked equally well.

Sea Sponge: These are available at craft stores.

Clear Coat: I used EnviroTex Lite, a pour-on gloss finish. I have mixed feelings about the result, which I'll explain later in this post. Polyurethane would be another option.

You'll also need appropriate application tools (rollers, brushes, etc.), paper plates or cardboard for your paint palette, and paper towels. I recommend having a granite sample or photo on hand for reference. I used a free granite sample that I picked up from the home improvement store.

Begin by priming and then painting on the base coat. I used Pewter Mug (the same grey as on my walls) mixed with Beluga (black) to darken it.

Allow the base coat to dry completely, then sponge on the accent colors.
  • Wet the sponge to soften it, then squeeze all the water out.
  • Squirt or pour out a little of the accent color onto a paper plate or cardboard.
  • Dip the sponge into the accent color, then dab it on paper towels to remove any excess paint.
  • Sponge the paint onto the counter with light pressure.
Step 1: Sponge on the first accent color. (Mine was a light grey which was not very visible.)

Step 2: Sponge on the next accent color. Think it looks sort of silly.

Step 3: Sponge on another color. Think it looks obvious that it's sponged-on paint. Fear that this faux painting thing might be the worst idea you've ever had. Debate whether to continue.

Step 4: Forge ahead with sponging on another color. Begin to have a tiny glimmer of hope that this project won't be a disaster.

Step 5: Sponge on another color. Feel more confident that the counter might actually resemble stone in the end.

Step 6 and beyond: Continue to sponge on your accent colors until you are satisfied with the result.

My result was more or less what I was trying for -- a slightly darker version of the granite sample:

Allow the paint to dry, then apply the clear coat. Choose one with a gloss finish to better replicate the shine of polished granite. I used EnviroTex, a pour-on coating which produces a thick, glossy finish. If you decide to use EnviroTex, be aware that it drips all over the place, is extremely sticky when wet, and does not clean up easily. Edge the counter with painters tape, cover the cabinets, floor and every other exposed surface with plastic dropcloths, wear gloves, and use a disposable mixing bowl and stirrer.

Masking tape applied to the underside of the counter will form a little ledge to catch drips. Be sure to remove all tape before the EnviroTex dries.

EnviroTex coats a relatively small area, so I needed four boxes to cover my counter. The first two batches went on beautifully, and I was very impressed with the super glossy finish, which looked almost like glass. But inexplicably, the second two batches, which I mixed in exactly the same manner as the first two, were full of bubbles. I tried the remedies recommended in the instructions (except for a propane torch, which I don't have and would be reluctant to use even if I did) to no avail. This was quite disappointing. Having had such mixed results with a fairly expensive product, I can't really say whether I'd recommend EnviroTex or not. When it's bubble-free, it looks fantastic. But it's frustrating to end up with a bubbly surface, even though the bubbles are only visible from certain angles. If I ever do another faux granite project, I'll probably give polyurethane a try.

With the clear coat added, the faux granite counter is complete! The EnviroTex is so glossy, you can see reflections in it.

Because I know the counter is painted wood, it's hard for me to judge if it really looks like granite or not... either way, it's an improvement.

Tips and Lessons Learned:
  • When sponging on the accent colors, rotate the sponge and/or change the angle of your wrist to better simulate the random patterns of granite.
  • When sponging, use light pressure at a measured pace. Sort of a dab... dab... dab..., not a DABDABDAB. Don't play VNV Nation or Imperative Reaction if you're likely to sponge in time with the music. ;)
  • Latex and acrylic paints dry extremely fast, so you can work your way around the counter with one color and then immediately start again with another color. I rinsed my sponge between colors, but I'm not sure that's really necessary.

Total cost of this project was about $82. I paid $18 each for four boxes of EnviroTex, $5 for sea sponges, and about $5 for supplies (roller covers, dropcloth and mixing bowl). I had the primer and paints on hand. (Purchasing new primer and latex paint (one quart each) would add another $25 or so. Acrylic paints for accent colors are $1-2 each. Polyurethane would be a less expensive clear coat choice at about $12-15 for a quart.)