Monday, 1 July 2013

Little things that change your life #1: How to remove scuff marks from white Ikea furniture

Hello! So after being reprimanded for not blogging for almost a YEAR (whoops), I am returning with a series of posts about the little things that make life better. There is no limit to the possibilities for blogging about this subject really, but I am going to start with household things (as since I wrote the last post, we bought a house! yay!)

The subject of this particular post is one of my very pleasing recent discoveries. I bought this desk from ebay. It was owned by a nice lady who runs a wedding shop (hence all the dresses. She was not mad miss havisham type as I feared from photo!):

I was really after the two vertical drawer units, not the piece of glass 'desktop' that came with it. The drawer units (Ikea 'Alex') are £55 each but I got the whole desk pictured for £30. Brilliant! The only downside was that there were quite a few scuffs on it where the wedding shop lady's boots had rubbed on it as she was doing her wedding-shoppy-accounts. Look:


I tried to get them off using a wet cloth and also a pencil eraser, but no dice. Or rather, no scuff-free Alexes. Then I remembered seeing this thing called Magic Eraser in Homebase. I trotted off to our local hardware store and had a look in the cleaning section (sorry Homebase, you are too far away now). All the Magic Eraser packets looked like they had been there since 1990. I was dubious but it was only about £2 so thought I'd give it a go. A Magic Eraser, if you are like me and coming late to the scuff-removing party, is like a sort of white sponge that you run under warm water and then rub over the scuffs. The scuffs are then MAGICALLY ERASED!!! It is like actual magic. Didn't even need to scrub! Look:


Isn't that brilliant. I was so excited to try it I may have not been patient enough to go to the tap at first and licked the corner of the magic eraser. It still worked, but I have been slightly worried about my tongue ever since. And also slightly tempted (having seen no tonguey ill-effects) to try it on my teeth...

To complete the desk story, I went to Ikea and in superhuman strength display managed to wrestle a 2m piece of new desk top into the car. It is white, less deep and more wide than the glass. Also less wedding-shoppy so Husband approves. It is long enough that we can sit side-by-side and more fighting over who gets the desk. We both love work so much that that used to happen... Will show u a photo of the new desk when I have one. in the meantime, here is a photo of a rhino in a field from this weekend. Longleat is surreal and brilliant!

Oh, if you live in Bath and would like the desktop, let me know - it is incredibly heavy but very pretty if you like that sort of thing, and is waiting for you in my garage!

Next time: Amazing kitchen gadgets. Ohyes, the adrenaline is high in Bath! See you then!!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Bits and pieces

Hello bloggy friends! I have missed you! I have made a resolution to post more often. It is nice to come here and warble away. I don't visit often enough. I have a great excuse to be here today though, as I'm waiting for my literature search records to export on my other computer, so am temporarily paralysed work-wise!

I haven't been making very much recently as we've been thinking about moving house so all my thoughts have been on mortgages and property rises/crashes etc. Eek! We have looked round a few houses that are quite nice on many levels but alas, it's expensive in the Bath and all houses that we can afford have a fatal flaw. Some recent examples of fatal flaws:

-house built on top of cliff and garden perilously clinging to cliff, necessitating perilous cling to cliff for selves to navigate to shed.
-house built at bottom of cliff, necessitating much artificial lighting or slight troll-feeling whenever in back half of house
-house in good location but internal walls in wrong location, necessitating builders coming and talking of 'steels' and '£1000 for that, £1000 for that, oh yeah, another £1000 for that' jobs
-house perfect but location imperfect (ie adds another 30mins to my 1.5h commute)
-house perfect but costs too much

So, still hoping for a miracle unflawed house, and will probably get the sewing going again while I wait!

I have been being DIY handy though. Not much call for this in a rented house admittedly, but our house is plagued by black mould (curses! condensation. problem with single-skin stone houses!) so requires a fair bit of maintenence to keep mould at bay. One of the more distressing mouldy area discoveries last winter was the inside of our coats. We had hung them on the back of the front door, and condensation had built up there and there was mould all over them! So horrid. So I bought this frankly OTT girly coat hook thing from the shop opposite work. More of a convenience purchase than an actual style decision (am surprised the husband did not complain. Perhaps he is a secret shabby chic lover). Put it up last year but the weight of it pulled one of the tacks out of the wall. We had (the shame!!!) been living with this for a while:

Sorry about the perpetually shabby photos.

This situation was not satisfactory, but the tack had ripped a hole in the plasterboard and couldn't go back in. So it was MILLIPUT TO THE RESCUE!!!! I love milliput. Most of our house is held together with it. It's this sort of plasticine-type stuff that comes in a grey part and a yellow part. You roll the two different colours together and get a sort of yellow-grey putty stuff. You can then make it into whatever shape you want, and it will become ROCK HARD in a few hours. I stuffed it into the hole and then put the nail back in and waited a bit. I also got a knife and smoothed the wall so it was flat and not all lumpy with weird grellow plastaciney stuff (good tenant?!!!!). Now we are set for the heavy coats of winter:

Yes, that is a little bird sitting in the girly coat hook. It had a little picture frame in the 'o' of LOVE (of course!) so I framed a scrap of happy Tilda fabric that I had (used here). I love it! Although am now thinking I should have used something more manly to offset the 'Love'. Perhaps a photo of a lorry? Or a muscle? Suggestions welcome.

tweeeeeet! hellooo!!!

Ooh and whilst references 1001-2000 download (groan!) I will just show you the few other things I've made since we last spoke:

Veg cake mix (incl beetroot). Turned out lovely. Note also pleasing 1980s juicer in background!
Ooh and this tea cosy for my lovely work friend who got married in a flurry of bunting and joy:
Yay! Made with leftovers from our own wedding bunting. 2011/12 truly are the years of the bunting!

And finally, the one I'm most proud of: A LADY!!!

Was going to give her to our niece. Fairly sure I still am. Quite in love with her tho. Ack!!
I made her from a pattern in Mollie Makes. So proud!

Ooh and talking of proud, and ladies, our friends in the Midlands recently welcomed a GORGEOUS baby girl to their family. Just so happy for them. Congratulations J&F. 

I wanted to show you this quilt I made for them, which will hopefully be a nice playmat or something for their little one:

Tried to be gender-neutral as they didn't know whether they were expecting a boy or girl, and think it worked ok! Yay. I basically made it up as I went along. First one I've ever made. Def won't be the last! So satisfying. And the nice thing about sewing gifts is, you can feel your love for the recipient as you make them! If that makes sense.

Have a lovely evening everyone! xxxx

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Light up, light up... painting an old standard lamp and making it amazing

A couple of years ago, we bought two touch lamps from Argos. They were some of the cheapest lamps around - I think £14 for two - but they were very handy and cheered up dark corners. Then, around about Christmas time, one of them broke. The living room dark corner was now just a dark corner. This was bad, as the ceiling lamp was now the only way to actually see, and that is attached to the scary wiring of our house, requires an un-eco old-style 100W bulb, and makes a v irritating high-pitched whine the whole time it is on. 

Husband and I looked around for a new lamp. We could not agree on anything. We had recently decided only to buy Good Things - ie no more cheap lamps from Argos. The new plan is to buy only good quality items, that will hopefully not end up broken and in landfill as quickly as the cheap versions. We scoured the charity shops but there was nothing nice At All. We then had a look online (ie spent about 3 hours searching for 'lamp', ending up feeling slightly sick and wondering where the time had gone and not agreeing on anything). We reached a stalemate and the dark corner remained dark. We were sitting in the gloom to avoid the whiney ceiling light. We should've gone to the pub.

Then, in a stroke of massive good fortune and happy coincidences, I spotted a lamp in the corner of my Aunt's garage when we were visiting her in Yorkshire. It had been her mum's so she was hanging onto it, but didn't need it in her house (all her corners are bright, you see). She very kindly agreed that we could rehome it.... so we put it in the car... and 4 hours later it arrived in Bath!

Lamp in original state. Please ignore bedraggled begonia in background.  Am unable to throw out plants if still alive. Not v in keeping with posh Bath lifestyle. This will be why we have not been invited to take tea in the Royal Crescent.

Original shade. Pleasant chintz but seen too many dusty days 

We left the original shade in Yorkshire because it was a bit worse for wear. When we got the lamp home, we decided it was a bit too 'brown'. The varnish was also all coming off. We went to Homebase and spent our Nectar points on a can of spray primer and gloss paint. We also bought a new flex and switch thing and plug to replace this retro-looking wiring:

Husband had a sudden and immediate burst of Husbandly activity and rewired the lamp. This was very surprisingly easy. The old switch screwed off the top and the whole base was hollow so we could just thread the new flex up through it. I then had a few bursts of running out into the garden, spraying the lamp, and running back inside before it started raining again. Mostly this was a success.

Spraying in the utility room when the outside was too rainy.  New non-slug house needs a workshop :)
Segregated. Spray paint is surprisingly smelly

We were very pleased with the new glossy finish. Especially as I couldn't face sanding the original varnish off so just sprayed over it and hoped that the flakes would somehow 'seal'. They did! I should have been a dermatologist.

All that was left now was to find a new shade. You may have noticed that the shade in the first pic above (purloined from the ex-Argos lamp) was just a touch too small. We wanted a large fabric drum shade in sort of neutral colours to tie in with this room and whatever other room we end up in when we move out of the slug house. I also wanted some white in the fabric to tie in with the base.

A bit of Googling lead me to believe that I could make the shade myself for about 30% of what it would cost to buy a nice one. So all that remained was to find a piece of fabric. 

Well. We thought agreeing on a lamp was hard. Agreeing on fabric for lamp shades was impossible. I don't know why we have these problems. Things like houses and holidays and other expensive things, we always seem to agree on and decide pretty quickly. Give us two tea towels and ask us to pick one though... full-blown war. Husband favoured a beige fabric with small dogs all over it. I wanted a sort of geometric, ikat-style pattern. Stalemate. 

Then, very pleasingly, whilst looking at 'how to make a lampshade' tutorials on the internet, I stumbled across  Emily Robson's lovely website, Martha and Me. Emily is a very crafty lady who had not only made a lampshade, she had made it the size that we were after, from a fabric that we both liked, and it was for sale, and it was affordable! Done.

A few days later, this exciting parcel arrived:

And the shade was unveiled!

When the shade arrived I realised it was a ceiling shade rather than a standard lamp shade - d'oh! Hadn't thought to check that. The pattern, which is lots of houses all next to each other, was upside down. This was annoying, but I discovered that by balancing the new shade on the old mini shade, it could be the right way up. I then discovered that you can buy 'lampshade adaptors' or 'shade carriers' which do the job for you in a more professional way - £3 from John Lewis! Job (finally) done. Corner bright. Life looking up!

PS if this tickles your fancy, do check out Emily's blog. She makes lots of lovely things, including some brilliant cushions and cards (which might look familiar if you have ever received a handmade card from me, because we have the same ink stamps!) :)

Friday, 6 July 2012

House Fail

I had just got off the phone with the estate agent. She had agreed to ask the landlord to cut back the creeper (currently trying to strangle the house), repaint the rotten window frames, shave the base of the swollen back door so that we can open it without hacking at it with a screwdriver, and sort out the mould in the bathroom. She had previously said that the landlord can probably not do anything about the freebies we got with the house - mega moth infestation and slugs which visit the downstairs in the middle of the night. We had decided that the location is good and we will put up with the freebies.

I put the phone down. Something caught my eye on the kitchen ceiling. A silver, shimmering line. Aaarrrghhh!!! THE SLUGS ARE ON THE CEILING!!!

Surely the next step is that the slugs are in the bedroom.

We are going to have to move.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

iPadded: a handmade quilted iPad case!

I have been wanting to show you this for ages, but couldn't because it was a present for my Mum, who likely comprises 50% of everyone who reads this blog (hello Mum!). Now it has been handed over (and is reportedly in use), I can unveil:

I am v pleased with it because it is one of the first things that I have made that actually turned out a) anything like I hoped it would, and b) not looking like a child had made it. The patterned fabrics are from Tilda and the other bits and pieces are random leftovers that I had lying around.

I basically just got our iPad, measured it, and added a few cms for general seam allowance plus my own margin for error (things I sew ALWAYS end up smaller than they are supposed to, unless they are a tea cosy, in which case they end up as gargantuan things suitable only for giant's tea parties and headwear for men with big heads and little shame. Strange but true). I used the measurements to make a little lined fabric bag with a layer of batting in the middle. I sewed a piece of elasticated gingham into the top seam and a button on the other side to hold it closed. I did toy with making a little quilted lid to protect it better and probably would have done if the iPad was in there loose. As it is, iPad is always in a little black leather protective case, so this case is extra padding for pretty highdays (iDays? hehehe) and holidays.

I have a few more projects on the go at the moment but seeing as the PhD is the only one which pays me, they are a bit dormant! I have vague ideas of becoming like a lady I met at a lovely fabric shop who takes pretty sewing things on holiday with her, but the thing is, it seems to require so much effort just to pack enough clean and (vaguely) matching clothes for a holiday that I am not sure that the organisation required to bring fabric plus needles and thread, etc, is within reach at present! We Shall See.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Making the weekend

We had a great weekend! Saw lots of family at Granny's 90th (NINETY!!!) on Saturday. We went to a restaurant and had a lovely lunch. There were 23 of us. Productive 90 years!

There was some debate beforehand over whether anyone would want to eat a birthday cake. It is however surely a complete travesty to have a birthday party without a cake. So we compromised and had cupcakes. I made them and althought they look a bit strange in the picture above, they disappeared fast so overall = success.

The pic above shows the second batch I made. The first batch, gah, I forgot to put the eggs in. Cunningly disguised this by filling with yoghurt and giving them to various friendly visitors as puddings.

Next weekend we are popping round to see Husband's brother and family. I have made them this tea cosy. I wish I'd outlined the letters in blue, but overall am vhugely pleased with it. It is the fourth one I've made and the first one that I haven't messed up too badly and been left with a massive snagged wrinkle.

Oh I love tea :) The sewing machine has been behaving recently which has meant that I can spend more than ten minutes sitting in front of it before getting too tense about the tension issues! Sadly though the bulb has blown and the sewiing table is dark and the sewing machine is from the 1960s. I am going to have to go on a bit of a hunt at the weekend.

We went for a very pleasing walk yesterday, in a small village near Bath. In fact it could almost be considered the plughole of Bath, lying in a dip at the bottom end of the city. A five minute drive and we were in the countryside tramping though streams in our wellies. Wellies and streams are very pleasing. Who needs free museums?!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Toasty ears

So, if you know Husband, you will know he is Super Cool. He is Down with the Kids. He is an Uber Trendsetter.

These traits meant that he was becoming increasingly unhappy with his headphones. They were free onesI had got off a drug rep at a conference (pretty good freebie I thought, right?). He claimed he wanted ones with better sound.. but I know that secretly he wanted ones that looked BETTER. In keeping with his bad self. I also suspect that he wanted them to fit in with the headphones of the other people on the bus.

So, he bought a massive pair of headphones. They are big and cream and quite amazing. I was with him when he bought them. They also come in black and powder pink.. When we were in the shop, it became clear that he couldn't tell the difference between the cream ones and the pink ones (he's colour blind). OH OH it was tempting not to say anything as he admired the pink ones. But in the end, the cream ones were chosen. 

They are very large and um, cream. They needed a safe place to go when in his bag. His bag deserves a blog of its very own. To keep things succinct, I will just say that it is a place that papers, old plastic lunchboxes and cookie bags go to decompose. One day perhaps evolution will occur and a new superhero might emerge and we will be rich. Until then, however, it was necessary to protect the headphones from the bag. So I made them a little padded bag, from my old jumper and his old shirt:

I think this case makes him even more super cool. He has managed to maintain his status as Trendiest Man in the Office. I believe he even managed to keep an air of cool when one of his colleagues walked in, saw him wearing the headphones, and asked him if he was 'planning to land a plane'. Heeeheheheee! Aww. Love.