Puppies can be obsessive. Sadie is no exception. One of her favorite things to do is “lose” toys under the furniture. Even better? Hiding them in the torn underlining of upholstered furniture.
The good news is it’s easy to replace the thin-but-durable fabric under chairs and sofas. The hard part—for me, anyway—was figuring out what the fabric was called. When I first got the idea to replace it, I wandered around a fabric store hoping to see it so I wouldn’t have to ask where it was. I could see myself saying, “You know, that black fabric that goes under chairs. Usually stapled in. Keeps the dust under control. Sometimes it’s gray. Maybe even white. It’s fabric, but not exactly fabric-fabric.”
I decided to do an internet search for it at home so I could enter all of the possible word combinations without having a store employee laughing at my ignorance.
Turns out the stuff falls under the category of utility fabric, and is simply called upholstery underlining.
It’s cheap, too. I think the stuff I bought was about two dollars per yard.
I knew I had to recover the underside of at least one chair and one section of the sofa, so I bought a few yards.
Forgive me for forgetting to take a before photo, but here’s what the bottom of Sadie’s favorite chair looked like after I’d torn off 95% of the old lining (there was a separate piece toward the back of the chair that was intact, so I left that) and stapled on new upholstery underlining.
I folded the edges under for a cleaner line, and did my best to fit it under and around the front legs of the chair. It’s not as taut as I would have liked—you can see it hangs down a little on the left—but not enough to make me pull the staples and re-do it.
This is what it looks like from Sadie’s point-of-view:
When the underlining was torn, I cringed every time I had to reach under the chair—and often into the torn underlining—to retrieve Sadie’s toys (which seriously, is about three times per day with this chair alone). Now I can see where the toy is, grab it, and marvel at my handiwork all at the same time.
Aunt Jean and Uncle Gale re-upholstered this chair for my dad back in the mid-80s, if I recall, and it still looks sharp. This has always been the most-used chair in the house, but it’s in far better shape than the sofa, which was re-upholstered at the same time.
Dad’s fabric choice for the sofa didn’t prove nearly as durable, so I always have a slip cover or throws on that. That needs to be totally re-upholstered, but that’s way out of my budget. Replacing the torn underlining of the sofa will be my next furniture-related project–and I’ll make sure to get a before photo.
When you’ve made a lot of cotton dishcloths over the years, you tend to buy colorful cotton yarn when it’s on sale, and always wind up with leftover bits. Like these:
Earlier this summer I turned some tee-shirt yarn (aka “tarn”) into That Darn Bathmat. It’s a little smaller than ideal, but I love it. The only problem was I didn’t have enough tarn left to make a bathmat for the other bathroom.
I decided to rectify the situation over the long weekend. I pulled out my box of cotton yarn—puppy Sadie sniffed it, but managed to leave the contents alone after I said “Leave it.” (Apparently puppy school is starting to pay off!) The problem was I didn’t have a pattern.
Cotton yarn is thin, so I decided to double it. I tested a couple different crochet hooks to see what felt best with two strands of cotton. The L-size hook won out. Because I had so much white, I used that as a through color, and double stranded it with one color after another.
At first I tried single crochet. It was fine, but slow going. I wanted to work in rounds, but that made it hard to know where to add stitches so the rug would be flat. That’s when I decided to shape the corners kind is if I were making a granny square, by working 2 dc, ch 2, 2 dc into each corner opening. After all, granny squares are always nice and flat.
I had a few false starts with the bathmat because the corner where each row stops and starts is slightly different; the rows start with ch 5 (which equals one dc and the ch 2), so the row ends with one dc into that starting hole. It took multiple attempts to figure that out, but once I did I finally managed to get all of holes created from the corner increases to align, basically creating mitered corners. I’m not quite sure if I did it correctly, but it worked for me.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a big improvement on the old white/seafoam/pink store-bought woven cotton bathmat that was so faded and tattered it looked off-white!
If you’re a knitter or crocheter, how do you like to use scrap yarn?
Remember when I went crazy and made all that t-shirt yarn—aka “tarn“— last summer?
This weekend I turned several balls of tarn into this funky, textured bathmat:
The colors aren’t quite true, since this in an interior bathroom lit only by two wall sconces with “warm” LED bulbs. (The tile and tub are actually white.) But this is scrap art, made from several random old t-shirts, so it’s not like the colors actually matter. Your own mat will vary depending on the colors of any old t-shirts you have on hand.
You can knit or crochet tarn, but the knitted swatches I made last year all curled under on the edges. Since I wanted my finished product to lie flat, I broke out my massive crochet hook (the size isn’t even marked, but it’s roughly 1/2″ in diameter) and chained 26 so I’d wind up with 25 stitches per row. Next time, maybe 30 stitches.
I also wanted my mat to have some texture, so instead of working the mat in single crochet, I decided to crochet in the back loops only. That’s as simple as it sounds.
Now that you’ve seen how I worked the rows, let’s jump back to where I decided to change colors. I joined new colors using the same technique succinctly demonstrated in this brief You Tube video I ran across. Initially I wanted to start new colors at the end of each row, creating true stripes. But it took several attempts to get the second color to start at the end of the first row, and by the time I switched to a third color I gave up and went with random lengths of tarn.
Knitting or crocheting with random colors can be tricky, since you still want the colors to be evenly distributed—unless you want a lopsided look—so instead of creating a giant ball of tarn scraps, I decided which color to add as I went along. I kept going until I ran out of tarn, but always planned to end with a row of the same color I started with. Here’s what I had after one evening of crocheting:
The best part of a project like this is you’re upcycling old t-shirts into something fun and practical—and you’ll still have the sleeves to use for dust rags.
You can make a rug or bathmat any shape or size you want, as long as you have enough tarn.
What would you like to make from tarn?
While it’s still tricky to do any knitting with Puppy Sadie trying to get my double-pointed needles, I’m hoping the sound of the sewing machine will keep her at a safe distance from my next project: Throw pillow covers.
I haven’t sewn in a couple years because my beloved Old Reliable is no longer so reliable. The power cord has an unusual three-pronged connection where it meets the base of the machine, so of course the wires frayed and created a shock hazard. The folks at the local sewing machine repair shop said the manufacturer only used those particular cords for a few years, making it difficult to find replacements. The repairman hoped he could find one through one of their online resources for old sewing machine parts, but after a year passed without any cords turning up I decided it was time to turn Old Reliable into a very sturdy door stop.
My sister gave me a new sewing machine for Christmas, and a few days later we spotted some great remnant fabrics. Since we both have puppies who love tearing up throw pillows, we knew one day the fabric would be perfect for new throw pillows.
Years ago I bought some gold fabric to make a duvet cover, but bought a comforter instead. I plan to turn that into a new and much-needed slip cover for the sofa (you’ll understand the “much-needed” part when you see the photo below). I loved seeing how well it picks up the gold tones in the geometric pattern in one of the new fabrics. Some of the silky cloth on the top of the pile may also be used to replace the shutter inserts in one of the bedrooms.
I may have gone overboard buying pillow forms when my favorite fabric store in town had a going-out-of-business sale. In total I now have four 27-inch, two 18-inch, one 14-inch, one 12×16-inch, and two 12-inch forms. My sister wanted several of the largest pillows, but we’ll figure out how to divvy them up once we see how far our fabrics will go.
I’ll have to wash and press most of the fabrics before I sew a stitch. Why? Because I plan to make removable, washable pillow covers. If the fabric shrinks, the covers will still fit the pillow forms. The only one escaping the laundry? Lisa’s grayish-blue velvet.
Of course, before any pillow-making commences, I’ll need to learn how to use the newfangled sewing machine.
Puppy Sadie should graduate from puppy school next week, so perhaps one of these days I’ll be able to get back to more crafty endeavors. Right now, though, she’s still extremely curious and eager to “help” (if by “help” you mean trying to pull the double-pointed needles out of my hands so she can play with a half-knitted sock).
Good things are worth waiting for, or at least I hope my brother-in-law agrees since he’s still waiting for his Christmas socks.
Good things are also worth doing right.
You might remember that I made a set of replacement pool table pocket nets for my cousin’s gorgeous old pool table a couple years back. It took a while for him to devise a strategy to attach the new pockets, and from what I understand it was a bit challenging because you have to work at awkward angles. He attached the final pocket net a couple months ago, so I asked him to write this guest post.
New Pockets for the Brunswick Home Comfort
By Mark Hendrickson
This Brunswick pool table, the Home Comfort model as it’s known, has been in my family since I was a little boy. I first remember seeing this table in the parlor of an elderly couple who lived next to my family when we lived in town. As this couple disposed some of their possessions, they gave the table to my parents.
The 3.5’ x 7’ Home Comfort, made in about 1905, turns into a couch when the heavy playing surface is flipped up into a vertical position. In a 1911 Brunswick catalog, the table is described as “a very popular design especially adapted for use in a den.” The table sold originally for about $150.
On this particular table, the seat back and seat cushion are original — leather covering with horse-hair stuffing. The felt on the table was renewed in 2012.
The original pockets were a mesh fabric made of forest green wool. Over the years they had torn or stretched to the point where they would no longer hold pool balls that fell into them. Luckily for us, we have an outstanding knitter in the family (Paula) who agreed to make new pockets, using the existing ones as a model.
Once Paula finished making all six pocket nets, it was my job to affix the pockets to the table. The pockets are attached in two major ways.
How the pockets are attached
First, the lower edge of the pocket is stapled into the wooden frame of the table bed below the playing surface, at each pocket location. After this part of the pocket is secure, the top and outside edge of the new pocket is sewn to the leather and metal bracket that is screwed into the top of the rail at each pocket. It takes good strong button thread and a sturdy needle to puncture the leather lip on the bracket.
Once the pockets are stapled and sewn in place, the final step is affixing black fringe around the pocket bottom and around the outside edge of the upper leather and metal bracket.
The bottom of each pocket has a round wooden plug, shaped somewhat like a squashed hourglass. This wooden plug helps enclose the bottom of the pocket and provides a solid surface for affixing the fringe.
In creating the new pockets, Paula incorporated a length of wire at the ends, around the circumference of the hole at the bottom. This wire is wound around the hourglass at its narrowest point, thus effectively closing the pocket at the bottom. The lowest part of the wooden plug extends beyond the knit pocket and thus allows us to hot glue the fringe (salvaged from the original pockets) to the plug.
The upper fringe was affixed to the leather and metal bracket with hot glue. Originally, I suspect that the fringe may have been sewn into the leather, but they didn’t have the ease of hot glue in those days.
Overall, it took me approximately 6 hours to complete the installation of the new pockets. They work wonderfully, look as the originals did, and we no longer have to station someone by a pocket to catch a ball before it drops to the floor!
Note from Paula: After a bit more use, friction will help the fibers of the nets “felt” slightly so they’ll look more like the originals did in their prime.
Photos courtesy of Mark Hendrickson. Not only is Mark an amazing wood worker, he’s the creator and executive producer of Barn Find Fever. Follow him on Twitter: @FindBarn and Instagram: @nassaublue66.
It’s a miracle! I managed to finish one sock by squeezing in some knitting time during Sadie’s late night naps.
She did wake up one night and express interest in the yarn—or perhaps the double pointed needles—so I’ll need to proceed carefully in getting her used to her human’s knitting obsession.
With any luck I’ll finish my brother-in-law’s second sock by his birthday. It’s in December.
It’s been too long since I’ve posted anything here. There are two reasons (or excuses, depending on your point of view).
- Work has been keeping me busy, so busy that I only made a few gifts this Christmas – and forgot to get photos of most of them.
- I recently adopted this little critter, and it’s kind of hard to knit or crochet when she’s in her puppy play phase, which always coincides with prime crafting time.
Meet Sadie, shown here with one of her three toy lambs. (Every knitter’s puppy needs toy lambs!) Don’t worry, she has plenty of other toys, too.
On her second or third day at home, Sadie found a small piece of yarn on the floor. Yarn and puppies are not a good combination. She must have liked the yarn, since she soon turned one of my knitted throw pillows into a would-be chew toy. She pulled a few strands of yarn loose, but thankfully didn’t swallow any yarn. (Don’t tell her this, but because that pillow cover was made with scrap yarn, and I can re-make it once she outgrows her chewy stage.)
Sadie us a mystery mutt. I spotted her on Petfinder.com. She literally was the first puppy—out of hundreds—whose photo made me stop and say: This is my dog. It was around 1:00 a.m. when I sent in the online adoption form and requested a meet and greet. I was awake another hour or more thinking up possible names. I later learned the rescue organization received a record-breaking number of adoption applications for her. But I was the lucky one!
The people at the rescue group admitted they guessed about the puppy’s age and mix. All they knew for certain is she was found December 21 wandering alone in a rural area in Southern Illinois and was taken to the county animal shelter. The vet at that (kill) shelter listed her as a 6 to 9-week old Beagle mix. She weighed 5.25 pounds. On January 2, the rescue group took her in and placed her with a great foster family. Much discussion ensued as to her age and mix. She has large, webbed paws, and they guessed she might be a slightly younger Bernese Mountain Dog mix.
The vet she saw earlier this week estimated Sadie, now just over 15 pounds, to be 12 weeks old, but said once she starts losing her puppy teeth we might be able to narrow it down. She agreed with the first vet that Sadie could part Beagle—something about her front legs, while most people say her tail screams Beagle—then added that it will be interesting to see what she grows into. I agree.
I don’t really care what mix Sadie is as long as she’s healthy. She’s sweet, happy, and super smart. She learned “sit” in one day. (It didn’t hurt that I had her sit before getting her food!) But I still sent in a doggie DNA test since there were no siblings or parents to offer clues as to her genetic history. They’re not 100% accurate tests, but random guesses aren’t very accurate either. The information could be helpful since larger breed dogs have different dietary needs than smaller dogs, and some breeds are prone to certain health issues she might need to be screened for.
Every day I look at Sadie and see a different blend of dogs. Today she’s looking like a combination of Border Collie and Beagle, but the other day I swear I saw a little Rottweiler in her face. And every so often I think she’s part Panda. You can see why…
So please forgive me if I set crafty projects aside a while to focus on this gorgeous little fur ball who has taken over my life. I’m sure once she settles in she’ll be a good little helper….and maybe then I can finish my brother-in-law’s already much-belated Christmas socks. (I almost have one sock done, but it’s slow going when you can only sneak in a couple rounds here and there.)
The only downside of our family’s new Thanksgiving tradition of making our own fresh Christmas wreaths? I’m always the last one to finish. But the effort is worth it.
We’re fortunate to have access to plenty of balsam, white pine, red pine and other random evergreens on our cousins’ wooded property, but this time of year you can usually buy boughs (or maybe even pick up free trimmings) wherever live Christmas trees are sold. For us, going out to cut the branches is half the fun.
We foraged mostly for balsam, white pine, and red pine, but a little spruce, hemlock, and jack pine may have worked their ways into our pile of greens. We didn’t have our full contingent of wreath makers this year, so we only filled one wheelbarrow with boughs.
It gets messy dealing with all those pine needles, so this year we tried putting the branches on a tarp to make clean up easier. It helped, but we still had to do a lot of vacuuming when we were done.
Most of us re-used our old wreath frames. They’re not expensive, and in January when people discard their Christmas wreaths they’re pretty much free for the picking; if you want to take time to remove the old greens you’ll have a usable frame. (One of my older blog posts explains how to deconstruct a wreath.)
This year my sister decided to make a swag instead of a wreath. She made her own frame by bending a coat hanger into a diamond shape, and our cousin, Mark, happened to have some chicken wire to stretch over the hanger.
With a frame in place, it’s time to start bundling. Some people make several bundles and wire them to the frame at once, others wire each bundle to the frame as they go. I did a little of each. Hoping to speed up my work this year, I only used about 5 sprigs per bundle…usually four balsam plus one of the showier greens. Last year I think I did seven or eight.
Here are a few more photos of the process…
Mark had to help me finish the last third or so of my wreath so we could take the photo before dark. The last two years I thought I was slow because I’m allergic to pine sap and have to wear gloves. But in the photos above you can see Lisa and Brice wore gloves this year too. Yet I was still the slowest wreath maker.
Later that evening, Mary helped Lisa and me make bows, and the next day we added our finishing touches. My decorations include a few pine cones, some gold jingle bells I bought at a dollar store in Eagle River, and the bow made of ribbon I bought at Goodwill in Rhinelander. Here are our finished masterpieces:
And the game-changer this year, Lisa’s swag:
As a kid, I always looked forward to when our neighbor, Mrs. Anderson, gave our family a loaf of her homemade cinnamon bread. My favorite way to eat it was to broil thin slices with a little butter on top, and then unswirl my way through each piece so every bite had some of the cinnamon filling.
Before she moved away, Mrs. Anderson gave me this copy of her recipe.
As delicious as Mrs. Anderson’s Cinnamon Bread was, it took me several years before I dared to test her recipe. Why? It might be hard to see in the photos above, but her recipe is a little vague. Sort of like the incomplete recipes contestants are challenged with in the second round of each episode of The Great British Baking Show.
Maybe seven or eight years ago I decided to give it a try, and it actually turned out great.
First problem: I couldn’t tell from her handwriting if she wrote “a scant TB of dry yeast” or “2 scant TB of dry yeast.” I went with one packet of dry yeast. It worked.
Other question marks:
- “a little sugar”
- “2/3 to 3/4 C sugar”
- “enough flour to be able to knead”
- “roll dough into rectangles”
- “spread with softened margarine”
- “sprinkle brown sugar over dough”
- “..and then a mixture of sugar and cinnamon”
- “roll up”
- “[bake] 35 min or so – or until you think it looks done”
This is how I addressed these questions:
- pinch of sugar
- 2/3 cup sugar
- roughly 5 cups of flour
- roll the narrowest part of the dough slightly smaller than the pan I plan to use
- soften one stick of butter and use it to both grease the pans and spread of the dough
- sprinkle two generous handfuls of brown sugar over the dough
- dust about 1-1/2 Tablespoons of cinnamon sugar over the brown sugar
- tightly roll dough starting from one of the narrow ends and seal all edges
- bake at least 45 minutes, depending on the size of the pan
I quickly realized my pans are smaller than hers were, so I usually make two mini loaves as well. Once I started doing that I didn’t have to worry as much about the filling spilling out of the pans and burning in the oven. (Just to be safe I always cover the bottom rack with aluminum foil.)
Here’s a little photo journey of the bread I made this weekend:
Because this is a rich dough — containing sugar, eggs, vanilla, and butter — it tends to be wetter and a bit softer than traditional bread dough. After five or six minutes of kneading, the dough needs to rise until doubled in bulk.
Luckily, the radiators were just warm enough (without being too hot) to do the trick. I covered the bowl loosely with plastic, and topped it off—as the late great Julia Child might say— with an impeccably clean towel.
I love the idea of taking a photo before the dough rises to help gauge when it’s doubled in size. Compare this to the previous photo of dough.
Next is the fun part—hand kneading the dough, dividing it in half, and then trimming a little extra off each half to make the small loaves.
I don’t want to overwork the dough at this point. I just knead it for a minute or so to smooth it out. I knead until it feels a bit like soft bubblegum. Then it’s time to roll. I like longer rectangles, because they result in more swirls when then bread is sliced.
Next, brush with the softened (in this case over-softened) butter, sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon sugar mixture, then start rolling it up.
Repeat with the rest of the dough and they’re ready to bake.
The smaller loaves were done after about 40 minutes, but the larger ones took 10-15 minutes longer, proving that even when you try to make sense of a vague recipe, you still wind up with inexact instructions.
This bread freezes really well. Because I made it ahead of time and froze it for our big family Thanksgiving, I don’t have a photo showing the inside of a loaf. I’ll try to get a photo of the swirled cinnamon goodness when we finally cut into these beauties. If I do I’ll add it to the post later.
I’m really glad I decided to try to decipher Mrs. Anderson’s recipe. My bread might not be exactly the same (I use skim milk and real butter instead of 2% or whole milk and margarine), but no one has complained about it yet. Not unless they’re complaining that someone else ate the last piece.
My love of making something out of virtually nothing isn’t new. It was already well-ingrained in me by high school when my Botany teacher explained how you can turn old bits of vegetables into soup stock and still have something left for the compost heap.
That’s when I started saving and freezing scraps. I put some onion skins and tomato cores in a gallon-size zip bag and popped it in the freezer. Every time I used fresh vegetables, I’d add any trimmings or peels to that bag. Over the course of a few months it began to grow. My dad noticed and asked why there was garbage in the freezer. “It’s for vegetable stock,” I said. That’s when he started calling it Garbage Soup.
Not the most appetizing label. But it is made of random bits of produce that would otherwise have wound up in the trash.
I still save scraps. And when the bag is full, I simmer up some savory stock.
I wish I’d thought to take a photo of the over-stuffed zip bag of random vegetable bits, but I didn’t think about it until I’d popped everything into a stockpot and covered it with water.
You can see there are bits and pieces of all kinds of vegetables, including one of those bite-sized sweet peppers that was starting to wilt. Not fresh enough for a salad, but fine for soup stock.
I simply empty my frozen veggie scraps into a 6-quart stockpot and top it off with water. I typically toss in a few peppercorns and a bay leaf and turn the heat up to high. It can take a while for the water to heat up, but thawing the veggie bits overnight in the refrigerator speeds it up a little. Just before it begins to boil, I reduce the heat to simmer and partially cover the stockpot, then simmer for about 30-45 minutes, until the largest vegetable bits are good and tender. If you want to salt your stock, wait until it’s finished cooking.
Next, I use a large slotted spoon or “spider” to remove the veggie bits from the pot and into a colander placed over a large bowl to collect any runoff, which I pour back into the stockpot.
After that, I ladle or pour the stock through a finer sieve and into a bowl to trap pesky pepper seeds and tiny leaves. Ideally, I’d line the sieve with a layer or two of cheesecloth to reduce the amount of sediment in the stock, but I discovered I was out of cheesecloth.
I wound up with about 4 quarts of gorgeous, healthful, and flavorful vegetable stock. Here’s a peek at the final result:
I cool it in the refrigerator overnight, then freeze the stock in 1-cup, 2-cup or even 1-quart containers. You could freeze it in ice-cube trays it you like.
My favorite way to use the stock is in vegetarian risotto, but I also add it to cream-based soups or use it in recipes calling for chicken or beef stock.
You can make stock from just about any vegetable trimmings you want. That said, I’d advise against adding too much of any strongly-flavored things. One year I tossed in a few too many dried up bits of fresh ginger root, another year, too many tough asparagus ends. (I was able to mix that broth with a different batch to even out the flavors a bit.)
Here’s a fairly comprehensive list of what went into this year’s broth: kale, spinach, sweet peppers, stem ends of a couple hot peppers, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, turnip, red and yellow onions, garlic, tomato, green beans, snow peas, zucchini, green and red cabbage, summer squash, celery, carrots, scallions, swiss chard, ginger, parsley, and butternut squash. This year I even found a few artichoke leaves and the leftover ends of a couple potatoes that I’d grated.
Leeks are a good addition, as are parsnips, corn, and beets—but go easy on the beets unless you want really red stock. Lettuce, mushrooms, eggplant, and cucumbers don’t add much to the party, but sometimes I’ll toss those in, too.
Homemade vegetable stock is a great way to use scraps you’d normally discard, like the tough stems from cauliflower and broccoli, seed cores from sweet peppers, dried ends of celery, and the crowns of root vegetables.
Less than an hour after making this year’s vegetable stock, my new zip bag was already starting to fill up.