Sunday, July 5, 2015

Cutting A Rug (Or Two)

A happy and hot dog.

In the warm, dry months we spend a good deal of time on the front deck. It's where the front door is, it's where the hot tub is (unfortunately those are the same place), it's where the good views are (hence the first two items on the list). But it's also in pretty poor shape. The last owners spruced up the dilapidation by applying barn-red paint (to a lot of things), but it doesn't look like they primed first or really did much preparations at all so it's coming off where it gets the weather. They also painted around the old hot tub and so when we got a new one and moved it just a bit to maximize square footage it got even worse looking.  Still, we have bigger plans than just replacing the deck boards, so those plans will have to wait a few years while other projects take priority.

Yeah. Ugh.

Another legacy of the last owners was this braided runner rug on the part of the deck from the stairs to the door. That first summer I was going to get rid of it, but Eric pointed out that the Beastie Grrrlz liked to lay on it in the sun beam, so it stayed. Later I realized just how much dust and dirt it caught and kept out of the house, so it stayed even longer.

Harsh sunlight was probably a bad photography chose, but that's what I had when I decided to take a before shot. Trust me, the rug looked even weirder in good light.

I started shopping for outdoor rugs to replace the runner and to help disguise the deck until we are ready to tackle redoing and expanding it. But HOLY CATS you can pay a lot for an outdoor rug! That's even at off season prices last autumn and winter. And the less costly ones are in colors that just aren't our style. At all. Then through the Magic of Pinterest, I learned that I could get an affordable, but unattractive option at the big box home centers and make it more attractive with stencils. Hey, I know how to stencil and paint!

I forgot to take a true "before" photo of the rugs before stenciling, but I do have a photo that shows how cheap they looked and at the same time sort of tells you what these rugs will endure.

You can see how Delia's Sticks go from being big sticks to small sticks. Betty chews them, too, but not nearly so much.

I used two different tutorials, combining what I thought were their best/easiest processes. I bought 6' wide indoor/outdoor carpet by-the-foot (or maybe it was by-the-yard) at one of the big box stores and I actually don't remember which one, because they're practically right across the street from each other in Missoula. The runner is a 3' length and the bigger rug is about 9'.  I wish I'd used the 12' material and made it 7' for this space, but I'd lost my measurements on one of my phone replacements over the last several months and so was guessing. Oh, well.

Obviously this is a cheater picture I made after the fact for inaccurate illustrative purposes. (BOO!) 

I didn't want to dive right in to the time-consuming stenciling, so I started with a simple 2.5" border using painters tape. It's 2.5" because that's the width of my long, clear ruler and the proportions seemed fine.  I chose black paint rather than a bold color, because even though I love the colors in the slip covers on the chairs, the (stupid) barn red deck boards really clash with them. Plus, the new resin wicker chair seats are brown with black, so it seemed like a classic and safe bet. I am all for experimenting, but I really didn't want to do this twice or live with a color we didn't like: if I wanted to do that, I could've bought a cheap one at World Market and kept that rag rug.  Plus, the real show around here is the forest and the view across the valley.

Just adding that border made a huge difference in the appearance of quality; even Betty (above) thinks so. That pile on the right is Delia's Sticks which she likes to bring up to the house from the property when it's time to come in.

I had been mulling over a couple of themes that I have been digging on lately, both trendy, but still appropriate for our mountain life: arrows and feathers. I eventually choose arrows, looked at various clip art images of them online, and then drew up a few options to later make into a stencil. I even looked at pre-made stencils, but they were not the right scale or the right price. Luckily, I've cut a few stencils in my day and even had mylar in my stash!

Of course, I measured then made design decisions and made the stencils.

Shafts, arrow heads and fletching.

Then I measured and marked the rugs with a fabric-marking pencil.

I have a drywall square which makes measuring and marking larger surfaces easier.

Finally I started applying the paint!  WOO! I started with the shafts, three different styles of heads and then fletching.

The stencil does 3 arrow shafts at a time. I used a sharpie to mark the center of the stencil and a chalk pencil to mark the center of the rug, There are chalk marks across the center that mark the center of the "top" shaft for each impression.

I should have left a bit more mylar around the cut out stencil and/or dug up a smaller brush to applying the paint to the arrow heads and fletching pieces.

The pattern was one style of arrow head every third shaft, switching ends every other third. I did the same with the fletching pieces.

I cut a second set of arrow shafts, this time 4" longer, for the larger rug.

Now I need new table covers for the patio tables and to reweave and slip cover the last two chairs!

~ ~ ~

Since I was going to all this trouble with the rugs it seemed like a good idea to deal with the side effects of one of the bird feeders: seed shells and poop on the deck and railing. I know whose poop that is, anyway, it's a whole bunch of freeloader birds' poop!

Yes, the feeder is empty in this photo. Eric's biologist friend at work pointed out how feeding wildlife, even birds, is enabling "the weak and the stupid" which doesn't help the gene pool at all. We just couldn't bring ourselves to quit feeding them altogether, so instead we let a few days lapse between refills so the birds have to keep finding wild food sources, too. Flawed logic? Very possibly.

So I got a plant hanger at the hardware store and moved the feeder from just over the railing to about a foot out. We can still easily reach it to refill, but the poop is gone from the railing and the shells and poop on the deck greatly diminished. Woo!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Keeping Busy

Not a lot of posts lately for two reasons. First, house guest season has started (!) and when we're enjoying our guests we're doing just that, not taking tons of photos or thinking up ways to make those visits into posts. Visiting us is a little bit of getting away from it all (or so we like to think), so we don't think our loved ones should feel like they'll be blogged about and upon. Second, I have been preparing to participate with a couple of neighbor-friends in the first annual Bitterroot 50-mile Garage Sale! I have been going through all the boxes, cupboards, closets, drawers, and bins.  Between myself and the others, we have made good use of the 15' x 20' storage unit we rented in the valley. WOO!  

You don't have to be able to make out the words, just look at that picture for Saturday (4th from the left). It's only supposed to be 3 degrees hotter than Friday, but for some reason those 3 degrees make a BIG difference in the thumbnail representation of the day. Oof.

This morning we'll set up a pop-up tent in front to give us another 10' x 10' and hopefully sell the heck out of all our crap stuff! There has been A LOT of advertising and marketing for this and we are told people are coming from out of state to shop the 200 (!) vendors with crap wares for sale!  It's going to be a long, hot couple of days, but it should be fun and will hopefully replace some of our unused crap things with more useful cash to put towards other summer projects. It's just a nice feeling that our crap belongings that we don't use or need anymore might have another life with someone who will use or does need them.

If I have the time and inclination, I will try to get pictures of our sale site. WOO!

In the meantime, we attended E's employer's Employee Picnic and ran into an old friend. BIGFOOT FOREVER!

And while I was making trips to and from the house and the truck with boxes and materials for the sale, I spotted this super downy feather stuck to a weed underneath where a couple of pairs of swallows are nesting. They must be getting close to fledging! Or something!
In less bright sunlight, the feather was more of a dove grey color. Er, swallow chick grey.

After I took a few photos, I picked up the feather for a closer look and noticed this wee fellow on the quill. This creature (cricket? grasshopper?) was at most 1/4" long.  Neat!

Speaking of yellow-brown wildlife, this toad gave me quite a start a couple of weeks ago when I was draining the water out of the woodpile tarp. I suppose he'd been eating the mosquito larvae that I was concerned about. I wonder if it's this same toad I saw last year over by the hose bib on the house? It's about twice the size of that one.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Quick & Easy Screen Door Fix!

The house came with a couple of decent-looking screen doors on the front, one upstairs and one down. They were both hung on the wrong side of the jamb and therefore awkward to use in a couple of ways.  Also, neither of them had handle or lock hardware, just a hook-and-eye. Then the downstairs screen door, the one hung on the front door which gets A LOT of traffic, wasn't altered at all since purchase and therefore was so tight in the jamb that we couldn't have a door mat outside - this is a bigger deal because the same is true with the clearance of the front door itself... no room for a door mat and we have a THIN one. All of these things are annoying and sometimes frustrating, but not enough for us to have fixed them... until last winter when I couldn't stand the idea of not having a door mat outside any longer and took it down.

The still-installed upstairs door, which does allow for a door mat.

We don't have the tools (yet) to cut that door down a bit and I had all the materials on hand to make an "curtain style" insect screen for the front door. This project was SUPER EASY and pretty quick.

The new screen curtain on the front door.

Supplies (for one door):
1 roll of 36" x 84" pet screen (fiberglass and sturdier with pet claws than metal)
2 three-yard packages* of 1/2" double-fold bias tape (I used black, but a bright color could be fun)
1 curtain tension rod that fits your door jamb.

Sewing machine
Straight pins

Step 1: Sew an appropriately-sized rod pocket into the top. It needs to be wide enough to easily slip the tension rod through, but not so wide as to make the screen too short. Mine is about 1.75". I just used the standard straight stitch on my Pfaff for all the sewing. After I did this first step, I installed it and we lived with it a few days to be sure we would like it before I put more work and materials into it. We did like it - at least a lot more than we liked the door, and it was good fun watching the dogs find it for the first time.

NOTE: My door frame was the right width for the screen right out of the package. If yours is narrower, cut the screen to fit. Luckily, the grid pattern of the screen makes it easy to cut straight so long as you take your time and your eyes don't go wonky with the shifting squares.

I think it would have looked nicer if I'd added the bias tape before making the rod pocket, but I'm not convinced it would have functioned better so I'm going to be satisfied with it as it is.

Step 2: After making sure that the rod was at the top of the door jamb, I found where the screen hit the deck (as it were) to decide where to hem. Then I used the lines in the screen to keep it level and pinned it in place. Sew it. Working closely with insect screen can make your eyes go wonky and play optical illusion tricks, so I thought pinning would help me keep it straight.

I didn't get a shot of the hem before I added the bias tape. And I missed cutting that one thread (upper right) before taking he photo. Meh.
Not the neatest stitching I've ever done, but everything is secure and you seriously don't even notice when you're not taking a macro photo of it. ;)

Step 3: Then I bound it with the bias tape, working with the whole length and cutting as I came near the end of the screen. The ends of the bias tape are tucked under about a 1/2".  I didn't get to fussy about making sure the folded under part didn't show since both the tape and the screen are black.

I considered adding a mullion detail for funsies and because the screen is kind of invisible which leads to forgetting it's there and having that walking-into-a-web-feeling, but Eric likes how it kind of looks like the door is just open and unobstructed and I like keeping the project easy and quick.

Not much to look at, but that's one of the benefits as far as we're concerned. And in person, it looks just like a darkened doorway.

I'm going to do another for the upstairs door, but will also keep the screen door installed since it's in the guest room and we want guests to feel comfortable sleeping with the door open on hot summer nights.

* Eric was shocked that I wasn't going to make the bias tape, since that's one of my things. Since I wanted plain black to blend with the screen material, it made sense to go with pre-made: faster AND cheaper since I used coupons.

Friday, May 29, 2015


This photo probably has the truest colors. The rest were shot indoors or with cloud cover. Meh.

Eric's buddy, Juan, is our most-frequent overnight guest. Who'da thunk that of our close friends, one of those that lives the furthest away ends up here the most? We think we're going on his sixth or seventh (or both, depending on how you count) and I decided there should be a commemoration of this. Just prior to Juan's last visit, I was asking Eric a question about said visit and ended up conflating "Juan" and "Montana" into "Juantana." Obviously, this word stuck. How could it not? And a tee shirt idea was born!

I used the tried and true freezer paper stencil method and instead of dye or paint, I used bleach. I had used the method to make Eric a shirt our first Christmas in Montana.*

First, I put together an online clip art map with "JUANTANA" using Photoshop**, made it the appropriate size, and printed it out on printer paper. Next, I taped the print out to an appropriately-sized piece of freezer paper, and cut out most of it with an Exacto knife (leaving the letter Ns and As).  None of these steps were photographed. Oopsie!

I chose a blue tee shirt because I know I'd seen him wear a few different pieces of blue clothing. Eric informed me that it was Dodgers' blue and a safe bet. Whew!

Next, I used a dry iron on the cotton/linen setting to adhere the shiny side of the stencil to the 100% cotton, pre-washed tee shirt. After that I finished cutting out the Ns and As with a soft touch and a sharp blade.

To keep the bleach where I wanted it, I inserted a piece of cardboard inside the shirt and wrapped the sleeves and bottom around the back.  I placed the whole thing in the bathtub (making sure the shower curtain and bathmat were well out of the way of bleach over-spray. Then I sprayed around the edges of the stencil a few times and watched closely.

That is not just bad photography, but also the action of the bleach around the stencil causing that grainy, halo-like effect.

Undiluted bleach acts fast and is corrosive, so have water at-the-ready to counteract the bleach when you get your desired effect and before it disintegrates your fabric. Remember to pull out your cardboard real quick like before dowsing. This is one reason I did it in the bathtub: to have quick and ready access to water as well as to contain the bleach. I have seen projects on black fabric where they have bleached to almost-white, so perhaps I am overly cautious.

I used the handheld shower attachment so that I could focus the water where i wanted it. I am sure you could run it under the tap or even use a pre-filled pitcher to rinse.

After it was thoroughly rinsed, I removed the stencil, inspected the (wet) result, and threw it in with a load of laundry to wash and dry.  Et voilà!

I think the end result is reminiscent of a mostly blue sky with a few fluffy white clouds which is pretty much our part of the Big Sky, so that's extra cool.

Eric says he'll love it. I hope so!

* I had kept this small spray bottle of bleach, clearly labeled, from that last project. Apparently, over time and in a container that is not airtight, chlorine bleach somehow becomes inert or at least becomes something that smells a lot like water and has a similar bleaching capacity of water, because when I sprayed it on the shirt the only things that happened were the shirt getting wet and the stencil ruined. D'oh! I rinsed the shirt thoroughly, then dried it with a load of laundry, remade the stencil, and started over with fresh bleach the next morning. I am glad I did this a couple of weeks prior to Juan's arrival!

** I am still not that comfortable with GIMP and had to bust out my old Windows machine instead of my faster, better Linux machine. If anyone has a great source for Photoshop-to-GIMP conversion chart I would LOVE to know about it!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fog Monster: The Allergen

The other night we had a windy, rainy, stormy late afternoon. Eric saw a fog rolling in and fast.

That's right, those are dandelion puffs about as tall as the snow was deep in winter 2014. We didn't move to the forest to have a manicured landscaped, but hopefully we'll figure something out that's xeriscapic and deer resistant, i.e. native.

Turns out that the fog was actually pine pollen. Whoa. We don't remember it being quite this copious in the past, so perhaps it's an especially big year for pine pollen.  Woo.

Then a few days later: pine pollen on the hot tub cover, pine pollen on the patio furniture, pine pollen on the deck and on the cars, and pine pollen on the back door knob. I wish I knew how to capture the yellow or alter the photo to show how yellow it really is. Just know that it's sulfer-y in color and all over the place!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Every Night is Bat Night

Eric got a bat house for his birthday! Finally. Betty helped him install it, as per instructions. Loud, startling instructions that also included polite requests for a fun game of Pine Cone.


Fun fact: bats have been spotted in and around the property and house, so hopefully we'll have new tenants eating biting bugs before too long!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Make Do and Mend

We have a set of six patio chairs. They're not super special or anything, but they are decent looking, comfortable, and stack-able. The stack-ability is really important to me, because it means that they store out of the weather very easily and also store out-of-season in a minimal amount of space. It's also difficult to find sturdy, affordable patio chairs that stack unless you want molded resin chairs. Anyway, the summer before we moved four of the seats gave out and I tried to fix them with upholstery. That only lasted a few years. Then last winter, I found that I could buy new resin wicker (also called plastic wicker) online from Frank's Cane & Rush Supply! WOO!  And just in the nick of time, too, because the other two seats blew out.

After searching around their site, I decided on a style that was as wide and as thick as I could get in a color that would go well with the bronze color of the chairs and with the rounded profile. Wide so it would cover quickly, thick hoping it would last longer, and rounded for comfort.  They are sold in 1-pound rolls and my chairs took just over 1 pound per seat.

On five of the chairs, the tops of the backs have also failed. I think I will probably replace those with new resin wicker at some time in the future, but for now I decided to use the outdoor fabric I already had on hand to make simple slip covers.

I had enough uncut fabric to make 4 slipcovers. I have two pieces that were cut to make two more seats that I will make fronts with and I picked up at coordinating solid to do the backs. They just slide over and fasten with tabs and buttons on the back.

We have two rounds of guests coming at the end of May and beginning of June and will need three patio chairs per visit, so I have finished four and will work on  the other two after that fun is over.

Here they are in two stacks of two!

I realize that the slip covers "should" all have the same part of the fabric's pattern, but I wanted them to be random for the sake of informality and to enjoy the various parts of the pattern. Lucky for me, this also meant there was less waste, enabling  me to get four covers from the fabric I already had.

I think that replacing all six seats will end up costing about what one or one-and-a-quarter new chairs would cost.  So, in addition to keeping perfectly good chair frames out of the landfill and diminishing the waste and pollution associated with manufacture and shipping, we also saved some money.  Of course, that's with me working for free; it probably would have cost much more than the chairs are worth if I had to pay someone to weave them.

I have a couple other projects in mind for the deck and hope to get those done before June is done. Sadly, those projects don't include new decking or railing this year.

Stay tuned.