Friday, November 24, 2017

My Rusty Piece of Scrap Metal

So... who wants this rusty piece of scrap metal? Anyone? Nope? Well.. as a matter of fact, I did. I most definitely did! I'm on the hunt for metal filing cabinets like this and was thrilled with the price of this one. Yup, my favorite 4-letter word! FREE.... wheeeee!

Himself sanded this baby right back down to bare metal, painted rust killer on it, let it dry, and sanded it clean again. Then he painted it.

He thought I was smoking something interesting and/or not quite legal when I told him how I wanted the colors, but even he had to admit, it looks fantastic!

New bragging rights, methinks! #myhusbandisamazing

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My Top Tips for Quilting on a Budget

Quilting is as old as fabric, but it's new to me. I'm loving it! One of the most common questions I get is how to afford quilting. To be honest, it can turn into an extraordinarily expensive hobby! I'm a major thrifter - I'll not buy anything full price if I can get it on sale - and E, F and R are my favorite letters of the alphabet, especially when you double the E and put them in the right order! 

So, here are my top tips for quilting on a budget. 

Tip #1: Get a sewing machine.

Truthfully, you don't even need a sewing machine. Quilting is still done by hand today. But if your patience level matches mine and you want to whip up a creation now (or at least within a few days, for the smaller projects) you're going to need a machine. 

Yes, those awesome machines that can do everything but make coffee are... awesome... but so are the price tags. All you need is a machine that can stitch in a straight line. If you have the moolah to buy a (relatively) new machine, my best advice is to find out what service centers are in your area. For example, I have a Janome. The service center in the nearest town to me, 20 miles away, only works on Singer or Brother machines. To get my Janome serviced, I have to drive about 80 miles to a large town to get it done. That bites! 

Walmart usually has an impressive array of machines in various price points and those prices are often discounted a LOT on major holidays like Black Friday or Memorial Day. Amazon Prime Day in June or July is also a great time to pick up specials, which would be when to look at this sewing and quilting machine! Love that extension! Mmm mmm....


If you really want to find a machine that is bargain basement budget, you gotta hit the garage sales. I found this beloved beauty for a whopping (drum roll please!) $10. No, that's not a typo. It cost me Ten Dollars. This particular model can sew through 7 layers of leather without a problem. Can you say "quilt sandwich"?

Still waiting for a clean up and service

You wanna know the even bigger saving on this model? No service costs. Well, of course the machine needs servicing, but these pre-1950s models are so easy to service yourself because there are no computerized parts. There are a ton of videos and articles online on how to service them, and the parts are easily and readily available. Sewing machines haven't changed very much at all in the last 100+ years. It's a good idea to learn how to clean and service your machine yourself anyway. I cannot tell you how heart wrenching it is to have to interrupt your sewing journey for days at a time while your baby is at the sewing doctor! 

P.S. Only service yourself if it's an old mechanical sewing machine, not a fancy computerized one. That needs a specialist. Step away from the screwdriver!

SWAG for pennies!

Tip #2: Find supplies for nearly nothing

Grab your newspaper, turn to the Classifieds, and make a note of every garage sale, estate sale, and church rummage sale in the area. Plan your weekend around a circular route that will get you to as many of these as you can squeeze in. Don't be distracted by all the other goodness there. Focus! At the estate sales, head straight for the craft/sewing room, but also remember to check the bedrooms and living rooms. Lots of folks do needlework watching TV and hand needlework supplies are perfect for quilting. At garage and rummage sales, casually ask anyone that is overseeing the sale if they have any sewing stuff. You may find the sewing machine of your dreams, such as my baby up there, or score a serger for only $30 including all the attachments. Yup, I got that too. 

Gotta unpack this!

What you're really looking for are items such as needles, rotary cutters and blades, quilting rulers, quilting templates, embroidery scissors, cutting scissors, snips, fabric marking pens or chalk, cutting mats, embroidery hoops, iron pads, an iron or heating iron. Folks who do model aircrafts use heating irons and they're often put into a garage sale because they got a new, better model. These things are fantastic for small projects! Folks get rid of this stuff for a variety of reasons. Either they never got into the hobby and just want to get rid of it, or a relative moved out/passed away/passed it on and they don't want the clutter any more. Their clutter is your treasure! 

I often find that all the stuff is jumbled altogether and I never search through it. I glance disinterestedly inside and ask "how much would you pay me to take the whole box off your hands?" This normally makes them laugh and breaks the ice, and I often get a stash of mostly junk for very little. I take it home and unpack it, never at the sale. Often I find a few items worth double what I paid for the whole box, and then donate the rest of it to a thrift store

Don't be afraid to make offers. Remember, they want the stuff OUT of their house, you want it in yours. There's a happy medium there, somewhere! No need to be rude, but from running an eye over the box you'll have an idea of value, and my little gambit above lets them know you're willing to haggle. They'll expect a counter offer

Sorting time is often interrupted by Quality Control

Tip #3: Hit the Thrift Stores

There are stacks of people who swear by the linens section of the thrift stores. I'm glad it works for them, but personally, I don't like buying sheets for quilting. Old sheets often pill terribly and there's no way you can know the fabric content of the stuff, unless it still has its tag, which is rare. I'll run my hands over the sheets in a cursory way, stopping only if I feel a particular crispness that suggests percale or linen, but I don't tend to shop that section. 

Instead I go the fabric section. There are often bolts of fabric with information on the selvage, ziploc bags of interesting scraps, and even my personal favorite: felt. I gobble it all up! Felt is glorious stuff for very small projects like mug rugs, placemats, table runners, wall hangings, and the like. Do NOT use it for quilts. If you can do a burn test on it and ensure it is pure wool, it would be good for quilts, but otherwise, stay away! I also use it for rugs. 

7 yards of felt: $8, plus fabrics for pennies

Then I head over to the craft sections. Often there are bags of jumbled items, all stuffed together in a chaotic mess of indeterminate use or origin. They are priced at odd amounts like $3 for a large ziploc bag. If the shop is not monitored and I'm left to myself, I'll scrabble through the bag for an idea of it's value, but I don't take stuff out or move it into another bag. I will pay for the bag as is, if there's something in there I want. It's an ethics thing for me, do whatever lets you sleep at night. A lot of the workers at thrift stores see "crafts" as a single category and will lump a whole batch of things together in one bag. You'll get rug hooking, needlework, quilting, and decoupage all together in that one haul. After I've completed my purchases, I'll walk out to the car, sit there in comfort in the back seat and sort through my finds. I keep the treasures and donate the trash right back to them on the spot! No point in dragging those decoupage doodads home and cluttering up MY place, right?

Love these snips that I got in a bag. The whole bag went back, these came home!

Tip #4: Finding Fabric

Quilting fabric is priced sky high. I paid $14 for a yard of fabric last month. I almost swallowed my tongue! The thing is, unless you have your heart set on a particular pattern or colorway, you can often find fabulous fabric bargains.

Remember I mentioned garage sales, estate sales, rummage sales and thrift stores for supplies? Well, you can find a ton of fabric in all of those places too, but often not where you'd think to look! If you can find fabric and can identify it positively as cotton, grab it up. Unless you know cotton well, I wouldn't buy the unidentified stuff. I don't like buying odd items of fabric and then cursing seven ways from Sunday because it plumb won't sew up the way I wanted. 

You know what always has fabric content though? Clothes! I look for the "X". 2XL all the way up to 5XL and beyond. That stuff provides reams of fabric, in fun prints, and a little label that tells you exactly what's inside! Men's button down shirts, women's skirts and dresses, especially those muumuu style sacks. Fabric heaven. $2-$3 per item and, once you have the fabric cut out, you can get a few usable yards of the stuff. Best. Score. EVER!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Removing Old Water-Based Paint From Clothes - the Rescue Me Edition for Klutzes!

The Klutz is me, for sure. If there's paint, mud, chicken poop... I'll find it. Usually on me when somebody says "what's that?" (or "what smells?") 

So, it was with a lot of dismay that I splashed paint on my favorite, really well-worn and due for a replacement, pair of denim capris. (Side note, I just learned that denim is from the original name of the fabric Serge de Nimes! Cool, huh?) Anyway, lots of spots later, I loved this capris so much, I wore them spots and all.. to Himself's horror! Which is another way of telling you that the paint is old, and has been through the wash and dryer multiple times. I thought it was here for life.

Then somebody told me about this wonder product!

Good old-fashioned isopropyl alcohol. Available at our local grocery store for a couple bucks.

Apply liberally to old paint spots

Rub in a scrubbing motion between your hands, like they did before washing machines were invented

 Repeat until all the spots are cleared, then wash as normal.

Voila! No paint spots! Okay, okay, I didn't iron them before I took the photos, but I was just so excited to show you! Truthfully, I don't iron them ever, but that' a topic for another day.

There are two teeny tiny marks left behind, but they're hard to see. And, let's be realistic here, they might not even be paint residue. Knowing me, they could be oil, or blood, or dog drool. Well... maybe not dog drool, they did just come out of the wash!

So, go out and rescue your paint covered clothes, fellow Klutzes! And let me know how it goes. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Rustic Restful Deck

There is absolutely no doubt my husband is incredible. Here was our starting point...

That was the MLS photo by the listing agent. He very cleverly kept the electric pole out of all of the photos. The fact that it's bang in the middle of the view is a bit odd, and we'll have to have it moved eventually.

Here's a long view from the lower deck area where we were building the chicken coop.

Left view of the deck where I tried to make it more cheerful. As you can see, it just turned out sad.

Right view. Jock used to sit up there and watch Himself at work. (P.S. The electric pole is clearly visible in this photo!)

And here (drum roll please) is our deck now!

That is the most friendly area to sit and relax, wouldn't you say? Now, if I may, it's time to brag on the hubby's skills. We'll start with the herb garden, that I posted about in this post here. As you can see from the above photo, it has gotten lovely and lush. The furniture was an old lounge suite that was in the cabin before we demolished it. It has been in the barn for a year, until Himself sanded and cleaned it up, and I bought the outdoor cushions from Lowe's Home Improvement Store. The metal chair on the right was a dumpster find. There were two, but one of them has a bent leg and will just collapse under any weight except the cat.

Don't you just love that gorgeous coffee table? So rustic and impressive! Here's a close up.

Built by Himself out of old fence and pier wood collected from the debris of the hurricane at Corpus picked up while he was down there helping to clean up.

That same wood was used to construct the gate, log rack and log splitter base. 

The gate is very sturdy, with four sides as the base, and then the individual slats making that gentle rolling design. It closes with a catch on the right. 

The log rack is built with sides and a base. It's piled high with logs that Himself spent the last week splitting up from the big stack of old oak trees that were cut down last year. 

I'm working on a canvas cover that we can put over it to protect the logs from rain and wet. I was going to sew a designed, fitted cover, but Himself pointed out that it won't fit correctly when the rack is piled high, like it is now. So it's just a large tarp-like design, and we're going to put grommets in the corners so that it can be secured against wind. 

The log splitter is fitted to a log base. A log goes into the top of the splitter, and is hit down with a mallet, to make the logs into smaller pieces for kindling. 

This is the right side of the deck. The final build, a huge, heavy, sturdy work table. It's perfect for projects, photographs, or as a serving table when we have a barbecue. 

The plastic bin holds a bunch of homemade fire lighters. We'll probably come up with something slightly more attractive and decorative. Eventually. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

New Chicken Take Out Joint in Our Community

Turns out the new chicken take out joint in our community... 

.... is our place!

Lost two already. Today's customer was the Texas Coyote.

Photo by Texas Wildlife

I was far too busy chasing him OUT of our garden to take a photo, running around in only my boots, but this is what he looked like. Gorgeous animal, if unwelcome when he's 15'/5m from the house. 

And yes, in only my boots. We have rattlesnakes. There's no way I'm going to deal with a rattler when I'm chasing a coyote. But clothes take too long. I had chickens to rescue! 

And no, I didn't get a photo of me in only my boots. Texas Wildlife doesn't have one either!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Death in the Night

He was about 8'/2.5m long and his body was bigger around than my wrist. He turned up right at the steps of our deck and threatened Himself and Jock. Himself locked Jock inside the house, fetched my gun, and then told me to come and see the snake. I demurred, he insisted. This meant the Rattlesnake was left to its own devices for at least 5 minutes!

Now, in Africa, if you make yourself scarce, the snake makes itself scarce, and everyone lives in peace. Not in Texas, it seems. Despite being given a respite, the snake was still in the same spot and very aggressive. It signed it's own death warrant!

Himself wanted to keep the skin and the rattles, but some local critter carried the corpse away in the night, so this is our only record. That, and my memory of the sound. Those rattles sure are scarier in real life than they are on the movies!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Prizewinning Watermelon!

Last year, when we were taking apart the garden to go into its winter dormancy, Himself dug out some watermelons. Most of them were the normal sized ones, and most of them were past their "sell by" date and ended up as chicken food. Much to the chickens' delight! However, we did end up with one prize winner! It weighed in at 40LB! (18kg for my metric readers.)

Even bigger than our microwave (it was blown, so it was outside in the garage to be taken to recycling.)

Really difficult to measure something that rocks in weird shapes, but we think it was 23"/58cm long

 Give or take an inch

And about 13"/33cm across at the widest point. 

I forgot to take photos of the inside... oh, bite me!... because it was so yummy, I just tucked in and didn't think about pics. The most glorious rich golden yellow, sweet and juicy! Our neighbors each got a quarter. Best. Watermelon. Ever!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cluckingham Palace - Part 2

Part 1 covered the major build of our feathered family's new home. Now, here are the final builds, finishing touches, and introduction of the new occupants. 

11. Hardware cloth was added to all the run, stretching from the roof trusses, and curved to create a secure line... (we were stacking all the building wood inside the run to keep it dry, as we hit a patch of major rain for a few days.)

All the way down to a foot below the pen, digging beneath the line of the run and curving the cloth a foot outward. The cloth was then topped with big rocks and then concrete poured over it. One of our Quality Control team watched over the job to ensure it was up to spec.

And then the whole lot was covered over with earth and packed. Jock took quite a liking to the run, snoozing in there most days. We figure his Quality Control report was all good. 

12. Guttering was added to the back to catch and direct the rain run off, and a large rock placed under the spout to prevent soil erosion. The plan is to add a rain barrel for rainwater catchment in the future. The windows and door hatch were painted. 

13. Himself built a hinged roost that I can lift for cleaning, and we covered the floor in a deep bed of shavings.

14. The Door Hatch build was finalized and tested for smooth opening and closing, and an old wooden ladder we found in the barn was converted into a ramp.

15. We put together a bit of a playgound in the run. The feeder was hung from the rafter and a feed tray was placed to one side. Perches and logs formed climbing, sitting and resting areas. We added grass clippings for scratching and digging around in. 

16. Himself built a window box, and planted flowers. The final member of the Quality Control team did an inspection. 

17. Food storage

18. Neighbors donated decorative items. We couldn't believe it, but we loved the joke and they all went up. A gate flag.

A wreath.

Some chicken pans. Himself added the mirror from the old cabin medicine cabinet.  Getting the idea now why I've nicknamed the place Cluckingham Palace? 😉

Finally... we added some chickens!

Part of the playground included a swing. You can see it in this photo. 

The nesting boxes were ready for the ladies, even though it would be a month or two before we got to see any eggs. 

This photo includes our very beautiful rooster.