Saturday, April 6, 2013

Feelin' Cocky In a Fancy Cockade

Spring is finally, most definitely here! Sorry I’ve been MIA for awhile, but here’s a little treat for the crafting soul: accessorizing with cockades!

Cockades from the 18th century are most commonly linked with men’s tricorne hats and with military dress–for example, cockades made up of blue, white and red ribbons were a common symbol of the French Revolution. But women picked up the fashion and began wearing them too, partially for their own political convictions, but also probably just because they were a stylish and official badge of sassiness all on their own. Check out this baroque babe…that style ain’t no lie.
A Portrait of a Young Lady (Yermolai Kamezhenkov, 1790)
The fun thing with cockades is that they are basically pretty easy to make, and totally customizable–in short, the perfect project for the 18th-century mod girl!

Your list of ingredients will vary depending on how you like to work with fabric, but essentially you will need:
  • Ribbons
  • Decorative buttons or items to top cockades
  • Bobby pins, headbands, or whatever you plan on attaching
  • Fabric glue (very useful for stopping ribbon edges from fraying) or Heat 'N Bond
  • Craft glue or a glue gun
  • Needle and thread

I played with constructing them in a few different ways, and today I’ll show you the most common style you’ll see. This is what I’ll call a flat pleat, to distinguish from the other types of cockades I made. The flat pleat means you just fold the fabric over in a zig-zag pattern, and then use an iron to flatten down the folds so you get nice, sharp pleats.

After making and ironing these folds, go over them first with a running stitch and use it to pull them together into a tight circle. Then go back over them with a back stitch to reinforce the circle. If you’re unfamiliar with types of stitches, here’s a quick reference from Use craft glue to lightly cover any ribbon edges to stop them from fraying, or press and iron ends with Heat 'N Bond.

Once the cockade is finished, you can hide the central seam with another smaller bow or a button, charm, or anything you fancy. Finally, glue on to the back whatever you want to make it an accessory. I glued a crafting bobby pin (it has a little flat metal circle on top which gives it a greater surface to stick to things) to the back of this one.

If you want to get all fancy with it, here’s a nice tutorial on making cockades the traditional way. I, however, am a firm believer in winging it, mod 18th-century style, if you’re not in the market for perfection. I used an iron to get the nice flat pleats, but I’m not sure I used the same exact method as the tutorial to finish off the ends. I just tucked the end of the ribbon in under the first fold I made at the other end of the ribbon, and that hid all of my handiwork. As long as you’re satisfied with how it looks, I call that success.

Now check out these 'artistic' Instagram pics. Award-winning, really.

So have at it! Grab some cute ribbons, fabric, buttons, and anything your 18th-century imagination inspires! More designs to follow, but if this looks fun and easy to you, feel free to post your own pics of personal creations.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Roman Holiday

Evening, friends of the mod salon. I’m finally done with my latest project, after a touch of indisposition, which I’m destroying with some Airborne and about 1,000,000 cups of tea, and some fun freelance work.

I was looking around my room for things I could make more fabulous, and it was then that I took in my crumbly, sad windows for the first time and realized how empty and forlorn they looked.

Windows can’t be forlorn; they’re like the eyes on which you’ve neglected to use a wrinkle-minimizing under-eye serum! Actually, that sounds creepy. FYI, though, if you’re looking for under-eye serum, I like Clinique’s All About Eyes Serum De-Puffing Eye Massage.

But that’s neither here nor there. The point is, I’m on cold medicine so I’m not making a whole lot of sense right now, but my heart is in the right place when it comes to having a desire for my windows to get a bit of a Roman holiday...say, two and a half centuries back in time. The way Admiral Lord Nelson needed Lady Emma Hamilton, my windows needed roman shades: bad.

Now I know you read in past posts that I wanted to get my sewing machine and table together so I could do some projects with fabric. But then I found this wonderfully detailed tutorial on how to make roman shades from those cheap plastic adjustable blinds without having to haul out the machine. I was sold.

Here’s what you need:
  • Cheap plastic blinds
  • Several yards of fabric (depending on the length and width of your windows)
  • Heat N’ Bond or any brand of iron-on adhesive
  • Fabric glue + paint brush for easier application
  • Glue gun
  • Scissors
Since there are so many steps to this tutorial, I won’t repeat them all here. Essentially, these take a little time and effort, but they’re pretty easy!

Measure the length and width of your windows to figure out the dimensions you need, and cut the fabric to those dimensions, allowing for an additional 2 – 2 ½” on each  end for seams. My windows were 58” long and 30” wide so I made my fabric about 62” long and 35” wide.

With your dimensions, you then figure out how many plastic slats you need for the number of folds you want. Since my fabric would more or less be about 60” long, I decided to make 10 folds, each 6” apart. See, 10 folds x 6” = 60”. The Compleat Housewife would have been so proud.

I’m not sure if I seamed my edges the way the tutorial suggests, but I’ve always been taught to twice-fold fabric to keep edges from fraying, so that’s what I did:

And now for the finale…

Ta da! The fabric is neutral enough to go with the other colors in my room, but still has a lovely, 18th-century inspired print that adds a nice pop of color and design to my windows.

After making these pretty shades, I realized I couldn’t put them up next to drab, white metal curtain rods, so I found a pretty rod from Home Depot from the Martha Stewart Living collection.

My window feels glam now, and every time I walk in my room, I do too. Huzzah for the mod 18th century!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Petite Projects II

Those of you who follow my Facebook page may have seen a cryptic yet glam photo of some new materials I'll be working with in the near future, taking this digital petit salon in yet another new and delightful 18th-century direction.

In the meanwhile, I did some more little projects over the past few weeks to glam up my walls. The first was to find another home for the big ivy plant I brought home awhile ago and have been dividing up and repotting.

I didn’t have any more pots, and I didn’t have a plant holder for the wall. What I did have was a peanut butter jar, an old picture frame, and the enthusiasm of an 18th-century mod girl.

Basically I layered scrapbook paper against alternately-painted frames to make some nice contrast. Then I took picture wire and wrapped it around the peanut butter jar, then twisted the ends together into a long pointy rope. Next I poked a hole through the scrapbook paper/picture background, stuck the wire rope through it, then unwound it enough to flatten both ends against the back of the frame in opposite directions. I dabbed a thin layer of clear glue around the wire holding up the peanut butter jar even though it felt pretty sturdy, and I taped down the flattened wire on the back of the frame to hold it in place.

Pretty crafty! If you recall from my other Petite Projects post, I used the same Rococo-style scrapbook paper for the background. This type of repurposed plant holder probably isn’t something you’d commonly find from the 18th century, but I loved finding another purpose for that scrapbook paper, and it’s just so sweet up on my wall!

This next project was with a Rococo-style swirly resin wall piece that I’ve had my eye on for awhile at Hobby Lobby. I finally sprung for it this week when it was half-off (I and the sales assistant who helped me agreed that paying full price for anything makes one feel sad) and got to work.

This job is pretty simple. You need the basic team on your side:

  • primer
  • paint of your choice
  • a 1-inch paintbrush, or smaller, if you are more dedicated than me
  • medium-grade or course-grade sanding sponge 

Prime the piece, allow it time to dry, then paint and allow that to dry. The main challenge to painting such a swirly fanciness is that there are so many freaking crevices to get the paint into. I said I used a 1-inch brush but you could use a smaller brush if you want to paint more carefully—since I knew I would be distressing the piece after painting anyway, I wasn’t quite so concerned if I painted it perfectly.

This is why I love shabby-chic. It’s supposed to look like it’s 250 years old or whatever, so who cares if you fudged that weird corner! It’s supposed to look like George Washington wrote the Constitution on it.

Enjoy and stay tuned for new 18th-century-themed things for spring!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Mod Sewing Circle

I didn’t mean to purchase a Progressive-era sewing table. It just…happened.

Okay, here’s what really happened. I’ve been wanting to get started on some sewing projects in the near future, and I realized that I didn’t have a good work surface for such projects. And the thought spending money on some unattractive laminate work table with modular black plastic legs just made me sad.

So I found this…interestingly decorated…old sewing table on Craigslist for $35!

It looked pretty old. Maybe not 18th-century old—but I bet it wished it were. Poor post-industrial revolution sewing table! I will help you. It had pretty moulding on the sides and drawer fronts, albeit in, ahem, rather bold color choices. It had a drawer for the sewing machine to collapse into. Theoretically. I could work with this.

The main renovation to this piece (so far) would be simply in the painting, as I 1) wanted it to match the other furniture in my room and 2) wanted it in colors that I consider more fashionable for the 18th century look.

For this project, I needed the gang with me once more:
  • some primer (I use Glidden’s)
  • paints: lighter color for the body of the table, and a darker color for the drawers and lid (I used the same colors in my dresser project)
  • a medium-grade sanding sponge
  • Howard Feed-N-Wax furniture wax polish
  • new drawer knobs because the old ones were 1) partially missing and 2) extremely blah
  • a screwdriver (sorry, forgot to add this to the pic)

I also had a cup of tea. I drank Irish Breakfast this time, but as I said before, Lady Grey or any tea will do that makes you feel all fancy.

First, remove the drawers and unscrew the old drawer knobs. Sand all the surfaces you’ll be painting so that the primer sticks around, much the same way that the Hair Bump has:
Left: circa 18th century. Right: circa 2007, somewhere on late night television.
Next, prime everything. Note: since this piece has a lid that lifts and lays on top of part of the surface of the table, make sure to leave adequate time for everything to dry before you switch sides to paint on.

Once the primer dries, paint the body of the table in the lighter color (or however you like—try reversing colors if you feel adventurous!) and the body of the drawers. Let the drawers dry to the touch, then paint the drawer fronts in the darker color. Let everything sit for awhile and drink some more tea, perhaps while reading Camilla.

Once everything is painted and dried, get out the medium-grade sanding sponge again (or switch to a fine-grade if you prefer) and scuff the edges and corners to your little heart’s shabby-chic desires. Take a damp cloth and wipe off all the little sandy paint bits from the table, and on the floor.

Screw the new drawer knobs in and replace the drawers. Now get out the Howard furniture wax and buff a healthy helping into all of the wood surfaces, as this thirsty piece is surely a veteran to climate change. Let the wax sit for at least 20 minutes, then wipe it dry with a soft cloth.

Ta da! I loooove how this came out! Check out these gorgeous details:

And finally, here’s a bonus tidbit: while initially taking everything apart, I found this crumbling certificate tucked away in the back of the top left drawer:

This sewing table is from July 25, 1910! That makes it 103 years old this July. Hmm. Maybe I should throw it a party this summer.

*By the way, that 18th century portrait is by Thomas Hickey, and you can see it in full view here. Also, disclaimer, I am NOT a promo rep for Bumpits™.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Redefining the Ladies' Boudoir with Ikea

The alternate title to this post was "Frenching My Dresser."

My Ikea Malm series dresser has been feeling a little neglected, as it watches other furniture in my room get makeovers, so of course I thought my next project had to be transforming this modular piece into the ultimate 18th century ladies' boudoir.

For inspiration, I found this gorgeous 18th century French dresser from, which is like Temptation Island for people who like the 18th century.

Unfortunately, restored French furniture from 250 years ago is probably out of the price range of, say, your average freelance writer.

So, instead, here's the idea. This clever Pinterester restored a drab dresser with spray paint and lace:
My Malm dresser may not have fancy swirly legs and accents, but it still deserves to feel 18th century-fabulous.

For this project, you will need:

  • paint primer (I use Glidden's)
  • 2 paint colors: a pale one for the undertone, and a darker one for the lace drawer fronts (I just find some interior paints I like at Home Depot and ask them to make me up some sample paint pots; they cost less than $3 each and are perfect for smaller projects)
  • a disposable spray can dispenser (this was $4 at Home Depot, and preferable because you can use any color with it; ready-made spray paints tend to come in a fixed selection of colors)
  • pieces of lace large enough to cover the front of your drawers (I have two sizes of drawer, so I measured each and bought a yard of cheap-o lace fabric at Jo-Ann Fabrics and used the same two pieces of lace for all six drawers)
  • painter's tape to tape the lace down (this is nice because it won't leave sticky stuff on your drawers)
  • a cup of tea, preferably Lady Grey tea, since we are all ladies here

First, empty your drawers of all your ladies' things, aka bras from Target, and pull out the drawers from the dresser. Sand and prime the body of the dresser and the drawer fronts. Depending on your preferences and type of dresser, you may also want to paint the sides and insides of the drawers; the drawer fronts on my dresser stick out beyond the actual dimensions of the drawer, so it wasn't necessary for me.

After the primer dries, paint the dresser and drawer fronts in your lighter undertone color (it's hard to see in this light but I chose a very pale mint green). You should let this dry for a couple of hours, so while that dries, you can do some other thing, like watch Property Brothers on HGTV or pet a cat.

Once everything is dry, take your lace and lay it over one of the drawer fronts; measure and cut enough to wrap around the drawer front and tape underneath so you get a nice, flat surface for the paint to take on the stencil:

Grab your disposable spray can and follow the instructions to dilute the darker paint you chose, enough to go through the spray nozzle. The guy at Home Depot told me that for most interior paints, it's fine to dilute them with a little water; only oil-based paints require actual paint thinner. I used about a capful of water per 2 oz. of paint, but I really just eye-balled it:

Holding the spray can about 6-8 inches away from the surface of the drawers, spray your paint over the lace covering. It's important to keep your hand moving as you spray so you get even color; if you hold your hand in one place, you're likely to get a blob of paint that looks uneven with the rest of the surface. Spray until you get the drawer to the desired color.

Because the paint layer is so thin, these dry pretty quick, but even so, let them sit at least a half hour to an hour before carefully untaping the lace and peeling it back. But when you do...

Gorgeous!! Shabby-chic 18th century glam!! Who knew Malm had it in her?

You can sand the edges a bit if you want your piece to look a little more shabby-chic, or if you love it as is, just put the drawers back and admire how crafty and mod-18th century you are.

Put your ladies' things back in your lovely new boudoir, make yourself another cup of tea, and settle back to revel in the best modern girl's 18th century bedroom piece.