Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Reupholstering /Slipcovering an Ottoman

I've given this post this strange title of Reupholstering/Slipcovering because I'm not exactly sure what my project can be classified as.  Essentially, I've created a slipcover for my ottoman, but instead of sewing a skirt on the bottom, I've stapled the fabric to the bottom of the ottoman as if I were reupholstering.  I suppose I'm doing a little of both.

I'm afraid I didn't write down what I was doing as I was doing it, so it is a bit difficult to remember at this point.  This will be a very rough tutorial.

This is how I made it:

This fun geometric fabric came from U-Fab in Richmond, Virginia; I purchased 4 yards.

Next, I measured all the sections of the ottoman.  Essentially, the slipcover would be a bunch of rectangles sewn together with piping in between.  Then I created a sketch with the measurements.

I added 1/2 an inch (the seam allowance) to each side of the rectangle.  For example, if the ottoman section measured a 16 x 6, I would cut-out a 17 x 7 piece of fabric.  The bad thing about using a patterned fabric is that you need to match your patterns, which can be difficult, but the good thing was that I used the geometric lines to guide me in cutting out my rectangular pieces.  Also, I noticed that on the bottom section of my ottoman, the fabric was tucked in between the cushions.  I stuck my measuring tape in there and guessed about how much fabric was stuffed back there,  I think I added about 5 inches (height) to these rectangular pieces.
After I cut out all the rectangular pieces, I made the cording.  I hate making cording and probably couldn't give you a good tutorial, but here is a step-by-step guide to making cording.

I worked in sections.  First I sewed the cording to the top rectangle.  Then I added the side rectangles to the top.  Then, I added cording to the side pieces, then I added the bottom pieces.

I usually pinned the pieces together while the fabric was on the ottoman.  Sometimes I found it easier to do this with the fabric inside-out.

 Finally, I took the legs off the bottom, stapled the fabric to the bottom and then put the legs back on.  Then I stuffed the extra fabric between the top and bottom ottoman cushions.

Voila!  A slipcovered ottoman--not perfect, but it will do!


Monday, February 21, 2011

Quick Vietnamese Noodle Soup with Beef

Tonight's one-dish dinner is from the March issue of Food and Wine magazine and is:
If you have been wanting to try a Vietnamese dish, this would be a great place to start.  It is simple and quick!   Look for my tips and comments in italics.  I've included a few pictures too.

  • FAST


  1. 3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  2. 2 cups water
  3. 1 tablespoon agave syrup
  4. 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  5. 1 tablespoon soy sauce (I didn't have any soy and substituted Ponzu sauce.)
  6. Two 8-ounce packages shirataki noodles, rinsed and drained (I did not see these noodles at the store and used  "MAIFUN" rice noodles instead.) 
  7. 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges, for serving
  8. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  9. 1/2 pound trimmed beef tenderloin, very thinly sliced across the grain
  10. 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  11. 1/2 cup chopped basil
  12. 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  13. 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  14. 1 cup mung bean sprouts
  15. Sriracha or other garlic-chile sauce, for serving 
One Serving 160 cal, 7 gm fat, 2.4 gm sat fat, 11 gm carb, 3 gm fiber, 15 gm protein.


Comment:  My first comment is that this recipe doesn't seem to give directions for cooking the beef, and I don't think it is supposed to be raw in the soup.  Take your cut of beef, cover it with salt and pepper and stick it in the oven at 350 until its internal temperature is 140 for rare or 150 for medium.  Then slice against the grain.
  1. In a large saucepan, combine the chicken stock with the water, agave syrup, grated ginger and soy sauce and bring to a boil.Add the noodles and simmer over low heat for 2 minutes. Add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Using tongs, transfer the noodles to bowls. Add the beef to the noodles and ladle the hot broth on top. Drizzle with the sesame oil and top with the basil, cilantro, scallions and bean sprouts. Serve with lime wedges and chile sauce. 

Tip:  Do all the prep work in advance to make cook the final dish a cinch.  Cook and cut the beef and keep it in a bowl.  Wash and cut all herbs and vegetables and put them in bowls.  Put all your ingredients on the counter, so it will be within arm's reach when you start cooking because this dish cooks and is ready to serve very quickly!  

Tip:  Do not leave bean sprouts on the counter.  They are one of the worst offenders for harboring food borne illness.  Wash them and put them in your refrigerator until it is time to cook the dish.  Same goes for the veggies, herbs and meats if they are going to be prepped very far in advance.

Tip:  Unlike some herbs, cilantro leaves do not need to be separated from the stem.  Wash the cilantro and chop it stems and all!

Tip:  If you don't have a lemon or lime press, you should buy one!  It is one of my favorite kitchen tools.  I use a lemon press (instead of a lime press) because it is big enough for both lemons and limes.  In my experience, most of the time one half of a lemon or lime yields about 1 Tablespoon of juice.

Don't forget to Compost!  Enjoy your meal!
 xo- Carson

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Easy Throw Pillows

Easy Indoor/Outdoor fabric Turqoiuse Pillows

My son is sick again.  Once I was sure that I was going to be in the house for a few days, I launched into 2 new projects: easy throw pillows and recovering/reupholstering our ottoman.  Thank goodness I stopped by U-Fab on Friday and purchased indoor/outdoor turquoise fabric for two throw pillows, a funky yellow floral print with a bird on it for another piped throw pillow and fabric to recover my ottoman!  (BTW, U-Fab's selection is far more extensive than what is presented as its "Feature Fabrics."

Here is how I made this a thrifty DIY project.  I was browsing Target--always a dangerous venture--on Friday morning and found their bargain bin with 2 pillows for $10.  Pillow inserts from somewhere like Joann's are pricey.  I've found--if you don't have old throw pillows at home that you'd like to recover--buying pillows on the discount rack somewhere like Target, Marshall's or Walmart is the way to go.
Here are my not-so-pretty pillows:

First, I measured my pillows.  They were 18 inches x 18 inches.  I added 1 inch to each measurement for my seams (this is called the "seam allowance.")  So, I cut two squares of fabric 19 inches x 19 inches.

Next I pinned the right sides together and sewed 1/2 inch all the way around the pillow but on the fourth side, I left about 4-5 inches that I did not sew.  Don't do this on a corner.  Leave the un-sewn part smack in the middle of one of the sides.

Next, clip the edges of your pillow.  If you want your pillows corners to be square, you'll need to do this before turning the pillows right side out.

Turn the pillows right side out.  Then take a pencil and stick it inside of the pillow and push the corners out so they are square.

Stuff your pillow into the opening.  This may take some time and patience, but believe me, you can get a big pillow into a small opening if you work at it!

Finally stitch the un-sewn section closed.

Voila!  Your very own throw pillows.  Depending on your DIY abilities, you should be able to do this in under an hour.  I also made the yellow bird pillow, but forgot to take pictures--sorry!


Faux Roman Shades or Fixed Roman Shades

This week I visited U-Fab, my favorite discount fabric store in Richmond, located just off of Cary Street in the Fan.  I picked up this fun, modern Ikat linen fabric to make faux Roman shades for our family room.  My husband is not a fan of the fabric; however, I think it will be great for our family room's neutral palette, which consists of white slipcovered furniture, beige walls, dark brown carpeted floors.

I picked up some swatches of other fabrics so I could start thinking about pillows and the ottoman I plan on recovering:

You may be thinking: what is the difference between "faux" and "real" Roman shades?  Faux Roman shades only look like Roman shades; however, they are inoperable.  I'm going to place the shades above windows in our downstairs family room that already have wooden blinds, so my Roman shades will be purely decorative.  There are two sets of double window and a single window, so I'll be making 5 shades.

I was able to find some other blogs that describe how to make faux Roman Shades:

My Favorite DIY blog Centsational Girl made this cute faux shade for her laundry room:

Like these from Fly Through My Window

Fly Through My Window combines sewing and gluing and High Heeled Foot Through the Door uses only glue.  I'm going to sew the entire curtain, but am going to incorporate techniques from a variety of sources.  Whether you are a seamstress, the variations on this project in the above tutorials make it accessible to even the most unseasoned DIYer.

Here's What I Did to Make Faux Roman Shades, or Fixed Roman Shades:
Supplies I used:
cutting mat
pins and needles
sewing machine, thread and other basic sewing tools

measuring tape
staple gun
1 x 2 inch boards (1 board 38 inches wide, and 4 boards 37 1/2 inches wide)
10, 1 1/2 inch  L-brackets
electric drill

1.  Purchasing the fabric:  I have five windows, and to be safe, I purchased one yard of fabric per window.  The windows are 38 inches wide, so home decor fabric, which normally measures 54 inches wide, will be more than ample.

TIP:  My Ikat fabric is linen and not stiff.  So, I chose a liner fabric that was stiff because I knew that I wanted crisp pleats in my shade.  I want stiff lines and not a loose, casual look.  The fabric I bought may not be curtain liner, per se, but it was the right color, price and material.

2.  First I cut the selvages from my fabric, then played around with how I wanted the folds to look. I measured the window and decided how long I wanted the fabric to hand down--about 18 inches from where I will mount it.  I don't want much overlap between my Roman Shades and my wood blinds as I want to maximize the sunlight coming into this room.  You'll need a general idea of how big your fold with be (and how much fabric will fold behind your shade) before you cut out the fabric.  If you are going to make shades for multiple windows, it would probably be a good idea to figure you measurements in advance.

3.  Next, I cut out 5 separate curtains and 5 separate linings.  If you are using solid fabric, this process is much simpler, but I had a busy patterned fabric; therefore, it was necessary to cut all the curtains so that the pattern was identical on each.  I knew that my fabric was irregular, which is why it was at the discount fabric store, but I thought the issue was with only the selvages. Much to my dismay, I found that the pattern was printed crookedly--ugh!  I would go into detail, but the details and boring and painful. Cutting out patterned fabric that is printed crooked made the simple task of cutting the 5 separate piece quite difficult.  In my case, there was more pressure as the shades will hand side-by-side, so the pattern must line-up exactly.  This step took about 2-3 hours.

I used the first piece of fabric that I had cut out as a guide to cut the subsequent pieces.  I had measured and cut the first piece making sure it was straight and rather than do this again with each subsequent piece, I simply used the first piece as a pattern--lining up the design underneath it.

3.   First, I pinned the liner to the fabric.  You want wrong sides together in this step.  I pinned all 5 shades.

TIP:  Be sure to iron your fabric first.  I skipped this step only realized it once I was sewing the pieces together.

(As you can see, I tried my best to measure the shade and liner exactly, but was still a bit off.  It doesn't have to be perfect--no one will know but you!)

4.  Next, sew all four sides together on each curtain using a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  This seam will not be visible in the finished shades so use whatever color thread you'd like.  I'd recommend something bright or at least, contrasting to the white. It is merely to help hold the shade and liner together during the sewing process.

6. My shades will be 38 wide, but I allowed for a 1 each seam on each side; therefore, I cut my fabric 40 inches wide.  Once my shade and liner were sewn together, I folded every side, except the top, 1/2 inch, that is, I folded the right, left side and bottom sides.  You won't need to measure this.  If you stitched together the shade and liner with a 1/2 inch seam, you should just fold the shade on this line.  Press.

Iron it down as you go..  I did this on  on each shade.  Leave the top (where it will be mounted to the board) alone.  No folding on the top.

Then on only the left and right sides of the shades, I folded another 1/2 inch, ironed and pinned it. At this point, my shade was 38 inches wide, because I had folded an inch on each side.

I did not make a second fold on the bottom of the shade, but pinned the original 1/2 fold.

7.  This is what your shade should look like--one the backside--at this point.  The right and left sides have been folded 1/2 inch, pressed, folded another 1/2 inch and pinned.  The bottom has been fold 1/2 inch, pressed and pinned. The top has not been folded.

7.   Next, I decided to create the bottom hem.  I folded the bottom of the shade up 2 inches and pinned it.  I had much internal debate as to whether I should stitch, by hand, the right, left and bottom hems or use the machine.  I decided to hand stitch them all.  But, if you can use your machine, you will save a ton of time.  Since these were going to hang in my family room and not a laundry room or bedroom, I thought it best to take the time to hide the hems by hand-stitching.

See my two-inch hem, below:

TIP:  Though I was using a blind stitch (I think that is what it is called), I would push through to the front of the fabric bringing the stitch all the way through to the back every once in a while.  I wanted to be sure the front fabric and the liner were connected.  I was using a coordinating thread, so this front to back stitch was imperceptible.

8.  Next, I hand stitched the left and right sides of the curtain.

9.  Then I started measuring for the pleats.  If I were only doing one window, I would totally eye-ball this and not bother measuring,  but, since I will have 5 treatments hanging side by side, the pattern and pleats must line-up and match.
10.  Initially, I created a curtain with 3 folds, but wasn't sure I liked it, so I sewed a second with 2 folds (and one hem) and liked the second better.  I ripped out the seams from my original and sewed it again with 2 folds, in which case, I was glad that I hand sewed instead of using the machine.

 11. For my shades with 2 folds and one hem (that looks like a fold), I measured 16 inches from the top of my curtain to the bottom of my first fold.  Then, I folded 3 inches behind the shade and pinned the fold.

12.  The I made another fold four inches below my first fold.  This was my second fold.  Now, at this point, I did not measure how much fabric I would fold behind the shade like I did with the first fold.  I knew I wanted my folds to be four inches each, so I folded, behind the shade, the amount that was necessary to make my pleats all be 4 inches.  I hope this makes sense!

13.  After my fold were pinned in place, I flipped the curtain over, to the backside, and hand stitched all the way across each fold occasionally stitching through the back to the front and back again to make sure the front fabric and liner were connected.

15.  The fun part:  stapling the fabric to the board.  I don't guess I need to explain this step.  I just lined up the top of the fabric to the top of the board and put in lots of staples.

16.  My husband helped with hanging the shades by attaching the L-brackets to the wall, then attaching the board/shade to the L-brackets. We mounted the shades as high as they could go, so they touched the crown molding.

Coming soon:  making simple pillows and covering an ottoman.