Just Call Me a Sewing Machine Mechanic

Music to my ears, the purr of my old sewing machine.  My old White/Universal metal baby was purring no more though.  Locked up solid, she has been living in my closet for the last year.

20161018_234710Made of all metal shafts and gears, I had bought my old Model 4400 in 1984.  It was my first machine, and over the years it had made pillows, curtains, purses, pouches, costumes, aprons, even clothing back when I wasn’t so “curvy”.  Computerized machines with a zillion fancy stitches  are nice and all, but I never use much more than straight and zigzag stitches anyway, and the computerized models just won’t do just plain old straight sewing well, through any kind of thickness, and the stuff I make tends to have thickness or heavy seams.  Beep, beep, beep. Fist pounding.  Curse.

20161018_234741If you have an old machine sitting around, they aren’t that hard to figure out.  Metal parts need lubrication, and eventually parts can just freeze in place.  I’m not the most mechanical person, but I had hoped if I could find the spot that was locked up, I could point someone who is mechanical in that direction to fix it.  And besides, it was not working anyway, it’s not like I was going to hurt it.  So I took off the top and side covers of the machine, removed the hand wheel and just watched what happened when I pressed the foot pedal.  Nothing happened.  The motor whirred, but nothing moved — at all.

20161018_234751So I started with the belts and flywheels near the motors — or are they pulleys?  I don’t know, they’re round and weren’t spinning.  Thingamabobbers.  Whosie whatsits.  I tried to turn each of the two flywheels by hand, and found the culprit.  The bigger of the two wheels, the one on the left, wouldn’t budge.  I braved a pair of pliers, grabbed the wheel and gently twisted.  It broke free pretty easily.  Once free, and after a good oiling, it was spinning like a top.  I oiled the rest of the drive shaft and gears because everything had gotten pretty tight, even with standard oiling over the years.  My biggest snaffu was the research required on how to put the hand wheel back on properly.  I finally figured out there was a washer that I didn’t notice had fallen off the hand wheel cap, which as it turns out is a really integral part of the whole thing.  Not only is it integral, it has a top and a bottom and has to be installed correctly oriented.

My old machine has a new life, and has started to purr again.

There wasn’t a lot of instructional videos on YouTube that talk about these 1970s/1980s metal machines.  Either you were repairing the antique Singer machines, or you were troubleshooting a new, computerized machine.  I highly recommend the New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Sewing Machine Maintenance Guide, for some basic info on how these simple 1970s style machines work — and to point out there’s a washer laying around somewhere you just might need, and that little mark on the washer means “top”.

Now to figure out tensioning.  And to get my nails re-done.  Turns out sewing machine oil dissolves gel polish.

The Essentials Only Cross Body Pouch


I carry a cross body bag daily, but like most purses, it tends to gather what feels like rocks.  I don’t know why, but it’s always overflowing with just stuff, most of which I don’t need to lug around all the time. If I have a lot of walking to do, I prefer to be hands-free and to carry just the necessities — phone, credit card wallet and coin pouch.  To that end, I created my own smartphone cross body pouch — designed to hold just the essentials when I’m out running around from the grocery store, to garage-saling, or to a craft fair.

This pouch is tall enough, and more than wide enough, to fit my Samsung Note 4, one of the biggest smartphones out there.  Lined with no visible seams, this bag is simple to customize.  Experiment with by combining different fabric colors and patterns between the three main outside pieces, different closures, and different straps, all in the same pouch.

You’ll need:

  • Outer fabric
  • Coordinating Lining fabric
  • Coordinating zipper, at least 8″ long (we’ll cut this down)
  • Fusible Fleece
  • KamSnap, button, Velcro or some other closure for the flap.
  • Two small swivel hooks.
  • Download the  essentials-only-cross-body-pouch-pattern. All pieces are on one sheet.  Print three copies at 100%, and cut out the pieces A through D.

Piece A – the back and flap.
Cut 1 outer
Cut 1 lining
Cut 1 fusible fleece

Piece B – upper front.
Cut 1 outer
Cut 1 lining
Cut 1 fusible fleece

Piece C  – lower front.
Cut 1 outer
Cut 1 lining
Cut 1 fusible fleece

Piece D  –  Pieces B and C, for pocket lining.

Cut 1 lining

For the strap tabs, cut two rectangular pieces 2″ x 3″ each.

  1. Cut Outer and Lining fabrics, and fusible fleece, as noted above.
  2. Prepare the tabs. Fold tab in half lengthwise and press.  Fold the edges inside, press again.  Resulting  strip will be 1/2″ wide.  Topstitch to close.  Set aside.
  3. Iron fusible fleece to the outside pieces A, B and C.
  4. Attach zipper to front pieces, B and C.  Lay the Lining piece B down, right side up.  Lay zipper, face up, on top edge, aligning edges.  Lay the Outer piece B on top, right side down, aligning all, creating a “zipper sandwich”.  Stitch.
    20161010_132500a.  Fold back the outer and lining fabrics so they are both right side out, and press, exposing the unsewn edge of the zipper.


    b.  Repeat step 4.a. for the other half of the front, piece C.  Take care to sew the straight edge of the fabric to the zipper, not the curved corner side.


    In this step, be sure to match patterns better than I did.  I realized when I got done, I’d put the top portion of the pocket on upside down, so the chevron pattern didn’t match properly.  But, I kind of liked the look and opted to leave it alone.

    c.  Fold back the outer and lining so they are both right side out, and press.  Topstitch along the edge of the zipper teeth on both sides.


    d.  If you’re using Velcro as a closure, now is the time to sew a rectangle of Velcro down in the center of the top portion of the pocket.  If you’re using a KamSnap or button, skip this step.

  5. Lay pocket lining D wrong side up on front zipper panel, also right side up.  Trim the pocket lining at the straight edge if it’s too long.  Stitch.  Turn under and press.  Topstitch.




  6. Open zipper halfway and baste pocket lining to pocket front to hold in place while finishing.  Double stitch over the zipper to secure.  Snip the excess zipper on both sides.
  7. Lay fold one tab from step 1 in half, and lay with loop toward the center on the front of the pocket piece.  Baste in place.  repeat on other side.  Trim ends.
  8. If you’re using Velcro, now is the time to stitch a rectangle to the top center of Piece A Lining. If you’re using a KamSnap or button, skip this step.
  9. Lay piece A, Outer Back down, right side up. Lay finished pocket on top of back, right side down.  You can baste stitch the pocket to the back at this point if you want, but you don’t have to.  Lay piece A, Lining Back face down on top of all.  Pin or clip in place.  Stitch around the entire outside edge, leaving a 2″ or so opening in one side of the flap so you can turn the entire piece when done.  Trim seams, clip curves.
    (A cute customization idea, during this step try sewing a simple loop in at the center of the top of the Back flap, when you can then attach to a button sewn to the front pocket of the pouch as the flap closure.)




  10. Turn the pouch right side out through the opening left in the flap.  Turning is tedious, and there’s some bulk that will have to go through the hole you left.  Once turned, press the entire pouch flat, turn the raw edges of the hole you left to the inside and press flat.  Whip stitch closed.

    (Optionally, if the fabric is not too thick, topstitch around the entire perimeter of the pouch and flap, including closing the opening.  If you choose to topstitch, don’t topstitch over the zipper.  Topstitching is usually a nice finish, but in this case I think it makes the whole pouch appear kind of flat, a look I didn’t care for after I did it.)
  11. If using a button, add a buttonhole to the completed flap now. Sew down a button to the top of the front pocket.  If using a KamSnap, apply it now similarly positioned.  I used a KamSnap on this pouch.  If you used a loop closure, sew your button down to the top of the front pocket now.
  12. Create a strap using complimentary fabric. A good length for the strap when used by an adult, is 50″. There are lots of options to attach the strap.
    – Try sewing a small D-ring into the loop to attach a swivel hook to when adding the strap tabs to the purse in step 7 above — or leave the loop plain.
    – Try leaving the loop plain and slipping the end of a rope or very narrow sewn strap through the loops, then tie a knot in the end right under the loop, and tack the knot down to the bag for a “rustic” look.
    – For this purse, I opted for a narrow strap and swivel hook attaching directly to the loop.

Have fun experimenting with different scraps of fabric, different patterns and colors, and making a patchwork style pouch.  If you’re into machine embroidery, the back is more than suitable for an embroidered monogram, as is the lower part of the front pocket. Change up the shape of the flap.  These would make great gifts for anyone — I can envision shortening the strap for a teenager and using their school colors.

Thanks for trying out my very first tutorial and if I can answer any questions, leave me a message.


The Letter

I really enjoy a good romantic suspense novel. Some stories have a a mysterious letter from the past in them, a letter hidden long ago that reaches into the present, saves the day and explains all.

Turns out, my mother wrote a letter in 1962 that I am just now seeing for the first time. Unfortunately, it isn’t a great letter of love or sacrifice. It is quite the glimpse into the self-absorbed, narcissistic world my mother lived in. It has created more questions than explanations.

My aunt very reluctantly recently shared the letter from my mother to herself and my uncle. She’s had it tucked away in her things for the last 54 years. I think she was and is embarrassed by it. My mother tended to behave in an overly dramatic and often bizarre way in life. It took me a long time to give up ownership of her actions and not be embarrassed by her behavior. Regardless, my aunt saved the letter and finally shared it with me. I hope she understands that she has nothing to be embarrassed about. She and my uncle were the victims in this letter, and I’m confident they didn’t do anything to even suggest that such a letter should even be written. It is just another example of my mother’s strange mind connecting dots that didn’t exist to reach a preconceived conclusion, and making up stories to fit.

The Letter=FanAlthough undated, we know the letter was written sometime shortly after I was born in March of 1962. It is written neatly, in mom’s perfect penmanship, not a single misspelling, with full and complete sentences. Her words and syntax were carefully chosen to be grand and elaborate. She seemed to be was on a grandiloquent mission to punish self-perceived wrongs committed against her. It is incredibly over-the-top. It is also angry and full of jealousy.

The story is this letter was a result of a request my mother made of her brother that could not be fulfilled. My mother never named my father, not to me, not to her brother, not to anyone that we know of. She was unmarried, single and 32 years old when she had me. Details of that time of her life are purposefully sketchy, but what we know is just a couple of weeks after I was born, my mother showed up at my uncle’s home, which she often just did.  Along with her she brought newborn me, and a man, described by my aunt as having blonde/reddish hair and blue eyes. He seemed to care a lot about me and had purchased baby things for me, including a stroller. This was the first and last time this man, whose name no one remembers, ever came around. My aunt was under the impression he was not my father. Not long after that visit the red-haired man was apparently gone. My mother contacted my uncle asking him to please contact a “Mr. Turner” on her behalf. Mr. Turner, as my aunt remembers, was a music teacher who lived Independence, Missouri, but she doesn’t believe he was the red-haired man my mother brought with her that day. Mother wanted my uncle to contact Mr. Turner with the message that he was to come and get her. These details are not in the letter, but lead up to it.

After what I can only imagine was probably a lifetime roller coaster ride of of emotional manipulation and abuse at the hands of my mother, my uncle told her no — no, he would not contact Mr. Turner, she would have to do it herself.

Who Mr. Turner was, what he may have meant to her or to me, if anything, and why my mother couldn’t contact him herself are all mysteries. But my uncle’s refusal to be drawn into my mother’s latest drama, seemed to have left her feeling very out of control of her situation. She fired off this “goodbye” letter, and seemed to be attempting to punish my uncle and aunt for her situation. She said grand things like, “Never again are we to see or speak to one another,” and “There now exists a complete severing of all relationship.” She carried on about how she felt as if she’d been purposefully made to seem small and insignificant in comparison to her brother. It was clear she was very jealous of my uncle and his life. It felt to me to be manipulative and narcissistic. As one of my cousins noted, it looked like she was attempting to engage my uncle and aunt; as if by engaging and getting a response, she still had an “in” to a relationship she could control. But she was terribly frustrated in the end having lost control, and that obviously upset her.

Everyone will take what they want from mom’s letter, but what stood out to me was that as a brand-new, first-time mother, she did not anywhere in this four page rant mention concern for her child, or that she even had a child. Her brand new infant was completely absent. It was totally about her.  She also did not bother to mention why it was so terribly important to contact Mr. Turner.

The self-imposed severing of the relationship only lasted about two years. The story is Mother just nonchalantly reappeared one day in my uncle and aunt’s lives, without a word as to where she or I, had been. She never mentioned the incident in 1962, and according to my aunt, acted as if the entire episode never even happened.

I had mentioned the mysterious music teacher, Mr. Turner, to a friend at work who remembered from her childhood The Turner Music Store on the Square in Independence, Missouri. It was a family business and was operated by Mr. Turner, and his wife. Mr. Turner died in 1989 according to Mrs. Turner’s short obituary from 2003. There’s absolutely no evidence this is the Mr. Turner my mother was so interested in, nor should any relationship be implied.  There’s nothing  good that would result in pursuing any of this all these many years later.

This letter and any clues around it will have to rest in peace; nothing has been saved, and nothing has been explained.

The Contents of a Box

I tend to hang on to things that I see as having some value to someone. I like to “fix” things and make them work or be useful again. I’m not to the extreme of being a “hoarder” but I still keep too much stuff with usually good intentions. What generally happens is after a long while the stuff winds up being donated somewhere, which is exactly what I should have done from the start.

This past weekend it was clear, I needed the space in my house that my mom had occupied the last couple of years of her life back, without her or her stuff in it. After she died, I had gotten rid of a lot of things, furniture had been reused elsewhere or stored, but there was still some baggage there, both literally and a little bit emotionally.

So this past weekend I started cleaning. Two do20160513_144113[1]nation loads later of trinkets, her “pretties”, full perfume bottles still in their original boxes, clothing she’d never worn, bed sheets she’d saved for years, blankets, even a fur hat in a beautiful hat box, I found a box I’d forgotten I’d kept. It was all of her makeup. The stuff that she’d touched almost daily for most of her life. She loved her makeup. She loved to put it on and stare at the transformation in the mirror. She bought cream after cream reliving conversations and events of her lost youth and her young, single life. She was always searching for the perfect match to her skin tone, the prettiest blush, or the best lip color, but never really found it. She’d shop for hours at the makeup counters of Macys, or at the drug store. She’d put little smudges of foundation or lipstick on the backs of her hands and look at the colors under the lights all afternoon. She lived for the potential of what the makeup could do for her and the happiness it could potentially bring her. And after she bought it, it took her an hour every day to apply her makeup. She’d sit at her vanity and carefully apply each item, examine how she did, think about what it all meant, and then move to the next thing. She’d smoke a cigarette in between, sip her coffee and have imaginary arguments with the past and people that weren’t there that this makeup would have won over. She didn’t display pictures of me, of family or even her grandson, but she had her makeup, her things and her hopes and dreams.

After dementia had really started to take its toll on her, we moved her to our house. I made a special effort to make sure her pretties came with her, so she would feel connected to something familiar in her new space. We moved her vanity as it was with all her makeup and her things arranged in it, and put them right where she could see them and she could possibly enjoy them. I don’t think she ever did though. She was too far along by then. She rarely bathed in her last few years in her apartment, refused to wash her hair, and couldn’t remember to brush her teeth or when to take her medications. After we moved her, she was bathed by aides, took her medications when we gave them to her, ate when food appeared, and she slept when she was tired. She stopped trying to be pretty on the outside anymore. I don’t think the face in the mirror matched the face she saw in her mind anymore, it was a stranger in the mirror. She mostly sat on her sofa, in a quiet, dark room, by herself, smoking and having her conversations with ghosts.

When she died, I’d just dumped her vanity drawers into a box to get it out of the way. I don’t know why I didn’t throw it away then, but it seemed important to her memory to keep it. It’s who she was. This stuff meant something to her.

There is was, in20160513_122255-1[1] the back of a closet, where it had been for the last five and a half years. I’d already sorted through and donated a lot of her trinkets, her Avon perfume collection, boxes of table cloths, sheets and some of her purse collection that day, and there it was, her makeup. All the things left that she intensely cared about as a younger woman, that defined who she was, that she used ritually for years and years before dementia took over. As I threw all the makeup in a trash bag and stood back and thought about it, I felt sadness and loss. There were hundreds of dollars of things here, money all spent years and years ago, but that wasn’t it. It was the stuff my mother had placed her hopes and dreams of happiness on. I had a realization that she was a really unhappy person who didn’t know how to be anything but unsatisfied with herself or her life.  I also realized how much she was used that unhappiness with others to get the validation and necessities she needed to survive. Her legacy was a box of makeup that couldn’t in death make her any happier or content than she thought it might do for her in life. The feelings I felt looking at that trash bag were completely unexpected.

I don’t regret getting rid of everything, it needed to be done.  Mom’s ashes still occupy a box in the closet. I saved her partial plate, a little black stuffed dog she’d grown attached to in her last years, and a pillow. One day soon, I’m going to gather the family that wants to go, and we’re going to do something with this little bit that’s left. What memories of my mother we have will live on in me, and my son, her brother, nieces and nephews and they are what they are. Sadly, with or without makeup she was unhappy in life, and it’s all she knew how to be, and that’s the memory most of us will have.

Godspeed, mom. I hope you’ve found the happiness there that you could never find here.


flowersI cried when my son went off to college. I mean CRIED. A lot. I grieved for days.  I still smother him, much to his chagrin, even long distance.

Time moved on.  I got used to him not being home every day.  I talked to him about taking his room for my office and finally moving my work-from-home space out of our finished, but dark, basically windowless basement to upstairs a couple of months ago. He was fine with it.  He knows he’ll always have a place here, a room to himself downstairs when he’s here. I never followed though with the move though. His room, even if he isn’t in it, is still HIS room.  It has been for 21 years.

So as a surprise gift for me today, MartMan spent the whole day taking down the few remaining things our son had left in his room and packing them, taking down his bed and moving it, cleaning everything, and then moving my desk, printer and the things I use to my new office. He set it all up so neatly with a view out the front window, bought me flowers and waited for me to come home.

I love what he did. It’s bright and sunny, there’s not 10 tons of hobby stuff around me, and I’m no longer in the dark basement, where I spent 20+ years when I worked every day from home.  I can open the window and feel a breeze.  I can see outside.

But I sat and cried and cried. CRIED. Again. Then I cried more. My son has been in this room every day of his life from the day his dad and I brought him home from the hospital. 21 years. His crib was in his room. His toddler bed. His bunk bed/futon. His adult bed.

I worried about will he feel comfortable when he comes home for the summer, holidays, weekends? What if he wanted to come home for a while? Will he feel like he doesn’t have a place at here anymore? Will he feel pushed out? I have to keep reminding myself, he’s 21 and does not need me to have a shrine in my house. As long as he has a door, his bed, Internet,  his parents (hopefully), then he’s FINE and it will work out.  This is always home.

On the plus side, MartMan was prepared. He already knew I would sob. You just have to grieve, I guess. And it’s okay to do it.

You would think after you get through the whole kindergarten debacle, you wouldn’t grieve as much.

Fun With Flags


I am Milady, and welcome to the premiere episode of IAmMilady Presents Fun with Flags. Tonight, you and I are going to explore the dynamic world of vexillology.

What is Vexillology, you ask?  Vexillology is the study of flags.

Tonight we will learn about the garden flag.  The garden flag is a piece of cloth or similar material, typically oblong or square, attachable by one edge, known as the hoist, to a pole or rope and used as the symbol or emblem of a home or yard and used as decoration.

Take for example, these garden flags.  This flag design is machine embroidered on a burlap field using in fun colors and displaying welcoming words, and customized with the name of the domicile they will proudly fly on …


Whoa, I’ve learned so much.



20160408_150405Just a quick update on the crafting front.  MartMan (the hubs) has been interested in creating his own soaps, and I thought it might be nice to make him some “soap pockets” to put his creations in.

I used a throwaway towel for this first pouch, mostly to test my embroidery.  For a standard sized bar of Dove soap, I cut my fabric 5″x 9″.  I serged the inside edges of my pouch, which takes less seam allowance than sewing.  If you’re sewing, I’d recommend making the width a bit bigger, at least 6″ to a standard bar of soap, like Dove.  For MartMan’s homemade soap, I’ll have to adjust the width, since homemade soap bars tend to be wider.  If you’re putting your own soap in these pouches, measure the inside width of your mold and add enough for a 1/2″ seam allowance on each side, plus some give for the bulk of the soap.  9″ length is just about right.  20160408_150439

I embellished with binding on the envelope outside edges before folding and sewing together the long edges.  I used satin fabric cut 3″ wide, then ironed in half, then quarters folded over the edge and sewed on. This would be a good place to experiment with those decorative stitches on your sewing machine that you never use!

The claw foot tub and ducky embroidery is self-digitized using Singer’s Autopunch, which came with my embroidery machine, then Sew What Pro from S&S Computing.  I have three bubbles that float above ducky’s head, that I totally forgot to include.  It came out great though, and I see some improvements to be made for the next generation of soap pouches.

Determine your center for the back by measuring down from the top of the envelope 2″ and up from the bottom 3″.  The area in the center becomes your embroidery area for whatever design you put on the pouch.  After you’ve embroidered and installed the satin border, turn the pouch on itself, folding 2″ at the top, 3″ at the bottom.  You should have an overlap of about an inch.  Sew the sides, turn inside out and you’re done!


I Search

I’m not sure why, but I search. It’s in my nature, maybe my DNA. I search for products. I search for places, I search for names on the crime drama shows I watch, I search for people, property, things.

To be fair, a lot of my searching is for work. I have to find companies, property and people. It’s amazing to see the lengths people will go to to hide themselves, their normal and mundane, and their misdeeds; their lives. If I’m lucky, I’ll find what I need to find that’s helpful. I know about bankruptcies, property, tax liens and creditors. I know how people take advantage of their parents. Where is that sister? I know about things people own and don’t want anyone to know they own. I know about real last names and how clever merging makes new identities. I know where folks were born, where they grew up, where they went to school.

I know.  But does it matter?
Everyone’s life is like a giant puzzle. Some folks have a clear picture of what they’re putting together. My personal puzzle is fuzzy and indistinct. It’s like trying to put together a picture of fog. I can find the facts, but that doesn’t tell me the why or where the facts go. Some of other people’s pieces may fit with pieces in my puzzle, but I don’t know why they fit. So what if I know random facts?  I still can’t put them in my puzzle in any way that it makes sense.

I feel like I deserve to have a picture to work on.  I feel like it’s my right.  Maybe the more pieces if find, the clearer my puzzle will be.

So I search.

Bathroom Vanity and Medicine Cabinet Project

Over my Christmas break, I decided it was time to update the bathroom vanity in our Master.  30+ years was showing on the finish.  I love the look of the General Finishes gel stain product, and we had used it over the Christmas break in 2014 in the kitchen. The Java color seems to be really in style right now as well if you pay attention to all the home flipping and DIY shows on HGTV and DIY Network.

This is not a hard project, just time consuming. So here’s before and after.


And here’s what it takes, generally, to do it.

  • 71rtztfzfsl-_sy355_General Finishes gel stain in Java. A little bit of stain goes a LONG way. This project took a fraction of a pint can of stain and topcoat.
  • General Finishes satin gel stain topcoat.
  • Tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) cleaner and a bucket of water, cleaning sponges and cleaning rags.
  • 1″ and 3″ sponge craft brushes.
  • A small water color brush to get into corners.
  • Latex gloves – a whole box. Trust me.
  • An old cotton sock.
  • Ziploc bags and and saran wrap.

Gel stain is communicable and TSP is not friendly to surfaces you are not working on, so prep first.  Really.  It travels if you’re not careful.  Cover your floor with an old sheet or painter’s tarp, tape off edges with painters tape and mask your work areas. This stuff is seriously messy if you don’t control it. Prep, prep, prep.

Clean the wood surface with a TSP solution and allow to dry several hours.  You can get TSP in the paint supplies section of your local hardware store.  It comes in a powder you dissolve in a bucket of water.  Do not get this on any wooden out painted surfaces you are not staining.  It will damage your finish.

When prepping, be sure you tape off your line inside your cabinet where you’re going to stop staining so it looks nice and neat when you’re done.  I didn’t want to stain the entire inside, just the inside of the doors, so I stained the lip inside the cabinet doors and stopped with a nice, straight tape line, leaving the rest of the interior its original wood color.

Remove hardware, doors and drawers.  I worked on them separately on sawhorses in the garage. If you’re not replacing hardware, this is a good time to clean your existing hardware. Drop your hardware into a Dawn/white vinegar and water solution and let it soak overnight. Have an old toothbrush handy to give them a bit of a scrub.

Lightly sand all surfaces you’re going to stain with a sanding block to rough up the surface, then wipe down to remove dust.  Allow to dry if you used water to wipe down.

Now you can stain. I used the sponge brushes to apply the stain, but you can wipe it on too.  An old cotton sock is great for this. Regardless of how you apply, wear gloves.  Have a box handy.  Trust me.  You will need gloves. As far as timing, the doors will take twice as long as the vanity and cabinet base since you can’t stain both sides at the same time.

Just so you know, the first coat will look like CRAP and you’ll be wondering WTF you just did to your cabinet. Don’t panic. Be patient. By the second and then the third coats, it will start to look fabulous.


1st coat.  Ack!  What have I done?!?

Allow each coat to dry 6-8 hours.

Do NOT rinse your work tools. This is stain, not paint, so it will stain your sink. Just wrap your brush in saran wrap and store in a closed ziploc bag between coats. The brushes are cheap.

Once you’ve stained the wood to the desired color and it is dry, apply your gel topcoat with your cotton sock. Wipe on, let dry, wipe on again. I used three coats. Again, a little bit goes a long way. Allow to dry 6-8 hours between coats.

If you accidentally get stain on your wall, counter top or floor, clean it IMMEDIATELY. I found water, a scrubby sponge or brush, and some Soft Scrub will remove fresh, wet stain completely.

My little project took four or five days with all the drying time. I could have done it faster if I’d have stained early morning and again in the evening every day, accomplishing two coats in one day. But I was on break after all.

After the last coat is dry, put your hardware back on, touch up where you need to, and you are DONE.

I felt so accomplished.  All grown up and everything.

If you’re buying new hinges, take one of the old ones with you to the hardware store so you buy exactly the right style. It will save you a trip. I bought mine at a store here called Locks and Pulls. Cabinet and door hardware is all they sell and they have a huge selection.



When I first moved into this house I made actual lined drapes with the pleats for my family room.  They were necessary because once upon a time the family room was the TV room of the house, and the afternoon/evening sun blazed in and disturbing viewing.  But the windows were short, because the family room is in the basement.  I made short lined blue drapes, crisp with pleats and curtain hooks.  When I think back about them, I am kind of amazed at myself that I got them made as well as I did.  No pictures, it was far too long ago.  The curtains eventually succumbed to sun fade and cats.  It was kind of a sad day when they came down for the last time.

The lesson I learned was that I could make curtains.  Now mind you, just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you WANT to.

20160120_184905Six years ago, during a real, honest-to-goodness blizzard when work was cancelled and I was trapped at home, I made a project of making made lined, tab topped curtains for my large new replacement sliding glass door in the dining room. The new door had replaced French doors that I had made lace panels to fit top and bottom inside the frame for the glass.  They were not “private”, but very pretty.  The door had to be replaced eventually though and I opted for a sliding glass door.

This door is huge, and it takes a lot of fabric to adequately cover it.  As luck would have had it, I had a giant piece of lightweight wheat upholstery fabric that was given to me some time ago, and that I found was suddenly begging to become a new curtain.  Applying measurements and math, I found was just short enough that I was not going to have enough to make curtains with adequate fullness — unless I got creative.  With nothing but snow and time on my hands, I found some brown fabric that I added to the top and bottom, and tabs making my curtain a perfect fit.

The lesson I learned from these curtains is I certainly can make them, but I don’t really like making them.  Curtains this size are usually big, bulky, hard to measure in small spaces without using the floor, and really difficult to press on a standard ironing board.  I have a short memory.

20160130_150727Four or five years later, and having forgotten lessons, I decided I must finally re-cover the window formerly covered by the crisp blue pleated curtains.  An inexpensive upholstery remnant from Pottery Barn, some white fabric for lining and they turned out pretty nicely.  This particular window may be wide, but nice and short, so there’s not a lot of bulk required.  It helped that the fabric was exactly wide top to bottom to not require much cutting at all.

In December, I stained my bathroom cabinets.  Turns out gel stain is apparently communicable.  Note the lovely stain spot on the above large curtain.  That stain isn’t coming out.  At all.  Ever.  I also noticed that after six years of use, the curtain was pretty worn on the lower right corner too — lots of rubbing by dogs going in and out of the door.  The brown fabric had faded, and there was no amount of starch that was going to make them look crisp again.

I also had a big bolt of light beige upholstery fabric that was screaming at me, “make me curtains.”  I used the prior curtains for measurements, found a nice coordinating upholstery fabric for the top and bottom, and set out to make curtains.

Now I remember as I’m crawling on the floor — I don’t like making huge curtains.  At all.  But I’m committed, and here they are.  I see errors — this fabric was wider than the original fabric and I didn’t account for that, so they’re pretty full.  I also measured the lining without taking the top stripe in account, so the lining is a bit too short.  But they’re done and I’ve decided I’m my own worst critic.  They don’t have a spot on them so I’m happy.

On to the next project.  And it won’t be curtains.