How to live with your kitchen until you’re ready to renovate

Ugh, our kitchen. Our poor, poor kitchen. I’m so excited for the day that we finally renovate this room. However, I’m a bit scared too because I feel like we’re going to uncover so many issues when we pull everything apart.

One of the hinges on our cabinet doors had come loose (not unusual, all of our cabinets are falling apart).

Cabinet hinge with stripped screws

Repairing a stripped screw hole with toothpicks and glue

As I was putting it back together last week (wood glue + toothpicks = repaired), I was thinking about how we’ve lived with this kitchen for 5 years and will continue to do so for awhile yet.

Kitchens are important rooms. We spend a lot of time in them, so we want them to look nice and work well. But they’re also expensive and disruptive to renovate.

As a result, many of us live with lackluster kitchens, waiting until that magical day when we pull out the sledgehammer and start to forge the kitchen of our dreams.

For me, I hate to invest time or money into a space that I know I’m going to gut, even if that gut isn’t going to happen for 5 years or more. However, there are a few things that we’ve done in our kitchen that have made it more liveable, more functional and more attractive.

I thought I’d share them today in case they help someone else living in a similar kitchen situation. And I’d love to hear your ideas too for making a less than ideal kitchen work for you.

Paint

Between cabinets and appliances, wall space in a kitchen is often minimal, so giving your walls a fresh coat of paint is quick and inexpensive. With our open concept main floor, painting the kitchen, living room and hall the same colour made the spaces cohesive and the light colour that we chose brightened up the rooms a bit.

Painting cabinets is another update that can have a big impact. I did this in our first house and it was a great transformation. However, it was also a bigger job than I expected, so I was in no hurry to do it again–especially since our cabinets are falling apart and I feel like paint will not help the situation.

Hardware

Updating cabinet hardware can be another quick way to inject some style and personality into your kitchen. I spray painted our hardware for a mini update. The results have been mixed. The paint has chipped off some of the handles, but others have held up pretty well.

What is this?

The nice thing about a hardware update is if you truly love the handles or knobs that you choose, you can easily reinstall them in a new kitchen down the road.

Lighting

Just because you don’t have your dream kitchen doesn’t mean you can’t have your dream lights. I loved the idea of a pair of schoolhouse style pendants over the island, so I went and bought them.

We only had one light fixture in the kitchen and it wasn’t positioned quite right, but I didn’t let that stop me. I put up one of the lights anyway. Maybe a single, randomly located pendant looked a bit weird, but it made me happier than the boob light that was there before.

A year or so later when we had an electrician in for some other work, I had him move the first light and install a second. The electrician’s labour was relatively inexpensive.

School house pendant lights over the kitchen island

Even if you’re planning on reconfiguring your kitchen down the road and will need to move lights again, the investment in an electrician is not that significant. And assuming you still love your lights, you can reuse them.

Island

The biggest addition to our kitchen has been the island. I bought the doors at Habitat for Humanity and we DIYed the countertop. Having a cabinet maker build the boxes was still a bit of an investment, but worth it for us for the storage and prep space we gained.

Kitchen island painted white with wood countertop

I can’t imagine working in the kitchen without having this extra space. And I’m hoping that we can reuse the island in our future kitchen.

Accessories

Just because a kitchen is a utilitarian space doesn’t mean you can’t decorate it. Accessories can add function to the room as well as style. A long towel bar on the end of the island gives us a space to hang oven mitts and towels within easy reach. Plus pretty towels inject some personality and colour. We also removed a wine rack that was above the fridge (we don’t drink much wine and I can’t reach the space anyways) and put a fun country rooster and our kitchen scale on display.

Organization

No matter what your kitchen looks like or how large it is, keeping things organized can dramatically improve how you feel about the space.

In adding the island we were able to add storage for a few key things: cookie sheets, cutting boards and cookbooks. Our kitchen is lacking in drawers, so we also added hidden drawer to the island.

The few drawers that we do have are too small for most organizers, but I found a plastic organizer that I could cut to size with a utility knife, so I was able to keep our cutlery sorted.

Narrow cookie sheet shelves in island

Making a kitchen work until you can do a full reno is about trade offs. What can you live with and what can’t you? How many repairs are you willing to do? How much money are you comfortable spending, knowing that whatever you add may end up in a dumpster? For us DIYers, how much time and effort are you willing to invest knowing that you may be ripping out your hard work down the road?

For me, I think I’ve found a balance that is tolerable.

What are your tips for holding a kitchen together? How do you feel about mini renovations to tide you over until the big one? Have you made any improvements to your kitchen that have made a difference in how it works or looks?

Denise at Happy Haute Home (who often comments on my posts) recently renovated her kitchen for the One Room Challenge. While it’s a much grander space than ours, she embraced a very similar philosophy to mine. She shared her tips for how to update a kitchen on various budgets in her reveal post.

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How to prune raspberries

How to prune raspberries

Pruning the raspberries was one of the items on my “putting the garden to bed” to-do list.

Pruning removes dead canes, opens the rest of the canes up to light and air and gives new canes room to grow.

The best time to prune is in the fall. The canes have finished fruiting. Leaves have died and fallen off. New growth won’t start until the spring.

The first step is to identify which canes are dead. You want to look for the canes that are woody. For our berries, that means I can see actual bark and it looks like the outer shell of the cane is peeling a bit. The cane in the centre of the picture below needs to go. The two on either side can stay to bear berries next year.

How to prune raspberries

Using sturdy clippers, cut the dead cane a couple of inches above the ground. Pull the cut cane out of the row and throw it on your compost pile. If your canes are very thick or tangled, you may need to clip the dead cane in half so that you can extract it from the row.

How to prune raspberries

It’s okay to have a little stump left behind. In a year or two, this stump will rot away.

How to prune raspberries

While you’re in your raspberry patch, now is also the time to weed (the last time this season). I also tuck the canes back under the wires of our trellis (here’s how we built our raspberry trellis). This contains the plants, helps them grow upright rather than flopping over and makes it easier for picking and care next year. You can see in the picture below one guy is on the wrong side of the wire (while his neighbour has bent over nearly backwards to grow within the row).

How to prune raspberries

At this time of year–especially while temperatures are still warm–the canes are pretty flexible, so it’s easy to bend and coax them under the wires. The result is a tidy row of plants with plenty of space to walk between the rows.

How to prune raspberries

How to prune raspberries

Has anyone else been pruning raspberries? Any tips to share? How are you doing on your garden clean up this fall?

How to rescreen a screen door

Fresh country air is one of the best parts of summer living on the farm. But summer on the farm also means bugs, so screens are an absolute necessity. Sarah in Illinois is here today to share how she fixed her screen door after it had a few too many encounters with a puppy who was enthusiastic to enjoy the country air in person dog.

I don’t think you can live in the country without a screen door. Unfortunately screen doors and young energetic dogs don’t mix. Blitz gets so excited to head outside that he pushes the door open with his big paws.

The screen became damaged enough that I decided that it was time to try my hand at re-screening a door.

I started with buying a screen replacement kit at our closest home improvement store. It comes with a large roll of screen, a roll of spline and a spline tool. The only other tools that I needed were a utility knife and pick.

I started by removing the damaged screen and using the pick I pried all of the old spline out of the grooves.

I compared my old spline to the new spline. My only concern was making sure that they were the same diameter. If the newer spline was too large it wouldn’t fit in the groove, if it was too small, it wouldn’t stay in place. Thankfully, it was close enough to work well.

After all of the spline was removed and I cleaned the door, I was ready to start putting the new screen in place.

I carefully centered the screen over the opening and laid the spline over the groove. Working with just one side I used the spline tool, which is basically a handle and a roller, and pushed the spline down into the groove. It was a tight fit, but not too tight, just enough that I knew that it wasn’t coming out.

I worked my way around all four sides pulling slightly on the screen to keep it taut.

At the corners I had to use the pick again to squish the spline down tight where the spline tool couldn’t reach.

Once I felt that the screen was in securely and pulled tight, I trimmed the excess screen off with a razor blade.

In the case of our door, there were two separate screen areas so I repeated everything on the second half of the door.

I was then ready to rehang the door.

I was nervous tackling this project because I was worried that it would never look like it did when the door was new. But honestly, this was such an easy project and cost me less than $10 for the kit.

Now we’re ready for this guy’s next adventure.

Well done, Sarah. It looks really professional. We love having the windows open in the summer, but I’m realizing a few of our screens are in need of repairs. We’ve found ourselves chasing moths or even the occasional mosquito in the house. In the past, I’ve patched a hole. Rescreening sounds pretty easy and straightforward. Plus I’m ensured of not missing any holes.

How to make a light box for tracing

Hand up if you’ve ever found yourself standing at a window, trying to hold two pieces of paper steady while you traced a pattern. My hand’s definitely up. It’s awkward, right? For crafters, tracing is an important part of a lot of projects.

A light box is a handy tool that makes tracing much, much easier. Sarah in Illinois is sharing how she made a light box for her quilting mother. 

I hinted a few posts back that I was not making good progress on my “one project a month.” If you remember, my three projects for the second quarter of the year were

  1. Light box for my mom
  2. Grill lighting
  3. The garden

Starting from the bottom, the garden is doing well. Very well. Plants are growing, we’ve picked some veggies, had some setbacks, but overall it’s doing very well. I decided to write a separate post on the garden, so I will just say I am very happy with the progress so far.

The grill lighting is on hold. When we hung the decorative string lights on our awning this year we decided that they give off enough light to make sure our hamburgers aren’t burnt. And since we are not sure what we want in permanent lighting we decided to do more research before we make the money and time commitment. So not done, but on hold.

As for the light box, I can say it is done.

So what is a light box? Basically, it is box with a transparent top and a light source inside.

When you put a print and a blank piece of paper on top of the box, the light shines through and makes it easy to trace the original print. This is great for crafters wanting to copy patterns. In this case, my mom wanted one for making quilts.

I started by cutting 45 degree angles for the 4 sides of the box.

Then I got to play around with the router. Honestly, I had not used our router before. It is kind of Steve’s toy, but using some practice boards it was fairly easy to get the hang of. The reason for the router was to cut a groove in the sides of the box for the transparent top to sit in.

I also used the router to curve the edges of the boards to give it a nicer look.

So this was the point where I would have started assembling the pieces. Except I came home and found that Blitz had put his mark on two of the pieces, quite literally.

It aggravated me of course, but who could I blame but the person who left them where a 10 month old pup could reach them? In case that wasn’t clear, that person is me.

So after redoing half of my work I began putting the sides together. Simply put, it is like building a frame for a picture.

The finished dimensions are 13 inches by 15.25 inches with the “window” area being 12.5 inches by almost 14.75 inches. Obviously I didn’t work by any plans, I just wanted to make sure it was large enough to use a standard 8.5 by 11 piece of paper for tracing.

I pre-drilled my nail holes and put three sides together.

It was at this point that I put the first coat of white paint on all of the pieces. It has been extremely humid here which is not the best weather for paint to dry. I got several scratches and finger prints on the pieces that had to be touched up once I was done handling everything.

I slid the “window” into the channels that I routed and attached the fourth side.

For the window I used a piece of plexiglass that I cut with a razor blade and snapped to break. To hide the inside of the box and to dull the brightness of the intense lights that I chose, I sprayed the plexiglass with a frosted paint.

It was at this point that I turned the box over and installed the light source. I chose this LED tape at our local home improvement store. I wanted LED so that heat did not build up inside the box.

This tape is 6.5 feet long but came with instructions on how to cut it to the correct fit. I used both the adhesive back and the small mounting brackets that came with the tape. I cut a small hole near the bottom to run the cord out of.

I was pleasantly surprised that the light tape came with a switch so that it will be easy for Mom to turn on and off as needed.

And finally I screwed the back to the box. I chose to use screws so that I can remove the back if I ever need to make any adjustments or repairs.

I am happy with the results and can’t wait to give it to Mom for her to try out.

That light box looks great, Sarah. It’s super professional with the routed channel for the plexiglass and the LED strip. I’m sure your Mom will appreciate it. Maybe you’ll get a new quilt out of it. 🙂

How I organize recipes

Open shelving in the kitchen for cookbooks

One of my favourite features of the island we added to the kitchen is the open shelving on the end that holds our cookbooks.

The books add a splash of colour to the wood and white of the kitchen. The shelves keep them organized and easily accessible. Plus I love cookbooks. I will sit and read them like a magazine or novel. (And, yes, you’re not imagining. The upper shelf is sagging a bit under the weight of all of our cookbooks).

However, not all of my recipes reside in cookbooks. I have a bunch of printouts from recipes I’ve found online (I haven’t progressed to a tablet yet), clippings from the newspaper or magazines, even a few hand-written recipes from family and friends.

To keep these recipes organized, I returned to the lessons learned in school–binders, dividers and page protectors.

A couple of weeks ago, I added a bunch of new recipes to my collection, so I thought I’d share my organization method with you.

How to organize recipes

First are the binders. I have three major categories which each get their own binder: Appetizers and Sides, Entrees, Desserts and Sweets. Entrees outgrew its single binder and is now split into two books. I use different colours for each grouping.

How to organize recipes

Within each binder, I’ve divided the recipes into subcategories.

In appetizers, the sections are appetizers, soups, salads, sides, snacks, breads and drinks. For entrees, I divided them into pork, pasta, sandwiches, beef, fish, vegetarian, poultry, other meats (venison, lamb), breakfast. Desserts starts with the most important, chocolate, and then goes to cookies, “buns” and bars (including muffins), cakes, pies, fruit, custards and Christmas.

How to organize recipes

The recipes themselves are stored in plastic page protectors. I’m not the tidiest cook, so the plastic sleeves protect the paper from spills and splashes.

However, it’s easy to slide the recipe out of the plastic and add notes about what worked, what didn’t or what adjustments I made.

How to organize recipes

Beyond the binders, I also use magazine holders to organize the smaller pamphlets and cookbooks I’ve collected over the years. I got two wooden holders from Ikea and stained them to match the countertop and cabinets.

Wood magazine holder

I love having my recipes organized.

In fact, I was so inspired that I flipped through the dessert binder and whipped up one of my favourite fall recipes, spiced apple muffins, using the apples my friend gave me from her own tree.

Apple spice muffins

With my recipes all organized, I feel ready to move on from fall baking on to Christmas baking.

Are you doing any baking, either fall or Christmas? How do you organize your recipes?

How to reuse old carpet

A few weeks ago you caught a glimpse of our redone basement. We put it back together after our waterproofing contractors finished their work.

Wall repaired after waterproofing

Fortunately, the carpet and underpad were not damaged  by the leaks, so we were able to reuse them. (Although they could use a good cleaning).

Our contractors had folded the carpet back out of the way while they were doing their work.

carpetrep4

After giving everything–the carpet, the underpad, the concrete–a really good vacuum we were able to unfold the underpad and lay it back down over the concrete. The vacuum is critical. You don’t want to discover any bumps under your carpet once you’re finished installing it, so make sure everything is really clean and smooth.

How to reuse old carpet

The next step was to install new tackstrips, also known as smoothedge. The tackstrips are what hold the carpet in place. The underpad provides the guide of where to install the strip. Tackstrips come in two different versions–one for wood subfloor and one for concrete. Make sure you buy the right type for your floor.

Line the tackstrip up with the edge of the underpad with the little spikes pointing in towards the wall. Hammer the small nails in the tack strip into your floor. With our new concrete from the waterproofing, we found the nails did not want to go in. We ended up gluing the tackstrips to the concrete with construction adhesive.

Installing carpet tack strip

Once the glue was set, we unfolded the carpet and laid it over the tack strips. It’s important to stretch your carpet tightly. For this, you need a carpet kicker. I’ll share how you can make your own kicker in an upcoming post.

The idea is you lay your kicker on the carpet and using your knee you kick the carpet towards the wall. While the carpet is stretched tight, run your hands over the edge to press it onto the tack strip. You should feel the carpet catch on the spikes. As you get towards the corner, kick on a bit of a diagonal to push the carpet towards both walls.

How to reuse old carpet

You’ll notice that we installed the carpet before we put the baseboard back on. Usually you will have baseboard or trim in place already. In those spots, use a chisel to tuck the carpet in under the trim. (You can see some of the water damage we have on the base of the door trim. It has since been covered with fresh paint.)

How to reuse old carpet

And that’s all there is to it. I’m so grateful that we were able to reuse the carpet. This carpet goes through the whole basement, so redoing this one area would not have been an option. Plus installing it ourselves was a quick and easy DIY.

Have you ever installed carpet yourself?

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How to add a harp to a lamp

My thrift store lamp that you met on Friday had a lot of things going for it, especially after its spray paint makeover. However, there was one thing missing that I didn’t notice until the very end: the harp.

The harp is the little bracket that goes around the light bulb and holds the lampshade.

I admit, I was a little intimidated by the prospect of installing a harp. I hear about a lot of people rewiring lamps, but I’ve never attempted that myself. It turns out it’s not hard. In fact, I just started trying to take the lamp apart and was able to figure it out pretty much on my own.

Step one was to remove the socket from the lamp base. It just unscrewed, and the cord was loose enough that I was able to pull it out a little bit.

Removing the socket from a lamp

The wire was still buried deep in the socket, so I started trying to figure out how to access it. A close examination revealed a seam in the middle of the socket. You can see it partially opened here.

Removing the socket from a lamp

The socket easily unscrewed, and I could see where the wires attached to two screws. I could also see a really intimidating knot. Gulp.

Taking apart a lamp socket

A couple of turns loosened the screws enough to unhook the wires. Quick tip: I marked which wire went to which screw (one’s gold and one’s silver) by straightening the gold one and leaving the silver one hooked.

Taking apart a lamp socket

I was really, really hoping to not untie that knot, but in order to remove the bottom part of the socket–never mind putting on the harp–I had to. With the knot untied, the socket easily slid off and the harp bracket easily slid on.

How to add a harp to a lamp

After that, it was a (relatively) easy process of reassembling the socket. I slid the bottom part of the socket back into place. I retied the knot. (Okay, this was a bit complicated.) It turns out the knot is called an underwriters knot. I watched this animation a few times as I was tying my own knot. I hooked the wires back over their screws, and then screwed everything back together. I had a reassembled lamp that now included the bottom part of the harp.

How to add a harp to a lamp

The upper part of the harp slid onto the bottom bracket and I gave myself a congratulatory pat on the back.

How to add a harp to a lamp

And then I had to choose a lampshade. Last week I asked for your input, white or grey. So what did I end up choosing?

I went with the grey. It was pretty much the universal favourite last week, and I decided that I liked its flared shape best.

Purple lamp with flared grey shade

And another detail on the basement comes together. Slowly but surely I will finish this space.

Have you ever rewired a lamp? What DIY projects do you find intimidating?

Linking up to #DIYLightingChallenge

How to remove a belly mower from a Kioti CS2410

Every year, twice a year, Matt and I get up close and personal with our little tractor, Wiley. Attaching the mower deck in the spring and detaching it in the fall are pretty intimate operations.

Just a refresher, Wiley is a Kioti CS2410. His mower deck is a Kioti SM2410. It’s a belly mower, meaning it rides under Wiley’s middle (as opposed to the mowers that are towed behind a tractor).

How to detach a Kioti SM2410 mower

I thought this year that I’d finally properly document the process. I’ve tried to do this for the past few years, but attaching and detaching is always a bit stressful. See how concerned Baxter is when we did this two years ago?

Baxter helping to remove the mower deck

I usually feel like it’s better for my marriage if I don’t try to prep a blog post at the same time as we’re installing or removing the deck.

That’s not to say this is an overly complicated undertaking. It’s just an undertaking that is a bit tricky in spots.

Here are the steps to remove the mower deck from the tractor:

1. This whole operation will be dramatically aided by level ground (which does not exist at the farm). So, step 1: park the tractor on level ground… or at least the levelest ground you can find.

2. Start with the mower raised but set at the shortest cutting setting.

Cutting settings on a Kioti CS2410

3. Turn the wheels that support the deck so that they’re perpendicular (90 degrees) to the tractor’s wheels. Pop out the pins and rotate the wheels.

How to detach a Kioti SM2410 mower

Repin them in the highest position–meaning the mower is as high off the ground as you can get it, i.e. the pins are in the bottom hole on the sleeve.

Pin in the bottom hole

4. Disconnect the PTO. Push the shiny gold collar towards the mower deck (forwards), and pull it off the shaft. The person with the longest arms should do this (i.e. Matt), as the PTO is right in the middle under the tractor, and you have to reach over the deck and around the back wheel to reach it.

PTO on a Kioti CS2410

5. Lower the deck–use the three-point lever, not the cutting height lever. Give the deck a good shake to make sure it’s all the way down. You do not want this thing falling on you. It will crush you. (Not quite the same, but I have this line in my head now and I can’t resist. Plus, it’s one of Matt’s favourite movies.)

6. Pull the pins that attach the deck to the tractor. There are three on each side. The quick connect pins at the front and back are on springs. Just pull them out and turn them out of the way. The other pins at the very front have split rings that you have to remove first.

Quick connect spring pins on a Kioti CS2410

Cotter pins on a Kioti CS2410

The pins are when things get stressful for us. The deck is super heavy. And if you’re not on level ground, there’s invariably some weight still resting on the pins. So sometimes they just don’t want to come out, no matter how hard we yank on them.

There are two techniques we’ve found to help: one, slide some blocks under the deck to help support the weight. Use trial and error to find out where you need them–front or back, starboard or port.

Tips to remove a Kioti CS2410 mower deck

The second solution is tried and true: the hammer. Tap (as gently as you can given your current frustration levels and your limited maneuverability under the tractor).

It’s a wonderful feeling when the pins pop free. You will end up with two metal arms that hold the deck to the front of the tractor. Those arms should stay with the deck. Don’t lose them. You’ll need them if you ever want to cut grass again. (And just a note for when it comes time to reattach them, the springs point in).

Kioti SM2410 mower deck arms

7. Raise the mower using the three-point lever to fully detach the deck. At this point the deck should not be connected to the tractor, but still sitting under the tractor. Use the front end loader to lift the tractor up a little bit–just enough to give you clearance to slide out the deck. (Put the parking brake on–safety first!)

Use the front end loader to lift the front wheels off the ground

8. Push, push, push and pull, pull, pull the deck out from under the tractor, and you’re good!

How to detach a Kioti SM2410 mower

Well, you’ll probably want to tip up the deck, scrape the dried up crusty grass from the underside, hit it with the hose, inspect the blades and grease all of the fittings.

Scraping grass out of a mower

Cleaning the mower deck

Just to be safe, we also tuck the PTO into a plastic bag to keep dirt out of it.

Protect the PTO with a plastic bag

But do all that, and you’re done. And you don’t have to cut grass for another few months. (Don’t mention attaching the snowblower).

Time for a victory dance! (Wow, Bax was skinny that first year).

Victory dance

What type of mower do you use at your house? Have you tucked your mower away for the season yet? Do you have any jobs that put your relationship to the test? Do you have a sidekick who helps (and celebrates) the tough jobs?

Making DIY dropcloth curtains – 8 lessons learned

In the last post, you saw the easy layered window treatments in the master bedroom. I promised more details on the dropcloth curtains I made.

Blackout blind, bamboo blind and drop cloth curtain window treatments

There are lots of tutorials out there on how to make dropcloth curtains. So I’m not going to write one here. Plus, I totally made these up as I went along, so a tutorial doesn’t really exist. I did want to share some of the things I learned from making my DIY curtains, though.

How to make dropcloth curtains

1. Dropcloths come with seams. I assumed that my 9 by 12 foot dropcloth would be one single piece of fabric. It wasn’t. All of my dropcloths had a seam down the middle. One had a centre seam plus an additional patch along one end.

For my two widest curtain panels, I just left the seam alone. It’s a bit thicker than I would like and a wee bit puckered, but I decided I could live with it if it was hidden in the folds of the curtains.

For the other curtains, my seam ripper and I spent some quality time pulling out the stitching.

Ripping out the seam on a dropcloth

2. Dropcloths come with holes. The canvas fabric of the dropcloths is not perfect. The rustic quality of the weave and the few strands of blue and red that were here and there are some of the elements I like best about using this fabric.

However, in a couple of spots my dropcloths went beyond rustic and veered into unraveled. So if you want to make anything out of dropcloths, check them over carefully. You don’t want to end up with a hole in the middle of your project.

3. Wash and iron before you start. Pre-washing your fabric is a basic tenant of sewing. I didn’t want my curtains shrinking (not that they’re going to be washed often) after I put the effort into making them, so I washed my fabric before I started sewing.

Dropcloth fabric is heavy duty. As a result, it wrinkles easily and the creases are really difficult to remove. I found that ironing the dropcloths when they were still damp from the washer helped to remove the worst of the wrinkles.

4. Use curtain tape. (Britt, this tip’s for you). From what I hear, making pinch pleat curtains is pretty tedious. Lots of measuring and calculating. A much easier solution is to use curtain tape. This is a kind of mesh fabric strip with channels on the back. You pair it with some special multi-pronged hooks, and it basically forms the pleats for you. I bought mine at a local fabric store.

The pleats are softer than they would be if you sewed them without the tape, but that was okay for my rustic fabric and my farm setting.

I sewed the tape along the edge of one of my dropcloths, put in the hooks and voilà, pinch pleat curtains.

Using curtain tape to make pinch pleat curtains

Using curtain tape to make pinch pleat curtains

Using curtain tape to make pinch pleat curtains

Pinch pleat dropcloth curtains

You can space your pleats as far apart or as close together as you want. I left one empty “pocket” for a space of about 6 inches between each pleat.

Pinch pleat dropcloth curtains

5. Use curtain tape to measure your curtains. Before I sewed the curtain tape onto my fabric, I formed all of my pleats until I had a strip that was as wide as I wanted my curtains to be. Then I cut the curtain tape at that length, removed the pleats and used the tape to measure the dropcloth fabric.

6. There are different types of hooks. The magic pleat-making hooks are very handy. They come in two different forms (there may be more, but I tried two). Whatever form you choose, the hooks hook onto the rings that go on your curtain rod. Option 1 has the hooks at the end, so the curtains hang a bit below the rings. Option 2 has the hooks in the middle, so the top of the curtain hangs up against the rings. This is the type of hook I ended up using.

There are also special non-pleating hooks (just plain single hooks) to hold up the ends of the curtains where there are no pleats.

7. Take your time hemming. I wanted my curtains to just brush the floor. For my first set, I hung the curtains, found the spot where they met the floor, and then I used a ruler to measure the rest of my hem from that point. The result was curtains that were the right length at one or two spots, but for the most part they scuffed, not brushed the floor.

Curtains hitting the floor

For my second set of panels and for the bed skirt that I also made out of dropcloths, I skipped the measuring tape. Instead, I used pins to mark the fabric at about 1/4 to 1/2 inch off the floor. I pinned my way across the bottom of the curtains, marking about every six inches. Then I pressed the hem using the pins as a guide. It wasn’t scientific, but it resulted in curtains that just brushed the floor.

8. You can totally do this too. Dropcloth curtains are pretty easy to make. Honestly, I found them a bit tedious. The only sewing is in straight lines. Loooooong straight lines. However, boring they may be, sewing straight lines is not difficult.

Dropcloth curtains in a navy master bedroom

Let me know if you try them yourself.

Have you ever made your own curtains? Any tips to share from your experience?

Linking up with: Happy Housie DIY Challenge Party

How to build your own shaker cabinets

It’s time for the first progress report in my One Room Challenge laundry room makeover.

One Room Challenge

Today’s update focuses on the most striking transformation in the laundry room: the cabinets.

You saw in the first post that the laundry room cabinets are basic flat doors. You also saw that my inspiration was a shaker style.

Laundry room before and inspiration

Fortunately, transforming flat doors into shaker doors is a pretty easy process. However, there was one door and one drawer that weren’t basic flat panels. I don’t know what this style is called officially, but I believe it was popular in the nineties. The distinctive feature of these cabinets was a built in wood stained “handle” along the edge of the white melamine flat door or drawer. Look familiar?

90s style cabinet

Before I could shaker-fy these cabinets, I needed to get rid of the ridge part of the handle. I enlisted my new-to-me, but extremely old table saw. I set the fence and the blade at the precise width and height I needed to slice off the handle, and then I very carefully ran the door and the drawer through the saw.

Trimming the edge off a cabinet door

Once the handle was removed, I could work with these cabinets exactly like the rest of the ones in the laundry room.

Using my table saw again, my Dad and I cut 2 inch wide strips out of a sheet of hardboard that I had left over from my bookshelf project. I then affixed the strips to the cabinets to make the raised shaker detail.

Easy peasy.

Adding shaker trim to cabinet doors

I used a smear of carpenters glue on the back of the strips and then I tacked them in place with my Dad’s nail gun. A bit of wood filler evened out the joints and an all over sanding smoothed everything out. I chose to have the vertical pieces run edge to edge on the drawers and doors, and then the horizontals ran between the two vertical strips.

For the drawer and the door that I’d trimmed earlier, the shaker strips covered most of the original handle. At the edges a good daub of wood filler took care of the hole. Here’s a sneak peek of how they look after painting. Not perfect, but good enough for me.

Adding shake style trim to cabinets

Anyways, before I get too far ahead of myself, how about a few more details on the painting? After I painted the kitchen cabinets at our first house, I swore I’d never do it again. Maybe my tolerance for DIY has improved because painting these cabinets was much less torturous.

A few things were different this time around.

  1. After priming I used the Advance paint formula from Benjamin Moore as opposed to a stinky heavy duty oil paint. I’ve been super impressed by the finish I get from Advance, and clean up is a breeze.
  2. I painted just the fronts of the doors. Sure it’s a shortcut, but I didn’t feel the need to flip them over and paint the insides too.
  3. I split the painting into two stages because I chose two different colours. The uppers and two blocks of lower cabinets are all BM Cloud White (the same colour as we’ve used on the trim elsewhere in the house). The lowers on the sink section are BM Wrought Iron (the same colour as Matt’s bathroom). One coat of one colour took just 30-45 minutes–much better than the week of 16 hour days I spent in our last kitchen.

As soon as the drawers and doors were dry, I put them all back in place.

Laundry room cabinet makeover

The room may still need to be painted, cleaned and decorated, but it’s already looking 100 times better. Since installing the doors and drawers, I’ve found myself making special trips downstairs to the laundry room just to admire the cabinets.

That’s not weird, is it?

This is a super cheap, easy way to makeover basic cabinets. I highly recommend it.

And because this is a progress report, here’s where the rest of the makeover stands:

  1. Add shaker style trim to the cabinets
  2. Paint the cabinets
  3. Install doors and drawers
  4. Remove ceiling rack – By Oct. 3
  5. Patch ceiling and walls – By Oct. 3
  6. Prime walls and paint ceiling – By Oct. 10
  7. Paint and install baseboard and paint window trim – By Oct. 10
  8. Deep clean (sink, counter, floor, machines) – Oct. 13 (Happy Thanksgiving Monday!)
  9. Paint walls – By Oct. 17
  10. Level washing machine – By Oct. 19
  11. Build and install ceiling rack – By Oct. 24
  12. Build and install towel bar – By Oct. 24
  13. Install cabinet hardware – By Oct. 24
  14. Build and install light fixture – By Oct. 26
  15. Decorate – By Oct. 31

I knocked off steps 4 and 5 in the past week, but added one new step (#10). I don’t know how I forgot that the washing machine shakes like it’s going to take flight every time it goes into the spin cycle. We have to fix that.

So week one of the One Room Challenge is over. Five (or hopefully less) to go. If you haven’t had a chance, I highly recommend checking out the link-ups on Calling it Home. The 20 participating bloggers post on Wednesday and then the linking participants (like me) share our progress on Thursday. There’s an impressive range of projects and lots of inspiration. Exactly what this challenge is all about.

Have you ever made over cabinets with trim or another add-on? How about painting cabinets? Have you ever taken on that fun task? What’s your favourite cabinet style? Anyone know what that nineties built-in handle style is called?