Craft Area: The Work Station

Where my sewing machine should be! Some day my electricity will come…

Let’s start off with a picture again, shall we?  The desk and clock were really at the heart of the whole plan – old family pieces that my dad wanted to be sure had a home, at least for a while. They didn’t really fit upstairs anymore after moving things around yet again, but I like old things, and I like crafting, and I like steampunk, so the steampunk craft area concept was born.

The shelves of the grandmother clock hold some old family glassware as well as knick-knacks I just like the look of. The lamp came as a bonus with a couple of happy lights, and I sprayed it with more bronze rustoleum to fit the theme. I also sprayed the edges of an old bulletin board (not that you can really tell, it sucks in the moisture like crazy!) and covered the  board itself with a sample of the wallpaper for the stairwell to help decide on orientation. Jeff came to the rescue with fishing line to hang the board up. I have this theory that someday I’ll use it to pin up sewing pattern instructions.

The big thing still missing here is electricity. The lamp needs to plug in and so will the sewing machine when it moves down. Though I kind of hate the idea of taking up the rest of the desk space with it…

Anyway, the last thing you need to know is that the print on the desk is from a surprisingly versatile New Orleans artist. Go see it in more detail and check out their other work! (We have a print of this one, too, and don’t know where to put it…)

Craft Area: The Entry

Your first view of the basement craft area from the bottom of the stairwell. Complete with chicken supplies.

Let’s start off with pretty pictures, shall we? Say you’re coming down the stairs into the basement, and ta da! A nicely plastered and painted fieldstone wall, with bronzed plastic pipe and some art hung up with fishing line. And yes, it’s a bit crowded with chicken coop supplies…loppers to cut raspberry cane, epoxy shield, gravity feeder, feed scoops, a stray CO detector… Moving on… How did we get here?

The fun, easy part was spray painting the pipe. Rustoleum is your friend. They make an antique bronze finish that is just lovely. Although possibly I should have dusted the tops of the pipes first…

The wall was a slog! First the research. I can’t even begin to recreate the rabbit hole of finding out that field stone basements should be coated with lime plaster and how to make it. I think the reasoning had something to do with drawing the moisture through the wall to react with the lime instead of decomposing the stones? And most of the formulas are proprietary. Looking back, though, I can crib from Wikipedia for the basics:

Lime plaster is a type of plaster composed of sand, water, and lime, usually non-hydraulic hydrated lime (also known as slaked lime, high calcium lime or air lime).

I can also tell you that I ended up working with a proportion of 3 parts sand to 1 part lime (by volume), and then adding enough water to make a nice slurry. You have to be careful both sourcing the lime (you want something like this product, not the type of lime used to fertilize lawns – it’s a different chemical compound) and mixing it (powdered lime is hazardous, so you should wear a breath mask until it has reacted with the water).

I used a big plastic tote to mix my plaster in – and with a lid, it stays usable for over a year! I started out using an extra garden stake to do the stirring which was both very silly and very hard. My uncle recommended a power driven mixer attachment, which was a godsend. You just stick it into your screw gun like any other bit, and use it like you would use an automatic mixer for batter in the kitchen.

Given my general impatience and penchant for skipping steps, it may astonish you to know that I did indeed scrape the old plaster before apply new, and waited several days for the plaster to dry before painting the wall (with one of several cans of antique white I picked up on sale years ago. Yes, there’s a hardware/home goods stash, too).

Oh, and in case you’re curious about the art: the piece on the left was a framed-tile thrift store find, and the banner (supposedly a scarf?) was a present from my dad – it commemorates the new Japanese garden at the local botanical institute/sculpture park.

New Topic: The Basement Craft Area

Clearly woodworking did not turn out to be a topic which leads me to complex planning, introspection or eloquence. It may surface again from time to time as needed (I do foresee building an indoor [basement] fence/gate in the next year or so), but I don’t see it becoming a mainstay activity.

In other news, Jeff’s caught up again, but in terms of my wobbly-wobbly time tricks, I’m a little short on content to get you to my current costuming activities. So let’s do a little retrospective, and introduce you to the area where someday I hope to actually make said costumes: the basement steampunk craft area.

This has been a very multifaceted, long term project – and you  can probably guess that it’s not done yet! There’s still the need for that last little essential: electrical power for the sewing machine…

But first, wander with me back in time (and across the internet, because I’m lazy and can’t be bothered to go photograph an unfinished wall of my basement), and you’ll see where it all started: fieldstone walls. The ones in my basement had been plastered at one point, but there were still some bare stones peeking through, and an awful lot of cracks in and chunks coming out of the plaster. The floor was bare concrete (hence the acquisition of the epoxy shield I repurposed for the chicken coop). And while the inside of the stairwell had been drywalled, the part facing the basement was naked 2x4s and plywood. Oh, yes, and the pipes and everything were exposed on the ceiling, too.

Not actually my basement! Just a fairly representative image of a field stone wall from the internet.

Coda: The Gate

Then we got a dog.

(Confused? This series started with an intro/bench, an arbor, and chicken coop part 1 and part 2.)

Luckily, she’s a small dog. There were only 3 spots in the back fence to patch (though I’d gotten pretty good at wiring wire mesh to wire mesh from finishing the chicken run, so…more wouldn’t have been too bad, I guess?). Which left the glaring omission of a gate. Which brings us back to the arbor. And more hinges. (And more wire mesh!)

This time I went solo to buy wood. Bad plan. Somehow I bought 2×6. And asked for not quite the right lengths. Back to the mother-in-law’s. Received some 2x2s and borrowed the handheld saw again. Got Jeff’s help on the hinges, latticed it like the sides, added mesh and voila! Now your sneak peek is reality:

This time the gate really should exist!

The Coop: Part 2

So many more steps. (Missed Part 1? Read it here.)

Get out the cement sealer (epoxy shield). Mix it. Wait an hour. Roll it on the whole darn coop (I’d actually bought OSB, not plywood – it really needed that water protection). Stop for the day to let it dry.

Get out the actual paint. Roll it on the whole darn coop. Stop for the day to let it dry. (And I think I did this part over two days?)

Realize how many gaps there are. Caulk the snot out of it with every tube in the house.

Try to attach the fourth side. Realize with a nesting box the full length of the wall, it would attach to the outside of the other walls. Borrow mother-in-law’s handheld saw. Hack a bunch off. Decide this wall should hinge too, or the coop will never get cleaned. Drive to hardware store. Attach wall.

Think about how mesh for run will attach. Add door and trim to be compatible with both that and covering the exit.

More minor adjustments (not to mention enclosing the run), and it’s ready for chickens!

It’s a chicken coop!

The Coop: Part 1

I have to admit, I was surprised and bummed to find that there were so many steps to building even the simplest (box) chicken coop. (Heck, you know I don’t iron or pin my fabric if I think I can get away with it.) You’ve recently read that my mother-in-law talked me into framing the thing. Then I found out it needed a foundation. And “What are you going to do to weatherproof it?” Jeff asked. Good grief!

A trip to Lowe’s for landscaping bricks. Reclaiming the cement sealant I’d bought years ago for the basement floor. Luckily I’d recently acquired some paint since it could double for redoing the front porch.

Then I had to clear out black raspberry canes, weeds, and other detritus. Lay the foundation. Build a rectangle for the base. Fasten the plywood onto it. Add vertical beams. Fasten three sides on (first having cut the exit into the third). (Found a neat trick: rotate the bars for resting the top on so that it has a little bit of ventilation/slope.) Try to fasten the top on with hinges (for easy egg retrieval). The coop was going under the deck, surely I could balance it on the deck’s upright? Nope. Add a hand, a head? Recipe for disaster. Stop. Re-evalute. Rotate the whole darn coop up against the house. Lean the top on the house. Now the hinges will go on. Try to add a board for the nesting box to the fourth (unattached) side. Jeff gets home to help with that part. Exhausted, stop for the day. Pray it doesn’t rain.

Cleared ground and foundation for the chicken coop. Ready to get it done? Go to Part 2!

Intermediate Woodworking: The Arbor

The bench was not enough preparation. Before I’d even finished the bench, I roped my mother-in-law into a wood buying trip (she’s actually got a big enough vehicle to transport what I needed) for both the chicken coop and a new arbor for the entry to the backyard. She saved me from several silly mistakes (for example, yes, I should use framing on the coop instead of just slapping plywood together in a box shape).

(Edit from the future: Chicken coop posts can be found here and here.)

I thought the arbor would be easy. Four 2x4s for the uprights, three 1x4s for cross pieces, a bunch of 1×2 to lattice the sides.

And for a bit, it seemed like it actually would be easy. I framed a rectangle, and another. I laid out the lattice. But…

The screws we had lying around the house were terrible. Stripped the second you looked at them. There are still some sticking an inch or more out of the top of the final result. So I made another trip to the hardware store for some star headed screws.

The structure wouldn’t hold together when it stood up. Just fell to pieces. So I made a trip over to my mother-in-law’s to take her up on the offer of her extra L-brackets.

And then to top it all off, I didn’t measure the opening. The arbor is comparatively enormous. So terribly out of proportion. I almost cut the whole thing down (after Jeff helped me cable tie it to fence) to get it down to size. But I’m lazy. So “let’s give it the winter” we thought. And if you peek ahead (which you have to, because apparently I don’t do progress photos), you’ll see that that may have turned out to be a good thing:

The new arbor (camouflaged by previous trellis, now with sneak peek gate which you can now read about here) and a bonus snow-covered bench to the right.

New topic: Woodworking!

What can I say? I took a break from clothes. The tags (or some simple scrolling) will help you skip this section if you want. (And at some point maybe I’ll add more menu options. And then add posts about building websites. :P)

What got me into woodworking? It’s a little convoluted. The short version has basically two prongs:

– I went to an environmental school and helped raise chickens in 6th grade. My city now has a pilot ordinance allowing chickens through a licensing process. I want chickens, they need somewhere to live. Woodworking.

– I have actually used some power tools before. Besides sewing machines. (Can I just add that I think it is so funny that Husqvarna makes farming equipment in addition to my lovely sewing machine. I have to recalibrate my brain every time I go to the feed store now.) I helped build sets for several theatrical productions one summer…under heavy supervision. And Jeff and I (but mostly Jeff) have made a bunch of raised beds and a cold frame for our garden.

So needless to say I wanted to start small. Not with a whole chicken coop. We had a bunch of leftover boards that I (poorly) assembled into a bench. (With a little help from my mother-in-law, who not only owns a very handy chop saw but also provided a great trick for cutting two boards to the exact same length – stack them on top of each other!) So my bench now has a seat, and a back, and two wobbly little legs under the seat, and two identical long legs affixed to the back. It’s under a mound of snow right now, or I’d show you a picture. (Or would I? My mother saw it and thought I was finally getting over my perfectionism. Um…maybe not!)

In lieu of the bench, here is a nice view of my front garden, with a little bit of raised bed and some cold frame visible on the far side of the sidewalk. (And I’ve laid brick, too!)

A Different Queen

And then I got my first commission! By which I mean a friend was looking for someone to make something for their daughter, and I volunteered.

Do you know about tutu dresses? I didn’t. I saw the inspiration picture of a Queen of Hearts tutu dress, had a brief moment of panic when I thought I would have to call up the lady who graciously provided most of my stash to say “help! how I can I get layers and layers of tulle to behave in the sewing machine?!” (she is an experienced tutu maker as well), and then realized that somehow those strips were knotted on.

Luckily the internet is an expert in tutu dresses. I used this lovely blogger’s work as a loose guide (and somewhat regret not following the recommendation to get a crochet top to use as the base, having instead raided my stash for a strip of trim that could be coaxed into a similar configuration). For anyone familiar with latch-hooking yarn rugs, you may be interested to know that the process is about the same, but with giant strips of tulle, larger holes (ideally), and, if you’re smart and/or multi-crafty, a crochet hook.

Tulle is not something I have in my stash, and the friend was perfectly happy to pay for materials, so off I went to JoAnn Fabrics. I happened to hit the store at sale time, so I was able to get the narrow spools of tulle cheaper than buying a giant rectangle of fabric and cutting the strips out myself. Thank goodness. On the other hand, I carefully obeyed the request for “sparkly” and as I latch-hooked the skirt I ended up subjecting my house to an infestation of glitter. (Friend, of course, already has an irremovable colony and was not in the least perturbed.)

The other instruction was “grow with her” which I took as my biggest design feature. The bodice basically is an apron top draped on my (adult size) dress form. The hearts are glitter paper and velcro on, so they can shift up/down if needed. There’s lots of extra strap on the shoulder, designed to be let down an inch at a time. The back heart just kind of hangs, depending on gravity to sit where it’s supposed to (and is even more adjustable with its velcro). There’s a ribbon at the waist that  will tie in front for now and can shift to tying in back as she grows.

Other materials details: the black ribbons for border and waistband are from my stash, as is the white lace on the shoulder, and both exterior and interior of the “apron” bodice. The wearer will always have a t-shirt and leggings on underneath (and the tulle still tangles, so adding an underskirt might be a good choice). The crown and wand were more glitter paper (the gold very stiff and almost plasticky), a dowel, and a headband also from JoAnn. The part I got most excited about (having innovated a bit) is making the wand double as a “croquet mallet” (not actually good for hitting anything, but the shape is right, since I used one of the tulle spools).


The front view.
The back view (gold inside hidden by wearer of course).


The wand and crown!