Thursday, October 4, 2012

DIY New Kitchen on a Budget


This was my kitchen before and then after our DIY renovation on a tight budget. I wanted a warm, inviting, working kitchen with most things in eye-sight and at my fingertips.

"Working kitchen" was my focus in nearly every decision. When I'm in the kitchen, I'm there to cook and enjoy that process of providing for my family. I'm not there to win a prim and proper award.

"Warm and inviting" was the second driving force. I love that my family likes to sit at the little kitchen bar-table while the coffee is perking. And I like that they hang around while supper is cooking. It's good company and makes them handy for stirring things and filling pots and such.

My husband and I built nearly every new thing in the kitchen from scratch.
Even our counter tops are made of 2x4 lumber.
This is how I turned the corner with it. Kind of like a log cabin quilt pattern.

When my kitchen redo was featured on Apartment Therapy's, I caught some flak with comments like "It would have been better to just wait till you had the money for butcher block." I had been cooking in an ugly kitchen for three years "waiting to have the money". It just wasn't happening. And in those three years I had been planning and plotting and thinking how cool a 2x4 countertop would be. I like it. It's unique, it was built by us, and it has my rustic style.

It seems like most people have forgotten that it's ok, good even, to build your own things instead of buying everything factory made. This entire country was settled by people who built their own homes and furnished them with things they made from the materials available on their land.

This is what I have for kitchen drawers. Roomy wicker baskets lined with linen.

When it came to drawers I thought this would be the one thing I would buy pre-made. I was pretty intimidated by the thought of making drawers that would slide in and out easily. I knew from past experience that if they didn't glide, I would hate them.

I checked Lowes and Home Depot for a narrow cabinet section of drawers. Something plain that I could paint to match my other lower cabinets and put my 2x4 counter top on. No matter what price range I looked in, it was all particle board crap. Expensive particle board crap.

So Hubs and I built another cabinet in the same way as the others, with an extra shelf, just the right width for the space and for the baskets I bought. I have a gadget/utensil drawer, a measuring utensils drawer, and a junk drawer on the bottom.

 My silverware is in the wicker picnic caddy on top and most of my cooking utensils are in a big glass pickle jar that's had the top cut off and the edges sanded smooth.

See the coffee cups, measuring cups, and metal bowls hanging above the sink?
The "cup hooks" they're hanging on are vintage silver plate silverware.

I hammered the old forks and spoons flat, bent the tines kinda funky, and curved the handles up.

Words are stamped into the spoons with my dad's old letter set. They say hot java, snickerdoodle, chocolate kisses, sugar & spice, kiss the cook, and good gravy. I drilled a hole in each piece and attached them to the black board with a plain ole screw. Drilling the holes was easy on the vintage silver plate but I've tried it on stainless steel flatware and broke a few drill bits before I called it quits.

This is my open shelf, floor-to-ceiling pantry. Right there in the kitchen where it's handy.

Before we redid the kitchen, my pantry was one of those tall white, pre-fab cabinets from Lowes. I hated it. It was deep and I had to dig through and uncover things I needed every time I cooked. With this one, the canned goods are only stacked two deep and two tall. Most of the other things are a single layer of what I need.

UPDATE 2016: We wound up tearing out this wall to open the
kitchen up to the living room. New pics here.

In the before picture, at the bottom left, is the cabinet we used for the new sink section.

We painted the bottom off-black and added new brushed pewter hardware. I kept the old formica top but wanted to change the color. It was a fleshy terracotta color. We sanded it just enough to degloss it, then I coated it with the same stain I used on the 2x4's. It also got the two coats of clear gloss polyurethane that the 2x4's got. The stainless steel sink itself was given away by a couple who was also renovating their kitchen. They offered it up on our local Freecycle.

My total spent on the kitchen is under $800. I kept every little receipt every time we went to the lumber yard, the hardware store, everything. Added it all up and that's what we have.

About the only thing left to do is put up a back splash. It seems kind of plain without one. I briefly thought about doing a copper penny back splash like this lady did. She has a good tutorial on it. But I have a feeling it would make my space darker than I want it.

What I would like is a random mix of glass tile and tumbled stone in earth tones. It would be the most expensive part of my kitchen but now that I have a kitchen I love, I don't mind waiting to save up the cash for it. Or divide the purchases up over a few months until I have everything I need.

This was one of the first inspirations for my kitchen.

I even painted my kitchen with a light breezy color. But as popular as white kitchen's are right now, I just think they're cold and lack personality. Warm and cozy is my thing. But I love open cabinet shelves and hanging cups.

Just for fun, my cobalt blue dishes are in stacks alternating with my Granny's white china.

Mom says the china was collected when Papa and Granny owned a Fina gas station (I always thought they came out of boxes of laundry detergent). She says the gas company gave a place setting of this china to everybody who bought a full tank of gas. I watch for pieces at junk antique stores but it seems like I've already got everything that was available. My sugar bowl lid got lost or broken somewhere along the way but I found a replacement on ebay last year.

Another inspiration photo.
This is a public place and I like how open it is and the rich, warm colors.
Maybe that penny back splash is what I need after all. We'll see.

I almost forgot the Don't Do The Stupid Thing I Did section: I put a work bench and shelves on the wall you don't see in these photos. I thought it would be handy for my tools and all the smaller things I like to work on. Big mistake. It is one big junky mess and is visible from the family room. I have cleaned and organized and 2 seconds later it was a big junky mess again. I should have put it in the laundry room and that's where it will go before too much longer.

The letter stamp set I used on the cup hooks. Surrounded by stuff.
That's what my entire work bench looks like.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Flag Quilt & How-to Part 2

This is Part 2. Part 1 is here.

I made a complicated blue field of stars for this flag out of tediously small half-square triangles. It took for-freakin-ever. I will NEVER do that again. I'm going to show you how it was done but there are definitely other, less mind-numbing, ways to do it.

Cut a bazillion 2"x2" squares in dark blues, light blues, and whites. Seriously. A Bazillion. If you're not familiar with rotary cutting quick strips for your squares, see the video in Part 1.

Each star is made of four small quilt blocks. Each small quilt block is made of four half-square-triangles (HST's). Part 1 also explains how to whip those HST's out really fast.

For each small quilt block you need 1 hst that is dark blue on light blue, 1 hst that is dark blue on dark blue, 1 hst that is are light blue on white, and 1 hst that is white on dark blue. They go together like this...

The finished star block is 4 3/4" inches. Thank you, Wenchy W, for asking (she is going to make the flag quilt but with a different star pattern. A good idea because these were a tedious pain in the butt).

It takes 28 stars. Sew 6 stars together in a row. Then sew another row of 5 stars. Notice the short row has some dark blue hst's (2x4) at the beginning and the end so it will be offset next to the long row. 

When the blue field is done, sew it to one end of the short stripes (explained in Part 1). Then sew that to the long stripes.

The quilt top is complete. Make a sandwich with a back fabric, quilt batting, and the quilt top. Pin it all over; I use curved safety pins made for quilting. They are time-savers and frustration-savers.

Now just sew it all together in whatever pattern you like. I use my Granny's old Singer sewing machine so I keep it simple with straight lines. These go diagonally up the quilt.

I didn't want a border around my flag quilt at all so I turned the edges in and top-stitched it. Check the back to make sure you caught the fabric all the way down the edge.

If I were going to make another one, I might do the blue field exactly like the stripes (only in all dark blues, of course). It would take 7 rows of 9 blocks. Then I'd probably applique several medium size stars using various fabrics in shades of whites and light tans.

Here is a less complicated pieced star that would be a great option. It's a customer quilt (Debi P.) on, a quilting service.

A Google search brings up a lot of great American flag quilts; many ways to go. I like mine best though : )

2016 update. Still putting the flag quilt out on holidays.
I might add a border one of these days; it seems like it needs one.

Flag Quilt & How to make all those little blocks fast

Every 4th of July and Memorial Day I would think Man, I wish my flag quilt was finished so I could hang in on the front porch rail. So I finally got my hiney in gear and finished it this July. In fact, on the 4th of July everything was done except hemming the edges.

It is made of a BUNCH of half-square-triangle (HST) blocks and I'm going to show you how to make a stack of them quick as a wink. We'll also look at how the flag was put together.

I used a rotary cutter and cutting mat to cut long strips of fabric four inches wide. Just fold the fabric a few times so it will fit on your mat, slice the end off with the rotary cutter so you have a nice, neat edge, then cut four inches off the end. If you're having trouble visualizing that, here is a video by youtuber mdhaworth that demonstrates it very well.

My cutting mat is smaller so I have to fold my fabric an extra time or two. Remember you need 4-inch wide strips for the flag quilt. Unfold your strips and stack about four layers of fabric strips very neatly, one on top of the other, making sure all the edges match up, then cut 4-inch squares using the same method as the strips.

For this flag quilt, I used several different shades and patterns of red fabrics, blue fabrics, and whites and tans.

Take two different red squares and stack them with right sides together. Now we're ready to sew. I have a really old singer with a simple needle and presser foot. It is 1/4 inch from the edge of the presser foot to the needle and that's just what we need. Newer machines can adjust the needle position left, center, or right; put your needle so that you have 1/4 inch from the left side of the presser foot to the needle.

Line the left edge of your presser foot with the corner of your squares. You want your seam to land 1/4 inch from the center line. Lots of quilters measure and mark lines. I just eye-ball it and aim for the opposite corner.

When you get to the opposite corner don't bother back-stitching and definitely don't pull and cut your thread. Just keep going right on to the next pair of squares.

Keep doing this until you have about 10 of these connected like a kite tail. A Lamborghini poster is essential to the success of your quilt. Trust me.

Pull a little slack in your thread. You can cut it or not. I don't. Pivot your kite tail around and sew a line down the other side of the squares.

Once you've sewn the other seam down your squares, you're ready to cut the threads between the squares, cut down the center between your seam lines, and finger-press your squares open.

Now you have 20 half-square-triangle blocks. You need a butt-load more. When I was working on mine, I would sew blocks until I had enough to sew together to make a flag stripe.

The long stripes at the bottom of the flag took 20 blocks.

The short stripes at the top of the flag took 11 blocks.

All in all you need 140 red blocks and 120 white blocks. Wow. That's a lot. Don't think about it. Just turn on your radio and sew.

Don't Do The Stupid Thing I Did... most of my stripes were sewn together with the upper triangle pointing left. Two of my red stripes were sewn together with the upper triangle pointing right.

I didn't notice this until I was sewing my stripes together and I couldn't just flip the stripe around and make it right; it was still the same. The only way to fix it would have been to rip all those little seams where the blocks were sewn together and redo them. Oh no. Hell no.

It's not noticeable now that the quilt is all together but it really bummed me at the time. Not bummed enough to redo it but, you know, a mini-bum.

Moving on. Sew all the long stripes together, then sew all the short stripes together. But don't put the long ones with the short ones yet, you need the blue field of stars first.

Continued in next post!

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