Monthly Archives: December 2012

Lessons learned in 2012

Right now, as we are beginning the draft of this post, we are looking at a living room that’s a little chaotic.

PC286940 725x543 Lessons learned in 2012

Even when the Christmas stuff is packed away and the room is tidy, it will likely still look a little crazy. There might not be any painter’s tape up, but we know some of the windows will have white trim and some will have brown.

PC286939 725x543 Lessons learned in 2012

The entry walls we’re painting may or may not be all the same color. Our bench will still be covered with a Grandma afghan because that’s more comfortable than the vinyl that currently covers it (and doesn’t really match the rest of the room).

We’re OK with that.

That’s because we spent time last week talking about what we’ve learned in the past year of working on this house together, and we’ve realized that this is just how we roll. And we can see that we’ve been rolling in the direction we want to go.

PC286935 725x543 Lessons learned in 2012

Not that we’ve been getting there in a straight line.  This has been a year with lots of “growth opportunities.” (That’s the snarky phrase we attach to painful experiences; it’s usually said with eyes rolled and lips pursed.) But grow we did, and when we started talking about what kind of year-end review might be valuable for you (and us), we kept coming back to the lessons we’ve learned in the last 12 months of making a home.

So, rather than giving you a list of most popular posts or our favorite projects, we’ve decided to share the lessons we’ve learned that we want to carry into the coming year.

 

Lesson #1: We don’t have to map out the whole project before beginning.

We learned that if we have a few basic principles and guidelines for how we want things to go, we don’t have to have a complete vision or plan when we start. We can trust the process to take us where the project needs to go. For us, sometimes the end result is better than anything we could have planned ahead of time.

We saw this played out in a big way in our bathroom renovation project. Trying to figure out the whole thing in advance was overwhelming. We decided upon a few guiding principles (frugal, functional, greenish, comfortable, true to its split-level roots) and started with just one decision we felt sure of (a tub instead of a shower). Then we waited until we were sure of another (salvaged tile for the tub surround). Each decision narrowed our options, which was a good thing. It made each remaining decision easier.

sink before after 725x362 Lessons learned in 2012

whole room from door 580x326 custom Lessons learned in 2012

Lesson #2:  Planning is great, but we need room for spontaneity as well.

We keep talking about coming up with a system for deciding what we’re going to work on next–so we can avoid situations like the entry stair/family room near-debacle we experienced last spring. But we can’t seem to commit to any system we’ve devised.

cane tearing stair carpet 725x543 Lessons learned in 2012

We think that’s because our best renovation/design decisions came from mix of both planning/careful thought over time and some spontaneous decision-making. We’ve decided that taking time to be contemplative allows us to be more spontaneous when opportunities present themselves.

Although Cane’s decision about when to tear out the carpet wasn’t planned, the carpet was on our list of things to get rid of. And although we weren’t sure of what to replace it with, we knew it wasn’t going to be more carpet. That’s why, when we found ourselves in the reclaimed wood section of The Rebuilding Center not too long after the carpet came out, we decided on the spot to use reclaimed wood for the risers. And came home with the wood that day.

reclaimed lumber sign 725x543 Lessons learned in 2012

Did we know exactly how we were going to use it? Not at all.

Would we have gotten the wood if the risers were still covered in carpet? Probably not.

Did it take us awhile to figure it all out and do something with it? Yes.

The wood sat in our garage for nearly 6 months–partly because we were in the middle of finishing the bathroom project and painting the house exterior when we bought it and partly because we didn’t quite know what to do with it–but right before Thanksgiving we did finally use that wood on our entry stairs. We haven’t yet shared the full project because we’re not entirely done with it, but we really like how it’s turning out.

reclaimed wood risers 580x773 custom Lessons learned in 2012

Being open to spontaneity (and willing to shift directions) means that we can capitalize on happy finds when they appear in our path. If we weren’t, we might not have our beloved thrift store art, our rug that is more than a rug, or our awesomely awful retro lamps.

rug filling frame 725x543 Lessons learned in 2012

This is our favorite thrifting find from the past year.

These are all things we couldn’t have planned to find, but all have significantly impacted the look and feel of our home.

Lesson #3:  Function and comfort are more important than looks.

Letting go of a desire for the house to be perfectly kept means we can live happily with our messy creative process. Yes, our stairs were really ugly for six months. While they’re better now, they’re still definitely in progress.

But during that time, they were safe and functional. Ugly stairs did not detract from the quality of our life. Seeing this truth and embracing it means that we can live happily with the aesthetically funky things in our house until we have time to change them.

P8284226 725x543 Lessons learned in 2012

No, we don’t love the look of this bathroom, but it does everything we need a bathroom to do. We can we live happily with our icky wallpaper and brass fixtures and peachy sink/toilet/tub. We really can.

On the flip side of this coin is another truth: No matter how great something looks, if it doesn’t function well for us, it’s not a good choice for our home. We learned this the hard way through our experience with our retro couch and chair.

family room header2 580x434 custom Lessons learned in 2012

Our kids hated them, and they weren’t super-comfortable, and they didn’t provide enough seating. This meant our family room was getting zero use by our family. Luckily, we were able to sell them for what we paid, and we’re all much happier with the less-stylish but much more functional Ikea sectional that we replaced them with.

PC316973 725x543 Lessons learned in 2012

And speaking of function…

Lesson #4:  Owning the right tools for the job is really important.

Too many times when Cane was younger, he’d do a project with the wrong tools and never be quite satisfied with the end result because he’d have to make too many compromises. Because one of our guiding principles is We’re too old for that $h!t, we made some investments in tools this year. We’re happy to report that we think it paid off. Sometimes spending a little extra money or time to have the right tool is well worth it in the long run.

P6242200 725x543 Lessons learned in 2012

 This year we invested some money in a tile saw and a compound miter saw, and Cane spent time building his own stair tread gauge. Even though we may never use the tile saw again, we think it was money well-spent. It didn’t cost us more than renting would have, and owning gave us the luxury of time to do the project well (instead of hurrying to get the equipment back to a rental place).

And when we have the right tools, we can do almost anything–even really hard things.

Lesson # 5:  We can do hard things.

It just takes some brains, some DIY balls, a good internet connection, and faith. Biggest example? Switching our shower to a tub.

Smashing up and removing the shower was the easiest part. Changing the plumbing, wrestling in the new tub, and figuring out how to fix the problem with the new plumbing were huge challenges.

stuck tub 725x543 Lessons learned in 2012

This is Cane putting a hole in the wall to the bedroom, so that we could get the tub down into its space.

Thanks to You Tube, various DIY pioneers who walked the trail ahead of us, and our faith in ourselves, we got through those challenges. Our process wasn’t pretty or elegant (we’ve got the drywall patch in our bedroom wall to prove it), but we got it done. Now we know we can tackle other hard things that might come up. (And hard things always come up, don’t they?)

Lesson #6: We need balance between big and small projects.

Speaking of hard things…Our bathroom renovation and exterior painting projects were huge. They took forever. And it was hard to keep going with them because the size of them was so daunting.

At some point in the spring we decided to take a break from the bathroom project to tackle some other, smaller things. Our favorite was our Memorial Day Weekend deck spruce-up, which included our vintage Weber grill rehab.

rehabbed grill on deck 725x543 Lessons learned in 2012

This was definitely one of those spontaneous, unplanned for projects (undertaken only because the grill appeared before us in a thrift store; see lesson #2), but it’s one of our favorites from the whole  year. We really enjoyed our deck this summer, and from this project we realized the importance of giving ourselves some small wins to keep us going through the marathons.

Lesson #7:  Sometimes divide and conquer just divides.

Another reason we really liked the deck project is that we did it together. Our friendship began in doing creative work together, and that’s an important part of what makes our relationship work. If we get too caught up in needing to get a project done, then we lose a big part of the reason we want to do it.

Painting the exterior of our house was our least-favorite project this year, it’s the one project we’d do radically differently, and it’s the one that drove this lesson home to us. Splitting up the project and working on it separately split us up. We’re not going there again in 2013.

cane painting with long pole 725x543 Lessons learned in 2012

We’d love to link you to the big reveal post on this project, but we never wrote it. We couldn’t summon up enough love for it to spend time taking pictures and writing about it. That and there’s still two more sides to paint. We’ll be hiring that out next summer.

house exterior 725x483 Lessons learned in 2012

We did get the front painted and photographed. Unfortunately, we think the lawn is symbolic of what this project did to our summer and our relationship.

Although we didn’t enjoy the painting project at all, it–along with all the other ones we tackled in 2012–really helped us see what is (to us) the most important lesson of all:

Lesson #8: The process is more important than the product.

How you do things and who you do them with will color your feelings about those things when you’re done. We see this most clearly in our bathroom tiling project, and how we felt about it when it was all done.

tile large wall corner 725x543 Lessons learned in 2012

We spent more than 6 months on this project.

We spent hours sifting through boxes of discarded tiles, playing with tile designs, laying out tiles on our garage floor, and sweating through the hard labor of tiling and grouting during sweltering summer days.

We also took lots of springtime walks through Portland neighborhoods, admiring the houses and gardens (and chickens) and talking through our options and our ideas and our values. We sat in lots of coffee shops and ate a lot of food cart lunches, doing the same. We decided it was time well-spent.

rita in coffeeshop 725x966 Lessons learned in 2012

We love the shower/tub. It makes us happy every morning. That’s not just because we like the way it looks. It’s great that we ended up with a cool, unique tile wall–but we love it because the process of making it also gave us a ton of good memories, pride in something we created together, and a stronger relationship.

We learned that house renovation stuff can be hard work, but if that hard work is something that brings us and our family closer together it’s always worth it. If it doesn’t, it’s not–no matter how great the end product might be. (See lesson #7.)

Looking ahead

We’ve definitely got some things in the works for the coming year. We’ve got a post on the full stair process that’s almost done, and just this week we’ve painted our long hallway and the entry walls. That wasn’t exactly in our plans for winter break…but you know how we are with planning (see lesson #2). icon smile Lessons learned in 2012

It happened because we found this great work of vintage fiber art, and we got it for my birthday present, and then I just couldn’t stand to hang it on a minty-green wall, and…

PC266918 725x543 Lessons learned in 2012

the next thing we knew, this…

PC286955 725x543 Lessons learned in 2012

…had somehow led to this…

PC266914 725x543 Lessons learned in 2012

…and even a little of this.

Writing this post, we realized that the lessons we’ve learned about doing house projects apply to almost anything we do–our work, our relationships, making our family. Which is why we keep doing them and writing this blog.

We’re so grateful for those of you who keep reading us. We’re looking forward to seeing you and connecting with you in the coming year. We’d love to know if you learned any great lessons in the one just passed, or if you have any big plans for the months ahead. Hope you’ll let us know by dropping a note in the comments.

Happy New Year!

C297072 725x579 Lessons learned in 2012

(Oh, and we’d still love some feedback from you through our survey. It has been so helpful to see what you like to read about and why you follow our blog. More on that to come soon, too.)

 

 

rss button white text Lessons learned in 2012

mail button white text Lessons learned in 2012

facebook button white text Lessons learned in 2012

twitter button white text Lessons learned in 2012

pinterest button white text Lessons learned in 2012

hometalk button white text Lessons learned in 2012

Help us help you!

We’re channeling our inner Jerry today, and even though I’m poking a little fun at ourselves we really do want you to help us help you.

We’ve been doing some soul-searching over the past few weeks (begun on this horrible day), and we’ve got some ideas about how we’d like to do some things differently here. Before we turn those ideas into action plans, though, we decided we really need to hear from you. 

As we wrote on our About page, we’re writing this blog for you. To do that, we need to know more about what you’d like to see here.

We hope you’ll take a minute to help us out. Please be sure to click the Submit button at the end! 

Thank you!

Our merry little Christmas

We hope you had a wonderful holiday, whatever and however you celebrate.

We’ve done a lot of talking and thinking about this holiday season in the past week. We’ve got some ideas about how we hope to do it better next year, but we’ll save those for next year. Right now, we thought we’d share a bit of this year’s with all of you.

Cane and I had two days before Christmas with no kids. We used it to do some last minute shopping and cooking and house-sprucing.

PC236600 725x543 Our merry little Christmas

Oh, how I wished I had a little girl to buy this vintage dollhouse for! If this were the type of split-level we owned, I think it would have had to come home with me anyway. Luckily, it’s not.

PC236603 725x543 Our merry little Christmas

We both loved this sweet paint-by-number, but at $225 it was a little rich for our already-tapped-out-by-Christmas blood. :-)

PC246621 725x543 Our merry little Christmas

We are all about living with less, but I must confess: I’ve always wanted a set of Christmas plates. They are unnecessary and take up space and I could never justify the expense, but when I found these cheery red birds a few days before Christmas in one of our thrift stores I came home with 8 of them. Life’s short, and sometimes it’s OK to be a little self-indulgent.

PC246622 725x548 Our merry little Christmas

We had the table set for Christmas Eve on the night of the 23rd. It felt so great to wake up the next morning with everything ready.

PC246675 725x538 Our merry little Christmas

For a centerpiece, I cut some pine boughs from a tree in our backyard and put them in an old pickle jar. I like to put the “centerpiece” at the end of the table where it doesn’t get in the way.

PC246634 725x543 Our merry little Christmas

A few weeks ago, we put a cedar garland on our mantel, but by this last weekend it was dried out and faded. We took it down (and saved it to start our Christmas Eve fire), and I put a few small cuttings from the arbor vitae in our yard in water glasses and got out some votive candles. I liked it much better than the garland. Now I won’t feel the need to buy one next year. :-)

PC246616 725x543 Our merry little Christmas

We loaded up our firewood baskets. I took this shot just because I loved the sunlight shining on it. We had a beautiful, clear day on the 23rd; taking photos helps me pay attention to the things I have to be grateful for.

PC246606 725x543 Our merry little Christmas

Cane and I did all our wrapping together, which took less than an hour. Buying fewer gifts this year helped, and we kept it simple by buying pre-printed boxes that didn’t need anything more than some pretty ribbon. We’ll be able to re-use the boxes and ribbon for years.

PC246611 725x543 Our merry little Christmas

Plain white boxes work well, too.

I have to say, it was wonderful to have those two days alone. We had time to reconnect with each other, something we were sorely needing. We also had time to prepare slowly, without any rush or pressure to do anything else. Even cooking–something that’s usually a huge chore for me–was enjoyable.

PC246644 725x543 Our merry little Christmas

Our two girls love (and insist on) Cane’s apple pie for every holiday.

PC246655 725x543 Our merry little Christmas

I made strata (ahead of time) for our Christmas morning breakfast. Gluten-free (with GF bread) and yummy. It was so nice to be able to just put this in the oven after we opened gifts.

PC246651 725x543 Our merry little Christmas

Even the peppers seemed Christmas-festive to me.

When the kids all came home on Christmas Eve, the evening felt even more special because they’d been gone.

PC246661 725x543 Our merry little Christmas

Grace lit all the candles for us.

PC246680 725x483 Our merry little Christmas

Games were played…

PC246682 725x483 Our merry little Christmas

Cane found this at a thrift store last week.

PC246693 725x543 Our merry little Christmas

Daisy played, too.

PC246628 580x434 custom Our merry little Christmas

Sweet treats were eaten. Cane’s mom sent these from Louisiana. We didn’t need to bake anything!

C246888 725x561 Our merry little Christmas

And each child opened one gift before bed. This is Will examining his “something to read” gift.

Our Christmas day was quiet and mellow. Quiet and mellow is nice.

PC246625 725x543 Our merry little Christmas

Everything I need to know about relaxing I learned from our wiener dogs.

PC256706 725x521 Our merry little Christmas

More games were played, and more sugar consumed.

PC256699 580x434 custom Our merry little Christmas

We played Redneck Life. So politically incorrect, and so much fun. We figure we can laugh at it because we’ve kinda lived it.

Quiet is a little hard for us, in some ways. We grew up in big, extended families that gathered for every holiday. Cane and I were both missing people yesterday, some alive and far away, some gone forever. This post by the wonderful Eartha Kitsch made me cry right in the middle of our mellow Christmas afternoon.

I’m coming to realize that the holiday season is likely always going to be bittersweet for me now. That’s the price of living for a while, and loving deeply.

I’m grateful that yesterday I was able to surrender to both the bitter and the sweet. To be able to accept and embrace the holiday for what it is now, and for what it used to be.

It was a huge gift for me, to be able to hold both things simultaneously.

We hope your day was equally full, and full of good things for you and those you love. 

PC246678 725x543 Our merry little Christmas

 

rss button white text Our merry little Christmas

mail button white text Our merry little Christmas

facebook button white text Our merry little Christmas

twitter button white text Our merry little Christmas

pinterest button white text Our merry little Christmas

hometalk button white text Our merry little Christmas

A gift-giving guide, of sorts

This year, I was determined not to succumb to the holiday madness. I was determined to celebrate simply, to leave wide open spaces that might fill with more meaningful things than spending and eating and drinking and making pretty.

simple holiday header1 725x543 A gift giving guide, of sorts

That is why, several weeks ago, I responded to an email from our school’s teen parent program coordinator, asking for gift donations for our pregnant and parenting students.

With the email was a wish list from the students, with a gift request for themselves and for their child. The things on the list for themselves broke my heart just a little:  coats, boots, sheets.

When I was in high school, I wanted records and books and Brittania jeans. I didn’t need to ask for coats and boots, and certainly not sheets for my bed.

SCAN0002 580x385 custom A gift giving guide, of sorts

When I was in high school, there were no teen parent programs in high schools. There weren’t teen parents in high schools. That doesn’t mean there weren’t teen parents. My family was full of them–young women born too early for Roe v. Wade, the Pill, and empathy for pregnant, unmarried young women.

One student on the list jumped out at me. For herself, she wanted yarn, knitting needles, and book on how to knit. I thought of my grandma, who created art with needles that I still treasure. This student’s daughter is due in February, the month my children were born.

I signed myself up to sponsor her.

PC206599 725x543 A gift giving guide, of sorts

As I have watched my children struggle to buy gifts for many family  members, I have questioned (again and again) what this season is supposed to be about. My kids have bought meaningless gifts from the Dollar Store–because that is all they can afford, given the number of family members they feel obligated to give to–that they do not want to give and that will quickly be forgotten by those who receive them.

I have talked long about gifts that can be made, and gifts of service. And yet, somehow, they feel they must purchase gifts. “I don’t even really like Christmas anymore,” one child sighed, weary from the strain of such giving.

I have talked also about not giving. I’ve shared with them that I no longer give from feelings of obligation. I give what I can afford. I give what feels right. I’m learning to resist the societal pressure to give something–anything!–because it is Christmas.

It means I don’t receive as much as I used to. I’m OK with that. I don’t want as much as I used to. And I feel good about what I give.

IMGP2007 725x482 A gift giving guide, of sorts

While I have enjoyed finding things for our kids, and I’m looking forward to spending time this weekend on making my mom’s present, I have to say that the most joyful moments of the holidays so far have come in shopping for someone I don’t even know.

For the first time I visited a local yarn shop, Littlelamb and Ewe. I spent a lovely half-hour with the mother and daughter shop owners who helped me. They were wonderful, and I got a much better deal than I would have if I’d shopped at the big chain craft or fabric stores that are also in our community.

I got to spend another half-hour rekindling my love affair with Carter’s. Reminiscing about my own children’s baby days, remembering what things I most needed and appreciated, took me back to some of the sweetest days of my life.

SCAN0041 725x483 A gift giving guide, of sorts

Although I was raised as a Catholic, I am not a religious person now. While I admire (very much) the ideals attributed to Jesus, I do not identify as a Christian. I once wanted desperately to be a person of religious faith, but the simple truth is that I am not, and I cannot will myself to be one. My philosophy is more in line with that of Penn Jillette:  Lack of religious belief makes my life more meaningful, not less.

And yet, Christmas–which I have participated in all my life–is a religious holiday. I have tried (and tried and tried and tried) to enter into it from some kind of secular, cultural place. I have tried to strip it to its core–it’s about giving, and hope for peace, and love–but I can’t reconcile the core with the things our culture does to celebrate it.

This year is different for me. It’s the first time I’ve given with no thought for reciprocity. I’ve given with no sense of obligation. I’ve given to honor those I’ve loved and to make at least a few small things a little easier for someone going through a challenging time.

PC206590 725x543 A gift giving guide, of sorts

It has not escaped me that Mary is the archetype of the young, unwed mother.

As I, like so many of us, have grappled in this season of supposed joy to absorb and reconcile the horror of last week’s events in Connecticut, it has not escaped me that, were Jesus to walk among us today, he would likely be deemed mentally ill.

I really don’t know how these dots connect. Although I have faith in few things, I do have faith that they connect. I have faith that if I keep looking, the lines will appear, and some coherent picture will be revealed to me. I have faith that love is what the lines are made of, and that giving from love is the only way this holiday–this whole, messy, complicated, dumbfounding world–will make any kind of sense.

SCAN0072 725x776 A gift giving guide, of sorts

Wishing the holiday could be as simple for me now as it was then.

Wishing all of you who read us a peaceful, meaningful holiday. I need to take a little break from here to regain my breath, my balance, and my joy. Looking forward to talking with you again after the new year.

IMGP2143 580x386 custom A gift giving guide, of sorts

Zooming in

Zooming in

Sick with a migraine last week, I realized just how comfortable, how pleasing, how nourishing a place our home is, just as it is.

Yes, there are things we’d like to change. There are things we will change.

PC056339 730x486 Zooming in

 But we don’t need to hurry. We don’t need to do it today.

Today everything we have is all that we need, and more than enough.

PC056357 730x547 Zooming in

 

We have warmth.

PC086408 730x547 Zooming in

 

We have light.

PC086443 730x547 Zooming in

 

We have good food. 

PC086385 730x547 Zooming in

 

And good books.

PC056368 730x547 Zooming in

 

We have soft pillows and blankets.

PC086404 730x547 Zooming in

 

We have a few pretty things.

PC086422 730x547 Zooming in

 

And a few things that make us smile.

PC056351 730x547 Zooming in

 

We have life.

PC056347 730x547 Zooming in

 

As I wandered around our home with my camera, it was the small details that filled the frame. They always can. It’s a choice that’s always available, the one to look up close, to zoom in on all the little things that shelter us.

PC056359 730x547 Zooming in

 Wishing you eyes clear enough to see the comforts that surround you.

Would love to hear all about them.

 

 

rss button white text Zooming in

mail button white text Zooming in

facebook button white text Zooming in

twitter button white text Zooming in

pinterest button white text Zooming in

hometalk button white text Zooming in

And so this is Christmas

I have been having some trouble staying engaged with my online world of late.

Somehow, too many posts about ornaments and mantels and staying sane through the holidays.

I have been longing for normal life, one we don’t have to work so hard at staying sane in. I have been waiting for January. Not because I’m a Scrooge or hate Christmas, but just because I’m tired of reading about things that feel frivolous, and I don’t understand why we need so many posts about enduring something that is supposed to enhance our lives and homes. Why do we all engage in this thing we have such a hard time feeling OK through?

I know that what we write about here (and what I often read) is not unimportant. We all have to live somewhere, and the choices we make about the spaces we inhabit matter.

But this week, today, it is impossible to feel it. I am tired of reading blogs that don’t talk about what matters in the choices we make in our homes. And I really don’t want to create one that doesn’t.

We live close to the Oregon mall where two people were killed this week. I took my children back-to-school shopping there in August. I have shopped there for more than 20 years.

And for more than 20 years, I have gone to work every day in a public school. In my last post I mentioned that a library is the most holy place I’ve known. Schools, too, are sacred places to me.

I heard about today’s shooting earlier this morning, but I have been busy doing my job and couldn’t really feel it. I’m now by myself eating lunch, or trying to, and I can’t push the feelings aside by focusing on work. I am working hard now to not cry, because there are students right on the other side of my office window.

I know I will write again in this space about the things we are doing to create home and family. I know there are things to say about home that are worth the effort it takes to write them. Right now, though, it’s hard to know what they might be. I’m pretty sure you won’t be reading about our mantel.

firstgrade And so this is Christmas

DIY Sweater Slippers <small class="subtitle">1 library book + 2 thrifted sweaters =  Repurposed handmade goodness</small>

DIY Sweater Slippers 1 library book + 2 thrifted sweaters = Repurposed handmade goodness

My daughter is a rock star.

grace headshot 730x547 DIY Sweater Slippers

Well, not really. But you might think so if you were to visit our nearby library’s Pajama Time.

We arrived early for her weekly volunteer gig one night recently, and you’d almost think Selena Gomez was in the building (if Selena was named Grace).

“Oh, look, it’s Grace!”

“Grace! Grace! Hi Grace!”

“Want to see my book, Grace?”

She was swarmed by a gaggle of jammie-clad pre-schoolers who think she’s as exciting as she once thought Selena was.

I love this little library, which I’d never have discovered if Grace weren’t looking for volunteering opportunities last summer. I mean, it’s in strip mall, and I’m a bit of a book/library/bookstore snob. I can barely stand going to strip malls for bad chain-restaurant food and sporting goods and office supplies. The holiest place I’ve ever been is the rare book room in Suzzalo library, so the idea of putting a library in a strip mall was nearly sacrilegious to me.

PC096469 584x438 custom DIY Sweater Slippers

But I’ve come to love this little strip mall library. It is cozy and colorful and always full of people and computers and beautiful books. And, for a strip mall library, it’s got some surprisingly cool style going on inside the doors. (Lesson learned:  Don’t judge a library by its cover.)

PC096475 730x547 DIY Sweater Slippers

I love that Grace’s story time job gets me there once a week. Because she’s only there for an hour, I just browse the shelves until she’s done, which is how I discovered this lovely book:

PB306136 730x547 DIY Sweater Slippers

(Spoiler alert!  If you are my mom, you need to click away right now. There are no more pictures of Grace, but there are pictures of your Christmas present.)

I love beautiful craft books almost as much as I love libraries, but I don’t own many.They are expensive, and the chances of me actually doing enough of the projects in them to justify their cost are minimal. Which is why I was so excited that this was a library book when I flipped through it and landed on this page:

PB306140 730x547 DIY Sweater Slippers

I immediately got all excited about a great idea for yet another series I will likely start and abandon–projects inspired by library books–and then I remembered that I was talking to me, the queen of getting excited about projects I never start (much less complete).

But the greatest thing happened after I checked this book out:  I actually made the slippers! 

It was easy and fun and economical and it’s going to be my mom’s Christmas present!

slipper socks header1 730x547 DIY Sweater Slippers

(Feel free to Pin this image!)

While I love this project (and the book), and most people could understand the directions without a visual step-by-step, the book doesn’t include one. I thought I’d make one for those of you who are as mechanical-reasoning-challenged as me. icon smile DIY Sweater Slippers

Step 1: Photocopy the pattern included in the book.

The patterns need to be copied at 200%. I was able to do this right at the library. (Have I said how much I love libraries? Might be the best thing ever invented by an American.) Then you cut out the pattern pieces, following the lines for the size you want.

PB306130 730x547 DIY Sweater Slippers

3 easy pieces that come in multiple sizes. I used the sizing guide included in the book, and my size 8 feet fit perfectly in the medium-size slippers.

Step 2: Find wool sweaters and felt them.

This can actually be trickier than it seems. One reason I jumped on this project is that I already had some felted sweaters and they were in complimentary colors. I used those for the practice pair you’ll see in this post, but then I needed a new sweater to use for my mom’s slippers. It was surprisingly hard to find an attractive all-wool sweater at the thrift store.

It’s important to find sweaters that are 100% wool if you want them to be truly felted. (I recommend this great felting tutorial if you don’t know how to felt wool.) Felting is the process that will keep the sweater “fabric” from unraveling after you cut it.

The sweater I used for the sole and cuff of my practice pair is 100% wool. The sweater I used for the uppers was not. I think this is OK. The wool/nylon sweater felted enough that my cut edges aren’t going to fray, and the upper sweater wasn’t as thick as the sweater I used for the sole, which made sewing easier. The upper pieces are also very soft and pliable, which makes for a super-comfy slipper.

Once you’ve got your felted wool, you cut out the pieces:

PB306132 730x547 DIY Sweater Slippers

These are the pieces for one slipper. The cuff piece (on the left) needs to be cut from the ribbing at the bottom of the sweater.

Step 3:  Pin the uppers with wrong sides facing together, and sew a 1/4″ seam down the heel and from the front of the ankle to the toes. Do not sew the part that will attach to the sole.

PB306135 730x547 DIY Sweater Slippers

Seam that runs from the ankle down to the heel of the slipper. Yes, I was too lazy to change the thread, so the color of the thread does not blend in. I regretted this, but only a little. Note the open side along the bottom; this is where the sole will attach.

Step 4: Pin the uppers to the sole and sew them together.

PB245982 730x547 DIY Sweater Slippers

PB245983 730x547 DIY Sweater Slippers

Sewing the sole was the trickiest part for me. It was really thick and difficult to move through the machine, especially at the top of the toe where the seam from the uppers had to be turned under.

Step 4: Put the right sides of the cuff together and stitch the open ends together. This will form a loop.

Step 5: Sew the loop of cuff to the slipper upper. You turn the slipper inside out and place the cuff over the top of the slipper. The right side of the cuff should be against the wrong side of the upper.

sweater slipper cuff 730x547 DIY Sweater Slippers

PC106525 730x547 DIY Sweater Slippers

Step 6: Use a blanket stitch to bind the seams with yarn.

I used Vanna’s Choice, the Lion brand yarn with Vanna White’s face on the label. There were lots of colors available at two different local craft stores. (The yarn was the only think I had to buy for this project.) Before this project, I never knew that Vanna White had her own yarn or that she is “America’s favorite crocheter.”

blanket stitch collage 3 730x730 DIY Sweater Slippers

Step 7: Enjoy your warm, comfy slippers! 

PC016161 730x547 DIY Sweater Slippers

Seriously, these were really easy and inexpensive. Do they look great? I’m not sure. Grace the rock star thinks they look a little too Dr. Suessian–especially because one of my slippers has a slighty pointed toe.

PC056310 730x547 DIY Sweater Slippers

But I love wearing them and I know my mom will love getting her own pair. (Hers will be made with a different sweater. Just in case she didn’t click away, I’m not showing it here!) We give each other socks for Christmas every year, the kind of extravagant socks we’d never buy for ourselves. (The first time it was an accident, and it’s since become a tradition.)

My usual source is a wonderful local store with amazing socks (Sock Dreams), but I’m looking forward to giving something handmade.

slipper in sun 730x547 DIY Sweater Slippers

Once upon a time, all my gifts to family were handmade. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve been able to do that.

PC086468 730x973 DIY Sweater Slippers

I made the top apron for my Grandma the Christmas of 1978. She’s kept it and used it all these years, but this summer it came home with me. She wanted to make sure that I’d have it

This is probably the only present I’ll make with my own hands this year, but I’d like to do more next year. Having re-discovered my love of small crafty projects (when switching up our clock face this fall), one of my new year’s resolutions is to do more projects like this one.

Maybe I’ll get that projects-from-craft-books series up and running, too. Counting this one as post #1.

PC056334 730x547 DIY Sweater Slippers

Got any great craft books to recommend? Making any of your own gifts this year? Think the slippers are too Suessian? Would love to hear from you. Your comments make my day.

(Sharing at Your Green Resource, hosted by a half-dozen lovely bloggers. Two I follow regularly are Megan and Emily. Hope you’ll check them out.)

rss button white text DIY Sweater Slippers

mail button white text DIY Sweater Slippers

facebook button white text DIY Sweater Slippers

twitter button white text DIY Sweater Slippers

pinterest button white text DIY Sweater Slippers

hometalk button white text DIY Sweater Slippers