Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

March 31, 2012

Dans le Townhouse Now Accepting Advertisements

I have politely turned down advertisers for months, including an invitation from the BlogHer advertising network, so I want my lovely readers to know why I am accepting ads now and how this will only improve Dans le Townhouse.

I decided to accept ads so that I can continue to provide the DIY projects you love (like my easy Ikea Expedit Hack and Simple DIY Art) and the fun, informative posts you've asked for (like tips for choosing picture frames or making your own frames for paintings).

Blogging is a lot of work.  Creating a post, when I factor in taking and editing photos, writing content, researching products, and wrestling with the technical end can take anywhere from 1 to 6 hours.  That's not including the DIY project, room makeover or small tweak (which I would have done anyway, so it seems unfair to count that)!  I also continually work to make the blog look prettier, load faster and be easier to navigate.  I love doing this work, though, and I pride myself on creating a blog you love, return to and comment on.

Accepting ads not only means I can continue to deliver an increasingly better blog by being able to spend more time on it (instead of something else that pays the bills and keeps the lights on), but it will also help me to finance projects so the time between DIY goodness will be shortened and maybe I can even experiment with ideas that have been placed on the back burner, at risk of never being completed.  Right now, Hubby & I budget pretty strictly but paint and glitter adds up!  Sponsors will help alleviate the budget burden a tiny bit, so get ready for more DIY madness!

All in all, ads on Dans le Townhouse mean a better blog experience for you.  Plus, because I promise to be super picky and only accept sponsorship from companies I would have blogged about before drafting an advertisement policy (shhhh, don't tell them), you'll find out about cool new things as usual without worrying some sketchy company has me in their back pocket.  And I'll be hooking you up with more giveaway, too.

Because I value your readership and the relationships we've formed through comments and emails, I promise to be up front and honest about what posts/projects/products are sponsored and what impact that has had on editorial content.  And I will also respect your feedback, so if a particular product, company or shop is off-putting or you've had a bad experience, let me know!  I would feel a little disheartened about a blog that had sponsorship from The Brick, you know why, so I want Dans le Townhouse to remain a place you feel excited about visiting.  I love that you stop by the townhouse, and I look forward to your visits.

Do you, or someone you know, have a blog, Etsy shop or company that you would like to advertise?  Dans le Townhouse readers & their friends and family  receive 10% off the first 3 months of ads.  Just to say "thanks" to my fantastic readers.

Check out the details and options on the new Advertise Page.

March 30, 2012

Treasure Hunting Report: Melmac, Who Knew?

Confession: I am sometimes a snob when it comes to materials.  I refuse to wear polyester.  I like the feel of vintage Irish linen tea towels.  If it means I can only afford to buy one sweater a year, I spring for soft wool or cashmere (and I literally bought only one sweater this winter).  I like things to feel good, plus I like to buy things that will last and I have more confidence in certain materials.  With this snobbery in mind, I have felt a bit "meh" about plastic dishes.  But when we stopped by Bentley's Flea Market a few weeks ago and Gemma pointed out how cute the vintage Melmac dishes Annette was selling would be for a play kitchen, of course I took a second look.   I'm play kitchen obsessed right now!

For what will be the best-accessorized play kitchen ever, I picked up a few sugar bowls that look like mini casseroles and some plates that will act as platters, in colours that were made to match the adorable ice cream cone fabric we've been making tea towels and pot holders from.  The shape and colours of vintage Melmac dishes are so sweet, I'm sad for the lost years I snubbed it.

Melmac, for those who don't know (I didn't, so I researched), is a brand of melamine produced by the manufacturer American Cyanamid.  It was used by various companies/designers to make dinnerware that became popular in the 1940s, after melamine (a durable, thermoset plastic) became affordable.  Melmac was produced in later decades also and you can find pieces from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.  Even Russel Wright used the material to make stylish mid-century dinnerware! 

No play kitchen plans?  I think that these durable, stylish pieces would be perfect for storing bathroom goodies like Q-tips and makeup.  Or a set would be great for patio parties.  I love non-breakable items for spaces in which I run around barefoot.

The Retro Kitchen

Here are a few logos for your reference, and check out this website for more links and information for collecting and identifying pieces.

Some melamine tips:
  • Do not microwave.
  • Keep away from heat (like a stove top).
  • Avoid using sharp knives because it can become scuffed or scratched.
  • Avoid hunting for Melmac at Ottawa yard sales because I will find you and give you what Hubby calls my "sad-face".  It is super sad and you will cry and feel guilty forever. 
Read more »

March 29, 2012

Accessorizing in Threes

I love my McCoy pottery collection (better photos with my many new additions coming soon) because it is so easy to display it: I just collect it all into a nice, glass front curio that's part of our entertainment unit.  Oh, don't get me wrong, I fuss with the arrangement and group by colour.  But, for the most part, it is easy-peasy because I just stick 'em all together.  

Accessorizing gets trickier when I start combining disparate pieces because I like to think about scale, colour, and balance.  Plus, I hate when an arrangement looks too matchy-matchy or too flea market messy.  To help, one of my tricks is to group objects in threes.  With this trick in mind, one of our side tables beside the sofa looked a little bare, but I was waiting for the right piece (I hate settling).  With my Mom, my thrifting lucky charm, at my side I found a pretty, paisley-shaped vintage dish - likely a planter - that picks up on the turquoise of my large McCoy planter and the warm, coppery hue of the vintage teak side table.  A small addition, but it really makes the arrangement "click" and adds some new texture to the space:

With just the McCoy planter and vintage Lotte lamp:

With my new thrifty find, a vintage dish with interesting colour and texture:

And yes, I'm kind of obsessed with it.  I'm not a person who always comes home with something new.  I try to spend carefully and buy things I will love for the long haul.  So when something meets the "come live in the townhouse" criteria, I get a little giddy.  Am I alone in this?  Hope not, because I snapped more photos!

You know I don't believe in "rules" (put as many object d'art as makes you happy) but here are a few examples where the three item trick was employed by pros:

Laura Casey Interiors; DIY Network; Sarah Richardson; Sarah Richardson

What is your tip for making a small, but notable, change?
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March 28, 2012

DIY Mini Pot Holder

Yesterday you caught a peak of the wee little pot holder my Mom and I made for the in-progress play kitchen and here's the how-to.  I love that this project used leftover batting from when I upholstered the kitchen chairs.  I'm so happy I saved the scraps like a mad hoarder.

Steps to pot holder goodness:

1. Cut out a rectangle of fabric, about twice the size you'd like your finished pot holder to be.  Fold the fabric in half, with the right sides facing each other (basically, inside out).
2. Cut out a piece of batting slightly smaller and place on top of your folder fabric.
3. Sew the batting to both layers of fabric, leaving one end open (so you can turn it right side out again).
4. Then trim the corners.

5. Flip your fabric inside out, so the batting is now on the inside, and neatly fold the edges of the opening.
6. Make a loop for the trivet from a folded and sewn strip of fabric (or you could use ribbon).
7. Pin the pot holder closed, pinning the fabric loop in place.
8. Sew the opening closed.

Then you can sew a decorative square, or trace the pattern with stitches - any quilty-ness you prefer - to help keep the batting in place.  You can also add trim or other decorative details.  When you're done, you have a little pot holder like this:

And, of course, you can use this same technique to make a full-scale one for yourself.  But it won't be as cute! 

Edit: If you do make this for oven use, use thicker batting (or a double layer) encased in a special heat shield fabric (your printed fabric will hide the heat shield).  Your local fabric store can help pick the right heat shield.  The thickness we used is great for hot casserole dishes (my grandma keeps a pot holder on the table when passing around dishes during dinner) but for removing something from an oven, you will need the heat shield for safety.  Thanks Carol for prompting me to clarify this important safety matter! 
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March 27, 2012

DIY Cloth Napkins and Tea Towels with Mitered Corners

DIY cloth napkin

I hope you enjoy this sweet tutorial for sewing napkins (or tea towels) with tidy, mitered corners.  My Mom & I have gone a bit play kitchen mad and we sewed mini tea towels and mini quilted pot holders for the play kitchen I made.  Although the finished products are wee, you can use the same sewing tutorial to create larger tea towels or make pretty cloth napkins.

How to sew cloth napkins and tea towels with mitered corners:

Start by ironing and cutting out your fabric.  Then fold, iron and measure your edges once, and then turn them over once again and iron, for a tidy edge:

How to sew the edge of fabric // How to make a hem

Do this all the way around your fabric.  Then gently unfold your ironed edges and take a look at where the folding has created a square.  Fold the corner in toward the fabric at that point and iron it in place:

How to sew a mitered corner

Next, test out your mitered corner before making any cuts.  To make the miter, trim the edge of the corner:

How to sew a mitered corner

Then re-fold the edges iron back into place, like this:

How to sew a mitered corner

Pin into place:

How to sew a mitered corner

Finally, sew along the edge.  When you have sewn all the way around, tie off the thread.  You can also do a second row of decorative stitching.

How to sew a napkin with mitered corners

How to sew tidy corners

And ta da!  Depending on the size, you've created a pretty cloth napkin . . .

How to sew a cloth napkin

or mini kitchen accessories for a play kitchen . . .

DIY tea towel

You can use this tutorial to create a mitered edge on almost any sewing project, from tea towels to table cloths - anything that is square or rectangular!

How to sew a mitered corner

Don't forget to check out the finished DIY play kitchen, the quilted mini pot holder tutorial, and my DIY project gallery for more great sewing tutorials!
Read more »

March 26, 2012

Talented Women: A Gift + A History Lesson

Pardon my absence.  I was at a conference (presenting a paper on Pinterest!  A bit of a research detour for me) and couldn't blog.  Not blogging has been especially frustrating because my Mom - the thrifting good luck charm and sewing maven - is visiting (we actually went to the conference together, because the Hubs is out of town) so I have plenty of thrifty finds and sewing DIY's to share.

But first, I'd like to say a huge "Thank You!!" to Beatrice, from The Crafty Bee.  For January's Blog Podium, she included a gift certificate in our swag bags for a free print from her shop, Chocolat & Cherries.  I recently received the print I chose, in the mail, and I wanted to share.  Isn't it lovely to receive anything other than a bill?  Receiving art in the mail is almost too good to be true.  I think the uplifting print will find a home in the soon-to-be-fab basement, once it is complete.  But that might take forever and I want to show it off now (I picked this print).  I love crisp, black and white paired with cheery colours like turquoise:

Thanks, Beatrice!

One more thing before I dash off to do some cleaning, sewing, photographing and, of course, work.  The conference I attended was in Rochester, NY so my Mom and I toured Susan B. Anthony's home (see more on the museum here).  A famous American abolitionist, she dedicated her life to the women's right movement and suffrage.  But, as the museum docents are quick to point out, she also was an impressive cook, gracious host and a talented quilter.  Her home in Rochester is being restored and is an amazing peak into the life, and home, of this phenomenal women.   No photos are allowed, but here is a little sneak peak of an original photo:

Historic Preservation League of Oregon; The room where Susan was arrested for voting!

Read more »

March 21, 2012

DIY Picture Frame + How to "Fix" a Warped Canvas

How to build a frame for canvas art

I have accidentally become a source for all things related to art (see my answer for choosing a store-bought frame for art by clicking the link).  Well, I'm up for the challenge!  I love all thing art-related.  This post is going to answer two questions frequently asked by my readers:
  1. How can I make my own frame for paintings?
  2. How can I fix a warped canvas stretcher?
You might have noticed in my post about the stairwell makeover that my most recent DIY abstract is now in a bold black frame.  After painting the piece, I noticed the canvas stretcher (the wooden frame the canvas is wrapped around and stapled to) was warped, which must have happened while it was being stored.  When I tried to hang it with wire, it pulled away from the wall on one corner.  Short of taking it apart and rebuilding it, I have yet to find the perfect solution. 

But then I had a light-bulb moment and decided Hubby & I should make a frame that could enable the painting to be screwed to the wall, holding down all four corners and forcing the warp to lie flat.  Success!  So that's why we whipped up a frame this weekend. 

Here's how to make a frame for a painting - and fix a warped canvas at the same time!

  1. Chop saw
  2. 1-1/4" nails & hammer (or a brad nailer, if you have it)
  3. Three 8 foot lengths of 1/2" x 1-1/4" pine (Lowe's calls it "rectangular doweling")
  4. Tape measure
  5. Wood filler
  6. Primer and paint
  7. Painter's tape
 DIY frame for art


Measure the sides of your canvas.  Hubby measured the outside dimensions of the painting and added 1" (two times the dowel thickness). Using the chop saw the wood was cut to length with 45 degree mitered ends. Picture this shape: \----/
    How to use a chop saw

    To attached the frame to the canvas, Hubby used a 2" 18 gauge brad nailer with 1-1/4" nails.  He fastened the frame to the stretcher as well as the other frame pieces (at the corners).  A good old fashioned hammer and finishing nails would work, too.

    DIY frame for art
    Save money framing art and build your own frame
    If your mitered corners aren't perfect, don't fret.  A little wood filler will hide that and after priming and painting, no one will be the wiser.

    Fix mismatched mitered corners with wood filler

    Of course, you could leave the wood natural.  But I opted to paint it black.  

    Now, this is important: if your art is valuable, prime and paint the frame prior to assembling and then just do a bit of touch up after to hide any nail holes, etc.  You do not want to get any paint on a valuable work of art.  But, if this is a DIY project like my painting, it is much easier to assemble, fill holes, and then tape off the frame to prime and paint:

    Build a diy canvas frame

    Screwing Your Painting into the Wall:

    Once the paint was thoroughly dry (I waited a day) I gently scored the tape, removed it and then we screwed the painting to the wall.  If your canvas is NOT warped, just use some screw eyes and picture hanging wire.  But if you want your art really pinned to the wall (a good idea in places it might get bumped into a lot, or if it is warped like mine) follow these instructions:

    For normal drywall walls, use four screws and wall anchors.  However, if you are screwing into a concrete wall (like we were - it is a shared walls between us and the neighbours) use 2-1/2" Tapco concrete screws.  No matter what screws you use: drill four holes through the newly built frame that are larger than the threads of the screws.  This will make sure the frame will be pulled tightly to the wall.  We held up the frame to the wall, positioned it and leveled it.  While Hubby held the painting, I used a hammer and nail to mark where the screws would go (just tap lightly to make a little dent in the wall).  We put down the painting for a moment and Hubby drilled holes into the concrete with a concrete bit (again, no need for this bit if the wall is not concrete).  Then, using a driver bit, Hubs screwed the painting to the wall.  Add a touch of paint on the screws to disguise them, and that's it (I have yet to do that).

     Fix a warped canvas frame
    DIY art frame for painting

    Ta da!

    How to frame your own art


    We actually made the frame a little narrower than the painting, so you can still see where I wrapped the painting around but you can create a frame flush with the edge of your canvas instead.  You can also attach a piece of wood between the frame and the canvas, indented a bit and painted black or a bright colour, like Hubby's grandpa does.  Here's our tutorial for building a DIY float frame.

    Float frame
    Framed art
    How to frame art
    Wood art frame

    You can also wrap the frame around the front of the canvas as well, to totally cover the edge, like Hubby did for this painting I made ages ago:

    Options for framing art

    And, if you prefer, you can skip creating a mitered corner, like Hubby's grandpa has also done:

    Different ways to frame art
    Easy tutorial to build art frame
    Read more »
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