Fun with Yarn - Tassels and Pompons

My trip to Denver was very successful! Over a hundred people had a wonderful time making tassels and pompons at the Denver Public Library. I think what's fun about the projects are they're easy to make and you see results so quickly. For those of you who weren't able to join us for the event in Denver, here's a short tutorial on how to make pompons.

Your first step is to choose a yarn that has some loft to it. The ball or cone should feel spongy or springy to the touch and have some give to it. Then you're going to choose something to wrap the yarn around. I chose a mini-DV tape box. The larger form you use, the more yarn you'll need to make the pompon fluffy. Wrap the form with the yarn until you have a nice bulky hank on it.
Next, slide the hank off the form and tie it tightly around the middle so you have loops on both side of the tie. It's important to use a strong yarn or string for tying your pompon. It has to be tied tightly and it puts a lot of pressure on the yarn.
 Once it's tied, cut the loops on both sides
And fluff out the pompon
It's going to look sort of lop-sided initially, so you'll need to give it a haircut to even it out. It makes a bit of a mess, so it's best to cut it over a plate or tray. Leave the tails from the tie on it to attach to your project.
My friend Marisa Pawelko is putting together an event for the Craft and Hobby Association summer trade show, CHA, to raise awareness of the delicate balance of the worlds oceans and has asked me to help by making two projects for it - one for the home and one to wear. Inspired by the pompon my friend Trish wore in her hair at the Denver event, I decided to make a pompon headband for the latter
...and a key tassel for the former.
If you'd like to learn how to make tassels have a look at this video on the subject from several years ago:


To Sleep, Perchance, to Dream - Comfort in Sofabeds

In my search for something to sleep on for my new apartment I've come across some interesting options. The apartment is a nice sized studio, so what I decide on will have to do double duty. I've pretty much settled on a sofa bed. I like the fact that it tucks away without a hint of it's dual purpose and I'm particularly fond of following in the footsteps of Mary Richards (thanks to Julia at for the photo)
I have some concerns, however. Sofa beds are notoriously uncomfortable. I've slept on my share of them to know the rumors are true, so I went in search of some options. I knew that the sofa bed manufacturers would have plenty of solutions aimed at making them more comfortable, and I was pleasantly surprised!

My first stop was Carlyle. They're a local New York/New Jersey brand known for their quality furniture. I spoke with Thomas who clued me in on what they do to make a sofa bed comfortable for every day use - a daily sleeper they called it. First off the mechanism is solidly built and the foundation for the bed is composed of a mesh of metal pieces that look like large staples linked together. They call it Steelweave. Additionally, they make their frames out of hardwood and their deluxe mattresses have more coils than the average mattress and are also padded for extra comfort. Part of the Carlyle demonstration is for the salesman to jump up and down on the folded sofa to show how solidly built they are. It was convincing, but not as convincing as laying down on the bed. The deluxe mattress was very comfortable. Comparable to a regular bed. I couldn't feel the bar across my back at all, which is one of the general complaints about sofa beds. The big drawback was price. The simple sofa that I picked out was a cost prohibitive $4000.

My next stop was Jennifer Convertibles. They're known for being more cost effective. I spoke with Fredelisa, who gave me the inside story on their daily sleeper option - an inflatable mattress they call the Airdream. I have to say I was equally impressed with the comfort of that bed - again, no bar across my back and it felt like a regular bed as well. There is the added step of inflating it every night when you open up the bed, but it inflates in 45 seconds to a minute with a special little device you plug into a valve on one of the corners. To deflate, just pop the cap and the mattress deflates. Their other option was a coil mattress like Carlyle, but I wasn't as impressed with that - I felt the bar across my back. Jennifer Convertibles has the edge on price. The sofa I looked at there would run me about $1200 - $1500 with custom fabric choices.

Now, no post here would be complete without a discussion of styling! My goal with this new apartment is to evoke the early 1970's with an eclectic David Hicks feel. With that in mind, I'm looking for a tuxedo style sofa (one in which the arms are as high as the back) with boxed back cushions. It's a basic style that was popular back then. If upholstered correctly it will look period. At Carlyle that's no problem. They will customize everything about the sofa I choose. I can give them the picture below and they will replicate it exactly.
Jennifer Convertibles isn't as flexible, however. They won't work with a customer's fabric, they won't change back cushion styles, they won't customize anything except fabric choices within their range of fabrics, which is fairly broad - I found a few options I could consider.

This brings me to a third option - vintage. Now buying a vintage sofa bed presents several problems. First and foremost is upholstery. Finding one that doesn't need to be reupholstered is challenging - unless it's been preserved in plastic! Reupholstery can be as expensive as a new sofa, so it's wise to consider whether the frame is worth the investment. I was concerned about the mechanism and that bar across my back until I found out that the inflatable mattress could be bought for any bed. That opened up the possibility of a well preserved vintage sofa working, should I find the right specimen.

I'll keep you posted on my choices and show you a picture of the final purchase! Right now this thrifty girl is leaning toward Jennifer Convertibles with the inflatable mattress.

My trip to Denver was a great success after a bit of a snafu with the flight out (it was canceled). Look for a video featuring the trip soon!

(Thanks to Christian Montone for the vintage sofa bed image!)


Cook and Clean with a Piece of History - Vintage Appliances

I bet you're all curious about how the apartment is coming along. Well, it's going slowly, but there have been some advances. I've been making plans and finding deals on some items that I'll be putting in the new kitchen when I remodel it. Some of those items are vintage appliances. Now, most people go all mushy when they install brand new top of the line appliances. Not me - I melt into my shoes at the sight of well preserved or restored appliances from yesteryear. I've been lucky enough to snag two of the three that I'll need for the new kitchen!
This is my new Caloric dishwasher. I believe it's from the early 1970's and is my latest find. I needed an 18" dishwasher for my small kitchen and thought I would have to go with a new one that had a panel front and controls on the top edge to keep the vintage quality of the kitchen intact - and then this came up on Craigslist! It's a simple, basic dishwasher, but it has a very retro look to it.
The controls are set into a brushed aluminum panel that's printed in black. I love the fine red and blue lines around the shiny chrome buttons. Everything is metal - including the interior, which is plastic on the later model dishwasher in my kitchen now. All this for just $30!
Now this little item will be the centerpiece of my new kitchen. It's a vintage 1960's Frigidaire Flair stove. These babies are the rock stars of vintage appliances. There are online communities devoted to them, they're well documented online, and one of them was featured in Samantha's kitchen on Bewitched for years. I found mine in Delaware. I did an event down there in April and picked it up the day after. It needs a bit of cleaning, but I'm up to the challenge!
I love the control panel. It's so glamorous! The stove features a gull wing glass oven door that opens upward and a pull out drawer with a counterbalanced baffle that has the burners on it. Look for episodes featuring the restoration and installation of these little beauties in the future!

Using vintage appliances in your home renovation can have many advantages over new. They're frequently built more solidly and are made to last longer than new ones, and can cost considerably less - like my $30 dishwasher find. They're also saving these relics from the landfills and not contributing to the consumption of our resources in the way that new manufacturing does. Above all, they make for a unique kitchen - one that no one else is likely to have! I've found mine on Craigslist, but you can also scour your local thrift shops and Habitat for Humanity stores for treasures, and keep an eye on the real estate section of the paper. When an old house is sold, the kitchen is frequently remodeled and you can sometimes get the old appliances for nothing! Now all I need is a 30", panel front Sub Zero refrigerator and I'll be all set!

This weekend I'll be in Denver for my appearance with Fresh City Life. If you're in town I hope you'll join me! It's going to be lots of fun.


Tie One On for Father's Day - Fabulous Tie Cakes

Well, father's day is almost upon us, and it's time to think about what to get dad. A new blogger friend sent me an interesting idea recently, that I think bears reposting. He has a blog devoted to, of all things, ties. In his pursuit of natty neckwear, Matt has come across some delightful cakes that feature the foulards. I've pulled a few of my favorites, but be sure and go over to and have a look at all of them!
I love the attention to detail in this one. Just look at the top stitching on the shirt!
I can't figure out if that's actually a tie or if it's fondant. The texture looks like silk.
This one is just charming. I love the little rose placed as if it was a boutonnière.

Thanks to Matt for the images and I hope you all have a lovely Father's Day next weekend!


Incidental Treasures - Fun Found Ephemera

While I was moving I came across some fun examples of vintage graphic design. I thought I'd share them with you!

For all my time in my last apartment I was sleeping on a very old mattress. I do believe it was older than me, as evidenced by the graphics on this label that was stitched to it.
I love the glamour of Lady Grey's outfit, the detail of the slashed sleeves and bows and the high ruff. The warm color palate of yellow and brown look great printed on the satin ground. The round graphic is totally devoid of Jordan Marsh's corporate logo - a no-no in today's world, but a charming touch that harkens back to years gone by. It's nice to have this piece of my past - much nicer than having that old mattress...

The second piece I ran across is this delightful cardboard flag that was made by the Longacre Dairy as a means for their customers to communicate with their milk men.
Hang it on the door and pull up the flags that indicate what you'd like your milk man to leave for you - one quart, two quarts, butter milk, eggs, even orange juice and cottage cheese! It's in remarkable condition considering its age. The colors are bright and clear, the cardboard isn't dog-eared and all the flags are intact. I had the good fortune... and eyesight to spot it on the street here in New York some years ago. I picked it up and have had it ever since. Such a fun piece of the past.

It just goes to show, you never know what you'll unearth when you move, or what you'll find on the street! Keep that antenna up!


A Moving Experience From the Point of View of Guest Blogger, Ben Sander

Because of the move I’ve been remiss in posting blog entries for the past two weeks. Today I’m assisted by another guest blogger. This time we’re hosting Ben Sander. He’s the man behind the woman, so to speak. I would be nothing without him. In this post he’ll give you a better idea of what’s been going on these past few weeks.

"We were just moving around the block. One small block... It should be a piece of cake, right? Wrong. Moving around the block is a pain in the ass. I know Brini won’t like me saying that, but it’s true. It's especially annoying when you're really good at utilizing space and have lived in the apartment for 15 years. It never ends! Every time we thought we had made inroads into it, there was another cabinet full of stuff, another piece of furniture to schlep.

Now I love Brini, but she has this way about her. She's never there for the hard work, but pull out a camera and she magically appears. So, needless to say, I was without her capable hands during the bulk of the move. It seems that moving on Memorial Day weekend makes that circumstance apply to most friends. If it weren't for my septuagenarian parents, all would have been lost. The three of us soldiered on, pushing forward, increasing intensity as the drop dead date approached. We packed, climbed stairs, loaded vehicles, pulled luggage carts, schlepped, plodded and lugged our way to exhaustion.

By Monday afternoon we had achieved our goal. The old apartment was vacant and much of storage was transferred also. The problem was that the new apartment was bursting at the seams. There was no place to set anything down, the closets were full. It was clear that something was going to have to give. So, I now have my marching orders for the summer. Purge! Look for more sales on eBay, Etsy and Craigslist of Brini merchandise and various and sundry vintage household items.

Moving is a learning experience in many ways. It's all about re-imagining your life, exploring new possibilities and stepping out into the unknown. It may not be easy, but for Brini and I, it's a step in the right direction."

The first of those items just went up today. It's a really beautiful French provincial dining table and chairs. It's up on Craigslist now. Have a look!