Tag Archives: cheap fix

Boot redo-redux

In the mid to late aughts, my student loan was paid off, I had a healthy not yet teen-aged car, a decent enough job, and I bought a lot of shoes.

Not really a lot – maybe at or just under a dozen pairs, and not fancy-pants impractical heels and such, but sturdy and comfortable European-made clogs and rubber-soled boots and shoes. It was also the heyday for a few online shops with good brands that have since been bought out and aren’t really worth the time anymore…

I’m finally killing some of those shoes – the clogs have always had a maddening indeterminate self-destruct date – you might get 3 years, you might get 15, but they will crumble beneath your feet at an incredibly inconvenient time. And the others are on a scale of still pretty damn good, need more frequent polishing but have years left, or something needs to change in order for me to continue to wear them and/or I should just sell them.

boot-redo-firenze

I don’t take pictures of my shoes very often – I haven’t drunk that IG kool-aid – but I found a fiber-appropriate image of a pair of boots I’ve been giving the side-eye recently, taken as I shopped for 1 euro cones of yarn in Firenze several years, and much less grey hair ago.

(I still haven’t knitted up the yarn I got, but it’s on the novelty spectrum, so I was waiting for the middle-aged desire for an abfab shawl to kick in, and I’ll be damned if I’m pretty much there now.)

Anyway, these old boots (El Naturalistas acquired for a song) had an annoying top knitted portion that looked like a chunky sock peeking up – I liked it for a bit – I had several orange thrift sweaters that went well with them, but then they started to look matted and pilly. I shaved them a few times, but by then the boots were stretching out a little and the laces were fake so I couldn’t tighten them, and the boots devoured my socks more and more.

boot-redo-before

The design also sucked a bit because the top was attached, so they pulled on and then zipped, like an uncomfortable business dress.

I unpicked the knitted part and found some blue suede underneath – I kinda liked it and left it for a few weeks but got annoyed by the sock munching and pull-on thing again. And at this point, I was still considering dying them black too.

boot-redo-during

I unpicked the suede and freed the zipper – luckily it was the closing/locking/whatever you call it kind.

And unpicked the fake sewn-on laces that you can’t really see.

boot-redo-after-detail

I cut off the zipper ends and trimmed the lining, and ran a line of stitches through the holes left by the suede and knitting that secured the lining and covered up the ugly holes.

boot-redo-after

And with functioning laces (though the boot doesn’t open there) they’ve got a better second life, though they still need a polish. I really need black boots now, so I’m still slightly  flirting with the idea of dying them, but likely not…

 I have a much-loved cobbler who could clean up the tops a bit more with a band of leather trim, but let’s see if the soles hold up a bit first.

(And I’m thinking of knitting another couple of cuffs…)

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under collecting, recycling, sewing

Lost on the stairs

I’m quite proud of all of my hand-refinished oak floors in the house.

And I like our cheap-fix painted basement floor – so much so, I’m not even thinking of what we’ll do to improve it in the long run.

But the basement stairs – those still really sucked.

stairs-way before

This was the state of things when we first bought the house – a toxic green tunnel leading roughly down into a cheap-paneled hellhole.

The unpainted/unsealed stairs and balusters were likely put in about a decade and a half ago when the original owners received a grant from the town to improve safety in the home. (At the time they also had a one-story drop off from the back door as well…) The wood used on the treads is a soft pine and is well-dented, gashed, and full of too-wide nail heads.

I thought about re-finishing (or finishing for the first time) the treads anyway, but the wood really sucked. I thought about painting them, and prepped and primed them to do so, but the color I picked out was too dark, and a lighter color was going to be too light, and the wood was still shit, so painting it would just be painting over shit, which would make it look like painted shit, which is only marginally better… And then I wanted to carpet them. I hate carpeting except on basement stairs. It’s a practical thing because I’m a klutz and most likely to fall on basement stairs and I don’t clean the basement often enough so carpet helps to trap dust and sawdust and whatnot from being tracked up into the house. So I went shopping for the cheapest, not too light, not too dark, low-pile grey carpet and didn’t find anything that would cost less than $100 which was my top limit on the project. (I wasn’t able to find a cheap remnant place around here either…) My next option was to find cheap jute or rag rugs to “carpet” the stairs, or else a fairly wide runner to cover up most of the painted shit – and though I came close, most options still topped off at or over $100, though those would have been nicer than cheap grey carpet. For half a minute, I considered weaving something myself, but since I don’t own much of a loom, that put me way over my budget, and then I considered knitting, sewing, or felting something, but that would mean I still wouldn’t have something covering up the stairs for at least another 7 to 10 years…

So clearly, I was craving a challenge for something super cheap and somewhat interesting, and with color but not too colorful, and light but not so light that every dirt clod would show, and somewhat fast.

Decoupage was my answer, my cheap savior.

63050463502674595_HcReHRQr_c

For a moment, I wanted to use fabric, but as much as I love the above, my fabric stash isn’t so vast and a little too precious for the floor.

Then I looked hard at the paper bag floor. There are many, many tales of successes and surprises (hi Grackle & Sun, I bumped into yours!) and techniques and alternates with colored kraft paper and red rosin and the like… But I didn’t want brown – I love brown, but there is enough of it in the house already, and I didn’t want just one color, or one stair in one color and another in another, in a motley sort of way…

So how about paper maps?

stair papering-test

I had a few too many in my car, so I made a test step.

stairs-with shoes

(The obligatory shoes with something on a floor pic I would have posted on my instagram if I had a smartphone of my own and posted regularly and ironically.)

I let it dry, gave it a coat of poly, let that dry, and in a few days deemed it successful.

stairs-edge

I started decoupaging all of the edges first – I used the map’s edge against the riser and tread’s edge to mimic the look of a runner and reign in the scrappy visual chaos a bit.

stairs-during

After the edges were all framed out, I tried to do a couple of treads and risers every evening, and in the morning, I’d give them one coat of poly. This made the stairs still functional for a few hours a day…

stairs-up left

And after a week, I was done, and gave the whole thing another coat of poly.

stairs-up right

Though I still need to do another coat… and perhaps one more on the treads only after that, but maybe not…

stairs-top

I’m quite pleased – the transition from our lovely upstairs oak to the painted cement works – casual but not too crude – and the subject is appropriate for our basement library too…

stairs-down down

The functionality is good – not too slick in sock feet, but it might be a bit slick for dog paws, so we still might need a runner at some point.

stairs-texture

Since the map paper is thin, and I used a self-leveling poly, the texture of the wood still shows through – I like that it does.

stairs-equipment

And the final cost?

About $13.00!

(Because we only needed more poly)

The nitty gritty: I used plain paper maps – the kind you get from AAA – I could brag about recycling and whatnot, but I’ll spare you. The glue for the decoupage was some fancier acid-neutral PVA leftover from my book repair and binding years (roughly 15) ago. It was fairly lumpy, but still usable, and I cut it with water maybe at a 1:3 ratio – but mostly it was globbing some in a yogurt cup, filling it with water halfwayish, and stirring it somewhat until it looked milky. I brushed it on the back of a torn piece of map with one of my old fancy oil painting brushes, positioned it on the stair, and brushed over it again. I couldn’t brush it or re-position it too much or it would tear. I tried to distribute colors and leave meaningful places in visible spots, but after the first step or two, it was a  geographic free-for-all except for color distribution. It was also very uncomfortable for me to be sitting on a step in a spinal twist, so even if I wanted to work on bigger chunks at a time, it was painful, so spreading it out over a week worked for me. I used a triple-thick, self-leveling, satin finish polyurethane and I’d brush on the first coat about 24 hours after the decoupage to insure it was well-dried (our basement currently has about 50% RH).  After the whole thing was decoupaged and had its first coat of poly, I coated the whole shebang again. I am about to put on a third coat. And I might put on a fourth just on the treads. We already had about a half of a quart on hand, so when it’s all said and done, it probably took about a quart and a half.

Some things to consider: the acid-neutral glue I used will not yellow (I can’t say the same for standard white school glue – I think that stuff might yellow) and the water-based poly should not yellow either (oil-based most certainly will). I don’t know if the map paper is acid-free or not, so that could yellow though it is no longer exposed to air, and the stairs were sealed with primer, so they shouldn’t leach too much yellow-inducing acid either. I like the triple-thick poly because you don’t have to use as much and the coats go on thick enough that you can safely sand between them if so desired – but it goes on translucent and if left too thick, could dry with a bit of a milky haze – again, not a problem since the maps had a white base, but if it was dark surface, I’d be more careful about thinner coats. (But generally for wood that stays wood, I only use oil-based products – yellowing only adds depth and richness over time.)

And how will it wear?

It should be fine – the same as poly over finished wood – it will scratch and gouge under extreme circumstances, and will eventually need to be re-coated. If there’s a particularly bad spot, I can patch it with more map. Dirt can be swept/vacuumed up and ick can be wiped up with a damp cloth. You could probably even decoupage the whole thing just with poly instead of glue, but it would be messier, dry more quickly making re-positioning harder, and perhaps the paper might dry more translucent instead, but I’ve no idea.

I’m eyeing a few other things in the basement that could benefit from some decoupage now too…

3 Comments

Filed under collecting, home, home decor, recycling

Rage against beige – or – the project with the very unexpected turn

I love almonds.

I love them raw, toasted and spiced, ground up in cake, made into marzipan (or hell, the paste straight up by itself) smashed into butters, and I prefer almond milk to the other dairy alternates.

In no way, however, do I like almond as a color.

Nor beiges and sands and driftwoods and the darker ivories and all that is considered “neutral”* but really isn’t because you have to work with something pale yellow/brown/grey that isn’t really any of those, but is all of those in an ugly drab grouchy tone.

When we first toured our house, I was assuming that one of my first projects would be to rip out the almond bath because I assumed it had to be at least 30 years old and the toilet was one that wasted multiple gallons of delicious fresh water.  But once we moved in, I discovered to my horror, that the toilet is a recent-ish low-flow good one.

I also hate vinyl flooring, especially with a pattern, and most of all patterned beige vinyl floors.

And I hate “wood”** in bathrooms – most of all wooden toilet seats, but a “wood” vanity is still high on the list.

bath-beforethebefore

But the environmentalist (and cheapskate) in me hated to re-do a bathroom that was just re-done in 2009.  But the floor was stained, the cabinet looked sorry, the triptych medicine cabinet was just plan asinine not to mention rusty, and the vinyl or acrylic or whatever-the-hell-it- is tub and surround were scratched up, so we had to do something.  (And a cheery rug and shower curtain in the meantime didn’t really help enough.) But after spending a more-than-expected chunk of change on the house over the last year (including more of a makeover of the half-bath than we anticipated) we decided not to do a total overhaul of it just yet.

bath-attempt

So we painted many things, and replaced a few things (except the maligned almond pieces) instead.

At first I wanted a bright, colorful, cheery room – something with challenging colors to enjoy for a limited time – something that played off the rug and shower curtain – we had some leftover aqua-green paint that seemed like it would do the trick.

Only after painting some samples, it proved it to be very wrong for the room, and the shower curtain was starting to show the end of its life anyway.

I switched directions to the grey-green of my studio and a nice not-purple, not-brown, but sometimes looks like either one, color we’ve been using on shitty hollow closet doors, and set off to the paint store.

Only something was off that day (or it was off the day I got the original cans) and I came home with mauve and grey with less green and I didn’t realize the extent of the difference until everything was painted and dried…

bath-after

I really didn’t want to paint it all over again. (Color more accurate in pic below)

My fabric stash revealed a perfect complimentary print for a curtain (which was originally going to be a shutter) and we found a cheap cotton rug of almond and mauve at the first placed we looked.

bath-rug

So now we’ve got the bathroom of a post-menopausal woman in 1987.

 But it is fine for now – in fact, I’ve come to really like it.

Eventually the sink, tub, and toilet will be a proper bright white (and the sink a pedestal instead of an ill-fitting vanity), and the floor a vintage-looking marmoleum (or possibly tile, but not likely) once we work out some technical difficulties and save up some more clams, but in the meantime I’ll fluff out my hair and do a little jazzercise as I get ready….

(I neglected to mention the details of the floor – yes, we painted the sheet vinyl – gave it a thorough cleaning, roughed it up with sandpaper, painted on BIN primer, and used two coats of Ben Moore porch paint. This color is also wrong – was supposed to be a lavenderish-brownish-decaying rose-putty color and it’s just about petal f*cking pink instead. I was going to stencil it too, but I’m lazy and don’t feel the need to impress you.)

bath-during

And a side-by-side before and after:

Bath-before bath-after

The fabric on the left was a temporary fix after I broke the cheap vinyl blind, classy, eh? That’s when a fabric stash is truly useful – and especially because the new curtain fabric is 8 or more years old, so it’s another route to savings.  We splurged on a fancier medicine cabinet though it looks just like a plain box from here, but we were very limited by size, shape, and surface-mount options. The light was a challenge to find as well due to some odd electrical placement and our desire for something vintage-looking. And yes, when you open the left door on the vanity, it bangs into the radiator.

Stupid, stupid choices, you former owners…

*Grey is now the new beige, and I’m mostly cool with that, though not all greys are great…

**In larger bathrooms or more vintage/French estate/rustic New Mexican bathrooms I’m okay with wood in the right kinds of ways, but not in a small heavily used space were splashing occurs, and never ever on a toilet…

Leave a comment

Filed under home, home decor, recycling, sewing