Saturday, November 10, 2018

DIY Ladder Towel Holder

All homes have their quirks, I suppose. Our house has a few including the fact that the towel bars in the bathroom are basically as far from the shower/tub as they could possibly be. With two bathrooms, Sam and I have each gravitated towards our own bathroom, and he mentioned the other day that "his" bathroom needs a towel bar much closer to the shower. DUH. I had been researching blanket ladder DIYs on Pinterest and I said, "Hold off on the towel bar. I have a better idea."

In addition to researching the ladder DIY projects, I'd also been shopping around for one that was already good to go. I mean, why not? But truthfully, even the cheapest second hand ladder was still at least $60 and usually a little more shabby chic and rustic than our esthetic. Given the cost of wood, I decided to go the DIY route.

Just about every one of the DIYs I found incorporated wooden dowels for the slats. I knew I wanted to use wood that could also double as a shelf, rather than only serve the function of holding a towel. I also noticed that all the "super easy!" and "sooooo simple!" DIYs I found, none of them really addressed the issue of the bottom of the ladder needing to be slightly angled. You'll see what I mean later in the post.

I got up early on my day off last week and went right to Home Depot. I had read somewhere that they will cut wood for you. As I do not own power tools, or really very many tools at all, this was key to the project. I picked out my wood- 3 pieces of 1X3X8 "Common board." Basic and about $6 per piece. I had two of them trimmed down to 63 inches and another cut into 5 18-inch pieces. I would later learn that my math was off and I would only end up using 4 of those pieces.

The sign to the right explains their "Lumber Cutting Policy" which is that the first two cuts are free, the rest are 50 cents. But they didn't charge me anything despite needing more than 2 cuts. 

Percy was very patient while the wood was being cut. He also made a friend there who gave him bacon-flavored dog treats. No wonder he loves coming with me to Home Depot. 

All my wood cut to size. 

I also picked up a nice color stain while I was there, bringing the total spent on supplies to just over $20. In addition to that, knowing I would never be happy if the bottoms weren't angled, I picked up a $10 hand saw. An investment in future DIY, in my opinion. 

When I got home, the first thing I did was cut the bottoms of the long pieces. I wanted an angle between 10 and 15 degrees so that when the ladder is leaning against the wall, the bottoms are flush with the floor. I used my hand saw for this and it was surprisingly easy! 

I totally nailed it. 

Once I had the bottoms trimmed, the next step was to sand all my pieces and stain them with the stain I'd bought. This was a quick and easy process. I used the extra pieces of wood as drying racks for the stained wood pieces. 

How pretty is that color? I love it. 

The next step was to wait for the stain to dry, so while waiting I cleaned the house and then my building assistant and I decided to watch some HGTV for more inspiration. 

After chilling out for a few hours, we went back into the garage to assemble the ladder pieces. One of the tutorials I'd found online said that you put the rungs of the ladder about 18 inches from the bottom, then 13 inches apart from there. The tutorial said there would be 5 rungs. I ran out after 4. Math, not my strong suit. Or maybe not THEIR strong suit. Or maybe I just mis-remembered the tutorial. I did read about a dozen of them after all. 

Since the ladder was going to lean against the wall at an angle thanks to my sawing of the bottoms, I wanted to attach the rungs at the same (ish) angle so that they would be able to function as shelves, too. To do this, I measured the distance from both sides of the angled bottom, marked each side of the ladder side, then connected those two points with a line. This would serve as my guide for attaching the rungs. 

Next, I pre-drilled holes in the sides on each of the angled lines I'd drawn. I did this because I was originally planning to use screws to attach the rungs to the sides. 

Turns out the screws I had were not the best plan- too big for the wood I'd purchased. Since this ladder is not meant to EVER be climbed and the most weight it will be holding is a towel or two and maybe a candle or small plant, I decided to use some finishing nails instead. It was much easier. And fortunately the pilot holes I'd drilled weren't too big for this change of plans. 

Once the rungs were nailed in, that was it! Done! I let the stain dry for a full 24 hours before using the ladder. It's perfect for the space and I'm so proud that I made it myself!!! 

I didn't really get the rungs perfect- they aren't exactly the right angle and they're not all consistent, but the top one is actually perfectly level, and that's the one that I'll probably use as a shelf more than any other, so that's good. Considering my lack of expertise and the appropriate tools, I'm actually thrilled with how this turned out. 

And that is actually it for the house DIYs on the docket. I do plan to re-do the bathrooms entirely at some point, but for now this ladder towel holder is a good start. Let me know what you think I should tackle next! My list is done! 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Easy DIY- How to Make a Bow Tie

Percy, our incredibly adorable terrier mix looks really handsome in a bow tie:

As the seasons have changed in the last few weeks, I wanted a bow tie for him that was a little less summer-y. I found a cute black and red plaid collar, but couldn't find a bow tie to match. So, I decided to make one. It's so simple and easy to do and I actually bothered to document it so I could blog this incredibly simple DIY to share on the blog today. Go me! 

I started with some leftover red fabric from an old project and cut four rectangles about 2 inches by 3 inches (I didn't measure- that's just a guess) each: 

Next, I stitched around the edges, being careful to leave an opening on one side (between the pins):

Here's a sewing tip: When it's time to turn the corner, make sure the needle is down through the fabric. Then lift the presser foot up and rotate the fabric. Put the foot back down and continue along the next edge. 

Pro tip #2: Trim your corners before flipping the fabric around. 

Make sure to push the fabric into the corners to make them nice and crisp. Pro tip #3- use the end of a pencil or a chop stick or something: 

Iron your two finished rectangles, then stitch up the opening. You can hand-stitch or machine stitch, but since the stitches aren't likely to be seen, I just machined them.

Next step- lay one piece on top of the other and fold in the middle, accordion style: 

Next, stitch the folds in place. Again, you could do this by hand, or by machine. The only trick with using a machine is that at this point, the fabric layers will be very thick, so go slowly or you'll risk breaking the needle. 

You can see I stitched a "Z" pattern, using the same technique with the needle/presser foot as the corners in the beginning. 

Now that you're at this point, the next step is to make the band that wraps around the middle of the bow tie. Start by cutting two strips of fabric, about an inch and a half wide and about 3 inches long. 

Stitch along the long sides ONLY. 

Next, you need to flip this right-side out. To do this can be a little tricky but fortunately I have this AMAZING tool that is made for exactly this purpose. Seriously, one of the best sewing-related purchased I've ever made. I believe it's called a "loop turner" or something like that. It only costs a couple dollars at the fabric store and it is worth every penny. 

The tool has a little hook on one end. You just have to thread through the two layers of fabric, catch the end with the hook and then pull the end through to the other end, flipping the fabric right-side out. Piece of cake. 

When you're done, press the edges. Next, sew a small bit of elastic to one end. It's easier to do this step now, but if you forget you can always hand-stitch it on after the fact. But try not to forget, because like I said, it's easier at this point in the process. 

Now that you have the elastic stitched, sew one end of the small band to the other, creating a circle. You'll have to do this part by hand. 

Once that's all stitched, it's time to slip the bow through the circle you've created: 

You can see I still haven't cut the thread from hand stitching the band into a circle just yet. That's because I used it to also stitch the circle to the bow to make sure it won't ever slip out. This step isn't 100% necessary, but it definitely makes it more secure for something that will be getting daily use. 

Once you've sewn the two pieces together, just trim all your threads and slid the bow tie onto the collar! Done! It's such a quick and easy project you could easily crank out half a dozen in an hour or so. Which I might just do with some other fabric I have in the bins: 

My model was less than cooperative, but you get the idea: 

I mean, it's pretty freaking cute, right? And the nice thing about this project is that if you don't have a sewing machine, it will still be a pretty quick and easy project with just a needle and thread. Let me know what you think!

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