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Chevron Rug

I’m just going to warn you up front, this entire post is pretty much just pictures of our new rug. Moving along…

After dyeing the couch and having it come out a surprising but not unwelcome shade of blue, I was left with the dilemma that the cheapo synthetic rug combined with the no-longer-white couch was too much dark colors in one room for me. Observe:

finished couch, towards the front door and hallway

We weren’t particularly attached to that rug, it was really just the cheapest 8×10 rug we could find in a hurry that fit our style. It was pretty thin and I wanted something thicker and squishier anyway, since I’m imagining that there will be more time spent on the floor when we have a little one that starts crawling. I had been eying some wool rugs on Overstock and, after obsessively reading every single review and worrying about buying a rug that I had never seen in person, we finally pulled the trigger. Here it is:

New rug and couch

Yup, it’s blue and white chevron. The room has suddenly become a lot more blue. I think the minty green walls still work pretty well though. Here’s the other side of the room:

New rug and chair

The Lazy Boy now matches! It had been living in the spare room since it clashed with the old colors, but I had been wanting to bring it out anyway since it seems like a good “chilling with baby” type of chair.

I really like how the stripes in the rug aren’t exactly the same size, it fits with our relaxed style. Here’s yet another angle of the rug:

New rug and window

I’m debating adding a carpet pad underneath for extra squishiness, but for now it seems fine by itself. The rug is actually “looped” rather than “tufted”. I didn’t really know what that meant, but it’s exactly what it sounds like. Unfortunately it means that the cats can pull up loops if they use it to scratch their claws. Though they were also pretty good at pulling up tufts on the old rug, so it’s not unexpected. Here’s my attempt at a detail shot of the loops, with a few that the cats have already pulled loose:

New rug detail

Eh, it’s just a known hazard of owning cats, so I’m not terribly upset. At least they aren’t peeing on it. 🙂 Generally if I get annoyed at pulled up tufts/loops, I’ll just go over the rug with a pair of scissors and snip away the bits that are sticking out. Presumably this will eventually lead to bald spots, but hopefully that will be far enough in the future that I’ll be jonesing for a new rug by that time anyway.

I should mention that the rug does shed a bit, which was pretty clear just from reading the reviews before buying it. It doesn’t shed nearly as much as our pets shed though, so I’m not really vacuuming any more than I already was just to keep up with the pet hair. So all in all I’m very happy with the rug on all counts.

Dyeing a Whole lot of Couch

We finally decided to replace the old “bachelor pad” couch, the main virtue of which was that it was extra long and could seat four people comfortably. To maintain the extra seating capacity we wanted a sectional, and after some debate we settled on the Ikea Kivik. I’ve seen/heard some people decide against it because they think it looks boxy and cheap, but we really like the functionality of wide, low arms and the width was just right for our living room. I also really liked the idea of removable slipcovers, but was really frustrated that the next cheapest slipcover after white was $70 more expensive. In fact, the covers that were my favorite were actually $150 more expensive than the white slipcover. Now, we know perfectly well that we aren’t really white couch people, but I was annoyed about  the price difference. So I figured we’d get the white slipcover, try it out for a few weeks, and then maybe dye it or use it as a template to make my own.

I have to apologize here, as I didn’t get  a before picture of the white couch. But after just a few weeks we had already spilled a few drops of wine, and Loki had managed to steal a slice of steak off of my dinner plate and eat it, juices dripping on the couch. Ewww. And of course let”s not forget that we have three animals with black fur and one with gray fur. Living with the white couch was a good learning experience overall, as it showed just how quickly the couch got dirty, something that was difficult to discern on our dingy old couch. Anyway, I decided to move forward with my dye plan. The biggest problem? There was a LOT of fabric to dye. Observe:

it took two very full loads in the washer to clean all that fabric. I was a bit nervous about trying to separate the pieces and dye them in two or more batches, so I started researching how best to attempt one single massive dying effort. Multiple Google searches kept leading me back to “fiber reactive dyes”, with many recommendations of this website in particular. I browsed around for awhile, and after a week of waffling, said “what the heck, adventure!” and I went for it. Our supplies:

I didn’t actually take the slipcover off of the couch until the day we had designated to dye it, so I was totally guessing on the total fabric weight when I placed my order. From the site I listed above I got 8 ounces of dye powder in “Gunmetal Grey”, which ended up being about the right amount for what ended up being 15 lbs of fabric. I figured we could work with pretty much any grayish end result, and I was predicting a high likelihood of fudging the process, and thus a high likelihood of not actually ending up with the exact intended dye color. I also ordered Calsolene Oil, which was listed as optional, but recommended for large amounts of fabric. (Umm, yes, that applies to us.) My final online purchase was two pounds of soda ash, which as I understand it makes the entire solution very alkaline and helps the dye fix to the fabric. Here I miscalculated and did not get enough for the amount of fabric we were working with. Ah well, close enough for our fudge-tastic project.

I did not order the salt online, which turned out to be a bit of a mistake, because I foolishly thought it would be easy to get non-iodized salt in large quantities from the grocery store on the planned dye day. We went to several grocery stores, Target, and Walmart, to no avail. We finally found some boxes of non-iodized kosher salt, and bought them up. If I had been willing to delay a few more days I could have easily ordered the salt online… I hear pickling salt is actually the best option for this sort of project. But I was impatient, so we worked with what we could find. I didn’t try very hard to figure out the volume conversion from regular to kosher salt (kosher is much coarser) but we figured to just go with three 3lb boxes and call it close enough.

We had one last very important piece of equipment:

We were originally going to buy a 32-gallon trashcan, but when we got to the hardware store and saw this big storage tub (with wheels! and a lid!) we realized that it would be nice to buy something that would be useful even after our project/experiment/potential-failure-in-progress was complete. So we ended up with this lovely 45-gallon tub, that will move on to probably hold lots of gardening supplies. It still wasn’t technically big enough, since we were supposed to use 3 gallons of water per pound of fabric. Filling say, a 60-gallon tub with 45 gallons of water probably would have been best. But we were already calling a lot of things “close enough”, so we figured this would just be yet another thing to fall into that category. Oh, and we also bought a nice sturdy wooden dowel for stirring.

On to our process. We pretty much followed the steps here, but I want to add more pictures to this post, so here are the the steps we took… First we dissolved the powdered dye in warm water:

We used a convenient bucket that we had lying around. From what I managed to research, this dye is supposed to be fairly non-toxic, but in general it’s probably a bad idea to inhale strange powders, so we both wore dust masks and I stayed far away aside from this one quick picture. The powder didn’t really blow around or anything, but it never hurts to be overcautious.

Once the dye was all dissolved, we poured it into the tub, which we had already filled with water:

We also added the Calsolene Oil at this point, though it didn’t make for a very exciting picture. After that, we added all three boxes of salt:

And then, finally, we added the fabric:

From here it started to get pretty exciting, because 15 pounds of dry cotton is “whoa heavy” once it’s completely wet. In hindsight, we think we might have had more stirring/agitating success if we had used some long rubber gloves and just used our hands. Or maybe putting so much fabric in a too-small tub would have been pretty unmanageable no matter what we did. Well, we refused to give up, so we took turns doing our best to “stir gently, but frequently, for 20 minutes”. At that point, the fabric was a purplish-black shade:

The beige-ish color in the dye bath in the picture above is actually a reflection of Dave and our house. The white parts of the fabric are the lining and the velcro, none of which are visible once the slipcover is attached to the couch and the cushions are in place.

I didn’t take any more pictures since it was pretty much more of the same. Dissolving the soda ash in a little water caused some brief geeky interest, since I guess it must be an exothermic reaction and produced some noticeable heat. After that, we slowly poured the dissolved soda ash into the tub, attempting to stir and disperse it evenly. We then continued to trade off turns of some tired, half-hearted stirring. The directions called for “30 minutes for light colors, 1 hour for deep colors” at this point. I think our “Gunmetal Gray” qualified as a deep color, but after 30 minutes the sun was setting and we figured we’d be okay if the color didn’t end up as deep as originally planned. Have I mentioned that our motto for this project was pretty much “eh, close enough”?

Anyway, we weren’t done yet, because then we spent quite a bit of time with the garden hose trying to get the excess dye out of the fabric. After a while we moved to the laundry area and ran the fabric in two loads with a cold wash and no detergent. And then we did it again. We may have even done a third cold water wash, but eventually we gave in and ran the final hot wash with laundry detergent. (In case you were wondering, the washing machine did not change color at all, so yay for that.)

Once the fabric was finally done washing, we quickly realized two things.

  1. The fabric had dark lines and a somewhat “marbled” look to it, because we weren’t able to keep it from folding and bunching up when we stirred while it was dyeing.
  2. It was blue! kind of a slate blue color.

So we scratched our heads for a bit and shrugged, and proceeded to wrestle the slipcover back onto the sofa. It took me a few days to decide if it just looked silly or what, but pretty much everyone else that’s seen it claims that they really like it. I’m still adjusting, because our color scheme in the living room up to this point has been mostly shades of green, with some white and black and a little red here and there. The minty green walls go with the new couch color just fine, but some other things, most notably the rug, are going to have to change. I’m not too sad about the rug, since it’s pretty thin and scratchy, and we’ll want something more crawling-baby-friendly within the next year anyway. Anyway, enough blabber, here’s the finished result:

I think in this picture you can make out the “marbled” texture especially along the arm closest to the camera. And of course you can see just how very not-gray it is. Actually, the rug doesn’t look too clashy in this picture. I think in person the overall effect is just too many darker colors competing with each other. Ah well. Here’s the view looking back at the TV:

As a point of reference, the front door is on the right-hand edge of the picture above.

Hm, looking at that picture maybe it makes more sense to center the rug on the couch instead of on the TV, since right now it just looks like the couch is hanging off the end randomly. Thanks, blog! Again here you get a pretty good view of the marbled look. I’m not even sure if “marbled” is the right term, though I did try to Google to see if there was an official term for it. It’s kind of a single-color tie-dye effect, I guess. Anyway, here’s one last shot with Loki in one of his preferred spots:

That spot where he hangs out along the bottom of the couch gets covered in black fur quite quickly. It was very noticeable with the white fabric and not at all noticeable with the blue. That’s more than enough of an improvement for me to call this whole experiment a success. 🙂 And now I have a good excuse to budget for a new carpet, so double success. Oh, and I guess I should list out a rough breakdown of what we ended up spending:

  • Dye – $12
  • Soda Ash – $3
  • Calsolene Oil – $5
  • Textile detergent – $4
  • Shipping on the above – $9
  • 9 lbs of kosher salt – $9
  • Tub – $30
  • Wood dowel – $3

That totals up to $75, though $30 of that was the storage tub, which has moved on to the non-watery purpose for which it was originally designed: storage. All in all, not the cheapest weekend project ever, but overall I’m really happy to have a functional, non-white couch. And we’ve given it a slightly quirky, unique look to make it all our own. 🙂

Entertainment Center Upgrade

With our media computer finally functional, we decided it was past time to ditch our “temporary” media storage solution that we’ve lived with for the past four years. It’s an old dresser that we pulled the drawers out of. The horizontal supports were flimsy at best, but we just never got around to shoring them up. This thing was just not wide enough to balance the TV and unnecessarily deep to boot.

When we started looking for lower/longer solutions, they were all surprisingly expensive, and mostly dark wood. We ideally were looking for something with with some sort of doors we could use to hide stuff behind. We spent a day looking around goodwills and yard sales for something we could refinish, but we didn’t find anything, and since we had finally decided it was time for a change we really just wanted to get it over and done with. So we went for that old stand-by for inexpensive storage, Ikea:

I’ve been waiting for an excuse to get something with cube-shaped cubbies anyway. As a bonus, it was easy to just not install one of the partitions to leave enough room for our media computer on the upper right. I had bought the black fabric cubes a while ago and up until now they had been holding our socks. They could still be holding our socks for all you know. 🙂 Here’s a wider view of our living room, as seen from the front door:

We may eventually cut little legs out of 4×4’s to get it up off the floor a bit, but I think it looks fine for now. And I guess we’ll eventually do something to hide the cables coming down from the TV. Here’s a close-up of the organizational mayhem:

We’ve got board games, the PS3, computer, and Wii across the top, and cubbies, (which actually contain wiimotes and such) movies, and video games across the bottom. Mokona (the white stuffed animal) plays the critical role of keeping the cats from climbing on the PS3.

And now that we have our computer set up, maybe I’ll finally take the time to figure out how to upload pictures from our SLR. I currently mostly just take pictures with my iPhone, otherwise I’d never end up posting anything.

Curtains

Pretty much every place we’ve rented has had the standard cheap blinds in every window, and I’ve never felt any inspiration to dress them up. Even now, curtains fall into the “things I’m barely willing to spend money on” category. But we managed to grab a set of curtains made out of a kind of mesh-like material on clearance a few months back, and we bought two sets of the cheapest cotton curtains we could find at Ikea last month.

And now, finally we put them up. The curtain rods were left to us by the prior owners, so they were free. 🙂 As a bonus, they match our style pretty well. We took them down when we painted, and we re-hung them a bit higher and wider than they were originally. The cotton curtains went in the living room:

Tada! Oh, and as a bonus you can see that we got a new rug. The natural material of the sisal rug did not stand up to our pet mess cleaner, and ended up with silly-looking light splotches. (The sisal rug can be seen at the bottom of this post.) And continuing with the theme of not spending much money, we went and found the cheapest new 8×10 rug in existence. We’re so proud. I’m sad to say that it looks better in photos than in person, but it is undeniably practical, and certainly not boring.

Anyway, back to the curtains. Here’s the big window from another angle:

Just last week I finally got around to hanging that picture up by the front door, but I wasn’t thinking about how much space curtains take, so I had to take down the cool-looking iron candle holders that I had hung next to it. Boo. They will probably find a new home along the stretch of wall shared by the living room and the dining room. Or something.

Getting back to the curtains once more, the bottoms are unhemmed, so now we need to decide how short we want them. We’re leaning towards not-quite-floor length… But first I had to wash them. And find a place to dry them. Stringing up a line between the mulberry tree and the patio covering supports worked perfectly. I’m thinking of maybe rigging some carabiners so I can take the line up and down whenever I want. maybe.

The curtains dried really quickly, and I immediately hung them back up even though they really need to be ironed. And hemmed. Really though I’m dying to know if our thrill-seeking kitties are going to try climbing them, and I’d rather know before I put any more effort into them. 🙂

The mesh curtains in the dining room were a bit less effort since they’re already hemmed. Though if we ever get around to building a banquette in that corner I’ll probably have to re-hem them anyway. Considering out list of things that we want to build is about a mile long and we aren’t planning to host a formal dinner party any time soon, I’m just not going to worry about it for now.

And you can see from the picture that Dave has finally replaced the hard drive on our media computer, whose old hard drive died at the beginning of the year. (Here’s a shot of the dining room minus the curtains, and minus all the computer junk too.) And on one more awkward note, the dining room curtains are cream while the living room curtains are crisp white. Ummm. I think it looks okay? The windows aren’t all that close, and the wall color is different, and the lighting is completely different between the two rooms. Ah well, if it annoys me too much the mesh curtains will probably end up in the guest room. In the meantime, our windows having dressings! hurray!

And with that I’ll close a very rambly post. Thanks for reading!