Big, Bad Slipcover Project

 

Slipcover made out of bleached canvas

The time has come for me to share with you a story of personal growth and accomplishment.

When my husband and I moved into our current apartment, we were escaping kind of a bad situation. We had been so excited to move into our first place together and start to build our life as a couple. However, sometimes life hands you lemons…. and sometimes those lemons are actually blood sucking parasites that live inside your bed. Yup, our lovely new home had a bad case of bedbugs.

To make a long story slightly shorter, we got the H out of there and found a new apartment (our landlord wouldn’t treat the problem and didn’t believe that it was preexisting, so we had to abandon ship). In the process we lost a whole lot of our furniture and pretty much anything we owned that wasn’t a necessity or wasn’t something we loved enough to pay for it to be professionally heat-treated. So when my in-laws offered us their old sectional sofa to replace the futon we threw out, we happily accepted!

Now, I love my in-laws. They are very sweet, warm, lovely people (hi S&L, if you’re reading!). But the sectional had been purchased possibly before my husband was born, and was starting to show its age. But you know what they say about beggars and choosers, so we decided to attempt to recover it. We put A LOT of time, thought, and energy into picking out the right fabric and approach. At first we thought we would reupholster it in a dark grey fabric with a houndstooth print. But when we priced that out, and remembered that a) I am clumsy and b) my husband usually has newsprint/jam/peanut butter/spaghetti sauce somewhere on his hands and c) we have a cat who sheds a lot, we figured it would be easier and more economical to sew a washable slipcover instead.

After much Googling and reading about Miss Mustard Seed‘s and Honey Bear Lane‘s slipcovers, I decided to use white canvas. Stay with me, I will make you see why this was a good idea. The great thing about a white slipcover is that it is super bright and fresh, and if you do happen to mess something on it, you can spot clean and wash with bleach once the stains accumulate! I have had the slipcover for about a year and a half, and it still looks great. In that time I have washed it 2-3 times I think, which is pretty good considering we eat dinner on it every night. And did I mention we’re clumsy? Canvas is really durable too, and it has worn really well under near constant use (and near constant cat-claw sharpening).

But I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that sewing this SOB was easy. I had a few breakdowns and there were definitely some tears shed. Sometimes my husband would have to give me a pep talk after I unpicked my umpteenth stitch, or sewed a zipper on backwards, or broke another needle. I kept going though, and eventually got it done in the end. I think my mom felt bad for me because she ended up coming to visit for a weekend and helped me slam out the last of it when I was running out of steam. Moms are great, eh? Although it was hard work, it was totally worth it in the end. The white cover really freshened it up and helped make it feel like ours, instead of a hand-me-down. Plus it gave me the opportunity to brighten up our living room with a punchy lime/turquoise/grey colour scheme, instead of the blah beige and browns I’d had for years.

Here are some photos of the process- apologies for the quality, they were mostly taken with my iPhone with no natural light to speak of!

This is the best “before” pic I have… the white is the new part and the old cover is the green velour.

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It took about 20 m of canvas to cover the entire sofa. 20 Goddamn metres. Half of the battle was bleaching and ironing all of the fabric, which I did in batches to preserve my sanity.

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In addition to all that canvas, I also used a few metres of zipper, a whole lot of piping, and a couple rolls of upholstery thread. Oh and the needles for my machine… I burned through several heavy duty denim needles.

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The one saving grace about our sofa was that it was pretty square, so we mostly had to cut out squares or rectangles that were the right size. We measured each cushion and cut the fabric out to size, and for the irregular pieces draped, cut, and pinned the fabric until it was the right shape. Once we had the pieces cut out, we labeled them with masking tape so that we didn’t get mixed up.

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I was pretty nervous about doing piping for the first time, but once I figured it out it wasn’t so bad. This post from Honeybear Lane really helped me out. Piping made it look a little more finished and a little less like I’d just draped a sheet over it and called it a slipcover. Here is a cushion cover in pieces: front, back, and the middle piece with the zipper.

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Once I had the cushion cover technique down, I just modified it for the different cushion sizes and shapes. To make the covers for the frame, we draped large pieces of canvas and pinned/cut to size. Did I mention how awesome my mom was? She was a ton of help with this step.

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Here it is finished, before I redecorated… the pieces on the frames were bleached after they were sewn, which is why they look like a different colour from the cushion covers in this photo.

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And this is what it looks like these days. I love the pop of blue and green against the crisp white with the grey throw. There is a lot of white in this room because we couldn’t be bothered to paint the walls and have to paint them white again for new tenants once we move out. So any bit of colour helps!

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Shoutout to my hometown of Sudbury, ON with that water tower photo that my Dad snapped. I had a hard time taking a good photo of it from that angle, so I ended up rearranging our living room- it’s much more open now!

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Here’s a view of the sofa sans my awesome coffee table (see how I fixed that up in this post!)

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And just to prove that the whole thing is not, in fact, covered in food stains:

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When you add up the cost of the canvas (about $5.50/metre with my Fabricland member discount!) as well as all the other supplies, I figured I spent about $180 on this. Much cheaper than a new sectional!

I hope this inspires someone else to try a slipcover project… it seems scary at first but it’s so worth it in the end! I’d love to answer any questions you might have, or hear from anyone else who has tried to make one.

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Custom Print Giveaway

Remember the monogram “Marriage Established” sign I made to cheer myself up about changing my last name? How about the acetone transfer tutorial I wrote? Well, I have lots of leftover supplies to make both iron-on and acetone transfer prints but I’m running short on ideas. I’ve already made a few for myself and my family, and I don’t want to be that weird girl who makes her friends random craft projects that they secretly hate but feel obliged to display when she comes over. “Fusilli Jerry” comes to mind.

I’ve also been trying to figure out ways to engage more with readers. I can tell from my site statistics that people are reading my posts, but are too shy to comment. Can you see how these two thoughts might be connected? I think that a giveaway is the answer!

The prize: a 4×4, 4×6, or 5×7 custom-made design, printed on canvas using either the iron-on or acetone transfer methods that I’ve posted about. The design will be black only, and I will email the winner with the design to make sure it’s what you want. Once you’re happy, I will mail it to you! For the sake of simplicity, a frame will not be included.

Here’s an example of what it could look like:

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Want in? Just comment on this post with what you would like your print to say! Sneaky, eh? I’m also going to put this on my Facebook page so you can like/comment there too if you are wary of commenting on my blog (but I promise it’s safe and I will not share your email address with third parties).

Your design doesn’t have to be a monogram/marriage sign like the ones above. How about a favourite poem, saying, or quotation?

shel silverstein poem

This would also make a nice “Welcome” sign for your front door. Or even  a “GO AWAY” sign, I won’t judge (true story: my parents have one). The possibilities are endless!

Contest closes on Saturday, May 31st at 12 AM EST. Good luck!

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Value Village Chairs

Hi friends! I’ve been posting less frequently lately, in case you haven’t noticed… I got some advice about blogging that I really like, which basically says “Run your blog, don’t let your blog run you.” I definitely notice on some of the blogs that I follow when a blogger is just trying to come up with stuff to post about, as opposed to blogging only when they are really interested in or passionate about something- so I’m going to try not to do that, and post only when I have some (hopefully) great content to share. Quality over quantity, and all that!

If you follow me on Instagram (and if you don’t, I’m @cathyatdeardiy) you may remember seeing this picture of a recent Value Village find:

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I’ve been hemming and hawing about what to do with them- yes, there’s two!- and I think I finally came to a decision: milk paint! You may have heard of milk paint on Pinterest or from one of the people bringing it back from antiquity, Miss Mustard Seed. Milk paint is actually made from casein, a milk protein, and is one of the oldest kinds of paints there is. There are a variety of great posts that talk about milk paint and it’s various uses and finishes, like this one, so I won’t go into that here. But suffice it to say that since getting on the furniture painting train with Chalk Paint, I have been itching to try it!

Specifically, I’m thinking of going with Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint in Lucketts Green. I’ve never seen this colour in person so maybe I’ll end up hating it, but since I don’t even have a place to put these chairs right now anyway, I’m hoping it will work out! Usually I’m a blue or a grey girl, so green will be a nice change for me, too. Here are a few shots from MMS herself to give you an idea of the colour.

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I’m going to reupholster the bases because they are pretty worn and not very comfy at the moment, and choose some fun new fabric for the seat. I had in my head a sort of linen-y or beige-y graphic print, but when I looked on fabric.com I found some other great options. I’m not sure if the green will be more on the yellow or the blue side, so I’ll have to wait until the paint dries! Which do you like? The top of the chair has a semi chevron-ish effect so I don’t want to go too over the top with a chevron pattern, but something with a similar geometric or other bold print might be nice. The middle one on the first row below is actually a text print… it’s too small for you to see it properly but I kind of dig it. I have ordered online from fabric.com before and had a good experience, and I really like the design boards you can create to see how different patterns coordinate!

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So that’s my exciting plan for the long weekend. That and doing some good ol’ Spring cleaning. I was looking back on my “boo-hoo Winter won’t end” posts and I can’t believe how much has changed in just one month! In Ottawa there are leaves on the trees and my tulips are up. It always seems like Spring will never come, but it eventually does!

Oh, and obviously I will be toasting to Queen Victoria with a nice cold bevvie. Cheers!

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Mmm… Macarons

Lately my Pinterest feed has been full of macarons, and they look so pretty I thought it was time I tried these notoriously difficult meringue cookies! My nephew’s 1st birthday party was a great excuse to troubleshoot different recipes and flavour combinations.

If you don’t know what a macaron is, no I am not misspelling macaroon. Macarons are made up of almond meringue cookies (“shells”) with a buttercream or ganache filling, and they come in a myriad of colours and flavours. They are delicate and dainty and very pretty to look at, with a crunchy exterior and a soft, slightly chewy centre.

I wanted the macarons to match the invitations that I made, so I picked flavours that would work with the colour scheme I had: white, brown, yellow, blue, and green. I used washi tape to make the tags with toothpicks and polymer clay, and displayed them on a large square platter. They looked great and tasted great too!

pistachio, coconut, macadamia nut macarons with buttercream and ganache filling

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Now, I love to bake and I was pretty confident before attempting these, even though I had heard from others that macarons are hard to make. They seem like they should be easy, because there are only 4 ingredients in standard macarons. How hard could they be, right? But I was punished for my hubris when only 1 of my first 4 trays turned out! The tops would pop off, and the bottoms would stick to the pan or wouldn’t cook at all. Through trial and error (and consulting with my sister-in-law, who has worked as a pastry chef and went to Cordon Bleu) I figured out how to consistently get the macaron shells to turn out in my temperamental oven.

Here are my tips:

  1. If you’re using a Kitchen Aid, you might need to occasionally tip the bowl and whip the egg whites by hand. I found mine would only whip the top portion of the egg whites that the whisk was touching.
  2. A sieve is your friend. You will need a sieve, a food processor, and sometimes both. The ground almonds/nuts I found were not as fine as they should be, so I would end up with bits that wouldn’t pass through the sieve. I pulsed these in my food processor until most of them passed through the sieve- I liked a bit of crunch so I forgave some larger pieces (not technically allowed for the purist).
  3. Less is more when you fold in the the dry ingredients with the egg whites. A good estimate was about 20 strokes to fold the batter together. I’ve read in a few places that it is supposed to have a “lava” like consistency once mixed. If you drop some of the batter back into the mixture, it should hold for a few seconds and then smooth out.
  4. If you’re using food colouring, add it to the egg whites after they are mostly whipped, then whip until the colour is uniform. Then add the dry ingredients to the coloured egg whites. I used gel colouring so I’m not sure how standard food colouring would work, you need to be careful not to thin out the egg whites too much.
  5. Don’t use too large of a circle template, or the centres won’t cook. The perfect size for me was about the size of a toonie (if you’re not Canadian, that’s about 1 1/4 inches). To make the template, I just traced toonies on parchment paper with a sharpie and then flipped the parchment paper over so you could see the template but the marker wouldn’t transfer. Also, don’t get cocky and think you don’t need a template- the ones I tried to eyeball were horridly uneven, no matter how careful I thought I was being!
  6. When you’re ready to pipe the batter, hold your piping bag vertically over the centre of each template, almost touching the parchment paper. Pipe a drop of batter until the edge of the dollop fills the circle template (do not use a spiralling motion). Then firmly draw the piping tip to the side to finish. Although I didn’t use this recipe, the video shows the piping technique. Once the tray is full, pick up the tray and tapped it firmly on the counter 2-3 times. This is supposed to get excess air out.
  7. I found I had to bake one tray at a time, because my oven is crap. I also couldn’t open the oven to rotate the pan or else they would collapse, so I just had to accept the fact that a few macarons on each tray would break due to uneven cooking. My coworkers didn’t mind eating the broken shells! For the sake of efficiency, I would pipe out the first tray and then wait about 15 minutes before piping out the next tray, so that once the first tray was done baking the next tray was ready to go in.
  8. Speaking of trays, the batch that I tried to be all fancy with and use my new insulated flat cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat turned out terribly for me. The way to go was good old parchment paper on a large baking (jelly roll) tray. I have heard from a few people that the insulated pans don’t get to the right temperature fast enough for macarons.
  9. I got the best results when I made the shells the day before I made the fillings. Make sure they are cool and dry before throwing them all into a ziplock bag or tupperware, or you will have a mini break down when they all stick together!
  10. You can make them ahead of time and freeze them after assembling. Keep them frozen until you want to serve them, and do not let them come to room temperature in sealed containers or they will sweat.

Alright, if you can keep all of that straight in your head and still want to try making macarons, here are some recipes! If you’re having trouble picking just one, pistachio was the biggest hit at the party.

*Note that meringue is pretty sensitive to humidity and I live somewhere pretty humid… so you may want to play around with the recipe bit if you live somewhere really dry. I have seen recipes with different egg white/almond flour proportions, so if they don’t work out for you then don’t give up!

Macaron Shells (Unflavoured/Almond)

Ingredients
  • 200 g icing sugar
  • 125 g ground almonds
  • 112 g egg whites
  • 50 g white sugar
Instructions
  1. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and trace circles about 1 1/4 inches in diameter (a toonie works great) about 1 inch apart on the parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Sift ground almonds and icing sugar together into a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Whip egg whites until foamy, then slowly add white sugar. Whip until egg whites hold stiff peaks.
  4. Fold icing sugar/almond mixture into egg whites. Mix until just combined.
  5. Fill a piping bag with the batter and pipe onto the prepared trays.
  6. Allow each tray to sit for 30-60 min before baking, until a “skin” forms (when you poke it with your finger tip, it is dry to the touch).
  7. Bake at 300F for 12-14 minutes, until the tops are slightly puffed and “feet” (bubbles) form below.
  8. Carefully remove the parchment paper and macaron shells from the hot pan and set on the counter until completely cool.
  9. Remove from parchment paper and store in an airtight container until ready to add filling.
  10. Prepare desired filling and spread between 2 macaron shells. Twist shells (like you would an Oreo) so that the filling slightly oozes out the sides. Yum!

Hazelnut variation:

Follow steps above but reduce almonds to 62.5 g and add 62.5 g ground hazelnuts. Add brown food colouring to egg whites before folding in almonds/icing sugar.

Pistachio variation:

Follow steps above but reduce almonds to 95 g and add 30 g ground pistachios (roasted unsalted, shells and skin removed). Add green food colouring to egg whites before folding in almonds/icing sugar.

Macadamia nut variation:

Follow steps above but reduce almonds to 75 g and add 50 g ground macadamia nuts (raw). Add yellow food colouring to egg whites before folding in almonds/icing sugar.

Coconut variation:

Follow steps above but reduce almonds to 100 g and add 25 g ground coconut (unsweetened). Add blue food colouring to egg whites before folding in almonds/icing sugar.

Dulce de Leche Cream Cheese Buttercream

Ingredients
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup dulce de leche
  • 2-3 cups icing sugar
Instructions
  1. Using an electric mixer, mix the cream cheese and the butter together until fluffy.
  2. Add dulce de leche and mix until combined.
  3. Slowly add in the icing sugar, about a half cup at a time.
  4. Spread or pipe onto macarons, sandwiching two together.

Pistachio Buttercream

Ingredients
  • 4 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped pistachios
  • green food colouring
Instructions
  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft and fluffy. Add in vanilla and mix.
  2. Slowly add in the icing sugar, about a half cup at a time.
  3. Add in pistachios and food colouring and mix to combine.
  4. Spread or pipe onto macarons, sandwiching two together.

Coconut Buttercream

Same as above, except use 1/2 tsp coconut extract instead of vanilla,  1 tbsp dried unsweetened coconut instead of pistachios, and blue food colouring instead of green.

Chocolate Buttercream

Ingredients
  • 6 tbsp butter, softened
  • 3 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Milk
Instructions
  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft and fluffy. Add in vanilla and mix.
  2. Slowly add in the icing sugar and the cocoa, mixing after each addition.
  3. Add milk to thin out if necessary. You can adjust the icing sugar amount if you want a thicker/thinner consistency.
  4. Spread or pipe on to macarons, sandwiching two together.

Passion Fruit & Mango White Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients
  • 1 large mango
  • 1 passion fruit
  • 150 g white chocolate, chopped
Instructions
  1. Cut the flesh from the mango and scoop out the pulp from the passion fruit. Pass the passion fruit pulp through a sieve to get rid of the seeds.
  2. Combine mango and passion fruit in a blender and pulse until smooth.
  3. Slowly melt the white chocolate in a small pan over a pot of boiling water, or use a double boiler.
  4. Remove from heat and add the mango/passion fruit purée, stirring until smooth.
  5. Spread or pipe on to macarons, sandwiching two together.

Some of the filling recipes above will make more than you need, but you can freeze the unused portion for next time! Enjoy and let me know how they turn out.

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