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Thanks for visting Simply The Nest. I'm an English girl married to an Portuguese boy, and when I'm not working or taking care of our two adorable daughters, I blog about our house renovation, DIY projects, delicious recipes, inspirational interiors, and family life in a Victorian Manchester nest.

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Tuesday
Apr212015

Master Bedroom Fitted Wardrobe Progress

"Mummy, it's a tower!". So said nearly-three year old Natalia after first clapping eye on the new addition to our master bedroom, before attempting to play hide and seek in it. 

We've been working on this project on and off for a couple of months, and it's finally starting to look like an actual wardrobe. It's taken a long time because designing and installing a completely custom fitted wardrobe with two kids and two dogs and two full-time jobs isn't exactly the most simple task we could have taken on, especially when it's enormous (2.7m x 3m), constructed to our own precise specification from a pile of timber and an assortment of random fittings from various suppliers, and we've had to work out how to build it as we've gone along.

First of all we built the frame from planed timber 2x2" wood. We installed the base first and levelled it, and then built the verticals on top. We initially tried to install the verticals in situ and screw them in against the wall, but the wall was so wonky that to get everything level we were having to chop into the wood to accommodate the curve of the wall, which was a huge pain. So we gave up and went with Plan B, which was to pull the whole thing away from the wall, build it, and let the vertical levelling take care of itself (which it did). An additional challenge was making sure it was square - no good having a compartment that's exactly the width and depth of your drawer if it's slightly parallelogram-shaped as the drawer won't fit in. 

Keeping the girls entertained with their own tools while we cracked on with our tools.

We then hammered a few sheets of 3.6mm plywood onto the back with panel pins, and installed it in place against the wall. We accommodated the huge skirting board by stopping the plywood just above it. We screwed into the wall for added security using pilot holes we drilled through the wood before we pulled it away from the wall to add the backing board. 

Here's where things started to get tricky. We have multiple combinations of drawers and shelves to install in each section of the wardrobe, and obviously these need to be screwed into something. So I had to do approximately one million measurements to figure out where to install the horizontal bars so that when we screwed the drawer into place, it would hit solid wood.

For example: "if the drawer is 16cm high visually but 17.8cm high including the rails and the screw is 14cm from the top of the drawer and we need a 1cm gap from the bottom of the wardrobe plus the 3.6mm for the ply and then we have two more drawers to install before the shelf which is 18mm and then above this we need minimum 160cm of hanging space with 3.6mm ply at the top, then how much space can we have between the three drawers so they're evenly spaced and where therefore will the three sets of screws go?". And breathe....

We did think part way through that installing a few verticals inside each compartment might have been easier, but given each compartment has various combinations of rails, shelves and drawers, all of which need to be screwed in at different places along the depth of the compartment, I'm not sure if it would have been any easier.

Next up, we hammered in the remaining plywood to frame out the compartments. It was at this stage that I wished we had invested in a nail gun.  

We also installed lights that switch on when you open the door - fancy. Andre and Andre's friend Ian (who was present during our heated debate over adding yet more expense to the project by including lighting) insisted that it would make all the difference and they were right, it looks fantastic. Well, the photo below doesn't look fantastic, but the actual lights do :-)

Testing that the drawers fit - they do! To the millimetre! Hallelujah :-)

Finally, priming with oil-based primer - and Andre is lathering on the first coat of fresh white wood paint even as I type. 

The most useful tip I can pass on to someone taking on a project like this is to invest in a laser measure - we have a Makita one and it's incredible, accurate to the millimetre. I can't even imagine taking on something like this involving SO MUCH MEASURING with a manual tape measure. It wasn't cheap, but it was worth every penny. 

Next steps:

  • Finish painting it white.
  • Wallpaper the back of each compartment.
  • Fit all the drawers, baskets, shelves, rails and pullouts.
  • Figure out how to turn our specially imported carved Indian screens into doors.
  • Install the doors with our specially selected hinges (who knew there were so many different varieties of hinge in existence?!)
  • Fit handles.
  • Lovingly hang clothes, place sweaters in drawers and shoes on shelves, and exult in the fact that we won't need to build another wardrobe for about twenty years.

Easy as pie...!

Tuesday
Apr142015

Before and After

Here's the before...

...and here's the after:

Fellow dog owners may understand the link between the two - take one poorly dog with an upset tummy (he'd been eating Eva's modelling clay, the fool) who felt it was necessary to defile our delightful dining room and hall carpet, couple it with a spell of very warm weather, and the result was Andre calling me at work to announce that he felt he had no choice but to remove the offending carpet and did I mind? Bearing in mind that the last time Andre removed a carpet on a whim we ended up spending 300 hours patiently scraping lead paint off the stairs in the height of summer, I wasn't overly keen, but the alternative was clearly worse so I gave executive approval and the carpets were duly spirited off the premises forthwith.

Note for the benefit of anyone wondering why we didn't rip the hideous 25 year old carpets up as soon as we moved in - we decided to keep all the carpets on the ground floor in place in order to reduce draughts from the freezing cold cellars below that we can't insulate because the builders will need access to the cellar ceilings to install the new gas, water and electrics for the extension. However, we're hopefully a hop, skip (more likely several hundred skips - muwahaha) and a jump away from starting the building work (yay!), plus it's nearly summer, so we'll just have to cope with the occasional blast of cold air. 

Andre thinks it looks like a French house now and I can kind of see the logic - there's probably people who pay a lot of money for this kind of distressed chic :-)

Next up - wardrobe update!

Tuesday
Mar312015

How To Sew A Fabric Bag For A Child

Life has slowed down a little around here - Andre spent a week in bed with the flu (actual flu, not man-flu), I've been very busy working with the Love Withington Baths team (read more about the community-led campaign to save our local Edwardian swimming pool here), the girls have been busy crafting, reading and organising their toys (we spent a whole day sorting the deep litter in Eva's room into dolls, accessories, animals, monsters, craft and jigsaws), and even Enrique has been suffering from a sore leg, preventing him from enjoying his usual charge round the block every evening.

Natalia has also just come down with chicken pox, and is having a lovely time in quarantine at home ordering me around with demands for bikkits, sockies ("no not dose sockies, dese sockies"), locking me in the cellar, insisting on wearing her sister's purple trousers (too big) over the top of her tweed shorts (too small but she refuses to put them away), howling for more episodes of Peppa Pig (why are the episodes so short? Whyyyyyyy?) and generally being her usual menacingly adorable self. 

Penny, of course, has been enjoying her usual bustling lifestyle.

We have been making progress on the wardrobe - it's installed in place against the wall, the back, top cupboards and one of the main cupboards have been boarded, and I made a quick trip to Ikea last night to pick up the last couple of drawers (which were only available in store) and the internal lights, and was very pleased with myself for discovering the quick route  to the lighting area and warehouse - go through the cafe, turn right, push through a couple of unlikely looking temporary plastic doors and you're there (you're welcome...). Progress photos to follow shortly, but first, here's my latest project - a bunny dress for Eva to wear at Easter. 

The pattern and in-person instructions were kindly provided by my friend Carla, along with multiple cups of tea, chocolate Swiss roll, free babysitting, and an explanation of how to use some of the rudimentary elements of my sewing machine that I've been ignoring for the past eight years (what, that lever thingie at the side is to stitch backwards to secure your thread, who knew?).

Voila!

It's reversible too...

Eva was beside herself - she knew it would be waiting when she came home from school and practically had her uniform off before she'd even made it up the front steps. 

I can't wait to see her reaction when she comes home and finds... a matching bag!

Here's how I made it. I reckon around 15 minutes of figuring out the pattern (sure, there's plenty of Pinterest versions to copy, but where's the fun in that?) and then 15 minutes of cutting, pinning and sewing. Super quick and super easy. 

I wanted to make it around 15cm wide, and 18cm high, so I added a couple of cm each way for seams and cut out two rectangles at 32cm x 20cm (doubling the width but not the height). Bunny fabric for the outer and plain white for the lining. I also made two tubes from the same fabric as the dress lining, which I ironed flat with the seam down the middle at the back. 

I had some flat wadding lying around (this is the kind of house that has wadding lying around) so I cut a couple of thin pieces and pushed it through the tubes by taping it to a pencil and pushing that through. I'm sure there's a tool that can be used for this purpose (Carla?) but I'm old-school, apparently. 

Pin the handles on top of the outer fabric. I used a ruler to position them roughly in place - you can measure it properly, if you like, of course. 

Then put the lining on top, reverse side up, and pin into place. Sew across the top about 5mm from the edge, through both pieces of fabric and the sandwiched handles.

Trim the handle excess away, and open up to take a look:

Fold in half with the outer fabric on the outside, and pull the top corner of the outer fabric back to reveal the liner underneath. Pin the two pieces of liner together.

Pull the top fabric back completely (it will now be inside out with the handles inside it) and sew along the bottom and two sides of the liner.

Then do the same on the outer fabric side. Be careful not to sew the handles by mistake - and leave a small gap at the bottom so you can turn the whole thing the right way round.

I then cut a couple of pieces of wadding into 15x18cm pieces, and stuffed them through the hole. This is akin to stuffing a tiny duvet into a tiny duvet cover, so skip this step if you're not keen. It just adds a bit of structure and makes the bag feel a tad more luxurious. Finally, I tucked the edges under and sewed the gap together with invisible stitches.

Ta da!

Eva'll probably stuff felt tip pens into it which will leak straight through the fabric, but considering how quick it was to make, I don't mind.  

Blogging done, time for more wardrobe. Got to work out how much space I need between each glass shelf to display my shoe collection to best effect; it's a critical decision.