Another Successful Month…December!

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My definition of success for the School Year Challenge has not been to complete every task on my Project Wall, but to complete as much as I can on specific monthly projects.

That being said, I was able to iccomplish* all my main projects in December…a first for the School Year Challenge!

My Project Wall is an important factor in turning the ideas that constantly swirl around in my head into a reality.

December’s Project Wall at the end of the month

Even though 2 out of the 3 gifts were completed after Christmas, all of the main projects were finished by the end of the month and I’m in the process of preparing to do the the bonus project pillows…definite success!!!

(To read the details about the projects I selected for December go to the blog post “December’s Projects…Month Four!”)

Details on December’s Completed Projects

First … The Adirondack Chairs

I learned a lot in November about prepping and painting wood furniture but was still feeling a little unsure about the process and had some questions I wanted answered.

At the start of this month, I did some additional research and came across the Best Little Nest blog. Everything seemed to click after reading the post “How to Renovate Adirondack Chairs”.

The author had tried refurbishing Adirondack chairs with spray paint but soon realized painting with a brush was the way to go.

I was able to find answers on the blog post to some of the questions I had and knew I wanted to try a can of paint, too.

One reason I switched from spray paint to canned paint was the plethora of color choices in gray. (Spray paint only came in light, medium, and dark gray.)

Though I liked the medium gray spray paint better than the dark gray I had originally selected, there was a bluish hue to the finished result that I could live with but didn’t satisfy the vision I had in my head 100%.

Another reason for trying brush painting was to achieve a smooth, clean looking finish. When I spray painted the table, I was able to achieve the look I wanted with multiple coats.

However, when I tested the spray paint on the chairs, it seemed to take a lot more paint to get the coverage I was looking for and the wood became rough to the touch. (I’m still not sure why that happened.)

Once I made the decision to use a brush with exterior paint, I returned the spray paint I had purchased in November and purchased a gallon of canned paint for almost the same cost. I knew a gallon would be too much paint for the two chairs but my plan is to use the same paint color to repaint the table and the footstools that go with the chairs.

Primer and good paint brushes were additional purchases I hadn’t planned on spending money on but in the end it was worth it. I have learned the right tools for a project make it go so much easier!

Before priming

Due to the outdoor temperatures fluctuating, I decided to move the chairs inside to prime and paint them.

I debated whether or not to pull the chairs apart to paint them, but eventually decided against it.

It took longer than I thought it would to prime (maybe pulling them apart would have been faster) so Douglas helped me.

We primed the bottom and back first. After they dried, we flipped them over and did the front. They looked like brand new chairs with just the primer on!

After priming

Once the primer was dry, Douglas helped me add the first coat of gray paint.

In my perfect world, the chairs would have had two coats of paint on them before being put outside but by the time the first coat dried, Christmas was closing in fast and I needed the living room back to put up the rest of the decorations.

We moved the painted chairs to the deck and they look great! They are EXACTLY the color I want, are smooth to the touch, and are protected against the outdoor elements!

Painted chairs

Second…the Apron

As with most of the projects so far, making the holiday apron provided opportunities for learning new things even though I am not brand new to sewing.

When I purchased the reversible Crisscross Apron Pattern by Mary Mulari it was paired with the Michael Miller holiday fabric Holly Jolly Gnomes and a plain white material for the back.

Because the pattern was for a reversible apron, I went to a local fabric/craft store and found some fun Christmas fabric on sale to use instead of the white.

The Holly Jolly Gnome fabric had a specific direction the print needed to go as did the fabric I purchased for the reverse side of the apron. I didn’t think about it at the time but I didn’t look to see if the images on both fabrics follow the grainline of the material.

When laying out the material, I had to put the raw edges of the Holly Jolly Gnome fabric together to create the fold on which to lay the apron pattern. This was not the way the pattern maker intended the fabric to be folded and the pattern was a little too wide for the fabric. I had to fudge just a little on placement and the pattern is actually about 3/8 of an inch over the fold of the fabric.

What should have been pretty straight forward in regard to cutting the pattern pieces out became a little more complicated than it should have been. I wasn’t comfortable cutting 4 layers of fabric at once and thought it wouldn’t matter if I cut one material at a time. So, I didn’t lay both fabrics on top of each other as suggested by the pattern maker.

I didn’t think ahead and make the connection that both pieces of cut material would need to be the same size since the apron would be reversible.

Unfortunately, I didn’t notice exactly how much over the fold I had placed the pattern, so I had to use the cut Holly Jolly Gnome material as the pattern for the second material because they needed to be the same size.

In addition, when folding the second material, I put the selvages together as indicated by the pattern placement in the directions.

This resulted in one fabric having a little more give than the the other so when I sewed the two pieces together, even though I pinned them, the top fabric scooched while I sewed and resulted in me having to stop and adjust the fabric. When I finished sewing the two pieces together there was a slightly uneven hem on one side.

Thankfully, this wasn’t really noticeable when I wore it and I learned I need to pay attention to details when selecting fabric, laying out pattern pieces, and cutting material to minimize any issues when sewing!

Dressed for a school event – Evening with Santa

Many friends and co-workers at school commented on how much they liked the apron. Several people mentioned the apron reminded them of aprons their grandmother used to wear…especially the back.

Baking at home

It reminds me of my grandmother, too, and I was able to bake some of her cookies that have become a tradition with my family at Christmas time.

Cookies from my grandma’s recipes – Sour Cream Twists, Italian Puff Balls, and Pinwheels

Third … Ornaments

I spray painted these large ornaments as one of my November projects and hung them on my front porch.

My original idea was to add details but I had run out of time.

Douglas and I talked and he told me if I added the details he would hang some from the tree in the front yard.

Well, I got the details added to the ornaments…

Stamping circles
Painting snowflakes
Touching up circles

…but we didn’t hang them from the tree. I realized if they hung from the tree, I wouldn’t be able to see them.

I was so pleased with the end result that I wanted to be able to admire them from the front windows (which happen to be in the kitchen and my sewing room.)

Half of the ornaments

They made me smile every time I looked out the windows!

Finally … The Christmas Gifts

The First Gift

The first gift was for Douglas. He used to travel for work and would be gone for weeks at a time. When he returned, he would tape pieces of white paper over the locks to the front door, door to the garage, and on the handle of the sliding glass door.

This paper helped remind him to make sure the house alarm was turned off before he opened the door in the morning. While efficient, the taped paper drove me crazy!

While putting up Christmas decorations, there was one knob ornament that sparked an idea…

I realized the size was ideal to hang from the lock. So, I created an alarm reminder (one for each door) that is much cuter than the white paper Douglas taped to the locks.

Even though I say this gift was for Douglas, it was really for both of us. 🙂

The Second Gift

The second gift was for my sister. Years ago my mom, sister, and I took a road trip one weekend to a quilt shop. My sister found a pajama bottom pattern she liked by The Paisley Pincushion. She picked out a main material that was pink with birds on it (two of her favorite things) and a coordinating fabric for trim.

My sister doesn’t sew (yet) but it is on her list of things to learn (one of these days). We are alike in that we have many ideas swirling around in our heads just waiting to be executed.

About three years ago I concocted a scheme for a gift because I knew it would be a while before she learned how to sew. Also, I figured it was a way to help her out by making something I knew she would want but may take years for her to make.

She lives next door to me so when I saw her car was gone I used her spare key to go into her house.

After snooping around in her armoire (where she hides gifts and other goodies), I found the material and pattern. I wrapped them up and gave them to her as a birthday gift telling her I would make the pajama bottoms for her.

I wrapped that material and pattern and regifted them to her for two more gift giving occasions (as a Christmas gift and another birthday) all with the same intent to make them for her. Some “help” I was! December 2017 was the month I was going to get them done!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get them made before Christmas, so I wrapped up the material and pattern one more time and we all had a really good laugh!

When she opened the completed pajama bottoms on December 31 she was ecstatic!

I got those pajama bottoms done…finally!

The Third Gift

The third gift was for my sister-in-law. I was inspired by a blog post I saw on Spoonflower.

When I saw the project, I immediately thought of her. I scanned through the directions and knew it was something I could make.

I ordered the fabric even though it wouldn’t be delivered in time to make it before Christmas.

The leather and webbing were easy to find at the local fabric/craft store, but I couldn’t find small enough tri-glides. So, I had to order those and wait for them to arrive. The delivery date was quoted as Dec. 27 – Jan. 12 and I didn’t expect to see them before the start of the new year.

Surprisingly, they arrived on December 28! I was able to make the strap by the end of December and put it in the mail on January 2. I can’t wait to hear what she thinks!

Budget – Slightly Over

When setting the budget I had almost all of the materials I needed to do the projects except for a few of the supplies for the camera strap. So the total budget for December’s projects was $20.00.

Changes in the process for painting the Adirondack chairs resulted in spending money I hadn’t included in the budget.

I went over budget by $50.24, but the results were well worth the expense.

The itemized budget for what I spent looks like this:

  • Adirondack Chairs – total $38.52
    • Exterior paint – $32.33
    • Paint brushes – $19.45
    • Primer – $11.87
    • Brush spinner – $9.71
    • Returned spray paint – (subtract) $34.84
  • Apron – total $4.69
    • Fabric for the back of the apron (it was on sale 60% off)
  • Ornaments – $0
    • I had all the supplies.
  • Christmas gifts – $27.03
    • Alarm signs – $0 – I had all the supplies.
    • Pajama bottoms – $0 – I had all the supplies.
    • Camera strap – $11.50 – fabric; $3.99 – tri-glides; $11:54 – leather, webbing, leather needles

Final Reflection

At the beginning of every month when I set my project goals, I think all the projects can be completed within the month. However, during December I was able to complete all the main projects. This is a first for me on the School Year Challenge!

I am very driven and competitive even when I am only competing with myself. So, this level of success did come at a cost.

There were many days during the month when I would work all day (winter vacation started on Dec. 22), walk Caramel when I got home, cook dinner (or get take out), eat, work on a project, go to bed, and wake up in the morning to do it all again the next day.

While I feel a sense of deep gratification and pride in what I have been able to iccomplish* through a concentrated effort of turning my thinking into doing, I realize I cannot keep going at this pace.

Over the past few days I have been reading a lot about planning and setting goals and have learned a couple of strategies I want to try out.

In addition, this is the traditional time for new year resolutions. There are parts of my life where I want to bring back good habits I have let go and other parts of my life where I want to develop new habits so I can enjoy life.

For so many years my career was my focus and it seems as if life has somehow passed me by.

Since I have been doing the School Year Challenge I have felt as if blinders have come off and I can finally “see” that there is more to life than a career.

I do not want to trade one set of blinders for another and need to be aware and cognizant of making sure my drive to iccomplish* things at home doesn’t take over my life.

I will definitely be keeping these thoughts in mind when I set my project goals for January.

Read the previous post in the School Year Challenge.

Read the next post in the School Year Challenge.

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