Posted in Life

Rugs are in. Furniture is back.


Just a quick update and reveal to show how our decorating is coming along and working with an interior designer. Our rugs came in from Boundless Rugs and we LOVE them. The balance of the two designs in the same space is perfect, and something I’d NEVER be able to decide on my own.


The size fits the room much better than our previous rugs. Below are the old rugs, on top of the new rug pads, just so you can see a size comparison. I donated the old Turkish wool rugs to friends, so no landfill for them. While our designer ultimately chose the final rug size, there are very handy guides online you can use to figure out what size works best for your space. What I’ve learned is most of people’s rugs and artwork is visually too small for the space it’s going in.

After about two months, we got our upholstered furniture back. Here’s a before and after of our club chairs. I got these second hand for $40 last winter. The new fabric is a ‘performance velvet’ — Crypton. That means (allegedly) I can easily wipe oil and dirt off of them, and they are a durable (and super lush) polyester that will go the distance. The fabric cost exactly twice as much as I wanted to pay, and I love them more than I thought I could.

As a reminder, here’s what the first floor looked like before (admitting that this isn’t a TRUE ‘before’. We knew most everything in here was going to change).


And now after, with our new rugs, upholstery and lamp donated from a fellow sewer in Connecticut.


I know the dining area isn’t showing, but I’m in the middle of installing lights inside the china cabinet, so that side ie a mess.


Our sectional was Jordan’s aunt’s from the mid 70s. We had it upholstered in a conveniently discontinued material. I say convenient, because it retailed for $176 a yard, and our designer was able to snag it for $35 a yard since it was no longer going to be stocked. We bought 25 yards and used ALL OF IT. We still needed to get some ‘velvet’ from Joann fabric at the last minute to finish the bottom off.


In between getting the rugs and furniture upholstered, I also bought dining room chairs (Elle Decor Holly Wire Chair) new via Staples. I chose Staples because if I hated them, there was someplace I could return easily return them. My friend Jen bought our old Broyhill chairs that were more suited to her modern farmouse style. My friend Mary came over and helped me assemble our new more contemporary style. Oh, while I am all for pre-owned whenever possible, we needed ten chairs which was much harder to find in that quantity.

These are copies of the Bertoia chairs from Knoll. These chairs were $100 each vs Knoll’s $832 PER CHAIR. I thought they were just nice wire chairs when I first saw them, but another designer friend Elizabeth let me know that they were inspired by the Bertoia chairs. I do like the chairs A LOT. My plan is to sew new pads for them in 2020 / 2021. Something with a punch of color and a little thicker pad.


That’s the overall on our living room / dining room design! After a year of living in our new place, it’s great to feel more settled and like we can have people over.

We’ll be working on getting some photos and art on the walls before the holidays. We have window shades on order to help with sun glare and add some privay. I do want to add an upholstered cornice to the windows, but the need for shades were an unexpected expense (the sofa is in direct sunlight), so a pretty (but purely decorative) cornice will have to wait a few years. I have a short but not inexpensive list of things to do in 2020 (changing first-floor door hardware, replacing dated sconces on the second floor, additional recessed lighting in the dining room), but am just going to enjoy having a place to sit down for now.

I’m overall happy we chose to work an interior designer. I have some more thoughts on this that I want to put in a separate post. Maybe that will help motivate me to take pictures after we have some stuff on the walls and our shades come in!

And now back to our regularly scheduled garment sewing content. I’ve just finished up a Burdstyle rain poncho! It needs photographing, but I’m anxious to show it soon.

Posted in Life

It’s Just a Rug, Right?

In my intro post for this series, I mentioned our goal was to go vintage, pre-owned whenever possible. So imagine my emotional letdown when I realized we were going to have to buy new rugs. Why? Because a 1982 open floor plan house isn’t suited in size and scale for rugs to work with our furniture and size of room. How is that?



  1. We wanted square and BIG I knew our lovely hand-me-down rugs from Turkey were too small (they were too small for some rooms in our old house built in the 30s). But, I didn’t realize that the rug sizes we needed to fill the space correctly were considered ‘extra large’ or ‘mansion rugs’. LOL at ‘mansion’. This is America! What was once a mansion rug is probably a standard size for much of this country.
  2. Square rugs rarely come standard in 10’x 10’or 12’x 12′. Period. I thought it would be easy, but even my searches online didn’t turn up much. My designer said at that size, we’d need to look at custom.
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Inspiration rugs, but none come in the sizes we need. So, we’d have had to get a 12×15 and cut it down.

We needed to choose the rug first because it’s easier to match colors to a rug than match a rug to your furniture. We eventually settled on using custom rug startup Boundless. And I got over ‘needing’ a wool rug after seeing it would cost several thousand for each and STILL need to be cut down to the right size. 

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Here’s our palette. I was SURE Jordan wouldn’t like it. But, he looked at it and said, “That looks great.” Honestly, that’s more progress than we made in nine months. Look, he doesn’t even think we need to paint since the walls *are* painted, that’s a story for another time.

Enter Boundless Rugs. Boundless has a set number of designs and 22 colors to chose from. I found them from much googling on custom size rugs. What’s great, is any of their nylon rugs are customizable by size and color. PERFECT.  Each rug was going to come in at our budget. As of this writing, they are going to add more designs. But, I couldn’t let FOMO stop me from moving forward with our project.

SamplesFrom Boundless, we ordered a FREE sample rug to see the colors and textures in real life. I actually put this on the ground, stood on it, propped my ankles on it. The pile is 1/2″ thick and far denser than I would have thought. The material is nylon which is stain resistant and durable for high traffic areas. I do wish there were more color choices, but they are also a ten- months-old start up! I’ll give them some time.


Here are our final rug choices: the Miles on the left, Hendry on the right. This is where I found the designer help extremely useful. She was able to pick two rugs that are cousins, not twins. She chose colors that worked well together too (we went through several tonal iterations before settling on this). I couldn’t even wrap my mind around getting rugs that had a print and needed to be in the same room. She showed us these two and we were sold.


Boundless was fantastic to work with. They digitally edited the rug so we could see how they would look in the dimensions we needed. They also made some tweaks to the design to fit our space and our designer’s vision. For the Miles above, they showed several iterations until it worked for us. For the Hendry below, they added an additional repeat of the design, keeping the same scale (we had the option of enlarging the print for a more bold look too).


The rugs are milled in the US and will arrive in a few months. I’ll check back in when they get here! But, so far, I think Boundless is a great option if you have odd sizes. Or need specific colors. I would of course prefer wool vs nylon, but I don’t have $8,000 for rugs, lol.

Next… Upholstery. Now that the rugs are chosen, we can actually move on to FABRICS!

Posted in Life

Working With an Interior Designer

Since I lived in one home the last 15 years, it hadn’t occurred to me that my furniture might not ‘work’ in a new home. Our rugs were the wrong size, we went from two living room type spaces to one, and I realized just how much of what we had came out of my parent’s house.

I never thought we’d want to work with an interior designer. I think I have a pretty good eye and decent taste. But, I found after we moved into a new place together that Jordan and I couldn’t agree on anything. In addition to not liking the same things, I learned Jordan couldn’t “see” something. I.E. I bought home two chairs to be reupholstered, and he was solely focused on how ugly the fabric was. He just could not see the lines. I realized I got totally overwhelmed by choice and was best when given parameters of what to look for or limited options. I also just really dislike trying to mix prints, patterns and colors. I don’t think it’s my forte. I like how things look when it’s all done, but I don’t’ find it interesting to put together for myself (or quite frankly with other people).

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I decided to blog this process because I had NO idea what to expect and thought it might be helpful for others who are considering hiring a designer. Originally, I thought interior designers were for rich people in fancy houses. But, I asked what people on Instagram and got a lot of support for working with a designer at any budget, that I decided to go for it.

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Listing Photo of Living Room

Enter our **designer. I selected our designer for a couple of reasons. I wanted to work with someone local, she had a great eye from what I saw on her IG, she had an actual working website that was extremely well written, she was very responsive to my initial email, and we got along well. Full disclosure: I went out of my way to make sure African Americans were heavily represented in the pool of people I reached out to and hopefully also lived in Baltimore City limits. I can talk more about that in another post.


What came with us after our moving purge

First Steps:

The Designer had Jordan and I create a joint Pinterest board with rooms and details we liked. As expected, we were all over the place. He liked dark rooms I’d liken to a wooden clad games room. I liked bright colors and prints and a LOT of pink.

Before we started working with our designer, I replaced the dining room light with that modern sputnik influenced fixture. I also bought the Acacia wood table (seats up to 10) and china cabinet, but the dining chairs belonged to my parents. Rugs are 30+ years old from my parents, sectional was in our basement and belonged to Jordan’s aunt from 1976, yellow floral chairs from a second hand shop.

Current state of living / dining room

Our main goal is to get our living room and dining room set up. We wanted to reuse as much furniture as possible, buy vintage and recover whenever we could and keep costs under budget. We can’t afford to do EVERYTHING decorwise we want in these spaces, so we had to focus this year on what the most important things were: recovering furniture, and getting rugs that fit– with the right size and scale. Yes, we need to paint, get new dining room chairs, and do ‘something’ about our mirror heavy / dated fireplace unit. But, those things will have to wait until 2020 or even 2021.

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So, I’ll stop here. Next update — picking rugs or what I call, “The one thing I knew I needed help with.”

**I’m choosing not to use our Designer’s name until after the project is completed.

Posted in Life, Machine Knitting

Craftivism and a Tendonitis Update

It’s not often (read: under duress  and rare circumstances) I make things for other people. I am more than happy to give away clothes I’ve sewn that don’t work for me. But, straight making things from scratch for others — pretty much only happens for Linus and Jordan (and in that order).

That should help you understand my absolute commitment to and love for my friends when I tell you I (with Jeannie’s help) knit 28 Pussy Hats for them to wear to the Women’s March on Washington last weekend.


I never questioned whether or not I was going to attend the DC March. It was a natural reflection and intersection of my beliefs and politics. When I first read about the Pussy Hat project and saw it was easily adaptable to the knitting machine, I was hit with one thought, “I will knit these for my friends“.

So, I just posted a quick note on Facebook offering to knit hats at cost thinking I’d get a couple of replies. I was gobsmacked by the response. I heard from middle school friends I knew in Germany, high school friends living in Denmark,Spain and San Diego, college friends from LA and Spain, coworkers, most of my amazing and irreplaceable bookclub, Jordan’s bosses, Jordan’s former bosses and more.


Now, God bless Jeannie. A few weeks after I offered to knit these hats my tendonitis started flaring up.  And, just when Jordan reminded me that I’d essentially entered into a contract with a lot of people (LOL)  Jeannie sent me a note and told me — not asked. But, told me, “I’m knitting hats for you”.  The sense of relief!

Let me tell you this. Walking down to the DC March and seeing scores of pink hats was an overwhelming feeling. I’m a very practical person and have previously thought the idea of craftivism a bit of an eye roll. But, it was visually impactful to see a united sea of pink. This Esquire article does a great job of discussing the historical intersection between fashion and politics.

During the day, as friends started posting photos on social media during and after the March I got all the feels. I was so happy to see the people in my life who support the same causes as I do and irrevocably touched to see them wearing hats made for them.

I wore mine out the night after the March to dinner. The owner of the restaurant shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you’.  A group at the bar nodded, smiled and told me they liked my hat as Jordan and I walked through the restaurant. It was a very long and emotional day and these small acts nearly had me in tears. It also helped me understand the impact of uniformity in a time of disruption.

I wore it in the weeks leading up to the march and I noticed as we got closer women started to smile at me, now after the march strangers are talking to me. Its a powerful thing to see people on the street and know you’re connected.

I read an article that noted that the there are three symbols of the march that are important because they took time, thought and planning, signs, the hats and clear bags. Nearly every woman (and many men)had all three of these things and it brought all 500,000 people together regardless of their skin color, background or religious choice.

— Renee’s friend Liz

Now, for my tendonitis. Thank you so much for your responses and suggestions on my last post about this. I saw a hand specialist at the hospital last Tuesday. It’s still tendonitis. I’d been afraid I might have carpal tunnel too. The doctor administered a cortisone shot to my wrist and my hand hurt like hell for two days (totally normal). Now, the wrist and thumb pain I was experiencing  has gone away.  I can type  with capital letters again! I can use scissors again!  It’s a week later and despite these improvements, my grip is super weak still. I can’t really hold a needle, cut with a knife, hold on to something for an extended period of time or type on my cell phone without problems. But, I feel like I’m on the mend overall. I’m giving it another week to see if my grip improves. I do miss lifting weights :-/ I mean, not really. I hate exercise but like the results.  Heh.

Whew. This post is so long! To wrap up, I’m currently knitting Jordan’s birthday present. It’s a varsity style letterman’s sweater. I have a whole Pinterest board with inspiration if you’re interested. Hopefully that’s what my next post is about 😀

Posted in Life, sewing, Travel

Belgium – Holland 2014

Now that I’ve got some of the sewing related stuff out. Here’s a final post on how the rest of the trip went.


Before we started the bike and barge portion, we spent a day on a bike tour in Brussels. I’ve done bicycle tours in Minneapolis, Montreal and Shanghai. They really are a great way to cover a ton of ground and get an overview of the city.

Royal Palace in Brussels
Royal Palace in Brussels

The Royal Palace was open for about three weeks for tours for the year. But, we could not seem to get organized around things shutting down around 4 p.m. Thus, I missed my chance to tour the palace. A theme which continued on in the Netherlands.

The Liege waffle might be the best thing I’ve ever eaten.


I’ll also just tell you now. We had a lot of frites. I’m not that in to chocolate. I don’t think we even bought any on this trip. But, I ate waffles and fries like they were being discontinued. They say the Liege waffle has sugar in the middle. I decided it’s not sugar. It’s crack inside of them. They were that additive.


After a day in Brussels, we headed to Bruges. It’s SO BEAUTIFUL. All I really knew about Bruges was from the movie, In Bruges. Guess what? There’s a Bernina store there! If you think the prices are high for Berninas here, the feet there would cost me 30 percent more because of the exchange rate. Ouch.


Right-o. The bike trip began in Bruges. Our barge would sail during the day while we biked and we’d get back on board in the evening. The crew was great and the food was awesome.


The biking was fun! I wasn’t at all prepared for it training wise, but you didn’t really need to be. That said, it was a lot harder for me now than three years ago. Jordan on the other hand thought it was easy peasy.


We  saw castles and windmills and ate lots of cheese.


We also visited a working dairy farm and bought more cheese than a cardiologist would approve of.


I gasped in this room. We brought back three Gouda cheeses. We have 1.5 left…


When we got on board our guide immediately knew our names. I asked how he knew it was us. And he said, ‘Easy. You’re the youngest people on the tour.’ Isn’t that awesome? The next person in age to me was 20 years older and they rode hard. Do you see why I can’t moan about being out of shape?? This guy below is from Australia. He’s 75. Jordan is the same age as his oldest grandson. And, he kicked our butts going up hills. He’s got the legs of a 35 year old. He’s in a bike club in Australia and has two hip replacements.. He was awesome. I tried to hook him up with Jordan’s grandmother but I suspect the distance between Melbourne and Maryland is too far.


Along the tour we stopped in Utrecht and Antwerp before getting in to Amsterdam. Once the bike and barge portion ended in Amsterdam, we rented a flat for a few days in the Jordaan neighborhood. I got a total kick out of the name. Jordan didn’t think it was as funny as I did. I never did find him a tee shirt that said Jordaan…


Our first day in Amsterdam we took a really fun food tour of Jordaan, the neighborhood we were staying in. We sampled all kinds of Dutch specialties including herring, Surinamese food, Dutch food (bitterballen), licorice, and Dutch apple pie.

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Sunday we hit the Van Gogh Museum and the Jewish Quarter. In the Jewish Quarter we stopped by the Portuguese Synagogue and the Jewish History Museum. We didn’t have enough time for my favorite museum, the Dutch Resistance Museum.


Sunday night we saw an English language improv show with all American actors at Boom Chicago. Isn’t that amazing? American comedy in Amsterdam. And, the place was full!


When you walk around Amsterdam, you can see in almost everyone’s window.


Imagine how tickled I was when I saw a dress form on a canal house boat and a woman working away on her sewing machine!




And of course, I still can’t get over ALL THE BICYCLES.IMGP1223


It was a tremendous vacation. We chose our honeymoon in the middle of what I can only describe as the most surreal time of my life. Traveling, especially in Europe, reminds me of my mom in all the best ways. She always took us on trips and suggested places to go. Traveling was really her passion. This trip felt like closing the chapter on an emotionally complicated period and opening a door to the next phase.  The last year I’ve literally felt like the walking wounded. I didn’t realize  just how much was weighing on me.  I knew I was sad. I didn’t know I was crippled. I am honestly starting to feel like me again.