Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sometimes it pays to pay

Those of you who know me well (and/or read my other blog) are probably not surprised that my posts are getting longer and longer. Have soapbox, will proclamate. (I know that's not a word and that the correct command form is just "proclaim," but proclamate feels closer to what I mean.) Rest assured, I think I will probably get back to sharing pretty pictures soon, but for now, I guess I've got things to say.I learned a valuable lesson while creating the headboard for the guest room. If you're not into all of this process stuff I insist on sharing for some reason, I'll just go ahead and tell you now: sometimes it pays to just spend a little extra to get what you really want.

If you recall, I was super stoked to find a professionally upholstered headboard on craigslist for less than the cost of materials to build a new one. I originally planned to cover it with some navy mattress ticking that I already had, but it read a bit too Swedish or Cape Cod, and definitely too casual once I put silk drapes in there. So I pulled a bunch of fabric samples. I eventually fell in love with this one, from Calico Corners,

but it was $21/yard and I had budgeted $7.50 (since I was originally planning on free).I happened to have some off-white upholstery weight fabric and a bottle of navy blue RIT dye lying around from unfinished (um, unstarted) projects from years ago, and the wheels started spinning. Then, the January issue of Lucky came (yes, I get Lucky, but only because some magazine that I used to get folded and they started sending me that instead. It was probably Domino, come to think of it, I probably had, like, a 5-year subscription.) Anyway, there was a whole fashion story about dyeing old clothes to make them new again.

Kismet, right?

And so I dyed my fabric. It has a sort of traditional damask pattern, and I though the dye would bring it out nicely. Actually, first I stressed about dyeing my fabric. The hubs was not interested in having a dyed-navy washing machine, and every single how-to video I could find on youtube and eHow featured people using the stove top method, but I do not have a pot large enough to hold three yards of 60" wide upholstery weight fabric. As is often the case, I searched for evidence that it was okay to do what I wanted to do, and when none was forthcoming, I did it anyway. Nervously.

It also took a while to decode the instructions on the bottle (and to cross reference them with the instructions I found for adapting them to a front-loader washer). I pre-soaked the fabric, put it in the machine, poured half the bottle of liquid dye into the detergent cup of the washer and immediately flushed with hot water. I set the machine for a 30 minute wash cycle (I had to read the owner's manual to figure out how to do this. No joke.) I lined the floor with a dark blanket to catch any possible drips. When the 30 minutes plus spin time were up, I tentatively pulled the fabric from the machine and rinsed in the sink until the water ran clear. I put it in the dryer and ran bleach through the washer cycle.


Epic fail.

I had noticed in the youtube videos that all the dyed fabric came out looking kind of faded and dingy, but I figured that was because of the inferiority of the stove top method. When my fabric came out a kind of washed denim shade (faded and dingy), I wondered if perhaps RIT dye just doesn't work that well. But the Lucky magazine article! It worked for them! They even dyed leather! So maybe it was because I did not add salt to the wash. Or maybe it was because the dye was about a decade old. Or maybe I didn't shake it up well enough.

I'll tell you, I'm crazy determined if nothing else, and sent that fabric through a second cycle with the rest of the dye. But no difference. Washed denim. Maybe a look for someone, but not for me.

Meanwhile, I was carrying around this fabric swatch in my purse.

Like, all the time. Crazy, I know. Anyone who would listen, I'd make them tell me what they thought of it. But when the dye project failed, do you think I bought the 2 yards of this that I needed? No I did not. First I searched ebay for a similar hand-carved block to print a similar pattern myself (because my first round DIY on this went so well), but they were about $10 and by the time I bought fabric and ink and put the time in, well, I'd be making major trade-offs in the time/money/value spectrum I went on and on about yesterday.

Instead I made one last trip to the fabric outlet, where I happily found three different possibilities that I thought would work, all within budget. I carried them around the store. I laid the bolts out on the cutting table and stared at them. The Russian guy who works there and often looks at me like I'm crazy asked if I needed help, and when I said "no, I'm deciding," he just looked at me like I was crazy. I should mention that the fabric warehouse is far away from my house. My girls' school is about halfway there, so that helps, but it's still a trip. So I did that thing that I would always tell people never to do: I bought two yards of a fabric without bringing the swatch home first. I just needed to be done with this project. The craziest thing (I know, it's all crazy) is that I BROUGHT HOME SAMPLES OF THE OTHER FABRICS, even though the whole point was to be done, and to be done at a substantial savings, and buying two rounds of outlet fabric would be nearly the same price as simply buying the fabric that I really wanted.

The yardage I ended up buying looked Navy in the store, with gold, and bright blue embroidered stripes.

It felt a little Indian in a way that I liked. It had just enough sparkle and shine. Naturally, at home the fabric revealed itself to be black. And the stripes got lost. And it was all a little masculine hotel room tragic.

I considered one of the other samples,

and truth be told I'm still in love with the Ralph Lauren velvet teal and taupe toile, but it wouldn't have gone with the rug, and, um, the rug was the starting point for the room.

So I finally did it. I gave in and bought the fabric that I wanted. It was even on sale, for $17/yard.

And you know what? I love it. I'll show you how it turned out tomorrow. Clearly, it would have saved me both time and money if I had just gone ahead and bought it in the first place (except that it wasn't 20% off in the first place). But I wonder: would I have been so clear, so sure in my love for my choice, without all the drama?

Who can say?

1 comment:

  1. Love listening to how the process played out. Thanks Heather!


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