The Brellis House

 

[Failed] Experiments with Natural Dyes: Pokeweed

Last year I successfully died fabric with black walnut, which was my first try at dying fabrics with natural plant material. My end goal is to have about 10 or so colors so that I can make a quilt similar to this beauty. This year I decided to try my hand at pokeweed. I had read that it can be difficult, but we have so much pokeweed around our neighborhood I couldn’t help but try. A 25:1 ratio is recommended, 25 pokeweed weight to 1 fabric weight. I ended up with about a 35:1 ratio. Then I picked all the berries off the stems. This part took FOREVER.  pokeweedAnd it made my hands look like this. It’s a bad sign for dying fabric that this washes right off your hands with soap and water.

pokeweed handsUsing two books from the library (one of which is a really beautiful book called Harvesting Color) and the internet, I read that a vinegar mordant helps the fabric hold the dye, so I pre-mordanted the fabric in vinegar, which was done by simmering (160 degrees) the fabric in water with about 1 cup of water. To prepare the berries for the dye bath, I mashed them in the dye pot, filled the pot with water and 1/2 cup vinegar for every gallon of water for a pH of 3.5. I heated this for 1 hour over low-medium heat, then strained the berries out. The pre-wetted/mordanted fabric went right into this dyebath and soaked on medium heat for 2 hours. I turned the heat off after 2 hours and let it soak for about 30 hours.

I ended up with fabric that looked like this. Needless to say I was pretty ecstatic, but worried it would all wash out like it did on my hands.

pokeweed fabricWhich is exactly what it did. I let it sit and dry for over an hour, then brought it to the sink. The color immediately started to rinse out, and I was basically left with a piece of dirty looking fabric, with a SLIGHT pink hue if you squint (or just pretend). Oh well! Maybe I’ll try again. There are a few things I think I could possibly do better, such as being more precise with measuring exactly how much vinegar should be added to the dyebath and using pH strips to get to exactly a pH of 3.5 in the dyebath. Also, using a thermometer because the dye is very temperature sensitive and the color will be destroyed at temperatures too high.

pokeweed fabric

Here are the three fabrics I have so far. Pokeweed on the left, black walnut method #1 in middle, and black walnut method #2 (soaked overnight) on the right.

natural dyes fabric

 

 

 

Refinishing the Staircase

Refinishing our staircase has been on our to-do list for years and we finally got to it! Particularly after we refinished our wood floors, the orangey wood with paint splatters was really bothering us (probably really just me). Plus I had been lusting over the painted riser-dark wood stained tread look on pinterest. So one weekend we tackled it and wonder why it took us so long to get to it. Here’s what it looked like before, although we didn’t really get very good photos of how bad the wood really looked up close.

stairbase before

All we had to do was sand down the treads (sounds easy but it took HOURS), vacuum, and spread on two coats of stain and two coats of a clear coat.staining staircase

Then I painted the risers with one coat of primer and two coats of white paint and voilà! They are so beautiful.staircase after

Happy 4th Anniversary To Us!

The fourth anniversary materials are either flowers and/or fruit. We chose flowers.

DSC_2805_2_1

Dan cut out a 4 from some cardboard, I gathered flowers from our yard and we attached them to the cardboard with hot glue. There was a moment when it was cheesy and very hippy-like, but I’m fairly pleased with how it turned out. There are black-eyed susans, white wood aster, goldenrod, rose hips, and purple coneflower, among others. #mostlynatives

DSC_2808_2_1

DSC_2813_2_1

If you can’t get enough of our silly cheesyness, check out our Year 1 and Year 2 and Year 3 photos!

Kitchen Updates

One thing that has been on our kitchen to-do list for years is to build a pull out trash can to replace the empty space where a dish washer should be. Dan finally finished it and it makes our kitchen renovation one giant step closer to actually being finished!

DSC_2376

DSC_2377

To keep the cabinet consistent, we decided to reuse the original cabinet that held the sink. We took inspiration and some guidance from tutorials from Makely and Young House Love. First, Dan had to cut a section out of it and then splice it back together to get it to be the right size.

DSC_9739

After that, we puttied the seams and painted the front. Since the cabinet is pretty old, we reinforced the side walls with 1/4″ plywood and installed sliding arms on either side. To utilize the cabinet’s height, we removed the center front plate.

DSC_2353

We bought the trash cans from simplehuman and made a box the width of the sliding arms that would fit them snugly.

DSC_2362

Just like the cabinet, Dan took the doors and decorative top plate and cut them to size. He used metal brackets to secure them together and a 1/8″ board of  plywood to replicate the center block that we removed from the cabinet.

DSC_1845_combo

All that was left for building it was to screw the trash can box to the sliding arms and secure the door to the box.

DSC_2366

Although the whole building of the cabinet took extremely long of on-and-off work, the hardest part was wedging it into place- under a concrete counter top and on slightly uneven tiles.

DSC_2411

After two coats of primer, I put on a final coat of paint and added the door knob. Fairly seamless one first blush! A simple kick plate across the cabinets and sink helps tie everything together.

DSC_2458_1_1

Kitchen pull out trash can. The Brellis House

Kitchen pull out trash can. The Brellis House

Baby Quilt

Dan’s sister is having a baby! We are very excited for her! I was especially excited to try my hand at a baby quilt. This was my first baby quilt and my goodness it was quick to make compared to the full sized quilts I’ve made previously!

baby quiltbaby quiltbaby quilt

Backyard Sugarin’

We’re backyard sugarin’! After boiling sap from craigslist last year we wanted to tap our own trees so badly. Only, we knew we didn’t have any sugar maple trees in our yard. But after going to a maple syrup festival at a local park last weekend, we learned that you can tap all sorts of maple species. We brought home 2 spiles made from a sumac stem, which is apparently how the Native Americans would tap trees. I searched around in our yard, found a Norway maple, and immediately went to google. Not many people were talking about tapping Norway maples but it sounded like it might work.
sumac spile sumac spile

We didn’t want to invest in real spiles or collecting buckets just yet, so we improvised with an old maple syrup container (1 gallon)

maple sap collector

We drilled into the tree, about 3 feet from the ground, and about 2 inches deep, with a slight upward angle to help the sap flow down.

tapping tree

Then we gently tapped the wooden spile into the tree and placed the jug in a little notch we made on the spile.

tapping maple tree

Backyard Sugarin'

We’re excited but not really sure what to expect! Hopefully we’ll get some sap!

DIY Wall Art: Grandfather Clock Art

I love creating our own wall art and am always looking for ideas- and when I saw this pin I immediately wanted to re-create it. I love grandfather clocks and we really don’t have room for one in our house, so this is a perfect compromise.  It was super quick and easy to make- luckily we’ve got large rolls of paper, so we cut out a piece, taped it to the wall and got to drawin’.

grandfather clock art

Finding a frame for this would be impossible so we decided to go for the canvas look. We had some strips of wood in our basement and nailed together a wooden frame. Then we wrapped the paper around it tightly and used a staple gun/hammer to attach the paper to the wood.

grandfather clock art

We were pleasantly surprised how easy it was to wrap the paper around the wood frame- we thought it would be too loose and look bad, but we’re pretty happy with how it turned out. 

 grandfather clock art

Baked Chocolate Donuts

Dan got a donut pan for Christmas- something I was pretty excited about since we can now decrease our fried food intake. I’ve had a hankering for regular old glazed chocolate donuts so we made them today. We used this recipe and just subbed the egg with a flax egg and milk with rice milk. Dan also decided to make a chocolate ganache topping. chocolate donuts chocolate donuts

They turned out pretty good but I think I’ll try a different recipe next time. They seemed a little too cakey and spongy.

Wintery Wreath

The Brellis House: WreathMy mom has always had the ability to seemingly effortlessly whip something crafty together and it always turns out beautiful. She’s especially good at making wreaths and floral/green arrangements so I decided to give it a try myself. Dan and I wandered around a nearby park and walked around the forest edge and found lots of grape and honeysuckle vines, a few pine and holly sprigs, and also gathered some wisteria vines from the backyard. I started out with a hoop that was actually from an old lampshade I took apart a few years ago.

The Brellis House: wreath ringThis next step was a terrible idea, but I thought that if I fattened the ring up a bit with newspaper then I’d need less vines to give the wreath some thickness. What I didn’t realize was that all my vines were so thick that they wouldn’t really cover up the newspaper. By the time I realized this I was too far into it, so I just continued and hoped it would be covered enough, which ended up working.The Brellis House: newspaper wreathThe Brellis House: Wreath Making The Brellis House: Wreath Making The Brellis House: Wreath MakingOnce I used up all of the vines I had gathered, I stuck a few of the greens on one side, salvaged a ribbon and stuck it on the door. I might keep my eye out for some red berries (holly or winterberry) to pop in for some more color.The Brellis House: Christmas Wreath

Snow Day and Berger Cookies

snow fernssnow squirrel Cosmo through window.We unexpectedly got about four inches of snow today, which didn’t really change our plans for the day (crunch time with schoolwork), but made the day cozy and put us in the mood for baking. With all the recent talk of the potential shutting down of Baltimore’s Berger cookie bakery because of the ban on trans fats, we decided we’d give making them a try. We used King Authur’s recipe and veganized it with the obvious substitutions of butter, milk, cream, and egg (vegg), and we also used agave syrup in place of corn syrup. They turned out delicious and the icing is pretty close to how I remember the original Berger cookie icing, but the cookie isn’t much like the original. But at least they are trans fat free!

Other notes on the recipe in case your going to try it: we cut the recipe in half and it made 9 Berger-sized cookies, but they didn’t need 10 minutes in the oven, they started to burn a little- so keep an eye on them.

vegan berger cookies

vegan berger cookies