Why wool?

[I’m working on several projects I can’t post yet, so instead I’ll entertain you with some AMAZING things about wool.]

What’s so wonderful about wool? Why bother with it? Isn’t it itchy, hard to clean, and hot? Umm….no! (OK, some wools scratch, but we can avoid those.)

I thought about writing this post one morning when I was up early, wrapped in my robe, reading a good book with a steaming cup of coffee by my elbow, and a synthetic blanket on my lap. I was still cold. Here are my legs, covered with the synthetic fleece blanket —

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How dumb, I thought. What am I doing when I’VE GOT WOOL? So I got out one of my first blankets. This is Some Like it Hot.” It’s got great colors in it, but I was still learning the best sweaters to use, so it contains one (the orange) that I would no longer choose. Still. WHAT A DIFFERENCE. I immediately felt cozy and could read without distraction.

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For your trivia library, some amazing properties of wool:*

• Wool fibers insulate without overheating. They are historically used in both the heat of the desert and the coldest arctic climes.

• Many kinds of wool, especially Merino (because its shaft is so slender), are very smooth and extraordinary comfortable on skin.

•  Wool wicks moisture away from the body.

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•  Wool fibers actually absorb water and move it temporarily into the core of the shaft, keeping the wearer warm and dry. It won’t feel wet to the touch until it has absorbed 60% of its weight in water.

•  Wool has antimicrobial properties, so it doesn’t harbor odors and stays smelling fresh — in fact, backpackers and bikers are returning to the use of wool, as synthetics cannot yet mimic this.

•  Wool is disliked by dust mites, which are behind many allergies and asthma troubles.

•  Wool in blankets by The Green Sheep has already been washed and dried, so you can carefully do the same with really great results! (See here for directions.)

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• Wool holds dyes better than many other natural fibers. (This is one of my favorite properties.)

• Wool is long-lasting. Wool fibers can bend 20,000 times without breaking. Compare that to cotton at 3,000x and silk at 2,000x.

•  Buying wool supports raising sheep for their fleece rather than for food. Every year a new fleece grows on the sheep’s body and is removed without harm to the animal.

•  Buying wool supports local farmers throughout the world. Also, processing wool requires fewer resources than those needed to process most other natural or man-made fibers.

*With gratitude to the following websites for their informative content: Wool Revolution!, Zeilinger Wool Co., and Dennis Baxter’s article on Merino wool on ezinearticles.com.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, and I’m not blue, part III

And now to work! Last week I showed you some inspirational kitchens. This week I’ll show you what’s been happening — with lots and LOTS of photos. First, THE CABINETS:

I studied the photo gallery on the Rustoleum site, read people’s reviews on Amazon, and decided to go with the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation Kit for white cabinets. The kit includes a deglosser (so sanding, stripping, or priming isn’t needed), the bond coat (this is the paint), an optional decorative glaze, and a protective top coat. Here I’m prepping for deglossing:

In one review, a very disappointed man wrote about how the tannins of his oak cabinets leaked through his white bond coat and ruined everything. I am so glad I read this! I called Rustoleum and learned that ONLY in the case of painting OAK cabinets WHITE (and sans the decorative glaze), the cabinets must be primed to block the leaky tannins. Good thing I like to paint.  Here’s the priming step (notice the old almond-colored countertop, circa 1984):

Next, THE COUNTERTOPS:  In the middle of my cabinet-priming, our carpenter said he had two days he could come to install the new butcher-block countertops, a new sink and a new faucet. Here’s the “raw” countertop, mounted on the primed cabinet frames. (The cabinet doors were all undergoing the same treatment out in the garage.)

With the new sink, we would gain an inch in depth — very noticeable! And with the new faucet, we would gain MUCH more space under the spout for tall items —  cookie sheets, for instance :).

FINALLY, 5 coats of paint later (actually 1 primer, 3 paint, 1 finish coat) and with the carpenter paid — THE REVEAL…with finished counters, finished cabinets, and new hardware!  (I did, however, reuse the old hinges by cleaning, priming and spray-painting them white, and then waiting several days before reinstalling them.)

It’s a work in progress! So far, I’ve used a homemade beeswax-and-mineral-oil paste to rub into the wood. I tried mineral oil alone first, but it kept raising the grain of the wood. Here’s a good “recipe.” Also, in these pics you see the wall where the old molded backsplash, attached to the old counter, came up the wall. I’ll soon paint it the same color as the wall until I decide what to do for a new backsplash.

For the window, I finally tried an idea I’ve had tucked away in my mind. I bought a vinyl roller blind (at Menard’s, where they cut it to size) and hung it up. I bought and cut fabric to fit the window with 1″ extra on each side for a fused hem, 1-1/4″ extra at the bottom for a rod pocket, and about 6-8″ extra at the top, to go around the roller. I took down the blind, unrolled it on a clean table, left a couple revolutions of the vinyl on the roller and cut the rest off. I then overlapped the top edge of the fabric with the bottom of the vinyl left on the roller and taped it with packaging tape, both front and back. I stuck the rod in the rod pocket. I rolled the blind up tightly, now with the fabric on it, and hung it back up. It works great!

(The clear plastic handle I put on the bottom of the blind to protect it from wet hands, etc., is too tight and makes the rod curl in these photos. I need to take it off, I think.) On the left, under the window, are narrow shelves for cookbooks and other sundry items. These are made out of the leftover butcher block from the counters. They’re still unfinished, but I will likely stain and seal them eventually.

There’s an awful lot of white here with the cabinets, the appliances, the island, the floor. Again, this kitchen is a work in progress! I’m painting the island right now (“Mega Greige” by Sherwin-Williams). Hope to change out the floor with my hubby sometime this year when we’re both free for a big project. And then we’ll reconsider lighting above the island, where there’s currently a fan with down-lights.

For now, at least, here’s the whole shebang in BEFORE and AFTER shots —

BEFORE:

AFTER:

 BEFORE:

AFTER:

BEFORE:

AFTER:

 I’m so happy with it! I love the sense of lightness from the white and the warmth and organic feel of the wood, just as I had hoped :).



Something old, something new, something borrowed, and I’m not blue — Part II


[Found items of mine: hand-carved bowl]

I love wood. I love its warmth and smoothness, its variations in color and grain, its functionality. I love its surprising beauty in various forms. And so, as I mentioned in my last post, the beautiful wood butcher block on my newly-acquired (via Craigslist) kitchen island got my mental gears turning.

Photo: Crate and Barrel

Hmmm, I thought. “I’ve been wanting to put up shelves beneath the kitchen window. What if I make them out of butcher block, just for the fun of it?” So I asked my hubby, who regularly drives past IKEA, to pick up a Lagan countertop for me. Simple enough.

But my online search to learn about Lagan countertops opened up a Pandora’s box of ideas. What if instead of just making shelves, we changed out the whole countertop with this great butcher block?

Thus begins the “SOMETHING BORROWED” section of this series — a handful of favorite kitchen pics I found online with their butcher block countertops. It didn’t take long to learn that I love the wood/white cabinet combination. (Click on a photo to link to the website where it originated.)

[Photo: Canadian House and Home]

Above: Rustic table, open cabinet fronts, farm sink — all made so welcoming by the lovely countertop.

[Photo: Southern Living]

Above: I appreciate the simplicity of this small, cheery space.

[Photo: this & that]

Above: I think the darker wood is gorgeous, although I don’t know that I’d do it in my own kitchen. This countertop also  has my absolute favorite finish on the wood — she used Waterlox over a stain.

[Photo: Better Homes and Gardens]

Above: I especially like the island painted in a contrasting color. I don’t like the blackboards and the ruffles are too sweet for me, but the TULIPS redeem those small faults.

[Photo: Meet My Ugly Baby]

Above: This is from a great blog about renovating a Vancouver apartment. Fun and interesting!

[Photo: Architectural Digest Online]

Above: I just want to stand at this window and finish arranging those flowers from the garden. Wait! I can do this at my OWN house! Soon on my own butcher block counter!

[Photo: Buckboard Hill Interiors]

Above: This kitchen beckons, “Come away for the weekend!”

[Photo: via Pinterest via google.com; unable to locate original]

Above: I like the use of one main color to balance out the white. (If anyone knows the origin of this photo, please let me know.)

[Photo: The Old Painted Cottage]

Above: Every time I see this, I want to whip up some cinnamon rolls and call the family down for breakfast.

Turns out I sent my hubby back to IKEA for two more Lagan countertops (an incredible deal at $59 for 8′). I figured I could come back to the shelves-under-the-window idea. But now I had my sights on bigger things…

Something old, something new, something borrowed, and I’m not blue — Part I

This post is not about wool, not about sheep, not about sewing. But it IS about recycling. Specifically, it’s about recycling our kitchen and its original-to-1984 cabinets.

Here are the BEFORE photos, taken on a snowy February day:

I actually tackled these cabinets once before, about 10 years ago — I stripped and refinished them, repairing a couple chipped panels, and sealed them with polyurethane. They have held up great, seeing our family from grade school through college.

But a few factors got me started thinking about change again:

1. Our almond-colored laminate countertops were showing their age.

2.My husband gave me beautiful white dishes (Crate and Barrel’s Aspen) for Christmas.

3. A Craigslist search produced the island in these photos, filling our previously bare middle space and inspiring me with its butcher block top.

4. I read about Rustoleum’s Cabinet and Countertop Transformation kits.

Hmmm, it doesn’t look all that bad from far away — but I was ready for something different and eager to take advantage of the wonderful light of these south- and west-facing windows. I’ll share our kitchen’s change(s) with you guys bit by bit, the same way that I undertake them: as ideas come and as time permits!  So stay tuned for Part II…