Monday, November 23, 2015

Prime Time


All of the parts of the plaster tile that I can reach have been resurfaced and primed. 

Next up: painting the tiles to look like fake ceramic. 

Unfortunately, this work is terrible for my neck and back, and I've been battling headaches all weekend. It's slow going. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Grout Expectations


Please tell me that you can see an improvement.  Please tell me that I'm doing admirable work. Please lie to me if you have to. 

I just need to hear that spending all this time contorted around our toilet was somehow worth it. 

Chopping Apart, and Stitching Together One's Knitting


After having knitted thousands and thousands of stitches, it's more than a bit daunting to intentionally chop apart one's knitting. 

Hopefully, all the stabilizing crochet stitches will do their job, and this garment won't self-destruct. 

It's very gratifying to sew up the sleeves. 

A lot of people complain about the finishing tasks of knitting, but I genuinely enjoy sewing everything together. 

There's still quite a bit to do. But it's actually looking like a garment. 

And of course, the cats are very helpful. 

Nothing is more soothing than having a cat jump on one's project at the exact moment when everything could be ruined.  Like, for example, when one is cutting apart one's handmade knitwear. 

The cats are drunk on wool fumes. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tiles and Tribulations


I've spent the better part of this weekend, sprawled around a vintage commode, trying to improve the sorry state of my bathroom walls. 

The paint on the walls was barely attached, and I was able to remove quite a lot of it with a carefully deployed razor blade. 

The trick is to remove the loose paint without damaging the plaster "tiles."  

After the wall is cleaned up, I masked around half the "tiles" so that they could be selectively resurfaced. 

I'm applying a custom mix of joint compound, white glue, and paint. It's something I've used for years in theatrical construction. My goal is to smooth out the irregularities in the surface with a material that's strong, relatively waterproof, and somewhat flexible. I'm putting on a remarkably thin coat. The white squares have been "schmooed" and the first pass of masking tape has been removed. I'll repeat the process, evening out all the times, before I start painting. 

Meanwhile, Robb has been examining our fancy "new" green toilet. We have never swapped out a toilet before, which just adds to the fun. 

Anyone who has any great advice about maneuvering antique commodes into tight spaces is more than welcome to stop by to help.  

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Another Saturday Spent With My Head Wedged Under The Toilet


Maybe some blog readers are wild party animals. Or maybe they have vague memories of their misspent youths.   So, when I tell you that I spent part of my weekend with my head on the floor next to the toilet, you may be picturing a few too many cocktails the night before.

Alas, it wasn't the partying and champagne that landed me in this undignified situation. 

It was the sorry state of our bathroom walls, and my inability to remove paint from behind our toilet tank. 

It turns out that it's not terribly difficult to temporarily remove a toilet tank. I'm going to run through the steps, for the benefit of any other old-home owners who might be reading this blog. The rest of y'all can read about my travails and feel smug, if you want. 

Before work can commence, the water tank must be drained. The water supply is turned off at the wall, the toilet is flushed, and then a towel is placed inside the tank to absorb any excess water. 

In the case of our vintage toilet, there are two attachment point:  the water intake, and a large bolt which holds the tank to the base. 

First I unscrewed a large brown plastic fitting. Then I eased a few o-rings out of the way. 

Then I removed the white plastic coupling. I was certain that I was going to get soaked at this point, but we'd done a good enough job with the preemptive towel, that no water was spilled. 

(I'm not the only person who has an irrational aversion to the water in a toilet tank, am I?  Logically, I know that the water's potable. But any time I have to reach in to the tank, I'm convinced that I need to scrub my hands afterwards like a modern-day Lady Macbeth.)

The next step was to remove the nut that secures the bolt that holds the tank in place. 

I'd never crawled under my toilet before. I certainly had never crawled under it, to scrub the underside of the water tank. 

Don't judge. I'll bet the underside of your toilet's water tank isn't spotless, either. 

After all the connectors were loosened, I carefully lifted off the tank. It weighed a ton, and the entire maneuver was pretty damn graceless. 

With all this done, I'm back to scraping off decades of failing paint. 

And at least for the moment, our bathroom looks like the men's room in a dive bar. 

I'll bet you wish you had my life. Because I am a freaking PRINCESS.  If only I could dislodge my tiara from behind the loo.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Pile Of Denial


Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not afraid of an ambitious project. I tend to attack these projects fearlessly, and with no roadmap. 

I'm not afraid to go on long excursions into terra incognito. I enjoy the challenge of figuring things out. 

But occasionally this gets me into trouble, and I stall. 

I had been working on this elaborate cable-knit sweater, when our house became infested with moths. It was carnage. The amount of wool (and alpaca) that was destroyed was staggering. And among the casualties was this partially-finished pullover. 

While I'm generally fearless about initiating complex projects, I discovered that I was totally demoralized by the prospect of repairing a garment I hadn't even finished. The moth infestation truly upset me. So I did what any resourceful knitter would do: I turned to Ravelry. There I found a lovely local knitter, who genuinely enjoyed complex darning projects. 

She did a beautiful job of repairing this fiendishly complicated (and hairy!) project. And Robb and I waged war on the moths. 

And before I could finish knitting, the moths attacked again. 

I felt utterly defeated. I threw the pieces of this garment into an airtight container, chucked in a handful of mothballs, and stuffed the whole thing into the darkest recesses of my closet. 

I consigned the sweater to the Pile of Denial. 

But winter is coming, and I couldn't ignore this project forever. So I dug it out, sewed up the sleeves and shoulder seams, and set to work darning moth holes. 

I'm not finished, but I'm almost there. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Sinking to New Lows


Because I can't ignore it forever, I've resumed work on the restoration of our bathroom's 1920s plaster tile. I had such a busy year at work that the last thing I wanted to do after a grueling twelve-hour day of painting was more grueling painting. 

There's no way of glamorizing this. It's miserable work. I'm contorting myself into the tightest corners of my bathroom. 

Our bathroom has an interesting wall surface: fake "tiles" made out of plaster. The original installers were real masters of their craft. They must have smoothed on the plaster, and then incised the lines that simulate the spaces between tile. I imagine that in its day, this was a cheaper option than actual ceramic tile. 

I'm restoring all of the damaged "tile" faces.  I tape around each unit, and then smooth on a mixture of joint compound, glue, and paint. It's not the same material as the original plaster, but it's something I've used for years with great success. 

After I "schmoo" the tiles, I'll sand them and then prime then.  After that, I'll paint them to look like glazed ceramic tiles. 

What I find so interesting about our little house is how it was originally built with fairly humble materials. But the building industry has changed so radically since the 1920s, that we couldn't hope to afford this house, if we were to build it today. 

To put that another way: I'm happy to do this rather hateful work, because I could never be able to pay anyone else to do it for me. 


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