The Wonderful World of Sock Monkeys!

Posts tagged “mid century

A couple of housewarming gifts from bits of the house!

My friend EJ and her husband recently purchased a new house circa 1961. The house needed work, but EJ is always up to a challenge and she had great ideas to modernize it while leaving a lot of the wonderful mid century details intact. She enlisted my help on the project, and we had a great time knocking out walls, painting, restoring wood floors and trim, more painting, and of course, SHOPPING for new stuff!

Many years ago some different friends of mine were putting new flooring into their old house, and unearthed that cool old linoleum they used to do with borders or to make into the appearance of rugs. It was all cracked and broken, but I saved a couple of the prettier pieces, squared them up and framed them, and gave them to them as found “art”, and a reminder of the old. So remembering that, I started “shopping” all the junk that we were ripping out and throwing out of EJ’s place. The kitchen ended up being a goldmine of project and crafting bits, I just needed them to reveal what they were waiting to be transformed into.

The previous owners had decided to “Victorianize” their very ’60s kitchen by applying layer upon layer of decorative moldings and trims to the cabinets. It might not have been so hideous if they’d actually finished the project, but they seemed to run out of steam and never bothered to PAINT the raw wood trim, and in some cases, didn’t bother to nail it up either, but “secured” it in place with blue painters tape – UGH. Well I knew some of the decorative trim was a definite keeper, and started squirreling bits of it away right from the start.

The original 1961 linoleum counters in the kitchen were in nice shape, but they had to go!

The original 1961 linoleum counters in the kitchen were in nice shape, but they had to go!

One cool thing about the kitchen was it still had the original countertops intact! They weren’t perfect, but they were a wonderful ’60s snapshot of decorator chic – white with tiny leaves of aqua, coral, chocolate and chartreuse with a sprinkle of gold across it all. Once those slabs of old formica were ripped out I knew I had to put a couple chunks into my treasure bag too.

The last bit of inspiration came from the electrical wiring. The kitchen had these bizarre and ultra-dangerous electrical outlets – a double plug per outlet that weren’t even grounded! In fact they were so scary, the building inspector told EJ he couldn’t sign off on the safety of the kitchen because the plugs had to be replaced – no questions asked. This was the perfect little bit of kitchen inspiration and nostalgia I needed to move forward.

Quick and easy trivet!

Quick and easy trivet!

The first item was quick and simple. My handy work friend, Marc, trimmed a piece of wood with decorative molding and we glued a piece of the formica on top to become a trivet. It’s really a decorative trivet because this old formica can burn or melt if something hot gets on it, but it looks pretty cute and I know EJ will find a use for it. I just needed to fill the nail holes with spackle, sand and paint – easy.

The shadowbox made from "Victorian" cabinet trim - what were they thinking?

The shadowbox made from “Victorian” cabinet trim – what were they thinking?

The second project I envisioned was a “shadowbox” to showcase the cool but crazy dangerous plug. Marc made me a little box,trimmed it with the decorative wood, and I had him back it with the formica. Some more spackle, sanding and painting and it’s a pretty dang cute little piece of art for the kitchen wall, isn’t it?

Doesn't this ungrounded, kitchen outlet scream "FIRE HAZARD!"?

Doesn’t this ungrounded, crazy FOUR PLUG kitchen outlet just scream “FIRE HAZARD!”?

You could easily use these ideas as a starting off point for your own craft projects made from parts of the old house. I used the formica, wood pieces and an electrical outlet, but there are dozens of bits you could salvage for housewarming gifts or from a remodel project of your own: cabinet knobs or pulls, house numbers, old shingles, decorative wood trim and molding from baseboards or ceilings, fireplace bricks – the list is endless and your imagination is going to go crazy with it once you put your creating hat on. In fact I’ve got quite a few bits of decorative wood trim available and some small glass tiles – maybe a birdhouse?

I like the way this turned out so much, I wish I'd made one for myself!

I like the way this turned out so much, I wish I’d made one for myself!


Mid Century Modern – Amanda the Sock Monkey

It’s another summer RING at Seattle Opera (you can read all about that if you click here), and as this is the third one I’ve worked since 2005, lots of my favorite singers are back in town, including several who own my sock monkeys! You can click on the following to see my creations for performers Greer Grimsley, Gordon Hawkins and Rosetta Greek. But I’ve never posted pictures of the monkey I made for the super talented Luretta Bybee.

Luretta is a southern lady. She’s beautiful, charming, gracious, is a Chair of Vocal Arts at the New England Conservatory, has a wonderful sense of humor and she’s a mezzo-soprano opera star with a heavenly voice. A couple years back, Seattle Opera produced a new work, Amelia, and Luretta was cast as Amanda, a 1960s homemaker who was the mother of the show’s namesake, Amelia. I’d worked with her on several shows before this, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity for her to get her own monkey.

Now you could put Luretta in a tin can and she’d look gorgeous, but she literally stepped out of a guest starring role on the Donna Reed show in her striped shirtwaist dress, pearls, and flip hairstyle – she looked amazing. The dress was pretty easy to do, but the collar was a little tricky on the smaller scale. I decided to cut it from felt and top stitch it to the dress rather than trying to do it “for real” – the notched collar was more work than I wanted to do and the felt gave it the same look as the costume. The apron was easy, but I added a hanky because my grandmother always had one in her apron or smock pocket and I think Amanda would have used one too. The character wore a locket, and I found the tiniest one I could for her. I put a little picture of her real husband – opera superstar Greer Grimsley – as well as her stage husband – the phenomenal tenor, Bill Burden – into the locket so she’d have them both close to her little monkey heart. Then I stitched on some “pearls” for earrings and got my friend Anne McGowan in the hair and makeup department to create the perfect little ’60s flip hairstyle for her. She’s awesome!

Luretta with Amanda "in progress"

Luretta with Amanda “in progress”

 

When I got ready to do the photo of her, I envisioned her standing at a stove with a pot holder in hand. Since sock monkeys don’t really have fingers to hold anything, I created an oven mitt for her, and posed her in front of my mom’s childhood toy stove from the 1940s. Let me tell you, this is no cheap Easy Bake oven, but an electric stove with a HOT hot plate and an oven with a working thermostat – my brothers and I used to make burgers in a tiny frying pan on it when we were kids. It was exactly what Amanda needed and the photo is perfect!

 

Amanda cookin' up a storm! Photo by Rozarii Lynch

Amanda cookin’ up a storm! Photo by Rozarii Lynch

Luretta was so happy to get her little Amanda, and Greer told me later that it ended up costing him a lot of money because Luretta wanted to redecorate their music room to display his Wotan monkey with her. Now seriously, am I really responsible for that?

With my pal Luretta - 7/4/2013

With my pal Luretta – 7/4/2013


Upholstery class – week #3…..and redecorating!

Well not a huge update this week, other than the fact that this was the last class and I DIDN’T FINISH MY CHAIR! I guess it’s not that big of a deal, as a couple ladies in my class were taking it for the second time and one was taking it a third time (although she was working on a pair of channel-backed chairs, which is quite difficult). So even though I hoped to finish it in three weeks, I’ll be signing up for one more round.

Adding more batting to the seat

Adding more batting to the seat

The first step was to add more batting to the seat bottom. I wanted the seat to sit up higher, and other than just making the cushion fatter, this will help beef it up. Then I had to put new batting on the arm and “reshape” it because of the snack my mom’s dogs had made of it. IMG_4120

At that point I was ready to start on the sides. My instructor did some magical calculations about how what size the piece of fabric needed to be. I really don’t understand how he came up with it, probably because too much MATH was involved, but however he did it, it was the right size. I was given this tool to push the IMG_4121fabric under the arm frame and to the back to attach it. It looked like a long, thick ruler  that was kind of beveled, and had the highly technical name of “stuffing stick.” After using it and getting everything tacked down correctly, I managed to get the other side cut out before class was over. There was a lot of extra stuffing going on for the front panels as well to get things “filled out”. I’m still amazed at how little sewing there is for upholstering – more stretching, tacking and stapling than I’d imagined. But I can see how the chair is going to look now and I’m excited!

The highly specific "stuffing stick"

The highly specific “stuffing stick” in action

I started to imagine some needed decor changes at home featuring the new chair, and if I change one thing, then a whole bunch of other stuff will need updating too, right? I’m envisioning some new paint in the living room, and I’m working a trade for an amazing 1960s “Declaration” secretary made by Drexel. Designed by Kip Stewart and Stewart MacDougall, the designers looked at creating a a clear modern aesthetic, while relating to Shaker furniture and the Shakers’ desire that the construction details of furniture be visible. This is a brilliant design, because it appeals to modernists and traditionalists, alike. And, it’s frickin’ FANTASTIC! If you are into mid-century furniture and/or design at all, you’ve gotta check out my favorite new website, retro renovation.

The great '60s secretary I'm working a trade for

The great ’60s secretary I’m working a trade for

Of course I will have to have a chair to sit on when I use the desk part, so I bought another chair to work on! I couldn’t pass it up – a beautiful mid-century Gunlocke arm/desk chair I snagged for only $5 on craigslist. It’s going to look great with the new secretary, and it should be an easier project to tackle (famous last words) as it only needs a small back and seat, and I know I can find some great coordinating fabric to go with my armchair. And I’ve got a great ’50s rattan chair that needs a little work, then I’ll need to tackle the beatiful Danish Modern sofa that’s been languishing in the garage the last three years (it was FREE – I HAD to get it!), but maybe that’s a project for a real upholsterer…..

My $5 craigslist score

My $5 craigslist score

This blog is just a little insight into the tangential way my mind works – from sock monkeys to crafts to furniture reupholstery then redecorating the house, I suppose it’s really not that big a surprise that I have so many unfinished projects and millions of ideas without the hours needed in a day to finish them. And I haven’t even gotten to COOKING yet! For that, you can check out my other blogs – COOKWITHSCOTT.COM and my blog for the Seattle P.I. newspaper. It gets a bit crazy trying to fit it all in on top of working, doesn’t it?

My chair's gonna look GREAT!

My chair’s gonna look GREAT!