Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Children's Book Rail for Nursery

The inspiration for this project came from Emaline's Elephant Nursery on Project Nursery. Similarly, I planned to put up 5 picture rails, however after installing 4 I decided to skip the bottom one for now in case I find a small side table I'd rather use next to the glider.

Children's Book Rail for Nursery
I used the Ikea Ribba Picture Ledge in White, in the longest length, 115cm.


Putting these up is fairly straightforward, but here's how I did it to ensure the shelves were perfectly lined up and level.

Decide where to position each rail.

First, I determined that most of the tallest children's books were 10 - 11 inches high. I wanted at least an inch and a half between the top of a tall book and the next rail, so I opted to position the rails 13" apart, leaving a gap of about 12 and a half inches between rails for books.

I then calculated 13"x 5 = 65" as the total height of the finished look, since I was planning to put up 5 rails. I roughly wanted the top of the topmost books to line up with the top of the closet door frame, and the bottom rail to be sightly above the outlets on the wall. 65" was slightly taller than the space I had, so I moved it up a couples of inches until I was happy with the space taken.

Determine the centre of the rail

Try to find a stud where you'd like to centre your picture rails. If you can't find one in the centre, then attempt for either one of the two sides. I was planning to centre the rails on the wall, but opted to move the rails over two inches to the left to secure the centre screw of each rail into a stud.

Select an appropriate centre point based on your success finding a stud.

Position the top-most rail

Position the top rail at the correct height so that the top of books will line up or be just above the average door frame in your room. With a pencil, mark the wall where the centre screw needs to be placed according to the centre point determined above.

Mark out the centre screw for all shelves

Use a level with a ruler to measure out the distance between shelves. So from that pencil mark, I measured straight down 13", ensured it was level then marked the wall.

Measuring distance between picture rails using a level
Measuring distance between picture rails using a level
Repeat for all shelves. If you have 5 shelves, you should have 5 pencil marks on the wall when you're done.

Mount the rails

  1. Screw in the rails one at a time. Start with the centre screw, but don't tighten it completely.
  2. Place the level on the shelf and tilt the shelf until its level. 

  3. Remove the level and screw the centre screw in tightly. Screw in the left and rightmost screws.
  4. Repeat for all of your shelves.
Mounted shelves

Fill with children's books!

And finally, the crowning moment, position your children's books! Lay out the tall ones across multiple shelves first, distributing similar books to balance out the look of the shelves. Layer books on top, progressively getting smaller until you've positioned all of your books.
Ikea Ribba picture rails with children's books
Ikea Ribba picture rails with children's books
I simply love the pop of colour this adds to the nursery!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tutorial: Back-Tab Blackout Curtains

DIY Back-Tab Blackout Curtains

DIY Back-Tab Blackout Curtains

After hours of scouring for elegant yet fun blackout curtains for the nursery, I opted to make my own with fabric I found online. The finished panels are about 55" wide by 91". The width is convenient as the fabric comes in about 56" widths which means one less seam to try and cut perfectly straight.

The most difficult part is handling such a large amount of fabric! I highly recommend setting yourself up on a table that can accommodate the full width of the panel, ideally rectangular. Also, I don't think I would make panels this large with a sewn-in blackout liner again. With this much fabric, it would have been simpler to sew the panels and then purchase hook-on blackout panels from any hardware store or Walmart. If you decide to go that route, buy them before making your panels. You'll need to make sure your panels are slightly wider than these, and that they have the same amount of tabs as the blackout has loops and are spaced equally as well. 

As you'll see from the pictures below, I am not a professional seamstress, and I use tools I have from around the house. Happy sewing!


Prepare the fabric

Although the lining I selected isn't officially washable, I opted to pre-wash and dry the decorative fabric on low (Fabric.com recommends hang drying) to pre-shrink it in case I decide to brave washing them with the lining in the future. You can skip this step if you don't plan to wash these anytime soon or if the fabric you're using is dry-clean only.

Cut the fabric and lining

Tip: If your fabric is very wrinkled, you may want to iron it prior to cutting.


Cut the blackout lining to desired size of the finished panel. Because it will be directly tucked and sewn into the decorative fabric, there is no need to allow for additional seam allowance. In my case, the fabric was exactly 54" wide. To save myself trouble, I decided not to cut down the width, and only cut it on the length to 91". I used a square  to mark a straight line across with a pencil and then cut along it using scissors.

Using a square and large ruler to mark the fabric

Decorative Fabric
I wanted each panel to be 91" long, so I measured out 101": 91" length + 5″ for the bottom hem and 5″ for the top hem.

Position the lining

  1. Position the top of the lining exactly 5 inches from the top of the decorative fabric.
  2. Center the lining between the sides of the decorative fabric.

Pin the lining in place

Iron and fold each side of the decorative fabric over the lining twice, about 1/2" then another half an inch, and pin all along the side. Repeat on the other side.

Lining pinned in place along both sides

Sew the side seams

Simply sew along the edge, holding it tightly as you feed it through to help ensure the panel is straight and the fabric doesn't slip.

Side seam sewn with lining in place

Pin the top of the panel with back tabs in place

  1. Fold over and iron an inch from the top, ensuring that you still have 4 inches between the lining and the edge of the folded fabric. 
  2. Fold and iron the remaining 4 inches over the lining for a nice polished look. Use a square to verify that your panel is still straight after you fold it over, adjust if required. My corners were not perfectly square, so I cheated and tucked in the side edges as well to ensure it doesn't show on the front.
    Ensure the top is 4" wide
  3. Cut the correct number of back tabs for each panel. For 55" panels, I use 10 each, for a total of 20 back tabs. Each has a length of 6". I'm using leftover ribbon since it won't show, and have a variety of colours, but you can use a single one, whatever you have so long as its between 1 and 2" in width and all tabs are the same width.
  4. Pin the two side backtabs in an inch from the edge. Tuck one side of the tab under where you've folded in an inch of the fabric, and then fold the top down twice before pinning to the top of the panel.
    Pin the side back tabs an inch from each edge
  5. Calculate the spacing distance between each remaining back tab. Measure the distance between the two pinned back tabs. In my case, this distance was 51 1/4 because my panel is actually 55" 1/4. I have 8 tabs left to place, and each is exactly an inch wide, so Each backtab should be between 5 and 6 inches apart.
    ((Distance between side tabs) - ((Number of remaining back tabs) x (Width of back tab))) / (Number of remaining back tabs) = (Space between back tabs)
    (51 1/4 - (8 x 1)) / 8 = 5.41"
  6. Position back tabs according to the distance calculated above. Its hard to be precise to 5.41", so I chose to pin one to each side working my way towards the middle since I figured it'd be less obvious if the middle was slightly off rather then one side. 
    Pin each back tab 5" - 6" apart

Sew the top of the panel

Sew all four edges of the top. Start with the bottom seam and then continue along the side, the top, and finally the last side.
Sew along bottom seam
You now have a single panel complete on three sides, only requiring the bottom edge to be hemmed.

Complete the same 3 edges of the second panel

I have little faith in my ability to make perfect-length panels, so here's how I cheated: I made both panels, leaving the bottom edge unsewn. I then hung them on the curtain rod (prior to installing the curtain rod in my case) to verify the final length. Finally, I marked the actual length I wanted with a pencil on both panels, instead of the exact 91" I had previously measured. The rod we're using is quite fat, so the curtains were about two inches shorter than I intended for them to be. It means I have a small area that isn't lined at the bottom, but I think that's a worthwhile compromise as it doesn't show. The curtains are the absolute perfect length, and the rod is located exactly where I wanted to hang it, mid-way between the top of the window and the ceiling.

Hem the curtains

For preparation, follow the same instructions as the top, skipping the backtabs. If you've adjusted the length, then you may need to adjust how much you fold over as a result.

To sew the bottom, sew only the top seam, you don't need to sew the absolute bottom edge or side edges.
Completed bottom hem


And did I mention iron?

Blackout back-tab curtains


Decorative fabric. I used Premier Prints Fancy Dot Twill Mint.
Lining fabric. I used Roc-Lon® Blackout Drapery Lining White.
Ribbon, bias tape or extra fabric for the back tabs, should be between 1" and 2" in width
Sewing machine and thread
Iron and a surface to iron on
A square and/or long ruler


OnlineFabricStore.net: How to Sew Lined Back Tab Curtains (Tutorial)
Tutorial: How to Sew Lined Back-Tab Curtains
Position Curtains: Decorator Alexa Hampton explains how high to hang 'em

Looking for more inspiration? Here are some other tutorials you might like!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Colourful Elephants using Paint Samples and Martha Stewart Punch - Sneak Preview of Baby Shower Favours and Thank You Cards!

Benjamin Moore Paint Samples
Rainbow of Benjamin Moore paint chips!

I started working on colourful gift tags to attach to our baby shower favours, but was really disappointed by the paper I had available at home. I was just about ready to head over to Michaels, when I discovered these colourful paint chips.

We picked these up from Benjamin Moore to decide on the colour of the now painted turquoise dresser, and held onto them as we haven't decided if we'll be painting the nursery yet.
Martha Stewart Crafts Double Embossed Punch Elephant
Martha Stewart Crafts Double Embossed Punch, Elephant

I gave using these a try with my new Martha Stewart Crafts elephant punch. If elephants aren't your style, they have an owl, butterfly, ladybug and all sorts of other cute shapes.

From each colour, I was able to punch two to three elephants depending on the size of the colour name on the paint sample.

And wow, am I ever after happy with the results! These will definitely get used for the baby shower favours and thank you cards, but there's a good chance I'll be using these for some nursery art as well.

How cute is the gradient of colour!

Martha Stewart Crafts Punch Elephant DIY
Able to get at least 8 elephants from each paint chip
Martha Stewart Crafts Punch Elephant
Yellow gradient of elephants
Martha Stewart Crafts Punch Elephant Baby Shower
More elephants!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Buying Used Baby Items on Kijiji and UsedEverywhere

Baby items can be very expensive. Moreover, some items are only useful for the first 6 months of their lives! While you're working on your baby registry, I recommend deciding which items you'd be comfortable receiving used, and setting up automatic searches on the most popular used sites in your area. In Ottawa, Kijiji is more heavily used so I set up a number of alerts and have purchased a significant amount of the items on my registry this way.

Using alerts

Alerts are daily emails which list all items that were posted in the past 24 hours and match your search criteria. When used with good search criteria, these are very easy to manage. They all arrive around the same time, I find usually very early in the morning, so you can easily make it part of your morning routine to review new items and respond to the ones that you're interested in purchasing.

To activate an alert in Kijiji, you first have to search for the item you're looking for either using search criteria or by browsing in a category. Once your search is set up with all of the criteria you;re interested in, press the yellow 'Sign Up' button on the left hand side, and then confirm in a dialog that you do indeed want to receive an alert for this search.

Kijiji will allow you to set up alerts without creating a Kijiji account, but you'll then need to activate each subscription via email, so I personally prefer to log in using my account when setting up alerts. UsedEverywhere requires an account.

Using RSS feeds

RSS (Rich Site Summary) is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. If you're not familiar with feeds, this option is kind of like keeping the search page open and hitting the refresh button whenever you feel like it. The advantage of RSS feeds is that they can be checked at any time, and they don't generate additional email. If you're after a highly coveted item, checking search results often can sometimes be the only way to obtain it, especially if its listed at an unbelievable price.

I personally have not used this method, but I do recommend it as there are a few items I obtained by sheer luck of having searched within moments of these being posted. As the first responder, willing to pick up the item right away, I was able to secure my Uppababy Cruz stroller and bassinet at great prices because of some well-timed searching.

To subscribe to RSS feeds, you'll need to use a reader, such as Feedly. Once you have an account set up in the reader, you can start subscribing to feeds. To subscribe to a Kijiji RSS feed, use the orange RSS link found near the bottom right of a search or category listing page. Right click the image and copy the link from that button into your RSS reader.

I highly recommend categorizing all Kijiji or UsedEveywhere feeds into a single category, so they are easy to manage, hide, etc should you decide to use your RSS reader for useful reading as well.

Search criteria

The key to successful alerts and RSS feeds is specific search criteria which doesn't return a large amount of results. Don't be more specific than someone posting an ad would be, but specific enough to filter out anything that you wouldn't be interested in.

Keep in mind that you'll be receiving email or new hits in your RSS reader for anything you subscribe to, so you're better off being more specific and missing a hit, unless you're really desperate and willing to sift through a huge amount of items!

Some criteria you might want to filter on to reduce hits:

  • Search words
  • Category
  • Offering only (filter out Wanted)
  • Distance

Here are a few example searches for which I set up email alerts, after which I successfully purchased items. Note that all of these searches are also limited in location to Ottawa/Gatineau.

Oxo Sprout High Chair

  • Kijiji search: http://www.kijiji.ca/b-buy-sell/ottawa/oxo-sprout/k0c10l1700185?ad=offering
  • Search words: Oxo Sprout - Notice I left out high chair or chair, because I don't trust that everyone spells it correctly or the same way. Some people write highchair. 
  • Category: Buy and Sell - Oxo is an uncommon word unlikely to have false positives outside of the baby item category, so I decided to limit the search to Buy and Sell but not any further. 
  • Offering only

This search proved to be perfect -- I received no false hits. The only results I received were for the exact chair I wanted, and I only had to look at the price and the condition of the item to decide whether I wanted to buy it. By responding to an ad after receiving my daily alert, I was able to purchase this $350 high chair for $125!
Tip: You can subscribe for an alert even if your search has no hits! Just because an item matching your criteria isn't posted now, doesn't mean it won't be in the future. This is what I did for the high chair.
Jolly Jumper Rocking Bassinet Stand

  • Kijiji search: http://www.kijiji.ca/b-ottawa-gatineau-area/jolly-jumper-bassinet-stand/k0l1700184?ad=offering
  • Search words: Jolly Jumper Bassinet Stand - Note that I was more specific than I was with the high chair here, because jolly jumper makes a number of other items I wasn't interested in purchasing. 
  • Category: Buy and Sell - Not any more specific because this way I still get garage sale hits and jolly jumper won't pick up any false positives in categories like electronics!
  • Offering only

This search generated a lot of hits, all valid, but I chose to purchase it only when I saw one listed in excellent condition at the price I was willing to pay. In retrospect, I could have adjusted my search to have a maximum price and saved myself a few emails!

Maternity Clothing

This search is different, as it's much less specific in terms of its search words, and I use the category to filter it down more appropriately. As a result, I receive emails for this search very couple of days, which I've decided I'm ok with. The criteria:

This search definitely generates more hits, but has proven to be worth the extra email sifting. I purchased beautiful designer maternity jeans for less than a third of the full price, as well as The M Coat. I wasn't even certain I wanted the M Coat when I received the notification, but the price was reasonable so I replied, tried it on in store when trying on all of the panel options, and decided that this jacket was worth the extra money. The jacket that was posted was in pristine condition and had only been used a couple of months, and I got it for half of the retail price. This jacket is also fully washable, so had it been in poorer condition I may have considered negotiating for a lower price and washing it prior to wearing it.

A few additional tips

Certain baby items have recommendations and regulations applicable to them, such as cribs, bassinets and car seats. For these, you should take some time to familiarize yourself with the regulations and decide what you're comfortable purchasing used.


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