Adding Curb Appeal

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Curb appeal before and after

I have hesitated to post this transformation, only because I feel like it is still a process and there is so much I still want to do. But I am going to go ahead and share what we have done so far in adding curb appeal to the home we are renting.

Here’s the story: Nearly 2 years ago, we wanted a larger home because our third child was about to be born, and we wanted a yard for our kids to play in. Our condo didn’t provide that, but we couldn’t sell due to the economy. About the same time, the rental home my parents own (in the same city), became vacant and they were looking for new renters. We decided to rent our condo out and in turn rent from my parents. And yes, it has been a good experience for us renting from family- hopefully it has been for them too.

The house we live in has good bones, but it has been a rental for several years and it was starting to see some wear and tear, not to mention the fact that rentals usually just don’t exude the same TLC that owner-occupied homes often do. So, because I love it when my surroundings are beautiful, and because we wanted to help my parents by leaving the house better than we found it, we have been making repairs, improvements, and doing many things to increase the value and curb appeal of our home.

To give you an idea of how it looked before, here are some pictures that show the unfinished porch.

House before

This was before we moved in, when there were other people living there.

You can see in the pictures above and below that the wood is unfinished, and actually has multi-colored paint splatters on the steps.  The door is scraped up and sad looking. :(

kids on porch

Two Easters ago. My boys and niece (notice the matching ties and flower sash that we made that year!)

On the inside, there are two sidelight windows that I love because they do let a lot of light in, but they didn’t allow for any privacy (like hiding from sales people… just sayin’) and I hated them at night because you could see right in from the street.

windows before

So the windows were the very first project I tackled, since that seemed like a priority, and wasn’t too overwhelming. After quite a bit of research,  the best solution for me was to use these sidelight magnetic window curtain rods (the length is adjustable, and they also have an adhesive, which might work if your surface isn’t magnetic) which I ordered online. In my fabric stash, I had some very looooong scraps of sheer white material with some texture, and I decided that would allow light in perfectly while still obscuring the view into the house from outside.

windows covered

I am still happy with how that project turned out over a year later.

Side door window treatments

The view from outside: improved by the fabric panels and a wreath, but still going to need some TLC.

Back outside, the grass was pretty dead because the house had been vacant for a while and the water had been turned off, so dead lawn and weeds were the story.

sad lawn

We started doing lawn aeration, Weed and Feed, and putting seed down in the spring and fall. This is still a work in progress, and I’ll show pictures further down.

Next, the porch was in desperate need of staining. We sanded with a coarse grit paper and power sander because there was so much bleaching, splintering, and weather staining. We also prepped the wood with a special cleaner/ wood stripper.

Sanding the porch

We taped off the edges and began staining the wood using a semi-transparent, weather proofing stain by Behr (the color is called “Padre Brown”) which allowed the grain of the wood to show through but hid some of the imperfections- it was the perfect solution to meet our particular needs.  Luckily, as I was 9 months pregnant at the time, we didn’t have to do it all alone. We had kind family members and neighbors who were kind enough to pitch in a help.

lots of help

After we applied two coats of stain to the wood, we were left with a much more attractive looking porch.

after staining

Now it was time to move on to the doors. We had three external doors that were all in dire need of help. The back doors especially, since they were in full afternoon sun each day.

door before

I started this project when family was in town, so I had help from my sister Anna in scraping off the peeling paint. We used putty knives because the paint was bubbled and in some areas, hanging off in sheets.


After scraping the worst of the old paint off, we sanded the wood trim smooth. The doors are metal, so we didn’t sand those, just cleaned them thoroughly.

Power Sanding

Anna makes safety glasses and filter masks look good!

Next we taped around the door frame and the door hardware. I bought exterior, semi- gloss paint (suitable for wood and metal both) from Home Depot in Forest Green. I’ve been asked for the details on the specific color a few times, so here’s a picture with the details:

Exterior door paint

I used a medium sized brush on the trim, and a low-nap roller on the door.






This back door was much improved after two coats of paint. I still need to sand and stain the back steps. It’s next on my list. :)

door after

Both doors painted:

both doors

I used the same color on all three doors for cohesiveness. As you can see, we also over the past year and a half have added patio furniture, planters by the door, hanging baskets, a nice doormat, and stair treads with glow in the dark stripes to prevent slips and falls. Oh, and we replaced the vent cover on the second floor so there wasn’t a gaping hole in the front of the house. :)

front porch summer

You can also see that the strategy we have been using to revitalize our lawn is working pretty effectively. It still has weeds, but less so, and fewer dead patches. Like I said, it’s still a work in progress. It is a much more inviting space now, though.

Curb Appeal

Next up: staining the back porch and doing something (not sure what yet) with the backyard. What do you think?

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Patio Bench Makeover

Our back patio has been needing a little TLC as of late, and since we are trying to selling the house for my mother I thought giving it an easy and inexpensive patio bench makeover would be just the thing for this sad looking patio.

We decided to build an easy brick fire-pit for the middle of the patio and repaint the bench to match the house color better. The fence behind the bench was rusting and I honestly cannot remember the last time someone painted that old thing. Isn’t it amazing what a little paint can do?! Here are the before and after pictures.

patio makeover

patio makeover

Now that is a bench more appealing to sit on! Time to break out the smores and have a party!

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Quick and Easy Patch Fix


I have one son who wears out the knees on every. pair. of. pants.  I think that is pretty normal for little boys who like to play hard, but I know I’m not the only mom to get frustrated when her sweet boy busts a hole in another brand new pair of pants. :)  And since not every pair of holey pants can become cutoff shorts,  we have started to just patch the holes.  Luckily, there are plenty of versions of patched- knee pants that are in style right now, so it doesn’t look too backwoods.


My son brought his favorite sweatpants to me yesterday and asked me to fix them so sweetly, that I couldn’t resist adding a couple patches during quiet time.


I drew out the shape I wanted for the patches, then I cut out two ovals (since I was patching with knit fabric and I want to avoid the whole patching the patch scenario. Hopefully another layer will add even longer life to the pants.). I made one of the ovals a little larger just to give some color contrast.


I pinned the patches directly on the knees, making sure to only pin through the front of the pant leg. It was a bit tricky to sew around the whole patch, but I sewed one pass around each patch. I think it could also be cute… er, cool- looking to sew some horizontal lines across the patch or do some thread sketching. There you have it- a quick and easy patch fix. :)


Hooray for favorite sweats being fixed!


Bar Stool Re-Cover


A few years ago (umm… maybe like 7), we bought some cheap- but- ok- looking counter height stools from Target (I think). They had a cushion covered in microfiber that I successfully kept clean for several years. Then 3 toddler boys happened. And mod podge. So, yeah,  fast forward to now, and they are filthy and un-cleanable.


Instead of pulling the seat apart and re-upholstering the seat, which was a viable option, I chose to make a removable cover so that next time one of my darling, dear, stinkers wipes the rest of their dinner on the seat I can just throw it in the washer.

I had a ton of sturdy black fabric that used to be a futon cover, and I decided that fabric would work perfectly for this project- waste not, want not!

First I measured the diameter of the bar stools, added about 6 inches, and cut out one circle with the larger diameter for each stool.

Next, I serged around each circle and prepared to sew a casing by pinning the edge in at intervals around the whole circle. I learned of a better method afterward on On The Cutting Floor , that I would use if I had to do it again.Collages5

With the casing done, I threaded elastic through and sewed the ends together. The result looked a lot like a huge gothic shower cap. Haha. Until I put it on the barstool- much better, no?


I think I will spray the covers with Scotch Guard or something similar to cut down on how often I have to wash the covers, but it’s so nice to have the option now!



Ahh, much better, don’t you agree? And free isn’t a bad price for this “Make it do” project.

Maternity Shirt DIY Inspiration

For me, being pregnant has a way of warping time, leaving me somewhat disoriented as each day seems to last forever… but then somehow I find myself 6.5 months pregnant and thinking, “Wait, I still have so much to do before this baby makes his entrance!” Yep, that’s pretty much where I’m at right now, coming up for air as I get some of my energy back and nausea under control.

So, I’m looking at my pile of projects, and maternity clothes are close to the top of my list of things to work on, because my belly has popped out and I have already grown out of some of my maternity shirts. (What?! Aren’t maternity shirts supposed to fit the whole time you’re pregnant?) So while I work on a few sewing projects for me, I thought I would share my inspiration with you, and then when I finish, I can share the results of my dabbling.

This men’s shirt to maternity shirt refashion at Cotton and Curls

This lace tunic top at A Beautiful Mess

Also check out my tutorial I posted last pregnancy on how to refashion a long, stretchy skirt into a maternity shirt:

I hope to post more pregnancy- related projects, including some natural remedy type stuff for dealing with aches and pains without using medicines that are a no-no in pregnancy- so stay tuned!

Baby Girl Refashions

Here’s a quick share of some baby girl refashion ideas…

This set is made of an old maternity shirt (pink stripes) and a bit of an old white Tshirt. (Pardon the phone pictures.)

I made the onesie using an old onesie that I cut apart as my pattern.  The scratch mitts were made from my Infant Scratch Mitt Pattern and Tutorial here, and the tie-top hat was made from Tie Dye Diva’s pattern found on Sew Mama Sew.

Don’t forget the ruffles!  Lots and lots of ruffles.

Flannel burp cloths- yeah, these are not refashions, although some are made from scraps of fabric used to make jammies, but I am including them anyway, because they are a great way to use up small pieces of fabric, and you can make them out of old flannel shirts, pants, even jersey Tshirts.  They can have batting in the middle or not.  I made my own pattern for these, but there are several free versions on blogs- just Google it or check Pinterest!  These tend to be more absorbent than the ones you can buy from the store, so these make nice gifts.

Baby leg warmers made from Dollar Tree socks.  Again, there are several free tutorials out there to make these.

This is a peasant skirt that I tried so hard to like, but it was just too generous in adding bulk around my hips, and… I just don’t need any extra volume in that general area.  So, my hip- fluffing skirt became a sweet little summer dress for my niece who should be arriving in the next few weeks!

The extra material made a nice diaper cover- tutorial found on MADE.

Can’t wait to meet my niece in the very near future!  😀  Think happy, positive childbirth thoughts for Marissa if you will- good karma, right?  Maybe soon I can post pictures of the little miss wearing some of these outfits!

Ugly Duckling T-shirt Transformations

Is it just me, or does everyone have a basket/pile/box/bin of clothes that are technically unwearable as-is, but have tons of potential if reinvented?  (I guess I shouldn’t admit that I actually have three bins full of such articles…)  These four unlovely and unloved shirts came from one of my bins.  Two of them were previously- loved shirts of mine (from an earlier fashion- phase), and two were pre- loved shirts from D.I ($1 each).

I drafted a little pattern for baby leggings and transformed this shirt into a cute pair of lace-bottomed, ruffle-bummed girl leggings (for Marissa’s baby, of course)!

With plenty of leftover fabric, I created this flower headband to match!

Using the same leggings pattern I drafted earlier, I transformed this stretched out sequin trim shirt from “Closet Disco Wannabe” to “Subtle Sparkling Diva”!  Both pairs of leggings were soooo easy to make, since I didn’t have to hem the legs- I just used the fun trims. 

I believe this shirt was previously a men’s size large which had shrunk in the dryer.  I used a T-shirt that I like the size of as a pattern to cut this shirt down to size.  Of the plentiful fabric scraps left over, I made  the flower, stem, and leaves, which I pinned down and sewed over with contrasting thread.

This pink shirt was a women’s size XL which had also shrunk in the washer (I’m assuming, since it fit me just fine when I bought it at D.I.)  I used more of the scraps from the white shirt (which I cut into long strips) to make the swirly designs- you can see how I pinned them onto the shirt on the top right of the picture below.  I also added a little modesty panel because I really hate layering shirts.  I didn’t bother trying to keep the white strips straight; I figured it would have more character if I twisted, and turned the fabric.  I sewed with white thread down the middle of each strip.  This one took a little more time than the rest, but still probably close to an hour, so not too bad!  Since I have worn and washed it a couple times now, I like how the swirls look even more than that “brand new” look.

Want to see some of my other women’s shirt transformations?
Check out this flutter sleeve refashion, this quick modesty refashion, the stripey shirt refashion, this awesome spring shirt refashion, and, should you be interested, a regular T-shirt turned nursing shirt.

Do you have any go-to refashion techniques for shirts?!

Steps to a Wearable Wardrobe: When Your Flutter Sleeves Are Flying Away

How was that for a ridiculously long post title?  It was almost as ridiculous as I feel wearing flutter sleeves.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind them on other people, but it is the wrong sleeve for my arm, and it makes the difference between a cute shirt that gets worn and a mostly- cute shirt that takes up space in my already- full- closet, making my husband raise his eyebrows when I state that I have nothing to wear.

Take this shirt for example.  Cute detail on the neckline, good length, generally flattering- oh wait- those sleeves are going to get me airborne if there is a breeze.  See what I mean?!  Truthfully, it is just a personal preference, but if you have the same quandary as I do, maybe I can help you.

In this refashion, we’ll be transforming a flutter sleeve to a gathered cap sleeve by threading a piece of elastic through the casing of the sleeve hem.

First, inspect your armpit.  No, not yours, your shirt’s!  You’re going to use your seam ripper to cut two tiny slits to thread the elastic through, so you’ll want to determine the placement for those.

You don’t have to mark where you’re going to cut the slits; I just did so you can see where I put them.

Attach a piece of elastic to a safety pin and insert it through the tiny slit you just cut with your seamripper.  If your shirt is made of a stretchy knit fabric, this will be easier.  [I suggest measuring around your upper arm and cutting that exact length on the elastic.  When you sew it together, it will be snug around your arm.  Or just make it whatever length you want.  I’m not here to micromanage you.  :) ]

Thread the elastic all the way through the casing.

Sew the ends of the elastic together any way you can.  It doesn’t have to be pretty.  Clearly.

Slide the ends up into one side of the casing so it doesn’t show.  If you want to be finished with this project already, you can stop here.  Well, after you do the other side of course.

Otherwise, you can take a needle and thread and sew up the slits you made and keep the elastic concealed.


Repeat for the other side, and here’s what we’re looking at:

I like it and it only took about 15 minutes!  So what do you think about flutter sleeves?  Love ’em?  Hate ’em?  Let me know in the comments.  (Hopefully I didn’t alienate anyone with my feelings about flutter sleeves- haha.)