From junk room to study

We’ve been living in our apartment for 18 months now and until today, our spare room still had nothing but an inflatable orange couch, an inflatable kangaroo and a small folding table to keep the modem and router off the floor. The cupboards held an incredible variety of toys, games, motorbike accessories, cables and cords and a ridiculous amount of cardboard boxes being saved for some creative project.

After a year of desperately wanting a desk but being unable to justify the expenditure, I said to Edwin just before Christmas “I need a desk” followed by something stubbornly sulky that represented “now!” Perhaps it was D visiting his mother for the holidays or the December bonus, but either way, I was prepared to shop and spend to get a desk that will ultimately – so I keep telling myself – improve my happiness by giving me a space away from the TV.

Edwin had been planning a day trip to some waterfalls he’d read about a week earlier and was adamant that we would go there before Christmas, however I won him over to a day trawling antique and second-hand furniture shops by telling him that my desire for a desk pre-dated his interest in that particular outing which could wait until the new year.

Having been pinning photos of desks for a year, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted. Drawers on the right-hand side, wood (definitely not that laminex wengue colour that is all department store furniture is made of), not too big, and preferably in mid-century modern style. Finding the right desk was a whole lot more difficult, but the one of the great things about Bogotá is that where there is one antique shop, there are many.

We started in Calle 79A between Carreras 7 and 9 where all the fancy antique stores are to find a store dedicated to mid-century modern I’d seen on a previous visit. Only one shop was open at the hour we arrived and it didn’t have anything from the fifties or sixties, but there were some lovely, and expensive, pieces there.

Next we went to Chapinero to Carrera 9 between Calles 60 and 62 where there is another antique shopping strip. In one of my favourite stores to poke around in, we found a huge black desk that was close to the style I wanted but too big and too black for my liking. Edwin took a shine to a desk in another store but I didn’t like how heavy it looked with drawers on both sides.

The third antique district we visited was in Chapinero again, but the other side of Carrera 7 and between Calles 65 and 67 where there are few stores. In one of the stores whose specialty is selling old furniture painted shabby chic, I found exactly the style I wanted, except the paint job was hideous. The top was a streaky white, the legs and framework a burgundy colour and sky-blue drawers. Looking beyond the paintwork, the desk was a beautiful mid-century modern desk with rounded legs, the desk top creating an eave over the framework and long, wide brass drawer handles. But it was more than I wanted to pay and I didn’t think I could live with the paintwork.

We went back to Calle 79A and I found the store I had been looking for, Dessvan. I asked after desks, but while there was nothing that took my fancy, the assistant took me a few doors up the street to another store that had the most divine mid-century modern furniture. We fell in love with a pair of yellow tub chairs and I could have gone home with a completely redecorated apartment if my pockets were deeper. But it was a desk on our shopping list.

Using my feminine wiles, I told Edwin just how much I was in love with the desk with the horrendous paint job, and how if it was in a different colour, I would be so happy with it. I think it was partly to do with the begging face I put on and the other part his patience at an end but when he said the magic words every woman loves to hear “Mi amor, if this is the desk you want, I can repaint it for you,” I was sold on it.

We went back to the store to buy the desk and I let him negotiate the price and the terms (as all good Colombians must do).

Happy as a lark, we spent the next couple of hours warding off the rain in Chapinero, eating pan de bono and buying wool for more crochet projects, before heading home to await the arrival of the desk.

When we got home, we found that despite being told the delivery man would call us when he was on his way, the desk was already there and waiting in the communal reception room. The doorman couldn’t believe that we’d paid for a desk with that paint job; he thought we’d found it really cheap somewhere on the side of the road. I guess also the fact that most Colombians like to have new things and despise second-hand or old things had something to do with his reaction.

Straight to work sanding the hideous paint back
Straight to work sanding the hideous paint back

 

Once we put the desk in the spare room, it started to light the room up. Edwin could see the potential, and immediately pulled a piece of sandpaper out of thin air and started sanding back the sky blue paint on the drawers. When I said I wanted to paint it turquoise, a colour I am in decor love with, and showed him some similar projects on my Pinterest Desks board, he also came around to the idea.

Shiny new desk!
Shiny new turquoise desk! Edwin did a great job.

My dad always says that a man has got to have a project, and the refurbishing of the desk was a good hands-on project for Edwin during his end of semester holidays. He sanded and scraped the paint off until we exposed the bare wood. He bought a caramel coloured stain and turquoise paint. He patiently painted layers of paint and varnish. He shined the brass handles to life and we ended up with a stunningly beautiful desk where I will write blogs, Edwin will use the computer and D will do his homework.

Transporting a desk chair
Transporting a desk chair

The concession to an antique desk was a modern chair, so one Ciclovia Sunday we picked out a comfortable chair that would fit in the hutch space and rode back with the box perched precariously on Edwin’s handlebars and me with two new prints to hang on the walls sticking awkwardly out of my basket.

A wooden shelf Edwin had found abandoned in the carpark after some residents moved out, finally found a home on the new study wall after being painted with a turquoise trim.

We spent New Years Eve and New Years Day hanging pictures, washing walls and cleaning out the wardrobe, getting our study into order and I couldn’t be happier.

The only things left for us to do to finish the room off are to find a rug and then get a new light fitting and a desk lamp. Oh, and wash the window so my new outlook of the cerro from my desk isn’t obscured by dust and grime.

Happy New Decor from my fabulous new study!

My fabulous new study!
My fabulous new study!

Crochet isn’t so hard to learn after all

Crochet love hearts
Little crochet love hearts

I’ve wanted to learn how to crochet for ages but have hidden behind excuses like “I don’t have a crochet hook” and “It looks hard” and my favourite “I’m terrible at knots.” Despite my desire to learn, I wasn’t ready to learn. That all changed last week.

Mum came to visit last month and for some inexplicable reason she brought with her a crochet hook and a ball of fuchsia coloured wool. It was inexplicable because whilst Mum has passing phases of craftiness, I’ve never actually seen her crochet anything. Knit yes, sew absolutely, crochet never. She had even taken it on as carry-on (I would have thought a crochet needle, despite being blunt, would have gone in the same bin as tweezers and pocket knives at the security screen) although she had barely 30 stitches finished.

When I saw her started project I mentioned that I really wanted to learn. My Nan is very talented at working with wool and even had a loom with which she made all her 15 grandchildren a tartan blanket, so I thought maybe she had been crocheting with Nan lately. Mum started to explain the process to me and then added “Except I don’t know how to turn”. Perhaps she hadn’t been getting crochet help from Nan after all. Turning seems to be a critical element and is probably why she hadn’t gotten very far into her nebulous project. She showed me how to hold the hook and wool and to make chain stitches except my brain wasn’t open to learning and I found it awkward, uncomfortable and frustrating. So I gave up. Lucky for me, Mum decided to leave behind her hook and ball of wool for me to practice, and on Thursday last week I idly clicked on a link in Pinterest with a tutorial on Maybe Matilda on how to crochet and decided I wanted to give it a go.

First dodgy piece of crochet
First dodgy piece of crochet

I had pinned pictures and links to beginners crochet instructions before, but this time, with a hook and wool at hand, I decided to see if I could follow the instructions and get the hang of it. I learned how to chain, create a slip stitch, do single crochet, half double crochet, double crochet and treble crochet. I also learned that there are different stitch names for different areas, and these US terms may be different to the Australian ones which makes it slightly more confusing for a beginner looking for free and easy patterns/descriptions on the internet.

My first piece of finished work was just practicing the different types of stitches and getting the hang of holding the tools. Parts of the square look pretty good and neat, and then there is the big stuff up in the middle that looks like a dogs breakfast.

But it wasn’t as complicated as I had expected and I figured out different dos and don’ts courtesy of the time-old trial and error method and by observing the process carefully to understand the stitches better.

After finishing the square I was high on achievement and decided to press my luck and try crocheting in the round. I found another tutorial and tried a couple of different methods of creating a circle and ended up with a little purple cone that looks slightly rude. Convinced I was ready to move on to greater things, I decided to make a beanie using my new-found skills. I was following a pattern for a premature baby beanie, yet as I crocheted I decided I wanted to make myself a hat. Hmmmm. So I just kind of followed my nose and stitched my way round and round and round and into the night while mi novio slept.

Pink crochet hat
Pretty in pink

After more googling I figured out how to decrease the huge circumference I’d stitched and give it sides. Consulting the mirror a few times to get the length of the sides right I finally tied it off and grinned proudly at the result, something I would actually wear and that looked fancier than a regular beanie (thanks to my ignorant freestyling which thankfully worked out for the better).

Next on the learn list were crochet flowers. I had two different pinks, a red, a green and a Christmassy multicolour wool in my craft box from earlier pom pom and craft projects so I used the other pinks to create two different flowers and made a tiny fuchsia coloured one to pin to my new hat. I love crochet flowers. They look fabulous but are definitely more difficult to do because you really have to count stitches, something that is tedious for me and I think I ended up going off pattern again a few times.

Baby headband in progress
Baby headband in progress

Three more little things followed, crocheting the headband for a brain-squasher (with mi novio‘s baby niece in mind), making some cute little hearts that could easily be turned into Christmas tree ornaments or stitched onto something like a headband and a curlicue, a crochet firework-like spiral.

I’ve been lucky to have the time and finally the ganas (one of my favourite Spanish words indicating desire, will or energy to actually do something) to practice and create and in the space of 4 days I managed to produce a number of little things and my hat. I don’t think I have the patience or passion to become accomplished at crochet and I doubt I will remember how to do all these things without following instructions every time, but I’ve found another way to be creative and to produce and get that great sense of achievement when you finish something you didn’t realise you could do. I’ve also received requests for hats from mi novio, D and la suegra, so I guess I have more practice coming up. I just hope my beginner’s luck continues!

Crochet flowers
Pink crochet flowers

I’ve discovered that crochet requires you to look at what you’re doing, so it’s difficult to use it to occupy your hands while watching TV, unless you just listen and watch half-heartedly, but it is a great activity to do while listening to your favourite podcasts.

If you are a beginner too or want to learn to crochet, check out my Crochet board on Pinterest for links and pages I’ve found for these projects and others I’d like to make. I think granny squares are next on my crochet learn list.

 

 

Do you crochet? How did you learn and what do you like to make?