Channeling My Grandma

14 Jun
A pretty quilting studio for me

A pretty quilting studio for me

In the last few months, both of my adult children moved far away, leaving me with a spare bedroom that I wouldn’t be needing in a while for guests.  They also left me with some old furniture–a student desk and a chest of drawers that I thought I could use in my sewing room.  On his last night here, my son helped my husband dutifully carry these items up to my sewing room.

Chest of Drawers with Maple Stain

Chest of Drawers with Maple Stain

Student Desk

Student Desk


A strange thing happened overnight….I woke up on a Saturday with big plans.  My grandma was not afraid to take a piece of wood furniture and paint it.  I decided I would do the same with this tired-looking chest and desk.    I would sand down and repaint the furniture to fit their new purpose, and make a cutting table for the sewing room.  So the first thing we did was carry the furniture back downstairs and out to the garage.  As we prepared to run to the home improvement store with a huge list, my husband Karl asked how long I thought it would take to build the cutting table.  “Don’t worry,” I said, “we’ll be done with that by noon.”    I honestly thought I could get that part done, sand the furniture, prime it on Sunday morning, paint it Sunday afternoon, and get the whole project done in a weekend.  Go ahead and laugh!

For the cutting table, we bought four cube storage units with 9 cubes each, some angle brackets and other hardware, and a large piece of plywood.  I had ordered a pattern cutting table topper already from Amazon.  We also bought spray primer, paint, paint brushes, and a 4′ by 8′ piece of foam insulation board.  Now, at this point in most blog posts, the author will say, “I did all this for under $50.”  Apparently, I’m not much of a bargain shopper, because my goodies cost a few hundred bucks.

After we got back to the house with our loot, we commenced building the storage cubes.  The first one went very slowly…we had some trouble identifying the pieces which all looked very similar except the pattern of pre-drilled holes was different for a side than a top or a middle.  The directions warned us over and over again to be sure to position the finished edges all on the same side, and I’m proud to say we never messed that up.  Now, in nearly 32 years of marriage I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been encouraged to use a tool.  Generally speaking, Karl likes to do the tool stuff while I read the instructions.  But since we had four of these things to put together, I did get to hammer some.  Here is Karl working on one of the units.

He knows what he's doing now.

He knows what he’s doing now.


When we finished putting the four units into a rectangle and putting the plywood on top, this is what it looked like.

A space to cut, press and measure plus storage for fabric and tools.

A space to cut, press and measure plus storage for fabric and tools.


I took the piece of insulation foam, and cut 2 feet off the long end, making it 4′ by 6′.  Then I used duct tape to attach quilt batting (80/20 blend in a bag from Walmart).  I used 3M picture hangers to attach my new design wall to the wall of the room.  If you ever taught Sunday school and used a felt board, this is like an industrial sized one of those.  My quilt fabric and blocks stick to it so I can layout the design.  It’s far preferable to doing it on the floor where I have help from the cat and the dog.

Design Wall

Design Wall

By now, as you may have guessed, it was past 3 pm.  I did get a bit of sanding done, and a lot on Sunday.  Karl helped a lot with the sanding, but I also did much of it.  So you see, I graduated from hammers to power tools with this project.  Over the course of the next week, we got the furniture sanded.



On Saturday (remember now this is 6 days past when I thought I would be done with this little project), I attempted to prime the furniture.  I say attempted because it did not go well with the spray can.  I would not use that method again, and I ran out after one coat. I expected to layer on several thin coats.  Since the paint I bought was paint and primer together, I decided to move into painting phase.  I shook up the can and when I opened it, I thought it was funny that there was no dot of color on top like they usually do at the paint store.  Well, maybe they don’t do that for plain white, I thought.  So I put one coat of paint on everything and left it to dry until morning.  Karl wasn’t home at all while I did all of this, so Sunday morning he went out to the garage to inspect my work.  “Honey,” he said, “did you know you painted that furniture with the stain sealer we bought for the ceiling?”  Yup, that is what I did.  Okay, so that was kind of a boneheaded move but it turned out to be a happy accident, because after that, the furniture painted up beautifully.  We let it dry all day Monday, and carried it back upstairs Monday night.  Here is how it looks now, with new drawer pulls.  I need to say that I was smart enough to measure the space between the screws on the handles, and write down the measurements, and buy the right ones and the right number of each.  Take that, stain sealer!

Refinished Chest

Refinished Chest

Refinished Desk

Refinished Desk


That’s my “old” sewing machine on the desk.  I use it for some things, mainly winding bobbins and stitching out paper templates.  I did buy myself a nicer chair (it’s purple!) and I’m madly scheming to replace my Wal-mart banquet table turned sewing table with a legitimate sewing cabinet.  However, I promised Karl he could get a new smoker first, so I have to wait a while.  But what a pretty room!  I don’t just have a sewing room anymore, I have a quilting studio.


New chair...old sewing table.

New chair…old sewing table.


2 Responses to “Channeling My Grandma”

  1. Kristie Zapf June 14, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    Looks great! The desk and chest look awesome!

    • denisezapf June 15, 2014 at 10:56 am #

      Thanks. I was really happy with how they turned out.

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