Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Long and Winding Coat Project Plan


This particular project plan was a convoluted one. It began when I saw this pattern, which is the Sylvi pattern, designed by Mari Muinonen, and got all "I LOVE THIS I MUST MAKE IT." So the Sylvi pattern got added to my project list for 2014.





My next step was a yarn purchase. When the Toronto Mary Maxim store at Yonge and Eglinton closed this past year because their rental costs became unmanageable, I managed to dry my tears and score the 1500 grams of Diamond Yarn Luxury Collection Llama Silk you see above for 50% off the regular price. I had imagined the coat in a flecked rust (I love the red but couldn't face the thought of all the Little Red Riding Hood jokes), so this yarn was just what I wanted in that regard, and it proved to be a lovely yarn to work with. The "hand wash only" care requirement for this yarn was definitely not a plus (who wants to hand wash a coat?), but I thought I could live with it as the coat isn't going to need washing very often.

Once I had the pattern and the yarn, I began knitting. I knitted a sleeve first. (When I need to know how the gauge of a yarn, I usually do a sleeve first as a sort of cheat gauge swatch. If I get the gauge wrong, I won't need to rip out much more than if I had done a swatch, and if the gauge turns out to be right I've got a few inches of sleeve done.) Then I knitted about half of one of the front pieces. Then, having worked happily away on this coat for perhaps four or five evenings, I woke up one morning and the first thought that came to mind was, "What was I thinking? This design is going to look like hell on me!"

The Sylvi design, gorgeous as it is, has a trapeze shape. I am, shall we say, mammarily blessed. My chest measurement is bigger than my hip measurement. My wearing a jacket that flares out from the largest section of my body is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea. I then spent some evenings trying modify the pattern by adding waist shaping, but soon decided the best idea was simply to choose another coat pattern.





After much browsing of coat patterns on Ravelry, I narrowed my selections down to these two: the Bergère de France coat on the left, and the Winter Wonderland Coat by Michele Rose Orne on the right. Both are wonderful designs and I was torn between them for some days, but eventually I decided on the Winter Wonderland design. The Bergère de France design is so inimitably chic and French, but as I regretfully concluded, I am neither chic nor French. The Winter Wonderland Coat seemed a little more "me", and would probably also work better on my figure as it's less bulky above the waist.





And here's the final result. The gauge was a little strange. The pattern called for an Aran yarn knitted on 4.5mm needles. The Diamond Yarn Luxury Collection Llama Silk is a bulky weight, which should have knitted to a bigger gauge, and yet I had to use 5mm needles to get the right gauge. I also used much less yarn than the pattern called for. The pattern called for 2000 grams of yarn, while I used less than 1300 grams (there are more than two hanks left over) of the Diamond Yarn. I'm not complaining about this, as it means that my version of this coat weighs 35% less than the sample coat does.

I made a few modifications, as you can see. I wanted more coverage in the front, both for warmth and to make it easier to coordinate the coat with whatever I wear with it (the less you can see of the outfit underneath, the less well the coat has to match it). I ran the buttons all the way down the front instead of just buttoning the bodice. I also widened the button and buttonhole bands by two stitches as even in the picture the buttons look a little too big for their bands and I was using a slightly larger button than the pattern called for. I raised the neckline by something like five inches. I'm not thrilled with the way my shortened collar looks on the higher neckline, but it will do. And I'm very pleased with how the coat looks on me. Both the colour and the style suit me very well.

Lesson learned from this project is that from now on I'm going to make sure that my project plans have a better foundation than blind love of a pattern, because that has too often led to my knitting something that won't look right on me and/or that I have no use for. It's better that I take a more needs-based approach to project planning, (i.e., I decide I could use a hat and scarf to go with a new coat I just bought, or another easy care cardigan to wear around home), and to then look for the perfect pattern for that purpose.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Not So Slouchy Cap and Scarf


A few weeks ago after some inquiries on the topic of what my mother wanted for Christmas, she asked me to make her a tuque in "navy or whatever colour I have". I selected this pattern, the Last Minute Slouch, designed by Madeline Tosh. It's a free pattern. I did have some navy yarn that I could have used to make this cap, but since I wanted to also make Mum a matching scarf, that meant I needed to purchase yarn. My mother is allergic to wool, which meant I had to go with an acrylic. I bought 300 grams of Vanna's Choice in navy.





And here's the resulting hat and scarf set. There was no pattern for the scarf, of course. I just used the ribbed moss stitch and 2x2 ribbing you see in the hat. I'd never worked with Vanna's Choice before. I wasn't displeased with it. It comes in attractive colours and it's a decent quality compared to other acrylics I've worked with. I hope my mother is pleased with her Christmas present. She doesn't think she looks good in hats and has very exacting tastes in general, but since this is exactly what she asked for I think I'm on safe ground. Here's hoping she won't rip it out and make herself something else with the yarn as she has done with my gifts in the past.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fine Linen, Bright and Clean


This sewing project began with my notion that I could use a new spring and summer jacket, something neutral that I could wear with everything. I was at Fabriclands and selected some ivory linen for the project, and then I found a pattern for it. I used Simplicity 2256 for it, as seen above, namely the version made in camel-coloured fabric on the right. I liked the lapels. I originally bought the pattern and materials back in the spring of 2012, began work on it in January 2014 and am just now finishing it. Yes, this does mean I let two springs and summers go by in which I could have been enjoying the jacket, but it also means I have a definite jump on the 2015 season. I am therefore awesome.





And this is my version, shown here buttoned over a dress I made years ago. It turned out well enough, though I do regret my selection of pattern. It's an attractive jacket in itself but any sort of empire line is a bad idea for my figure. This is going to make me look dumpy. Oh well, it's wearable enough and when I eventually spill something on it as I am sure to do, I can replace it.





This jacket pattern didn't call for a lining, but I lined it anyway with a poly satin. Linen doesn't feel that nice against the skin, this linen was sheer enough that not only every seam but whatever I was wearing underneath was going to show through, and the lining also will add a little bit of warmth to the jacket.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Christmas Slippers


These Man's Cabled Slippers were designed by Pat Richards for Vogue Knitting's Winter 1992/1993 issue. I've been using this slipper pattern to make slippers for my father almost since this pattern was published. You can see last year's pair and an explanation as to why these slippers are so important to my father's comfort (he has a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis) on my knitting blog, The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done.





Here's this year's pair. I believe it to be the ninth I have made from this pattern. Over the years I've added a number of modifications. I knit two soles for each slipper and insert an insole between them. This year I used foam insoles rather than the felt insoles I have been using because I couldn't find any felt ones, and can only hope the foam will be as comfortable and will last out the year. I knit the bottom soles from craft yarn as, nasty-feeling as it is, it's the most durable yarn on the market, and use a nicer-feeling yarn for the upper soles and upper. I run thread elastic around the heel as that helps the slippers stay on much better. This year I used a needle a half-size smaller than what I have been using as my mother told me to make the slippers a little smaller because the slippers become too big after they stretch out. The green yarn here was some of a small lot of yarn I picked up at Value Village for three dollars a few years back. It's Infitex "Stop Cumbre", which is an acrylic/wool/mohair blend, was made in Spain, and judging from the graphics and font on the ball band, was probably spun in the seventies. It's not in the Ravelry database, at any rate. I came across it last January when I spent part of New Year's Day tidying and reorganizing my stash, and ear marked it for my father's slippers. Besides being the right weight, it's quite good quality and pleasant to work with, it should feel good to wear, and green is by far my father's favourite colour. I have enough left it to make his next two pairs of slippers.





I didn't have quite enough gray craft yarn left to knit the soles, so I pieced it out with a little of the green. I never worry about having to cobble together my father's slippers with different colour yarns as I ordinarily would with anything else I make as they'll be worn to shreds and wind up in the garbage in a year's time. In this case I thought the piecing actually rather improved the appearance of the slippers from the top front view, and it won't make a difference to durability as it's the heels that always wear out first. So that's part of my father's Christmas present taken care of. Now to purchase the biggest container of chocolate rosebuds I can find.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hello Kitty It's Winter


I came across this hat pattern, which is the Pretty Kitty Beret, designed by Amanda Clark, and available for £2.50(GBP), by accident some months ago. I have a five-year-old Hello Kitty-obsessed grandniece. I had resolved to only knit for my grandniece Cauliflower and her little brother once a year, for their birthdays, as they always have way more clothes and other stuff than they need, but this hat was just so cute and Cauliflower would love it so much that I ended up yielding a point and making it. After all, it's just a hat.





Except of course it ended up not being just a hat. I whipped up the matching mittens using this free Drops design pattern. I had the yarn on hand and don't know exactly what brand it is anymore (the ball bands being long gone) but I think it was Kroy sock yarn. My niece tells me Cauliflower has a black winter coat and a hot pink winter coat, and this turquoise set should look fine with either one. I bought most of the beads and the tiny gauge crochet hook I used to slip the beads on the stitches. The tiny black beads I used for the whiskers have a funny back story. Some years back when my sister-in-law was at my place for the Swan family Easter do, the necklace she was wearing broke and the beads scattered everywhere. With the help of several other family members, she picked up most of the beads but there were some stray black seed beads still lying about. The next day I picked them all up and put them carefully away in a small bag in my bead box, thinking it would be amusing to incorporate them into a new necklace and give it to her some Christmas. I never did get around to making the necklace, but the black beads proved to be perfect for the whiskers on the hat and mittens that I'm going to give to my sister-in-law's beloved granddaughter this Christmas. You never know what will happen when you leave craft materials behind in a crafter's home.

I made just one mod to the hat pattern, which was to only put one kitty face on it rather than the six or so the pattern called for, as I thought it looked better. Lately I've been trying to make sure I learn something new during the course of every project. This project involved me learning two new techniques: the long tail tubular cast on, and beading. I'm going to be using the long tail tubular cast-on for every hat, glove, mitten, and sock I make from now on (love that stretchiness), and I'd like to do more beading. It really is very easy.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Brown is the New Black Gloves


The plan for this project has its roots in a colour theory course I took back in 2001 at George Brown College in Toronto. One night the instructor gave each member of the class a personal colour theory analysis, and I found out that I was not, as I had cluelessly thought, a winter, but an autumn. Even before taking that course, I had been a big subscriber to the seasonal palette wardrobe theory, which essentially holds that everyone looks best in a certain colour palette. I'd found it a sound idea to shop and dress in strict accordance to one palette, because it meant that I didn't need to own so many clothes given that clothes, shoes, and accessories chosen according to a given colour scheme work together so much better. It should also mean one looks one's best, but it hadn't in my case as I'd been building my wardrobe on the wrong damn palette. So a long, expensive process of transitioning to an autumn palette wardrobe began.

I was basically done with the transition process in four years or so, but this year I decided to finally get rid of the last lingering black items in my wardrobe. There weren't many. Basically it was just several pairs of track pants, because I could never find any track pants that were dark brown and wasn't about to buy them in, say, orange or turquoise, and a few things I had kept to wear with the black track pants: a black backpack bought in 1998, and a pair of black wool gloves bought around the same time. Both backpack and gloves were, as you would expect, much the worse for their sixteen years of use, and were about due to be replaced anyway. I ordered two pairs of dark brown yoga pants and a snazzy new leather-trimmed canvas Everlane backpack over the net, and then, when it came to replacing the wool gloves, decided after a quick, discouraging Google for brown wool gloves that I should make them myself. A rummage through my stash produced a nearly full 100g skein of dark brown DK wool, so I then searched for a glove pattern that required DK weight yarn.

The above pattern was the one I settled on. It's the Hands of Blue pattern, designed by Lucy Hague, and is available for free.





And here are photos of the finished gloves that I made. The yarn used here is Sirdar's Country Style DK. It's machine washable, which is good as I always found I had to wash my black wool gloves regularly. I had bought and used a little of that 100g skein to make a panda bear dress and purse for my grandniece in 2013, and even after doing the gloves there's still a good bit of the skein left. I think I could make another glove out of it, which is good to know in case I should lose one of this existing pair. I still have a single cashmere-lined brown calfskin glove, the mate for which I lost something like seven years ago, that I can't bear to throw away, though eventually I'll probably cut up the leather and use it for trim on some sewing project or for doll shoes or some such.

These gloves are perhaps the third pair of gloves I have ever made. I discovered from my first couple of glove-knitting experiences that I disliked knitting fingers because they're so fiddly, and I found out I still feel that way. It is worth the work, though, as you can fit the gloves exactly to your hand. Then too, I like being able to make gloves with the long wrists that are harder to find in manufactured gloves, and which make for a clean line at the wrist and leave no wrist exposed to the winter elements. And these gloves cost me nothing at all to make, which was especially gratifying considering that I'll mostly be using them for hiking and shovelling snow.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Reversible Diamonds Afghan, Part Deux


This is the Reversible Diamonds afghan, designed by Shari Haux and published in Easy Afghans for Knitters, which I have just finished knitting for the second time.





I first made this afghan for my bedroom back in 2008, and though I like the pattern I made the mistake of choosing the wrong yarn for it. I used an acrylic worsted, TLC Amore in "Vanilla", which is more accurately described as a very pale peach. It was pretty enough, but was so light and thin it had no warmth to it at all, which is not exactly a desirable quality in an afghan intended for use in a Toronto house that was built in 1912 and that is warmed by a 1991 furnace. So even on the day I finished the peach afghan (and I still remember the relief and delight with which I cast off that last stitch with exactly 6" of yarn to spare!), I knew I'd have to eventually make another afghan for my room.





Introducing the new version of the Reversible Diamonds afghan. However, I think I've again chosen the wrong yarn for it. This time I used Phentex Fashion Twenty-Three in "Icicle White", a super bulky blend of acrylic, polyester, mohair and wool. I bought eleven 100g skeins of this yarn from the Zellers in my area circa 2011 for one dollar per skein, plus tax. Then I discovered I had two more identical skeins in my stash that I'd bought a number of years before as seconds. This afghan therefore cost me under $15 to make. This is not why I decided I'd chosen the wrong yarn.

The yarn proved to be something of a drag to knit with, because there was so much resistance from the fluffy texture, and mohair always does mat together. It's no fun to have to fight with your yarn at every stitch. I initially began this afghan in February and it wound up being one of those projects I could not keep myself at and kept putting aside to work on anything else, until mid-August, when I took it up with grim resignation and told myself I could not work on anything else until it was done. However, that "hard to knit with" quality is also not why I feel this was a bad yarn choice for this afghan, because obviously that's a time limited drawback.

This yarn does have quite a bit going for it: it feels nice, it looks good, and it certainly can't be accused of not being warm. So what's the fatal flaw? The big drawback is that this yarn is hand wash only, and this afghan is 3'6" x 6'4". I didn't clue into this until the afghan was half done. Oh well, I suppose I can wash it in the bathtub a few times a year, put it through the spin cycle on the washing machine, and spread it out on towels on the attic floor to dry. And cross my fingers that my cat finds other locations to yak up his hairballs so that the afghan needn't be washed more than a few times a year. Trilby never did put the old afghan (which was machine washable and dryable) to that purpose, so there's hope of that.





Besides refiguring the number of stitches in a row to suit a super bulky yarn rather than the worsted this pattern called for, I accidentally made one other mod. The border is supposed to be done in a seed stitch, but I think I messed that up back in February and decided to just go with the stitchwork I'd inadvertently come up with instead. I call it "moss ribbing".

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Cauliflower and Fish


When I was searching for a dress design to use for my grandniece Cauliflower's fifth birthday, a search of Ravelry turned up this one, the Mermaid Dress, designed by Harpa Jónsdóttir. The pattern had been published in the February 2011 issue of Yarn Forward Magazine, and unfortunately wasn't available for sale. If I wanted to make it, I'd have to recreate the pattern using the picture as my guide. I put the project off for a few months because it was easier just to get started knitting something I had a pattern for than to spend time writing a pattern first, but when July arrived it was time to get cracking, as Cauliflower's birthday is in early August. And as so often happens when I finally get around to something I've been procrastinating on, it wasn't so bad a job. After an hour or so of sketching equations and diagrams and charts on a piece of graph paper, I was ready to go.





Here's the resulting version of the Mermaid Dress in a child's size six. I used Sandnes Garn's Smart pure wool DK weight for it. As you can see, I made some changes to the original design. I wasn't able to find four shades of blue that worked together, only three, so I used white for the bodice and sleeves. The neckline in the sample shot was a little low for my liking, so I made it higher. I couldn't quite tell what stitch had been used on the hem, so I used this wave stitch pattern. I think the sleeves in the original are elasticized at the wrist, but I used a drawstring instead, tacking them in place at the sleeve seam so that they can't fall out and be lost. I was fairly pleased with the result.





I also whipped up this little purse to go with the dress, using the Squircle pattern, by Kylie Brown, which is available as a free download. The Squircle pattern is modified a little too. I omitted the band of garter stitch that's supposed to go around it and instead worked the fish pattern into it. I crocheted a shell edging around the top as I'd done around the hem, neckline and sleeves of the dress, and then crocheted the drawstring (so much faster than knitting I-cord). I wish I'd gone with different colours, though. I think a dark blue bottomed purse with a white top, or maybe a pale blue bottom with a white top, would have looked better with the dress. C'est la vie. C'est l'artisanat.





Then I made this little necklace to go with the outfit. I chose blue beads that had the changeable, iridescent colours of the sea, and silver starfish charms. I bought some silver shell charms to use as well, thought they wouldn't work when I was lining up beads on my bead tray, and then regretted not putting them on once I was done. Oh well. There are so many different directions to go when one is designing something and I suppose it's nearly impossible not to have regrets. The necklace goes very well with the dress and I made it about 18" long so that Cauliflower will be able to wear it when she's full grown if she likes.





Cauliflower's birthday gift included an Eloise snow globe. Her middle name is Eloise and on assorted past Christmasses and birthdays I've previously given her the five story books written by Kay Thompson, DVDs of the two Eloise movies starring Julie Andrews, and an Eloise in Paris doll. This is probably the final Eloise item I will give Cauliflower as she'll soon be too old for Eloise stuff. It doesn't quite fit in with the aquatic theme but it took me a year of tracking Eloise snowglobes on eBay before I finally got one (they don't make them anymore), so I was bloody well going to include it, and hey, it does have water in it.

After I'd planned this dress, purse, and necklace for Cauliflower, I planned a coordinating sailboat sweater and sailor's cap from the same lot of yarn for her little brother, Bug, and his present was actually finished, and posted about, first.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Swan's End: The Basement Apartment Before and After


My other renovations posts all contain two sets of photos: the first set depicting the given room or area of my house as it was when I bought it in December 2006, and the second set depicting the room or area as it looked after I finished renovating and decorating it. This renovations post, of the basement apartment of my house, is unusual in that it contains four separate sets of photos. You'll find out why when you read through the post.





We'll begin with the set of photos showing how the apartment looked when I bought my house in December 2006. Here we have the "front door" (actually, the only door) into the apartment. It stands open, and the bathroom door can be seen on the viewer's left and the furnace room door on the other side. Notice that the corner of the wall on the right looks terribly rough and damaged.





Slightly more revealing shot of the furnace room door.





Shot of the bathroom from the doorway.





Another shot of the bathroom sink. I should have gotten a shot of the inside of the medicine cabinet. It was rusted and filthy on the inside. The "light fixture" was just bare bulbs, and the "cabinet" under the sink was basically two sheets of pressboard caulked in place, one on either side.





The shower. It's not a bad-size shower stall, but note the four different kinds of tiles: pink, blue, navy, and brown on the ceiling. Also the shower bar was peeling and rusted.





The, er, commode. Note the absence of towel racks. There were only some adhesive cup hooks on the wall on the viewer's right, which would have left holes in any towels hung on them. Also there was no storage to speak of.





The kitchen in all its former glory. Note that the brown tiles in the backsplash match the ones in the bathroom ceiling. Such a carefully thought out colour scheme, although whoever installed the backsplash seemed to run short of tiles and left a square of concrete blocks uncovered.

The cupboard under the sink had no bottom — it just opened up onto bare floor. Out of the three drawers beside it, I think only one was functional. The light fixture you see over the stove and cabinet was masking taped in place. When I removed the tape, the thing sagged down. The stove leaked gas and wasn't safe to use.

I don't see how anyone could have prepared themselves proper meals in this "kitchen".





This is the light fixture that was in the kitchen, above the countertop. Although it was sagging out of the ceiling to begin with I had such a time getting it completely out that it seemed important to take a celebratory picture of the fixture and the rubble that resulted from my efforts.





The little door on the viewer's left is to the furnace room. The window had a broken pane of glass, and no screen.

The fridge originally sat beside the stove, but I moved it across the room and put it in the space you see here so as to make room for more cabinetry. The bed frame was left in the bedroom when I bought the house.





Here we see the back wall of the kitchen, and the bedroom door. The light fixture sticks down just where anyone could hit his or her head on it easily.





Moving on to the apartment bedroom, this photo shows one of the partially wallpapered bedroom walls with an old TV stand (left behind by the former owner) covering a gaping hole in the wall. Notice how there's no outlet in the wall. This becomes important later.





The power box for the house is in the basement apartment bedroom. It was an eyesore and I thought of and discarded many ideas for camouflaging it before I decided upon one.

This awful brown shag rug was in this room when I bought the house. In March 2007 a water pipe froze and burst, the basement flooded, and this carpet turned into a giant mould slug. I couldn't move it by myself, and the garbagemen would never have taken it, so, wearing gloves and holding my breath as much as possible, hacked it into smaller, manageable pieces with an x-acto knife, then hauled the pieces outside one by one.





The door on the viewer's left is a closet, and behind the other door are the water and gas mains for the house.

Here we see wallpaper style number two covering part of another wall. The wallpapered parts of the wall weren't primed.





As with the kitchen window, the bedroom window only had two panes of glass and the lock on it was broken. There was no screen.

The window blind wasn't in bad shape, but it wasn't installed properly at all — just hung on nails.





This is a kind of alcove between the two closets where the ceiling comes down especially low.

The light fixture hung down in the middle of the room where it would be way too easy to hit one's head on it. You can also see the ceiling register in this shot, which was held in place by caulk and nails.





I wish I had before photos of the old linoleum tile floors of the two bedroom closets. They were just plain vile — black with age and the filth of decades.





Here's the bedroom door with the second bedroom closet behind it. Note the paint crusted on the doorknob.





Chief Renovations Inspector Trilby lent his special expertise to the project by inspecting the ductwork with his x-ray vision.





Now let's look at the second set of the photos, which show the apartment as it was when I finished renovations and rented it out in October 2010.

As you can see, I didn't do a lot to the hallway. I just painted it with a shade of yellowish cream called "Popcorn Ball", replaced the doorknobs, and put a new latch on the furnace room door. Oh, and I fixed the corner of the wall by ripping off the metal strip that was there and nailing on some wooden trim.

I did the entire apartment in Popcorn Ball, with the exception of the bathroom, deciding it was just too small an apartment to be fussing about with different colours and trim paint and that it was best to keep the whole place neutral and plain so as to suit the greatest number of potential tenants.





A shot of the bathroom. I installed a hook on the inside of the door. The bathroom is painted "Seafoam Breeze", which is a pale gray blue that I figured would qualify as a neutral. Also, the floor of the shower, which wasn't going to be painted or changed, was pale blue, so it matched that.





A full-length shot of the bathroom vanity. I put in a new light fixture, replacing the middle light with an outlet plug, put up a new medicine cabinet, installed a new sink, faucet, and vanity cabinet, and also put up a toothbrush holder and towel ring.

The fan cover is the same as before, with just a fresh coat of paint. I could not find a new one that was the right size.





I put in this over-the-toilet storage cabinet, and added a toilet paper holder. And there's a brand new white toilet seat in place of the old black one.





I installed these towel racks. There weren't any towel racks in the entire house when I bought it.





This bathroom is so very small it proved impossible to get a shot of the entire shower stall. I added a shower caddy to one corner, and put up a new shower bar. Also, all the tiles are the same colour now.





I put in a new, handheld, three-speed shower head. Besides being fun to use, it will make it easier to clean the shower. I also hung a cut-to-size $1 shower liner up. I did toy with the idea of making a nice shower curtain, but realized that a fabric curtain would block all the light and make it impossible for whomever's showering in there to see a thing. Clear plastic was the only option.





Here we are back out in the kitchen area. Like the hall, it doesn't look that different. I've cleaned and painted it, repaired the broken window pane, and added a screen. The furnace room door has a new latch. Above that little door you can see two little plastic boxes hanging on the wall. One is a thermometer, and the other is a doorbell. I thought the tenant's guests would need a way to announce themselves. The small appliance beside the fridge is a dehumidifier. I put a new smoke alarm on the ceiling just in front of the fridge.

The fridge itself had to be cleaned. If I remember correctly I spent over two hours on that particular job. The inside was reasonably clean, but the outside was covered in a greasy coating because the fridge had formerly sat next to the stove.





I installed a fire extinguisher here.

I originally bought this shelving unit for the condo I used to own. I have no real need or use for it in my current home, and since it fits so nicely into this space I thought my future tenant could use it for canned goods or whatever.

In general as I planned these renos I did my best to create as much storage as possible. Adequate storage is one of the things that make a place comfortable. However, there was only so much I could do to that end.





And here we have the new kitchen cupboards and stove. I left the former fan where it was and just scrubbed it clean. The old stove is gone. This stove was the one that was in my kitchen when I bought the place. I bought a new one for my kitchen, then had this one moved down to the basement. It was only 6-7 years old at the time when this photo was taken in September 2010, worked perfectly, and I cleaned it very thoroughly.

I reused the old sink and faucet (it was an hour's work to scrub them clean) but everything else is new. I installed all these cupboards and the countertops, and tiled the backsplash with these acrylic faux metal tiles. The backsplash photographed disappointingly badly — it actually looks much nicer in person, and the tiles set off the countertops and wood tones beautifully. The tiles seem to scratch with heartrending ease, but I suppose I can always prime and paint them down the line if they need it.

I installed a new recessed light and repaired the ceiling around it to the best of my ability, which isn't saying much. The baseboard trim by the sink cupboard is new. The old piece had to be ripped out when the cupboard went in, and it splintered to bits. I couldn't get more exactly the same, but fortunately the new piece wasn't right beside any of the old, so I just got some as much like the old as possible and went with it. I also bought a new aerator and sink stopper for the sink.





Another view of the kitchen cupboards. I bought a power bar for the outlet because the stove required one outlet and the fan another, which left nothing for any appliances the tenant might have. I also replaced the ceiling register and light by the bedroom door.

These pictures don't convey a sense of just how uneven the walls and floors are, and how hard a time I had installing the cabinetry because of it.

I could not put the upper cupboards flush against the ceiling because then the doors wouldn't open. As it was I left a two-inch space and the doors barely cleared. I had to jack up the front of the long, lower range of cupboards up by half an inch before it was level, and the cupboard with the sink had to be jacked up more than an inch.

Then the corner by the long cupboard was so crooked that I couldn't put the cupboard flush against it. I nailed a length of pine 2" x 4" to the wall so that things couldn't fall into the gap, then jam the cupboard in as close as I could.





A closer shot of the kitchen sink. I hated to put that cupboard in so close above the sink, but it seemed more important to have the extra storage space than to leave the space open.

I could not put the cupboard flush against the wall because there was some concrete buildup under the drainpipe that came out of the wall. So, I built a 4" ledge out of $3 worth of precut pine 2" x 4"s, tiled over it, then painted the tiles and caulked the gap. It looks okay and it adds to the kitchen's utility to have that extra little bit of counter space.





This bench is another item I had in my condo and didn't have a place or use for in the house. I thought a tenant might appreciate the use of it.





Notice that the wallpaper is gone. Both kinds, even. I painted the bedroom in Popcorn Ball. I know this room doesn't look all that different from how it appears in the before shot, but it took me about 30 hours to prep, prime and paint this room, and another 10 or so to change outlets, make and hang the curtains, refloor the closets, replace the light fixture, install the closet door hooks, etc.

I added a latch to the utility closet door because it would not stay shut on its own.





I ended up making curtains for both the window and the power box. The very first potential tenant I showed the place to said, "Hey, two windows!" upon walking into the bedroom, so I think I was successful in camouflaging the power box, yet still leaving it accessible.

I also put in two new window panes and a screen and had the lock fixed.





The revamped closet. I remember painting those closets. Because the ceiling of them was even lower than in the rest of the room, I had to stand with my feet at either end of the closet to make myself short enough to be able to stand in there. I think it took three hours for me to put that first coat of primer in the two closet interiors. Besides painting, I put in a new hanger bar, refloored with new adhesive tiles, and added a hook to the door.





The alcove. Also you can see that I've replaced the light fixture and the ceiling register, and the formerly black, paint-splashed outlet and the light switch, which you can't see in this shot.





The second closet also got a new floor and a hook for the door, and there's a hook on the back of the bedroom door as well. And I replaced the doorknob. Yes, this place has ALL the amenities.





When I stripped the wallpaper off this wall, I found an electrical outlet underneath. I thought perhaps it wasn't working, because it might then make SOME sort of sense to cover it up, but it was working. There are only two outlets in this large room, for heaven's sake.

I fixed the hole in the wall with a very inexpert drywall repair job. I really, really suck at doing drywall.





"I am Chief Renovations Inspector Trilby, and I am trying to decide if I approve of this renovation."

And now, let's move on to the third set of pictures. Which show the apartment as it was when my first tenant left it in January 2014 after occupying it for a little over three years and two months. My former tenant disappeared in early January, and when he hadn't been heard from in two weeks, I took the emergency measure of going into his apartment to make sure he wasn't lying in there unconscious or worse. He was not in the apartment. The following photos will show you what I did see in the apartment.





The bathroom as my tenant left it.





The bathroom sink, as of January 2014. Hard to believe this sink was only installed in August 2010.





The kitchen.





Another view of the kitchen.





The stove and cupboards.





The stove after I'd cleared away the debris. When I think of how I spent about four hours cleaning this stove until it was immaculate before this tenant moved in....





The interior of the stove.





The corner by the fridge in the kitchen.





The bedroom.





One corner of the bedroom.





By the door in the bedroom.





The back corner of the bedroom.

I contacted my tenant's brother on Facebook and he didn't know where my tenant was either. I called the police to file a missing person's report. They sent a couple of officers over to my house at midnight that same night (I received them in my pajamas) to tell me that my tenant was not in fact missing but was in police custody, as he had been arrested. I made a flurry of calls to try to figure out what my legal options were, and prepared to visit my tenant in the detention centre where he was being held in order to get him to sign some documents, but he was released on bail before I could. He then contacted me via Facebook to tell me he was with his surety, agreed to give up the apartment, to pay me the back rent he owed me, and to come get his things and do some cleaning. He did not do any of these things. As of this writing I have not heard from him since Janaury 28th of this year.

Which meant that I was the one who had to clean up the mess he left, somehow dispose of all his belongings, and then clean, paint, and repair the apartment and get it ready to rent out again, meanwhile doing without any rental income whatsoever. I have chronic fatigue issues and don't have a car to use to transport his stuff, so this was neither a fun nor a short process.





The first step was to clear all the garbage out of the apartment. This was about 14 hours of work, and it was a nasty business. I couldn't just shovel it into bags as the recyclable stuff had to be sorted from the garbage, and my tenant's belongings were mixed into it as well. At the time I did this, in January, it still seemed likely he was coming back to get his things, and I had no right to throw anything away. I washed his clothes and saved all his papers and receipts carefully in a folder, no matter how crumpled and dirty they might be.

When my tenant first moved in I had told him the place was to be no smoking, and he promised to go outside to smoke. He did do so for for some time, but then stopped doing so at some point. There were hundreds of cigarette butts lying about and the place reeked of smoke and other things. The saddest moments of this whole experience were those in which I found my tenant's AA tokens and literature and notes to himself all mixed in with the cigarette butts and beer bottle caps and filth. There were tin can lids and broken glass and used hypodermic needles lying about. I wore gloves and a face mask, but I still got cuts on my hands as well as headaches and aggravated allergies during the clean-up process.

This picture shows some of the garbage I took out of the apartment. I'd say I removed about 25 bags of garbage and recycling in all. Besides the bags and blue box you see on the left, the green, gray, and blue bins you see on the right are all crammed full. It took me weeks just to get all of this garbage off my property as I can only put out a certain amount for pick up each week.





The contrast between how the Popcorn Ball paint colour looked when fresh and how it looked after my tenant had been smoking in the apartment for a couple of years. Ironically, this round spot is where the smoke detector was. The smoke detector had to be replaced as it was no longer functioning due to being exposed to too much smoke. It had been bought at the same time as the detectors in my part of the house, and they're all still working fine.





The basement apartment kitchen floor, mid-scrub. That's a scraper by the bucket — I had to use it for the worst spots. The unscrubbed parts of the floor have been cleared of garbage, swept, and vacuumed, so the contrast between how it was and how it looked after I cleaned it was even greater than what you see here. While I scrubbed I fantasized about how I'm going to sue my former tenant's ass.





The bedroom floor as it was when I cleared out all my tenant's belongings. The curtains proved to be ruined as they were still horribly smoke stained after I ran them through the wash. In Ontario the law is that once a tenancy has been terminated anything left behind by the tenant becomes the property of the landlord. I waited until nearly the end of March to start disposing of my tenant's things because disposing of it all was the last thing I wanted to do, for either his sake or mine, but I finally had to just start doing it. I took his clothes, dishes, cooking utensils and other small, usable items to the nearest thrift shop, four blocks away, on foot. I'd fill my backpack and carry a bag of things in either hand, and got the job done in maybe seven trips or so. His two CRT TVs and some of the worst furniture went out on the curb where passersby could help themselves to it (they did). His dirty old mattress set and the broken-down folding futon it rested on got picked up by the garbage men. I scrubbed up five of the best pieces of his furniture, photographed them, and sold them on Craig's List.





I don't know what my tenant did to the windowsill. In any event, rather than tell me about it so I could repair it, he had placed a can of beans over the hole. The screening had also completely disappeared from its frame.

Now let's move on to the final set of photos, which show the apartment as it looked once I finally finished the cleaning, painting, and repairing process.





We begin the tour again with the hallway. I hadn't so much as a drop of the old Popcorn Ball paint left, which, since I was going to have to repaint the entire place, meant I got to select a new colour. This colour is Almond Wisp, which I like much better than the Popcorn Ball. It's a taupe rather than a yellow, is appealingly fresh and light, and it's a far better match with the flooring and kitchen.





The front door had gotten bashed in when my tenant tripped on the steps and fell head first against the door at some point during his occupancy. Some spackle and paint worked wonders.





My former tenant had been using the bathroom door hooks to hold his coats. They weren't designed to hold anything that heavy and had consequently torn out of the door. The door wasn't going to hold a re-installation, so I just bought this over-the-door hook.





The freshly painted bathroom. I still really like the Seafoam Breeze colour and I had half a gallon of it left from the first time I painted this bathroom, so I used that for the two new coats of paint. There's nothing really "new" in this shot. Everything got taken down, cleaned and/or painted, and then put back together the same way. The one change is that the toothbrush holder is no longer there. I somehow managed to lose the special little screw used for putting it up, found I couldn't replace it, then found I couldn't buy a replacement toothbrush holder at any of the three stores I looked for one (not by itself anyway — they want customers to buy a whole set of fittings). No big deal. It wasn't really designed to hold the thicker toothbrushes everyone uses now anyway.





A length-wise shot of the bathroom. Ah, cleanliness and fresh paint, how I love thee.





The over-the-toilet stand shelves had gotten somewhat stained, so I bought contact paper in a coordinating shade of blue to cover them. They can easily be torn out and replaced when they get worn or stained in turn.





This bottom shelf has a rounded edge, there wasn't a logical place to cut the contact paper, and I thought a raw edge of paper would look bad, so I used the lines of the design to create a special cut edge.





The commode, which has a new toilet seat and flush mechanism. I should not have had to replace a toilet seat that was bought in 2010, but it was such a huge relief not to have to clean the old one. Excuse me while I pause for a convulsive shudder.





The door of the medicine cabinet was also stained, so I lined it with contact paper too.





The shower has a new shower curtain and shower curtain bar. The showerhead is the same.





The shower caddy is the same as well, though it needed a vigorous cleaning.





When I was doing the apartment reno this time, I kept trying to think of ways to make it better than it had been. I didn't come up with many ideas because I kind of emptied that keg back in 2010, but I did get the bright idea of putting in this hook rail. It'll give my new tenant a handy place to hang her jackets and coats so she doesn't have to traipse in and out of the bedroom to get or put away her coat every time she wants to go out or comes home.





The kitchen. Let me tell you, it may not look like much to you, but I revel in the sight of its order and cleanliness. I did sell the bench that was formerly in the kitchen via Craig's List. After it took me an hour to scrub it clean, I decided I didn't want to be responsible for maintaining furniture for future tenants.





The dehumidifier, fridge, and shelving rack looking the same as they did before. This is a nearly new fridge, the one from the previous pictures having died in September 2012. There's also a new smoke detector in the same place as the old one.





The kitchen. The one change I've made here (besides repainting and oh so much cleaning) is to replace the faucet, as the old one was in a very sad state. This is something I can't blame on my tenant though. I had reused the old faucet that came with the house when I put in the new kitchen in 2010 and who knows how old it was. I will say for my old tenant that although he left the place filthy, he wasn't hard on the place in terms of causing damage. Most of the repairs I had to make were consistent with normal wear and tear and accidents.





The bedroom. Last time I painted the place, I used just two paint colours: one for the bathroom and one for the rest of the place, reasoning that it should be kept neutral. This time I realized that with this kind of place where tenants aren't going to be painting and can't do much in the way of decorating (i.e., they can't put art on the walls, they won't be able to keep plants alive) that I should be trying to make the place look a little more attractive and interesting. When I was showing the place, the few bits of visual interest that I had added were the items people seemed happiest and most vocal about: the copper-coloured acrylic backsplash and the blue in the bathroom. (One potential tenant said it was "such a perfect blue".)

So, I loosened up a little and painted the bedroom walls and ceiling in Sage Tint, with the doors and closets in the Almond Wisp. The colour was a little less sage and a little more mint than I would have liked, but it will do. It made the bedroom look much fresher and brighter and more inviting than it was the last time I painted it.





The curtains that I had made in 2010 were ruined, so I made new ones. I was going to go with a plain cream fabric but fell in love with this fabric at the store and talked myself into buying it. After all, wasn't it still neutral without being drearily so, and therefore totally in keeping with my slightly altered decorating scheme?





A closer shot of the curtains. I repaired the window sill, put new screening in, and found an extra screw with which to secure the window lock, as one had gone missing during my tenant's occupancy. I also used wall anchors this time to secure the curtain rod. One side had pulled loose last time, but that shouldn't happen again.





My former tenant's floor lamp and power bar. Since they are now mine, they're part of the fittings of the apartment. This big room only has one ceiling light and two outlets, which isn't quite enough.





The closets fared best of all the areas in the apartment since my tenant just shoved a bunch of stuff in them and left them shut. They only needed a light cleaning and repainting.





Closet number two. The hook that was on the back of the bedroom door had also pulled out. I didn't put it back up.





Trilby is sitting on my former tenant's chairs (which my new tenant has purchased from me), feeling sad that he will never see my former tenant again. Trilby was terrified of my tenant for the first year he lived here as he is of all strangers, but eventually got used to him, and after that whenever he saw him would go straight to him and be all "YOU WILL PET ME NOW".





"What do you mean, 'I have to get used to a new tenant'?!"





Trilby leads the way as we finally leave the apartment with the last few things and last cleaning complete.

Now that the renovations are done, my next project will be to sue my former tenant for the back rent he owes me (5 months' worth), a cleaning and disposal fee, the cost of repainting and such repairs as were necessitated by his lack of reasonable care of the place, my court costs, and interest on the total debt going forward. There is a good chance I will never get any of this money, but I can't bear to not even try, as that will mean letting my tenant simply walk away from what he has done to me without any consequences. Then too, as it is quite a significant amount of money that my former tenant owes me, it will be worth suing him if I can even get 10% of the money back. Wish me luck, as I will need it. And if anyone tries to tell you "all landlords are bastards", perhaps you might speak a word for us. As you've seen, sometimes landlords get screwed over royally, even when we've treated our tenants very well.

And I bloody well better not have to redo this apartment again for quite some time.

Update March 21, 2016: I have not been able to sue my former tenant for the money he owes me as one needs a current address for the person one is trying to sue and I can't find him despite having tried for two years to do so -- it's so easy for someone to hide themselves in these days of mobile phones. And now the statute of limitations for legal action has passed. I have decided to add my tenant's name to this post as a fair warning for any future potential landlords in the hope of sparing them an experience like mine. My former tenant's name is John Andrew Colin Benn. He is usually known as Andrew Benn, although in some cases he goes by his legal name of John Benn. He is still in the Toronto area as far as I know. If you are a landlord who has found this post because you were googling his name after he applied to rent living quarters from you, please be aware that my experience with him was that he was a disastrously bad tenant who absconded leaving a disgusting mess and a lot of debt behind him over two years ago, and that he has since then made no effort whatsoever to make any amends for his irresponsible behaviour.