Sunday, March 27, 2011

DIY Remodeling…

…Wow! It’s done!!!

I’ve been wanting to re-do the window coverings in our 10-year old motorhome for some time now. The original ones were pretty water-stained and starting to fray. John was insisting that he planned to be gone when I did it, but – of course – that’s not how it worked out.

I had an idea in my mind of what I wanted, based on a rug we’d seen in Taos NM, but – here’s a slight understatement – couldn’t afford. So last October in McAllen (Texas), John & I found and purchased a wool rug with the colors and simplistic look that I wanted. Oh, and on sale, too!


The design is kind of “Aztec” like, but two of the designs remind me of Alaska: the person looks like an Eskimo and the “chevron” design reminds me of whale tails emerging from the ocean!

So, in November friend Karin and I headed to McAllen to Rio Bravo Fabric Store. If you’re in the RGV (Rio Grande Valley) and are in the market for upholstery fabric, don’t miss this place. They have BEAUTIFUL fabrics and lots of them. We spent several hours and finally decided on a deep (brick) red chenille-like fabric, an ivory colored ultra-suede and some two-inch wide woven trim with gold diamond-shaped threads to coordinate with the rug. Karin sews lots and was an immense help in deciding what would work and what wouldn’t. Fortunately, John was on-board with the colors, but had no interest in working out the details. I took home samples, the colors worked, and then December went by, January went by…

Finally, our life calmed down a bit and by mid-February we took the plunge. John’s idea of being gone went by the wayside when I decided it would be better to do this project down here near the fabric store rather than waiting till this next summer in Iowa in case I needed to buy more. And, am I glad he was around! He did the dismantling and I did the reconstruction. We may work in different ways, but after nearly 40 years of marriage, we’ve figured out what type of teamwork works for us!!

On February 11th, we took down the fabric insert of the slide-out frame. We discovered that the fabric-covered buttons on it snap onto screws. Slick!


I had spent several hours measuring windows and plotting fabric yardage, but even though I was pretty sure I had it figured out, cutting into that expensive fabric the first time about had me freaked out. Finally did it, though, and it got much easier every time I cut another piece out. (It didn’t help that the ivory ultra-suede was no longer being made and I had purchased the last three pieces of 2 yards, 2-7/8 yards and 5-2/3 yards. Oh, goodie! Now I get to refigure the piece placements – again!)

Anyway, recovering the slide frame piece was pretty straight-forward, except for recovering each of the eleven little buttons. Fortunately, we discovered that another fabric/upholstery shop in McAllen had a machine to do just that. Whew! What a relief. For less than 10 minutes and about $10 we had beautifully recovered buttons! For some things, DIY is NOT a good idea. And, of course, when we tried to re-install the newly recovered piece, we discovered that the new, thicker fabric meant that the screws weren’t quite long enough. One more trip back to McAllen for longer screws and Phase 1 was now complete!


Now it was time to tackle the window frames. We stumbled our way through figuring out how to remove the frame from over the couch. Here is a back view of the corner where the side frames join the valance.


I used the camera frequently to document where shade brackets and other screw holes were so they wouldn’t be so hard to find after recovering.


And, then we started pulling staples. And, we pulled staples and pulled staples and pulled staples.


Do you have any idea how many staples they put in these things? We know. Roughly 1,000. Per window.


I ended up going to McAllen (again!) to buy some thin foam to use on the valances and headboard. The old design had an upside down “v” shape with contrasting fabric and the foam was left with a deep indentation. I didn’t want to chance that it might be visible under the new fabric.


Here’s the new foam on a valance. Pretty easy except that I really fought with the staples on the really hard black “wood?” that was used for the valances. I finally ended up using John’s heavy duty stapler – not a one-handed job for me!


Here’s a close-up of the finished bottom/side frame.


To finish the trim and make it look more coordinated with the rest of the sides and bottom of the frame, I sewed a thin folded piece of the ultra suede on each side of the trim before sewing it on to the valance fabric. Thank heaven I was able to borrow Karin’s fabulous Baby-Lock computerized sewing machine with top & bottom feeders. All these layers of heavy fabric got pretty thick.


Here’s the first finished window frame – yea!! Only four to go….


I couldn’t resist laying out the new rug to see what it was going to look like. At least one side of the motorhome looks great!!


Next we removed the window frame over the dining table and sent the blinds out to be re-strung – after I had spent days trying to find quality string in blue. Finally located some from the guy in Oregon who had re-strung the bedroom blinds for us in 2008. He kindly sent us enough string to re-do the front blinds. The couple doing the re-stringing brought back the first two blinds right about the time we had removed the large window frame and blinds from the windows on the passenger side, so they re-installed the first two blinds and took the next two with them. I had toyed with the idea of doing the re-stringing ourselves, but John vetoed that idea and - after watching them re-hanging and adjusting the blinds - I’m glad we paid the extra to have them do it!


Once the front part was done, we tackled the two bedroom windows, headboard and pillows. The headboard proved to be a challenge to remove – lots of silicone attaching it to the wall! So, we did the same and used a whole tube of the stuff putting it back up.


The windows finally became pretty routine, until the last one. Guess I got a little cocky, tired or both because what I had feared so much at the beginning happened! While trimming corners in preparation for stapling the last corner on the last valance, I cut about 1.5 inches where I wasn’t supposed to. Only thing to do was to go eat (after saying a few swear words – sorry, Dad!), relax and then go borrow some iron-on fabric stuff from sister-in-law Jane and repair the damage. Ever try to iron a small piece of fabric that is already almost entirely attached to a four-foot long wooden window valance? Not impossible and a little Elmer’s Glue finished up the job.


Oh, yeah – there’s a couple of folding chairs under the bed… Now, this is my favorite part: look what was stapled underneath the seat dust cover! (You can enlarge the picture by clicking on it to read it.) Yup – it’s the instructions for folding and unfolding the folding chairs! And, to think we had spent the past four years trying to find those instructions…



Now everything’s done but the throw pillows for the bed. Should be a piece of cake. Ri-i-i-i-ight. Oh, well, they’re done now. Somewhere down the road I’ll find a different duvet cover.


Oops. Guess I better recover the wall piece that we use to hold family pictures and cards. Finally! Something fun to do! Karin’s computerized sewing machine was perfect for this project. What a dream to use! And, it does this amazing fancy stitching…


So, now – with lots of tape and hot glue, we have a matching picture frame on the wall.



Here’s some before and after pictures:


Lots of work, lots of mess, lots of sore hands, lots of staples and probably more swearing in six weeks than I’ve ever done in my entire life, but IT’S DONE. Thanks for all the help, John – we’ll wait at least ten years to do this again, OK? SmileSmile

Thanks also to Karin for her expert assistance/sewing machine and to Jane, Tony and Dad for their patience.


  1. Fantastic !!!! You guys did a great job and looks like a lot of work !!!! In a way I guess I am happy NOT being handy

  2. Wow you did a great job!!! Looks very new and updated!!
    Linda & Ron

  3. That turned out great. What a difference!!! Hope to see you this winter in RGV.

    Marianne and Gene