Monday, August 29, 2011

Give a soiled garment new life.

Have you ever ruined your favorite dress? Let me encourage you to get tough and reclaim your clothes from a disastrous stains. 

I made this little dress to wear to “business casual” events. I have bit of a problem with the term “business casual.” Regarding my business, casual would be somewhere in the realm of pajamas to workout clothes because my work days consist of studio/art-design time, volunteer projects, and gym workouts. This does not mean I do not understand the term, I just think it is an inadequate description for the direction the “working” world’s professional attire has taken. Besides, well, it is general. Stepping down from my soapbox...I wanted something that would work for trendy, casual, and dressy gatherings depending on my accessories. 

As you can see on the back left hip, in the picture above, I managed to destroy my casual dress with a leaky ink pen in my luggage. I was just sick when I pulled it from my bag to see a giant streaky mess all over a dress I had not only made, but only worn once. My first line of defense was luke warm water and pump spray stain remover. If anything it made the stain worse. I was determined not to loose this dress so I thought out of the box...the Rit box, that is. 

You will need: 
  • Soiled garment 
  • Rit color remover 
  • Large pot 
  • Hot water 
  • Fabric dye (optional) 

I left myself a couple options. I bought a Rit color remover and a couple colored dyes. I began with the color remover. 

Follow the package directions. I will say this stuff has an obtrusive aroma! I placed the powder packet in hot water on the range beneath the exhaust fan while I stirred, waited for my color to change and watched the ink blot to disappear. 

I had no idea what color would emerge after using the color remover. But I will say I was pleased with the new heathered, light-camel colored dress pictured below. 

If the stain had still been visible or the dress had changed to a completely undesirable color I was armed with a couple selections of dark blues. The dyes can be messy, but all in all pretty easy to use. A few dollars in dye is a much better investment than buying a new dress and really with the change in color you have a new dress anyway. 

A few points to think about when choosing a dye:

  • Will removing the color be enough to correct your fabric? 
  • Will the dye be dark enough to cover your problem area? 
  • Will your fabric take the dye? Check a small swatch first if you are unsure. 
  • Is your fabric heathered or has shade will this look in a different color? 
  • Does the dye color look good with your skin and hair? 
  • Can you stop the dying process at the point of the color you want?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Make a T-Shirt Dress...You already have a pattern!

Remember at the end of last Friday’s post when I ask you to find an old t-shirt that fits you nicely? Well, here is the post you have been preparing for. 

As you can see I will somehow use an old t-shirt from my closet to create a very trendy, very comfy, and very flattering maxi t-shirt dress. I wanted to post this all summer, but had not had the chance. So, not to waste any more time, let’s get started. 

You will need: 
  • 2 Yards stretch jersey knit fabric 
  • Well fitting t-shirt 
  • Scissors 
  • Sewing machine 
  • Thread 
  • Measuring tape 
First I want to talk about the fabric. The stretch jersey knit is the most common fabric for these t-shirt dresses. If you do not know what I am talking about go to any local women’s store and feel either a t-shirt dress or most any t-shirt. Most of them will be made from something like a 98% polyester and 2% Lycra blend or Rayon or a 97% Cotton and 3% Lycra blend. Unless you have an allergy to or an extreme distaste for a certain fiber the components of the fabric are less important than the weave. You must use a knit fabric or you will be making yourself a short-sleeved clergy robe. 

I used less than two yards because I am shorter than the average fifth-grader. Two yards should be a sufficient length if you are 5’ 11’’ or less. Now I need to address fabric width. Most likely the widest part of your body will be your hips. If so, measure around you hips at their largest circumference and divide that by two. It is possible that your widest point could be your shoulders, but remember that I am not talking about measuring your shoulders from the outer sides of your arms...measure the distance between your shoulder to sleeve seams. Okay, you have established your widest seam to seam measurement now add three inches to that width. Double it. Assume you need 10 plus inches of fabric for the sleeves and this will give you your smallest potential fabric width. For example, 18 inches (seam to seam widest point or 1/2 widest circumference) + 3 inches= 21 multiply x 2= 42 + 12 inches (for sleeves)= 54 inch wide fabric. Make sense? If you cannot find fabric this wide get an extra half yard for the sleeves. 

I chose a striped fabric. was the fabric I already had, but additionally, stripes are you would know if you have been reading my blog. My small frame cannot carry a full length of heavy stripes nearly as well as a tall person. The stripe width variance helps keep your eye moving even though the stripes are horizontal. Who says you even need to use a striped fabric at all? I love to help people with guides on fashion trends, but ultimately, what is in is what looks and fits you best. You can deck yourself out in the seasons hottest colors, styles, and brands, but if you just cannot wear red high-waisted tapered tribal print cigarette pants, well...don’t! That trend may work for someone else. You are in charge of the end result when you make something yourself. Find a fabric that feels good to you, looks good on you, and still consider colors that are fashionable, but just use a knit! 

Now that you have your fabric let’s really get started. 

Cut the serged edges off of your t-shirt. 

After removing each sleeve mark (F) front or (B) back on your pattern. 

This is what you should be left with after removing all serged edges. This is your pattern. 

I want to mention something before you begin cutting. I liked the fit of this shirt, but it was slightly big on me. Therefore, I really did not leave seam allowances. By not adding seam allowances the dress would be taken in slightly without having to alter my pattern. If this shirt fits you perfectly add 1/2 all the way around your pattern (except the bottom t-shirt hem) to keep the fit the same. 

If your shirt is not long enough to reach your hips widest point you will need to measure down to where your widest point would be located and mark your measurement. To find this measurement, hold the t-shirt front to the shoulder seams of whatever you are wearing. Use a tape measure to measure at what length your widest point will fall. Measure from your pattern to that point on your fabric. From the center measure out half of your widest measurement on either side. 

I used a skirt as a guide. This is not necessary, but helpful. If you do not have a skirt mark the length of the bottom hem of your dress. Say your widest hip measurement was 18” (remember it is halved). Add two inches = 20. The hem line should equal 20 inches across for your dress to hang straight. Use a straight edge and draw slight diagonal line from your widest hip width to the hem. This is where the extra three inches come from: two 1/2" seam allowances and 1 inch added to each side of the hem width.

To ensure your curves on each side of your dress match perfectly cut one half and then fold it in half to cut the other. See below. 

To ensure the front skirt and back skirt are the same lay the cut (dress back) fabric over the t-shirt front, matching the shoulder seams. Fold the top of the dress back down to cut the front dress top. Use the cut piece as your guide for the front skirt. 

To limit confusion with a small piece of soap, mark (on the inside) your (F) front and (B) back, same goes for the sleeves. 

Cut the sleeves. Remember to add seam allowances as needed. 

Pin the right (fabric face) sides together at the shoulders. 

Sew the shoulders together. 

Pin right sides of sleeves to the armseye. I find the best way to do this is to pin the center to the shoulder seams and each end to the shirt body (armpit area) and then manipulate the fabric in between. Sew the sleeves to the bodice. 

You will need to cut an inch strip from your fabric. The length will be determined by measuring the length around the neckline. You will fold the strip in dog style and sew right sides together with the folded edge facing toward the neck. 

Now that you have sewn a finished edge to the neckline, top stitch onto the bodice side while catching the cut ends of the neckline on the underside. This will keep the neckline laying flat and all of the jagged ends turned under. 

Pin your sides together from the arms eye to the bottom hem. 

Turn 1/4” - 1/2” fabric allowance under and sew to finish the sleeves. Do the same to finish the hem. 

Fold your t-shirt remnants in a bag labeled t-shirt pattern and the size. Now you will have a pattern the next time you want to make a dress or a t-shirt. 

Voila! As comfortable and simple as this cute dress is you might want to make one in every color.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Champagne Cork Mini Vases

Probably once a day everyday this week I have stopped and stared at my cork pile. I have been thinking about a cork idea I had seen previously and have been wanting to add my own little touches before posting it. While I was unable to expound on an existing idea, I did come up with a new, to my knowledge, completely original one. I turned, flipped, and attached corks together. Finally, I set this champagne cork upside-down to notice it resembled a vase. My next thought was how do I make it hold water? I cannot fit a water pick down in the cork. My mind took a detour to a pen cap, and well, off I went to create a tiny vase that would be perfect for decoration at a wine tasting or individual table setting bouquets at an intimate dinner. 

You will need: 
  • A drill and drill bit 
  • Champagne/wine cork 
  • Pen cap 
  • Scissors 
  • Flower 
  • Water 
  • Ribbon (optional) 
Use a drill bit that will create a large enough hole to insert the pen cap. I used a 5/16” bit. Changing a bit can be pretty hard on your hands. You must reverse the spin on the drill as you grasp the tip to release the existing bit...which can really burn your hand. Insert the size bit you need, then change the spin back to the original direction to set it in place. Or just ask someone to do it for you. I did not want to wait around for my husband to come home so I just changed it myself...and burned my hand. Before you begin drilling make sure to hold the cork securely in place. You can place the cork in a vise grip if you feel more confident using both hands. I actually placed the cork on the ground, squeezed it between my feet, pointed the drill perpendicular to the floor, and then began drilling the hole. Also, hold the cap next to the tip of the bit to know about how far you will need to tunnel into the cork. 

Clip the stem from the pen cap. I would have preferred to use a cap that had been separated form it’s pen or a cap I had already broke the stem from, but of course, today they were nowhere to be found. 

Fit the cap into the hole you drilled in the cork. 

Add a few drops of water to fill the cap. 

Place a small floral stem in the water filled cap. 

You can stop there or add a pretty ribbon to tie the mini vase into your setting or for a nice pop of color. 

Voila! An unusual yet extremely simple mini vase.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Add Visual Interest With Antique and Costume Jewelry Pieces

Add Visual Interest With Antique and Costume Jewelry Pieces 

I had not particularly intended on writing a post about this, but I had such a great response to the idea when I wore it to a luncheon today that I decided to go ahead and let everyone in on my little secret. Thankfully, I did think it was enough of a possibility to document in photographs. 

I made this little dress a year or two ago. The times I have worn it it has bothered the front of my neck. Ok, I admit I made a minor construction mistake. When I design something for myself I often do not take the care I would for someone else. Remember the saying, “the cobbler’s children have no shoes...” Regardless, it is a pretty dress that I wanted to wear more, therefore, I needed to alter the neck for comfort. 

I began by measuring how much extra room I would need for comfort. Then proceeded to cut the length from a fragment of gold chain. I chose gold because of the warm tones already in the garment. I considered using an old bracelet. If you have a linked-style bracelet that you do not wear any more for whatever reason throw it in a jewelry parts drawer. They can make great extension pieces. As you can see I looped one end around the existing hook and pinched it closed. 

Here is where using a bracelet is helpful. But if you do not have a bracelet attach a jewelry clasp as I did.  

Now just clip the clasp to the existing eye and choose a fun bobble to decorate your chain. I have inherited and bought a number of interesting antique costume jewelry pieces. Clip-on earrings work particularly well for this idea. I suppose you could use a hook-style earring, but I usually find more interesting pieces that are clip-on anyway. Notice the two clip-on earrings I used. One was pearly with a gold chain surrounding it. When attached the chains look one-in-the-same and the pearl works with the polka dots. The dropped earring is gold, matching the chain, and something you may not be able to see in the picture are the honey-yellow insets decorating the earring. This added color allows the earring to naturally blend with the garment and become a complimentary piece.   

I actually used a different clip-on. That is the beauty of this idea, though. You never have to wear it the same way twice!

I really do not like the pictures that I have to take of myself, by the way. But at least that way you know it is really me. I regret not posting on Wednesdays, lately. It has been a really busy summer. I have been learning the art of cinnamon rolls in my spare time. This past Wednesday I took some time to de-stress and work on my new found adventure. So here is a picture of hopefully the beginning of a recipe I can someday perfect and share.

Additionally, one last thought before the weekend. Next week I will post a fun, fairly simple, fashionable and certainly wearable project. In the meantime, pull out an old t-shirt. A fitted one that fits you really well. Something like this:
Again...really hate taking pictures of myself...    

Monday, August 15, 2011

Shop Your Closet - Repurposing a Tunic

Shop Your Closet

Ok, people, we are in a downed economy. Let’s get creative and make the best of it! I will do my best to periodically bring you wardrobe ideas that will only cost you a little time, potentially a needle and a spool of thread (if you do not already have it) and some creative imagination. 

The other night we went to Lakeside Grill to support our friend, Justin Echols, during his opening week of performances at his new jazz residency. We tend to migrate with the same group of people any time we do something social. This being said, I try to rotate my dresses as best I can. My husband has a habit of daily interrogation of my purchases. This keeps me humble, thrifty, and always able to justify. 

I bought this cover-up/tunic at a thrift store last winter. Out of season and at a thrift store...I’m sure it was next to nothing. Though I never intended it to be worn the way it was intended to be worn I saw interesting potential in it. 

A couple of hours before our reservation I stood in my usual funk peering at my dresses that had already enjoyed an outing or two this summer. My gaze caught the sight of this cotton plum-colored tunic and the crash corse with rapid repurposing began. I wanted something that would work for the setting...mostly an adult venue, yet still casual and family friendly. This is a...I don’t want to say “bad”...habit that began around my design school years. If I did not have the item I felt like wearing in my closet I would pin or sew something on the fly. 

I know many closets have tunics very similar to this one. If you are so inclined to try something a little different for an evening you can always rip out a few minor stitches and wear it in it’s original state. So, here is what I did... 

I first threw it on my dress form to look it over and make some mental notes of necessary changes. I came to the conclusion that the only major problem was the side slits. These slits can be closed a couple of ways, one being by hand with a needle and thread the other by sewing machine. 

Considering my limited time I chose the sewing machine. I simply folded the right sides together and began sewing from the point where the original seam stopped. 

I really like open backed pieces. They are tasteful and elegant, yet ever-so-slightly revealing. If that does not suit you feel free to sew the pieces together a little way up the back. Additionally, “V” front and cowl necked tunics will produce the same general look. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Repurposing Address Labels

Address Labels

We lived in a condo, as many couples do, the first year or two together. I just had to order these cute address labels with our charactures on them. I believe the smallest quantity I could order was something like 250 labels. Between the bills and Christmas cards we may have used a couple pages. After stumbling upon these address labels tucked in the back of a drawer, I thought I really hate to just through them out. 

Obviously, I could not use the address anymore…it would upset the current resident. Sadly, Louie, my precious little ferret is no longer with us; which is why I actually stopped using them in the first place. It made me too sad to see his little face on the label and think about him being gone to use them the last couple months we lived there. I Also, I really do not share the same last name as my husband, I sometimes hyphenate, which is seriously confusing. Especially, when people spell and say none of my names right by adding S’s and R’s. I have finally (a second and third order of address labels later) put both our last names on the labels. I am not a feminist and that is not the cause behind the name dispute. Among other reasons, I had my name when I began my art and aside from that I really like my name the way it is. 

So, I looked at what I had left to work with. They are sticky. That’s a plus. Our first names were on them…along with a characature of our faces. There are some nice printed shapes and lines and other colorful detailing on the sides. 

I began cutting. First, I cut out Louie’s picture. I have neatly stacked files of scrap booking from different eras of my life. I am sure I can find a good Louie page to paste some stickers of him. Next, I cut off the pretty detailing. I assume I can use this to seal a card or run through a shaped punch then stick it to something. That just sounds kinda fun anyway. 

Lastly, I cut us out. I thought this would be a much more interesting (and quick) way to sign a gift tag…considering I typically sign for the both of us anyway. 

If you only have your name on old address labels remove that portion and use it following “from” on a gift tag.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Breakfast Truffles

It occurred to me how nice it would be to have the tidiness of a truffle and the taste if a cinnamon roll combined into one. As you know by now I love the convenience of using cake scraps in a multitude of ways. I think I may need to explain “cake scraps” again, though. Cake scraps are not left over cake after it has been partially eaten. They come from the piece cut off the top of the cake to to level it before icing. Speaking of needing a thorough explanation...almost ten years ago when I first realized I loved baking I went on a spree of making nearly every recipe in one of the old Hershey’s cook books. I probably made a cake, a pie, a batch of cookies or brownies two to three times a week for no other reason than to try the recipe and just learn to bake. During this fledgling baking phase I was making a dessert for my family and boyfriend at the time to follow our supper. It was something like a five layer torte, so, I was pretty proud to present it. It looked like the picture and it had taken me several hours to create this new-found masterpiece. As each person bit into the torte my excitement wilted with the strange grimaces that wiped over their faces. I soon discovered upon taking a bite myself that in one of my novice blunders it did not even occur to me to make a 1/4 of liquid coffee then add it versus mix in 1/4 cup of coffee grounds. By the way, this recipe calls for liquid coffee. 

You will need:

Dough Ingredients:
  • 2 c. white cake scraps 
  • ¼ c. low fat cream cheese 
  • 1/8 c. coffee 
  • 1 Tbls. liquid butter 
  • 1 Tbls. caramel sauce 
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 

  • 1 c. chopped pecans 
  • 2 Tlbs. brown sugar 
  • 2 Tbls. cinnamon sugar 

Mix cake scraps, cream cheese, coffee, butter, caramel, and cinnamon by hand in a medium mixing bowl. Do not over beat. 

Spoon dough to roll into balls on a cookie sheet covered in wax paper. Note: each dollop should be about an inch in diameter or a little smaller than a ping pong ball. Refrigerate for 15 minutes for dough to become firm enough to shape into balls. 

Toast topping ingredients. 

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll into balls. 

Roll balls in toasted topping. 

Return each ball back to the sheet of wax paper. Place in a sealed freezer-safe container until serving. Present truffles in mini baking cups make for individual servings. 

Yields approx. 20 truffles, feel free to double or triple the recipe according to your needs.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fresh Flowers

Fresh Flowers: 

I love to have fresh flowers around the house. There is something about walking into a home where fresh flowers are displayed, whether it’s yours or someone else’s, it creates an inviting atmosphere. Not necessarily “homey”. It just says, “I care so much about you (and me) that I wanted to bring something lovely and living from it's outdoor happy-home inside to greet you.” 

I like to place simple floral displays in my guest bathrooms to greet the patrons. (And hope this nice greeting sways them from doing something awful like wiping make-up all over the embroidered tip towel, because this has happened) Judging from my own experiences of using other people’s restrooms, it is easy to find yourself looking around. Think about it. It’s (mostly) quiet, you are washing your hands (hopefully), drying your hands, and whatever else you choose to do, but all the while looking around. This is not a high-traffic area full of distractions so you tend to notice more of you surroundings. Focusing on that last thought, you should provide flowers according to the perceived emotion of the room. Granted, I have seen some pretty wild bathrooms, but most often people strive to achieve a tranquil, spa-type atmosphere: neutral and cool colors; hence, simple, solid or light colored, tidy arrangements. 

On the other hand, something more outrageous and bold is appropriate in the rooms where you want to entertain people. Below is a Spring-time arrangement of lilies, hydrangeas, and button mums. The lilies are the focal point. They are pointy, lanky and irregularly pink. Next I chose the other two types of flowers to accent the lilies. They are solid green, round and almost fluffy looking. All three floral varieties are bold colors. Considering it is a bold room, it can support them. 

Additionally, both of these arrangements, plus a single stem arrangement and another small guest arrangement cost $12 plus tax. I bought three grocery store bouquets to create all of them. You do not have to spend a lot of money to bring home a lot of joy. In fact, this one was free from my flower bed.