Monday, November 21, 2016

Rug Woes

I go through phases with my hobbies, and decorating my house has been no exception.  We moved in over two years ago, and I went through an intense phase right away of getting everything put together, but lost steam before I could declare total victory.  Getting our HVAC system redone this summer has reinvigorated me, because new drywall in places means pretty much everywhere needs to be painted (which I contemplated when we moved in, but it was pretty low on the priority list).  So far I've painted the kitchen (pale yellow), and picked out colors for the dining room (greenish-grey) and living room (pale aqua), but I'm running up against another problem.  When we got a puppy this summer I was nervous about  him eating things, but he's been pretty good with one exception.  So far he's gone through three rugs, and I'm at a bit of a loss with how to deal with it, except to never allow him in a room with a rug unsupervised (he always chews them when we're not there).

Rug #1 was a fairly early purchase from, which we were really happy with, despite it being more of a maroon color instead of the brick red they said:

This one got a hole chewed/scratched through both the rug and rug pad about 2-3" in diameter.  One option is to see if it could be repaired in some way, but I'm not holding my breath on that one.

Rug #2 was in the dining room, and isn't super noticeable, so we just put that one away for the time being.

Rug #3 I bought as a training rug.  I thought it was going to be a flatweave rug, but again thanks to ordering off the internet (, it ended up being a rag rug.  It was working fairly well, in that if we were in the room, we could correct behavior and I was able to fix small issues with the rug, and it was going well, until I started getting sloppy and leaving him alone in the living room.  A large hole later, it wasn't redeemable.

So we come to today.  So far, what we're working with is pale aqua walls (which aren't there yet, and could change if needed), a tan velvet chesterfield sofa (which I would love to recover, but probably a bit pricey and it doesn't really need it right now), two dark green chairs (I've been meaning to recover these since I got them 7 or 8 years ago, and they could actually use it), and pale beige leather chair, which also could use a recovering, but we're holding off until Eddie is out of puppy-hood.  So basically it's all just a bunch of colors that could change, which isn't super helpful.  There is also a stained glass window by the stairs which is primarily burgundy, pale blue, and yellow.

I've picked out a few bright options, and now I just have to convince John that one of them will be good (for some reason, rugs are a super tough thing for us to agree on).  I like rugs that incorporate a bunch of different colors, and all of these incorporate the colors throughout the first floor - aqua, yellow, orange-red (which is the accent color in the dining room).

This one is probably my favorite so far.

Too much orange?

This one feels a little cheaper to me, for some reason.

This one doesn't blend color-wise quite as well, but I really like the design.

Too much blue?

As a side note, all these rugs are from, and they are having 50%-60% off as a pre-black Friday sale today!  I have not ordered from them before, but I'm finding their free return policy quite attractive, as that's always been the tricky part of ordering rugs online, in that it's super expensive to ship them back if they don't quite work out.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Keeping Track of Patterns

For someone who doesn't typically follow patterns and instead just makes it up as she goes, I have a large collection of patterns, both pdf and printed.  One of the reasons I don't use them is that I can never remember what I have and what I've made, and any thoughts I had about them when I made them!  I've been struggling to get things under control for a while now, and I think I have a fairly good system in place (although it's maybe a bit too complex at the moment).

Step 1:  Wrangle all physical patterns into one place and put them in order 
I looked at a few different solutions, and one of the difficulties with this step is that pdf patterns tend to just be larger and more unwieldy than regular printed patterns that come in neat little envelopes.  Once I use a printed pattern though, I'm not very good at stuffing them back in the little envelopes neatly.  I don't remember where I got the idea, but I ran across these things called job ticket folders, which are basically heavy duty plastic sleeves.  They are typically used for construction jobs, and other types of projects where there are important pieces of paper that need to be around for a while.  I ordered 60 of them on Amazon, as I wanted everything to be in the same system, even if they are probably overkill for the printed patterns.  I have a canvas bin they fit in perfectly, with just a little room to grow.  If the collection does grow, I have another bin they can overflow into.  I organized them by pattern type (i.e. dresses, pants, shirts, etc), but I didn't worry too much about them being in a specific order, because I have a solution for not having to dig through them too much coming up.  I am thinking about doing some kind of common label across the top of the sleeves, but that might be overkill, since it's fairly easy to tell what each pattern is just by looking.  I think that might just be busy work.

Step 2:  Wrangle all digital patterns in one place and put them in order
I tend to use pdf patterns a lot, which while they do have their drawbacks (i.e. who wants to tape together 32 pieces of paper?), I like the flexibility of reprinting them if I make changes, and I'm not going to lie, the instant gratification of downloading.  This means a lot of digital files though, so I set up a folder on my Google Drive (which I use for all my documents except photos), and I use a common naming scheme to make it easier to find things:
pattern type-brand-name (i.e. Dress-Named-Inari.pdf)

Step 3:  Put everything in a pattern binder
As I mentioned in Step 1, I don't want to have to dig through all the patterns to see what I have, so instead I took a note from the big pattern companies and made a book!  I made a Word document which has one page per pattern, and I pasted either a picture of the front and back of the pattern envelope or the relevant info for pdf patterns, and left space for notes.  This way I can say, oh, I would like to make a dress, and flip through all the dress patterns without having to spread them all over the place to see what I have.  It's a lot of work, and I've only just started doing it, so we'll see how this goes.  In theory, I love the idea, but maybe I would rather just sew than spend the time keeping up my pattern binder.

Step 4:  Pull it all together in a database
This step is super similar to Step 3, just in an electronic form, the main difference being it doesn't contain the pattern images and info (like fabric requirements, etc).  Being an engineer, I want to have a database of everything, so I set up a note in Evernote that keeps track of all my patterns, whether they are a physical pattern (either a printed pdf or a regular pattern), if they are in Google Drive, in the pattern binder, and if I've made them before.  This is a lot simpler to keep up than the pattern binder, but it a bit repetitive.  This is a quick way to make sure I have properly filed all patterns in their respective places though.

It's a bit of work to get it all set up (primarily getting my pattern binder all put together), but theoretically it will be fairly simple to keep it going and insert new patterns in the mix.  Anyone have any good suggestions to simplify?  How do you store patterns and keep track of them all?  Am I just crazy? :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Playing with Proportions

I'm back at my wardrobe investigation - trying to figure out what I like and what looks best, and for some reason it's so much easier to figure these things out via photos versus just looking in the mirror.  One of my favorite things to wear is black/white stripes, so I played with a couple different proportions this morning.

The non-changing part of the outfit:

  • black/white striped tee - overall I like the fit of it, but there are a couple of areas I would change.  First, the neckline is a bit too high, as I tend to prefer a scoop neck, and it's also just a tad too long, at least for this outfit.
  • high-waisted bootleg jeans - being a short-waisted person to begin with, these are jeans that require me to leave my shirt untucked.  With a too-long shirt as well, this ends up a bit awkward.  I do like the way high-waisted jeans fit though, so they are good as long as I can wear my shirt untucked.  I've been stuck in a skinny jean rut for a while as well, and it's nice to have a different silhouette.  I had to hem these to get them the right length, which is one of the nice things about sewing - the ability to make things the right proportions!
 Where things started to change - the topper:

  • My first try was my silky black bomber jacket (on the right), which works well with the casual vibe of my stay-at-home outfit.  With the too-long shirt though, it looks a bit mumsy and not quite pulled together.
  • My long black cardigan (on the left) works better proportionally, I think, but the high neckline of the tee is still bothering me.  
Overall, still not the greatest outfit, but I have learned that hip-length shirts require a hip-length (or longer) topper.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Playing dress up - Halloween inspiration

So I know I said I was going to do a wrap-up on my 10x10 challenge, but I basically did it in the last post, and didn't have that many takeaways anyway, so I'm going to bow out of that post.  I might try a similar challenge soon though, and put a bit more time into planning and thinking through it all, and hopefully get it up on the blog.

With that out of the way, it's October, and I'm thinking about my halloween costume uncharacteristically early this year.  I know, I'm probably a tad old to still be playing dress up, but I really, really love costumes.  It's even more fun now that I am actually semi-proficient at making things, so can make something pretty cool, but I generally start thinking about these things like a day or two in advance, so I never do anything too fancy.  I brought back some props for an idea I've had for a while from my trip to Thailand last year, but I need to be in better shape for that costume, so I'm saving it til next year.  It won't be too scandalous, don't worry, I just don't want love handles.  :)

I've been tossing around several ideas in my head over the past few weeks trying to pin down what to do instead, and I think I've landed on some form of a dirndl costume.  I initially thought about doing a dual-purpose renaissance-y costume, so I have one handy the next time I find a Renaissance festival, but I'm liking the idea of German beer girl instead.  Although, my costume from my last festival does have some overlap I think:

I am wanting my dirndl this year to be a little more high-fashion, if there is such a thing though.  I've perused pinterest and come up with several inspiration ideas:

Check out the smocking (?) on the apron!


(Sources:  1-3, 4, 5

I have no idea what colors or what exactly I want it to look like yet, so I have my work cut out for me!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

10x10 Fall Remix - Day 10 - I made it!

I made it - day 10 of the 10x10 fall remix challenge!  There were some flip flops along the way, but overall I'm happy that I stuck to the spirit of the challenge, and made it work.  I am super excited to get into the rest of my closet again tomorrow though. :)  I'm reaching here for today's outfit, and I'm still not thrilled with it.  The sweater is a bit fussy, and the pants are just an odd color, I've decided.  

1)  Oatmeal sweater - I wore this on Sunday as well (no photographic evidence), but that time I just wore a camisole under it.  I actually like it better with the button-down, but it's still fussy feeling to me, and I'm not sure I like it too much.  I like it in theory, but every time I wear it I have to keep pulling and tugging.

2) Uniqlo white buttondown - from day 9

3) Grey pants - from day 3

I've done this sort of exercise on paper several times, and I'm glad I followed through and actually did it in real life.  I've learned I'm not totally ready for a super small wardrobe, but I do need to practice mixing things up a bit and working on my styling.  It's hard sometimes since I work from home so much, and end up in a tee and jeans, but I want to put a bit more effort into it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

10x10 Fall Remix - Day 9!

So I fell off the bandwagon for daily posting, but I promise I kept up with the remix challenge!  To recap a bit:

Day 4, Friday - black tee, knit skirt, black strappy sandals
Day 5, Saturday - black tee, jeans, brown corderoy jacket (technically #11, but outerwear, so I'm not counting it), and red/yellow shawl
Day 6, Sunday - oatmeal sweater, jeans, lace-up brown booties 
Day 7, Monday - black tee, jeans, black/green/turquoise shawl
Day 8, Tuesday - white long-sleeve tee, jeans (feeling sick so wanted a cozy tee)

We're almost at the finish line though, so I figured I would finish strong.  Today I went into the office, so dressed up a bit.

1)  J. Jill green sweater tank - from day 2.  I was thinking I would wear this one more than twice, but that's all it made it.  As it finally got cooler, I was able to take advantage of it's layering ability, and wear it as a sweater vest.

2)  Uniqulo white button-down - Full disclosure, I was supposed to wear this yesterday with jeans and a scarf, but I wasn't feeling well, so I just wore a comfy tee instead.  Theoretically it is its second appearance though, which again, I thought it would make it in more.  I might still wear it in tomorrow's outfit as well, I haven't decided.  I have a mixed relationship with button-downs.  I was a teenager in the 90s, and I basically wore button-downs every day, particularly of the plaid variety.  I stopped wearing them for quite a while, and I'm slowly reintroducing them into my wardrobe.  They just don't feel very feminine to me, I think, and I'm trying to fem up my wardrobe a bit.

3)  Me-made knit skirt - I wore this one on Friday with a black tee, which my husband was like, why are you so dressed up to work from home?  A prime example of me getting dressed just to optimize my 10 items!  I personally think it's a pretty casual skirt though, particularly since I never got around to hemming it (really finicky fabric).  I love the print, but the non-hem and general fussiness of the fabric (I'm always having to adjust it) means I don't wear it very much.  I think I will probably end up getting rid of the skirt after this experiment, but I always like to give things a shot.

4)  Lace-up brown booties - This was another "cheat" sort of thing, in that I brought these booties back into the mix.  I only wore my second pair of black sandals once, so I don't think it's too bad of a cheat. :)  This is a really new look for me to wear booties with a skirt, and overall I think it's not too bad.  I'm thinking about getting a pair of black booties to wear with tights and skirts this winter, so this was sort of a trial run for that.  The one thing I worry about with it is that being a shortie, it chops me off a bit, but especially if I wear black tights with black booties it won't be too noticeable.

5)  Accessories:

  • Sundance tiny silver hoops - from day 3.
  • Green pearl necklace - I got this one from my mom, and I probably wouldn't have picked it out myself, but I wear it all the time.  It's just one of those things that goes with everything.

Closing Time!

I've had my little Etsy shop Totables for 6 years now, and I've finally decided to pull the plug.  It's been a lot of fun, but I had much more free time when I first started it, and I've shifted a lot more to personal sewing instead.  Priorities, priorities...

The biggest thing that has stopped me from closing shop in the past (I've been debating doing it for a few years now) has been what to do with all the stuff I currently have!  Pretty much everyone in my family has received multiple bags as presents at this point, so I decided to just do a half-off sale!  I'm not sure I will actually sell much, so I may end up with the same problem as before, but it's worth a shot, right?


Side note:  time to switch to being a redhead again?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

10x10 Fall Remix - Day 3

Day 3 of the Un-Fancy Fall Remix challenge I actually went into the office, so had to dress up a bit more!

1) Everlane black sweater vest - from Day 1

2) J. Brand grey cropped chinos - I switched these out from my tan cropped pants, because they went better with my warmer temperature switches.  I bought them a while ago from a consignment store (don't remember which), and I've been on the fence about them a bit.  They fit nicely, but there is something about the color that I'm not a huge fan of, maybe I would like it to be a cooler grey?  I normally wear them rolled at the bottom (you can still see my roll lines), but I actually do like them better straight.  Maybe that was the problem!  I also have a weird problem where I can't ever figure out what shoes to wear them with if my top doesn't have black in it (so I can wear black shoes).  I have some issues with color-matching that I've been working through the past few years. :)

3)  Nine West black heeled sandals - I think I got these from Twice, as I've had them a while.  I like them a lot, as they dress me up a bit, but are still super comfy.  I do not like to wear them with dresses though (something about the point at which they hit makes me feel like they chop me up to much), so I pretty much wear them exclusively with cropped pants.

4)  Accessories - I actually intended to wear a black/grey/white silk scarf I bought in Thailand with this outfit, and it was going to tie all together and be awesome.  Unfortunately, the grey was way more blue than my pants, and it just looked off.  I even debated on putting on a different outfit, but instead went with some of my tried and true jewelry pieces:
  • Sundance tiny silver hoops - I love Sundance jewelry, as it is typically has an artisan feel.  I have these earring both in gold and silver and I wear them to death, as they are my go-to simple earrings.
  • H&M long silver drop necklace - This necklace is the opposite of artisan, as it was $5 from H&M, but I equally love it and wear it to death.  I recently replaced the chain, as the "silver" was wearing off, but the pendant is going strong.  I think part of the reason I love it so much is that it reminds me of a silver teardrop I wore all the time in high school/college.  I don't remember  all the details, but I believe my aunt's dentist had made it out of silver left over from fillings, which is a little bizarre now that I think about it, but it was hand-crafted!  I lost it on a trip to the Netherlands my sophomore year of college and I still miss it dearly.
  • Black/silver watch - from day 2.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

10x10 Fall Remix - Day 2

Another work from home day today, and on the hotter side, so not the most elaborate of outfits, but that's more my speed anyway.  I do have my church small group to go to tonight, so I will leave the house and spend time with other humans, so I did make a bit more effort than yesterday though!

1)  J. Jill green sweater tank - I scored this one at Goodwill this summer, and I've worn it a bunch.  I'm weirdly not loving it as much in the photo though, what do you think?  I'm hoping it will be pretty versatile with layering, so stay tuned as to how else I wear it!  I've been trying to make a muted green one of my neutrals for several years, and I'll get there eventually.

2) Madewell dark skinny jeans - from Day 1

3) Franco Sarto black strappy sandals - from Day 1

4) Accessories - I realized I didn't wear any yesterday, but they are a key element of mixing things up, since they don't count towards the 10 items.  Today's accessories include:

  • Green dangle earrings - these were a gift from John several years ago (from KUKLAstudio) and I don't wear them very much.  I think they are really cool though, and I like to wear them when I have short hair.  One of my goals with this challenge is to mix things up with accessories.
  • Black/silver watch - I've written about this one before, but I bought it forever ago at Target and I love it dearly.  At this point it's on watchband at least #4, and I've put way more money into it in watchbands than its original purchase price ($15 maybe?), but it's worth it.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

10x10 Fall Remix - Day 1!

I'm finally diving into the capsule wardrobe world!  Well, more like dipping my toe in, but hey, it's something.  I'm playing along with the Un-Fancy Fall Remix, which means I selected 10 items (including shoes!) and can only wear those 10 items for 10 days.  The idea here is to force me to try new combinations and get outside my normal wardrobe box.

I was going to do an initial post showing my 10 items, but after I gathered them all together, I sat down to figure out my outfits, and realized I was too optimistic as to whether or not fall had actually arrived, and I had to switch out a few of the heavier items for more appropriate items for 85+ degrees, because summer just refuses to leave.  So instead I will just post a daily photo, because today is Day 1, and do a summary at the end.

Without further ado - today's outfit!

These first few days will be pretty simple, since it will be close to 90 degrees out, and I have to keep cool.  I'm working from home today, so it's a simple basic outfit.

1)  Black sweater vest from Everlane - This is a great classic that I bought this summer and have been wearing a ton.  I love the split hem, and it gives a bit of polish that a basic tank or tee just can't quite do, while still being lightweight and cool.  I love the concept of Everlane (transparency and quality), and have tried ordering multiple things over the past few years, but this is the only garment I've kept from them.

2)  My favorite pair of jeans - dark skinnies from Madewell.  I bought them second-hand a while back, I believe from the now-defunct online store Twice.  They fit me so perfectly.  Madewell and Joe's Jeans are my go-to brands for jeans.

3)  Franco Sarto black strappy sandals - I've waxed poetic about these on the blog before, so they are no stranger here.  This is actually my second pair, because I wore my first pair basically 2 out of 3 days in the warmer weather for 2 years and wore them out.  When I went shopping for a new pair of black sandals, I tried others, but these still won out and I got my second pair, which is also at the end of their second summer, and they are still going strong.  I'm shooting for three summers for these!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Summer Sewing

So I'm way behind in blogging my latest creations, but I have two to share that I'm super happy with!  The first is the Willow dress from Grainline Studios.  I bought the pattern right when it came out, but  then I managed to lose it in a closet for about a month (oops!).  I made up the tank version first, but haven't taken any pictures yet.  I did want to try the dress though, and I had the perfect fabric for it, which was a linen/cotton blend I had picked up at Joann's.

For my initial tank version, I sewed it up exactly like the pattern (picture below on left), with the high round neckline.  For the dress version though, I wanted to change things up a bit, and add a deep v to both the front and back of the neckline, like my inspiration on the right below.  I also wanted to eliminate the fold-over at the low waist, as it would hit at a not-so-flattering spot on me, and probably wouldn't even show up really with the busy print.  If you're extra observant, you may notice that I have raised the dart up in the picture above, as it hit a little low on my first version.  It didn't really work though, so I have to research a bit on how to fix that problem.  It's a common one I have, being on the petite/smaller-boobed side of things.


I winged the neckline adjustment, and didn't account for the width of the bias tape finish properly, so I ended up doing exposed bias tape instead of on the inside, like the pattern calls for, because it would have been super bulky otherwise.  I would have preferred it inside, but I don't think it looks bad. 

As far as a pattern goes, it is a quick sew and a great basic design, there are definitely more in my future!  Without further ado, my Willow dress:

My second project is also visible in the above photos - my espadrille sandals!  I had taught some women how to make espadrille shoes earlier this summer, but I wasn't happy with my sample version.  Mostly this was due to me ordering a size too small, and they just didn't quite fit properly.  My solution was to remake them as sandals, and take advantage of the smaller fabric requirement to use up some of my Thai silk, leftover from a throw pillow I made earlier this year.

Again, this was very much a wing-it project, and I made it all up as I went.  I initially thought about finding buckles and doing a more professional closure, but my impatience won out and I just went for ankle straps that tied.  The biggest change was that I intended to double up the ankle straps, but for some reason forgot I needed to then cut 8 pieces instead of 4.  I only had enough fabric for four, and there was no way I was going to be able to do a skinny hem on those bad boys (fray city), so I took advantage of the frayiness and just sewed a double line close to the edge and frayed up to my sewn line.  I really like the way it looks, and think it would have been too thick to double-up anyway.  There are a few things I might adjust eventually (the front piece is maybe a touch loose, and the angle the ankle-straps are attached at is not big enough), but I'm really pleased with them.  Unfortunately, their first trip out I managed to step in both a giant wad of gum and dog poop, but that's just part of breaking them in, right?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Philly Photo Walk

A little bit different than my posts of late, but I wanted to share a fun experience I had yesterday, which was a photo walk through Philly, which was a summer mini course put on by my church, Liberti Collingswood.  It ended up just being four of us, and we started in Center City, meandered through Society Hill and ended up at one of my favorite spots, Spruce Street Harbor Park.  Without further ado, here is my walk!