Thursday, February 23, 2017

A cape refashioning

I typically hate surprises, mostly ones that I know are coming, but I don't know what it is.  That said, I love any kind of sample box.  I've done Birchbox, Ipsy, Glossy Box, a couple different Amazon boxes, This is Ground, and Rachel Zoe's Box of Style.  Back in the fall Box of Style, I got this amazingly soft cape/poncho thing, but I just couldn't quite make it work (hint - John kept calling me Cruela DeVille).

My immediate thought was that it was basically two large rectangles of fabric, so I stuffed it on the shelves in my sewing room and left it alone for a while.  I finally got around to it this week, and made a simple color blocked 3/4-sleeve tee.  I used the Grainline Studio Hemlock tee pattern.


It was a simple and straightforward top to sew up.  The only thing that I was careful about was to line up the color-block line with the armholes.  It's hard to see here, but if I hold my arms out to the side, there is an unbroken line of the white, which was my goal.  All in all, I now have a very wearable garment that was a quick refashion!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nailed It!

I'm always on a quest to simplify my life and create the perfect routines, and my beauty regime is a particular focus area for this quest.  I've finally come to the conclusion that I don't like my finger nails painted, except for the occasional gel french manicure (which I'm not good at doing myself).  I do still enjoy painted toe nails, and pedicures are my summer luxury.  My at-home kit is simplified though, and I figured I would share it here (mostly because I haven't had time to take any more photos of my sewing progress lately).

One thing that gives me great satisfaction is a perfect container to corral the perfect things, and my nail kit fits the bill.  I think the box originally came with a pair of sunglasses, but I've used it for multiple things since then, but it has come into its own as my nail kit.  I'm not going to lie, I bought this particular nail polish remover because it was square and fit so nicely! :)


After I figured out my perfect tool kit, I made my own leather roll-up to hold them all (again with the perfectly fitting thing).  I just took a piece of leather, laid out my tools and measured how bit each of the pockets had to be, and then hand-sewed them in place.  I added the two snaps to keep everything in place.  My tools are:
  • Seki Edge Stainless Steel Fingernail Clipper:  I've had these for about four years now, and I love them.  I found them via a recommendation on some other blog, I think, and they are sturdy, sharp and do a good job.  They are a uni-purpose tool though, and don't have an attached nail file or nail cleaner, so that brings me to the next tool,
  • Tweezerman Pushy and Nail Cleaner:  I use this to both push back my cuticles (more on that below) and clean under my nails.  I used to use orange sticks for my cuticles, but this works great.
  • OPI Crystal Nail File:  For simple filing, I use this crystal nail file, which has lasted forever and works great.  I've read that crystal is a good material for nail files because nails are less likely to crack or chip.
  • Tweezerman Shape and Shine Nail Tool:  Just because I'm leaving polish behind doesn't mean I want to have ungroomed nails!  I've found this tool super helpful and it's the star of my kit.  One end has three different levels of filing for nail tips (if I want to go more in-depth than with my crystal file) and the other end has three levels for buffing.  I only do it every two weeks or so, because it can be bad for your nails to do it too much, but I can buff them to a shine that rivals clear nail polish!  One thing I had to do though is number the sides in the correct order with a sharpie, because it's only listed on the package, and I would easily forget the order otherwise.

The rest of my kit fluxes a bit more, but here are the general details:
  • On the left are my three nail colors I kept for my toes and for when I eventually break down and decide to paint my nails again (nude, maroon, and a pale blue-grey).
  • Because I've been using 100% acetone remover, it's hard on my nails, so I like to moisturize heavily.  I used to use an oil, but I ran out and am currently using Dr. Lipp nipple balm, which is actually intended for lips.  It's 100% lanolin, and super moisturizing.
  • Before I push back my cuticles, I soften them with Deborah Lipmann Cuticle Remover.  I let it sit for a minute, rub it in, and then push the cuticles back with my stick.
  • The last item was previously the reason I was ok with painting my nails - the Sally Hansen miracle gel top coat.  It used to make my nail polish last several times longer than it used to, but they switched their formula recently, and it just doesn't work as well any more.  
There you have it!  Do you have any must-have nail items or tips?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Teal Wool Jumper

As part of my teal/turquoise mix-and-match wardrobe from my fall sewing plans, I planned this wool jumper.  I was inspired by the general mod, 60s vibe of this dress from one of my favorites, Boden:

I had saved the free Simply Shift dress pattern from Grosgrain a while back, and thought it was a good start.  I left off the sleeves and the lining, and lowered the neck a bit, as I wanted to wear it with my blue tie-dye blouse and wanted to show off the pattern a bit.

I used a delightfully squishy wool/viscose knit blend from Emma One Sock, which is still available, here.  It was pretty straightforward to sew it together, but there are a few tweaks that I wish I would have done.  My waist seam is too low, and it looks a bit unbalanced, I think, and I should have made it closer-fitting.  I could technically still do the last tweak, so we'll see if I get around to it at some point.  Overall, it came out OK, but I'm not sure how much actual wear it will get.  We'll see!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


A bit of a divergence from my usual theme, but today I want to get back to one of my old loves - interior design!  We've been in our house for about 2.5 years at this point, and after the major renovation of last summer (completely redoing the HVAC system), which still has on-going impacts (insulating and drywall stuff), I'm eager to finally get the house the way I want it to be.  While everything is still very much a work in progress, I've finally nailed down my color palette for the first floor, I think.  A few elements I still want to change up eventually (like in a few years), but this is how it will be for the near future, at least.

Living Room
The entrance to our house is right in our living room, and I'm currently fairly unhappy with how it feels at the moment, as there is just a lot going on, particularly color-wise (despite the fact it still feels super neutral).  This room still has a lot on the to-do list to even get to a semi-finished state, but after getting a quote for reuholstering our lounge chair yesterday that was approximately 4-5 times what John paid for it, I think I've taken off reupholstering/replacing any of the seating (of which I wanted to do with all of it).  That narrows my color scheme quite a bit, so now the major pieces of the plan are:

  • finish up the corner green plant wall (where there is currently brown craft paper hanging)
  • John is going to build a new coffee table
  • I want to replace the TV stand with something much smaller
  • new curtains (either roman shades or curtains in white)
  • decide what to do about the rug (currently has a large hole hidden under the couch as well as doesn't fit the color scheme)
  • figure out better lighting
  • paint the walls  
I've never been a fan of the yellowy-cream that most of our house was painted, and it will be nice to get rid of the last bit of it downstairs.  I haven't gotten the paint yet, but it will basically be just a much lighter version of the dining room color.

Current state of the living room

Dining Room
The dining room is right off the living room, set off by a large entry way with columns.  This room feels more finished (mostly because it's freshly painted), but there are several large elements holding out on me still.
  • Find better sideboard/buffet.  I want one with closed storage on the bottom, as this one is more of an entry table and I've never been crazy about in in general and the wood is much darker than the rest of our wood furniture.
  • New rug - I have my eye on a creamy cable textured Flor rug.  Cream is not ideal under the dining room table, but I think it would look nice, and I really like the idea of using Flor tiles, so if Eddie eats a piece or it gets a stain, we could swap it out.
  • Find a piano.  We had a piano in here for a while that was John's dad's old piano, but it didn't work, so we eventually got rid of it.  I really want to play again though, so I've been scouring Craigslist now that the room is painted.
  • Put the overhead light on a dimmer.  We tried to do this before, but there was an awful buzzing sound, so John needs to upgrade the electrical a bit.
  • Decide about putting back up the gallery wall.  We used to have several large photos/prints above the buffet, but I'm currently enjoying the simpler view.  They may go back up on the wall across from the window, which is completely blank at the moment.  Eventually the piano and the door to our half-bath will be on that wall, but the half-bath at the very least is quite a ways away.
Current state of the dining room

The kitchen is fairly segregated from the rest of the house, but you can see the doorway in the dining room photo above.  I started painting the kitchen last summer, but it was quite tricky and still needs some finish work.  John's much more of the detail-oriented one, so that's on his list, but his list is miles long at the moment!  The previous owners redid the kitchen maybe 10 years ago, so it's definitely not due for replacement any time soon, but they made some choices that I'm not a fan of (primarily the countertops and floor being beige, which I HATE).  The muddy deep green they painted it was also a silly choice, in my opinion, because it is a tiny room, and that just made it super dark and ugh.  I don't mind dark colors in a small space, but it was just a bad color.  Anyway, I inadvertently painted it the color of a post-it, and it's on its way to being a bright and fun kitchen.  Remaining elements include:
  • Finish up all the painting stuff (paint the ceiling, edging, etc)
  • Turning the pantry into a half -bath, and then moving the fridge over where the pantry door was
  • Putting an old wooden cupboard where the fridge was (to replace the pantry storage space)
  • Replace the linoleum floor.  We had some leaking under the sink, and the edges of the linoleum are curling up as a result.  I want to replace it with something dark, either slate-colored or black/white tiles.  Whatever we do it will just be something in the linoleum/vinyl range though, as I don't want to invest too much into it.  My dream (at which John cringes every time I mention it) is to cut a hole in the back of the house and extend both the kitchen and the bedroom above, and add another bath on the second floor).  This is obviously not a simple renovation though, so it's on the long-term plan (at least in my head, John may argue that it's not in the plan at all). :)
Current state of the kitchen

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Blue Lace Watson

My bra-making adventures started off two years ago (wow, hard to believe), when I attended Maddie's very first bra-making workshop.  I was so proud to have completed successfully an underwire bra, although the fit was off, and I never actually wore it.  Somewhere around the same time, I bought the Cloth Habit Watson bra pattern, but kept putting off actually sewing anything.  I even ordered a kit with all the fabric and necessary do dads from Tailor Made about a year ago, but even that stayed neglected on the shelf.  Back in December though, I attended an open sewing event at Maddie's studio, and it inspired me to actually sew something all by myself.

I started off thinking I would use the gorgeous lace in my kit, but I wanted to use that to do the longline version of the Watson (pictured above), and I didn't have the wide hook and eye set, so I put it aside and used the left-over lace from the bra-making workshop (fabric hoarding tendencies FTW).

I seriously have no idea why I waited so long!  It's not a difficult sew at all, even with fiddly elastics, and the sew along on Amy's blog is fantastic for additional support.  I basically just followed along with the instructions and didn't alter anything at all, and it fit perfectly!  I'm definitely planning on sewing up more before too long.

I also cut out fabric for the matching panties, but I was running out of fabric at that point, and had to piece together the crotch.  Unfortunately, when I went to sew the two pieces together, it turns out I forgot to mirror them, so I just scrapped it and will try another time.

Instead of going with my original choice of white straps, I wanted to spice it up a bit, and added some teal straps to go with the pale blue lace.  I didn't have quite matching thread for either the blue or teal though, so my stitching is a bit more obviously than I would like.  I just used fold-over elastic, which is a bit stretchier than recommended, but they don't have to work too hard with lifting on me, so they work fine!

I debated on including these photos, but I figure it's more coverage than some of my bathing suits. :)  I really can't get my camera set up correctly these days though, so they aren't the greatest.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Pillow Talk

I have a long list of sewing projects that I need to actually take photos of, so today's post is going to be short and sweet.  I'm typically a pretty selfish sewist, making clothes for myself.  It took about 6 months for me to actually hem a pair of John's pants. :)  Occasionally I do a project for around the house, but they are definitely not my favorite.  Case in point, that time I spent hours ironing and hemming miles and miles of muslin to make curtains for our "summer house", which then proceeded to get disgusting over the course of a year and a half, and are now sitting in a heap in our basement:

While also not thrilling, pillow covers are at least a quick project, and can mix things up a bit.  Our couch throw pillows started out with some Thai silk and a scrap of leopard print:

For Christmas this past year, I thought I would put some red quilted cotton to good use, and made a couple of matching pillow covers:

It literally took me 45 minutes to make the two pillows covers - less time than going to the store and picking them out, probably!  I put in zippers, but even the most beginning sewist could make an envelope back cover.

Friday, February 3, 2017

January Sewing Check-in

Since I'm trying to be better about sticking with a plan and actually finishing up stuff, I thought a monthly check-in might be a good idea (and maybe will keep me accountable?).  What better time to start than summarizing the first month of the year!  Last night I went through all my in-progress items and made a couple of lists - completed items the past month, repairs, sewing priorities this month, and the holding pen of in-progress and planned projects, which I can pull from if I happen to get everything done!  This post will be a bit long, as it's the first time I'm putting everything down in writing, but hopefully things will shorten up as we go along.  I also have a list of all my fabrics with project ideas, but they aren't imminent, so won't go into the check-in posts.

Items completed in January:
I wasn't quite as productive as I was hoping in January, but I did get two things completed from start to finish (both sort of from my Fall sewing plans).  These were:


While I always get distracted by the shiny new projects, another resolution of mine is to take care of the clothes I already have (whether or not I made them).  They are usually quick fixes, but they sit in my repair pile for way too long.  I'm going to try to make them a top priority every month.

  • Free People orange/pink voile tunic - need to hem.  I bought it recently second-hand, and it has an intentional raw hem.  I wore it as is a few times, but it drives me crazy, and I'll be a lot happier with it hemmed.
  • Marine Layer eye tee - I bought this tee this past summer and it just makes me happy (although it creeps John out).  I had an accident while dealing with picking up a barking dog while answering the door with not-quite dry nail polish, so there is a magenta stain right at the neckline.  I think I can get away with cutting the neckline a bit deeper and rescue it, so we'll see how that goes!
  • Me-made geometric toaster - yes, this is the same item from my completed list!  It's wearable as is, but I didn't hem the sleeves, and I think I'll be a lot happier if I add cuffs.

February Sewing Priorities (both in-progress and not started):
I'm going to try to keep this list short, so I can actually accomplish it!  I know it makes the most sense to keep it to in-progress items only, but I do have a project on the list for an event later this month which I haven't started yet.
  • In-Progress:
    • Clay linen Hemlock tee - I've got this one about half done, so it will be a quick win to finish it up, as well as adds to my inventory of dress-up/dress-down tops that is a need right now.
    • Beige/black Dove blouse - This is the last hold-out from my Fall sewing plans!  It's been cut out since September, so I really need to just suck it up and sew it finally.
    • Embroidered pillow covers (2) - I started doing this embroidery in January, but lost steam.  I would love to pick this back up and finish at least one pillow.
  • Not Started:
    • Polka-dots/floral top and skirt - This isn't started at all, but this is the outfit for later this month.  Unfortunately I have a very limited amount of material, and have a drawing of what I want, but no pattern, so we'll see how this goes.  It could be amazing, or a complete flop.

Sewing Holding Pen:

  • In-Progress:
    • Pink floral tee - need to hem and add cuffs.  This could probably go into the repair category, as it's essentially wearable at the moment, but I haven't worn it yet, so we'll call it in-progress.
    • Ivory Toaster #1 sweater - all cut out, should be a quick sew.
    • Oscar De La Renta silk tank - currently mostly sewn up as a blouse, but the sleeves are super poofy.  I want to take the sleeves off and turn it into a tank.
    • Poppy silk kimono - Not a fan of the fit, so want to turn it into a tank, maybe an Odgen?
    • Ivory silky tank - cut out and started sewing. Need to find facing materials.
    • Grey linen throw quilt - loose collection of ideas that needs to come together.  
    • Clay linen capris - cut out, but on hold until warmer weather
    • Tote for mom - won't see her until the spring, so low on the priority list.
    • 4 placemats - all cut out, but don't need them right now, so low on the list
    • Turquoise striped Galleria culottes - cut out and started sewing, but lost steam.  On hold until warmer months.
    • Purple/red Sallie jumpsuit - same as above.
  • Not Started:
    • Pink floral bra/panties - This (plus the next few on the list) are the result of me getting inspired to up my me-made undie game.  I pulled together a selection of suitable fabrics (and ordered some necessary elastics), so I'll be playing around with these as I have time. 
    • Nude bra/panties 
    • Black bra/panties
    • Clay linen pillow cover - I had just enough left over after I cut out my Hemlock tee and capris to make the the front of a pillow cover, which will go nicely with my embroidered covers.  
Whew, there you have it!  Maybe now it's all down for posterity I will stick with it!  How about you, do you have any big sewing plans, or do you like to just wing it?

Woven Wool Hemlock

Many of my latest makes are with relatively recently purchased fabrics, as I keep getting distracted and buying more, but I do have more discipline these days with actually having projects in mind when I buy the fabric, so they actually get made!  I bought this fun houndstooth woven wool fabric back in October (along with a coordinating lining fabric), all set to make a mod 60s style jumper.  I really don't wear that many dresses lately though, and after making a jumper right before (yet to be blogged), I decided what I really needed in my wardrobe was more tops.

While a thicker woven fabric is not particularly suited for a sweater style, I decided to wing it and see what I could come up with.  I actually couldn't figure out how to wear it once I got it all sewn up, but after wearing it all day yesterday, it's super comfy and I love it!  The style isn't the greatest, so I'm not sure how much wear it will get out of the house, but it's great for adding an extra layer for lounging/working from home.


The pattern I used was the free Hemlock Tee from Grainline Studio.  I tried to make it a couple of years ago with a knit, and it turned out to be a mess (crappy fabric, not the pattern).  I remembered though a blog post about making it up as a woven, and thought it might be a good option for the silhouette I was going for.  The only changes I made were to shorten it and I made the sleeves as long as I could given my available fabric.  I also widened the end of the sleeves a bit, to allow for a slouchier fit, since I knew I would always be wearing another shirt under this one (while not terrible, it is wool and a bit scratchy).

In my ongoing quest to create a mix-and-match wardrobe, I also had wearing it with my red puffy vest in mind.  I wear this vest a lot around the house, but I pretty much stick to wearing it with white tees, a blue/red checked scarf, or a blue/red checked button-down shirt.  I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the houndstooth sweater with it, but it does give me another option!  This is how I wore it yesterday:

It's a bit too much bulk overall I think.  I think the sweater would also look good with a white button-down under it, but I just got rid of mine, as it wasn't as white as it used to be.  Another thought I've had is to buy another yard of the fabric and make the sleeves full length - what do you think?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Hobo Hobbit Pants

In a way, it's nice to have six months of sewing that I haven't documented, because it means I'm set for a while for frequent blog posts!  I finished these pants back in October, and had several in-progress shots on Instagram, so they may be familiar.  I love them dearly, but John not-so-fondly refers to them as my hobo hobbit pants, because apparently I look like a really short homeless person, I guess?  I get lots of compliments though and I love them, so I just ignore him. :)

The pattern I used is the Emerson Crop Pants from True Bias, and I love it!  I will definitely be making them again.  I did have to make a few changes along the way though.  I didn't have quite enough fabric to make the full-length pants, so I had to shorten them up a bit, maybe 6" or so?  I think that is what contributes to the hobbit-ness of them, and they would have looked better with the full length.  True to form, I also decided to throw fabric recommendations to the wind, and use a thicker woven wool.  This required it to be lined for comfort, as it is an itchy fabric, so I just cut out the pattern pieces also in a light-weight black cotton that I sewed in at the waistband.  I think I also had to adjust the waistband construction a bit, due to the heavier fabric + lining, but I don't remember quite what I did there.  The insides aren't my prettiest work, but it looks good from the outside, so that's all that matters!

This fabric came to me in a round-about way.  I found it when digging through my mom's fabric stash, and she got it from her sister's mother-in-law, and I just love the color and pattern.  I did debate for a while though which side to use.  I kind of liked the more muted version of the reverse, but after a unanimous vote to go with bold via Instagram, I decided to go for it, and I'm super happy with the decision.


Check out my plaid placement!  I was so proud of myself and how careful I was - that is until I went to sew all the pieces together and realized I did my pleats the wrong direction on one side. :)  The fabric is a bit of a loose weave and really didn't like being unpicked, so I decided to just leave it, as it's hard to notice with the busy pattern.