Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Another wreath... a random combination of raffia, berry bunches, a fabric scrap and coffee filters. Just wanted to make something and needed to use what I had in my stash.

My assistant and lovely wreath model.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Happy Halloween

While the blogging has almost completely ceased since the arrival of baby boy... the crafting has only slowed a little. Will I ever catch up? Probably not, but here is a little something fun we did for the "candy holiday" – a simple Halloween wreath. We took a dollar store wreath form and tied lengths of black tulle around it. My 6 yr old and 4 year old were great helpers with this part. If I were to do it again, I might cut the tulle longer and have a fuller look. I added in some purple and orange ribbon and then hot glued this spider web (also from the dollar store) to the back, making sure I didn't cover the peep hole.

The peep hole is important because of the number of door-to-door salesmen who don't seem to understand what "no soliciting" means. I put that sign up after being visited by 6 sales people in three days... a little much for pregnant mom/new baby mom. My dad also rigged my doorbell so I can switch it off when baby sleeps. Why isn't this a standard doorbell feature? OK, rant over.
Salesmen stay away! Trick-or-treaters welcome!

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ruffle Dress Refashion

I've seen a lot of cute things in blogland made from this ruffle fabric and have been wanting to try it. Until recently it wasn't available in my local fabric shops and at $17 + a yard I didn't jump on it right away. One day I saw this XLarge top at a thrift store and grabbed it for a few dollars. I thought it would be an inexpensive way to see how I liked sewing with the ruffled material.

I used the Sienna Dress pattern that I had from Lil' Blue Boo to make a cute little dress for my toddler:

Since the shirt already had some interesting details with the crisscrossing ruffles at the top of the shirt, I was able to keep that same look by my pattern placement. I reused the shimmery neckline to finish my smaller neckline adding a flower made of the ruffles to cover the spot where my new seam ended up. I think I might add a few more flowers there so it doesn't look so lonely.

Cutting the ruffled fabric and sewing it, I had to be careful to keep the ruffles laying the same direction, so it took a little more pinning than I might otherwise have needed. Matching the ruffles at the shoulder seams to the front was a little tricky too. Overall, however, it is a quick way to get a much more complicated looking dress from a really simple style. I've already got plans for a few more ruffle fabric dresses for my older girls.

I couldn't get baby girl to pose wearing her new dress and wasn't up for a power struggle over a blog post, but she does like it and looks so cute in it!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Learning our Colors

So far our summer has been filled with as many indoor activities as I can dream up during the day, saving the outside time for the evenings when the temperature is more bearable for a cranky pregnant lady. This is one we did last week. I saw the idea on Pinterest, pinned from the blog Gluesticks... and thought it would be a good craft for the girls to help with as well as a fun way to have the older girls help baby girl learn her colors. I got the unfinished wood pegs and candle holder cups at Hobby Lobby. Even though they were pretty inexpensive to begin with, all their unfinished wood was 30% off last week... even better. The girls helped me paint all the solid colors and I finished the hair and faces after they were asleep. They've already had a lot of use. Now I just need to whip up a little drawstring bag to keep them together.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Maternity Solutions 5: One more dress

Just one more example of using two items to make one that fits the need. I found this shirt/tunic on clearance for $7 and, of course, bought two. Again, I used the bottom half of one to elongate the other. The busy, floral print hides the seam pretty perfectly.

The leftover top half is intended for a dress for my daughter with the pintucking detail that I am looking forward to incorporating into a bodice.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Maternity Solutions 4: Pants

During my first pregnancy I wore my regular pants for a long time using the rubber band trick. Now I find myself longing for the comfort of the full belly panel even before I'm truly showing. There are lots of cute maternity jeans/pants out there... even designer versions, but I also noticed a few DIY tutorials and thought I'd give it a try.

I had these white skinny jeans that had been really inexpensive but I hardly ever wore because I didn't really like the back pockets. They have a bit of stretch to them, so I thought they'd work well for this alteration. My favorite tutorial is on Grosgrain, here. She gives really great step-by-step instructions with pictures.

The one thing I did differently is that instead of making my own panel, I used a "Belly Band" that I already owned. I like the thinness, the stretch and smoothing support of this over a knit folded in half... and the panel doesn't slip down like a knit might. It also makes this alteration even easier. My favorite belly panels are from Sadly they don't have them on the site as I'm posting this. They were only $7.80 each and are the most supportive, longest (covers the entire belly, not just up to the belly button leaving a line at your widest point) and definitely the most affordable ones I've found.

I think the most important step is to try on the band and the pants together before sewing, as Kathleen mentions, and make some marks where you will pin the two pieces together. You will want more of the panel in front than in back, as opposed to just attaching the band evenly. I was prepared to trash these pants if it didn't work out and was happy that it went together smoothly.

I recently saw a love/hate conversation about skinny jeans on Facebook and I had to laugh because those opposed to skinny jeans in general would certainly be appalled by my pregnant channeling of Tweedle-Dee or Tweedle-Dum here. I say to each his own. Whatever style you like, give your pregnant self the gift of being able to breathe and move without constantly hitching up your pants!

Maternity Solutions 3: Using my leftovers

Remember the top half of that blue dress from the last post? Here it is with short sleeves and a new, maxi length skirt. I'd seen the fabric on clearance for a few dollars a yard and just guessed that the color might be close. The material for the skirt is slightly darker and is not knit but a silky, lightweight, polyester blend of some sort. I just sewed the whole piece matching both selvedge ends into a tube and then held it over my tummy draping it different ways and pinning. I decided to do a double box pleat in the front and just slight gathering around the sides and back to avoid too much poof, but still being able to stretch with the knit as I put it on. Then I hemmed it and made yet another sash to help define the "waist" area. Maxi dresses are really popular right now and I have been wanting to find a maxi that actually was floor length on me. To be honest, this is not the most practical dress with my toddler who likes to grab hold and hang on the skirt, so I don't know how often I will wear it but I do like the feel of the silky long skirt brushing against my legs as I walk.

This tunic is from a pre-maternity alteration that I did. I used the skirt from one and added a yoke to top to make a long slip to wear under the tunic so that it looks like a dress. I can also wear the tunic over pants and leggings. I had this leftover top part sitting around along with a bunch of the grey fabric I'd bought on clearance and used for the yoke. I decided to try another maxi dress. This time I gathered the skirt mostly across the front and left the sides and back to hang straight. Without the sash it hangs straight down. As I look at this in the pictures I've decided the top needs a little more work to fit a little better and be more flattering as well, but in a very short time, using leftover stuff in my stash I have another option.

Shabby Apple Overboard Dress Giveaway

Shabby Apple Overboard Dress Giveaway

Don't miss this fun giveaway of a beautiful Shabby Apple Dress.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Maternity Solutions 2: My favorite refashioning tip

When shopping for clothes I like to comb the clearance racks. Similar to thrift shopping I don't worry about seasons or sizes but look for fabrics, patterns or details that I like. My tip? When you find something you like, buy TWO!

It may sound expensive but trust me, I often get better deals than if I had purchased at a thrift store. For example, I recently shopped the final clearance at JCPenney with an additional $10 off a $25 purchase coupon. I got seven things for $25 - $10=$15. That's a little more than $2 per item... and it's new, and usually more on trend than secondhand. Several items will be altered and a few were sweaters that were out of season for the store, but will be perfect for me this fall.

When you buy new, you can also often find more than one item and there is typically more stock of the extra large sizes, which is perfect for altering/refashioning clothing because it means you have more fabric to work with. It also solves the problem I mentioned in my last post of finding fabric to match the item you are trying to alter and almost always less expensive than buying additional fabric and notions.

For example, I found the following dresses on clearance at in their maternity section. (Tip: if you click on their maternity section and do a search for "maternity" at the top of their site you will get different results so be sure to try both.) Each dress was on clearance for less than $10 so I bought two of each. Compared to the dresses I was eyeing in maternity stores this was a great price.

For many, this first dress would work well as is, but for me it needed to be longer. This is probably the most basic and frequent alteration I have to make.

So from one of the dresses, I cut two equal width strips of fabric, pieced them together and gathered the top to make a ruffle. Then I sewed it onto the bottom of the other dress. Because the fabric matches perfectly, it's less obvious that it was ever altered. Plus, I still have plans for the remainder of the dress... as you will see in my next post.

This next dress needed a little more work. The color was so beautiful and I loved the draping, sheer over-layer. In addition to being too short as usual, it was also cut too deep in the front and the back and a positively shapeless and unflattering top altogether.

I used the bottom of both layers of one dress to add some length to the other dress. Then I used the knit layer of the rest of the skirt to make a cap-sleeve camisole tee (technically a half-tee as it doesn't go over my belly). To do this I just traced around the front and back of one of my SHADE shirts and sewed the two pieces together . I cut the rest of the sheer layers into two long strips and pieced them together to make the sash. To finish the sash I got to use my new rolled hem presser foot.
I liked the effect of the sash both in adding to the draping of the skirt as well as giving some shape to the waist/bust area of the dress.

So, there's nothing groundbreaking about anything I did, and that is exactly the point. Altering an item for modesty or making clothes fit and work for your style shouldn't be intimidating because it's usually very simple and can save you a lot of money and help you feel more comfortable in what you're wearing. Sometimes you just have to get over cutting into that dress and going for it... which I admit, is easier to do the less expensive the item was to begin with. Start with your sister's free cast-offs and work up your confidence to try other things.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Maternity Solutions 1: Altering non-maternity dresses

When coming up for a title for this series I also considered "Maternity for Less" or "Maternity Refashions" or "Maternity for the Tall Girl".... I couldn't decide. I just wanted to share some of the ways I dress the baby bump, while staying comfortable and keeping it affordable. I will spread out my posts over the course of about a week and I invite you to please share your tips and tricks as well.

Tip #1: Shop non-maternity
Look at much larger sizes than you'd normally wear. Look for things with an empire waist. In this post I focused on dresses, because it's summer and I find them less constricting and more comfortable in the heat, but I do the same thing for tops.

I found this cream colored dress at Forever 21. The elastic waist made it a possible to add more room in the front, and the tiered bottom made it ideal for adding the length I often need because I am fairly tall. (I'm accustomed to doing this, preggie or not, but when your belly sticks out making things flare out, dresses seem even shorter.) Often I need to take a larger size in around the bust and shoulders, but didn't need to with this dress.

First, I secured the elastic at the sides by stitching over it a few times. Then, from the inside, I cut a small slit in the elastic casing and cut and removed just the elastic that was in the front. Now it is loose in the front, but still has shape in the back. I can always replace the elastic later when I don't need maternity anymore.

The hardest part was actually finding a matching fabric to add another tier to the bottom. I found something that was the right color and similar weight, but it was a crinkled texture. It was close enough and the difference is barely noticeable and even a nice detail.

When I can't find a fabric to match I often add something completely different, for a colorblock look, or a visible slip look, or for the dress below... a contrasting or patchwork look.

This dress from the clearance rack of Charlotte Russe was already a patchwork style, so I just grabbed a small piece of fabric from my stash that had a floral print in similar colors and added a panel at the bottom. It was an extra large size, so I did need to take this one in just a little under the armpit to the high waist area. Again, the empire waist cut and the adjustable ties make this one work with room to grow.
Disclaimer: I don't consider myself a fashion expert by any stretch of the imagination and am not trying to attempt that with this blog. I do love taking hand-me-downs and clearance rack finds and making them work for my own style. A special thanks to my uber-talented photographer sister who snapped this pics of me while our children ran wild around our ankles. Not only does she really know her craft but she helped get a few normal looking pictures out of me while the whole time I really felt like this:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Interested in Maternity?

Here is a link to see a lot more over on the blog of A Jennuine Life. While you're there you can vote for your favorite of a number of different handmade maternity outfits in the finals of her contest... including my white tunic from the last post. I have to admit, I'm loving the red dress.

Friday, May 13, 2011

I'm back, with a pattern review

So, I haven't posted for a few months but I have been busy "cooking" up another one of the creations I'm most proud of... yep, we're expecting a new addition. This pregnancy has been rough so far, and I've been in survival mode until just recently. I'm so glad to be back amongst the living with such a good excuse to sew for myself. The challenge of clothing the bump, especially during the hot months of summer is currently filling my creative time. Off-the-rack maternity often doesn't work for my tall frame, so I'm left with altering things at the very least. I also love being able to find/make things for as little cost as possible. I've come up with a few solutions that I thought I'd share, starting with a pattern review.

The tunic pictured in this post (crooked photo above courtesy of my 4 year old) was made from Butterick 4856 with some alterations. I used version D (blue in the pic below) because of the gathers at the bottom of the yoke that I thought would drape over my baby belly nicely. I cut one size larger than I would normally wear, and ended up taking in the shoulders a bit so it still fit where I'm not growing. I also cut off the sleeves a little shorter than the pattern and finished it with a lace trim instead of adding the cuff. It was a very easy pattern, especially since I skipped the cuff, and came together quickly. I thought it was loose in the back so I added a small strip of elastic (sorry no picture) right in the center (about the same height as the gathers beneath the bust) to give it some shape while allowing it to stretch as I grow.
Here's a little closer view (so hard to take pictures of myself). I used a stable knit fabric that I picked up in a grab bag of fabric at the thrift store. The whole bag was $3.oo and I have several yards of grey knit and a beautiful brown and black chiffon print still to use. The lace trim on the sleeves came off another skirt that I'd refashioned, so the only thing I bought was the trim around the bottom (detail of trims below) that I got for a few dollars with a coupon.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Nautical Themed Baby Shower

Last weekend I hostessed a baby shower for my sister-in-law. She had picked a nautical theme for her nursery decor so I thought it would be fun to carry that over to the shower too. (*Added 5/13/2011: I designed the invitations myself and had them printed at the local Kinkos.)

To welcome guests and help them find my home, I made this "life-saver" wreath using a dollar store wreath that I wrapped with quilt batting and white garbage bags cut into strips. I used this bright yellow rope that I found at the hardware store ($3 for the whole roll) to finish off the wreath and throughout the party. I got to use my brand new Silhouette craft cutter (Christmas present) for the first time to cut the letters. I also used my new toy to cut the captains wheel cupcake toppers below:

I made the bunting using the same fabric that we will use to sew the bedding for baby's crib... so it can do double duty as party decor and nursery decor. A couple of bright yellow paper lanterns added a pop of color.

This was my favorite detail. I used a painter's drop cloth to make a tablecloth – reminiscent of a canvas sail I thought. I cut the stencil out of freezer paper – again, using my Silhouette – and stenciled baby's name on each corner. Then I used the same yellow rope and some grommets to add a fun detail to the edge. (Wish I had more pictures of that.) After the party, this stencil section will be cut out and sewn into a little pillow for the nursery. Perhaps another will become a cute little personalized tote bag. Who knows? Freezer paper stencil, ready to go:

One of my favorite discoveries for stenciling onto fabric was a bottle of "textile medium" that you can mix into ANY color of acrylic craft paint and turn it into fabric paint... it really expands your color options and makes all that paint you have even more useful.

I found these small treat bags in the clearance section of the paper store and filled them with individually-wrapped peppermint life savers. I used some scrapbook paper and a star-shaped punch to make the toppers. The perfect party favor for the theme as well as for everyone who ate the delicious, garlic-laced spinach artichoke dip on their bread sticks.

This was my first time hosting a shower like this. My younger sister is the undisputed queen of party planning and has set the bar pretty high with her creativity and attention to detail. It was fun to plan, though, and I hope that the mom-to-be felt honored and loved.