Recounting the beginnings

Top 5 of 2012

2012 is nearly over and I was hesitant to put up a year-end wrap-up post. After all, I’ve only been sewing for 3 months! I decided to go for it anyway when I saw Gillian’s lovely “Top 5” graphic on a few other sewing blogs (above). So, here are my top 5 for 2012 (well, October through December)…

Top 5 Reasons I’m in Love with Sewing:
1. It’s a tangible endeavor.
-Most of what I do at work/school is intangible. I find creating a tangible product incredibly gratifying.
2. I’m in control.
-I’m a bit type-A (Who am I kidding? I am very Type-A). The complete control this hobby allows me suits my personality.
3. My creations have utility.
-I’m typing this up while wearing the grey PJ pants I made last week.
4. The online sewing community is amazing.
-I’m so inspired by the garments and personal style of other sewing bloggers. I even posted a question on Handmade Jane and received a very helpful email in response. How great is that?!
5. It’s so relaxing!
-I totally get lost in the process. It gets my mind away from books, papers, and deadlines. I have a tough time not working, so I need this sort of distraction.

I’m looking forward to sewing my way through 2013. There is so much to learn, at the risk of sounding too gushy, I can’t wait!

Snow on Boxing Day and a dearth of fabric stores in the capital

Squee! Snow!

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“Ohhh, it’s so pretty!” I gushed to my boyfriend as the wet flakes floated down. This Florida girl turns into a five-year-old whenever she sees snow. My boyfriend took the above photo in Soho on Boxing Day in between my oh-ing and ah-ing.

I’ve been traveling throughout the frozen north this holiday. My BF recently moved to DC, so I headed to his place and we traveled to NYC from there to spend a few days visiting his family. We had a lovely time. The 24th was my birthday, so he took me out for an amazing 5 course champaign lunch at Bouley. It was heaven! I really wanted to take pictures of the food, but my BF thinks it’s tacky, so I withheld. I did take a pic of the ladies restroom. It was so beautiful, I couldn’t help myself!

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After lunch, we grabbed a cab to 30 Rock and saw the famous Christmas tree. The plaza was packed, but everyone was in such a nice mood, it didn’t feel oppressive. The tree is pretty spectacular. The photo below really doesn’t do it justice.

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Sewing Update

Since I’ve been away from my sewing machine, no new sewing projects have been attempted. I have, however, had a chance to wear several recently created items:

1. The PJ bottoms have been worn a lot in the frozen north. They have proven to be as comfy and snuggly as I hoped. They’ve even survived the washer and dryer!

2. I wore my plaid skirt on my birthday. I am sure I was the only woman in Bouley sporting me-made “couture!”

3. The puffy brown skirt also made it into the suitcase. I haven’t worn it yet but certainly will before heading home after the New Year.

While I wasn’t able to visit any of the fabric stores in NYC (maybe next time), I did look up fabric stores in DC. I have ample time to shop in the capital, but I’ve been disappointed. I can’t find a single fabric store in the city! Apparently, people here don’t sew. I guess I will have to satisfy my new hobby by reading about techniques and browsing online venues. I already have my eye on some vintage skirt patterns on eBay. I also plan on using my free time to scheme my next sewing projects. I’m learning planning is half the fun!

Flannel PJ bottoms for the frozen north

This Christmas, I will be visiting my boyfriend’s family in the frozen north. (I’m from Florida, so once the mercury dips below 60, I start feeling like a human popsicle.) I was nearly packed when I realized I had a PJ problem. Normally, I flounce about in feminine negligé, but that isn’t appropriate when a houseguest. It was also going to be too cold for cute lacy numbers. I needed family- friendly flannel. After some shopping, I found ill-fitting pj bottoms at both Target and Old Navy for about $12.00 a pair. Elsewhere, PJ bottoms ran $20 to $25 and were way too long on me. I started to get frustrated. Then, I realized I could make my own!

At Joann Fabrics I discovered a Butterick pattern for PJ pants for $1.99.

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Flannel was on sale (60%) off, so for about $5 a yard I picked up enough for two pairs of pants: bright pink with pink polka dots and grey with small yellow and black flowers.

The pattern envelope promised the pants could be completed in an hour. Since this was my first time working with a pattern, I figured I’d have to at least triple that time. Here’s the breakdown:

After 5 minutes:
Opened the envelope and read the directions. It looked pretty straight forward.

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After 1 hour:
Cut and adjusted the pattern to my size.

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After 2 hours:
Sewed up the inside seams and was wrapping my head around putting together the crotch area.

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After 3 hours:
Figured out crotch area and had sewn up both legs. Was working on the waistband casing for the elastic.

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After 4 hours:
Elastic was inserted and I was working on the hems at the end of each leg.

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After 30 more minutes:
Done!

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Although I took my time, I don’t think it’s realistic to finish these pants in an hour from start to finish. Using the grey fabric, I made a second pair. Those went much faster and took me only two hours to complete. Short of possessing super human sewing speed skills, I don’t think the pattern is do-able in only an hour.

Despite taking longer than an hour, I am happy with the results. They are very comfortable and I didn’t have to make any adjustments to the pattern other than shortening the rise and hem. Since I pre washed (and dried) the fabric, I don’t have to worry about shrinkage. I plan on making these again in a bright cotton for wear back home in warm Florida.

When he saw them, my boyfriend asked me to make him a pair! I can’t think of a better compliment.

Mad about plaid: A second puffy skirt

I’ve been obsessed with plaid this fall. It’s everywhere and I want it all!

Here are some of my favorites:

1. From Etsy

2. From L.L. Bean

3. From Refinery 29

4. My favorite from J. Crew

Obviously, my next sewing project had to involve plaid. A quick trip to Joann Fabrics and a rummage through the sale table produced a lovely navy plaid for $4 a yard. I decided to make the puffy skirt again using the plaid fabric. Here’s the result:

In my new skirt.

In my new skirt.

After making the puffy skirt once before, it was a lot easier to pull off a second time. I made a few adjustments from the first version. First, I slimmed it down by two inches to lessen the puffy factor. Second, I increased the top ruffle from 1/4 inch wide to 1/2 inch. It made the ruffle a bit more noticeable. I wanted it to peek out over a belt. Increasing the ruffle at the top made it a bit shorter with which I was fine. Third, I finished all the inside seams with a french hem. There will be no washing machine unraveling happening with this skirt.

I’m pleased as punch with the way it turned out. I wore it to lunch with my mom this afternoon and out running Christmas errands. It was comfortable and even earned some compliments from store clerks. (They may just have been trying to sell me something, but I’ll take it regardless.) I think I’m slowly getting the hang of this sewing thing.

Organizing without a dedicated sewing space

I’ve seen beautiful craftrooms online and in sewing magazines. They always have organized shelves full of fabric-covered boxes and woven baskets brimming with folded squares of colorful fabric.

I do not have a craftroom or even a craft space. This is making storage of my sewing supplies a challenge. After spending a few weeks moving piles of fabric, thread, ribbon, etc. from my kitchen table to the counter and back again, I went shopping for some organizing tools.

First, I purchased a basket to hold the majority of my sewing supplies (scissors, ribbon, pins, etc.).

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Then, I found a container for my thread. I only have a few spools now, but, as a I continue to sew, I expect my collection will grow.

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I also purchased a container for my embroidery threads. My mom taught me to embroider when I was little and I have a stack of cross stitch kits and books lurking in my closet. There are two problems with my cross stitch hobby: (1) I start lots of projects, but don’t finish many. (2) I don’t know what to do with the ones I do finish.

I’ve decided to focus on one project at a time. Here are my latest two finished pieces:

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After the holidays, I plan on having one framed to fill an empty space on my dinning room wall. I’m still not sure which one to frame. Which do you all prefer?

So… I spent a few hours last night organizing my embroidery thread in my new storage case.

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That isn’t nearly all of it, but it’s a start.

With my new organizing tools filled, I’m ready to spend some time sewing this morning. It’ll be so nice to pick up and move my boxes when I’m done and not have to worry about cascading piles. Now, I just need to find a home for these organizing boxes!

If you have any organizing tips for me, I’d love to hear them. I’m still trying to figure out what to do with my small pile of fabric.

DIY: The stockings were hung…

My new Christmas stocking

My new Christmas stocking

I’ve been wanting to get new Christmas stockings for a few years, but I haven’t been able to find what I wanted at a price I was willing to pay.  This year, with my sparkly new sewing machine, I was able to make exactly what I wanted!

I used leftover fabric from the holiday pillow covers and picked up faux fur and red ribbon at Joann’s. The template and tutorial I used can be found on Fabric Worm. The directions were great- clear and easy for a novice like me. I did deviate from the tutorial a little bit. First, I didn’t use batting to stiffen the stocking. The lining fabric I used is a heavy white twill and it holds its shape pretty well. I didn’t think batting was necessary. Second, I used faux fur instead of a contrasting cotton print for the cuff of the stocking. I love the texture of the fur against the printed cotton. It’s unexpected and fun.

I made three stockings and hung them on the holder my friend M helped me create this weekend.

The stockings are hung...

The stockings look like they are different sizes, but it’s a weird optical illusion. They are all the same size.  (Please ignore the very classy light switch)

My apartment lacks a fireplace and those stocking hanger things they sell in stores like Target require a shelf ledge, something I also don’t have, so I decided to create a place to hang my stockings instead. M, who is very crafty, volunteered to assist me with the project. As usual, Pinterest offered some inspiration:

Fabric covered holder no longer available on Etsy.

Fabric covered holder no longer available on Etsy.

The second holder was created by Char at Crap I’ve Made and she posted a wonderful tutorial. The holder is a cabinet door from the clearance section of Ikea. Char painted it and drilled holes for drawer pulls. I thought it was genius, so fueled by coffee and and a huge plate of vegan Christmas cookies, M and I got to work. We found a cabinet door at Ikea (We couldn’t find the same one Char used) and spent an afternoon getting crafty. Here’s the cost breakdown for my finished stocking hanger:

Cabinet door from Ikea- $5 (set of four)

Spray paint- $0 (M had some left over from a previous project)

Drawer pulls from Home Depot- $2.40 each, total for 3 = $7.20

Green bow from Target- $1.50

Black chipboard letters- $0 (from my scrapbooking phase years ago)

Total Cost: $13.70

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The third knob is up a bit higher than it should be, but I’m pleased with it otherwise. Once the stockings are hung from it, the slight height difference isn’t really noticeable.

Now, I just need to finish my shopping so my new stockings will be full on Christmas morning!

’80s night & inspiration for a T-shirt refashion

Dressed up for '80s night with the lab group.

Dressed up for ’80s night with the lab group.

Last night, the research lab I work with held its 2nd annual holiday get-together. We went with an ’80s theme and dressed up for a night on the town. I decided to use ’80s exercise gear as my inspiration. I paired black Loft leggings with legwarmers and a men’s T-shirt from Target to achieve my rad ’80s look. Unfortunately, my bangs refused to stay in a teased poof.

The lab ladies.

The lab ladies.

An evening of arcade games and bar food was exactly what we needed to battle end-of-semester blues.

Now that our fun evening is over, I’m trying to figure out what to do with the big white T-shirt.

My T-shirt fresh from the dryer and needing an ironing.

My T-shirt fresh from the dryer and needing an ironing.

I think it’s ripe for a refashion! I hit up Pinterest and found lots of inspiration.

I love the ruffles on this one from The Renegade Seamstress:

The pompoms on this T-shirt scarf created by The DIY Dish are super fun:

I also really like the lace on this scarf (from an Etsy-like website…):

Finally, the empire waist on this T-shirt make-over by Amie on Kitty Cats and Airplanes has potential:

Unfortunately, in order to achieve my ’80s look, I cut the neckline of my T-shirt. It’s uneven and hangs off of my shoulder which will present an additional challenge. I’ve never refashioned before, so here goes nothing!