The Most Romantic White Board in Town

Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration. Who knows what kind of romance is happening on white boards throughout the Minneapolis – St. Paul metro? Either way, the one at our place has to be up there, as far as dry-erase relationships go.

It started as a simple craft project, another of my attempts to surround myself with pretty things (a little less ugly, at least). Going through a discarded box, my man dug up an old white board. “How about we hang this in the kitchen?” he asked. I liked the idea, but the crafty part of my soul died just a little. White boards are practical and all, but, what can I say? Aesthetics matter to an artsy type like me.

Speaking of which, you’ll have to excuse me for breaking one of my self-imposed blog rules. No care was taken to ensure quality lighting or good composition in a single photo here. Oh well, sometimes you just have to live with it.

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These are just two regular picture frames. For the dry erase, I put fabric where the poster would go. This process is easy peasy, and I highly recommend doing this yourself! It’s a great way to transform a dull whiteboard into cute custom wall art! Unfortunately the bulletin board turned out to be way more work. I added foam core, lined it with fabric, and removed the glass. Getting the thickness just right took tons of trial and error, as the foam core wasn’t designed to fit inside the frame. If you try this yourself, I recommend getting foam core of various thicknesses, then seeing which works best. 

What happened next was a bit of a surprise. The white  fabric-lined gold board became a vehicle for sweetness. If you’re anything like me, exotic gestures aren’t your kind of romance. Instead, it’s everyday thoughtfulness that makes your heart flutter. Our silly conversations, along with diagrams and drawings (of course), are what I enjoy about the board.

I once took a personality test that revealed my greatest fear is being without orientation in life. Can you see how my man’s guiding tendencies are a good match for me? Also, who else thinks maybe I ought to make more of an effort to help out around the house? Evidently he’d appreciate it. Here’s how the mail game works, by the way: Whoever gets the most junk mail, has to put it all in the recycling bin.

Sure, the bulletin board isn’t nearly as fun. It’s kind of hideous, actually, covered in coupons and who knows what. Still, it’s the little things that make me smile. Some fabric and a small bit of effort, ended up creating one of my favorite items in the house.

What about you? What’s something in your home that brings unexpected joy?

How I Found Hope Through Golden Girls Fashion

Every handmade item has a story to tell. Well, this shirt has two. The first is of a blogger who’s found her online people. The second is about her actual community–you know, the face-to-face kind. It all started last month, when I decided to take part in my very first linky party. You bloggers out there know what I’m talking about: Some enterprising soul announces a topic and asks others to explore it, too. Fellow bloggers publish their own posts, then the organizer collects their links and features them on a special page.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI Try My Very First Linky Party

Linky parties are a brilliant way to make connections. But to a new blogger like me, they can feel a tad daunting. In my case, inspiration overtook hesitation when I came across Sew the Show from Alida Makes. Each month, Alida (a.k.a., Miss Modern Sewing, Southern Twang) asked readers to “put that Netflix addition to good use” by sewing fashion inspired by her selected TV show. Alida’s Friends linky party turned out to be the one that hooked me in. As it happened, writing the post lit me up. Then as I watched the fellow entries roll in, I knew I’d found my tribe. So when Alida announced this month’s show as The Golden Girls, I felt a pang of disappointment. “How could I possibly find inspiration from clothing Sophia or Rose wore,” I wondered? Also, it sounded awfully close to Gilmore Girls, the show I’d been secretly rooting for. I loved the show, though, so I googled “Golden Girls fashion” anyway. (Are you trying to tell me you’ve never done this yourself? Okay, I’ll let it slide.) That’s when I saw this shot of Dorothy. I’d been considering making a wrap top, and something about the print indicated it could be modernized. Suddenly this linky party was starting to seem doable after all. dorothy

I Learn the Word Chemono (and Decide to Make One, Pronto)

Several days passed and I embarked on another internet search. This time, I sought ways to comfort a friend, my 30-something buddy who’d be having surgery soon. An elective double mastectomy, to be exact. In other words, she didn’t have cancer, but genetic testing had revealed a high risk. After losing her mother to the disease, then experiencing her 21-year-old sister’s bout with it, my friend chose a proactive path. A variety of sites shared tips for how to show support, such as this one featuring a chemo survival kit. Its kimono wrap caught my instant attention. Though chemo wasn’t part of my friend’s treatment plan, I figured a top like this could be handy for tending to wounds. Another site even named this kind of shirt, now on my to-make list, a chemono. (Well played, internet. Well played.) And so the search began. The first step was to scour Pinterest for patterns. This proved trickier than I thought, but eventually I found this: Maternity Top to Wrap Tee. As usual, I hit the thrift store next. I set out with a plan to find two coordinating t-shirts. They had to be soft and cozy, made of natural fibers, and large enough for room to breathe. My girlfriend’s partial to prints, and I scouted for her colors (teals, purples, other happy hues).

The following weekend, the real work began. The cutting. The measuring. The pattern interpreting. The belief. The uncertainty. The learning. Oh, the learning! Wow, there’s a lot about sewing you must do before you know. Listen up, amateur sewists: Making bias tape from jersey is not a good idea. Yes, I did it here, but I won’t try it again. To get it right, I had to add apparel interfacing.

Fast forward two days and about ten hours, and I’d created a shirt I could be proud of. At least it matched the vision in my mind. It was soft and pretty-like, and most of all, it’d provide access to places my friend would need as she healed.

Yes, I’d made a shirt that allowed me to say the things I might not be able to, out loud.

  • If I could use my own two hands to make it all better, I would. But here’s something they can do instead, and I hope it might suffice.
  • You, yes you, are a reason I made it through my divorce. Do you know I still cry a little each time I think of that day? You know the one. I couldn’t get out of bed. But there you were, with that giant paper bag of soup. And bread. And sandwiches. And hope.
  • I hate that you have to go through this. Lord knows I’ve seen your strength before, but I’d be okay if you didn’t have to use it for a while, you know?
  • God, I can’t replace your mom. I searched for something soft to the touch, something that might comfort you when it hurts. And she’s still a part of you–I know you know–breathing through your love of culture, your devotion to church, your joy in education.
  • Feel better, my friend. By all means, feel better.
  • Last of all–dare I say it?–thank you for being a friend.

From Savers Suit to Bottomless Bag

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When’s the last time you had a conversation with an inanimate object? For me, such talks often involve cursing, but not this time. No, this is a story of a happy chat, one where the thing spoke to me, not the other way around. I was browsing men’s suits at my local Savers when one decided it had something to say. It knew who I was, clearly, and it didn’t waste any time.

The second I slid its hanger along the rack, the suit got my attention and began. “I MUST become a bag one day,” it shouted up at me. “Look at my funky pockets,” it continued. “They’re not meant for a suit. They neeeeed to be part of a bag. It’ll be cross-body. Slouchy and so cool. C’mon, I know you see my ’70s vibe. Come ON. Did I mention my funky pockets? The POCKETS, I say!”

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Yes, that’s one of THE pockets, right there in the center, all giant and cool. Only now, it features custom embellishments involving a sweet button and an upholstery scrap from my stash.

As you most certainly know by now, I found myself unable to dispute such claims. I may have been searching for fabric for a cap, but these were some well-articulated points! Whew. I bought the suit and continued my initial search. (For documentation of this fateful trip, check out my post, From Thrift-Shop Jacket to Newsboy Cap.)

You know how this story ends: I did make a bag, and I love it. Getting from vision to bag, though, was harder than I thought it’d be. I knew what I wanted to do, but first I had to figure out how. I searched for a pattern that fit my vision, one that would let me feature two contrasting suits and a belt for the strap. After finding a series of near misses, I admitted what I’d known all along: I would have to wing it.

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And so it began. Through the weeks that followed, I spent mornings, evenings, and weekends tinkering. I cut into the jackets. I reshaped their fabric into rectangles and strips. I pieced them together to suit the bag living in my mind (ha, ha). I tested interior fabric (called interfacing) to influence structure.

I sewed pieces together. I ironed their seams. Then, when something wasn’t right, I got out my seam ripper and took them apart. I bought a second one while making this bag, as I needed it nearby at all times. Seriously. I used those darned seam rippers at every step. Every. Single. Step.

Along the way I wondered, more than once, why I was spending so much time on just one bag. Cursing at inanimate objects became a regular occurrence. But here’s the thing: Every hour I spent was an hour that got me closer to making something new. This was a chance to put something on this earth that wasn’t there before.

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My new seam ripper in all its glory. The experience of using it is more palatable now that I have an artisan version. It’s handmade from acrylic and feels substantial in your hand. At the local sewing shop where I got it, each was different. This one’s hand-labeled tag read, “Italian Sunset.”

Making something new is an urge that compels me greatly, persistently, but I was equally drawn to the process of transformation. I also got to give new life to something that’s been discarded. I got to pluck a suit from its industrial rack and turn it into a bag unlike any other. I got to play with color and surround myself with possibility, all while working with my hands. When viewed from eye of the maker, my question then became, “How can I not spend time on this?”

If you’re a maker, you know the feeling of getting lost in your craft. You’ve lived the journey of getting inspired, starting, slogging, reworking, walking away, coming back, toiling, seeing, believing, then finally–sometimes, anyway–finishing.

Now here’s the part where I get to play fangirl to another of my favorite podcasts. Do you want to hear a description of the making process that’s so eloquent you just may cry? Of course you do. Get yourself immediately to Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project. There you’ll find his beautifully crafted installment, “How Working with Your Hands Changes You.” If I had a glass, I’d raise it to all you creators out there. Instead I have a laptop and a cat on my lap.

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P.S.: Are you a crafty blogger looking for a link-up? Try The Casual CraftleteMerry Monday. or Coastal Charm.

 

 

The One with the Upcycled Tee

You’ve probably got a project or two (or three or four?) on your wish list. Well, I’m happy to report I just finished one of mine. For awhile I’d been wanting to upcycle a tee, evidenced by the post I’d pinned from Oh EverythiOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAng Handmade, “DIY: Two Into One T-shirt.”  The project looked adorable and alluringly simple. I didn’t take action, though, till I saw this month’s Sew the Show prompt from Alida Makes.

Inspiration Strikes

girls_teeFirst, let me introduce you to Sew the Show. Each month, sewing blogger Alida selects a TV show. She encourages readers to “put that Netflix addiction to good use” by re-imagining fashion inspired by it. What fun!

I’ve been following along all year, enjoying the entries from other sewists. So when Alida announced April’s pick as Friends, I thought this could be my shot. (I don’t typically sew clothes. I’m intimidated by the precision of making them fit.)

What fashion comes to your mind when you think of Friends? Floral dresses with cropped jean jackets? OverallsTank dresses? Funny, the first thing I thought of was t-shirts. Seriously. Everybody on that show knew how to rock a simple tee.

So I set out on my mission. If you’d like to try this at home, here are the steps I followed.

Make Your Own Upcycled Tee

Step One: Find Your Muse

friends_red_stripeWhen looking for inspiration, I zoned in on Monica. Her style strikes me as clean, tailored, and sporty. (I’d like to think that describes my aesthetic, too.) I wanted to incorporate stripes, so when I found this red top of Monica’s, a vision for my project took shape.

Step Two: Find Your Tees

Off to the thrift shops I went. My plan was simple: Look for 3 or 4 shirts of the same size and weight that matched the colors in Monica’s top: red, grey, black, and maybe white. Execution turned out to be way harder than that, as I couldn’t find what I wanted. By the third shop I visited, I admitted it was time to let go of the strict color palette. (Fortunately, I live within a few minutes’ drive of several second-hand stores.) I’d stick to size, but I’d open the search to any colors I liked that would work together.

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Step Three: Cut Them Up

Even though my colors wouldn’t match Monica’s red top, I still wanted to emulate the position of the stripes. Thanks to Oh Everything Handmade, I knew to cut just below the armpit. (Thank goodness for rotary cutters, am I right?)

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Step 4: Pin Like Crazy and Sew

With right sides facing each other, pin the edges together all around the shirt. (In other words, make sure the outsides of both shirts are facing each other as you pin.) In the shots below, I’d already sewn the yellow stripe to the blue, and now I was pinning orange to yellow.

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Note that my pins have a tiny button decoration on them. (No, there are not actual buttons on the shirt.) Also, if you look closely you’ll see that perfect sewing wasn’t my goal here. I wanted a fun project I could start and finish in a weekend. Go ahead, try it yourself!

Step 5: Enjoy Your Newest T-Shirt (Or, In My Case, Shirts)

This turned out to be a quick project, and I was having fun with it. So I went ahead and made three versions. What I liked most was the sheer number of possibilities! Combining solids was as simple as attaching stripes of different sizes. Next time, I may try mixing prints or graphics for a funkier look. Or letting the shirts I discover dictate the direction. How would you adapt your own tees?

Thanks for the inspiration, fellow bloggers!

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Why, yes, that is an oversized coffee mug. Surely the Friends themselves would appreciate it.

Upcycling Mittens to Help Save February

heart_closeupI’d worn mittens for 120 days in a row. Well, close to it, anyway. This was late February, y’all, and it was time for a bright new pair. I’d also been dying to make them again. I’d only sewn mittens once and that was last winter.

So I set out to try again. I’d lost track of the pattern I’d used, so the web search began. I found a handful of tutorials and set to work. Guess what I discovered? Making mittens is a snap, but only after you’re done and know what you’re doing.

Unless you have YouTube Sandy, that is. If you want to upcycle a pair of mittens, let me save you some time: You need Sandy in your life. Here she is, dutifully showing each step in her video, “Make Mittens from Old Sweaters – Fast and Easy.”

As usual, my journey began with a trip to the thrift shop. Never underestimate the fun of this step! If you want to join me, here’s your mission: Find three sweaters that combine in a way that makes you smile. In the end, I rejected my “blue on blue on blue” idea and chose three bright heathers. They were practically made for each other, I determined.

So, what do you think: Did I make the right choice? If you were crafting mittens, what colors would make you happy on (yet another) subzero day?

The Tiny Joys of My Everywhere Bag

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Photo by the talented pattern designer Kathy McGee. Taken at the end of our fun little class.

Some crafts have tales to tell about found materials. Not this bag, though. Instead, it tells a story of found opportunities.

This tote wasn’t supposed to exist. I hadn’t planned on making a market bag; the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. But one day I got an email from a friend.

Would I be interested in a bag-sewing class, she wanted to know. It was three days away. Her life had gotten crazy, but she didn’t want to forfeit her spot.

I pushed aside some minor hesitation and decided to go for it. I’m so glad I did. Sure, I could have stuck to my weekend as planned, but then I’d have missed out. I’d have sacrificed creating what has since become favorite everywhere bag (and all the tiny joys it brings).

I love how the fabrics came together. I appreciate that the straps and colorful main panel came from my stash, left over from abandoned projects. I enjoyed meeting the instructor, Kathy McGee, who designed the Sigrid Oilcloth Market Bag pattern. I can’t wait to try something from her book of happy projects for bikes! And of course, I appreciate the generosity of my girlfriend who bequeathed the class in the first place.

Because I bring the bag everywhere, it accompanied me on a recent trip to the salon. (It was a longer appointment, so I just had to bring books, right?) A sudden thought occurred to me as the stylist cut my hair: The bag was positioned for a photo op! It was hanging in a well-lit spot, with a simple textured background to boot.

salon_stationSo I did something I’d never attempted before. I started snapping photos right there from the chair. (That’s what blogging has done to me, I tell you! Gone are the days when I can pass up a photo.) I guess that’s not all blogging’s done. It’s helped me stop and see loveliness where it didn’t exist before. It’s encouraged me to capture a fleeting moment and attempt to make it last. To that I say, why the heck not?

So, what about you? What happy accidents have you encountered?

From Bargain Bin to Mat Carrier

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Projects that can be done in a weekend are the best. Here’s a simple one that brought high satisfaction for relatively little effort. Last summer I got tired of carting my yoga mat around all by its lonesome. Off to Pinterest I went (of course) to find a carrier tutorial. I wanted something more substantial than the strappy kind, and I was immediately drawn to this cute version from Design Sponge.

A trip my local Hancock Fabrics was all I needed next. The bargain section at the back led me to this shimmery green fabric. I loved it as soon as I saw it, always a good sign I’m on the right track. While passing by the elastics, a cheery turquoise one caught my eye. Thinking it might make a nice riff on the intended straps, I switched gears on the spot. Pairing it with the thinner striped-pink elastic nearby, I decided that, yeah, this new strap idea was worth a shot. In the end, the sturdy bounce of the elastic turned out to be a favorite feature of the carrier.

So, weekend craft warriors. . . what have been some of your favorite quick-but-rewarding projects?

Gutsy Purple Bag

Photo by Half Light Photography

jessbag_chairThis isn’t a bag I’d make for just anyone. It’s fearless, and it’s one of my favorite projects ever. It was a custom job for a particularly hip girlfriend of mine.

She knows the local music scene. She has an appreciation for indie rock, which she’s evidenced by taking me to both Metric and Dinosaur Jr. concerts. She changes her hair color regularly and runs a photography business on the side. (Yes, she took this header photo.)

Last year she accompanied a group of teen designers on a trip to Jerusalem as part of the powerful and innovative Design Diaries International museum-exchange program.

So I was thrilled when she agreed to be a bag tester for me. I’ve been dreaming of expanding my crafting hobby into some sort of side gig of by own, and she signed right up to help me out. The plan: She’d give me design parameters, I’d make a bag for her at cost, and she’d give me feedback.

Her wish list: a) incorporate her fave color purple, b) lots of pockets, c) a 60’s vibe, and d) a mix of patterns that look like they don’t go together but end up working. This final request made me want to do the happy dance.

I love working with upholstery fabrics, so I hit the rolls at my local fabric store. And here’s the result. What’s on your bag wish list?

Modern Bag in Dotted Grey

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Here’s a kicky little bag I made because I had some fun fabric. It’s a water resistant type called laminated cotton. Discovering this stuff opened up a world of new possibilities for me. It’s lightweight (feels similar to quilt-weight cotton), and I’ve found it elevates the look of any project.

Finding laminated cotton can be a challenge, though. Fabric stores tend to have limited selections, if they carry it at all. So, I went online and discovered this grey-dotted version. I loved its modern aesthetic.

But the fun really started when I got to combine it with fabrics from my stash. Designing fabric mixes is my favorite part of sewing. I swear, putting together patterns gives me a dopamine hit or something. (For me, buying premixed fabric combos is blasphemy. Why deprive myself of all the action?)

The fabric for the interior pockets came from the annual garage sale hosted by the wonderful Textile Center of Minnesota. The strap, from my local JoAnn’s, added to the funky, clean vibe. The wide yellow strip of flowers on the front came from my closet. I have one confession, though–the awesome grey peacock interior was from the same fabric line as the exterior. (Gah! It was too beautiful not to break my own rule of ordering pre-designed combos.)

Fusing disparate pieces to create an artistic whole gives me energy. What about you? What gives you a hit of creative energy?