Plaid Pencil Skirt

Springtime in Chicago tends to be a long, steep climb, with lots of switchbacks and speed bumps and ruts along the way. It’s hard to overcome winter—either mentally or sartorially—when you have a stiff wind in your face.

But—praise to the powers that be—we’ve had a very mild spring so far. Consequently, this post feels horribly out of season right about now. My apologies.

I completed this skirt about a month ago, partially to cheer myself through potential April snow showers, and partially to overcome the rut I’ve found myself in lately. I’m not sure whether it’s an attention thing or what, but I have about a half a dozen projects in progress right now and seemingly zero intention of finishing any of them.

To try to snap myself out of it, I decided to go back to something very basic: Simplicity 2906.



This is about as simple as it gets: two pieces of fabric, a zipper, a strip of twill tape and a hook and eye.



So, to compensate for the overall yawniness of this post, I thought I’d share what was on the back of my mind while I was making this: The Cape.

I bought a glorious, vintage, Made-In-Austria, wool cape at a charity consignment sale last fall for a mere $5. It’s beautiful—and I didn’t wear it once all winter.

Basically every movie and TV show I’ve ever seen affirms that ladies in capes embrace living on a grand scale. They go to masquerade balls and have their own couturiers and sing in the streets and leave home to have adventures only to discover that happiness was in front of them the whole time. No demure and shrinking wallflowers they—they are confident, brassy and never afraid to speak their minds.

That’s a lot of pressure.

CapesShelley Long in Troop Beverly Hills | Source
Leighton Meester in Gossip Girl | Source
Megan Follows and Schuyler Grant in Anne of Green Gables | Source

As I was finishing up this skirt, it occurred to me that it might be a great match for my cape—and perhaps the impetus I needed to actually leave my apartment in it.


Alas—The final proportions are a little more matronly than I would like. I should probably pair the skirt either with a calf-length trench, or with a jacket that’s cropped at the waist. Likewise, I would wear a shorter skirt with the cape—maybe channeling the Blair Waldorf look and adding fishnets.

Hopefully by the time cape season rolls around in the Fall, I’ll have it all worked out, with capeworthy confidence to boot. Perhaps it doesn’t take a certain type of person to pull off a cape—perhaps the wearer draws her powers from the cape itself?

What do you think? Aside from a Sound of Music sing-along, is there such a thing as a cape-appropriate occasion in real life?

Crepe Paper Easter Eggs: Fab or Fail?

Aren’t these crepe paper veggies from Terrain adorable?


My family always has crackers/poppers at Christmas—you know, the kind with paper crowns inside (we all not-so-secretly wish we were British)—and this seems like the perfect Easter equivalent. I was really excited when I saw that 6 prizes were only $16—what a great value!

THEN I came to the realization that “6 prizes” refers to the 6 items within a single vegetable—essentially one vegetable party favor is $16. That seems way steep for what amounts to a wad of crepe paper and—if I’m interpreting the product photo correctly—a single pack of smartees, a bunny sticker, a stick-on moustache, some kind of tiny plastic critter, a fortune and a joke. I can think of several better uses for the $80 that it would have cost to buy enough favors for my immediate family.

So then I wondered—how hard would it be to make something like this myself?

I turned to pinterest and etsy for ideas, but when I found this tutorial for mini easter egg piñatas, I got completely sidetracked. Vegetables, shmegetables. These little guys were just too pretty and springtimey for me to resist.


Once I’d found my concept/inspiration, I ordered rolls and rolls and rolls of crepe paper streamers. Then I went to World Market and bought some legit favors, picking out a few items for each member of my family.


What would you rather have: a joke printed on a strip of copy paper, or a spicy beef summer sausage? That’s what I thought.

I sorted my favors, then rolled each person’s items into a crepe paper ball—er, egg. I started with the larger items, rolling and adding smaller items, then some more rolling, trying to balance the prizes’ positions so that the final crepe paper mass somewhat resembled an egg. Kind of. I secured the end of the streamer with tape.


Moving on: I took lengths of different colored streamers and cut them into thirds, creating long narrow strips. Then I cut fringe along one side of each strip.


As in the piñata tutorial, I glued the strips around the crepe paper egg, overlapping each row.


And that was really all there was to it.


The piñata tutorial calls for using balloons and papier-mâché to create a true egg shape. I skipped that step, because 1) I’m lazy and it seemed like kind of a big mess, and 2) I was still approaching this as more of a crepe paper surprise ball and less of an actual piñata.

I wasn’t thrilled with the result—it was hard to achieve the egg shape, and they ended up kind of lumpy.

My family didn’t seem to notice, though. I had envisioned a lot of satisfying ripping and unraveling—the joy inherent in a moment of harmless destruction being one of the anticipated delights of this format. Instead there was a lot of meticulous and painstakingly slow cutting—”Oh, but it’s so pretty, I don’t want to ruin it!” And some seriously cringe-worthy birth analogies, from which I will spare you. My mom insisted on keeping the crepe paper shells, ripped though they were, claiming that she will use them as “decorations” next year (my quotes).

Mom, seriously. It’s garbage.

A few notes for next time, if there ever is a next time:
. Suck it up and try the papier-mâché—it might help with getting the egg shape just right.
. Keep prizes smaller. Ok, so there’s a reason that the vegetable prizes were so lame and tiny.
. Write my own fortunes—an opportunity for funny personalization.
. Try to create something a bit more sculptural, like the original vegetables.

What do you think? Would it be worth attempting again?

I think I will leave you with the work of Anandamayi Arnold—an artist and true master of the crepe paper surprise ball. Incredible!