Recycled Book Clutches

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I’d been eyeing this zipped clutch tutorial from See Kate Sew for months. Then when I made brunch plans with a few friends for last Saturday (which happened to be February 13th), my inner Leslie Knope kicked in, and I decided to DIY some Galentine’s Day gifts.

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Source: Giphy


I stopped by Salvation Army to pick up some old hardback books. Playing off the Valentine’s Day theme, my initial hope was that there would be some comically cheesy oldtimey erotica, with like, a shirtless Fabio type on the cover. That would be funny, no? Sadly, there was no such thing.

Amongst the books I did find, however, was a cloying novel entitled How to Meet Cute Boys. Usually the idea of destroying books hurts me a little bit, but I rather enjoyed ripping this one apart. If I hadn’t already recycled the pages, I would read a bit to you now. You would laugh and cringe and then cry, probably.

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Then I had a crisis of self-doubt—I thought it was hi-larious, but would a recipient find the book title insulting? I saw it as subversion—a repurposing of chick lit for more practical and stylish ends… but that didn’t necessarily mean said friend would feel that way.

So I chickened out… and decided to keep this one for myself. Everyone wins!

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I basically followed the See Kate Sew instructions to the letter. I did use hot glue instead of the specified glue, because it was what I had on hand, and it seemed to work ok.

I am also now OBSESSED with Heat ‘n Bond. It has made me realize that there are a lot of things around me that probably need to have fabric stuck to them.

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Anyway, the nice thing about this project is that it can make a strong visual impact without requiring much fabric—it’s a good stash buster. The fabric for Cute Boys is a bright, mod floral—I found it in a bargain bin in a vintage clothing store in Lugano, Switzerland.

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For Novel Destinations, I used these complementary bold botanical prints—canvas-type fabrics—that I found at my Salvation Army here in Chicago a while back.

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For Left Bank, I chose not to add fabric to the front and back covers; the Parisian street scenes are charming as they are. For the lining and zippered portions, I used complementary floral oilcloths that I coincidentally also picked up in Switzerland, though these were purchased in a little boutique in Bern.

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(Side note: the oilcloth holds its shape really well, doesn’t fray, and doesn’t require the Heat ‘n Bond—but the shiny/slick side also does not stick to hot glue very well. I ended up using bias tape to bind the edges, then gluing the bias tape).

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I also lined each book with a single piece of fabric across both inside covers and the inside spine—it looked a little neater than in the tutorial. And I added an extra piece of fabric to create a couple of pockets: one to fit standard IDs/credit cards, and one for cash.

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To complete the gifts, I added these Galentine’s-Day-appropriate pocket mirrors from Paper Source. And I couldn’t resist—and totally splurged on—these adorable mini notebooks from Ted Baker. I am such a sucker for anything that comes with a teeny, tiny pen attached—possibly because it reminds me of a dance card (I say that like I totally remember dance cards from real life and not just movies).

Source: First Impressions


Happy belated Galentine’s Day!

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Holiday Gift: Fleece Pullovers

Ok, it’s been ages since I’ve written. It may seem backwards, but when Life-things are going well and I’m busy, updating this blog is the first thing that gets postponed… and postponed… until basically it’s cut out altogether. But when Life-things are not going so well, it’s comforting to show-and-tell about creating—probably because it feels like proof of purpose and therefore validation—even if only two people are still reading (Hi Kara! Hi Michael!)

Anyway. Amateur psychology aside, this is one of those tougher times. My grandmother, or as we called her, Mommy Jane, passed away last week. Both of my grandmothers were creative forces: Grandma Joyce is my Sewing Grandma; Mommy Jane was my Knitting Grandma. While Grandma Joyce showed me how to stitch up calico yo-yos, it was Mommy Jane who taught me to chain crochet and finger knit.

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So stylish and elegant.

When I was in high school, Mommy Jane wanted to make me a sweater; she sent me a catalog of knitting patterns and asked me to choose one. Being the snot-nosed, generally self-absorbed teenager that I was, I selected what, looking back on it, was probably the most complicated, time- and labor-intensive sweater I could possibly have asked for. It was a hefty, oversized, cable-knit Aran pullover, complete with hood (if it was here with me now, I would show you a photo, but unfortunately it’s at my parents’ house). It took her months, if not years to complete, and the final product was nothing short of stunning. It is truly an heirloom. That sweater, along with a quilt made by my Grandma Joyce (quilted by hand, mind you), is probably the most important and irreplaceable item I possess.

Mommy Jane taught me at an early age the value of craftsmanship, of working with your hands. She showed me by example how, when you hand-make a gift for someone you love, you give a little bit of yourself in the process. It’s so much more humble and simple than most of the trappings of gift-giving today—but it’s also scary: it’s an offering, an extension of you. It’s both vulnerability and connectivity. That’s what I aspire to, anyway.

There’s also something so wonderfully tactile about gifting a homemade sweater. From your hands to someone else’s back—as corny as it sounds—it’s a hug incarnate.

I am not a knitter. Knitting is magic to me—it feels like conjuring clothing out of thin air, and I am constantly in awe of those who have mastered the art. I’ve never had the patience to learn, and, for now at least, it’s completely beyond my abilities.

But when I saw this pullover from Madewell before Christmas, I was inspired: maybe it would be possible to sew—instead of knit—a simple raglan-sleeve sweater, as a holiday gift for friends.

Madewell Pullover


The Madewell website indicates that this is made of a wool/poly/acrylic blend, and it was very thick and kind of scratchy when I touched it in the store. But… it kind of looks like fleece… right?

Fleece is great, because it’s super soft and inexpensive and easy to work with. But it’s also kind of cheesy.

So I tried to be super careful with both fabric and pattern selection, hoping to end up with something that, in addition to being warm and cozy, was visually appealing.

The pattern :

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I struggled a bit with the sizing—this pattern is intended for lightweight fabrics, so I ended up having to go up a couple of sizes  to account for the extra thickness of the fleece.

BUT this pattern has pockets! Oh the joy therein!

I chose three different combinations of fleece:

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And while each version turned out slightly different from the others, I’m pretty happy with them. I will definitely be returning to this pattern for warm and cozy gifts in the future. Hopefully Mommy Jane would approve.