Recycled Book Clutches

PairA

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!

PairC

Thrift Store Couture: 2-Piece 80s Dress

Thrift Store Couture: 2-Piece 80s Dress

This super awesome 80s 2-piece dress was $2 at a garage sale. 2 legit 2 quit. Although I guess it’s actually three pieces if you count that magnificent belt.

Before: Those are serious shoulder pads.

Thrift Store Couture: 2-Piece 80s Dress

Even with my hipster glasses on (yes, they are prescription lenses), I can’t really pull this off. It feels like I’m jumping the gun on my Wacky Old Broad persona, into which I fully hope to evolve over the next 30 years, but which sadly is premature at this moment.

The first thing I did was rip out the shoulder pads. It felt great, let me tell you. Then I cut out the weird black choker of a collar and widened the neckline. Lastly, I cropped the top.

Thrift Store Couture: 2-Piece 80s Dress

Definitely better.

Thrift Store Couture: 2-Piece 80s Dress

The collar-to-calf black-and-white print is still kind of overwhelming though. Like… it’s a bit much. I’m trying to resist my natural instinct to cut several inches off the bottom of the skirt, because I really like its length when it’s worn without the matching top.

Thrift Store Couture: 2-Piece 80s Dress

A crop top is a tricky garment to pull off in real time—as a general rule, I believe that 30-year-old belly buttons should retire from public life. So, apart from the matching skirt, I was skeptical that this top could be mixed/matched into my wardrobe as a garment in its own right. Luckily, it goes just fine with my high-waisted, pleated MOM PANTS.

CropTop

Thrift Store Couture: 2-Piece 80s Dress

I think the belt, sadly, is beyond salvaging. RIP belt.

Thrift Store Couture: 2-Piece 80s Dress

Custom Fabric

Remember my July sketches? I modified the art slightly and had custom fabric printed!

CustomFabricA

It was a total experiment—I had no idea what to expect. I uploaded my art to Green Park Studios, paid $40, and less than one week later, I was holding two yards of midweight cotton printed with my very own design . It couldn’t have been simpler.

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My initial plan was to use this fabric as a lining. But now that I see how well it turned out (if I do say so myself), I want it to be more visible. A skirt maybe?

CustomFabricC

I think if I printed this on a lighter, gauzier fabric, it would make a great summer scarf. Or picture rows and rows of coats for winter. This whole print-your-own thing could be a very addictive discovery…

 

Table Runner T-shirt

T-shirt refashion using vintage linens

I found these pretty linens at a grade school yard sale a few weeks ago. Some are embroidered, some are crocheted, and I got the entire assortment of table runners, tea towels, napkins and doilies for less than $10.

Vintage linens

They aren’t in the best condition—there are holes, tears or stains on most of the pieces—but they all have salvageable sections. Perfect for a little upcycling.

Vintage linens

Inspired by a top that I saw at Anthropologie, I made my mom an embellished t-shirt for Mother’s Day.

I started with a blue and white lace table runner and a generic, basic white t:

T-shirt: before

First thing’s first: I cut off the uncomfortable crew neck, creating a wider, boatneck shape. Then I cut a panel out of the top back section of the tee and replaced it with a segment of the table runner. I placed the finished edge of the table runner along the neckline—the scallops look lovely, and it was nice and easy not to have to worry about additional finishing!

T-shirt refashion using vintage linens

And I used blue single-fold bias tape to finish the front of the neckline.

T-shirt refashion using vintage linens

That’s all there was to it! Easy peasy!

T-shirt refashion using vintage linens

T-shirt refashion using vintage linens

Royally Inspired

Homemade Kentucky Derby Hat

So. Last weekend was the Kentucky Derby. While many consider it the most exciting two minutes in sports, I love it because it is the only occasion all year when it is socially acceptable to wear a fancy hat. And not just a fancy hat—a ridiculously, outrageously dramatic, fancy hat. In real life. Not a costume. Not a joke. Not a lost bet.

One should take advantage of it.

I did not go to the actual derby, but I was invited to an incredibly lovely gathering to watch it on tv—a gathering complete with themed decor, mint juleps, bourbon truffles, derby pie, the works. It was a party the likes of which Pinterest hostesses only dream.

AND there was a contest for best hat. Now, I don’t usually think of myself as a competitive person. But there is a very small part of me that is still five years old, that can still taste the sweet, sweet victory of winning my Kindergarten class’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle drawing contest. (Chucky Cheese Pizza. That victory tasted like Chucky Cheese pizza.) And this hat contest roused that sleeping, hangry child within.

I had a goal. So where to begin? I started by perusing photos of she who is the most chic sporter of the hat: the Duchess of Cambridge. Obvi.

Kate Middleton's Hats

 Source | All photos are from eonline: Kate Middleton’s Hats and Fascinators

So many beautiful, sculptural examples! I know that derby hats traditionally have very wide brims, but I really liked the idea of doing a more unusual, asymmetrical shape. And apparently, European customs and fashions have always been a source of inspiration for Kentucky Derby attire.

Finding an interestingly-shaped hat within my meager budget proved to be a challenge. It took some intense interneting, but I finally found this frame at Theatre House, an aptly named online theatrical supply shop, for $12.95.

Hat Frame: Before

Theatre House actually recommends that you buy two of the same hat—that way you can take one apart and use it to make a pattern. However, I chose not to cover or even paint my hat frame (as was probably intended). Instead, I glued thin white ribbon over any obvious seaming.

In order to keep the hat from falling off of my head, I made two tiny loops out of very thin brown ribbon that roughly matched my hair color. I sewed one loop on each side of the hat, where the inside of the hatband rested on my head. I could then use bobby pins to pin the loops to my hair, holding the hat in place.

Now what? I GUESS I could go to Michael’s and pick out some silk flowers.

OR I COULD MAKE MY OWN.

Armed with Terial Magic Stabilizer Spray and this fabric rose tutorial from How About Orange, I got to work.

WorkStation

By taking the basic rose tutorial instructions and varying the shape and number of the petals, I was able to create a few different styles of flowers. I primarily used quilting squares of 100% cotton, but the pale pink roses are actually made of silk scraps leftover from my cocktail dress re-fashion last Fall. Once the flowers were finished, I simply used hot glue to affix them to the hat.

Derby Hat: Detail

Lovely, no?

Derby Hat

And then, my favorite part. I added A GIANT-A$$ BOW to the back! Also with hot glue.

Finished Derby Hat

TaDa!

Finished Derby Hat 2

Now, what’s this I hear about some horses?

Derby Hat Side

Bow Tie Sweater DIY

BowSweater_Intro

 

 INSPIRATION
Bow Sweater on April and Jess

Left: Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate in Parks and Recreation (Source)
Right: Zooey Deschanel in New Girl (Source)

I adore trompe l’oeil (despite having to look up the spelling and/or pronunciation every time I use the term), so this bow sweater with detachable collar is right up my two-dimensional alley. Its whimsy weirdly suits the polar personalities of both Parks and Rec‘s April and New Girl‘s Jess, and I think it would suit me too. Unfortunately, some quick internet-ing tells me that this is an Alice and Olivia sweater, and that it’s sold out universally. Even when it was in stock, it retailed for a few hundred bucks—which far exceeds my financial allocation for Eccentric Sweater Purchases. And it’s almost certainly beyond the means of both April and Jess, but that’s a diatribe for another day.

Inspired by the Alice and Oliva version, I decided to take a stab at my own trompe l’oeil effect using a homemade stencil and a sweater that I bought at Salvation Army for $5. Huzzah for projects in which there is very little to lose even if I totally screw them up! If you’re interested in trying this project yourself, you can download my template below.

 

MAKING THE STENCIL

Tools
stencil_tools

a) Stencil Paper, available at art supply stores. Honestly, you could probably get away with using contact paper instead.
b) Cutting mat
c) Stainless steel straightedge
d) Your chosen design. You can download the collar and bow-tie template that I created for this project here. Alternately, you might want to add just a bow, rather than the whole collar; in that case you can wear a button-down underneath your sweater and the final result will be closer to the original inspiration piece. Here are a couple of bows by themselves, if that floats your boat.
e) X-Acto knives and blades. I used standard #11 blades for straight lines, and the X-Acto Econo Swivel Knife for cutting curves.
f) Removable double-stick tape

How-to
cutting

1) Print your chosen design. I roughly trimmed out my template, just to get the excess paper out of the way.
2) Use double-stick tape to apply the template to the stencil paper, avoiding placing the tape directly behind the outlines of the design.
3) Carefully, using the X-Acto knives and straightedge, trim out the black shapes. Only cut against a cutting mat.
4) Remove the paper template. Your stencil is finished!

 

 STENCILING THE SWEATER

Tools
paint_tools

a) Removable double-stick tape
b) Stencil brush(es)
c) Sweater
d) Paint tray
e) Fabric paint
f) Stencil
g) A piece of cardboard or an old magazine to protect the back of the sweater from paint bleeding through

How-to
painting

1) Make sure the sweater has been washed and is completely dry before proceeding. Place the piece of cardboard inside the sweater.
2) Using liberal amounts of double-stick tape, position the stencil in place.
3) Use the stencil brush to dab paint in the design area. Be sure to use only a straight up-and-down motion. It may help to hold the stencil down with your fingers as you work. Pay particular attention to the edges.of the design.
4) Once the entire area has been filled in, carefully remove the stencil. You may want to go back in with a fine paintbrush and clean up any problem areas.

 

 Not too bad, eh?
finished_stencil

BowSweaterSelfie
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Picnic Tote

Picnic_Tote

I took a lot of photos of this one, but I think I will spare you the detailed process story—I’m kind of picnicked out. Especially given that it is most emphatically Fall now.

This was a birthday gift for a friend, a picnic tote to take to outdoor concerts, movies and shows.

And my inspiration? Ballet boxes, with separate bottom compartments to carry dance shoes. Like so:

BALLET-BOXa. Ballet Box, Lowprice Dancewear
b. Vintage Ballet Box, WhimzyThyme Shop at etsy.com
Vintage Ballet Box, ivorybird Shop at etsy.com

By the same principle, giving a wine bottle its own separate pocket means that nothing else in your bag gets smushed—or damp, if you’re toting a sweating bottle of white.

I bought a plain tote bag at a craft store, and created a separate wine pocket, just by adding a seam and a zipper to the bottom section:
Zippered_Wine_Compartment

I also attached a zippered inside pocket to hold the corkscrew:
Zipper_Pouch
To make it personal, I created my own stencil by xacto-cutting letters out of contact paper:
Stencil Xacto Stencil_2 Stencil_3Finished_Tote

Final product. I threw in a bottle of wine, and then we were ready to picnic!
Picnic_Labels a. reusable solo cups
b. favorite snacks
c. battery-powered tealights
d. corkscrew
e. hand sanitizer
f. homemade napkins
g. tote bag with zippered wine pocket

Why You Shouldn’t Invite Me to Your Wedding

Picnic for Two

Yeah. There are a few of you out there with save-the-dates floating around who should probably be paying attention.

Don’t get me wrong. I love weddings as much as—nay, more than—the next person. Because I, unlike many of my peers, have (so far) avoided exposure to that sickly-sweet redolence of excess that seems to be snaking through the wedding industry these days. $600 bridesmaid dresses. Destination bachelorette parties more exotic and extravagant than the honeymoons of our parents’ generation. A dozen weddings of obscure relatives in as many weeks. It’s easy to see why some—burnt out, worn down and slightly nauseous—are very much over it. But me? Nope. All of the weddings I’ve attended have been for dear friends and close family—events radiant with joy and sincerity, beautiful and meaningful and full-ful, and all of the other nice, warm, glowing, lovely, heart-achy, happy things. I love weddings.

I also—fingers crossed—have yet to be that girl at a wedding. No pounding of tequila, fistfights over the bouquet, or random groomsman hookups on my record as of yet. So you need not fear that I’ll over-enjoy your wedding either.

The problem I have (and the problem you’ll have with me) comes down to your wedding registry. See, I believe that “The Wedding Registry” (along with the convenience store gift card aisle) has ruined gift-giving forever. Ah, how convenient! I can sit at my computer, click a few buttons, and within seconds, that $125 heart-shaped cheese grater—which I can only assume will be the centerpiece of your marriage—is on its way to being gift-wrapped, shipped and dropped on your doorstep. Zero thought or effort on my part required.

Now, before you give me the benefit of the doubt and assume that there is an altruistic streak somewhere within all this ranting—she’s wants to be considerate and select something personal and meaningful!—let me assure you: there is not. “Gift-giving is an opportunity for me to tell other people what they should want.” I’ve quoted myself so many times to various friends and family, that if I were ever to cross-stitch a pillow (and let’s be real, it might happen some day), that’s what would be on it .

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Utensil Roll

In continuing the picnic theme, I also made a sleeve/roll for transporting utensils. This is again very easy, and could be modified to fit anything from silverware to art supplies.

For this particular version I used a cotton print. I’ve also made a sturdier version out of faux leather (pinking the edges instead of fraying them) that I used as fancy gift wrap for a set of bar utensils.

Utensil Roll Steps 1–9

See fraying tips here. Because this was part of a wedding gift—a picnic set for two—I only created two utensil sleeves, and put two forks in one sleeve and two knives in the other. This is totally flexible though, and can change to suit your needs.

All wrapped up, with places to go:

Napkin_Roll

Picnic roll and matching set of frayed-edge napkins:

napkins_napkin_roll

Picnic Napkins

Picnic Napkins

These napkins are incredibly easy. I started by selecting a few coordinating prints in bright colors from the fat quarters section of the fabric store. I used the same fabric for both sides of each napkin, but you could use two different fabrics for each, and voila—reversible!

To make each napkin, cut two squares. Mine were approximately 9″ x 9″, but you could make larger dinner napkins or smaller cocktail napkins. Be careful to cut along the grain and to keep the corners as square as possible. This REALLY helps down the road when you fray the edges. Some of mine—those that (ahem) maybe weren’t so square—turned out worse than others. You learn as you go, you know?

Pin the two squares together back-to-back, with right sides facing out. Sew around all four sides, leaving a 1/2″ seam allowance. I used a zig-zag stitch, because why not. You can use thread that matches your fabric, or, assuming you are confident in your ability to sew a straight line, choose a bright, contrasting color for some drama. Gettin’ crazy here.

Then comes the never-ending fraying. Use a pin to remove individual threads along the edge of the fabric. The best way for me to describe it is to not describe it at all, but to instead show you a very close up picture:

Fraying Edges

Yeah. Thread by thread. You will do this to both squares of fabric, along all four sides. It will take a long time. I suggest you pop in a movie or two, depending on how many napkins you’re making. I find that BBC’s 6-episode Pride and Prejudice is a wonderful go-to for just such an occasion.

Anyway, this is the thread pile that was accumulating on my couch. And my coworkers wonder why I have bits of thread stuck to my clothes all the time…

Loose_Threads

And then you are done!

Picnic_Napkins