Valentine’s Day Dress

Valentine’s Day was practically made for me. Well, me and Saint Valentine. I mean, it’s a holiday involving paper doilies, heart-shaped cookies that turn your teeth pink, teeny tiny envelopes, and the worst (best) poetry and puns imaginable. Get out.

But alas, as I get older, Valentine’s Day seems to fall into the same category as Halloween and New Year’s Eve. Adulthood and his buddy, Expectations, typically crash the party, draining the Awesomeness dry but leaving behind a big puddle of Disappointment for me to mop up in the morning.

Not so this year. I am taking control of Valentine’s Day and indulging in my most decadent fantasy.

Yes, that’s right: Being Warm.

I am ignoring the brutal winds and mountains of dirty ice crust. Instead of snow as dry as sand, why not imagine actual sun-baked sand? What is bliss if not the commingling of sunscreen and sweat?

Ergo, this week I made the sweetest summer dress in the sweetest floral print.

valentines_dress

McCall’s Pattern M6739—I chose Option A, with the ruffled hem on the side panels. The more flounces the better, obviously.

pattern


dress2

dress_multi

beach

paris_cafe

royals

What? Oh, I’m sorry—I must have dozed off.

winter

I’m back now.

While the final result is great for the Valentine’s Day of my mind and heart, in real life I think that this dress in a modern, geometric print—perhaps even two contrasting geometric prints—would be perfection. OR I could see making it up in a special occasion fabric, and it would be very Lady Rose MacClare.

Anyway, the moral of the story is Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you do something special for yourself to celebrate.

Faux Fur Shrug

Back in November, I resolved to make a shrug from this vintage pattern (Advance 6184).

VintagePattern Advance 6184

Now, the finished garment!

Shrug_Outlined

I did not originally intend to make this jacket so… fluffy. But then I found this fabric, and I couldn’t resist.

Fabric

It’s an exceptionally soft and cozy faux fur, and it makes me feel over-the-top ridiculous in the best possible way. If you squint really hard, maybe you can imagine Grace Kelly or Marilyn Monroe in something similar (only real, obviously), accessorized with long white gloves and some sass.

GraceMarilyn

Grace Kelly, Hola Magazine | Source
Marilyn Monroe | Source

Production Notes:

  • Working with vintage patterns is sometimes tricky on account of what the heck are they even talking about. So I did what I usually do in such cases: I cut out the pattern pieces and put them together in the way that made the most sense to me.
  • The fabric was mildly inconvenient to work with—it disintegrated a bit with every cut. I still might be inhaling fabric shreds.
  • In this case, using a traditional lining fabric seemed completely counterproductive to me. Why turn the soft, warm, faux-furry goodness outwards towards the elements, only to place a shiny, cool-to-the-touch shell next to my skin? Crazy. Instead, I used the faux fur to line the shrug too. So much cozier this way!

shrug1

I’m quite pleased with how this turned out, and I wore it—happy and snuggily—to a couple of black tie affairs that I attended in December (I know—la-dee-dah).

But it is also the kind of thing you can really only get away with around the holidays, when everyone goes about in a spiced-wine-induced haze of Good Will Toward Men, and velvet and lamé suddenly become acceptable life choices.

multi_view

shrug3

Glamour personified. If you squint really hard, maybe you can imagine that I’m not such a goober.

The Year of the Blanket

The entire month of December was—as seems to be the case every year—a hectic scramble to get Christmas gifts made, purchased, wrapped and delivered. Hence my complete lack of posts during the holiday season.

When pressed for time, I also unfortunately tend to forget about and/or skip taking photos of gifts I’ve made. I just give them away, and they’re gone.

But I did manage to snap a few photos of my main gifting project this Christmas: patchwork throws.

BlanketStack

My grandma recently moved, and I knew she was looking for a blanket or throw to match her new cool-toned family room decor. Finding myself in the sale section at Anthropologie as I often do, I dug through the linens on the off-chance that I would unearth something beautiful and also miraculously marked down to my price range. I did not.

I DID however find an assortment of lovely dinner napkins in greens, violets, and grays—at less than $4 a pop. I scooped up nine of them (three of each color), and decided to make my own throw. I created a patchwork front out of the napkins, and added a gray fleece backing. Voila. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of this one. But it was so easy to work with the napkins—they’re substantial, won’t fray, and of uniform, workable sizes—that I made several more napkinblankets. Napkets. Blankins?

Anyway, for the throw shown below, I also used napkins from the Anthropologie sale section, and navy blue fleece. This was probably my favorite—the geometric pattern and bright colors seemed well-suited for my little sister, and it looks like something you could buy at Urban Outfitters. Though I’m not convinced that that’s a good thing.

KaraBlanket2

KaraBlanket1

KaraBlanket3

With a couple of these napkin-based blankets under my belt, I became a little more ambitious with my material sourcing. I decided I wanted to make a throw for my mom out of vintage Vera Neumann napkins, and I trolled Etsy and Ebay, searching for the perfect combination of patterns and colors. Because I am a planner, I took screenshots of sellers’ photos and created a few mock-ups in Photoshop before committing to any purchases.

Photoshop comps of what the throw could look like:

PhotoshopMockup.

The finished throw:

MomBlanket1

MomBlanket2

And finally, a blanket made from CB2 napkins (thank you, holiday sales) and red fleece for a gift exchange. More neutral and modern than the others, but still festive.

CHCBlanket4

CHCBlanket1

From now on, I’m going to keep my eye out for interesting table linens at thrift stores—I think not just repurposing but also recycling would make this project that much more satisfying.

In the meantime, I’m grabbing a book and a hot cup of tea and camping out under a blanket of my own. See you in the Spring.

Thrift Store Couture: Cupcake Dress

I’m not really a Shoe Girl.

I typed that sentence, and a voice in my head—a voice which sounds disconcertingly like my mother’s—snorted derisively. Ok, yes, the pile of shoes that I’ve amassed in my closet is pretty damning evidence to the contrary. But I dream in dresses and coats—shoes tend to be an afterthought.

Part of my indifference toward footwear definitely stems from growing up Tall. Self-conscious about my height, I was always one of those awkward girls slouching in corners, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. I didn’t have the gumption—or, to be honest,  the coordination—to wear high heels. And it IS high heels that Shoe Girls love.

And while I’ve obviously outgrown that aversion to attention (nothing screams “Look at me! Look at me!” quite like writing a blog in which one posts photos of oneself) a vague reluctance to don heels lingers. (As, unfortunately, does the terrible posture.)

Anyway. This is a very roundabout way of explaining that this project began in a very roundabout way for me.

It started with this pair of pumps.

2427401-3-MULTIVIEW
Dolce Vita Dollie Pumps

I bought these shoes to wear to a wedding and immediately had a fairly substantial idea of what I wanted to wear them with—something girly and vintagey and sweet, with a full fluffy skirt and a fitted bodice.

Something like so:
Inspiration
a. 1950s Dress, DearGolden Shop at etsy.com
b. Brown and Ivory Tulle Skirt, TutusChicBoutique at etsy.com
c. Presenters Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly wait backstage at the RKO Pantages Theatre during the 1956 Academy Awards, Allan Grant—Time & Life Pictures
d. Custom 50s-inspired Cocktail Dress, Elegance50s Shop at etsy.com 

Of course I didn’t actually own anything like that, so I decided to make something.

Because I hate myself.

I’m labeling this as a “Thrift Store Couture” post, but that’s kind of misleading—I did start with a garment from Salvation Army, but I basically cut it up and completely started over.

The Before: a 100% silk dress from Saks. With shoulder pads. Probably from the 80s.!Before2_double

The after: a definite improvement, no?
Front

To create the bodice, I used this Cynthia Rowley for Simplicity Pattern (1873):

The rest I just winged, creating a gathered tulle circle skirt with a pink silk overlay. The waistband is black velvet—a total splurge, guys. That strip of fabric was, like, $12.

Truthfully, the flimsy silk was probably a poor choice for a dress this structured/tailored. I lined the bodice with a stiffer fabric, which helped—but it still wasn’t ideal.

Back_me
(My mom’s voice also says: “Get your hair out of your face.”)

(Upon further reflection, that actually might be my Grandma Joyce’s voice. Or that of Mrs. Downing, ballet teacher.)

(Probably all of the above.)

Niiiice up the nose shot:
F

Back

Confession: I couldn’t actually decide whether I preferred the skirt simply as tulle, or with the pink silk overlay on top.

SO I sewed the pink skirt and sash together, but did not attach it to the rest of the dress. It’s its own separate, removable piece—it just ties around the waist.

Now I can wear the dress both with and without the overlay. Total design cop-out. Because sometimes decisions are hard.

Without the pink overlay:
!TulleA_double



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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Two-piece Dress

Two-piece-Dress(Thanks to my lovely sister—above—who is a much better and more enthusiastic model than I am.)

I knew at the beginning of the summer that I wanted to make a two-piece dress. Preferably of the non-midrift-bearing variety.

Inspirationa) Legend & Song Dutch Wax Separates at Anthropologie
b) Thakoon RTW Spring 2015
c) Disco Floral Matching Separates at Pixie Market

I had a pretty good idea of the silhouette I wanted to create: a looser top, and a gathered skirt with a high waistband. I went through my vintage patterns and found this juniors dress from the 60s (Simplicity 3541). The vest-thing (shown over a dress on the pattern envelope) worked perfectly as my top.

pattern

And… I just winged (past-tense of wing?) the skirt. It’s very basic: two rectangles of fabric (one for the waistband and one for the skirt itself) and a zipper in the back. This is a good tutorial for making this type of skirt without a pre-existing pattern.

2-piece-dress-side-by-side

The material itself is a cotton print that I picked up at a thrift store. The back of the top wraps around to the front and snaps in place. The snaps are hidden by two vintage buttons that I purchased at an antique store.

two-piece-dress_detail

The best part? Because this dress is technically separates, it’s easy to mix and match them with other pieces:

separates_filter

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

Yellow Wrap Dress

Welp, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything new. Not to worry, I’ve been working all year on various projects—I’ve just been muy terrible at recording them.

Here is a wrap dress I finished a couple of months ago. This project is notable mostly because it was the first time I didn’t have to rip anything apart and start over. Yaaaayyyy progress!!

Pattern: McCall’s 9612, 1969

Wrap_Dress_Pattern

Yellow_Dress_Detail

Oh hello, mixing prints in one garment. So on trend. I definitely totally did that on purpose.

Yellow Wrap Dress Front and Back

In reality, because I was using material that I’d picked up from a thrift store, I didn’t have quite enough to make the whole dress out of one print. I knew I didn’t want to compromise the length, so I improvised and used two different fabrics to create the bodice. It was actually fairly easy—I just added a seam straight across the front and back pattern pieces, above the bustline.

From the back, you can see how the two fabrics come together, as well as the dramatic width of the sash. It’s not as wonky in real life as it kind of looks in the photo.

Yellow_Wrap_Dress

Thanks to my lovely sis for photographing me and accurately capturing the awkward.