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.

giphy (1)

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.

1A

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!

1B

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.

1C

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.

3D

3A

3B

3C

3E

3G

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.

3H

2C

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.

2B

(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).

2G

2F

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.

2D

2E

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

Vintage Finds at the Kane County Flea Market

FleaMarketTitle

Along with a couple of friends, I made it out to the Kane County Flea Market for the very first time this past Sunday. Despite the heavy heat and humidity, we had a fantastic time browsing and mocking and admiring and coveting our way through the interminable stalls. From mounted insects to bedazzled baseball caps to handpainted signs to souvenir china, anything you could possibly want to buy—and much more besides—was up for sale.

I was the big spender of the day, and came home with quite a haul:

FleaMarketFinds

My big splurge was this 1960s knitting basket covered in crocheted flowers. I may use it to store sewing supplies, but I’m also tempted to carry it as a gloriously tacky purse. Picture using it to tote a small blanket to a park for a picnic. It’s rather lovely, no?

60s-Knitting-Basket

I also picked up a smattering of vintage sewing notions. The bias tape and elastic may seem random, but I think they’ll come in handy for a few projects coming up in my queue. I already have at least one sewing gauge (possibly more?)—but I never seem to be able to find it. The white and blue table runner was cheap and in good condition, perfect for another project like this one. And I couldn’t resist the violet firework print cotton (two yards).

SewingNotions

Then there’s this teeny tiny matchbook sewing kit.

MiniSewingKit

Adorbs.

MiniSewingKitInside

I also picked up this cocktail book in a box—mostly because I like the deco feel of the design.

HollywoodCocktails

CocktailVendomeSpread

I also enjoy that the hangover cures at the very end are printed upside down:

Cocktail_MorningAfter

I have this thing about notepads that have a built-in pen or pencil—it’s a lingering—and yes, weird—obsession from my childhood. So I was immediately drawn to this travel notebook.

TripJournal

It contains such essential points of reference as railroad distances between US cities.

RailroadDistances

And how to use a watch as a compass.

GeneralInformation

People used to have to write their itineraries down. On paper. Crazy.

PlacesVisited

And finally, when I saw this locket pin for $3, I had to have it in honor of everyone’s favorite Bright, Victorian Beauty, Samantha Parkington. Yep, I’m basically 9 years old.

Locket

All totaled, I spent about $35. Not too shabby!

FleaMarketOutside

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

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



Thrift Store Couture: Sweater-Sleeve Coat

We’re reaching that time of year when I am absolutely sick of all of the cold weather articles of clothing I own—especially coats. Unfortunately in Chicago, it’ll be coat weather for a few more weeks at least. Time to mix it up a bit.

Lately I’ve been coveting the kind of slouchy, menswear-inspired silhouettes that I’ve seen the occasional blue-line hipster girl wear—like so:

slouchy coats

Clockwise from left: Philip Lim sweater sleeve maxi coat, Asos textured blazer coat, Asos vest in longline, To Be Adored coat, Clariana fleck wool drape coat by Theory

But the last thing I want to do in April is spend a bunch of moolah on a coat. My solution? Try to find this 90s-reminiscent silhouette at a thrift store.

I forgot to take a picture of the jacket before ripping the sleeves off the jacket—but you get the idea

I forgot to take a picture of the jacket before ripping the sleeves off—but you get the idea

I loved this coat (left)—it was less than $10 at Salvos—but it was slightly too big through the shoulders. Since I was going to take it apart anyway to work on the fit, I decided to Frankenstein it with a sweater (right).

Pattern pinned to coar

I used an old coat pattern that WAS my size as a rough guide for re-cutting the armholes.

I stitched the sweater sleeves to the coat—lining and all. So no, I didn’t really fix the lining the way I’m sure you’re supposed to. Instead I just made my own binding out of some ribbon to cover the raw edges.

Jacket Lining

You can see the raw edges on the wearer’s left armhole; the right armhole is finished.

Finished.

Finished.

sweater sleeve coat

Unknown-6

I wore this outfit to a jazz club with some friends—one of them told me I looked very Ralph Lauren, and another likened me to Katharine Hepburn. Not quite the look I was going for, but I’ll still take it!

Unknown-7

Thrift Store Couture: Green Silk Dress

When I spotted this green silk dress at a thrift store for $7.99, I couldn’t pass it up, even though it was a few sizes too big. The style was also a little bridesmaidy, and only really flattering on ladies with a bustline (not me). So rather than simply take it in, I decided to try to rework it a bit.

DSCN3963combo

I couldn’t help but be a little inspired by Keira Knightley’s iconic green dress in Atonement. I decided to go for a vintage 20s/30s feel with a drop waist.

0289717f37284dfd477d038da93372
0ef64ffcdc4302641730d822e7ba11