The 10 Commandments...

of good grooming for women, not THE Ten Commandments (for everybody) popped up in my blog feed over at "It'll Take The Snap Out of Your Garters!" I'm a dead sucker for vintage grooming tips and such and this was right up my alley.
My quick takes?

1. You mean I can't wear ill fitting clothing?
2. I'm good here. At 5'2" tall, I'm not trying to make myself any shorter than I already am!
3. Done! I don't WEAR hose. They're an abomination!
4. Done! I can't stand worn down shoes.
5. I'll go for clean, but I don't particularly like my hair to smell of ANYTHING. It competes with my favorite pefume.
6. Well enough, I guess. I rarely wear cosmetics.
7. Notice they didn't say ANYTHING about loud HAIR. ;-D
8. I'm working on it. I just realized I need an actual slip to wear under an actual skirt.
9. Notice she didn't say ALL THE TIME, just "often". I'm so ON right now.
10. To thine own self be true and as the night follows the day thou canst (ugh Shakespeare!) be false to any man.

(Fan)Boy In The Hood(ie)

My son is a Thomas the Tank Engine Fanboy. And Christmas 2009, he got this Thomas hoodie as a present.
Well, it didn't take long for his little 傻瓜 (sagwa: lit. "melon head" or "fool") to outgrow the head hole, much to his consternation and dismay. He begged me not to donate it. So what's a mom to do?

I figured that I could mod it so that it was a zip up hoodie since the body and sleeves were still the right size. So off I went to the local fabric mega mart this morning to acquire a zipper that would work.

One Perfect Zipper
Amazingly enough, the first zipper I laid my little hand on was the right size *and* color. That NEVER happens. I figure that his guardian angel was looking out for him.

Ready, Steady, GO!
A quick run up the center to split the hoodie, pin the zipper in, stitch close to zipper teeth, turn the edges back and topstitch the front and VOILA! instant zipper hoodie. Thomas is a wee bit crosseyed, but in the immortal words of Oswald Fielding III, "Well, nobody's perfect!"
A really useful - if crosseyed - engine!

(Not Quite An) Ikea Hack

I was inspired by the chalk table hack over at IkeaHackers. Really inspired.

Recently, we had a dinner party and I hauled the kids' table from my son's room for the smaller kids to dine. It hadn't yet left the dining room because I've been a little distracted... I was recently using the table to take some pictures for my Etsy shop and realized the table was pretty messed up. Pondering the question "Who paints a childrens' table WHITE?", I realized that a chalkboard surface would be PERFECT for this table.

I took the sander sponge and went over the top of it lightly and then wiped it clean with a damp paper towel and left it to dry overnight. This afternoon, I dragged it outside and taped the edges off, but neglected to take the legs, etc. You can tell by the overspray. Whoops! That's a happy accident, though, because the white paint is pretty messed up and I've got some turquoise that I can hit it with later on to match the bookshelf in the boy's room.
Gratuitous product shot
I used Krylon spray chalkboard paint in "old school green" as the Helpful Guy at my locally owned hardware store called it. My son was born on St. Patrick's Day, and he loves green, so I thought "What the hey! He'll LOVE it." and you know what? I love it too. With the turquoise, it's going to look really cool.

On to the painting process. LIGHT application. Really. You don't want to over do it and leave the spray stream in one spot or it will make nasty puddles. Spray paint is one of those things that there are no shortcuts at all. Do it right or don't do it at all. I followed the instructions to the letter including the "shake can for 2 minutes after ball starts to move inside before using". It's like a "shake weight", but WAAAAAY less suggestive.
Pretty cool, huh?
After I'd gone horizontally and vertically a few times, I let the table sit and dry while I went and dealt with the dresses that I posted about earlier. Then I went back and repeated the process. Then I ate some lunch and fooled around on the internet for a while to let the paint dry completely before removing the painters tape. Let's just say I'm DEFINITELY repainting the table turquoise. ;-D

Oh and here's the Shake Weight commercial. I wasn't kidding when I said it was suggestive!

There's even a His and Hers version! OH MY.

A Dress Of A Different Color

My MIL sends my girls dresses just about every year. And for the last few years, they've been cream/ivory. And that wouldn't be bad except for the fact that we now have multiple ivory formal dresses in multiple sizes. Right now, I've got an armoire full of fancy dresses that are in perfect condition, some never having been worn.

So, I decided that rather than donate them to the local charity shop, I could change them up a bit. After all, the dresses are lovely and were fairly expensive.

Dress #1: a Barbie branded sleeveless number with lace overlay.
Just out of the dye bath
Product used: Dylon Bahama Blue for natural fibers. The result was pretty much what I expected. The girls are ecstatic about the robin's egg blue dresses. After washing the dresses, I need to tack down the trimwork by hand just to make it look more finished because the lace got a little floppy on me. But I'd have done that anyway.

Dress #2: Gold threaded embroidery embellishes the bodice


Product used: iDye Poly in brown. I like the result. It's a sort of aged antique rose shade. Which works well with the bodice embroidery. But Pee-yew does it STINK. I will never use iDye Poly again. I'll stick to Dylon or Rit for natural fibers and take my chances. I expected for the result to be darker, but the dresses were in the bath for a full hour each. You'd think that a dye that is for synthetic fibers would actually result in the color on the packet. Notsomuch with this one.

Male Pattern Boldness Sewalong Update

Okay, okay, so I'm not running the sewalong, but I had to update on my progress before we begin. I'd already committed to making McCall's 3087 in a bright blue/orange/white plaid for the sewalong, but I needed buttons. So off I went to the local fabric mega mart. I didn't get the buttons (I forgot!) but I did browse the red tag fabric section. While I was browsing, I was lamenting the loss of the $1/yard fabrics from Walmart. For about a nanosecond. Because the WM fabric was generally second grade, you know? Not soft and nice stuff. While I was in the midst of my reverie, I spied a red tag. "$2/yard", it said. I picked up the bolt and the fabric was a nice shirting that had some stretch to it. With a color "story" of muted blue/grey and grey/green, I thought "This is PERFECT! for that shirt but in a "work" type". And for $4 total, who can pass that up right? That's cheaper than my local Goodwill, folks!

I was SO enamored of the fabric that I had to get Just The Right Buttons. I looked high and low and finally settled on these.
Let the record show that two buttons set me back $5.95 + tax while the fabric for the shirt was a mere $4 + tax. They just kill you with notions these days, I guess. We will not tell my husband that the buttons came from the "Belle Buttons" line nor that there's a woman's sillhouette on the card. No indeed. He already has issues about manicures and pedicures being "girly". Harumph. That's a rant for another day!

So now I'm sewing two identical shirts for the MPB Men's Shirt Sewalong. And I still need buttons for my original fabric choice! Whoops! Good thing my pattern got here today. I'd been biting my nails waiting for it.

Project Toddler Runway - Accessory Challenge

I only wish I could have been in on this from the get-go. Maybe next time. :-D But Shwin & Shwin are having link parties for people who aren't official contestants to post their interpretations of the challenges.

I've had this dress in my "refashion" pile for the longest time. Both my girls got a lot of wear out of it, and I didn't just want to toss it because the skirt part is still in great shape and the fabric is SO soft. And the beads are still attached! How cool is that? I mean, just because there are chocolate milk stains on the top doesn't mean it's still not usable, right?

Okay, so I finally got up the gumption to work on this project. I've been feeling kinda poorly lately (as my late great grandmother would say) and so I had a bunch of stuff waiting for me to get better and get back to work.

So, here we go. First I carefully, CAREFULLY detached the skirt and petticoat from the bodice and lining. Then I serged the petticoat and skirt back together making sure to keep the fuschia band out of the way. Disengaging the knife worked very well for this. And for some bizarre reason, my knife on the serger keeps bungling things.

I was going to just make a skirt out of it and call it a day, but I really felt that a dress was the better option. But did I have any leftover fabric that would match? As luck would have it, I had just enough scraps of green gauzy stuff to cut a whole new bodice from Simplicity 2943, an "inspired by project runway" pattern. Which is totally appropriate, no?

I used the bodice and sleeve pieces from the floral dress on the left. I omitted the band of trim, though. Because the fabric was SO diaphanous and itchy, I lined the bodice and sleeves fully with a vintage crib sheet. Why, Miz Scarlett, I can't believe you would do such a thing! Frankly my dear, I was out of velvet curtains. So fitted vintage crib sheet it was! The fabric matched the weight/hand of the original skirt very well. Almost like they came from the same lot. But I know better!

I even scavenged the invisible zipper from the original dress to put a size zip in. Why? Because the pattern called for knits but I was using wovens. And there's nothing worse than getting stuck and not being able to get in our out of a dress. So I whipped out the bodice in a little over an hour including serging all the raw edges and turning over so that everything had an awesome finished look on the outside.

To attach the bodice to the original skirt, I zig-zagged the two pieces together and then topstitched the fuschia trim up onto the bodice. The end result? I think it looks pretty sharp myself.

This project cost exactly $0 including the original dress as it was a gift to my oldest daughter 4 years ago from her grandmother. SCORE!

The "Ballroom" Skirt, Redux

A couple of years back, I made this skirt - American Weekly 3889. I made it on the bias in green wool with hand finished hem and full on pleating in the back. It was nice but HEAVY and as I wore it, it got larger and larger in the waist! I swore if I ever again was going to make the skirt WITHOUT the massive butt-pleats and a wee bit smaller in the waist.

Since I've joined the Thrifty365 thingummy and the Sewing Through the Decades sewalong, I figured this skirt would be an admirable way to accomplish two things.

1. Remake my nemesis skirt
2. Use up some leftover fabric and notions from my stash to make it Thrifty365
3. Use some skillz that I've acquired since the last time I attempted this

I had some real "fun" trying to get the skirt body cut from the just over a yard of fabric I'd chosen. The fabric originally had made a pair of denim slacks for my nana for Christmas and was slated for a skirt for me. I came across it while I was clearing the mending from my sewing table. So off I went. I shortened the length by about 2.5" because Ballroom Skirt 1.0 was WAY long on my shorty self. 5'2" is short no matter how you slice it, and this skirt was almost ankle length on me while on the illustration, it was a mid-calf number. Gotta love it!

This went together fairly easily. Actually, it went together MUCH more easily than it's predecessor. I'm not sure if it's my skill level that has increased or the fabric was a better choice, or what. I did have to make an FGA (Full Gut Adjustment) to account for my rotund lower abdominal area, but that too... Piece of cake.

The pattern has 4 pieces: skirt body (cut two), pockets & facings (cut two each) and waistband. It uses one button and one zipper.

I finished one partial spool of thread, 2 partial bobbins, 1 leftover button and a spare zipper. I didn't purchase ANYTHING new to make this. So, I guess it gets this:
In my previous attempt, I didn't use the pockets and I used the full on pleating in the back. You could call it a mullet skirt for all the business in the front and party in the back that it had going on. This time I eliminated quite a bit of the pleating, but I still had enough fabric in the waist for some smaller, gentler pleats. Which I forgot to photograph. I'm not totally thrilled with my zipper choice, because it's a LIGHT blue that sort of sticks out since it's not an invisible zipper. But it's what I had.

I used brown thread for the pocket embellishment and the hem. Gertie's skirt hem advice really worked! Paraphrasing, you iron up a tiny bit, sew it down, iron it up again and sew it down again and you get a narrow skirt hem that eases the fullness perfectly. I was skeptical, but it DID work! See?

Housecleaning Haiku: The Living Room

We don't have a "family room" or a "formal living room". We have a living room. Our house is small with just 8 rooms plus the back porch laundry "room". Even though the kids have HUGE rooms by modern standards - one bedroom is 13x15 and the other is 10x15 while most modern houses have 10x10 ancillary rooms - they seem to bring their STUFF into MY living room. Which I can't stand. Sure we have the TV and the game consoles there and the kids love to watch Netflix on the TV, but come OOOOOOON people. It's a living room, not a "drop your crap all over the floor and under the sofa and hide things in MOM's ottomans" room.

The Living Room

Living Room, not Kids' room
Why must you trash it daily?
Take your STUFF away!

Down but not out!

UPDATE: This is post #111 and it's Jan 2011. How cool is THAT? Okay, back to your regularly scheduled reading.

I've been down for the count since Wednesday with some mystery virus. I'm alternating between, woozy and headachy and downright putrid. However, that doesn't stop the wheels in my head that keep turning since I first saw that little old man... Okay maybe channeling Gaston from Beauty & The Beast is probably not the best idea ever but it's completely understandable since it IS the school musical that will happen in a couple of months.

Anyhoo, I've been playing around with and making my own fabric designs. It certainly is a time intensive process. The textile design challenge on Project Runway has ALWAYS been my fave challenge. I've wished I could do something like that. And Spoonflower has contests that sort of follow that idea. I've entered the Jokers and the Year of the Rabbit contests and hope I make it to the top 10. I didn't in the Rococo, but that was my first (weak) attempt. Every design I work on gets better. I just have to hone my skillz. Which is hard to do when you're flat on your back on the sofa with your dress form MOCKING you from the corner.

Back to the topic at hand. Once upon a time, I wrote and illustrated a story called The Very Busy Mouse based on the events that happened at a friend's house over the course of a week. Let's just say I have a warped sense of humour. VERY warped. But she liked it. Well, fast forward a couple or three years and I had this inspiration... Wouldn't that make a terrifically funny comic strip fabric? If your sense of humour is as twisty as mine, you would. ;-D

Here's the link to it. You might need to embiggen it a bit to see the word bubbles. But it's worth it. I promise! In fact, I'm thinking of offering 1 yard of this (or any of my fabric designs) in a "100 Follower" give away. Which at the rate I'm going is going to be a very long ways out, but it will build excitement, no?

Tutorial Thursday - "Chinoiserie" "Chest" of Drawers

and when I say drawers, I ain't talkin' 'bout no knickers, Willis.

Let me take you back to 2003. Why 2003, you ask? Because that's the date on the newspapers that I used to re-something my crappy fiberboard "chest" of drawers. Once upon a time, there was a shoe rack. It looked something like this:
The Ugly, It Burns The Eyes
And so because it was awful in it's stark whiteness, it needed to be "decorated" to match the Asian-themed decor in the front hall. Or so I was told. Well, years passed (almost 9 but who's counting?) and the shoe rack was donated to the local charity shoppe because it had outlived it's usefulness. But the myriad papers that were purchased to make it nicer? They remained.

In the winter of 2011 (or what passes for that season in Florida), I was purging. I believe I might have mentioned something about that earlier in the year, no? And the papers were destined for the charity shoppe. However, they got mislaid when the rest of the charity-shop-bound items left the house. And feeling somewhat guilty that they were never used and the person who had purchased these can sometimes be a travel agent for guilt trips (any guesses who that might be?), I decided they needed to be USED. That way I could honestly say "Look Ma, I used those papers you bought me all those many years ago!" and the papers would actually be USED. Not laying around collecting that "protective coating" that my antique dealer told me of so many years ago.

They are even uglier in person!

A while back, my son was using some drawers that look like the image to the right. They had belonged to his sisters, and were "well loved" or as we parents of small children call it "totally used and abused". Since the drawer faces were falling off and had been wood glued and screwed together to the point that they resembled Frankendrawers, I opted to buy him a NEW set of 2 drawers because what kid needs more than 2 drawers for their outside clothes? and use the battered ones for my fabric bits/projects in progress.

So off to the "office" - what was supposed to be my better half's "man cave" and which now more closely resembled a fabric shop that had stomach flu - went the drawers. Where they happily resided until about a week ago. On MLK, Jr Day, I got a wild hair that those drawers needed doing RIGHT NOW despite inclement weather and so I took my three adorable children with me and off we went. Never mind that I had to go out to get 650 dum dum lollipops for all the children of my kids' school. Luck would have it that the Target by the Costco that DIDN'T have a case of dum dums was right next to a Home Depot. For $25 including tax, I got: 2 8' strips of narrow molding, 1 pack of finish brads, 1 can spray adhesive, 1 can spray lacquer (which I am NOT crazy about), a pack of mending plates and I think that's it. Oh yeah, I spent $14 on drawer pulls at Target, too. They are COOL.

We got home, I plugged in a movie for the kids, popped them some popcorn and gave them some candy and called it "movie night" while I went to work on the drawers.

Step One: Sand the finish LIGHTLY with a sanding block. The surface is paper, so going at it with a belt sander will be a no good, very bad thing.

Step Two: Use two mending plates to bolt the sets of drawers together. This is SUPER important since we're going to be making this into "real furniture".

Step Three: Remove drawers and set aside.

Step Four: Measure molding and mitre cut being sure to match the mitres. Using a cutting box is so overrated. I started with my better half's crummy battery powered Dremel tool and moved on to the hack saw that was hanging out in the "office" for the better part of 6 years for who knows why. Lucky me! Now I know why!

Step Five: Get a garbage bag and place it on the dining room table. Get the can of paint you've been using for other "furniture" and bring it in. Stir with a leftover piece of molding and dig around back porch for a slightly dirty but still usable paint brush. Lay out molding strips and paint them. Yes, paint FIRST. I'm not crazy, there's really a method to my madnes..

Step Six: Open the dining room windows so you get plenty of ventilation. Normally, this step would happen outdoors, but with it being dark outside and wet, that wasn't happening. But the project? It WAS happening.

Step Seven: Take the newspapers that you're using and peruse them for images/sections you want to feature. Since my papers were from 2003 and Chinatown, SARS was prominently featured. I did NOT want a "SARS chest" so I had to cherrypick them.

Step Eight: Spray the sides and top of the chest one at a time with your general purpose spray adhesive and apply the papers in a pleasing manner. Lightly smooth them down so there are no wrinkles/bubbles. Those will come later. Be careful not to overspray. My dining room floor will never be the same, I don't think.

Step Nine: Go to town with the lacquer. Newspaper will get wrinkly and distressed looking with spray lacquer. Since that's the exact look I was going for it's a win/win for me. I will say that the spray lacquer doesn't really impress me much. But it's easier than dealing with the can-based variety.

Step Ten: Put your supplies away for the night THEN realize that you forgot to make the middle molding strips and paint them. Say "screw it" and you'll come back to it later while the kids do their homework tomorrow.

Step Eleven: Set the kids up with a snack and homework and get back to work. Empty those drawers out and take them outside. Repeat Steps Eight & Nine AFTER removing the drawer pulls that are stupid and cheap plastic. WAIT FOR THEM TO DRY. About 1 hour or so.

Step Twelve: Measure and square cut the middle sections of molding. Paint them with the same paint you left on the dining room table and let them dry. Make dinner while you wait.

Step Thirteen:While dinner is in the oven, steamer or being delivered, bring two drawers in and measure twice, drill once. Or more accurately measure thrice, drill twice since each drawer pull has two screws. Mark the position with pencil! It won't show on newspaper like a sharpie pen would. Drill holes, insert screws, tighten new handles on.

Step Fourteen: Using the finish brads, hammer the painted moldings in place. Don't stress if the mitres aren't perfect. There's always Photoshop for that! Or if you don't want to use Photoshop to fix the pictures of the item, when everything is really dry, just use a teeny bit of wall spackle in a tube, squeeze out a bitty little ball, roll it around in your fingers and shape it a bit and then fit it into the spaces and the with a damp finger, smooth it out. When it's dry, you can touch up the paint. You're going to need to touch up the paint anyhow to cover the nails so this is no biggie.Also, while you're here, use the finish brads to secure the fronts of the unit together. Nail down from the top opening into the bottom and then from the bottom up into the top so that the piece stays secure. You'll thank me!

Step Fifteen: Realize you don't have enough time to finish drawers three and four right now but take pictures anyways because you're really excited about the progress you've made.

Step Sixteen: Finish the project quickly because you really need your dining room back! About 20 more coats of lacquer should do the job...

Distressed paper & awesome handles!

Housecleaning Haiku: Lunchboxes

With kids in elementary school and nasty school lunches, you can guess that we do lunch from home a lot. And since I love the Earth and don't want to add to the waste in landfills, I send lunches in reusable containers. And pray they make it home at the end of the day because I HATE HATE HATE nasty overnight lunchbox leftovers.

The Lunchbox
Kitchen sink overflows,

lunchboxes, how I hate you,
left at school overnight

MPB Men's Shirt Sewalong

Pattern acquisition SUCCESS!!!

So I totally had to get my hot little hands on a copy of the same pattern that Peter has with that funky front. Etsy, how I love thee. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? So longing for the same pattern is not wrong, is it?

Anyhow, the pattern has shipped and I expect it to arrive in the next day or so. I'm so excited to make the short sleeved view in the orange/blue vintage plaid fabric. What's weird is that blogger won't let the pic use the "transparency" that it was saved as. Instead, it has a black background... Meh. Just the normal blogger weirdness I guess.

Storing Vintage Patterns

or the method to my madness...

First off, I dislike separating the pattern from it's envelope and instructions. Why? Because I've got ADHD (SRSLY!) and I will lose the parts if they don't stay together. I know some bloggers prefer to use a binder/sleeve/drawer multi-step process, but keeping them all together in one spot works best for me.

To keep the papers safe from degradation over time, I use silver size comic book sleeves and silver age cardboard backers. Both are acid free, 100% archival safe.

I store them upright in medium fabric bins from Bed, Bath & Beyond and categorized by type.

My categories are:
  • Vintage Women's
  • Vintage Repro
  • Vintage Children's
  • Current Children's
  • Current Women's
  • Costumes/Outerwear/Unisex/Men's&Boy's (these are those father/son patterns)
  • Infant Layette/Accessories/Home Dec/Aprons/Crafts
  • Toys/Dolls/Clothes/Animals
I just handwrite with Sharpie pen on the little cardboard inserts that come with the bins. This makes it easy because if I need to shift anything around, then I can without wasting too much time/money on labels.

Which leads me back to my pattern storage. I use my labeler machine to make a label with the Pattern Company - Pattern Number - Date and affix it to the upper left hand corner of the cardboard backer. Currently, I'm only doing this for my truly vintage patterns.

The fabric bins then reside inside a Closetmaid Cubeicals storage system from Target. I have a 6 cube in espresso and a 9 cube in celery green (discontinued).


I'm about to get a 2 cube in espresso to go with the 6 cube so that all 8 of my bins of patterns can be together and I can free up 2 cubbies in the 9 cube for projects/manuals. I love the versatility of these pieces. They aren't huge, they aren't ugly and they're moderately reasonably priced *and* they are easy to assemble. Even if they are heavy as a mofo when you're trying to wrangle them into and out of your cart at the store.

I recently took some pictures of my sewing space and they show the bins/cubes pretty well. I'll see if I can't upload them in the near future. Blogger is being a PITB today regarding picture uploads so it might take a while.

Just so you know, I don't get anything in return if you click a link and decide to purchase anything. I'm just putting the links there so you can see how much it might run you if you decide you want to do something similar to what I'm doing.

Housecleaning Haiku: The Bathroom

Inspired by the instant gratification that comes from cleaning our small (and ONLY) bathroom, I present the first installment in the "Housecleaning Haiku" series. Feel free to add your own in the commbox. :-D Today is

The Bathroom

I hate to clean you,
smallest room in house, instant

I really DO hate to clean the bathroom. But I'm eternally grateful that we only have one even if we do have 5 people sharing it. The funny thing is, I've been admonished that we should've moved to a bigger (aka more bathrooms) house when we first had kids 8 years ago. Let me tell you, I'm so glad that I've had 8 years of only ONE bathroom to clean while potty training. I hate dealing with bathroom mess. The thought of having it spread through more than one bathroom honestly gives me panic attacks.

With a sewalong here, and a sewalong there

Here a sewalong, there sewalong, everywhere a sewalong...

This "Old MacDonald" has a whole lot of sewing going on.

For the Vintage Sewalong of 2011, I chose a mail order pattern from SewMrsP's etsy shop. I'm using a peachy-fuschia stretch cotton satin for the top and a border printed cotton for the skirt. I've had to draft a skirt yoke that fits and I had to fiddle with the top part a bit, but overall, an easy one to make. I've got the fashion fabric pinned together on my dress form as we speak.

For the MPB Men's Shirt Sewalong, I scored this great plaid on ebay. I'm not sure yet which pattern I'm going to make it in. I might make a father/son version if I've got enough fabric. It's an actual vintage piece of fabric, so depending on the pattern I chose, I might use it for the Sewing Through The Decades sewalong.

Speaking of which, I haven't a clue what I'll be sewing for that. I'd like to try my hand at some 60s and 70s since I haven't done any of those. And I've got a 1915/1916 pattern that I've got fabric all picked out for, so I can start with that or maybe end with it since it's a fall style.

In preparation for all this sewing madness, I've been cleaning out my sewing "space". As you know, I'm purging patterns. And I promise! I'll add them to my  etsy shop soon. I've also got a ton of "extra" fabric that I'll want to unload as well. What do you think of bundling  smaller bits (fat quarters or less) together for childrens' sewing projects? Do you think anyone would want that?