Saturday, April 30, 2011

Practice Dress

Months ago, my local JoAnns was relocating across town, and getting rid of all their inventory.  They were selling their Vogue sewing patterns for only $2.00, the cheapest I've ever seen other than that occasion they're $4.00. So I got a few, one of which was this light dress, {Vogue 1086}.

I was pregnant at the time, but looking forward to this spring to get a chance to make it.  Later I read on Noodlehead how Anna made a blouse with cotton lawn and loved the lightweight, cotton fabric that had great drape.  I'd never heard of cotton lawn, and started browsing and bought some.
So for a few months I've had the fabric and pattern, just waiting for this spring.  But before I cut the more expensive cotton lawn, I wanted to try the pattern with cheap fabric before I ruin the nicer fabric.

So I made the "practice dress" using the pattern with a black/ ivory print I bought at the thrift store.  About 4 yards were taped in a roll for only $2.00.  It actually pretty nice for being $0.50 a yard.

I was making quite a few modifications to the pattern, so it seemed worth it to me to try it all out first.
The dress has a thick midriff band, with gathered bodice front and back.  The skirt is a slight a-line with gathers in the center front and back panels.  The pattern is sleeveless, so I added sleeves.

One thing I was excited about, was the fact the black piping I added to the midriff actually lined up when I installed the side zipper.  Also, it was my first time sewing in an invisible zipper.  I thought I may make a whole dress and not have to call my mom, but when I got to the invisible zipper, I realized I didn't have an invisible presser foot and called my mom to find out what to do without one.

The pattern also has a low neckline, like plunging cleavage.  So I raised that up quite a bit.

The back of the dress with the gathers and v-neckline.

It had issues with the fit, and so I'm really glad I made this practice version so I know how to adjust it for my precious cotton lawn.  The sizing of the bodice I want to change, and the weird neckline.
But the biggest issue I found after making it was the bodice length.  The midriff seemed too high for me.  I have a really short torso--I only have about the width of two fingers between my bottom rib and the top of my hip, so virtually no waist.  So I thought this very unflattering band laying the majority on my ribs might work better lower to try to give an illusion of a waist.  Also the chest gathers and neck look weird and I wanted to try to fix that.
I think everything looks better on a size 0 dress form. 
So hopefully the "real" dress will be able to fix all these issues so I'll love it, or it may just be an unflattering dress for my shape, but worth a try I guess.  I'm sure I'll still wear this practice dress though--despite the imperfections.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Spring Scarf 2

Here's another light scarf for Spring.
I first made the ruffle scarf from Dana, then decided I'd like a few more light scarves. So here's a basic, simple one.

I got some striped chiffon, and cut it on the bias (45 degree angle from selvage edge) making the stripes diagonal rather than straight across or up and down.  I cut the strip 10" wide.

I just serged and hemmed the edges, making a quick little project.
Now to figure out how to tie and wear the thing.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hammock Gift Set

My good friend just had a birthday.
She recently bought a hammock she's really excited about.  So I thought it would be a good idea to supply her with some handy accessories.  Her hammock is burgundy, so I found outdoor fabric that I thought might work.

I drew chalk lines to represent the top of the hammock to give an idea how these work.  I wish I had a hammock to try these out first!

First off the pillowcases.
Most hammock pillows you can buy are tube/ cylinder shaped.  I decided if I want to take a nap, I'd rather have a real pillow, and her hammock was wide enough for two standard pillows, so I went with real pillowcases.

To make sure they won't fly off or slide down under your bum when you adjust, I added the ties to attach it to the ropes.

In the gift I also included two plastic pillowcases to go inside to help protect the actual pillow from the elements, even though the fabric is made for the outdoors, it's not waterproof.

Now for the tote.  I thought of the things one would want to do in a hammock--nap, read, write, snack, etc.  So I designed a tote with one main large pocket for notebooks/ books/ magazines/ journals/ etc.  

Then on the front I sewed smaller pockets for pens, stash the i-pod, cell phone, a snickers candy bar, sunglasses, etc.  The contrasting pocket tops are just homemade double fold bias tape.

The main weight of the tote is suspended by a loop on the top, which has a buckle to go through the ring or directly through frame, depending on her hardware.  This should also make the tote height adjustable, in case you want to hang it high right next to the ring, or have it right above your head.

Next I added 3 tabs to help secure the tote as it lays across the ropes of the hammock.
One in the back and center, using velcro to secure it around a rope so the tote can't swing side to side on top of the ropes.

Then I added 2 more stretchy tabs in the side seams to help keep it in place from rolling side to side.
So hopefully it will work and make time in the hammock more convenient.  I know I've had a stack of things on the ground next to a hammock to read or work on and reach over to get something, but dump myself right out on my face.  Then your hammock is twisted upside down with your one foot still stuck in the net and your skirt flipped up over your shoulders...oh and your hammock is in your front yard and you live on a semi-busy street.  And you still wear granny panties even though you're in high school because you hate wedgies, and you're hoping whoever just drove by didn't notice you tangled with your butt in the air showing everyone your underwear.
Oddly, most of my embarrassing moments from jr. high and high school involved underwear somehow--wearing a sports bra as a necklace accidentally, losing my panties completely, etc.

Anyway, having the tote above will hopefully keep her stuff organized and easier to reach.

The best part, is the whole set is washable in case a bird poops on it or something!
{She doesn't look at this blog, so this won't be a spoiler}

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pointe Shoes

Thanks for all the inquiries for good homes for these shoes, but I was able to place all that I was giving away, so unfortunately I have no more to give. Thanks!
I think I've mentioned on here that I used to dance.  Well I kept every pair of pointe shoes.  They've sat all together in a huge basket in my mom's living room for the last decade.  I quit ballet due to hip injuries when I was 16, actually it was ten years ago next month.
If you want the whole scoop on that: MY BALLET STORY

So I'm sure most people are wondering why I would hoard a lot of old, sweaty, worn, trashed, in some cases blood stained shoes.

Well I think pointe shoes are special to all little girls, and of course getting my first pair was a day I looked forward to as a little girl for a long time.  So they're magical, but I'm old now so what's the deal?

But I actually did a really good job of documenting my years of ballet in the shoes.  Each pair I wrote the date I last wore them, and in some cases, the ballets I danced wearing them.

This pair was from a ballet called Legend of Timpanogos, it's a Native American love story, so we'd dye the shoes to look like darker skin.

Or this pair I had written "first shoes sewn by me".  There's actually a lot that went into pointe shoes before I ever wore them, darning the toe so they wouldn't shred, hacking the heel off the shank, pouring superglue in the toe to prolong the wear, squashing the box wider, burning the ends of the ribbons, and sewing on the elastic and ribbons.  I guess my mom had sewn them all until this pair.

So I finally got the garbage bag of shoes out to decide what I was going to do with them.  They are important to me, but to be realistic, I haven't looked at them pretty much for the last 10 years, and I don't have room to store them all for memories sake to look at them in another decade.  
I've been trying to think of some cool idea to use them rather than just throw them in the trash.

Here are a few of the ideas I found:

someone made a weird art sculpture {photo source}

you can actually buy frilly pointe shoe art here

But ballet isn't my life anymore, so I don't see a pair of artistic pointe shoes on a pedestal anywhere in my house working or fitting really.  But this poster is the only idea I've really had, other than storing them in a box in the garage.

{ poster source}

I've thought about building a crate and filling it with my most important pairs, then just putting it in a bookcase or something like a weird accessory.  Even though my decor obviously doesn't have a dance theme or anything, it's a part of my life, and something interesting to display.  But I don't know, if you have any ideas what I could do with these I'd appreciate the brainstorm!

Some mom's of dancers had pointe shoe wreaths, but I'm not really a wreath person.  But a cool idea.

So at this point I went through them all and decided which ones were really important to me, as I can't imagine thinking of anything where I could use all of these.

As I was sorting, I found the last pair I ever wore,  to perform for the last time--George Balanchine's Serenade.  It was my favorite ballet I've ever danced.
You can watch the opening moments here, from Pacific Northwest Ballet.  (even if you think ballet is lame, this music is beautiful...I think)
Or more clips from throughout ballet here if you care (from a Portugal ballet company)

Anyway, I put them on, and even remembered how to tie the ribbons.

Then I stood up and, like an idiot, went on pointe a little and immediately my arches and calves started cramping, so I took them right off before I hurt myself.  
My little guy had been diving into the pile as I was sorting, and when I put them on, I think he realized they were shoes for the first time and he busted out laughing.  I think the square toes seemed really funny to him.

This is the correct way to store them, with the ribbons nicely wound around the shank.  I was faithful in keeping my first few pairs nice because I was 12 and they were so precious, I even stored them in a satin bag.  Then as you go, the magic wears off, and I'd tie them to my backpack so the sweat could dry to wear them the next day.  Man we stunk up the carpool a lot, our poor moms that would have to drive us and our stinky feet home.

Anyway, I ended up "saving" the pairs that had specific performances/ ballets written on them, and my first ten pairs, and my last pair. 

So I have a box to keep, which is still a lot more than I probably should, and a box that worst case scenario will go in the trash unless I can think of something cool to do with them.  Too bad I can't think of a way to make money off them.  
Any artists out there that need a box of used pointe shoes for a cool sculpture?  I'd much rather see them immortalized as a piece of art rather than decompose in the land fill, but I'm a sentimental pack rat who needs to get a grip, and even though I still have all of them in my kitchen, a baby step is still progress.

So feed me your ideas, if they were clothes I could just make a quilt.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Spring has yet to really make its appearance where I live, it still feels like winter is lingering.  But I'm in the mood to pretend it's warm, and be able to ditch the coats.  So I made a light spring scarf using this tutorial from Dana at made.  It's super easy, it took less than 15 minutes to make, and cost me $0.75.  I found some thin chiffon-like fabric for only $1.50 per yard, and a scarf takes half a yard. 

I'm usually lame with accessories, but I'm trying to make some effort.  This was easy to make and easy to wear.  It didn't really get in the way and I liked it.  I may have to make more scarves. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tree Landscape Painting {Ballard Designs Knock-Off}

Acrylic on MDF
24" x 48" in 3 panels

I have never really liked having this mirror above my mantle.  It's tall enough, when anyone looks in the mirror, you just see the ceiling fan.  So I've been thinking of something else up there for a while.  

When I saw these prints in Ballard Design's catalog, I loved them, the colors are perfectly what I chose for my living room.  But I didn't have $600 to pay for prints.  I also loved the distressed look they had.

So I set out to try to make my own paintings.  Once I got looking at larger canvases, I almost gave up, as they are quite expensive on their own.  But then I got an idea to use 1/4" MDF and make my own "canvas".  So one 2'x4' sheet of the thinnest MDF from Home Depot was $6.00.  I had them cut it into 3 pieces, 16" wide each.
Then I took 1x2 pine firring strips and cut out backing to make them thicker, to look like gallery wrapped canvas.  It took 3 1x2's which are $1.00 each.  I just used clamps and glue for the wood on the backs, since I didn't want nails or holes on the front. 

After I built my canvases, it took me over a month to get to the actual painting. I did have a baby in the midst of it, but of all the different areas I like to try to create, painting is the most intimidating to me.  Building a piece of furniture is more comfortable to me than trying to create real art.
But this ended up being easier than I thought, and you just kind of slop paint on and around.  I had tons of moments where I thought "well this is going in the burn pile, at least it only cost me 9 bucks."  But then I'd try something else, and it turned out OK.  I guess it's a simple almost abstract scene, so you don't have to be as much an artist in my opinion as much as experimenting with layering.  So anyone can do it, I don't know real painting techniques, this was just globbing paint around really.

So once the thin MDF rectangles had the pine borders on the back, I "primed" them with black latex paint I had.  It was semi-gloss black paint.  I just did one coat and applied it with an older crappy brush.

For my paintings, I first painted the top halves ivory, and the bottom a medium brown.  I just use cheap craft acrylic paint.  I let the little guy help in the beginning. 

I just plopped different colors of paint and stippled them on to add thick texture for the dark bottom. 

For the next lighter brown layer, I started with just different browns and short thick brush strokes.  To darken it up, I dry brushed black over the whole bottom section.  You dip the brush in the paint then on a paper towel wipe most of it off and just kind of lightly brush the dry paint to skiff the surface. I did this with the blue streak too.

To make the sky blotchy, I plopped small globs of ivory and tan paint all over, then used the crappy brush to paint straight down and blotch it around to kind of lend the two colors and have texture in the paint.  Kind of a sponge effect. 

Then I added the black/ brown trunks. the green tree tops were also just sloppily patting on paint.  I started with a middle shade, then went back through and added the darker greens, then finished with the almost yellow highlights.

To add more texture, I did some stipple/ sponge in blue on the top.
Then to try to age the paintings, I sanded in areas, mainly on the borders.  I used 200 grit sand paper and got down to my black base.  All the crappy paint brush strokes added cool texture as I sanded, you can see the vertical stripes of texture showing through.

To finish it off, I had some varnish that I used as a glaze by adding some brown paint to it.  I painted it on, and it was way to brown.  So I started freaking out, grabbing paper towel and dipping it in water to try to get it off.  It ended wiping off with big streaks, and I got interrupted with the baby crying, and came back and decided it would have to just be "age".  So then I had to do too dark varnish and scrub parts off leaving streaks on the other two paintings to have them all match.

Then I just used a sponge brush to paint a clear coat of varnish over everything.

So now they sit above the mantle in one landscape painting.  Definitely not as good as the professional art prints from Ballard Designs, but the whole painting only cost $9.00 because I already had all the paint.  So for the price, this cheap girl was satisfied with my cheap knock off rather than the real thing.  Plus it's kind of fun knowing you made it yourself.  I just hope when people see it, it looks like actual art rather than sloppy amateur attempt, which is kind of what I see since I know who made it.

So now how to decorate the mantle.  I plopped the blue vase, lantern, books, back on there, but if you have suggestions on how to decorate a mantle, I'd appreciate them.  I'm thinking I may need to get rid of the vase as it kind of competes with the painting now?


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