Refashion Friday: Red Houndstooth Jacket

S on SnowdoniaHello, friends! I was getting all excited about doing a spring refashion this week, but the weather decided to get cold again, so I figured I’d go ahead with this red houndstooth jacket before it got too warm to wear it for another eight or nine months.

Like last week’s, this one was not too terrible to start out with (or maybe that Valentine’s day dress has forever skewed my idea of what a terrible outfit looks like), but there’s something a little dowdy about the way the black velvet collar hangs, and it’s just a bit too big. But the fabric feels cozy, and I think it would be nice to wear when the weather is just a wee bit chilly.

red houndstooth beforeSo the first thing I wanted to do was fix the fit. I determined by pinching at it while looking at the mirror that I basically needed to make the underside of the sleeves longer, and take in the sides a corresponding amount. So I did that:

red houndstooth sleeve and side pinningAfter that, I had to fix the sleeves’ length. They seem to have been made to fold up and reveal a black velvet cuff, but that’s just a little prissy or something for me, so I decided to use the houndstooth outside. So I needed to take them up two inches. That was easy, I just folded them back one inch and sewed along the edge of the black velvet lining so as to keep the little notch design.

red houndstooth sleeve shorteningAnd then, to fix the collar problem, I added another button and buttonhole in a place that will make it hang more like a modern cowl than the big open collar folds. It was my first ever actual buttonhole, and I’m quite proud of how it turned out! The fabric will fold over the button, so I just used a black button I happened to have, even though it doesn’t match the other buttons.

red houndstooth new button

And,  the end! This one wasn’t really all that much work at all. But the payoff was pretty great.

red houndstooth after

And, that concludes this week’s issue of (sorta kinda) terrible to (absolutely) wearable!

red houndstooth bbefore and after

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I got recognized

S on SnowdoniaEver since we moved here three months ago, I’ve been dancing up a storm. I am teaching a ballet class once a week, and I’m performing with two dance companies. I’m going to have 12 performances in April alone. It’s very exciting, and a little overwhelming, given that it is way more dancing than I ever did before.

The Architect and I went walking this weekend to some shops kind of near our house, and we wandered into a men’s fashion store. We browsed around, and then the shop guy asked me if I’m in one of the dance companies I’m working with.

It was very flattering. And strange, considering I haven’t actually performed with them yet, but I did go to one of their events and talk up a storm.

I’ve never been recognized by a stranger for my dancing before. It was very strange.

In other news, the Architect and I made a pretty major purchase that I’m SO EXCITED BY I can’t even say. I stayed up until 5:30 in the morning the other day reading all about it after we bought them. But the store had to order them, and they won’t be here for a couple of weeks, so you guys will just have to wait in anticipation before they come and I can show you pictures. Squee!

Refashion Friday: Little Black Dress

S on SnowdoniaNot everything in my to-be-refashioned pile is something hideous that I bought from the thrift store.

Case in point: this week’s refashion is from a pile of K’s clothes. She had some clothes she was bored of that she asked me to try to renew. This week’s was something that wasn’t bad at all, it was just a little boring. A little black cotton dress, and I had a perfect idea for how to spruce it up without having to work too hard on it.

LBD beforeYou see, after I finished the couch pillows, I had some scraps left over of that lovely silk. Most interestingly, I had the pockets.

pillow pockets

I decided to make those into a cute little collar for this little black dress. First I ironed them, then I pinned them to the top of the dress so they would look nice.

LBD collar pinning

I sewed them to the inside of the fabric so that they would fold over naturally.

collar stitched to inside

And that was pretty much it. Like I said, quick and easy.

LBD after collarOnly thing is, I didn’t really like the way the dress fit around the waist. It’s okay, but not the most flattering ever. So I decided to make a removable belt out of the rest of the scraps. I cut all the rest of the scraps into strips about 1″ wide, and then sewed them end to end to make a scrappy ribbon:

ribbonThen I twisted the ribbon into a rope braid and tied it around the waist of the dress. And that’s version 2 finished!

LBD with beltThe end!

LBD before and after

Refashion Friday: Valentine’s Day Dress

S on Snowdonia

Happy Valentine’s Day!

For this love-ly holiday, I decided to make a pretty red dress. But there was nothing red in my to-be-refashioned pile, so a thrift store trip was a necessity. I decided that, for a challenge, I would buy the single ugliest red dress I could find. And, my goodness, was there ever a really, really, really hideous red dress at the thrift store. You guys know I’ve done some pretty ugly garments, but this one truly takes the cake.

red dress before front

red dress back beforeWhere to even start with everything I hate about this dress? How about those huge baggy sleeves, those funky pleats on the skirt, that weird womb triangle? What was the designer thinking?
“I know! Every woman’s favorite body part is her lower belly, so let’s make a dress that’s super huge and baggy everywhere EXCEPT her lower belly, and then let’s point to that part of her with a giant triangle that looks like a uterus surrounded in pleats! Yes! Every woman’s dream!”

Okay, so obviously, some pretty major overhaul of this dress was in order.

First things first. Shoulder pads be gone!

shoulder pads out

I needed to try stuff out and make a plan. My very first idea was to tighten the sleeves a little bit, but keep some of the bagginess since batwing sleeves are kind of in right now. But this is supposed to be a dress that makes me feel pretty on my Valentine’s date, and that’s never been a style I’ve been to keen on, so I thought I would do something else. I tried tying the sleeves around my neck as if they were halter straps and it managed to get even baggier (though somewhat less ugly):

red dress halter style

I tried turning it sideways so that the neckhole was an armhole, and I thought it was beautiful. The problem was that it would have taken some pretty serious draping to make it look good, there was a weird seam straight down the front, and I was worried about how to get it over my head. Plus my handy-dandy dress form (aka my twin sister) had better things to do than stand around all day while I pinned a dress on her.red dress off shoulder

So I decided to just get rid of the sleeves altogether. Since there was literally nothing I liked about the skirt, I knew I was going to have to deal with the top and bottom separately, so I seam ripped the waistline to make two separate pieces. While I was at it, I also took out that triangle:

skirt and triangle removed

Then it was time to deal with the top. I seam ripped off the shoulders like so:

sleeves seam rippedAnd then I chopped them off and pinned straight up the sides to get rid of some of that excess bagginess to make it easier to work with:

red dress sleeves cut off

pinning sides straightI stitched up those seams and put in a hook and eye to make the back less open. Then I put it on my handy dandy dress form to make it actually fit properly:

K as dress formOnce I sewed that, the shoulders were sticking out too far for my taste, so I re-shaped the armholes:

pinning sleeve holesThe top half was done, and was looking oh-so-very much better. Now it was time to deal with that monstrosity of a skirt. Taking out the triangle and the pleats left these crazy points down one side, so it wasn’t a matter of just taking it in to fit. I laid it out on the floor and pinned out the shape of a skirt. I tried to keep most of the width at the bottom, and I made the top just a couple of inches wider than my waist so that I would be able to gather it a bit. And then I chopped off my new waist and sewed up the sides.

skirt shape pinned and cut

At this point, I also added the zipper back into the middle back, but I’m not going to show you how I did that because I kind of winged it/messed it up and if you want directions on how to put in a zipper, there are a million tutorials by people who are much better at zippers than me.

And then it was time to attach the skirt to the top. First, my husband helped me make a chalk line around my natural waist, which was where I wanted to attach the skirt.

waist chalked

Then I basted around the skirt’s waist. Basting is sewing a long stitch all the way around that you can pull on to create a gather. And then I pinned it to the waistline of my skirt, gathering to make it fit all the way around.

skirt gathered and pinnedAnd then all that was left was to give it a nice hem and press the seams (which didn’t really work all that well. This was a synthetic fabric that didn’t really respond well to the iron). And my new, WAY BETTER dress was complete!

Hooray!

red dress after 2

 

red dress back after

Ahh…That’s more like it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

red dress terrible to wearable

 

red dress before and after back

Ti Amo: Pictures of a Love Story

S on SnowdoniaIn honor of Valentine’s this Friday, I thought I would tell a little love story about a piece of art in our house.

The Architect and I were in a long distance relationship for a very long time. Five years to be precise. One semester, he went to Rome, and it was awful and we were both sad and lonely. But that sadness and loneliness gave us some art that has traveled to every place we’ve lived together. The Ti Amos.

When he was in Rome, the city’s romance made him feel very lonely and left out. (Or antsy to be with me? Maybe it was the Rome Ants?) It seemed that every where he went, the walls and streets were covered in the words “Ti Amo,” which is Italian for “I love you.” The sidewalks filled with couples in love. And in the midst of all that love, he was without me, his love. So he started a photograph project to document the city and its love-filled walls and streets. Here are a few of my favorites:

vicenza=venezia 132

268

Florence 017

IMG_2896

IMG_2961

Rome-outside 277

And, as the culmination of that project, he made these two pieces to hang in our home:

Ti Amos

Here they are in our last apartment:

loft ti amosHe made them by putting masking tape down on the paper on the black one, coloring it in with pastels, and then peeling the tape off and rebuilding the drawing on the white one.  He used the same technique to make art as a souvenir for his brother and his parents. Here’s a closeup of the one for his parents that gives a hint about the technique:

Final until broken 003

And finally, here are the full pieces he gave his parents and his brother. The one for his brother is a picture of Mario because that was his brother’s nickname in high school:

Final until broken 088And his parents is a picture of the Colosseum after dark.

Final until broken 090

Anyway, have I mentioned I have a talented husband? The art he makes fills me with such joy, and the Ti Amos remind me of the very tough, lonely times we got through together. And then how wonderful it is now that we can be together every day as we had always dreamed.

Refashion Friday: House Dress

S on SnowdoniaThis week’s refashion isn’t too exciting of a garment. I know a lot of people these days don’t wear house dresses, but I wear them all the time. They are so easy to slip on whenever, and I guess it’s part of my not wearing pants thing.

Anyway, I got this house dress as a birthday present from my mother, and I had it hanging on a hook on the back of my bedroom door so I can throw it on anytime I just need something to wear to leave my bedroom. But It was kind of blah. Certainly not the most terrible thing I’ve ever refashioned, but just generally boring. The white wasn’t quite white, and I really prefer to wear colors.

Housedress beforeAlso, please excuse the awkward mirror selfie. I was home alone when I realized on a whim that I needed to change the color of this housedress. At first, that was all I was going to do to it. I put it in an orange bath, and this is how it came out:

housedress dyedAs you can see, it came out pink, not orange. Ah well. This is why I should have bought real dye instead of cheap dye. But for some reason or other, that second stripe from the bottom came out WAY different from the rest of the dress. It’s pale orange, not bright pink. So, my idea to limit this refashion to dyeing was thwarted. (PS, do you like my “this is a housedress which means I wear it to nap in” pose?)

So I took out my handy-dandy seam ripper and took off the bottom two layers of the dress. Thankfully, the bottom edge was serged, so I didn’t have to hem it. I did have to hem the lining so it didn’t peek out the bottom.

And then, time to address problem two: the bosom area of this dress was WAY too big for me. I kept noticing while I was wearing it on the couch that if I looked down, I was flashing myself. Something had to be done.

housedress bosom pinningThe first thing I did was to cross the wrap part at the front a bit further and tack it shut as pinned in this picture.

That wasn’t enough to fix the problem of an entirely sagging chest area meant for someone with a bra size three times mine. So, I took the dress up in the shoulders.

housedress shoulder pinning 1

At this point, I had these weird pointy scary sleeves:

pointy sleevesSo I folded them under and sewed around to make them more like a regular cap sleeve.

housedress sleeves pinning 2

And then I brought the skirt in a bit to make it slightly less full:

housedress skirt pinningAnd voila: A much improved, much cuter house dress fit for leaving the house.

housedress afterHooray! Cozy and fitting.

housedress before and after

 

 

 

 

 

On Audiobooks, or how I learned to let books immerse themselves in my life

K on tree

When S and I were small children, we were not only very loud, but we were also very studious. We loved reading, and our parents almost couldn’t get books out of our hands. We learned to read very young, and always wanted to read more. The constant fight at night before bed was “just one more paragraph!”

And then high school and college happened. You get to high school and you’re supposed to read all these books and suddenly reading is a chore. You can’t get absorbed in a story line, because you have to put that book down after a few chapters to read history or a science textbook. Reading becomes a chore, and you can’t get absorbed or interested in any one idea because so many so different ideas are floating around your head. And you’re being told you have to, so it’s not a joy anymore.

I think that happens to a lot of people, and it’s really a shame for something so wonderful to be trained out of people that way. But luckily, I got out of college!

As a side note, I love Goodreads. It’s a website that lets you track the books you read with the dates you read them and your reviews. It’s totally helpful in organizing my to-read book list, and then you get fun stats about your reading history.

So, back when I was a senior in college, I had to read Don Quixote for a Spanish class I was taking. Trouble was, I also had to spend the same time driving down to the city we were moving to after college to look at apartments. It was a 4 hour trip each way, and I had to go there and back. A friend of mine happened to have a copy of Don Quixote as an audiobook, so I borrowed it to listen to in the car. It wasn’t ideal because I couldn’t take notes in the margins to help with my future paper, but at least I could get through part of the text.

I ended up getting the apartment and not finishing the book. And I actually didn’t finish the book at all before I graduated college, but c’est la vie. There’s a lot of books I didn’t read in college that I should have. Too many books, not enough time, and they were too much like a chore.

So, after graduating college, the Artist and I were still in a long distance relationship and had to drive back and forth 3 hours each way every weekend. And the radio got REALLY boring. So, remembering my Don Quixote, I got a copy for myself and started listening to it on my trips. It was about a 40 hour audiobook, so it lasted me for a good 3 and a half months of trips. And I thought it was awesome.

Then I learned about Audible, and my life changed. (No, this is not a paid ad, I promise). Audible is part of Amazon, and you use it to download audiobooks. I got a second-hand iPod from the Artist and started downloading audiobooks onto it. And what was even better, I started listening to them more often because I would get engrossed in the stories again. I would listen on my way to and from work, while I was knitting, during my lunch breaks, and while I was driving to visit the Artist. Now I have a smartphone and use that to listen, but it works the same.

Let me show you what it has done to my reading proliferation. The below chart are my stats from Goodreads since 2009. As you can see, I didn’t get through very many books in 2010. In 2011 I started with Don Quixote, and at the very end of 2012 I discovered audible. Look what happened to 2013. I mean, seriously.

So many books!

So what do I like so much about audiobooks? I like that you can “read” them at times you can’t read a real book, or even an e-reader. You can “read” them in the car, or while you’re cleaning the house, or while you’re walking down the street, so you can get through stories much quicker without feeling like you aren’t being productive.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love to curl up with a good book, but that’s a luxury. And there are too many books in the world to treat them all like a luxury. I’m reminded of a quote that one of my college professors had on her door. It was in Spanish, but translated to “It’s impossible to read all of the books in the world, but you must try.” There is too much knowledge and beauty in books to allow them to be relegated to a luxury for a day when all your ducks are in a row and you can sit to immerse yourself. Save the best books for a cozy day, and listen to the rest of them. Let them intertwine themselves with your life so you can’t walk by a place without remembering the story you learned while walking by there the last time. Let the books touch every part of your life and all the places you go.