Refashion Friday: Scrappin’

S on SnowdoniaAll these refashions I do leave me with a lot of leftover fabric bits. I try not to throw away too much spare fabric, so I keep it around for when I have little projects I might need it for.

So, today I’m going to show you three little scrap projects I’ve completed lately where the leftover fabric lying around has come in handy.

First off, I made a sunglasses case out of the leftover shoulder pads from my Valentine’s dress. I got the idea for this one from Refashionista. What I did was take the two shoulder pads and sew the long sides together:

sunglasses case in progress

Then I stitched together the tops of the arches, and I was done.

finished sunglasses case

Another scrappy project I did was repairing my ballet slippers. I’m only teaching ballet these days, not performing, so what my shoes look like doesn’t really matter all that much. And ballet slippers get holes in them all the time. We had some upholstery fabric lying around from when we reupholstered our kitchen chairs, so I used a little bit to patch up my shoes.

ballet slipper repair

And finally, the Architect and I have a hamper with four sections, so that we can sort clothes as we put them in the hamper. Unfortunately, the four sections look identical and we kept getting confused and mixing all the clothes together anyway, thus making it a pointless hamper. So I used some scraps I have to color-code the fronts of the hampers. Now we know where to put our whites, darks, colors, and reds.

hamper

The end! Today’s lesson: scraps are handy.

Bike Baskets

S on SnowdoniaRemember how in my last post about my new bike, I said that I had a stuff carrying problem to solve? Well, consider it solved, courtesy of baskets.

But first–we’ve had our bikes for two weeks now, and let me tell you, my life has changed. As weird as it may sound, it is so much easier to get around. Especially because I don’t have to worry about where to park if I go downtown. I had a dance rehearsal right in the middle of downtown during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade/giant pub crawl. And I got to rehearsal twenty minutes before anyone else because I was able to just get off and walk around the parade instead of sitting in traffic all the way around town. I get places much more reliably now that traffic is less of a factor and parking is a non-issue. Plus getting places is 1000% more fun.

Now back to the baskets.

Our bikes came with rear racks, which is definitely more handy than bikes I’ve had in the past. With my old bike Leggy, I had a big front basket but it didn’t really hold all that much and it was hard to get the bike to stand up on its kickstand, since the weight of the basket made the wheel swivel around a lot. So I knew with Bluebird, I wanted to carry stuff mainly on the back of the bike. Bungee cords are the most obvious solution, but that created a few problems on its own. I found it to be a serious pain to bungee my purse on back, I didn’t have room for anything besides my purse, and it was difficult to get things out of my purse (like my keys). Bags made specifically for bikes are another option, but we already spent so much money on the bikes I wasn’t too  keen on buying a bunch more accessories I wasn’t sure would solve my problem, at least until I know how I ride and what I need. So I put a basket on the rack. Which is pretty much the best ever. And then the Architect was jealous, so we went to an antique mall and got him an antique wire milk crate for $18.

Here’s how we put the baskets on the bikes. First, gather your supplies.

what you needWe had a basket in the house already that fit into a side table. I used that because I didn’t want to spend any money. Plus it was the perfect size and looks adorable on my bike.

center the basket

tie it onWe used four or five zip ties in total and tied some of them on both the horizontal and vertical parts of the rack until it felt very secure. That’s it! Pretty and functional!

It’s very easy to toss whatever I’m carrying in there–my purse, a water bottle, extra clothes for dance rehearsal, groceries, or whatever else.

S basket doneAnother thing I like about the basket is that it makes my bike look bigger from behind, which makes me feel a little safer in traffic. I know looking from the back at my bike that if I was a driver, I would give more space with the basket attached. Here, have a look:

basket before and afterSee how much wider it looks? The basket is narrower than the handlebars, so it didn’t make the bike wider at all, it just put some more width where drivers can see.

(P.S. — that round thing we attached to the top of the basket is to solve another problem. I bought lights for my bike for riding after dark, but I didn’t have anywhere to mount them. So I bought a belt buckle at a fabric shop and we attached that to the basket)

Here’s the Architect with his more manly version:

architect basket

Damn, that’s a fine looking husband.

Now that we have baskets, we can go shopping. This weekend, we went grocery shopping, bought $70 worth of groceries and carried them home on our bikes. Here are our bikes all loaded up with the groceries and my purse. There was still room if we had wanted to carry more. Especially if I used a smaller purse that didn’t take up a quarter of my basket.

bikes full of groceriesRecognize that outfit?

Here are the groceries we carried. The eggs made it home–even over railroad tracks–without being broken. That’s two boxes of cereal, two bags of chips, two cans of beans, two crescent roll doughs, two jars of salsa, two containers of mexican rice, two pounds of turkey, a pound of bacon, lemon juice, three packets of yeast, two grapefruits, eggs, and the most ginger ever. (I guess it was twin day at the grocery?) groceriesYeah. That all fits on our bikes. Because we’re basically BAMFs.

S with sunglasses

Refashion Friday: Coral Vest

S on SnowdoniaThis week’s refashion started out as a present from my wonderful mother. She gives me lots of clothes, and this coral dress was pretty cute, and very springy. Quite suitable for this week, the first of spring.

(Did I mention I have the coolest Mom, who goes to the thrift store all the time and supplies me with most of my wardrobe, including a whole array of refashionable items?)

coral vest beforeUnfortunately, even though the weather is just beautiful out, I couldn’t wear that dress. Thing is, it had a secret: it couldn’t keep a secret (especially not Victoria’s?):

coral vest before flashing

Can’t go out flashing the whole world, can I? I didn’t feel like taking the whole thing apart and putting it back together again with a skirt that would close, so I decided to flip it upside down and make it into a vest. So I cut off the tank top part. Then I put it on upside down and stuck a pin where I thought the shoulder of the armholes should be, then I laid the shoulder hole of another dress over top of them and marked it with my handy dandy new chalk roller.

drawing new armholes

I cut those holes out.

cutting new armholesThen I folded them under to hem. But I didn’t hem straight away. First, I had to switch my machine out to my new best friend, the walking foot. Every time I’ve ever tried to sew jersey on my machine before, it got all unevenly stretched out and puckery and looked terrible. So I did some research into the problem and found out that I was using the wrong foot on my machine. I had really been doing everything in my life using the general foot, and I learned about all these different feet that do different things to make sewing easier. There are feet that will hold the edge of your fabric so your lines are straight against the edge. There are zipper feet (which I already knew), and the wrong foot was why I could never figure out how to make the buttonhole feature on machines work. And the walking foot. Which is amazing.

First you unscrew your regular foot, take it off, and remove the screw:

regular foot deinstallationSee the lines of zig-zaggy textured metal under where the foot goes? Those are the feed dogs, which pull your fabric through the machine as you sew. And they are the reason I couldn’t sew jersey. Since jersey is so stretchy, they pull the bottom layer, but the top layer stretches out instead of feeding through evenly. The walking foot has feed dogs on the foot as well, and it has gears that move it back and forth so that both the top and bottom layers of fabric move through at the same pace and stretchiness. (Also, when you want a nice even hem, don’t stretch jersey as you sew it, just feed it through evenly. If you want your seam to stretch, you can use a slightly zig-zagged stitch, which will allow the fabric to stretch). To attach the walking foot, you slip the little arm over the sewing machine arm, and screw it on to the black bar the foot sits on:

walking foot installation

See how it’s big and clunky at the back? Those are the gears. Anyway, I sewed the hem on the shoulders and put on my funny vest, and I didn’t like it at all.

Coral vest duringI had thought it would come out looking cool and drapey, but it just looked odd. So I decided to remove the elastic waistband to make one of those super drapey-fronted vests that are a little more stylish. So I did that. And then I was done!

coral vest afterTerrible to wearable, indeed. This one was really unwearable at first. And now I think it’s pretty darn cute!

coral vest before and after*On another note, if anyone is wondering why I’m always barefoot instead of wearing fashionable shoes that would complete my outfit and make me look totally hot, it’s that I don’t really like shoes because I’m a dancer. I try to wear shoes that are good for me so that I can keep dancing forever when I go out, but I really much prefer being barefoot at home.

The story of a DIY Disastrophe

K on treeEvery once in a while, when you are doing DIY projects, one inevitably turns out bad. It’s just the nature of it. You can never foresee everything.

This weekend, the Artist and I tried to do a project, and it failed. So sad.

To start off with, do you remember the awesome artwork we did together for Valentine’s Day? If you don’t you should check it out. That one turned out SO much better than this one did.

So, we started off with that artwork, which was looking awesome in its awful brass picture frame. We didn’t want the picture frame to be brass anymore, so we decided to go for a polished chrome.

Feeling very sure of ourselves, we bought a metal primer and the chrome paint.

Paint!

So we got straight to work. We found a paved empty lot near our house, a beautiful day and some newspapers and set to work priming. We got two coats of primer on and everything looked great.

Primed

Then we got out our exciting chrome paint and put on a couple coats.

Paint!It was such a beautiful day that we went for a walk for a few hours so the paint could dry. It was when we came back that we realized something might be wrong. Barely touching it left a really obvious finger print. Trying to pick it up had us getting scratches in the paint. When it rained on Sunday and we realized that we wouldn’t be able to do another coat, we went ahead and put the art back in the frame. Big mistake. Just lying it face down on the table scratched off a bunch of the paint, and now it looks pretty bad. What’s interesting is that the primer is sticking pretty well, it’s only the chrome paint that’s behaving badly.

Here’s a closeup so you can see what it looks like. (Ignore the drip. That’s a separate problem. We WERE just going to sand it off and reapply, but now we’ll have to redo the whole thing.

PRINTS

On the bright side, it happens to not be terribly distracting from a distance.

Kinda donezo. I guess.

When the weather gets nice we’ll have to do something about it, though I’m not sure what yet. Do any of our readers happen to be paint chemists who could possibly give suggestions? Maybe about why our paint won’t stick to the primer?

Refashion Friday: Reflective Vest

S on SnowdoniaOk, so I’m going to go ahead and warn you that the after on this one isn’t super fashionable. That’s because this week’s garment is a reflective vest, which are items that are simply incapable of being super cute looking.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am intending to ride my awesome new bike to my dance rehearsals whenever I can. But most of my dance rehearsals end after dark, which means I will be doing some night riding. Now, while there are quite a few bike lanes around here, that doesn’t mean that there are all that many people who actually bike after dark on a regular basis, which means drivers aren’t exactly used to looking for us. And I want to be safe (not that cars are really that safe to be around even if you’re in another car, but still, it’s definitely more vulnerable to be on a bike). I have some lights for my bike for after dark use, and I also plan to wear a reflective vest.

I bought this reflective vest at Target, but it’s just TOO hideous and dorky looking for me to ever wear it out of the house, ever. Plus, I’d really rather not pull it over my head awkwardly. Without further ado, here it is:

reflective vest beforeWow. So square. In every possible meaning of square. Makes me feel about as cool as my apartment complex, who actually hung up this sign:

dorky apartmentBegging for attention and totally square? Yep, that’s this reflective vest for sure. (P.S. don’t hip squared and the square root of hip cancel each other out and make this joke totally lame?)

So, I set to making it at least kind of shaped like a human being. First thing I did was remove the ugly side ties that made it one size fits all.

side tiesFortunately, those side ties were made out of bias tape, which came in very, very handy. So I picked out the seams to open up the tape.

bias tapeNext, I sewed the sides together. The size of the vest was about right for me to just close the sides. If you were bigger than me, you could easily just insert some fabric of your choice in between the bias tape instead.

attaching sidesThen I cut straight down the front and attached the bias tape to the new raw edges.

attaching bias tapeThen, I used the zipper out of this baby jacket I got at the local thrift store for a dollar, and inserted it into the front of the vest.

baby vest for zipperAnd finally, I added a little dart to the shoulders to make them lay a little nicer. And I had my totally dorky but potentially life-saving and absolutely not at all square vest finished.

reflective vest afterI thought about fixing the sides so they kind of hug my hips, but then I decided not to because I will sometimes  be wearing this over a coat or jacket, so there has to be room. The end!

before and after

 

 

 

 

 

Bikes! Bikes! Bikes!

S on SnowdoniaAs I mentioned a couple weeks ago,  the Architect and I made a big purchase that we were super excited about.

Well, we picked them up this weekend and it’s just the most wonderful thing. They’re bikes!

Now, before I get to the big reveal of how incredibly pretty they are (since I know you’ve been waiting in suspense since I mentioned a mysterious new purchase), here is a history of why we bought them.

My Bike History

I was one of the kids who rode bikes to school and friends’ houses back in elementary school. That stopped when we moved for middle school  because we lived in a suburb that was simply not suited to life in anything but a car (or a motorcycle, which is what my mom uses and loves). I had a bike in college, but I only used it for a little while because it go so darn cold in New York State, and then it was all rusty come spring.

The city we used to live in actually had a lot of bicyclists. Between the few small businesses I worked at, I had at least five coworkers who biked to work at least some of the time, and at least one who used his bike as his sole mode of transport. And he loved it. The distances were relatively short, so I decided I, too, could bike to work. But I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to, so we went to Target to buy me a cheap bike I could use while I decided if  I really did like biking. That was Leggy:

Leggy with date

I liked riding Leggy to work, but I only did it three or four times. There were just too many things making it slightly too difficult to bike to work.

  • Number one–my commute was already so short that biking didn’t really help that much–it was only a 10 minute walk.
  • Number two–the streets in my neighborhood were so narrow that cars had no ability to pass me whatsoever, so I felt like I was in the way all the time.
  • Number three– we didn’t have a good way to store her at home other than just leaving her in the living room, where she took up way too much space.
  • And finally, number four– she weighed about 50 pounds, which I had to carry up three or four steps to get into our house. It was way too difficult to lift her comfortably, so I just didn’t do it. And so Leggy lived in our basement for the next two and a half years. She didn’t come with us on this move.

What We Wanted and Why

Before we moved here, we knew it was a really car-focused city, and we wanted to find a way not to have to buy another car. Note that we currently have three cars between the four adults living in our apartment, and it was important to us not to have a fourth.

Since we moved here, I noticed that aside from the 30 mile drive I have once a week to teach my ballet class, almost everywhere I go is less than 2 miles from my house. The 19 hours or so of dance rehearsals I have every week are all within that radius, the Architect’s office is within that radius, and most of the fun places we go are, too. I’ve found myself over and over actively wishing I had a bike when checking google maps for directions. Most of them are a 30-40 minute walk and a 6 minute drive. I feel really lame getting in the car to go what really amounts to a few blocks when I think about the poor atmosphere and everyone’s lungs, but that long of a walk just isn’t always feasible. But then we’re talking a 15 minute bike ride, which is absolutely a reasonable distance.  Plus, the Architect is always wanting to find ways to be more active but never really having the time. Bikes were a perfect solution.

The failure that was Leggy gave us all kinds of information we needed when choosing bikes this time in a way that means we really would ride.

We knew the bikes had to be much lighter than Leggy so I could lift mine if necessary. Also Leggy was a one speed, which was fine with the flat terrain where I rode her, but it’s hillier here (not super hilly, just not a pancake). So we wanted more than one speed. I knew I needed a step-through frame with the swooshy lady bar so I could ride in my skirts. And finally, they needed to look good. Now, not everyone is this way, but with me being super girly and the Architect, well, being an architect, aesthetics are very important to us. I wouldn’t get that excited riding a bike that I just didn’t think was pretty. We wanted to invest in quality bikes that have quality components rather than going with the cheapest thing possible we end up not wanting to ride, since we’re very serious about using them as commuting vehicles.

What We Got

So we told all that to the sales guy at our local bike shop, and he suggested Linus Bikes. They are just beautiful bikes inspired by 50’s and 60’s French films with some really useful parts that come with — a leather seat, a handlebar bell, a back rack, leather handle grips. And oh, so pretty.

Mine is the Dutchi 3 in Marine. Ever since my mom had a blue bike with a brown leather seat when I was a kid, I’ve secretly dreamed of having my own. And now I do! I named her Bluebird. Here she is!

BluebirdThe Architect’s bike is the Roadster Sport in black. Of course it’s black. He’s an architect. I think he actually wanted a really cool bright color, but men’s bikes tend not to come in them. Anyway, his bike is named Nevermore. (Get it, since black birds are Ravens?)

Nevermore

After we picked them up, we took some pictures riding around the parking lot to show you guys. And I’m sure to have a bunch more bike-related posts coming up as I solve a few of my bike problems–which currently have everything to do with how to carry my things easily.

Architect Riding S riding

Riding around town here, we discovered that it’s actually very bike-friendly, even though you wouldn’t think so given how many cars there are. But the city is really making an effort to encourage other modes of transport–it’s one of the few cities in my knowledge actually building public transit infrastructure. There are a lot of bike lanes and signs reminding drivers to share the road. And, the roads are wide enough that cars can easily pass at a safe distance without having to wait for me to wave them by at all the stop signs.

So far, we rode home from the bike shop, and I went on a couple errands by bike. The Architect has now commuted to work by bike twice, and he really likes it. Here’s to our whole new life, freely flying through the streets without being stuck looking for parking spots. I am hoping to work my way up to using the car only for that 30 mile drive to teach my class and travel long distances.

I know my mom rides a motorcycle for fun and to save gas. Anybody else reading use modes of transportation other than cars?

See you next time!

S riding away

Refashion Friday: Blue polka dot dress

S on SnowdoniaThis week’s refashion is another one from the pile of clothes K asked me to update a little for her. So it didn’t start out bad at all, really. In this case, it was a dress that she really liked a lot, but the color had faded a smidge and the straps had stretched out some over time, so it no longer fit super flatteringly. It was just a bit too low cut and the empire waistline was in sort of an in-between land between just under the bust and the waist.  But it was a supremely quick and easy refashion.

blue polka dotsThe first thing I did was to dye it light blue to hide the fading. Plus, I thought it would look pretty to have a little less contrast between the white dots and the dark blue background.

And then I took in the straps a couple of inches.

blue polka dots duringAnd that was it! The whole thing took about 3 hours from start to finish because of the dying process (which includes letting it sit for an hour and then washing and drying it in the laundry machines), but that included fewer than 30 minutes of working or concentrating on anything. Taking the straps up took 10 minutes. It’s got to be the quickest and easiest of the refashions I’ve done to date.

blue polka dots afterK looks pretty cute in it, doesn’t she? I have the best sister.

And that concludes this week’s refashion. I won’t call it terrible to wearable, since it wasn’t even close to terrible to start out with. But I think it’s much more wearable now.

blue polka dots before and after

I said no haterating

K on treeThe Artist and I like to hang out. Really, hanging out with each other is quite a lot of fun. We’re both sort of artistic and like to make things.

So, when I took off for Valentine’s Day to spend the day with him (we’ve made it a tradition to take off Valentine’s Day to be together), we decided we’d have a really awesome time together. We planned to go to the art museums in town, but unfortunately there had been a snowstorm and everything was closed 😦

So instead we walked to a neighborhood coffee shop and drank some coffee while playing Zombie Flux, which is totally a fun game. Then I got a great idea. We would make art together!

We went to the thrift store and bought this really bad piece of art.

CAM00049

Ok, so it’s maybe not the WORST art, but it’s pretty bad. However, we thought it would be a great canvas for an art project we’ve been planning on doing for a while.

First step: take it home, wash the frame and the painting and get started painting over the sun-bleached mat.

Gray

While I was doing this, the Artist was working diligently on his computer making the design for our art. The plan was for him to make a vinyl decal in the shape of his design. Luckily, he has a vinyl cutter, so this was made fairly straightforward. Without such a tool, you’d be limited to the many awesome decals for sale on etsy and elsewhere on the internet.

So, once the decal was cut, we just had to lay it out on the artwork. Easy enough.

Laying decals

The Artist only had a little bit of brown vinyl left, so we used it up and finished with black. Once the decal was in place, we just painted over the whole thing with some paint that goes with our decor.

Painting!

Then we just peeled off the decal. In some places we had to use an exacto knife to peel off the letters.

Peeling!

And then we were left with this awesome piece of art! When it gets warmer outside we’re going to spray paint over the frame, which is just such an awful shade of gold. We’re going to paint it chrome, which will go better with our decor.

Awesome love art!

CAM00062