Thursday, May 31, 2012

I definitely shouldn't be allowed into Target too often, because I always manage to find cool things that  I NEED and end up spending way too much money. This pastel flower kit is the newest example (I also picked up a giant crayon and a jar of licorice scottie dogs.... But those aren't blog worthy).

First of all, can we talk about the packaging? The adorable patterned cardboard box? I am a sucker for anything packaged beautifully. I wonder what I should do with the box once I use up my flower supplies.

It only gets better on the inside. The kit comes with needles, embroidery thread (I ended up using my own thread and needles, though, as I found they worked better), hundreds of felt pieces, little spangly things, beads, and pom poms. It also comes with a small instruction sheet, although I mostly just winged it (since everything was pretty much self-explanatory). If you have a Target anywhere near you, you must go buy one of these. They are in the craft aisle. It is necessary to your life, I promise.

After making a few flowers, and having a nerdily awesome time, I realized I didn't have a legitimate use for them. I wanted to make them into something for my next door neighbor's daughter, who's little and girly and adorable; I just didn't know what. Then I found some checked barrettes and knew it was meant to be. 

I sewed up four flowers and hot-glued them to the barrettes; then, since I had two extras, I hot-glued a fake flower and a butterfly to the remaining. Easy peasy, and six seemed like a good number to give. 

This is one of my favorites that I did; I don't really know why, since it didn't turn out quite as neat as some. I like how the leaf ended up, and the size of the flower (small in comparison to the others) is pleasing to me.

I really hope my little recipient enjoys them as much as I enjoyed making them; I really love small, cute projects like this. They're nice fill-ins while I'm working on something bigger (like my blanket!) that I need a break from.

And how perfect is this box?! It was such a stroke of luck that I found it; it was at the bottom of one of our drawers of wrapping paper. I love how this little project came together, all the way down to the packaging. I need more things to work out this way!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I wish I had an awesome new finished project to show, but I don't. I have a small crafty thing I'm working on that will be done soon, but alas, not today. I'll give you a hint about it, though:

(Yep, take from this vague close-up what you will.)

 Today's kind of a busy day for me, but the good news is I have the next two days off of work! Which means relaxing, sewing, and finishing my blanket (fingers crossed!). Anyway, for today, I have some links: just a few things I've been reading and obsessing over. Maybe you'll like them too.

  • This glitter shoe DIY is kind of old, but I'm still in love. I have been wanting to glitter a pair of shoes for so long... This could be an easy, fun weekend sort of project. I just need the perfect pair of shoes. 
  • Speaking of food, check out this gorgeous Texas Toast post (hey, I rhymed!) Not something I'd try out, personally, but the photos are beautiful.
  • Colette Pattern's Notes From Scandinavia: not sewing-related like their normal content, but complete eye candy nonetheless. It probably helps that I have a Swedish boyfriend, but I'm a sucker for any type of travel photo. 
  • Okay, so really everything about enJOY it is awesome, and I stalk it frequently. But! This post about homemade bacon and egg pizza looked so awesome, I had to try it myself. I changed a few things about mine, and it was delicious. Photo proof: 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

So I have this problem of never actually wearing the things I make. I get so excited about a project, and once it's finished I'll wear it once or twice, before it sinks into the depths of my closet and never sees the light of day again. I think a lot of this phenomenon can be attributed to the fact that I'm a perfectionist. I can almost always find flaws in the things that I make, and once I've noticed something that's not perfect, it's hard for me to get past it. Ironically, though, I shrug off these flaws in the store-bought garments that I wear all the time. It's definitely a double standard. 

Anyway, it's something I'd like to work on; actually wearing the things I've made, rather than relying on my store-bought clothes the majority of the time. I made this top last summer, out of a vintage scarf and a scrap of lace (both bought at an antique mall for a total of about $3). I didn't use a pattern; I'm finding more and more that this kind of spur-of-the-moment type of project really works for me. This top is extremely comfortable, flowy, and easy to wear, and it is probably gets the most use out of all my handmade stuff. 

I wore it for a six-hour work shift, where I got compliments from 2 coworkers, as well as a customer who asked if she could find the top in the store (I work at an American Eagle). Needless to say, I was pretty flattered someone thought it looked store-quality. After work this top graced coffee and a movie (The Avengers! Finally!) with the boyfriend. I was really comfortable all day, which is saying something, since sometimes the cutest clothes start to feel gross after a while. 

I need a goal of some kind: maybe to wear something I've made in two outfits per week. Hmm. That seems fairly manageable: it would also encourage me to sew up some new stuff, so I would have things to wear. Oh, and by the way, I've made one more scarf top just like this. It's so simple to do, maybe I'll have to whip a new one up this summer. 

My friend Ruth, the recipient of the 2nd scarf top. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Reading's one of my favorite pastimes, and if I can find a book that relates to sewing in some way? Even better. The Creative Habit is the most recent book I've read and it was so inspiring, I immediately ordered my own copy from Amazon. If you are involved in any creative hobby-- or want to be and don't know how to get started-- this book is a must-have. 

If you're majoring in something artistic-- like I am-- people will often assume that you spend your time doing, well, not a whole lot. That you have it easier than engineering or mathematics majors, because your homework is normally sewing or drawing-related. I've encountered more than a few people who seem to think that Apparel Design is a joke of a subject to spend a college degree on. What I liked about this book is how accurately it shows that being creative, or artistic, takes effort, time, and a significant amount of skill. It's not for the lazy or unmotivated; if you want to produce something beautiful, you can't simply sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. It's just as valid of a career choice as something scientific, and you have to work just as hard for it.

"No one can give you your subject matter, your creative content; if they could, it would be their creation and not yours. But there's a process that generates creativity-- and you can learn it... There's a paradox in the notion that creativity should be a habit. We think of creativity as a way of keeping everything fresh and new, while habit implies routine and repetition. That paradox intrigues me because it occupies the place where creativity and skill rub together." 

This book is a great motivator. If you want to produce something of quality-- wether it's a garment, a piece of music, or even a business negotiation- you have to actively work, hone your skills, and do things that will help spark your creativity. Sometimes, great ideas really will hit you out of the blue; but you have to be willing to get them and to then do the work it takes to realize them. An artistic lifestyle takes motivation and perseverance.

"It takes skill to bring something you've imagined into the world: to use words to create believeable lives, to select the colors and textures of paint to represent a haystack in sunset, to combine ingredients to make a flavorful dish. No one is born with that skill. It is developed through exercise, through repetition, through a blend of learning and reflection that's both painstaking and rewarding... Even Mozart, with all his innate gifts, his passion for music, and his father's devoted tutelage, needed to get twenty-four youthful symphonies under his belt before he composed something enduring with number twenty-five. If art is the bridge between what you see in your mind and what the world sees, then skill is how you build that bridge." 

You can get your own copy here. (By the way, all quotes were taken from the intro chapter.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lately, I've been wanting to cook. All the time. I think it's because I'm not living in a dorm right now, and I have a kitchen and tons of ingredients at my disposal, plus marginally more free time than I had during the school year. I made some awesome guacamole the other day, which we ate on burgers my dad grilled. I've also been making increasingly elaborate lunches for my breaks at work; it saves so much money to bring my own food instead of eating at the food court.

 My favorite thing to make at the moment is pizza. It's really easy, and the outcome is as tasty-if not tastier- than the frozen kind I normally make. Plus, I like to think it's at least a little healthier for me. The most time-consuming part is making the crust, but even that is still pretty easy. I've been using this recipe, except I substitute half the white flour for whole wheat, and add two teaspoons of diced garlic.

The whole wheat flour makes the crust a little difficult to roll out, so I couldn't get a perfect circular shape. (I can get behind the "rustic" look, though.) I used pre-made pizza sauce (note to self: learn how to make pizza sauce!) And added extra oregano, garlic powder, and minced onion to it.

Topped with mozzarella, parmesan, fresh chopped basil (which is so necessary; it tastes a thousand times better than the dried kind you may have in your spice cabinet), and
 turkey pepperoni. I think I baked this for about 15 minutes at 425.

The finished product! The crust turned out kind of strange-looking, but whatever, I'm no professional. My family downed this in less than half an hour (when you live in a house with 4 other people, these things tend to happen). I think next on my pizza agenda I'd like to make something with barbecue and chicken. I'm going to look into this.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I wanted to sew 5 garments this month, since summer classes start in June. And.... that goal was totally not met. I envisioned camping out in my house all of May and being a complete sewing hobo, when in reality I've been working far more than I planned, and spending a lot of time with friends. But I'm not complaining: despite not making as many things as I wanted to, I've still done quite a bit.  I've finished 1 top and I'm almost done with another, I'm one color away from finishing the world's ugliest crocheted blanket, and now I have an altered pair of shorts.

They're vintage Levi's, and they're the definition of mom pants. I've had them for a long time; I probably got them at a Salvation Army, since that's my go-to thrift store, but I really don't remember. I'm not sure what prompted me to buy them, but I'm glad I re-discovered them a few days ago. Anyway, since these bad boys could only be improved, I thought I'd use up some of my huge (and ever-expanding) lace collection and add a back pocket detail. I got the idea from this Chictopia page. The only thing I did differently from their explanation was to turn the edges of the lace under for a cleaner finish, since lace tends to ravel. Honestly, though, this was such a simple alteration that it doesn't really need a how-to to figure out.

Regardless of how awkward my butt looks in them, these shorts will definitely be getting a lot more use now. I'm a sucker for anything girly. Also, if the lace looks familiar, it's because I used it on this project too:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Things haven't been going the way I'd planned lately, but I'm starting to think that that's okay. Take this blanket I'm making, for starters. 

I took this beginner's crochet class last Saturday where we learned to make Granny Squares. I had a great time- I've never taken a class like that before, and it's something I definitely want to do again. Anyway, I bought this fancy yarn for the class, and I started making a Granny Square blanket out of it. I was loving how it looked, and the colors, and everything. But here's the thing; to finish it, I would have needed to buy about 10 more skeins of yarn. I'm a poor college student, and if I'm going to spend lots of money on anything, it will be fabric for sewing stuff. Then I realized how silly it was to be working on this fancy blanket when I have 7 or 8 skeins of yarn that have been sitting in my room for months. 

That's how this blanket was born. I'm making it from all the random colors of yarn I have. The uglier and crazier it gets, the better. It's not done yet- right now it's about the size of a baby blanket- but I'm excited to see how it grows and gets even better. I won't have to spend any money on it (okay... I may end up spending, like, $6 on it), which is perfect. I could use more projects like this-- easy, relaxing, and free. I'm having these dreams of putting my huge, crazy multicolored blanket in some future apartment. That would be pretty awesome.

Then there's this top. For some reason, this top doesn't want to be finished-- I feel like I've stalled all progress, and I'm not sure why. I really want to wear it! But I've had some pretty frustrating moments with it. Here's what I accidentally did; I cut a huge gash in one of the pink back panels. The fabric's so thin that while I was trimming a seam allowance, I didn't even notice it was happening. I didn't have enough fabric to cut a new piece, so I had to figure out a solution that would cover the gash and salvage the top.

So I created appliques down the back. The huge flower below is covering the gash (actually, to be exact, the leaf is covering most of it). I wasn't planning to embellish the back of the top like this. If I hadn't messed up like that, I probably would have already finished the top. But I'm happy with how it looks; I think it will be a lot more interesting than it would have otherwise been.

Despite all my planning, things like this happen. I change my plans abruptly and have to adapt to new circumstances. I'm really liking both of my projects, though.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One of my goals for the month of May is to sew 5 garments. This may seem like a lot, but since this is my only month of summer where I won't be in classes, it's pretty much now or never. Not to say that I won't sew once summer school starts: but between two classes and a job, I'll have to prioritize. My lofty sewing goal is where this shirt came in.

I have another project (it's a Vogue pattern) already halfway constructed. But what I really wanted to do was make the top you see here: the idea for it hit me randomly and I realized it was worth pushing other projects aside for. I think, after the end of a stressful school year filled with lots of sewing for grades, this was just the kind of thing I needed to work on. It was simple: I didn't use a pattern, just cut out various rectangles which I didn't really measure. I didn't try too hard, and I didn't stress if small details didn't pan out quite right. 

It definitely has flaws, but I'm still thrilled with it. It's made from a scrap of metallic cotton knit I have had for a few years, and have never had a use for; the small amount I had was perfect for this, and I used all of it up. The lace  yoke is from some yardage my mom found at a garage sale, also a few years ago. And then there's some lace trim that my great grandma gave me (I have several bags full of vintage lace trim, and so few projects that actually look good with that type of thing). Since I already had all the materials, this top was free to make- the best kind of project! 

Construction note: All French seams, so the inside is very neat. Finished with a rolled hem on the bottom (which was hell with the slinky knit, and honestly didn't turn out too well). The neckline and sleeves are finished with lace bias binding; I'm happy with how that part turned out. I added side panels, almost as an after-thought, because the top didn't have enough ease. I'm really glad I did-- it would have been far too tight otherwise.

One garment down, and it was a simple, satisfying one. Now that I've gotten this bit of compulsiveness out of my system, I think I'll finish the other project that I had started.