Monday, October 22, 2012

Sew-It-Yourself Dr. Girlfriend Costume

Dr. Girlfriend/Stewardess/Jackie O/Mad Men Costume

I tend to select my Halloween costumes months in advance so it wasn’t unusual that I decided I would be Dr. Girlfriend a few months ago as the boyfriend and I were working our way through The Venture Bros. Advanced planning would be my saving grace this year as I would have to sew my costume. Dr. Girlfriend’s dress/lab coat and pillbox hat are fairly specific and unique, which made it difficult/impossible to find an exact pattern.

Finding a Pattern for the Dress

I ended up going with Simplicity 3628 and making a few adjustments to turn the jacket with the mandarin collar into a dress. I used yellow tissue paper to add length to each of the panels. I also added some width to the right front panel and an angular cut to replicate the mod look of her dress. I cut each of the modified pieces out of pink, tweed (working around Stella Cat who made herself at home on the foreign fabric).

Side Note: I used a standard fabric scissors when I should have used a pinking shears to prevent the fabric from fraying. I ended up going back and trimming along my seams.

After cutting out each of the panels, I simply followed the pattern instructions, eliminating the lining since I would not be wearing it as a jacket. I ran into an issue when I tried the dress on mid-way through. I hadn’t allotted enough additional fabric to fit across the bust. This issue was remedied by unfolding a portion of the left front panel ostensibly doubling the panel. Because I wouldn’t be adding a lining, I was able to do this without affecting the rest of the garment.

Once everything was pieced together I hemmed the dress to well above my knee (I wore shorts for modesty under the dress) and the sleeves to just below my elbows. I marked the location of the buttons with a blue marking pencil, guided by the loops. With the buttons sewn on, the dress was complete.

Sewing The Hat

This element was much simpler than I anticipated. I fused interfacing to a piece of the pink tweed before cutting out a circle, using a bowl as a guide. I cut a 3.75-inch thick strip, hemmed it, sewed it in a circle and sewed it to the top piece. I added two loops to the inside so I could clip the hat to my hair.

Throw in some white boots and gloves and viola! Dr. Girlfriend or a stewardess or Jackie O. or a character from Mad Men, depending on the beholder’s eye.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

DIY Stuffed Animals

My sister's really into sewing these days, which is great, since I've benefited from her skills over the past year. First off, she gave me the prototype of her slouchy reversible tote bag. I use it all the time!

Next off, she decided to make new pillows for her living room to switch up the decor a bit...which quickly evolved into sewing stuffed animals for the girls' room.

Her first foray into DIY stuffed animals was the "Katie bird pillow" – a cute, fun little pattern you can mix up with coordinating prints. I oooh'd over it so much I even got my own (it goes with the wild, fun patterns she bought for the pillows she sewed me for my redecorated living room).

After the stuffed bird she tried out a stuffed bunny pattern – also very cute and somewhat retro. The girls love their new stuffed animals (that also double as little pillows for their naps) and they aren't just run-of-the-mill, purchased commercialized toys.

I'm no sewer but I think these patterns would be great for beginners.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Refinishing an Old, Three-Drawer Side Table

It's just a simply-made pine "dresser" with three drawers (back in the day, it was my dad's bedside table in which he kept socks, t-shirts & undies :). When I moved into a house in college, it was given to me to use.
I never really thought about it other than the fact it was a handy little side table, and it followed me from place to place over the years.

Now, in our house in St. Paul, it's down in my "office," where it holds stationery, stamps and other crafting odds-and-ends. I looked at it one day this spring and thought, "I'd really like it if that side table were darker." And so it began.

We don't have a wide variety of tools so I ended up borrowing my friend's little mouse sander for the project. Using 80-grit sand paper, I started removing the old finish. 

The sides, top and even the drawers of the side table were easy to sand; the nooks and crannies were the hardest. While I knew this wouldn't be perfect – it was, after all, my first refinishing project – I also didn't want it to LOOK like a first-time sanding job.

Of course, in my haste to get it done, I didn't bother to sand any part of this dresser by hand; I used the Black & Decker mouse for the entire project. I ended up finessing the sander well enough that I got all the old finish off without losing too much detailing.

At this point, the neighbors were interested in what I was doing so they came over to take a look – and critique the project, no doubt :) – and offered some good advice for the next steps of the refinishing. They also gave me some important items: a piece of tack cloth to wipe down the side table before I started in with the stain, and some fine steel wool to lightly sand in between coats of the stain and/or finish.

It was amazing how much sandpaper dust I removed from that dresser with the tack cloth, even after I'd wiped it with my hands. After wiping down the entire side table, I was ready to start staining.

For this part of the project, I'd purchased a nice brush but the neighbors said to use a foam paint brush – it's a cheap option to evenly apply the stain, and this way I didn't have to worry about cleaning off my nice brush when I was done (we even had several foam brushes leftover from a previous painting job; so no extra expense there).

The foam brush worked very well to apply the stain – Moorish Teak oil-based wood stain by Zar – and I had to do very little wiping with my soft cloths to remove excess stain. Since I was staining outside in the sun, the stain dried very quickly (although I still let everything sit for three hours, per the instructions on the can).

At this point, I was a tad worried about the Moorish Teak – in the sun it looked okay, but as soon as the sun slid behind a cloud, the dresser looked purple. I was a tad apprehensive, but my saintly neighbor came over once again and said, "don't pass judgment yet – it'll change once you sand it and apply the finish."

Once the stain was dry, I used the fine steel wool to lightly sand the dresser to prep it for the polyurethane. It was amazing how much the grain "popped" once I'd sanded it. I started to feel better about the color.

For the finish I used clear antique flat polyurethane (again, by Zar). I didn't want the side table to be shiny; I merely wanted it to have a good sheen and also I wanted to be able to safely dust it.

I knew I'd be applying at least two coats of polyurethane, and since the finish is supposed to dry thoroughly I only got in one coat before nightfall, so it had a couple days' worth of drying before I applied the second coat of finish. 

During the few days of hiatus I had time to think about what I wanted to do with the hardware – I wasn't sure if the vintage brass pulls would look good once the wood was darker...but I liked the "antique-y" look of them so much I ended up deciding to keep them. 

Finally, I had time to haul the side table and its drawers back outside to apply the second – and final – coat of finish.

Before starting to apply the polyurethane, I once again used my fine steel wool to lightly sand all the surfaces – to give the finish a "tooth" to hold onto – which helped get rid of a couple imperfections I had from the first coat. This second coat of finish had to be better than the first, since it was the final step.

One thing I'll do differently on my next refinishing project: I won't apply polyurethane in the sun. I'm somewhat limited with outside space (since we live in a town home), but I'll definitely be applying finish in the shade from here on out...the sun was so strong the finish was drying even as I was painting it on.

To that end, there are a few places in which the polyurethane coat wasn't quite thick enough and dried with a slightly "cloudy" appearance, but that – in my opinion – just adds to the charm of my very first refinishing project :)

When the final coat of finish was absolutely dry (I let it sit for a day to be sure), I put the hardware back on and it was done! It's not as pretty sitting in the sun as it is in my home office – the Moorish Teak worked out VERY well and gave the wood the rich, dark pigment I'd been hoping for.

Also, I think the sanding I did after I applied the stain helped to really bring out the wood grain and make the texture "pop" – again, something I'd wanted to see.

Even though I ended up using the same hardware on the side table – brass batwing drawer pulls – I think the entire dresser has transformed into something entirely different. It's amazing what a little time and love can do to an old piece of furniture!

I'll be honest...I haven't returned my friend's little mouse sander yet – I'm thinking I might want to refinish something else soon!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

DIY Green Onions

Oh, how I love my Pinterest. Okay, so technically I don't love Pinterest; I love the people ON it who find and Pin the most fun things ever. Sure, the fun things are out there on the "www" for anyone to find, but since these cool people have Pinned these neat ideas on Pinterest and I found them there, to Pinterest – well, its loyal users, technically – the credit goes.

Here's another Pinterest-inspired idea that I've come to know and love for no other reason than I'm a lover of Pinterest: regrowing green onions.

It seems like a no-brainer to reuse scallions you buy at the grocery store, but if not for my love of Pinterest I'd not have seen the post about regrowing green onions on your window sill from Homemade Serenity.

After seeing that, the next time I made tacos and needed green onions (I love, LOVE green onions on my tacos), I carefully saved the last inch or so of the root area of my scallion bunch and threw them into glass shot glasses on the west-facing window sill...lo and behold, I could literally see the new growth of my green onions the next day!

'Twas brillig. I was hooked...of course, there are a few caveats when re-purposing your green onion roots, such as:

  1. Don't put too much water in the glass; you want enough to cover the roots but not the green part (if any resides) of the scallions.
  2. Change the water and wash the "slime" off the green onion roots every 2-3 days.
  3. Even if you're not in need of green onions that day, clip the ends if they're getting "old"  – this will allow for new, fresh growth.
  4. Be sure to put your scallion roots in a sunny window – sun is essential!

Of course, if you were so inclined, you could just grow your own green onions – from seed or plant – in pots with soil, but this way if you're not a winter plant keeper (as I'm not) then you don't have to worry about keeping the potted scallions alive in winter :)

Happy DIY growing...and Pinning!

PS: Here are the same green onions 2 weeks later: 

As you can see, they grow quite quickly. I took these images right before I washed the scallions' roots and gave them fresh water – which, again, has to be done every few days.

Re-growing green onions you purchase at the grocery store is easy, economical and also adds a splash of color to your home.

All you need is a bunch of green onions, a glass and a sunny window sill to have your own, private "garden" that will continue yielding fresh scallions as long as you keep pruning them.

*Photography by Sarah B. Danks*

Monday, April 23, 2012

DIY Reversible Tote Bag

Lately my sister's been on a sewing kick (she just purchased fabric to make pillow covers for my downstairs living room) but it all started with the reversible tote bag she made me for Christmas.

Mine was her first – the prototype, if you will – and since then I think she's pumped out about 10 more of these fun, handy totes. I'm not a sewer (although Mom did make me take Home Ec. in junior high) but I think these reversible bags are fairly quick to fact, I believe the most time-consuming part is choosing the cute fabric and buttons!

I'm not sure which pattern she uses to make her reversible totes but patterns abound online (I think this DIY reversible tote tutorial is a great how-to).

Happy sewing!

*Photos by Sarah B. Danks*

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lazy Susan as Spice Organizer in Small Kitchen Cabinet

Lately I've been on a kick to ensure everything in the house is organized. Everything sitting out is in its place; I've purged storage areas and re-organized everything in them; I've even cleaned closets and hung my clothes by color.

It was only a matter of time before I started on the kitchen cabinets. I've never really cared what the insides of cabinets looked like; after all, I'm really the only one who ever sees them. Well, enter Pinterest and all the cool people on it and their great ideas for organizing everything.

While originally the idea came from Martha Stewart, I ran across it as a Pin from this Pinner. It's not a big deal, but I thought it was a pretty neat idea – and easy to implement, too: using a lazy susan in a cabinet to organize spices. I don't have a lot of counter space – or cabinet space, for that matter – so having a cute spice rack sitting out on the counter was out of the question.

All my spices reside in one small cabinet and unless they were often-used (ergo in the front and easily reachable), they were hard to get to or see. This organizational tactic was the perfect solution for me – especially since I don't have a lot of space to work with:

And, the only things I needed to fulfill this little Pinterest project were a lazy susan (I got mine for a great price at The Container Store) and time. Oh, and the will to clean out that cabinet :)

It wasn't horrendous, but it wasn't great, either. Frankly, I'd really like to be able to fit two lazy susans in there, but it just won't happen. It's still not perfect, but it's a lot better organized than it was!

Now all I have to do is organize all the rest of the cabinets...

*Photos by Sarah B. Danks*

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Shag Pillow Hack

{By Christine}

I found this great shag pillow on Pinterest. Ahhh Pinterest. So many creative ideas, so little time to make them, because I have spent all of my time pinning.

I did manage to get to this project at least. That’s something, right?

The tutorial is from one of my favorite blogs, V and Co. Vanessa has great ideas!

What I especially liked about this project was that I didn’t have to buy any fabric! Instead of purchasing cotton and jersey as Vanessa did, I used old t-shirts, the ones my girls have outgrown or that have little holes in them, for the shag, and an old pillowcase for the body of the pillow.

One t-shirt is not enough fabric to cover this entire pillow with shag. I ended up using four, all in different shades of pink. Pinkish? I like the pillow even more with several colors. An added bonus!

Begin by cutting the tops and side seams off of the t-shirts.

Then cut 11/2 inch x 4 inch strips from the t-shirt fabric.

From the pillowcase cut through both layers of fabric to get two 11x15 inch rectangles. 

Mark guidelines every ¾ inch on one of the pillow rectangles.

Following guidelines, begin to sew t-shirt strips onto top layer only of pillow. Be sure to leave ¼ inch at the top and bottom of each row to allow space for the seam of your pillow!

 Because I was using four different colors, I had to determine ahead of time how many strips of each color I was going to add per row. My math was not very good. I ran out of one color and had too much of another. Oh well. I’m the only one who would notice. Hopefully if you decide to make this pillow and use several colors you will have better luck with your math.

Continue to add t-shirt strips until you have each row filled, about 15 strips per row.

As you add the strips, bunch them, roll them, and twist them, to give your shag pillow a less uniformed, shaggier look. This will be good!

Once all of the t-shirt strips are sewn onto the pillow top, pin the top, shaggy layer, to the bottom layer of the pillow, right sides facing.

Sew around the pillow leaving a 5 inch opening on one side. Be careful that you do not sew any of the strips into the seam of the pillow.

Turn the pillow right side out and stuff with fluff. I just like to say stuff with fluff.

Hand stitch the pillow closed.

Voila! A fabulous, fun shag pillow! 

A shag pillow that was confiscated by my youngest daughter!

That, my friends is my first Pintrest hack! It shall not be the last! (maniacal  laugh, maniacal laugh!) Sorry! I got a little caught up in craziness of actually completing a craft I pinned on Pinterest.

~ Christine

*All photography – minus V& Co image – by Christine Van Tassel*

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Recovered Kitchen Chairs

{By Robin}

My craft projects are usually the result of three motivations: making cute things, using existing materials and doing everything on the cheap. This chair recovering project is a perfect example of those three inspirations coming together.

When I bought my antique kitchen table, I wanted to have four different chairs to surround the lovely aged oak, ala Monica's apartment in Friends. At best, that would have cost $25 buck a pop and $100+ was not what I felt like spending at the time. What I did instead was grab two chairs from my previous kitchen table (which is now a great storage space in the garage) and two chairs my sister gave me, which she got from a thrift store.

Showcasing two different pairs was good enough for me, but I still wanted each chair to look singularly unique in some way. I thought about painting for differentiation, but that seemed like too much work. Inspiration hit when I remembered how easy it is to recover chair seats with fabric. Screwdriver, fabric, staple gun and you're done.

The next step was finding fabric. Still wanting to err on the inexpensive, rather than digging in bargain bins at fabric stores I instead raided my clothing donation bags tucked away in the closet. In keeping with my theme of pairs, I chose two warm fabrics, two cool fabrics and within that palette two striped and two floralish designs. All that was left to do was cut, stretch and staple.

Using old skirts was easiest because the fabric was large enough to stretch over the chair seats. Cutting up old tops was a bit more challenging, however, because I had to piece together sections to ensure full seat coverage. This process maybe added about 10 minutes on my sewing machine in addition to the 5 - 10 minutes it took to staple each chair. All in all it was about an hour-long project that brightened up my kitchen, gave new life to antiquated chairs and made good re-use of colorful old tops and skirts.

*Photo by Robin Morgan*

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Freeze Leftover Wine

I'm not sure where I learned this little tidbit for saving leftover wine – truth be told I think it was Martha Stewart via a Maxine cartoon – but it comes in really handy for cooking.

I know, I know: who has leftover wine??? (that was Maxine's contribution)

Well, sometimes I do and it goes right into the ice cube tray for future use. I believe all recipes taste better with wine – some of it even makes it into the food – so when I make spaghetti sauce, chili, or whatever else I think a splash of wine might augment, I just have to open up my freezer and pop a couple "wine cubes" into the recipe and off we go.

*Photo by Sarah B. Danks*

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bookshelf Organization Inspired by Pinterest

Hi, my name is Sarah and I'm obsessed with Pinterest. (<chorus> Hi, Sarah!)

I've seen some super-cool ideas on Pinterest and I want to replicate them in my own home (a cool corner hutch unit, picture frame collage ideas and framing a bathroom mirror, to name just a few), but I have to say I'd already done the bookshelf organization thing.

That's right. BEFORE Pinterest. Well, before I knew what Pinterest was, anyway.

Okay, I'll admit that SINCE seeing some neat organizational ideas for bookshelves on Pinterest I might've rearranged some things. Just a bit.

And I realize this "bookshelf" holds less books than it does paraphernalia – most notably my collection of antique cameras. But still.

*Photos by Sarah B. Danks*

DIY Coffee Table Books

Everyone who's anyone likes looking at coffee table books, but they're expensive and it looks silly to have just one...

Fortunately, in this day and age it's easy to create your own coffee table book, and it doesn't have to break the bank. Online services like Blurb, Shutterfly and MyPublisher make the process simple and they often have very good deals on photo books.

In fact, the longest part of the whole process is choosing which photos you want to display and organizing them in the layout. Creating your own coffee table books is a great way to highlight family events, pets, even weddings (I made my own wedding book for a fraction of the price the photographer wanted, and everyone who's seen it loves it). They also make great family gifts (I've started making a photo book of my nieces for my sister and mother each year for Christmas).

There's only one problem: once you've made one coffee table book, you're hooked. Before long, you might find yourself with a plethora of them :)

*Photo by Sarah B. Danks*

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cover Up That Old Couch

I'm not a sewer. Sure, Mom made me take Home Ec in junior high, but I hated the sewing portion the whole time. So when I say I "recovered my old couch," I mean I did it in a very, VERY simple fashion.

This couch is over 30 years old – my parents bought it new in 1976 – and while the upholstery has definitely gone out of style, the sofa itself is well-built, sturdy and still as comfy as ever. Plus, it's a hide-a-bed, so that's a bonus for us (we only have 1 guest bedroom; this gives us some more sleeping room if needed).

The Husband wasn't at all a fan of keeping it, and even less so when I came back with a quote to reupholster it: $500.00. While on the one hand I was weighing what it'd cost to replace the quality of the couch, I wasn't thinking of an even simpler solution: re-covering it.

And by "recover the softa," I mean literally, buying a slip cover and putting it on. How easy is that?

This isn't rocket science, and it's not "custom," per se...but it is a cheap and easy fix. Instead of learning how to sew, or paying someone a lot of money to do it for me, I spent $130.00 and got a great-looking, well-fitted slip cover that I can take off and wash whenever I want to.


*Photos by Sarah B. Danks*

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Easy Cowboy Caviar Recipe

For every recipe that requires time, effort and a bunch of cooking paraphernalia you might not own, there's the "do-it-yourself" easy version that tastes great and makes it seem as if you spent hours slaving away in the kitchen.

While I've tried many different cowboy caviar recipes, this is my all-time favorite, and very simple to make.

Cowboy Caviar Recipe

  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans
  • I can (15 oz) black-eyed peas
  • 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of corn (can also use frozen)
  • 1 small onion (can substitute green onions)
  • ½ green pepper
  • ½ cup chopped jalapenos (I use the pickled kind)
  • ¾ cup chopped cilantro
  • garlic salt
  • Zesty Italian dressing
  • 1 lime
To Make:
  • Drain beans, peas & tomatoes
  • Chop onion, green pepper, jalapenos & cilantro
  • Add to bowl, toss
  • Use garlic salt to taste
  • Add ¼ to ½ cup of Italian dressing & fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • Toss to coat and let it marinate in the fridge for ~1 hour before serving.

VoilĂ ! Delicious cowboy caviar that'll have your guests asking for the recipe :)

*Photo by Sarah B. Danks*

Monday, January 30, 2012

Frame Your Child's Art

Here's a fun and arty way to make your child's paintings or drawings look like an art collection. All you need is a kid to make you some art (in my case, my niece), a quick trip to a store that sells frames (on sale is better) and a little bit of time.

Framing Supplies:

  • Child's drawings/paintings/art
  • Frames
  • Pre-cut mats (I like to buy the frames on sale at Michaels that come with mats)
  • Tape
  • Scissors (if you need to cut the paintings to fit)

If you need to cut the drawings to fit into the frames (my niece had painted me some pictures on randomly-sized paper) then go ahead and use the mats to frame the portion you want, then cut to size.

Obviously if you're planning this in advance, have your child draw a picture on paper that's that size you want...then you don't have to lose any of the art.

Fix the painting in place on the back with Scotch tape, then assemble the frame.

VoilĂ ! A cool and very relevant art collection.

*Photography by Sarah B. Danks*