DIY Travel Toiletry Bag

Hubby and I started dating Valentine’s Day our junior year of high school, and somehow, 14 years later, we still manage to give each other sweet gifts for this “anniversary”, even though we have a new anniversary (woohoo Pi Day!) and Valentine’s day is a bit of a materialistic holiday. I love getting his thoughtful gifts each year, but the pressure is always on for giving something worthwhile, and not just something that’ll do. It’s gotta be good - useful, something he actually needs. I love my stuff, and so does he, but stuff for stuff’s sake is no good. That has made gift giving HARD. How do you keep giving meaningful, useful gifts for FOURTEEN years??

Well, luckily, he’s been using the same travel bag for toiletries for forever, and it’s finally falling apart, so I decided to sew him a new one. I found some great, nerdy Star Trek fabric on Spoonflower, got it in the Linen Cotton Canvas, and followed a quick tutorial by Melly Sews, which even has a YouTube video to watch if you’re into videos.

I decided to make his bag slightly smaller (14” pieces instead of 16”, based on how big his old bag is), and I skipped the stabilizer since I was using pretty thick fabric for both the outer and the lining, but otherwise I followed her instructions to a T. This is a great, inexpensive project for a gift for anyone regardless of their gender. This could be a great way to de-stash your fabric remnants as the biggest pieces you need are only 10”x16”. You could mix and match the outer fabrics and handle, too, for all sorts of fun looks.

I’m not sure what I’ll come up with next year, but the great thing about being a sewist is that handmade gifts are always special and unique in one way or another. And I’m always up for suggestions if anyone has some brilliant ideas for gifts for your significant other 😉

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DIY: Flaunt those Cuff Links with any Dress Shirt

When we went to our friends’ wedding earlier this month, I wasn’t the only one there with some DIY touches to their outfit! My husband was the best man, so he didn’t have much to decide about his outfit, but he asked the groom if he could wear cuff links, because he’d just gotten a beautiful pair (and matching tie clip) from our friend Davis Hatcher who had a tent at the Boulder Creek Festival this year. Hubs got an easy “yes” from his bestie, but the shirt the groomsmen all got had buttoned cuffs, and we weren’t allowed to change which shirt he was wearing, so we (I) had to get crafty!

Get rid of those buttons!

First, rip off those pesky buttons! Carefully, of course. I used a seam ripper.

Mark where the new buttonhole will go

Next, fold the cuff in half, and mark where the buttonhole should go based on where the existing buttonhole is. I did this with a pencil, because it had a nice fine tip, makes a light mark, would wash off, plus all the marking I did was on the inside of the sleeve and would be covered/cut by the buttonhole processes, and therefore wouldn’t be visible anyway. You’ll notice my mark has a small horizontal mark below (perpendicular to) the mark I made through the existing buttonhole. This is based on how my sewing machine’s buttonhole foot instructions detailed the process.

Then you make your buttonhole! My machine has a special buttonhole foot that you insert a button into to get the size right, so I used one of the buttons I ripped off earlier. I attached the buttonhole foot to my sewing machine, lined up my marks with the red and green marks on the foot, picked the proper stitch and started sewing. Other than gently holding the fabric in place, I didn’t do much - the machine does all the hard work. Depending on your machine, you may have to do things a bit more manually, so double check your instruction manual. I’d imagine most new-ish machines will have this ability, though.

The scariest part comes next - you have to actually cut the hole for the button (or, in this case, cuff link) to go through. I’ve seen that some people use scissors, but I prefer using the seam ripper again.

And there you have it! Another fun touch for this project is that, rather than using white thread to match the white shirt, I used the same color thread that I used on the culottes I made for this wedding, so we were subtly (ok, let’s be honest, completely unnoticeably) matching. 😉

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A Flirty Experiment with the Tania Culottes

The two other Tania Culottes I've sewn

I love twirly skirts. Stating the obvious, I know. But I also hate chafing, and I will probably never have a thigh gap (#strongnotskinny). When I found the Tania Culottes pattern from Megan Nielsen, I was instantly smitten, and whipped up a couple pairs - one for the Renaissance Festival and one for Disney World - both very fun, but hot, places.

We’ve got some good friends who had a fancy wedding last weekend, and, because I’m crazy, I decided to make something to wear. It’s funny, though - when you’re trying to figure out what to make for an event, especially something semi-formal, it can be daunting. It’s like when you go shopping and you’re not sure what you want, but you only need ONE THING, and you just can’t find that thing. Until it just kind of smacks you in the face.

Billiabong inspiration

At my last haircut another hairdresser at the salon had these awesome Billabong pants (called the Adventure Spirit Pants - looks like they’re out of stock now, though) that were long and flowy with giant slits up each side, and for some reason that just seemed like the right kind of piece to wear to this wedding. Given the right fabric, dressing them up would be no problem.

I brainstormed for a bit about what kind of fabric to get - do I do a stretchy jersey or something fancier? And what about the pattern? While I think I could have mostly winged it and made up my own pattern, if it's a fancy wedding, I wanted to make sure I looked as good as possible, too (especially since hubby was best man, so he looked amazing). I started by Googling around for wide-legged pants patterns, and then something popped up that reminded me of the culotte pattern I already bought, and then I had it! I would modify the Tania Culottes to make the leg pieces wider so they would overlap, leaving me with something that twirls beautifully, but still has the flirty slits up the leg.

You might have noticed that the longest this pattern is is a midi length, but I’m actually pretty happy with that. Since it was a summer wedding, it was warm. And I’m clumsy, so I didn’t want tripping to be an issue.

The fabric selection just kind of fell into place, too. I’ve been really intrigued by Rifle Paper Co.’s fabrics, but didn’t have a specific purpose for the fabric yet, so I didn’t want to splurge prematurely. But then a blog by Fancy Tiger Crafts popped up on my Facebook feed that had a shirt made out of some beautiful burgundy floral rayon (they still have a coral color) that I knew would be perfect. After checking with the bride to see what color her bridesmaids were wearing (to make sure burgundy was a safe choice - not that she would have really cared, though), and noticing that there were only 5 yards left in stock, I decided to get all 5 yards (it’s only 45” fabric, and I modified the pattern to be bigger and use more than the required 3.75 yards PLUS I made a matching headband). Plus the shop is just in Denver, so I opted to go pick it up myself, rather than pay for shipping. And then hubs and I had a date at the nearby Pinche Tacos to make the trip to Denver even more worthwhile.

Now for the fun part 😉

One of the best things about this pattern is how simple and straightforward it is. It’s really not that much more difficult than a circle skirt.

I only deviated from the pattern a few times:

  1. I extended the leg pieces by about 3 inches and rounded the bottom corners quite a bit.
  2. I didn’t sew up the sides so I could have the overlap and the leg slits. I did have to finish/hem a few inches of the top of each leg piece where it meets the waistband at the side BEFORE attaching it to the waistband, so I wouldn’t have any weird, non-hemmed places where the fabric pieces meet.
  3. I made the back waistband into two pieces, adding a 5/8 inch seam allowance.
  4. I moved the zipper from the side to the back of the garment since I left the legs open. This was a little tricky since there’s a box pleat in both front and back. I ended up sewing up the two pieces as if I weren’t putting a zipper there, pressing, and then taking out the seam. I then attached the zipper where I pressed the pleat on each side.

Sidenote: when I got this printed at the copy shop, I came home and started measuring, and I noticed that the two waistband pieces were different heights, by about ⅛ inch! I contacted the shop, but decided to go ahead with the project, lengthening a couple pieces just a hair. I just wanted to let you guys know! I had never used the copy shop or long version before, so I had never noticed! The support at Megan Nielsen’s was great, though, and they just released an updated version of the pattern (which has pockets!), so perhaps it’s less of an issue now.

When attaching the waistband, it says to enclose the raw edges, but didn’t say to make sure the raw edges were facing up toward the waistband when I put in the zipper, so I had to clip and I have the slightest bit of exposed raw edge (so little it’ll only be me who notices it). Also, I ended up breaking two invisible zippers trying to follow these instructions. The first time it was because the pattern didn’t say where to put the top of the zipper, and I ended up cutting off the small pieces that stop the zipper at the top. I had a small panic attack because I was temporarily stuck in these pants and didn’t want to destroy them. The second invisible zipper broke because getting it past where the waistband and leg pieces meet was INCREDIBLY difficult (I probably put the zipper just a tad too close for ease), and the zipper ended up splitting, and hubby had to pry me out of them (again). This second zipper fiasco was due to me doing *too* good of a job making the zipper invisible, not due to the pattern/instructions themselves, but I would recommend using a different zipper insertion method (and even waistband attachment, like this video shows). I find it to be a cleaner looking, simpler insertion.

The third zipper I used was just an all purpose zipper by Coats & Clark in Barberry Red, which perfectly matches the fabric, so it doesn’t actually look bad at all. It’s probably a blessing in disguise because the second zipper I could not zip or unzip by myself, which would have made going to the bathroom really annoying. I guess third time’s the charm, because this zipper works great 😉

Top is the My Way Bodysuit from Free People. Shoes are old Steve Maddens. Necklace and earrings are meteorite from Nature's Own

After putting a piece like this together, it’s a good idea to let it hang before you hem it. Because it’s so full, the fabric will settle since some of it hangs on the bias and some hangs with the grain. I also ended up shortening the culottes by about 5 inches, and taking in the front leg pieces on the side to make the slit just a little more flirty. They now hit just below the knee, and when I twirl you get a slight flash of leg. Getting the hem even was tougher than I anticipated, though. Because I’m self-taught, I don’t know many tricks to the trade that are probably no-brainers for those trained properly. I ended up laying the culottes on the floor (on my cutting mat) and lining up the pieces as best as I could, and, using my rotary cutter, chopping off those 5 inches I didn’t want. I tried them on again, found some small inconsistencies, and repeated the process. I also made the front panels slightly less wide at the bottom using this method. When laying out the culottes on the ground, I did so as carefully as possible. The box pleats make it so you can’t do it 100% perfectly (since the whole panels don’t lay flat), so I wanted to make any cut extremely deliberate.

Once I was happy with the length and the amount of leg I was flashing, it was time to hem! I did a rolled hem for the first time ever, and I am very happy with the results. However, be warned that it takes a while, especially for something as full as these culottes, which were almost like a circle skirt around each leg! That’s a lot to hem! There are such things as rolled hem feet for sewing machines, but I don’t have one, and couldn’t decide which one to buy, so I did it the long way. It’s not hard, though! Just LONG. Megan Nielsen has a good tutorial, which I will abbreviate, just to give you a sense of how time consuming it will be.

This is step 4 of the rolled hem

  1. Make a seam ¼” from the edge of the fabric. 
  2. Press along that seam. 
  3. Make a seam ⅛” from the press you just made.
  4. Cut off as much excess fabric next to that seam as you can.
  5. Press so the raw edge is enclosed.
  6. Sew through the center of the rolled hem. 

The result is lovely, though. I am honestly amazed at how much a finished hem changes a garment. It’s magical. This rolled hem was totally worth the time it took.

I’m so pleased with how these turned out, in spite of all the zipper trouble, and they worked perfectly for the fancy wedding we went to. 

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Make a Workout Tank from a T-shirt

While I love dressing up and making cute outfits for special occasions, most of my laundry ends up being workout clothes. In these summer months, it's hard to want to wear T-shirts instead of tank tops and lately I feel like I've been running low on tanks. I like to wear them to yoga and when I’m running. Also, I’m not a big fan of running in t-shirts because I’d much rather have a racerback tan than a farmers tan (because I’m vain), plus tanks are so much more breezy! These hot days have been killing me and I just don’t have enough tanks (without doing laundry every other day) for yoga and running right now. Rather than go out and spend money (which I would love to do ), I figured I’d get by with some tanks made from tees!

A few years ago I did the Enchanted 10k in Disney World with my hubby and sister, and hubby never wears the princess-y workout top we got with the race, so I decided to make it into a running tank!

First I grabbed a tank I liked the shape of, and got cutting. I liked using my rotary cutter, because I could leave the shirts flat on my cutting mat, but scissors will work just fine, too. Also, try the shirt on a lot while you’re making cuts. You might find that fewer steps result in a shape you really like!

  1. Lay your T-shirt down flat, and lie your tank on top of it. Either mark where you’re going to cut with a pencil or tailor’s chalk, or just use your rotary cutter and cut off the sleeves and neck. (You could leave the neck, but I prefer a lower cut for a workout tank.) You might be done! See what you think of this shape.
  2. Take your cut up T-shirt, and fold it in half the awkward way - so you can see your side seams. This helps you keep your cuts consistent/symmetrical on the right and left sides. At this point, I made the neckline lower and the racerback more pronounced. You could also make your armholes larger and lower in case you want a bit of breeze on your abdomen.
  3. Keep trying on your shirt and repeating step 2 until you’re happy. You can err on the side of caution and make lots of minor adjustments - you can always cut away more fabric, but you can’t put it back!
  4. Optional - stitch up the arm holes and neck hole. Using a binding stitch, you can quickly go around each hole to keep the fabric from fraying. However, most t-shirt fabric doesn’t really fray much, so you can skip this step as long as you don’t mind how it looks. If you really want to go crazy, you could always create a neckband or use some stretchy bias tape and give your tank a more finished look. This of course takes more time, makes you take out your sewing machine, and just might not be necessary for a quick tank you’re just going to sweat in.
  5. A fun touch would be to accentuate the racerback shape by tying a bow around the fabric at your back - I did this to wear to a 5k fun-run with a friend.

Keep in mind that this won’t fit you snugly like other tanks you might already own. I think some of the charm in a garment like this has to do with it’s roughness, and the fact that your sports bra will probably be showing a little. Plus, you’re mostly just going to be sweating in it. No one will care if it’s perfectly tailored to your body.

Happy Sweating!

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