Sunday, February 28, 2016

My Submission for 'Altered Couture' Magazine

Do you enjoy Altered Couture magazine? It's one of my favorites. The pages are filled with inspiring projects of upcycled clothes and accessories by talented individuals. The beautiful images, and thick, beefy size of the magazine make it a pleasure to flip through while sipping tea in a cozy nook.

Another fun aspect of the publication is it's open call for submissions and challenges. This month there is one titled, "Playin' With Paint." It requires submissions to be painted or dyed--hopefully there are extra credit points for embellishing further.
With the deadline of March 15th in mind, I worked to get the vintage slip-turned-dress ready to mail in. Yesterday, I finally had a chance to get some decent daylight to photograph a couple of pieces~my hubby is such a good sport, always willing to do an impromptu photoshoot.

Many magazines and online publications have strict rules about photographing pieces that they publish. Because I'm unsure about Altered Couture's rules, I'm not going to post pics of the dress here (yet) sigh. It's so hard to resist! I don't want to do all the hard work of submitting the thing though, only to find out that I'm ineligible because of photos published here.

I can, however, leave you with photos of another dress:

True, you've already seen this one, but I got some great shots of the back which is where the true beauty lies in my opinion. All those beautiful little bows add the perfect detail to the v-neckline, don't they?
a bit of wonkiness on that waist bow, I think I forgot to attach the little hook

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Vintage Finds of the Week

OK, OK, you all ... I have to fess up. These shoes are definitely not vintage. They are, however, super cute and even though I shouldn't really have bought them as the right one pinches just a teeny bit, I couldn't resist. Plus, this gift certificate from my birthday has been burning a  hole in my purse.

They'll look so cute with one of my three skirts (black, black or gray). Or maybe capris this summer?

The scarf, I think is really vintage and I hope to make it into a scarf blouse. And of course, this dear little beaded purse is vintage. Isn't it adorable? It's completely impractical but I plan to add it to my Big Girl's Dress Up Box which I'll someday take the time to assemble.

Lots of beads = nice and heavy, just like I like them!

Imagine how long this took to make? Was it hand sewn? I'm not sure how to tell ... 

What's that? You've never heard of a Big Girl's Dress Up Box? I got the idea from a friend. Well, actually, it was her friend's idea. This friend's friend is an artist and created a dress up box for when she wants to feel fancy, or is invited to something special like a Downton Afternoon. 

Can't you just imagine how much fun it would be to put together something like a dress up box? Maybe using a vintage suitcase or an old trunk ... I can picture it now, with soft, floaty layers of dresses peeking out from around the open lid, pearls and other sparkly costume jewelry nestled in the mounds of satin and gossamer .... ah, bliss!

In other news, I've finished the upcycled vintage slip and am going to send it off to Altered Couture, in hopes that it might be featured in an upcoming challenge. I will post pics soon but am waiting for a clear day to take pics outdoors (hopefully) plus I need to iron it as it's seriously wrinkled from all my beading/applique.

I'm becoming slightly obsessed with beading. I've started a new pattern on a vintage collar that I also dyed a purplish hue. Will post pics of that soon as well.

What creative projects are you working on this week? 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Sewing a Market Bag

I'm so excited to show you the dress that I'm working on. It's a vintage pattern and really just a simple tunic style. I found some cool (very inexpensive) fabric that looks vintage. It's also the first time that I put in a zipper. This is monumental!

When I was a kid, I remember my mother and her mother, both accomplished seamstresses, discussing a project they were working on. At some point in the conversation, their voices would dip low. Of course, that always made me listen harder.

"And then, of course, there's the zipper," one would whisper to the other, a tinge of horror lacing her voice.

Needless to say, I've lived in fear of putting a zipper in anything since then. I've made tote bags, purses, dresses, shirts and more. I always look at the pattern first to see how the item closes. A zipper or buttons? Back into the pattern drawer of the fabric store it goes.

Today though, I want to show you something else I completed. This is a basic shopper bag, I'm calling it a Market Tote.

"Take me to the farmers' market!"
Can't you just see it filled to the brim with fresh veggies at the local farmers' market? Or stuffed with books ready to return to the library? I always wish I remembered to bring a cloth bag with me when I'm in stores other than the grocery. Like when I "just run in" to the drugstore, and emerge with a sack full of things I'd forgotten we needed.

This Market Tote measures about 28" long and square. I made it from some leftover fabric from a chair upholstery project and lined it with a pretty hounds tooth I picked up at a thrift shop. The straps are extremely sturdy and the whole bag is light but hardworking.

Do you think it needs embellishment? I was thinking of adding a vintage button or two, or possibly one of my fabric roses.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Who Am I and How Did I Get Here? Part II

This is the second in a two-part post about me and how I came to be where I am currently on my creative journey. Read Part I here. 


While at the boring temp job that had turned permanent (the money was good, what can I say?), I started freelance writing. With the encouragement of my oldest sister, a long-time professional writer and author, I began. First, I contacted area newspapers. Shockingly, more than one said, "yes," and I was taken on to write human interest and business articles. 

Over time, I built my portfolio, along with a nest egg, and decided that I would freelance write full-time. I finished the first draft of a suspense novel in my free time and learned all I could about successful freelance writing careers. 

Fast forward seven years, one child, a few pets and a house move later. In 2015, after writing thousands of newspaper and magazine articles, blog posts and content for customer's websites, I once again faced burnout. This time was different though. I had dreamed of having a creative career for so long. I knew myself as a writer now, it was my title. If I wasn't that, who was I? It felt like my identity, along with my business was slipping away. 

Even so, I recognized the signs clearly. Though I'm an introvert, I was feeling extremely isolated. Work still wasn't bringing in the amount of money that we needed, and I was tired. Things felt stale and the world had become gray. 

I'd written four novels and one nonfiction book in addition to the other projects. I'd taught writing classes, tried and failed to get a writer's coaching program off the ground, and sold hundreds of my books (self-publishing, even if you're a decent writer, is still a challenging way to make a living). 

I started to apply for jobs. Back in human services? Maybe. What else was I good at? I looked at ads for marketing assistants and applied for virtually anything that sounded interesting and that I might be good at. 

Eventually, I took a job as a copywriter with a very forward-thinking internet marketing company. I was still writing, but without the constant stress of trying to find new work. The set hours (no more evening work sessions that blurred my workday) gave me time and space to just learn again and create for the fun of it. 

It wasn't all roses, of course. The new job required a 45-minute commute each way and when I got home in the evenings I was tired and faced with a messy house and family who needed me. Still, over the weeks and months, my dulled creativity began to sharpen, something I'd feared might never happen. I became a sponge, soaking up new ideas, colors and design inspirations that I had feared were lost forever. 

I listened to podcasts on haute couture sewing and the history of fashion, scoured the local book shop and library for resources on the topics and started to reach out online for community. I dreamed of upcycling accent pieces for home and sewing beautiful, funky pieces of clothes from castoffs. I sucked in articles and blog posts and went to the local fabric store just to touch textiles and see beautiful colors. 

I began a little shop in Etsy and also started selling some of my vintage finds at a local retro shop. I decided that finally, finally, I was going to get serious about saving for the camper I'd always dreamed of owning. Money from my "side gigs" goes toward this fund. Someday, it will hold all my creative supplies and become a sort of mobile art and sewing unit. 

{image credit}
My son is still young and my family, elderly cats and home often need me. But I make sure to also feed that inquisitive, creative side too, even if only for a few minutes each day. 

My "studio" is a less-than-ideal nook in the unfinished basement and I lug stuff up and down the stairs a lot (I can't sew there). But I have a dream now and know that my true calling--whatever job title I hold--is to explore my creativity and share it with the world. 

Who knows? Maybe I'll even inspire others along the way to do the same. 

Be well, 


Monday, February 15, 2016

100 Years of Fashion in Less than 3 Minutes

Just came across this time lapse video which shows one model in several different changes of clothing, portraying 100 years of fashion.

What did you think? Which was your favorite time period of the ones featured?

Who am I and How Did I Get Here?

I love perusing my favorite blogs and, after I've found one that I really enjoy, one of the first places I head is to the "about" page. It helps to build a connection with the author and offers some really interesting insight into her (or his) life.

This post, which will be in two parts, will tell you a little bit about who I am and how I got here, specifically to this point in my creative journey, and why I started this blog.


Look back, 2007 was the year everything changed for me. I had been working in the nonprofit world of human services for seven years. I'd finished my bachelor's degree in psychology and was ready to save the world! 

Instead, I burned out. My work as a case manager was stressful and depressing. Out of desperation, I eventually took a job that was a very bad fit. I worked as an administrative  assistant at a university with one goal in mind: go back to school--this time for free--for a second degree in art. 

I'd always been creative. Growing up in a family with three older, very artistic sisters helped. Add to that a mother and grandmother who were skilled at sewing and knitting and incredibly industrious, along with father who was naturally curious and excelled at all things technically-based (before being into tech was cool), and I guess it was meant to be. 

But back to 2007. I managed to take one art class: it was a watercolor painting class.The course was held in the most inspiring and exciting place: a costume design studio at the school. Unfortunately, soon after the class ended I was fired from my job. 

Now what? 

I knew I wanted a creative career, but how to go about it? I didn't have professional experience in the arts or a degree to help me get there. 

I took another administrative assistant job, this time through a temp agency. It was dreadfully boring. I took more art classes and continued making art in my free time. Mixed media was my area of interest, though I also made handbags, embellished vintage hats and at one point, even ran a tiny vintage shop out of my home. Taking old things and turning them into beautiful or useful items has always been a passion. 

I read book after book about leaving your day job behind to pursue your true passion. I absorbed messages on this subject with gusto. Getting an inspirational kick in the pants, though, is different than actually taking action ... 

Stay tuned for Part II. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Pretty Red Vintage Dress & an Upcycled (Beaded!) Slip

Best Goodwill find of the year
Don't you love it when you pop into a thrift shop, "just for a peek," and emerge bleary-eyed two hours later?

This trip didn't take quite that amount of time, but way more than I anticipated. Of course, I spent a good deal of that trying to wiggle my way back out of a gorgeous, albeit too clingy, cream-colored beaded vintage gown. Is there a dress style called "mermaid?" because that's exactly how it felt.

Undeterred, I kept looking. Good thing I did. I found this beautiful vintage wool dress for under $10.

I have to get out and ask my hubby to take another photo of the back though, that's where the true beauty is. There are little bows all the way up, covering the zipper. He took one shot but the pleats were winging out and it looked as though I had a pumpkin stuffed up the back of the dress.

Right now, I'm working on a new project: upcycling a vintage slip. I must, must, must get better about taking "before" pictures. I keep forgetting and it would be so inspiring to see the transformation.

Play along with me though, and picture a plain, cream-colored vintage slip.

First, I dyed it purple. I found some beautiful rose trim at Joanns and added that to the dye bath. Unfortunately, it didn't soak up the color as I'd hoped, so is quite a lot lighter than I anticipated. But that's OK. That's part of the fun of upcycling and trying new things: being surprised. 

After the slip had dried, I thought that,  in addition the trim,it needed some more bling.

The solution? BEADS!

I've never beaded anything in my life. My foray into jewelry design was disastrous as everything I made fell apart ... while I was wearing it. I'd never considered beading on fabric before but, inspired by Pinterest, dove in.

Here are the results so far:

You can see from the top picture the design, lightly, in blue. I just discovered washable fabric markers. I've heard of fabric chalk or tailor's chalk, but not these wondrous pens! The only  downside is that the tip catches a little on the silky fabric making curves a challenge. I didn't realize this before making the design.

The design is just something I doodled, then recreated on a piece of copier paper with Sharpie. After that, I slid it under the front of the dress and traced my pattern with the special fabric marker.

I'm enjoying this SO much! (Complete disclosure: I started and re-started beading about six times before it started to click. It was so frustrating!)

That's all for now--it's freezing here and I'm looking forward to a little more beading in a cozy corner before dinner prep.

PS if you're also into beading, you'll want to check out this site. I just found Nancy Eha's book last night at the library, called, Off the Beadin' Path. It's a bit old and I'm not sure if it's still in print, but I found some used on Amazon.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Sewing Frustration, Downton Abbey Dress & New Projects

Oh. My. Gosh. Why did I think that this shirt was a good idea?

Sometimes an upcycling project starts out one way and then goes another. I picked up these two tops at a thrift store, in love with the colors. However, I realized after washing that the turquoise one has some strange stain on the breast area along with whit splotches on the sleeve (bleach? If so, where'd it come from?!).

Press on, I tell myself, and start snipping and tucking the multi-colored shirt along the bottom of the turquoise one as a sort of extended ruffle panel.
"Roll, roll, roll away, till she starts to cry ..." 

Well, this knit is impossible challenging to work with! It wants to roll. And roll. And roll. Good grief, I'm about ready to dump it into the trash.

But no. Big breaths. Step away for a while. We'll see what happens in the end. (Wrestling hands clenched with shirt material away from garbage pail.)

Enough of that! Here's some happy news: I finished this 1920s dress for the Downton Abbey tea last weekend:

Head cut off purposely as I had a very odd expression that wasn't flattering in the least. 

It was a lovely event held at the local library. I was pleased overall with how the dress came out. Any guess as to what it's made from? If you said, "tablecloth" you win! It was a $1 tablecloth that I'd picked up in my travels but was too long for our dining room table.

I used this 1920s negligee pattern for the dress.

Pinterest, original source: The Midvale Cottage
It was supposed to have a belt as you can see in the photo. I added it and didn't like the look. If I was to make it again I would choose a different fabric (obviously) and shorten it. I think it could even look cute as a dress to wear out with leggings and boots. What do you think?

What are your upcycle/sewing projects this weekend?