Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals. I'm a recovering former vegan and vegetarian, now healing with a nutrient-dense mostly Paleo diet, and love at-home CrossFit and yoga workouts. I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

New mom to baby Otto born April 2018!

Good morning from the new house


Good morning from the new house

Over the weekend we have been moving from our little apartment to a little bungalow 30 minutes away.  The weekend has been busy and stressful, and we are still not done (have to clean the old place today), but I'm happy to report that I'm writing to you now from the new house, after having spent our first night here last night!
I have mixed feelings about moving (I guess I don't like change), but I am so excited to have a place we can paint, decorate, and improve in other ways.
We had the sort of smart, sort of insane idea of painting the rooms we want painted before we move the stuff in, so we won't have to worry about pushing stuff around and maybe splattering it with paint.  But now all we have is several rooms with one thick but not complete coat of paint on the broad strokes, with unpainted edges at the top, bottom and sides.  And we ran out of the two paint colors we've used most so far--so, yet another trip to the paint store.  This is like the third time in four days.  Oh, well.
I am happy to say that, although there are boxes here and there, my sewing room is pretty much already set up!  We moved my sewing desk in and I put my machine on it, and voila, it's just like it used to be!  Except with better lighting.  I will be busy in the next few days but I hope to get some sewing done very soon.
Wish I had pics for you or something, but it is such a work in progress right now!  I will get back to you with photos and updates soon.
Thanks for bearing with me during this crazy, stressful time!


Sewing Circle: How to buy a sewing machine

Another question for Sewing Circle!

This time, we're talking about sewing machines... which kind is right for you?  How do you research and buy one that you'll be happy with?  What all kinds are there, even?

I got a question from Crystal, who asked:

Q: What is a good sewing machine for sewing garments, including knit fabrics? I am somewhat of a beginner sewer. My experience is mainly in sewing small crafty items, and I am interested in sewing more dresses and clothing items. I currently have a basic Kenmore machine, but the only option for knits on this machine is the zig zag stitch. I would appreciate any suggestions or input you may have!

A: Well, Crystal, I myself don't have experience with all the different machines out there, so I can't name one of the top of my head that works well with knits and other clothing.  I can offer my advice on buying a machine that will work for you--at least my personal opinion!

When I got my (most recent) sewing machine as a grad school graduation present, I looked at both Target/JoAnn's-level brand name machines and at the more professional quality machines at the local "Vac and Sew."  The local shop had machines ranging from $250-$2,500, pretty much, including some very fancy ones with CDs and computer programming for complicated machine embroidery and quilting.  Obviously I don't need all that; I just wanted a very good quality machine for apparel sewing.  The salespeople were very helpful and attentive (another benefit of a small, local store) and pointed out their selection of used machines that were good for sewing clothing.  Sometimes people trade in their old machines if they want a newer, fancier model, and the shop can give them a tune-up and resell them for a good price to new customers.  I tried out several machines that were much fancier and more capable than anything I could have afforded brand new.  Another benefit of many used machines is, depending on their age, many of them were made in Germany or Sweden or wherever the brand is from, and are made of a full one-piece metal base and arm rather than two pieces fit together or plastic exterior.  They tend to have metal gears and a wider range of capabilities than the few brands than the store sells new.

I had my criteria in mind (one-step buttonhole, detachable/free arm--almost essential for clothing sewing--, east-to-wind bobbin) and I tried out machines that fit those criteria.  On my second trip to the shop, after some reflection, I ended up getting a Viking Husqvarna (complete with cover and manual) from quite a few years ago that sews like a charm!  I'm very happy with the excellent quality sewing and stitches I get out of it and I know it's nicer than I would have been able to buy if I had only seen new ones.  That said, not everyone has access to high quality used machines, and there are simple machines out there that will do what you want them to for not too much money.

However, it was really important to me to be able to try out the machines--in Crystal's case, I recommend bringing a piece or two of knit fabric to the store so you can test the machine out on the type of fabric you like to sew on (they will probably have basic woven cotton in a quilting weight for you to test the machine with).  Tell the salespeople what you want to use it for and what elements are important to you.  Ask them to explain the basics of the machines they show you so you can compare.  Don't be afraid to go home and do some research before you buy, or do your research before you go.

That gets me to my next advice--check out some of the great resources online for advice on how to buy the right machine for you and reviews on specific machines.  I'm sure some of you have been thinking about getting a sewing machine--I'm sure these links will help you!!

Also, I'm sure our readers will have thoughts about their machines--readers, do any of you have good basic apparel-sewing machines?  Are you happy with your Singers or Target brand machines?  Did you have a good experience buying your machine?  What do you recommend for Crystal?

And, if any of you have any more sewing-related questions, send me an email for Sewing Circle!



Moving in today!

Today is a big day in my household--we're moving!!  More about the new place later (trust me, it will be cute!), but today is the first day we get to move things in before we have to be out of our current place by Wednesday the 1st.  We had the idea that, since we can paint in the new place but it's a big production to paint in a room where there's a lot of stuff, we could paint it now while it's vacant!  This is not the way I have grown up to operate (as a kid, whenever we painted a room, we got tens of swatches in almost identical colors, brought them home, and held them up to the woodwork, flooring, existing colors, furniture, and walls on different sides of the room, to get the full effect of the lighting from different angles.  We matched the new colors to each other, if there was a wall and a ceiling color, and then made a decision and bought the paint.  But we may not have time for that today, and the downside of painting without any stuff in the house is that you can't hold the swatch up to things that have already been packed in boxes.  Hm.  But, I'll look at the carpet and the lighting, and try to do my best.
It's a little overwhelming, though, since we want to paint the living room and the kitchen, which merge into one another--how should the transition go?  Won't it be jarring to have them visually touch, as you look through to the other?  What about the dining room--it shares a wall with a large doorway to the kitchen, should it be the same color as the kitchen?  I guess I've never had this problem, because I've always only painted one room at a time!  There's so much potential when you have the whole house!
Here are some of the colors we're looking at...
Probably a light grey, a medium grey, and a pale aqua-ey green (or pure white) for the kitchen.
Any tips for picking paint colors for a whole house at once?!


Pretty bra straps? A crazy tutorial

Okay, I have a tutorial to share with you today that I think is pretty cool, but some of you may think is the craziest thing you've ever heard.

In one of my magazines I heard about the Maidenform Charmed line, which has come out with some pretty bras, including two with pretty lace or straps--so it doesn't matter if they poke out from under your sundress!
And this slightly different one, with a pretty band and plain straps:
Very pretty, right?  They're not the style of bra that I usually wear, but I like the idea of pretty straps that you're not afraid of showing a little.

This gave me an idea--again, please don't judge me too much if you think I'm ridiculous for doing this! ;)
I took an old bra that I liked but didn't care too much about, and added wide lace ribbon straps instead of the elastic ones.  I removed the straps that came on it to do this.  That's okay with me; they were kinda dirty already, you know how white bra straps get.  It may be close to time for a new bra, but until then, I have pretty bra straps that look like another layer of tank or something, not too lingerie-ey!

So how about a simple little tutorial for how to do this yourself (if you're in the school of, "hey, that's a neat idea!")!

You can do this with a regular bra or a strapless (I also tried it with one of those removable strap ones).

  • Cut off the straps if necessary.  you're going to sew at the point where the old strap attached to the bra.
  • Pin your lace or ribbon onto the bra.  I like to make it continue to the bottom of the band, just for less strain on the stretchy nylon.
  • Sew along the ribbon or lace (I matched my top thread to the lace, bobbin to the bra) in line with the band.
  • Great.  Now, try on you bra and pull the straps toward the front.  Pin them in place where they'll meet on the front, and try to move around a lot as you do when you wear a bra normally.  These won't have as much stretch as modern bra straps, so you want them at a nice medium length (not the tightest, not the loosest).  You can always buy lingerie sliding pieces to use with your ribbon or lace, but I went the easy way and just chose a length.  No pics of this part!  Don't want to show the internet too much of my undies.
  • Make sure both sides match in length, or are close, and pin in place.
  • If you're doing this on a strapless, tuck the ribbon or lace behind the edge of the bra.  If you do it on a regular bra, I suggest putting it in front of the cut-off part and finishing it nicely.

Ta-da!  Super easy and fast!



More great engagement photo sources

I can't tell you how happy I was to hear all your great comments about my thoughts about engagement photos this weekend!

When I posted that, I was thinking about places in and around Portland to do our engagement shoot.  I was so impressed by all the fantastic local photographers I found just through simple Google searches!
But you all reminded me of the great places to look for engagement shoot inspiration.  Here's where I've been looking:

What other sites do any of your recommend for places to find galleries of great engagement shoots??

And as I was looking through for more inspiration on these blogs, I saw a feature on Green Wedding Shoes called, "Should we get engagement photos?"  Very good little article!  She talks about different types of locations... urban, in a field...
And then in Part 2 of the about engagement photos info, she talks about props and other funky additions.
All above photos from Green Wedding Shoes
It is good to hear more perspectives about engagement shoots, especially from someone who sees them all the time from different photographers.  Anyone know of any other advice columns or anything about engagement photography??
I also found a bunch of photos (and this cute save-the-date!) I liked on Ruffled.  Want to see?
All from Ruffled

Now I feel like shoe-shopping so I can wear something super cute for our photos!

Thanks again for all your help about engagement shoots the other day, and I loved seeing some of your photos from your engagements!  I will be scheduling a time and place for our photos sometime this week, so it's great to have more to think about before I make any big decisions =)


Summery preppy tunic dress

A long time ago, I bought the Cynthia Rowley pattern Simplicity 2584 because it's super cute!  And tunic and sheath dresses were way in last summer. I was a little hesitant to make it for a while since it's so clearly recognizable and iconic to anyone who buys Simplicity patterns--I'm sure many of you recognize it.  But then I figured, whatever.

Sheath dresses are super easy to make and require very little fabric, so it was an easy project and took what felt like an hour, except for the pointed yoke part, which was a little bit time consuming just to get a grasp of at first.
I used the same comforter cover I made my Recycled comforter cover dress from back in June.  There was a lot of fabric there!

I used white quilter's cotton for the yoke.

It's super cute and fun and all, but I don't understand why it's so low-cut!  He-llooo, how am I supposed to wear a bra with this? ;)  I wore a tank under it for the picture, but that takes away from some of the sleek-ness and simplicity.  I may add something small underneath and hand-stitch, to close up the V somewhat, but I don't really want to do that, either.  Any thoughts?

So, be warned, if you make this pattern, don't cut it ANY lower than the pattern suggests, and try it on before you clip it all the way!



Thinking about engagement photos

You all know I'm getting married next year, so I was hoping to get your thoughts about engagement photos!  I'm a little overwhelmed by the whole idea, but I know I want to do them.
I've sort of picked up the idea that engagement shoots are a relatively new thing, and my mom thinks they're sort of frivolous.  But, they're fun, and I want to do one!  I would love if you would all share your opinions of engagement photos... good? Bad?  Seems to me that, if nothing else, they're a good way to ensure that you have a good photo of you and your betrothed, since sometimes that's hard to get with snapshots.  And, they make great photos to send along with the save-the-date.  But they can be good or bad, I'm sure... as creative people, what do you look for in an engagement shoot?  What things do you think make them look classy, funky, cool, interesting, or...?
I have a photographer friend who has generously volunteered to take our engagement photos, so now I am thinking all over the place about what type of pics I want, and where, and with what attitude, and, most importantly, what should I wear?  ;)
Here are some photos I've found online that are just gorgeous, and different than your basic guy-and-girl-in-love-in-jeans-in-a-park photos (which are fine, I like those too, but I wanted more variety to look over).  I Googled "Portland engagement shoots" or something similar to get ideas for some great places in Portland to take engagement photos--and, boy, do I have a list going now!  We'll have to narrow it down, but I have a lot of ideas!  Anyway, here are some gorgeous photos from Portland- and Seattle-area photographers.
Photos courtesy of Lauren Brooks Photography
Photos courtesy of Mastin Studio
Photos courtesy of Steep Street Photography
Some beautiful images, huh?  I am still overwhelmed by the tons of options for settings and backgrounds, but I have realized I tend to like the outdoor ones best (most of them are outdoors), and I like the ones with vintage-ey inspired clothes ;)!  Not sure how Jason will feel about sporting a newsboy cap, but he is usually a good sport about weird clothes I get for him.  But what should I wear?!?
If any of you have seen great engagement shoots around the blogosphere, leave me a link to visit!  Or please, let me know your advice for getting great couples photos and what things to aim for.
This whole wedding planning thing is fun and exciting but very overwhelming!  We've still got almost a year till the wedding, but I want to do the engagement photos a good length of time before to get it out of the way, have the pics for our wedding info and send-outs, and take them in summer, my fave season here in beautiful Oregon!
So, what's your advice?


Simple shirred waist pajama short tutorial

It's been really hot here recently.  Duh; it's August, but we had a little heat wave that made me revisit my supply of cute pajama shorts for hot weather.  I only have one pair that really fits well, so I decided to make some more.  I had a design idea for a cute and easy detail that would make them more interesting, so I thought I'd share!
How to make your own shirred waist pajama shorts:

  • Cut out your shorts using a pattern or, as I did, tracing your favorite pair if you know how.  I recommend the help of a pencil or fabric marker.  Make sure to leave an extra 1-2" at the bottom for the hem and 1-2" at the top for the top finish (also a hem in this method).
  • Sew your center front and center back seams, right sides together.  Press seams open.
  • Sew your side seams, press open.
  • Sew the inseams.
  • Turn under your hem (1/4-1/2", then under another 1/2-3/4") on the legs and at the top.
  • Try them on at this point to make sure they fit--of course, the elastic at the waistband will keep them on when they're done!
  • OK, now for the fancy part.  When I developed this idea I thought how cute it would be to use shirred elastic at the top of the shorts instead of a regular elastic waistband in a casing!  Imagine, a shirred waistband with a ruffle hem at the top!  Of course, I didn't have any elastic thread.  Oh.  So, change of plans, and now I can offer this tutorial with two options for elastic at the top!  If you're going to shirr: there's a great video tutorial from Grosgrain just recently, and of course there are tons of other tutorials out there.  It will look like this: (at the top of your shorts instead of an elastic casing.  I would recommend about 5 rows of shirring).
  • So please, if you have elastic thread or don't but aren't as impatient to finish your shorts as I was, please try the shirred waist!  It will be cute!
  • If you don't have elastic thread, grab some approximately 2" wide elastic and cut a piece 2-4" smaller than your hip measurement (figure out where you want your shorts to hit when trying the on without the elastic).  Hold the elastic around you and see how tight you want it.  They're pajamas, after all!  Sew right sides together.
  • The seam will be your center back.  Fold in half to find your center front (mark with a pin) and again to find the sides.
  • Now you'll do the same thing with your shorts.  The side seams are probably NOT the actual center sides of the shorts, since the back piece is probably a few inches wider than the front.  If you match your side elastic pins to your side seams, you may end up with lots of gathers in the back and very few in the front.  So, using your center back and center front seams on your shorts as markers, find your middle side points and pin the elastic to all four points.
  • Sew along the waistband, stretching out the elastic as you go.

That's it!  Enjoy your new shorts!
So easy and summery!


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