A Grimm Fairy Tale Halloween party -- And our favorite costumes!

10.31.2013

Happy Halloween!!!!!

This sure is a fun holiday. I don't put much thought into it most years, but every time I go to a party I get so excited to see everyone's cool costumes and the creative creepy decor and the first festive foods of the year.

This year was particularly special--over the weekend we went to "A Grimm Halloween Dinner Party" hosted by my super pro party thrower friend Jenni of A Well Crafted Party. The theme: Grimm's Fairy Tales with a dark, modern twist. (There's also a great hashtag for the party!)

Last year, for the first time ever, really, I made an awesome Halloween costume for myself and an on-theme one (accessory) for the husband. We were Black Widow (ScarJo!) and Tony Stark from The Avengers movie. I put a lot of work into it, bough the right kind of fabric, spray painted all my accessories... it was fun but a lot of work to wear the thing for one night! And while the costumes were pretty cool last year, husband and I are both much healthier this year and we look more like the actual characters! (A little on our health story here.) So, we WORE THEM TWO YEARS IN A ROW. Is this sacrilege? I hope not. I really like my Black Widow costume!!

I did want to wear something fairy tale-ey, to be on-them with the Grimm night, but the dear hostess Jenni pointed out that The Avengers is sort of like a modern-day fairy tale! Aaaw, thanks, Jenni.

It was chilly but dry and clear, so we ate outside at these gorgeous candlelit tables. I love the string lights and candles to light everything!

Everything was so magical and pretty and spooky. Jenni sure can set a table!

And make Paleo slow cooker chicken drumsticks (our contribution) sound festive!!

Here we are in our costumes, looking even more badass than last year!
Photos by me and Bee

We'll make something new next year, I swear. ;) Maybe something a little more on-theme with the party of 2014! I wonder what theme it will be. You'd think, with my sewing background, I'd make myself costumes more often! I guess I just run low on inspiration sometimes.

Have you been to any great Halloween parties this year? Do you usually make a costume?

Tutorial: Invisible elbow patches to protect sweaters

10.28.2013

I present to you... a new super handy tutorial! So often I with lightweight sweaters I find the elbows get stretched out when I bend my arms in them, so I actually hesitate to wear some of my sweaters too much. When I wash them they normally bounce back, but you can't wash sweaters too often, either, and I don't wash the wool ones! I like to make my clothes last, so it occurred to me to add something like a patch on them, the way preppy professor-ey blazers and Irish fisherman's sweaters have leather patches on them--and while I like that look sometimes, I don't want them on all my sweaters!



So I recently developed and made official this technique to protect the elbows of delicate and lightweight sweaters with an invisible elbow patch. It's reinforced from the inside, so if you use a perfect thread color, nothing has to show! Dang lightweight sweaters...

Know what I mean? Look how soft and thin this thing is. I'm like, afraid to wear it too much!!

This weekend I had an extra few hours for crafting and computer time, and I settled in with these lightweight sweaters and made them safer to wear! ;)


Invisible Elbow Patch Tutorial


1. Try on the sweater and bend your elbow. Insert a pin at the center of the point of your elbow. Do this on both sides.

2. Take off the sweater carefully. Hopefully your pins will be mostly symmetrical. I split the difference on this one and moved both pins a little.

3. With some scrap paper, cut an oval the approximate size you want your elbow patches to be. I just eyeballed it, but if you're wondering, this one's about 4 3/8" by 3". You can see where I folded it in half twice to make sure it was symmetrical top-bottom and left-right!

Cut out two of the pattern piece out of fusible knit interfacing like this Pellon stuff I used (found some online here as well). Pellon Ek 130 Easy-Knit.

4. Carefully turn the sweater inside out, keeping the pins in place. Center the pin under the interfacing oval.

5. Press down the patch, on both sides. Again try to make them symmetrical (in relation to the side seams and to the cuffs--that is, horizontally and vertically).

6. (This part is super awkward.) With the sweater still inside out, wrestle with your sleeve so you get can sew through the interfacing around the edges of the entire oval.

I used a straight stitch, but you could do a little zigzag if you wanted. If you use a straight stitch, stretch the sweater a little as you sew--both the sweater and interfacing are knit so they have some give, but the straight stitch won't stretch with them and you risk ripping a stitch if you sew it too tight.

(Note: it's most important for your BOBBIN thread to match the sweater on this because you're sewing on the inside, and the bobbin thread will show on the outside!)

7. Turn right side out and give another press if you need to. Done!

Here they are!

I highly recommend doing this to your delicate sweaters some Saturday. Put on some good Netflix and settle in. It doesn't take much concentration once you get the hang of it, but if you're like me, you'll need a couple episodes of The Mindy Project to keep you company.

On DIYing, frugality, and myths about frugal people

10.25.2013

Aaaaages ago, my husband read some article about common myths about frugality. (This interested me because I've been a DIYer for a long time, and often the reasons for my DIY projects have involved saving money as well as wanting to make my own version of something. You may know what I mean!) He read it aloud to me and I was interested but not paying full attention, so I had him email me the link. That email has sat in my inbox since then (February 10!) and I keep thinking I ought to read it again and do something interesting with it. I think writing a blog post inspired by it is something cool enough! So here goes.

Image source: My friend's IG

Why I DIY


I'm a DIYer. You probably are, too, which is why you're reading this blog! Thank you! I love to DIY my home projects and wardrobe because...

  • DIY projects are empowering! The DIY trend is a growing movement, and it's no wonder. Learning to make, or remake, things by hand gives me the confidence--and self-sufficiency--to create whatever I need or want.
  • Saving money is nice, as is conserving resources, and reducing waste. Restyling my wardrobe lets me shop my closet instead of relegating ill-fitting or dated fashions to the trash bin. 
  • Style is all about self-expression. I can make own trends by adding a unique touch to what I wear and put in my home, and show off looks that I love.

On the frugality article


I've been money-conscious since before I had money. In high school I saved up my allowance and, rather than spending it on my lunches like was my parents' intention, I spent it on clothes and makeup and brought my lunches from home. I was always aware of my account balance, and rarely did I overdraw. I didn't open credit cards or spend beyond my means, through high school, college, grad school, and beyond. I always had a big savings account and was able to pay for most of grad school and then the down payment on our house.

So when I read the article, some of the points really resonated with me. Here are the big seven, and see what I mean--


These made a lot of sense to me. For a long time I would have said yes, I'm frugal by choice. I could have decided to spend more and save less, sure. I was happy buying less and deciding not to buy fun things I saw in stores or on Amazon. I didn't mind spending five times as long shopping for something at a discount, instead of paying full price the first place I saw it. But, I also didn't spend every hour of every day worrying about the cost of things, and have never filled my wallet with more coupons than it could hold. I also have been pretty happy with my ability to dress for the season and year, and am a very skilled thrift store shopper--meaning, I can do it fast, efficiently, effectively, and come out with better stuff than I would if I shopped at the mall. Also, all of this stuff came relatively easy for me.

But do I want to be frugal?


If I had read this article when I was a poor graduate student, I would have high-fived myself in the mirror. This all sounds great, right?! Even when I started this blog, I worked part-time at not-great jobs, and saving money and knowing how to shop at Goodwill and the bulk foods section was a serious pro to me.

But now, a few years later, we have a little more money to work with and I wonder about the time I put into shopping for a good deal. I've spent way too much time trying to buy shoes this fall. Partly it's because I don't want to pay full price at Nordstrom, but partly it's because the right thing just isn't out there.

Looking at this list of myths, my thoughts are 1) Frugality doesn't have to mean denying yourself things, and can be enjoyable. Go me! and 2) Frugality means putting a lot of thought into things. That sounds hard.

Time is money, they say. I think if I'm taking time away from more important things to shop at the farther-away, cheaper store, or continually looking for an even better deal, it'd be a shame. But then I think about the levels of frugality, and the larger benefits that may occur over my life if I continue some of this attitude. Not only will I save money, but I'll help the planet and maybe inspire others. Like the last part of the article says, "We can all help fight misconceptions about frugality since we're all examples of stereotypes that don't fit in some way or another. Maybe the larger social trend of moderation is here to stay. If so, let's help shed the thinking that has marginalized thrift and popularized excess."

Excess


Thinking about our culture's demand for more stuff really bums me out. Even with DIYs--do I really need all those homemade, crafty decorations? Really? It's just more plastic and fabric and glue to store, so I need a bigger house and more electricity and gas to heat it.

Have you seen The Story of Stuff? It's a little video that came out in 2007, way before widespread recycling and Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. I haven't watched the whole in years but if you have a moment, check it out. A good reminder that cheap stuff isn't always good.


What about you? What are your feelings on the balance between saving and relaxing? ;) Do you make goals for spending, saving, and DIYing?

How to Wear DIY: The black maxi dress, like I said I would

10.23.2013

Remember my challenge when I made this maxi dress? I've had a chance to work on my goal of wearing maxis for fall, since we've had roller coaster fall weather with pouring rain and wind and then gorgeous sun and 79 degrees in the car in the sun. But, this past week has been great, and we have another several days of no rain forecast.

But it does get cold a night, and I would look a little nuts walking around in a glorified tank dress, so I did get a chance to winter-ize (fall-ize) the black maxi dress. Behold...


Plus, black + beige or brown = perfect fall look if you're not good at wearing the earth tones.
Jacket and Scarf: Ross. Booties: F21.
Maxi dress: DIY!, here.

Bring on the sunny fall weather!

What do you say to black and beige and maxi's??!

Lace dress remake: shimmery silver two-fer

10.22.2013

New dress! Well, mostly new--a makeover. So a while ago I made this dress out of this pretty ivory lace and ivory lining, but I cut the circle skirt a little short and I wanted something a little different.

I had quite a few yards of this shimmery silvery sort of stiff sheer fabric, got it for free at a fabric swap a while ago, and I didn't really know what to do with it. It's seriously a weird weight and drape, not good for a bodice, but not as slinky and drapey as the sheer skirt I was imagining... as you can see, I did two layers of it for a simple pleated skirt with the basic Simplicity 1873 bodice.

I actually reeeeeeally tried to do a gathered skirt with it, ran two rows of gathering stitches and everything, but the fabric has so much body and was so wide (more than 60" wide, and I used two panels), it just wouldn't work!! So I gave up and knife-pleated it. It's amazing how much fabric you can fit into a by pleating.


It has some pretty fullness in the back, too.

A happy makeover! I think it'll be great for a winter party--I know the little black dress is a classic, but I like to wear brighter, fresher colors sometimes, so I don't get tired of the practical darks for the colder weather!

So Martha Stewart doesn't like bloggers--does that mean me?

10.18.2013

Back in the day I used to really respect Martha Stewart. Before blogs, before TheKnot, even before Domino was around the first time, I used to really get inspired looking through my mom's Martha Stewart Living magazine. She created a successful brand and spread her message, knowledge, and class around the world, and I totally respect that.

But, it's been a few years since I've spent much time looking at her recipes or projects, since most of them are similar to what I see in the blog world, anyway. Of course I wasn't too impressed with the whole insider trading thing, and I read an interview with her in the magazine on a flight recently where she talked about the 5 cell phones she caries with her at all times--I was a little turned off.

But, I keep an open mind and don't have a strong opinion one way or the other. So I was more puzzled than anything to hear about Martha's anti-blogger comments this week.

Martha bashes bloggers


If you've spent much time on Twitter or some of your favorite blogs this week, you may be aware that on Tuesday Martha spoke out against "bloggers" in a Bloomberg News video. When asked if she feels social media is in "poor taste"...

Here's the quote.

"I do have a minor gripe about that, too, because who are these bloggers? They're not trained editors and writers at Vogue magazine. I mean, there are bloggers writing recipes that aren't tested, that aren't necessarily very good or are copies of everything that really good editors have created and done. Bloggers create kind of a popularity. But they are not the experts and we have to understand that."


Bloggers bite back


Luckily, there've been a bunch of great responses out there--very well-said, blogging community. You really can write!
  • This LA Times piece said, what about the bloggers who seriously are experts in cooking, fashion, lifestyle...? Classically trained chefs and designers blog too, you know...
  • This piece on BlogHer points out that um, bloggers ARE experts in many things, blogging included. We are all accountable to each other and our readers and we won't succeed if we're not good at what we do and write about. Also, Martha, you really should have said to bloggers, "THANK YOU for appreciating me all these years and sharing my content!"
  • This piece on Babble says that, yep, Martha's audience has turned to blogs, the "non-experts" instead of her magazine for our ideas and instructions, but that makes bloggers the experts in what readers want to know, from an everyday person perspective--polls show that women trust bloggers the most for information.
And it gets me thinking--I understand that "bloggers" are not necessarily "experts" in what we write about, Martha. But your comments sound an awful lot like something you would say if you were threatened by the influence of a wave of young, do-it-ourselves, saavy and inspired group of people doing the 2013 version of what you did many years ago. Yes, we have it a lot easier in some ways--we can publish our material in our pajamas no matter how good it is--but it's no cakewalk for us, either. You paved the way, and we dream of someday being as influential as you with our own messages.

I think I know what's really going on here. You've put in the work and you resent that we young, "untrained," middle-class folk can sit at home and create something for ourselves, while you've worked all these years to create your empire and now your magazine sales are slumping (big downturn from 2007 to 2012) because none of us need your magazines for Halloween costume or wedding dress inspiration anymore. I understand that it's frustrating, and I see why you might be jealous. But please get back to working with us, not against us, and don't trash talk us and make yourself sound ignorant--and it wasn't even really on-topic!!

So is Martha's critical mistake that she discounts bloggers as non-experts, or that readers want to hear from non-experts??

Martha likes bloggers?


She has worked with bloggers before. So this whole thing is super confusing, because Martha seems to like bloggers on the outside; she has Martha's Circle of influencers; she spoke at the BlogHer conference in 2012, she hosted Alt Summit 2013, her project American Made supports Esty shop owners... (Design Mom wrote this piece about how she's seen Martha's admiration for bloggers in the past.) So who I want to know from her, too--who are the bloggers she's talking about??!?!?

And she has since apologized on Twitter, which is pretty much as public an apology as you can get these days if you're Martha Stewart and have 2.9 million Twitter followers.

Yes, who are these bloggers?



If what she cares about is the amount of expertise bloggers have, who all is she talking about?

Does she mean she a cooking blog who knocks off her pâte sablée recipe and calls it their own? Because I understand being frustrated about that, too--when someone copies my tutorial or doesn't credit me for a photo, I get a little miffed. Yes, blogging is a new kind of media and there are a lot of kinks to work out. But her quote makes it sound like she's saying, any blogger anywhere (in food, fashion, or lifestyle) is not to be trusted and does not have good taste.

But does she dislike me because I didn't go to school for fashion design, and yet I publish photo tutorials? And I try recipes and tweak them and share them, along with my editorial comments? And I wear clothes I've made and post photos of my outfits?

Honestly, that sounds like what a blog is supposed to do. Not a professionally published magazine or book or TV show--bloggers share real-life content that is relatable for readers in a way that wasn't possible 30 years ago. Back then a non-celebrity getting a moment in the spotlight to share a project was even more special, but we still haven't lost our desire for girl-next-door stories and real-time content.

A blog is not a book


I'll still refer to Martha or Julia or Anthony Bourdain if I want a classic Boeuf Bourguignon recipe, and I'll still buy a book about upholstery or carpentry or something very detailed and hard, but I look to my friends and community of peers in the blog world for pretty much everything else. I love getting inspiration from the push-button publishers of the world, because they're not classically trained experts but they're people like me.

Sorry, Martha. I don't expect to be buying your magazine soon. I respect you for what you've created, but I also respect individuals who put their content out there on their own and who don't have 600 employees carrying out their vision. Those bloggers sound a lot more like me when I try to make a nice dish for a party, and I probably could learn a lot from "experts" and bloggers alike.

So what do you think? Why do you read blogs? Do you think bloggers ARE experts, or is our amateurism what makes us interesting? And, in general, are you pro- or anti-Martha?!

How to Wear DIY: Off-white lace polka dots for fall

10.16.2013

Today's outfit ("How to Wear DIY") post brings back a pretty dress I made aaaaages ago and wore in some of my first real bloggy headshots. Remember this ivory polka dot stretch lace number?


It was fun to make because of the polka dots, and I also used a super nice interlock knit for the lining! (If you're worried about how to sew on lace, check out my Sewing Circle post on the topic featuring the insides of this dress!)

Anyway, I brought it out of the closet to wear to a party over the weekend, and made it look a little more 2013, less 2011. ;)

 I love this bag. Recent Goodwill score. The color is perfect!! And I love the gold details!

First time I've worn this little wool jacket since last winter, too!
Purse: Goodwill (similar). Shoes: Steve Madden from Goodwill (similar/similar/similar)
Jacket: F2. Dress: DIY!, here.

It may be the last time I can wear bare legs out in the evening for a while. Dressing up for fall and winter is so hard!!! Are there any good alternatives to skinny jeans and heels and a not-quite-warm-enough top??!

How to make jeans a little longer - with a hem facing!

10.14.2013

Let's roll back to 2010. I did this tutorial on how to make your jeans a little longer.

Well, I just something similar (but even cooler) to these flared, slightly high-waisted Gap Outlet jeans that I got at Grocery Outlet. Ha!! Grocery Outlet is a chain of locally owned discount stores that normally have a sort of sketchy selection of produce but are known for their high quality wines at good prices and are a great place to find organic and health food store-type snack foods (like a whole box of Lara Bars for $10!). And Kiss My Face hand soap and castille soap! They also occasionally have clothes from Old Navy, Target, Kmart, whatever. Rumor has it that my friend's friend once got a pair of Jack Purcels there for $5 back in high school. The stuff of legend!! But I can believe it happened. Amazing.

So they had a whole huge rack of these Gap Outlet flares there last time I was there (circa Summer 2012, as the label inside says) and I bought a pair (without trying them on, of course--no changing rooms at a grocery store). Luckily they fit great except the length. Too short to wear with heels, which is kind of the point of wearing big flares! They didn't have my size in a longer length.

But they're cute, and unlike anything else I have, and husband loved them. So I thought I'd give them a hem facing, using the extra fabric in the (deep) hem. Remember that old tutorial for lengthening jeans? This one's even cooler since it leaves you with some nice extra weight to keep the jeans laying flat and behaving like the strong hem of store-bought hemmed jeans.

Let's do this!!

How to Make Jeans Longer - With a Hem Facing!


1./2. Unpick the original hem stitching and press the leg openings flat.

3. With a fabric of a similar weight to the jeans, cut a hem facing piece with a 1/2" seam allowance on all sides and above the original seam line at the top.
(Lay the jeans leg flat, and while the front panel is probably narrower than the back, you can cut both your hem facing pieces the same width--the side seams won't match up exactly, but that's okay.)

Cut 4.

4.Sew the sets right sides together.

5. Press side seams open. (Cutting the notch at the center will help you line the hem facing with the jeans, since your side seams won't match up if the front and back pieces are different widths.)

6. Pin right sides together (anchor at center front and back notches, and sides). Turn jeans inside out so you can see the original fold line of the turn-under of the original hem. Sew along that line (in between the perforations of the back side of the original hem seam).

 7. Press the seam toward the hem facing, then fold the hem facing back on the jeans, putting the seam along the edge. Press under the top edge of the hem facing 1/2" and pin. (I know it would be easier to do this pressing before you sew it down and fold it back on itself, but I just wanted to make sure it lined up with the original hem seam line on the outside--you'll see in the next step.)

8. Again from the right side so you can see the original seam line, sew through the original seam indentation, capturing the 1/2" turn-under of the hem facing. (You can just barely see a couple of my pins still in place, from the photo above.)


Give it an extra press and you're good to go!


I made these more than an inch longer!

Give it a try!!

Weekend Inspiration: Full-on fall, and pumpkin time! Plus favorite painted pumpkins

10.11.2013

I can't deny it any more. Summer is over and it's truly fall now, and time to get into the spirit! So for this Weekend Inspiration...

Let's talk pumpkins. Alternatives to pumpkin carving, since there are so many fun ideas out there, plus the pros and cons of getting creative with your pumpkins. Since despite all these great ideas (my 9 faves below), I'm still on the fence about the idea. (Terrible pun not intended. Pumpkins on fence. Ha.)

My 9 favorite painted pumpkin ideas!


Now, I've thought a lot about the non-carved pumpkin for Halloween, and obvs there are a lot of cute ideas out there, but I'm honestly not sure I'd ever do it!! I've been thinking about the pros and cons...

Painted Pumpkins Pros:


  • They're cute! They can go with your trendy home decor more than a traditional jack-o-lantern
  • They're new and different, which I'm always into!
  • They're probably different than your neighbors' pumpkins
  • If you do chalkboard ones, or if you keep your paint cans out, you can change the message/pattern on them all you want
  • You could repaint them and reuse them for Thanksgiving decor, if they don't go bad!
  • Decorating them is slightly less messy than carving, but not necessarily less fun!

There are some cons, too.

Painted Pumpkin Cons:


  • You can't make roasted pumpkin seeds when you're done
  • You probably have to wash the pumpkin really well, right??
  • Your husband might be really confused and bummed he doesn't get to carve pumpkins this year (this is a real risk for my tradition-loving hubby)!
  • They don't light up! Unless you could get really creative with some Christmas lights or something? But that sounds messy.

Clearly, I'm undecided. I am getting in the holiday mood, though, and ready to get some pumpkins to decorate at least our porch. So how about you weight in. What are your fave pumpkin decorating ideas? Will you always be a carving traditionalist? Have you put as much thought into this as me? ;)

But one thing's for sure for this weekend...BRING ON THE PUMPKIN PATCHES!
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