My first ever, a totally new project - art-inspired crop top and easy conversion tutorial!

4.29.2014

Getting a little bold and crazy with this one! This tutorial (actually, there are two tutorials in this post!) is totally personalizable so if you've been slightly interested in the crop top trend but not sure how to try it, I can help!!

Yes, I said crop top. The term definitely still has a not-so-great connotation for me (80's workout tapes? Early Britney Spears?) but it's coming back with class and I'm always up for a challenge, so figured making my own was a great low-risk way to try! (An alternate name for this post: Crop tops: fun 2013/2014 trend, or: How to Confuse Your Husband with Your Sewing Project. I'll tell you why.)

This post includes a tutorial on 1) how to make your own crop top from almost any dress pattern, and 2) how to make a nice quality neck facing for said crop top. (Like my peplum top-from-any-dress-pattern post, they're easy and work for almost any pattern!) This project was super simple and took me about 45 minutes of sewing time, seriously!!, and not too long cutting time. Follow along for some great pics of the cutting process, and a look inside how a neck facing works!

Art-inspired looks


This project is inspired by a couple of things, really. I was flipping through my InStyle the other weekend and saw this piece, "You Can Do: Art-Inspired"--one fashion director's take on bold, watercolor and paint printed clothes and accessories for spring.

They even recommended Spoonflower for finding a super cool, unique pattern! Spoonflower is pretty dang cool. (See red circle below:)


Something about the rest of the ideas I'd seen while flipping through, or maybe something about the edgy, trendy, bold art-inspired clothes, gave me the idea for a crop top. I had some super cool watercolor-ey sateen fabric from Spoonflower (they sent it to me as an option for a project in my book) that I hadn't used yet, hadn't had a flash of inspiration for dress-wise, and I had been thinking about trying a crop top of a bright floral or something. But the two just clicked! Bright print + crop top!!

But which pattern to use? A tummy-baring top is daring enough, so I thought a simple line would be plenty dramatic. Crop tops have been around a lot this year and last--even the big pattern companies are starting to catch on (Simplicity 1371, see?), but I didn't want anything this complex.

Something simple, like this...
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Or this...
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Those are super simple, classic, fit-n-flare type crew-neck tailored pattern shapes, just like my favorite versatile dress patterns (Simplicity 1873, Simplicity 1913, and Simplicity 2444).

How to make a crop top from a dress pattern!


So here goes. A super simple tutorial for how to make a cute, fitted crop top out of a basic darted bodice dress pattern! (I used Simplicity 1873.)

Depending on the length you want your crop top, you may want to shorten the pattern piece a little. If you use a basic fit-n-flare darted bodice pattern, it probably has a natural waist, so if you cut it off at the bottom but give it a 1.5" hem instead of attaching a skirt with a 5/8" seam allowance, it will hit 7/8" above your waist. That's a pretty good place for it to stop, but if you want to go a little shorter, here's how.

Using the lengthen/shorten line as a guide, since it is straight across the bodice and will match on both front and back pieces...

Fold the pattern piece up 1/2" or 1", making the fold parallel to the lengthen/shorten line.

Do this on both the front and back bodice pieces.

Cut out the bodice as usual, otherwise, except: do not mark the darts at the waist. (You can make a top that pulls over the head if it has enough wearing ease, if you don't sew the waist darts and leave it with a boxy line at the bottom edge.)

Cut sleeves. (I used the sleeves from Simplicity 2444.)

So simple, right?! This top doesn't have to be lined or have a zipper, if you cut it a little on the looser side/size, or if you use a stretchy fabric. No-zipper projects are so fast!!

You will need:
  • 1 bodice front (up to 1" shorter than pattern)
  • 1 bodice back (up to 1" shorter than pattern)
  • 2 sleeves
And, as I'll show in part 2 of this tutorial...
  • 1 front neck facing (fabric)
  • 1 front neck facing (fusible interfacing)
  • 2 back neck facing (fabric)
  • 2 back neck facing (fusible interfacing)


And, how to make a neck facing:


The second tutorial for this top is how to make a neck facing for your simple cropped bodice, because you're not using a lining like your pattern may call for. Whenever I make my favorite dress patterns into dress bodices, I use a full lining for the bodice, and so I don't need a facing. But facings are great for unlined items like tailored or summery dresses, or this simple lightweight top!

To cut out your facing, use the bodice pattern pieces you've already cut as a pattern for the shape, laying the approximate size facing pieces on top. In this pic I'm cutting out the left and right back neck facing pieces.

Measure using a hem gauge and draft a piece approximately 2-3" wide from the neck edge of the main bodice piece.

Cut matching pieces of fusible interfacing, using your facing as a pattern.

Iron the fabric and interfacing pieces together.

Sew them right sides together at the side seams (and center back seam, if you're going zipper-less like I did). To attach to the bodice, sew right sides together around the neck edge.  

Snip the seam allowance, as you would with a lining and outer fabric at the neck edge, and understich as you would with a lining.

As you can see, I also pinked the edges of my facing, and sewed it through from the outside on the shoulder seams and center back seam to secure it. (Ideally you'd do this with invisible stitches by hand.)


Art-inspired, DIY crop top


And there you have it! The final result of the pattern modification tutorial and simple neck facing: an unlined, zipper-less, slightly boxy crop top!

Try it at home!!

WHY we love dressing up, pinning recipes, and decorating.

4.25.2014

I've been thinking about this topic this week, and I think I've found (or created my own) science behind it. Sometimes I wonder about the things I love to do and why. I've never been a super dedicated person to any specific hobby (until sewing and blogging, I guess)--I never got super into playing and instrument or training for the Olympics or doing any specific art. I've always been happy to dabble in most things, but really, when I think about what's most important to me and what makes me happiest, it's the most basic, everyday things that I care most about, and want to do my best at.

Why do hobbies (like clothing) matter?

I'm a very practical person about most things, and sometimes I wonder why I care so much about picking out my outfit in the morning, reading my favorite magazines and blogs, and shopping for fabric. On the surface these could seem a little frivolous, right? I don't need cute clothes and fun, pretty colors to sew on in order to be healthy and get work done and love my family (some of the most important things), so as a pragmatist, why do I think so much about them? (I'm sure fantastic articles have been written about the importance of self-expression through outward appearance, why dressing well does not always represent vanity, and how Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs relates to fashion and hobbies. But I don't need to get too deep into it right now, just bear with me.)

Most recently, I guess this post was inspired by a conversation I had with my mom last weekend about a new book she got about "dressing your type." She's mentioned it a couple times, actually, and is really excited that it helped her identify her "type" (a #2), based on her personality, features, build, favorite color family, and other traits. The idea of the book is you can free yourself from frustration picking out your clothes and low self-esteem about how you look by learning which clothes/looks work best on you. Accept who you are and play up your strengths.

So these are great principles, but I realized while I was talking to her that a) I'm not quite ready to learn about my "type" and I'm a little overwhelmed thinking about changing my relationship with my clothes even if for the better, and 2) at this point in my health and knowing-myself journey, I'm more interested in learning my metabolic type (great book--love it) than my clothing type! Clothing, in comparison to learning to make food for myself to support optimal health, seemed a little frivolous and like something I don't have time to think more about.

Clothing, food/health, and home

But then I realized... the two goals have a lot in common. Same with finding the perfect comforter cover and combination of pillows on the bed. They are all important to my happiness, sure. (I've always loved clothes--I was the little kid who would pick out 5 days of outfits and hang them in a special place in my closet; I've never had enough room to store my shoes; and in high school I spent lots of free time shopping or flipping through magazines. And, now I have a blog about how I make my own clothes based on what I see and love! Clothing is fun and expressive. ) And I love decorating my own space and creating a home with physical things and emotional significance. And, recovering from diet and lifestyle choices of my past, I'm finding a lot of power in the real food lifestyle we now practice. But what are the common cores of those interests, and why should I feel good about having them? (It sort of reminds me of the Pinterest paradox--so much of what's on Pinterest is fashion/shopping, food/diets, and home decor. The first two are sometimes contradictory (a cake pin next to a workout pin). Of course there are other themes on Pinterest, too (travel, kids' activities, pets...)... but the apparent conflict between desserts and fitness and fashion isn't necessarily a vain, pointless, wasteful human error. At least not for my reasons! Read on..)

I made a Venn diagram in my head (and in this post) and tried to see the cross-over. As you can see around the circle..

  • Dressing well and creating my home involve visuals and colors and trends... 
  • Dressing myself and nourishing myself have to do with my appearance and communication with others... 
  • Cooking and being comfortable in my home are both related to basic needs and taking care of myself and my family. 


But there's something bigger that all three have in common, I realized.

Everyday


These are all things that I do every day. I think that's a big reason why practical, logical me cares so much about doing my best at these things. It's not like dreaming about a vacation or even learning skills in a particular computer program - these are the things I face every day. (Also, I love my routine and I feel comfort in doing the same thing every day!)

Control/chance to do better


I do other things every day, too, like sleep and drive to work and all. But I don't have much control on variation of sleeping and driving; I either do them or I don't. 100%. Not much choice in doing them better, once I have a routine down that works well for me. But dressing cute, making nourishing food, and enjoying my space? I have almost infinite control over those things, and I'm up to the challenge to do them well. I want to continually improve and get closer and closer to mastery! (As we learned in The Happiness Project, for many people, "happiness" involves an atmosphere of growth!)

DIY


And for me, a creative and crafty person, the control I have over clothing, food, and home offers an opportunity to DIY. (That's right, I brought it back to the DIY message of this blog. Did you think I wouldn't?) With a chance to do things myself comes challenge, fun, creativity, and the potential for an even more perfect/personalized outcome. I don't have to just shop for clothes; I can make my own that fit me perfectly and are the exact combination of styles I want. I can find the perfect macronutrient balance in my diet for my body, and create meals that support me exactly. I can start from scratch and design the home I want! (As you can see on my about page, I like to DIY just about anything!)

-->Passions

So really, after I break it down, I feel pretty good about the things I love. The reasons I love the things I care so much about are also parts of my personality--I love clothes, food, and my home because I love routine, always improving, and being able to turn anything into a DIY. Things I'm passionate about (as passionate as I, a generalist, get) totally make sense!
Photo bNakalan McKay

You may be the same about some of these things, or you may have your own reasons for loving clothing, sewing, home decor, whatever interests we share that make you read this blog.

Have you ever wanted to justify your love for clothes, or all the time you spend on Pinterest? I'd love to hear what conclusions you've come to!

A (super simple) spring midi skirt, linen and lace

4.22.2014

I love living in a time when skirt lengths of almost all varieties can be fun and cute. There have been many times in recent history when maxi skirts were totally out, or when the only skirt length you could wear if you were under 35 was a mini-mini with tall boots, and then there were times when ankle-length skirts were classy and chic (ha! Remember Molly Ringwald's skirt in The Breakfast Club? Baffling to us now...)

I read once in a magazine, several years ago now, to a reader question about flattering skirt lengths, that the good news for all of us is that pretty much any skirt length is acceptable now. I'm not sure we can all use that in context, and there are definitely some skirt lengths I don't tend to wear, but it is nice to think about all the freedom we have out there when shopping for (and sewing!) skirts.

When I make dresses, I tend to go for just-above-the knee--a little shorter if it's a straight skirt, a little longer if it's fuller and fluffy. Or I do maxi lengths. But I've been enjoying pinning and thinking about longer-than-usual full/pleated skirts this spring, and so decided to make myself a midi skirt!

Some of my spring midi skirt inspiration...

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I love the light and bright colors, the fullness achieved through gathers or pleats, and the textures!

So here's my DIY version!


No pattern, just two rectangles of lace and two of lining, plus a waistband (which is interfaced), and an invisible zipper.

Very cool scalloped daisy lace c/o WholePort, and I used a lovely 100% linen for the lining/base layer, which is so much nicer to wear (and keep things modest) than a lightweight cotton or poly or nylon.

The border of the lace means I only had to hem the lining! Easy!

And then husband told me the cat was in the picture...

And then we just went with it.


It went together in about an hour, not including cutting time - which is always a little longer with lace because you have to stretch it a little and line it up carefully.

Ready for some spring outfits with this one! Ideas??

New bedroom decor: a real painting DIY!

4.17.2014

I've always loved bedroom decor, and picking out bedding, and headboards, and finding the perfect thing to hang above the bed! So it's not surprising that the other weekend, despite everything else going on, I pulled out my old easel and re-painted an old rectangular canvas I had painted (pretty much a solid color, not a big loss) in college and never used. I wanted some fresh new colors, and mixing the paint colors myself and turning it into whatever I wanted was the perfect outlet! So I painted. (As seen on IG!)

You may remember my bedroom pillow decor crisis from February--when I switched to the striped duvet cover and mixed up the pillows. And there was also that pillow decor crisis from July, when it's too hot for a comforter and we were using a grey blanket. As a lover of fabric and decorating with soft things, the bedspread is very important to me and always has been, and I'm still getting used to having something other than a white comforter on the bed--my favorite look for my room is when the bed looks like this (from our home tour)! But, I do like trying something new, hence the stripes, and hence the motivation to try something new above the bed as well!

I'm also trying for a little more color in the bedroom. It's been white and grey with a few little accents for so long, so it's hard to commit to a color. I think a painting is a safe start, because it's very easy to swap out if I start hating aqua sometime (ha!), although it has got me thinking maybe I could be really brave and buy some - gasp - not-white sheets sometime!! I do love buying sheets. Haven't done it in ages and currently have two white sets and one white/grey set. But maybe I could go with a very, very pale mint color.

But for starters, a re-do of a canvas I already had, with paints I already had plus an extra tube of white acrylic paint to mix with the little tubes of color. Never, never have enough white! Here's the finished work!

I also love surrounding myself with homemade projects rather than things I got off a shelf. So now our bedroom has the DIY headboard from my DIY headboard tufting tutorial, plus whichever DIY pillow covers we're using at the time. (Currently, these pink patterned pillows.)

Another baby step toward non-white sheets - I just swapped out these blue pillowcases to try it out. I now realize they look very silly with the baby-pink print pillows, but... oops. So don't pay too much attention to those. Still working out the sheets, I guess!

I'm happy to have some cheery, pale color on the walls! Color, in the world of neutrals that is our bedroom. It's a start!

For movie night - a grain-free version of a classic apple and pear crumble

4.14.2014

I'm so excited about this recipe I came up with the other weekend!

I love local, seasonal dishes--I know it's not apple and pear season, so if you want to complete the experience by shopping local or picking your own, uh... pin this for later, k? I normally get most excited about seasonal dishes (or clothes, decor, whatever) but the impetus for this recipe was my recent discovery of the cutest British cooking show, plus the Harry Potter movie re-watching we've been doing with my siblings-in-law over the past few months. (I'm a HP purist, so I only saw the movies once in the theater, hated them because they were so different from the book, and forgot them - and re-watching them has been a little hard, but I'm trying to enjoy them for the visuals only!)

But also, I just watched this Delicious Miss Dahl episode about what is apparently a classic British pudding -- pear and apple crumble. On one of the episodes about nostalgia (foods based on mood! I love it!). This show is so charming and I've been watching all of the videos on YouTube, and love Sophie's formal British voice but playful, carefree cooking style plus classic, quality ingredients. She's the cutest. So she made a simple pear and apple crumble (I think we'd call it a "crisp" here, as well) and I figured it'd be a perfect dessert for our upcoming Harry Potter movie night! (With some modifications to make a grain-free version!)

So anyway, inspired by this video and all the scenes of banquet tables full of hearty British food made by house-elves in Harry Potter books... I made this recipe!

Typically a crisp/crumble topping is made primarily with oatmeal, but if you're strictly gluten-free you may avoid oats because they are normally cross-contaminated with gluten-containing grains. And if you're like me and eat a Paleo diet, maybe you avoid all grains altogether. So instead, I recreated the crumble topping with a mix of nuts and seeds! Even more delicious, less soggy, and more nutrient-dense with lower carbohydrate load! Win-win-win.

Grain-Free Pear and Apple Crumble Recipe


Ingredients:


Fruit base:

  • 2 apples
  • 2 pears
  • 2-4 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 c. coconut milk
  • 1/4 c. coconut palm sugar or sweetener of choice

Crumble topping:

  • 1/4 c. sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 c. almonds (or try any nut - pecans? walnuts?)
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/4 c. coconut palm sugar or sweetener of choice
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 4 tbsp. butter (cold)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla (optional)

Optional: Coconut Whipped Cream:

  • 1 c. coconut cream (the thick top of the can of coconut milk, Aroy-D Coconut Cream, or the canned stuff from Trader Joe's)
  • 2-3 tsp. coconut palm sugar or sweetener of choice (honey would be great!)

Instructions:


For the fruit base:
  1. Thinly slice the apples and pears. We left our slices long but very thin.
  2. Heat the butter if it's cold; stir butter, coconut milk, and coconut palm sugar or sweetener of choice. Pour the mixture over the apples and pears; gently toss.
  3. Put fruit base into glass baking dish.

For the crumble topping:

  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a small food processor. Pulse until chunky.
  2. Add butter in small chunks, pulse quickly. 
  3. Add vanilla if using, pulse quickly.
  4. Dump/distribute onto fruit in baking dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until golden brown and apples are soft. Once finished, cut into servings and put into pretty dishes. =) (Makes 5-6 servings.)

Before serving, you can make this super easy, fast whipped coconut cream recipe to top it with! Or use organic cream from a grassfed cow if you tolerate dairy.


For the coconut whipped cream:
  1. Scoop off the thick top of the unshaken can of coconut milk, if using, into a mixing bowl. If using coconut cream, just put in bowl. Add sugar or sweetener of choice, like coconut palm sugar or maple syrup.
  2. Whip with an immersion blender or hand mixer until fluffy peaks form. Dolop onto servings of crumble. (Mine was too warm so it didn't cooperate for these photos! Store your can in the fridge before using to make sure it separates.)
Add cinnamon on top if you like! Yum!

Modification: Since I made this the other weekend, we've started another 21 Day Sugar Detox and are not eating any added sweeteners or more than 1 piece of not-very-sweet fruit per day. But this recipe could be easily modified for a 21DSD; use green apples only, and omit sweetener for all three components. I know from experience that a few days into the sugar detox, even the not-sweetened version of this would taste pretty sweet!!

It was seriously SO good. And so simple!

Here is the original recipe, made with oatmeal and flour and cane sugar. And you can watch the video of darling Sophie making it! Seriously, you'll fall in love with her accent and happy attitude.


Maxi dress season, greeted with black and white patterned knit

4.11.2014

It's my first maxi dress of the year - that must mean it's getting closer to summer!

Just finished this black and white patterned knit maxi dress, from a fave pattern from last summer (see also here and here) - Simplicity 1801, Cynthia Rowley. This funky modern-ey black and white print seemed like a good transitional fabric for a springy/early summery versatile dress!

This is one of several recent knit projects. This one was definitely the trickiest because the pattern isn't printed carefully on the grain of the fabric, and the grain isn't straight, either (neither was the selvage, aack)! But hey, dresses with no zippers are fast and simple and easy to wear, too.

(See my Sewing Circle post on how to sew on knits--and since then I've learned how helpful a walking foot is, too; it takes the strain/pull off the fabric as you sew.)

I love the gathers at the shoulders and above the midriff panel in the back as well as the front. Adds to the comfiness and is pretty!

Because I was a little short on fabric, I cut the skirt panels narrower than I was supposed to but it's still plenty full  for comfort, movement, walking... good to know if you ever make it and have a tough time fitting the pattern in!

P.S. I can't get my little remote to work with my new camera. Can you tell? #excusetheblur ;)

Anyone else embracing black/white for spring?!

Phew! Vintage wingback chair slipcover finally complete

4.08.2014

It's been a loooong time on this one.

I started this black slipcover for my vintage wingback chair more than a year ago. For a long time it sat with pins in it in a corner of the living room (sorry, husband!) but it was intimidating, and I never sat down and spent the time to finish. It was probably hard to start, too, but i hardly remember that because it was so long ago!!

I bought this vintage wingback chair for $5 at Goodwill Outlet in 2010. It had a cover on it, which was part of the selling point, because I figured I could cut it apart and use it as a pattern when I wanted to make a new one. The fabric wasn't great but was neutral, so I did wash it and put it back on for several years and used it as-is.

The fabric was a very cool 1940's pebble cloth tan floral print that someone had spray-painted blue on top of. Seriously, you can see blue paint at the tops of the legs and where someone stopped painting on the side of the chair. Obviously it was in pretty bad shape!, but we kept the slipcover on it.


Eventually, a year or so ago, I got up the energy to take apart the tan slipcover and use it as a pattern for a new one. It seemed custom made by a very skilled home sewer, really nicely done, and was relatively easy to copy. I had to pinch and pull the fabric here and there, but it was a good base.

It also took me a while to buy the fabric - home dec fabric is expensive and hard to pick out! I got this black nubby poly stuff on clearance at JoAnn. (See it draped in my first post about this chair here.) It's a great weight for this kind of sewing. I also got some thick piping cord, and a zipper for one side and for the cushion.

Here's an in-progress shot! It seriously sat like (with the cushion on it) this for months while I worked on other things. It really bummed me out. So glad I got to the next phase! Look...

I'm finally, finally done.



With the slipcover, that is. I think I'll probably want to refinish the legs at some point! And get that blue paint off. Probably just sand them and stain them, right? Yeah, that hadn't occurred to me until now since the cover was such a big project. Sanding is no biggie in comparison! ;)

I was nervous about choosing black in the beginning since I didn't want it to look like a big shadow or black hole in the living room, but I really like it now, in contrast to the white woodwork and shelving. And it's perfect with my bright wool blanket and DIY crux pillow!


I think it also helps to put it on the other side of the room/couch and fireplace. You can kind of see it in the slideshow photos of our Apartment Therapy home tour, but that's it in its pin stage. Ha!! The pins are out of focus. (Sshhhh...)

I'm so, so glad it's done. This is a serious victory, people.
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