Monday, February 16, 2015

Project Upcycle: T-Shirt to Handbag

When I saw this Paris Couture t-shirt in a second-hand store, all I could see in front of me was a uniquely awesome purse with a silver chain shoulder strap.

So after cutting out the main graphics of the knit shirt:

I used interfacing to sturdy it up, added lining from new material (and pockets in the lining of course):

Then after finding the perfect double-link silver chain:

The Paris Couture t-shirt suddenly has a new purpose in life as a fabulous handbag...

...And it is for sale in my Etsy shop

Project Upcycle: Maxi Skirt Tutorial

I am both excited and intimidated to start an upcycled clothing project! There are so many reasons to recycle clothing and accessories: spend less money, minimize manufacturing and consumption of new clothing and minimize environmental waste. Also, buying things second-hand at charitable thrift stores means the little money you do spend goes to good causes. Sometimes you can score discarded clothes brand-new with tags on it! And sometimes, used clothing and fabric needs a bit of tender loving care to be re-purposed first, hence Project Upcycle.

Because I'm a little intimidated to get started (it's still hard for me to walk through a thrift store or garage sale and look past "what is" and see "what could be"), I resigned myself to starting simple. Really simple. As in, going from dress to skirt simple. Even though it was a skirt I could have easily made from scratch, instead of measuring and cutting fabric or messing with a pattern, I only had to spend less than an hour turning a second-hand maxi dress I would never wear into a "new" maxi skirt which I LOVE...

I started with this Goodwill find: A knit maxi dress two sizes too big for me. Although it's a cute dress, it's not really my style, and the top had obvious signs of wear in the fabric that cannot be repaired. Luckily, the skirt section of the dress was still in great condition!

Signs of wear. The hole in the seam in the second photo could have been sewn back together, but that pilling on the fabric is irreparable:

Cut off the top part of the dress, just under the seam that connects the top and the skirt part (and ignore the changing colors of the dress in the photos):

Fold over about a 1/4 inch, then another 1 1/4 inch to form a casing for the elastic (told you this was going to be easy):

Sew around the bottom edge of the casing, leaving a 2 inch hole for inserting elastic:

"Measure" the elastic, then subtract approximately 1 1/2 inches before cutting:

Thread the elastic through. Quick tip: If I'm worried about the other end of the elastic getting into the casing before I get a chance to sew it together - which means I have to pull it all out and start over - I use a little binder clip to hold the end at the opening so it won't get in.

Sew the ends of the elastic together, then sew that 2 inch hole closed. Another quick tip: To keep my elastic from twisting when putting the skirt on and off, I like to sew 4 small vertical "anchor" seams equidistant around the casing. I sew them right through the elastic and both layers of fabric. It helps keep it smooth and all going the same direction, since I don't usually sew the elastic TO the fabric.

Then finish with this - a super cute maxi skirt that looks better on me than it does on the dress form!

I really should try to use more consistent lighting for my blog photos!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Travel Scavenger Hunt Game for Kids

I wrote this post while on Interstate 40 going across the Texas panhandle. Since I'm miles away from my sewing machine, I thought I'd do a little phone bogging to review - and by "review" I mean gush - about an awesome road trip game we play every time we hit the highway.

And if you know my family, we travel a lot.

Travel Scavenger Hunt Card Game for Kids has provided my family hours of entertainment during road trips. Not just the kids, either. We all get into it, looking intensely for really dirty cars and license plates with the letter "Y". And it doesn't take long to get over the awkwardness of peering directly into passing cars to check for a dog or a person wearing a hat, lol!

There is a competitive way to play the game,  but we just pick five cards and everyone looks together for the roadside objects, replacing each card with a new one as we find things, so we always have five at a time. Of course, every now and then we have a Mommy vs Daddy round where the 5 year-old gets to be the referee!

This can of course (of course!) become a DIY project by printing text/images onto card stock to create a customized deck of cards. But if you want ready-made, they are fairly inexpensive on Amazon, where different versions of the game are available.

Either way, playing a fun game with the family is a great way to avoid the car DVD player or, in our case, the iPad, for a while between car naps. And you know it's successful when you pull into a gas station and every person in the car points and excitedly cries out "TRASH CAN!"

Price on Amazon:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

DIY Family Activity with Kids - How to Make a No-Sew Christmas Tree Skirt

Ready to get crafty with the kiddos at Christmas time? Here is a fun and easy tutorial to create memories while making a felt Christmas tree skirt together (this can be transferred to stockings, Advent calendars, Christmas ornaments or other decorations).

Feeling excited and inspired, maybe a little hungry? Perfect - let's get started!

First you need a biiiiiig piece of felt, bigger than the little rectangles on the racks at the craft store. Bigger than the packaged "big piece" of felt next to the little felt racks at the craft store (unless you are making a small skirt for a small table-top tree, then the packaged felt might be just perfect). You'll have to get to a fabric store for this project. Big box fabric stores like JoAnn, Hobby Lobby, maybe even a good fabric section of Walmart have felt on the big bolts for 5 or 6 dollars per yard regular price (don't forget your coupon). It probably will come between 59 and 72 inches wide.

But before you go to the store, you need to crawl under the tree with a tape measure and figure out what you want your skirt radius to be (feel free to have a child do the crawling under part). Measure from the center of the tree bottom out to where you want the skirt to end. If you have a bulky tree stand, be sure to go over that because the skirt will, too. Double that measure to get your circle diameter, and have that much felt cut off the bolt - but you can't go bigger than the width. So if the felt is 72" wide on the bolt, that's your maximum skirt diameter. If it's 59" wide on the bolt, that's your maximum diameter.

For this tutorial I am making a tree skirt with a 35" radius, and the felt came 72" wide on the bolt, so I bought 2 yards (72") to have a square with 72-inch side lengths. Much of the time I find I lose a an inch or two in uneven cutting and/or ugly selvages when I bring fabric home from the store, so even though my felt was 72" x 72", I really could only use about 70" by 70" - just a tip.

First fold your big felt in half. Then fold in half again the other way. Now you have a square with side lengths about the size of the radius you want:

The corner with all folds is the center of your skirt. Remember this corner.

You can cut the quarter circle one of three ways:
(1) Grab a pair of scissors and free-hand it all the way. This option is not for the faint of heart.
(2) Find a circle the same size and use it as a guide. A round table is a good example, but my skirt is too big for my kitchen table so that option is out for me.
(3) Get an object or child to hold one end of the measuring tape on the center corner for you and mark your radius at intervals around the fabric, creating a little dot-guide for yourself. You're welcome, OCD readers!

Here's a picture of Santa sitting on the end of my tape for me:

Marking tip: Mark 1/8" past your desired radius so you can cut inside your markings and they won't be on your finished skirt. 'Cause that just ain't pretty.

About this photo: I realize it looks like a plain slab of felt. But if you look really close, you can see my dot guide going across the fabric.

Finally, you get to cut your quarter circle through all layers of fabric.

Again, you have to look very closely at this one to see my dot guide on the cut-off section. A perfect, non-marked circular edge is worth annoying the family for. It is.


Next, get the kids to find something circular to put over the center corner - you've got to cut out a hole so the tree fits in the middle. And yes, while I was in the kitchen getting a bowl, I also fixed myself a cookie snack.

Now you can unfold that baby. I know what you're thinking: "For the love of Christmas, I must iron out the creases immediately!" But don't do it just yet. Unless you can lift the tree into the center, you still need a way to get your skirt around the tree. So pick your favorite crease and use it as a guide to cut a straight line from the outside edge into the center hole.

My favorite crease. This beauty is my ticket to a perfectly straight line. Don't judge a crease by its cover. Or something.

Yeah, baby.

Finally it's time to get your steam iron on and press this thang. And yes, you will need steam to get those creases out. (I finished my cookies while waiting for the iron to heat up.)

So there is your tree skirt base. Now comes the best part - decorating. Remember all those enticing colors and patterns of felt rectangles on the little racks at the craft store? Knock yourself out. Cut out shapes to your hearts content. Small shapes, large shapes, shapes that are details for other shapes (e.g. green felt stripes on a white ornament shape). Be creative and let your kids go wild.

But how will they stick? Let's talk about glue.
For felt on felt, I find that Felt Glue works well (I know, who'd have thought it?). At Hobby Lobby next to the felt, they have sheets of fleece and also a kind of glitter fabric. The Felt Glue didn't work very well for adhering those onto felt. Fabric Glue worked, as well as hot glue gun. In fact, hot glue gun also works for felt on felt, but you might get little smudgy flat places where the glue is applied.

If you are wondering how you can find the cut-out felt shapes in my photos, a digital downloadable pdf pattern file is available for $2.99 in my Etsy shop here. All the shapes you see in both skirt themes are in that one file.

If you feel daunted by the felt search and acquire mission and/or don't feel like cutting things, two different tree skirt activity kits are also available in my shop. Each kit contains a pre-cut red felt 70" tree skirt, decorative trim, and 26 pre-cut pieces to arrange as you desire. Nothing is glued on (glue is not included in the kit). They are activity kits for you to do with your family. One is a Traditional Holiday theme and the other is a Christian Nativity theme (shown below).

Traditional Holiday theme pieces:

Christian Nativity theme pieces:

Merry Christmas and happy crafting!
Looking for more ideas? Check out 733blog's Inspire Me Wednesday page