do you wanna build an elsa costume?

I know, I know. I talk pretty much ALL. THE. TIME. about how the movie Frozen left some things to be desired. I just really love Disney villains, and there isn’t one in this movie. Elsa’s not a villain–she has powers and she’s misunderstood, but a villain she is not. That one guy who wants to marry Anna? I guess he’s the villain. But he’s not some menacing Scar-like figure, or even a lovable jerk like Gaston. He doesn’t have a villain song! But, I digress. The point of this post is to talk about my upcoming FROZEN PARTY at the library, and as always, I am getting super into it!

Picture this: your library’s children’s room transformed into Arendelle, with purple, gold, and green banners hanging all around. Then, you are ushered to the meeting room, which has been turned into Elsa’s ice palace! Icicle lights, snowflake wands, troll bowling, Olaf snowball toss, and then…A GIANT SING-ALONG. Guys, I am beside myself with excitement about this party! And just like with the Star Wars party of yesteryear, I need a sweet costume to really get in the zone.

 

Leia on Hoth!

Leia on Hoth (2012)! And Pete the Jedi!

Have I mentioned that I love costumes? I’ll take pretty much any opportunity to dress up. Obviously, this Frozen party is no exception.

After scouring the planet for a turquoise or teal or basically blue/green formal dress and not finding any in my size, I was pretty much ready to give up. I figured I’d just get one at the local Savers that was two sizes too small and try some alterations. I mean, it was only a $15 dress. I was hemming and hawing about it when my mom came to the rescue.

“Don’t you have that dress you wore to like, three dances?”

I drew a blank. A dress I wore to three dances? I couldn’t at all remember.

“You know,” she continued, “the one you wore with sneakers. It’s in the attic in a box that’s for dress-up clothes.”

Ah! Yes! Of course I remember that silver gem. I wore it with sneakers to junior prom. Other notable memories of junior prom? I choked on a meatball at dinner, and I believe that’s where “DJ Mullet” made his first appearance. I seem to remember comically large sunglasses, as well. Anyway, yes! The dress was there, in the attic, and it wasn’t teal but it was free, and that made it good enough.

Other cheap finds for this costume:

-Free tulle from work! It’s old and white and ratty, but since “free” trumps pretty much everything else in my costume-making adventures, I figured it’d be fine as long as there weren’t big gross holes.

-$4 sparkly blue tulle on a roll

-$4 sparkly snowflake buttons that will go in my braid

-Glue that I had on hand

-Thread that I had on hand

So, aside from the hours and hours it took me to make the cape/train, it’s really just an $8 costume!

I planned to also make a mesh shirt with long sleeves to go under the dress, but after all that work on the train, I just can’t be bothered. Kids will get the idea! I also went back and forth over whether or not to paint or dye the dress. It’s mostly polyester, so I guess typical dye (like Rit) is a terrible idea according to many blogs I ended up reading on the subject. Paint would have worked great but would have taken forever and it probably would have looked ugly. The dress remains an icy silver.

Here’s a million pics of the process:

The dress and the very long length of tulle before any alterations. I just kind of put the tulle on top to see how long/wide it really was.

The dress and the very long length of tulle before any alterations. I just kind of put the tulle on top to see how long/wide it really was. Answer: longer than I thought, which ended up being great. I had enough to cut two side pieces in addition to the middle part of the train.

As I said, I had enough tulle to kind of fill out the train and add some pieces to the side for a rounder effect.

As I said, I had enough tulle to kind of fill out the train and add some pieces to the side for a rounder effect. I just eyeballed this. What did I have to lose? The stuff was free!

I made this discovery after I'd cut the sides. I told you it was ratty! Luckily I had enough that I could cut a new one.

I made this discovery after I’d cut the sides. I told you it was ratty! Luckily I had enough that I could cut a new one.

I sewed the two sides on (it wasn't as hard to sew tulle as I'd thought!) and then gathered the top. I attached that to a piece of Velcro, and put the other side of the Velcro on the dress. Presto, changeo: the dress now has this magnificent train/cape thing.

I sewed the two sides on (it wasn’t as hard to sew tulle as I’d thought!) and then gathered the top. I attached that to a piece of Velcro, and put the other side of the Velcro on the dress. Presto, changeo: the dress now has this magnificent train/cape thing. I was worried after this, though, because it’s so WHITE. I feared it was a bit too bridal.

Enter: elements of blue! I figured if I added a bunch of blue in different places it would trick the eye into seeing the dress as more blue than white or gray. This is when inspiration struck after about two hours of staring at the blue tulle and going, "WHAT THE HELL DO I DO NOW?" Make a giant snowflake, of course!

Enter: elements of blue! I figured if I added a bunch of blue in different places it would trick the eye into seeing the dress as more blue than white or gray. This is after about two hours of staring at the blue tulle and mumbling, “WHAT THE HELL DO I DO NOW?” It took me a while to make the jump from imagining Elsa’s dress as teal to imagining my dress as an interpretation of that dress; one that’s within the same  color family but not an exact replica. I decided to make a giant blue snowflake. It made me happy.

This also made me happy.

This also made me happy. Starting the giant snowflake!

Giant snowflake complete and attached with glue. Kind of crusty and ugly, but hopefully from far away nobody will notice.

Giant snowflake complete and attached with glue. Kind of crusty and ugly, but hopefully from far away nobody will notice the glue crust.

This part actually took the longest: sewing six little snowflakes onto the tulle. I didn't like the look of the glue, so sewing seemed a good option. I tied each on in three places. It was painstaking and horrible.

This part actually took the longest: sewing six little snowflakes onto the tulle. I didn’t like the look of the glue, so sewing seemed a good option. I tied each on at three points. It was painstaking and horrible. But look! I also added blue to the top to hide the Velcro.

 

Still hand sewing. Ugh.

Still hand sewing. Ugh. This is probably right before I pricked my finger for the 15th time.

Finished! I think having sleeves would really help the situation out, but as-is, I think it's passable. Don't mind my really messy kitchen. Oh! And I will FOR SURE have a blonde wig.

Finished! I think having sleeves would really help the situation out, but as-is, I think it’s passable. Don’t mind my really messy kitchen. Oh! And I will FOR SURE have a blonde wig. I frolicked around the house like this for at least twenty minutes. I LOVE DRESSING UP. I also love trains.

Look out for an update after the Frozen party next Wednesday!

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new stuff: serger edition

Is there anything more fun than a new power tool? This magnificent machine gets ish done.

Truth be told, I was hesitant about it at first. I already have a sewing machine that I love, and it has a serging stitch, so what more could I need? I’ve been able to finish most of my projects pretty nicely.

What I didn’t realize until yesterday, when I finally pulled the Singer ProFinish serger out of the box, was that my 2-4 step “finishing” process (sew garment, trim seam allowances, go back and sew over the allowance with a serging stitch, then clean up any stray threads) that got me a nice, homemade-looking product was a major part of why I have trouble actually finishing projects. It takes a long time to do the final steps that make a project look good, and I don’t always have the patience.

Sergin' it.

Example of sergin’ it with my sewing machine. This is a Christmas stocking. I had already sewn this once, and had to go back and finish it up, thereby sewing it a second time.

Not anymore!

This puppy does it all in one fell swoop, and it does it with a more professional look. I’m sure this is old news to anyone who has a serger, but good grief, this is going to change my crafting life FOREVER.

What a beauty!

What a beauty! Note the differences between this and a traditional sewing machine: two needles instead of one, and four spools instead of a single spool and a bobbin.

The learning curve is a little more steep than a regular sewing machine (it took me about a half hour just to thread the thing), but once I was finished with that, I quickly realized how magnificent it is. This is one Christmas gift I will be taking excellent care of so I can have it for a very long time. Thanks, Mum and Dad!

Threading this sucker took some doin'!

Threading this sucker took some doin’!

The results! I still need to play around with tension, as the loops are a bit loose, but that's all with practice. I can think of a million projects that will be easier and more polished all in one go. Hooray!

The results! I still need to play around with tension, as the loops are a bit loose, but that’s all with practice. I can think of a million projects that will be easier and more polished all in one go. Hooray!

Do you have a serger? Any tips or tricks I should know? I can’t wait to give it a real spin this Friday night with my cousin Bethany!

christmas card stringy thing

The finished product. Not great if you've got a kid that walks and grabs.

The finished product. Not great if you’ve got a kid that walks and grabs.

Pete’s started calling it a “card tree” but I don’t think it’s really an accurate description of this thing I just created out of necessity. When we lived in our old apartment, a lovely third-floor number in an old three-family that had been redone and was quite quaint, we had tall wainscoting in the kitchen that was a great spot to tape up our Christmas cards. They just kind of got taped around the room and became instant decorations that were fun to look at.

Last year we were in our new-to-us house for the first time and we didn’t know what to do with those cards anymore. We tried taping them to the edge of the staircase but they just kept falling down. When people sat down on the bench that’s in front of the stairs, the cards would fall on their heads. It was a hassle.

This year, I decided that I had to create some kind of card solution because I just love displaying them! Cute little kids and adorable pets and pretty illustrations and sentiments…cards are the best. Mail is the best. Luckily, the bare basement door is the perfect place for display where everyone will get to see them (the door is in a high-traffic open area). So, I found the perfect spot, but…for what? I roamed around A.C. Moore for about a half hour before the gears started turning. I like teeny tiny clothespins, so I wanted to use them. So how about just a string with the cards hanging on them? But that seemed too easy (although it would probably be prettier…a garland of cards! Maybe next year…). I opted instead for a vertical display: strings hanging freely from a dowel, dripping with holiday cheer. Yay! It was crazy easy. I also got to use the glue gun, a task I truly enjoy.

Materials! Some wood, some ribbon, some twine, and some glue. And don't forget the tiny clothespins! Now that I'm thinking about it, a nice thick twig with twine would work well, too.

Materials! Some wood, some ribbon, some twine, and some glue. And don’t forget the tiny clothespins! Now that I’m thinking about it, a nice thick twig with twine would work well, too.

Glue the ribbon to the wood. Cover that sucker. Don't worry about it being messy on the back.

Glue the ribbon to the wood. Cover that sucker. Don’t worry about it being messy on the back.

Tie the twine however you like. Knots, bows, beads...who knows? I encourage creativity! I'm a fan of bows, myself. I added a dab of hot glue to tack it down.

Tie the twine however you like. Knots, bows, beads…who knows? I encourage creativity! I’m a fan of bows, myself. I added a dab of hot glue to tack it down.

Tiny clothespins!

Tiny clothespins!

My helper elf.

My helper elf.

And that’s it! How do you display your holiday cards?

no-sew tee-shirt craft. also, we had a baby.

I apologize for my extended absence, but I’ve been busy. Things have been a lot different with a newborn around. Changing diapers, pumping breastmilk, snuggling my baby…you know how it is with these things. I would rather have stared at my sleeping cherub’s face than craft. But things are changing. I miss doing the things that make me “me,” so I’m working on striking a balance.

I knew that I wanted to be a little creative today, but I didn’t want to make a big mess. I also had zero desire to lug the sewing machine out of its cobwebby hiding place. Did I mention I hate all my clothes these days? Enter today’s project: a no-sew tee-shirt refashioning (I hate the term “hack,” though I’m not sure why). I found the pattern here: http://wobisobi.blogspot.com/2012/07/no-sew-halter-3-diy.html.

Actually, the WobiSobi blog has tons of awesome tee ideas. Some are more complicated than others. You should definitely check it out.

Start with a tee. I wish I used one that was a bit bigger, as a little flow would have been nice.

Start with a tee. I wish I used one that was a bit bigger, as a little flow would have been nice.

Make cuts as recommended.  The instructions were very easy to follow.

Make cuts as recommended. The instructions were very easy to follow.

Final step before putting it on!

Final step before putting it on!

Finished! I was done in about 10 minutes, start to finish.

Final product! I was done in about 10 minutes, start to finish.

Things that would make this better: if I’d used a larger shirt, if I didn’t need a bra, and if I’d used chalk to plan my cuts (I just eyeballed it). It was a fun, free (I already had the shirt), and quick project. I’d recommend doing something similar if you’ve got a big ol’ tee-shirt somewhere that’s dying to be worn again.

Oh, and because she’s just so sweet:

My two loves!

My two loves!

I’d love to see other tee-shirt change-ups that you’ve done!

finished curtains and a recipe challenge!

First, remember that kitchen curtain post? I finally got my act together and sewed ’em up today! I found out this morning that the library would be closed for the day (snooowwww!), so I figured there was no better time to finish a project that had been hanging over my head.

I think it does add that certain something I was looking for.

I think it does add that certain something I was looking for. I’m going to go ahead and call this a success. For some reason I couldn’t get the editing to be what I wanted it to be in this picture. I can assure you that the curtains are much brighter than they appear here.

In other news, I’ve embarked on my very first BLOG CHALLENGE!

Not long ago, I was cutting a mango and just happened to look across the counter. I noticed all my cookbooks, and suddenly saw them with new eyes: there were some books there that I’d never even opened! And that’s when the challenge started to take shape…

So, here’s the plan: every week, I’ll post one new recipe that I’ve tried to make from a cookbook that I’ve either never used, or have used very little. I have a lot of cookbooks that don’t get much use, so I think this challenge will be going on for a while. Additionally, I’ve invited a few friends to join me in the challenge! I look forward to seeing what everyone makes–we’re all so different, but food has that unique quality of unification, I think.

Don’t forget to follow this blog to keep up to date with how the challenge is going, not to mention get a few new recipe ideas for your own kitchen. If you’re interested in participating leave a comment below.

My plan for this evening is to use a cookbook I bought at Baldface Books in Dover, NH about five or six years ago. It’s Gourmet’s Menu Cookbook, from 1978. I was mostly intrigued because it has some gross-sounding foods (like calves brains fritters), and I figured it would be a fun conversation piece more than anything else. Because it’s a menu cookbook, it includes sample menus for different types of gatherings along with recipes for all the items. I was not only weirded out by some of the recipes a few years ago, but severely intimidated by them; they seemed really, really difficult.

We bought a couple of leeks the other day because for the first time in weeks they actually looked pretty good, but I didn’t know what I’d do with them. This morning I decided to crack this puppy open and see what it told me about leeks. I’m happy to report that I found a very tasty-sounding recipe, and we’ll be trying it out tonight!

A cookbook I've never once made a recipe from.

A cookbook I’ve never once made a recipe from.

IMG_1703

From page 441 of Gourmet’s Menu Cookbook.

I’m going to give it a whirl, and it doesn’t sound too hard. Of course, we’re only making two leeks instead of 12, so it’ll require some adjustment. Still, I have high hopes for this gourmet meal! Wish me luck. 🙂

one day lad, all this will be yours…

What to do about kitchen curtains?

I haven’t been able to find a decent set for a reasonable price anywhere. The styles aren’t right, the prices aren’t right, the colors aren’t right…it’s been obnoxious. But, now that we’ve fixed up the sink area with a new IKEA pendant light, we really need to do something about all this white.

Lots of white, with a hint of hold lady butter-yellow.

Lots of white, with a hint of old lady butter-yellow.

The cabinets are white, the wood trim is white, the mixer is white, the paper towels are white…it’s too stark for my sensibilities. And white only looks clean when it’s, well, clean…so it’s a lot to live up to (pay no attention to the sink, although I promise that those are clean dishes).

Readers, what I need is some color up in here.

Enter: my brilliant idea!

When the going get’s tough, the tough get going. In my world that means: if you can’t find the curtains you want, make them instead! Yesterday on a whim I decided to pop into Pier 1 to see if they had any fun cloth napkins; I wasn’t disappointed.

The yellow is in there, along with a host of other fun colors like orange and green.

The yellow is in there, along with a host of other fun colors like orange and green.

I bought three napkins in the striped pattern above, and three more in a lighter-colored floral motif. I wasn’t sure which I would like better, but since I’m trying to keep the space from feeling too frilly I think the stripes are the way to go. Pete likes the stripes better, too, because they’re more colorful and fun. Right now the plan is to hang them so the stripes are horizontal–this will require some more cutting and sewing than I had originally anticipated, but I think when all is said and done the project will be an “easy” on the difficulty scale.

Not only do I think it’ll be easy and fun, it was fairly inexpensive. Each napkin was $3.95, and I think I may only need to use two for this project. That takes the grand total to just around $8. Considering that a set of kitchen curtains usually retails for over $15, I’m feeling pretty frugal.

Have you gotten crafty in repurposing fabrics? Please share!

 

 

a project of its own

In very late May of 2013, we moved to a new house. That is to say, we bought our first house and, with the help of lots and lots of wonderful people, moved in.

A month or two later, we tried our hand at making the house “ours,” by painting a sunroom/porch bright yellow. You can see the fruits of that effort here. For the record, we still have mixed feelings about it.

Then we decided to take a break with home improvement, because the yellow had us a little discouraged. Maybe we have terrible taste and don’t know it, we thought. We lost our steam. Life picked up, and we had things to do every weekend. Not only that (and I’ll be frank): even painting a room can be a costly experiment, and I wasn’t in a hurry to spend more money on something we might not get just right.

But, as the world continues to turn, the sun continues to rise and fall, the tides go in and out, and change has proven itself inevitable as always. We found out in October that we’re expecting our first baby (yay!), and we quickly realized we needed a place for that baby to live. As you may have seen before, our two upstairs rooms were/are like two different worlds: one a nicely painted and finished bedroom, the other a wood-paneled disaster area. I was using the second bedroom as our new project room, but now that it has become its own project, everything has been moved into the basement while we work on finishing this monster.

Fun in a kitschy way, but the paneling was falling off and also broken in areas. Also, it's really dark, especially with just one window.

Fun in a kitschy way, but the paneling was falling off and broken in areas. Also, it’s really dark, especially with just one window.

Tiny opening for the shared closet. Nice brown vinyl door that doesn't shut all the way.

Tiny opening for the shared closet. Nice brown vinyl door that doesn’t shut all the way.

My dad came over to help with the demolition! Definitely the most cathartic of all home improvement duties.

My dad came over to help with the demolition. Definitely the most cathartic of all home improvement duties. Note the globs of glue on the drywall that was holding all that paneling up!

Ripping more stuff apart.

Ripping more stuff apart.

 

We also made some unsettling electrical discoveries. Sigh. Less drywall, mo' problems.

We also made some unsettling electrical discoveries. Sigh. Less drywall, mo’ problems.

 

And that’s where we are today! There’s still some drywall to rip down, and we’re getting to that today. Then, we are definitely hiring an electrician (and maybe even someone to put up new drywall…). So, we’ll call it semi-homemade.