DIY: Christmas Stockings

Multi-colored underwear rolled up and tied with a bow, decadent candies, lottery tickets that are sure to win hit the jackpot and socks (of course).  Oh what treasures I choose to fill up my husband’s stocking.  With the addition of Clara in 2010, I was PUMPED to make her a stocking I could fill with wonderful treats and gifts. 

For a few years, I had my Fashion Design students design custom stockings and create advertisements for their Merchandising unit.  Over time, I switched to different projects- but I still use this same stocking pattern from McCall’s to make stockings for my own girls.  The pattern calls for a heel and toe patch, but I threw those out and replaced them with appliqued designs (click the link on how to applique by hand from a previous lesson!).  Make sure to applique the designs you want BEFORE you sew the stocking together.

Although my husband kept humming the theme from “Charlie Brown” while I stitched on the chevron pieces for Ruby’s stocking this year, I am happy that I chose the super trendy design.  In a few Christmas’s when Ruby asks me why I chose to put random zig-zags on her stocking, I can retell the story of 2012- The Year of the Chevron.  The magical tale of how anything that could stand still had the diagonal lines painted, traced or sewn onto it!  

I also added an extra touch by embroidering their names on the cuff.  I am no master embroider by any means, but it was fun to carry on the embroidery tradition from my Grandma Betty. 

I am so proud of my new stockings- maybe I can replace Mommy and Daddy’s stockings in the coming years.  I am getting a little tired of a Cincinnati Bengal on my beautiful mantel.


November 28, 2012. Tags: , , , . Family Life, Fashion. 1 comment.

My Obsession with Halloween

A devil complete with a goatee and a pitchfork, a Minnie Mouse with individually cut out polka dots since I’m sure the perfect fabric could not be found but had to be created, and my personal favorite………. a California Raisin.  Is this the beginning of a really bad joke?  No, it’s the vast repertoire of AMAZING Halloween costumes my mother made for me as a child.  If I could dream it up, she could create it.  And honestly, I don’t ever remember asking to be a certain character because her ideas were always amazing.  This began my obsession with Halloween, or costumes at least.

Clara’s first Halloween bore the challenge of a slightly mobile 7 month old baby.  I took this opportunity to create a Mermaid ensemble since she didn’t need the ability to move her legs.  All the kicking and struggling to get out just made the fins look more life-like 🙂

Her second Halloween was an omage to her favorite Sesame Street Character, Abby Cadaby.  Honestly, I just wanted to make her those sweet poofy pigtails and give her purple freckles.

Finally, this year was my first challenge of coordinating costumes with the addition of sweet baby Ruby.  I wanted to put her in a “sack” just like Clara was her first year…. so what better than a caterpillar!?  A Butterfly was the perfect companion.  And with lots of green and yellow Minky leftover from the Nap Mat, this pair of bugs only cost me about $10. 

The tutu was an afterthought when I realized how much Clara loved to dance around in one she had received from her Oma Janet.  My opinion of random tutu’s on costumes was similar to one of my favorite “Mean Girls” line.  You know, girls use Halloween as an excuse to wear lingerie and just pair it with animal ears.  I think mothers of little girls want an excuse for them to wear tutus, so we make them match any random costume.  Whatever….she looked super cute!

Ruby with the lady who started it all…Nana!  Hope I made her proud!

November 16, 2012. Family Life, Fashion. Leave a comment.

Pin #8: Too Short Dress to Just Right Skirt

I’m tall.  Not like Amazon tall, but taller than the average woman and enough to tower over most of my friends.  Combine this with most designers creating “knee-length” dresses and I get hemlines that aren’t appropriate for work.  Leggings are my friend, although I don’t think they are as trendy as they were a few years ago.  Whatever, I’m wearing them to keep from flashing my students when I lean over to answer to a question.

I bought one of these “just short enough” dresses a few years ago, trying to ignore the fact that is was just slightly shorter than any pair of shorts I would I would ever dare to wear.  The fabric was so darn cute, I even ignored the fact that it was a high-waisted, über pleated, lined dress that would make a broom look pregnant.   Needless to say I have never worn this dress.  But when I saw a pin come across the market for turning a dress into a skirt- I knew what I had to do!

I didn’t really follow the directions because no two dresses are exactly the same.  But, it gave me some inspiration to get started.  Here’s what I did:

1. I put on the dress like it was a skirt to see if it would fit appropriately.  Ironically, the zipper was stuck where the bodice meets the skirt.  What an awesome purchase I made. Anyway, that looked like a great place to make a new waistline and it was the perfect length.

2. I measured an inch from seam where the skirt met the bodice (great new waistline) and cut the top off- straight through the zipper.  Yes, you can cut through a zipper.  I have to talk my students through this process; I guess they think it will explode if they cut it off!

3. This dress had a lining, so I ended up cutting through two layers of fabric.  I folded them TOWARD each other at 1/2″ so they would be right sides together and form a nice new seam with no raw edges.  At the opening, I folded down the remaining zipper toward the inside (between the facing and lining).  You can’t just cut off the top of the zipper and call it good- you have to fold it over so it can stop.  Other wise that puppy will zip right off!

4. I sewed at 1/4″ and it was done!

Hooray for “new” clothes!

July 17, 2012. Fashion. Leave a comment.

Pin #7: Ruby’s Slippers

If you weren’t (insert occupation here) what would you be doing?  Me? I would be enjoying a brilliant career as a children’s shoe designer.    After a few years of being a consumer of baby and toddler shoes, I have many times been on the verge of a very loud “UGGHH” sound in the baby shoe section.  Why? Because they aren’t made for baby feet or baby clothes….ever.  People who buy shoes for babies who don’t belong to them think the itsy bitsy shoes are adorable and buy them for the cute factor, and as a recipient you often find that the hot pink glitter sling backs with purple sequence butterflies don’t match anything that has ever been created. Cute?  yes.  Ridiculous? yes.  How about the progression of toddler shoes that they wear when they can actually walk?  I recently bought Clara 2 pairs of somewhat “matchable” flip-flops only to have her flip-out when I put them on her feet.  I realized that the sole of the shoe was thicker and harder than my own shoes, and the plastic “thong” part was exactly the same size as mine!  How are little feet supposed to walk in these?

While I can’t quite gather up supplies or skills to make Clara some reasonable shoes, I can make Ruby some sensible white  slip-ons that she can wear to church.  White.  No lady bugs, no polka dots.  Little elegant white shoes that will match any baby dress.  Although the elves are supposed to make the shoes while the Cobbler sleeps; this Cobbler made the shoes while the elves slept 🙂

Lots of flaws, I know.  I made a poor fabric choice because I had some left over from a Wilma Flintstone costume.  I swear those toes are perfectly clipped and rounded off- but her little toes just curl up inside them and make the fabric pucker.  Oh well.  I’m pretty happy with how they turned out and only have 2 suggestions from the TUTORIAL:

1.  Topstitch the top of the shoe:  I made a first pair and noticed that there was a lot of puckering and not enough shape.  After the second try the topstitching really helped the shoes take form.

2.  Make sure you cut a Left and Right:  Sounds dumb but it’s not in the instructions (which it really shouldn’t be).  But I had to stop myself when cutting out the sole and remember to flip one of them over before I cut and LABEL it. 

3.  Add elastic:  After finding that one slipper was slightly bigger than the other and that 2 month old babies love to kick their feet- I added some elastic to the inside back of the heal to grip her sweet little foot a little bit better!

July 10, 2012. Fashion, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Pin #6: What Mommy Outgrows Becomes Clara’s New Clothes

I’m cheap.  Like really, really cheap.  I have a very hard time buying clothes for my daughters that cost more than $5 at the very most.  I love to scope out the clearance racks, and friends hate going shopping with me because I look at EVERYTHING on every clearance rack.  But, that’s how I manage to keep my ladies dressed in super cute threads for super cheap.  However one of my retailers, Wal-Mart, has been majorly letting me down lately!  They must be hoarding all of last seasons deals in some magical wharehouse somewhere because I haven’t been able to spend my weekly 15 minutes lost in their clearance.  Therefore, it’s time to turn to Pinterest for some thrifty ideas!

My first attempt at repurposing something old into something new for Clara came after my husband mysterioulsly got a bleach spot on a fabulous shamrock green linen shirt. It was just a darn shame to let this fabric (a clearance steal I got for him @ GAP outlet last summer) go in the trash.  So, I turned to Pinterest for some inspiration.  I ended up with this little gem. 

Daddy’s ruined shirt

Clara’s new tunic!

I was really happy with the end result and learned that the trick to making these dresses NOT look homemade is to use as many of the original seams as possible.  My next project came after ridding my closet of clothes I should have never bought or would take a miracle for me to able to wear again.  I could blame it on having two babies- but I’m really just lazy and chubby.  I pulled out this little number from the DAV pile and imagined a very fashionable little frock for Fall. 

This cheap knit shirt I purchased from Sarah Jessica Parker’s clothing line at Steve & Barry’s turned out to be a great repurpose project because it itself was not perfect.  While making a pattern for the sleeves I noticed that they weren’t even the same size!  Way to go Sarah Jessica Parker.  This fact didn’t make me so sad when the stripes didn’t match anymore when I had to resize the collar.  Oh well, old imperfection to new imperfection I guess.  To make an extra layers of ruffle, I used the hem from last weeks tank dress that was cut off.  Clara LOVED this little dress and I could barely get it off her to put it away for Fall church attendance.  I even tried to put a little flower on it to dress it up a bit, but she thought it was so cool she eventually tore it off!


I used an outgrown dress to help create a pattern and a paper bag to draw a sleeve patternAlways remember to make new pattern piece at least 5/8" larger around all edges!

I made an extra layer of ruffle from the bottom hem of last weeks tank dress!

July 1, 2012. Family Life, Fashion, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Pin #5: Dressing Up- You CAN make your own dress!

I love to wear dresses, which is strange since I think I had only worn them to funerals and school dances before I became a teacher.  But, just because I’m a teacher who wears a lot of dresses does not mean they are jean jumpers with embroidered school houses on them.  I can give you a long explanation of why I choose to wear dresses many days of professional work week, but simply put, I don’t like to wear to pants.  It does however, cause a similar problem that I hear people who wear scrubs to work have: if you don’t ever wear pants that fit- you don’t know how fat you’re getting!  With that danger in mind, I still love to sport a long flowing dress to the classroom!

Dresses can be expensive and I am too cheap to spend more than $15 on a dress, ever.  I don’t sew my own dresses, for the same reason I don’t ever make any of my own clothes: it’s hard and expensive.  To buy all the fabric and notions needed for a cute dress would be far over my $15 budget and I probably won’t be proud to wear a garment with a wonky collar & floppy facing. So when I saw this pin come across the page, I was excited to give it a try.  Simply purchase a tank and 2 yards of fabric (I needed a ‘lil more than instructed because of the aforementioned waistline) and some elastic thread if you don’t already have some.  VOILA! A super cute little dress that works for casual summer affairs or “pro-it-up” with a cardigan.  I do have a few suggestions for making this dress:

1. BUYING FABRIC:  This is the worst part of sewing projects for me. A store full of brightly colored bolts of fabric contains for too many possibilties for me, and I may or may not have a had a panic attack or 2 at FM Store in past visits.  I have learned my lesson to not go in without a plan.  Since I was making a dress for myself, I kept my eyes open for large prints in 1-2 colors.  It’s tempting to look for what’s cute- but its important to look at the fabric like each bolt is an actual dress not just the print.  Patterns that are too small can be overwhelming to look at when being worn although may be adorable on the roll. 

2. CUTTING THE BODICE: Bodice is a fancy word for the “top” in the sewing world, and once you cut the tank top there is no going back.  Make sure you measure how much you want to cut from the BOTTOM hem, not how much you want to keep from the top.  Pin the tank closed at the hem, matching the edges and cut how much you want to take off- subtracting 5/8″ to that measurement.  My students often cut things for how long they WANT them to be in the end, and forget to measure what they want to keep and how much will be the seam allowance.  This mistake could make the bodice too short and you’ve wasted a perfectly good tank.  After you cut, fold the tank in half and mark the middle front and middle back.  Take the extra minute to do this, you will thank me.

3. FITTING THE SKIRT: As mentioned for the tank, take the time to mark the top of the skirts front middle and sides (the back middle is the seam). Skip the step in the tutorial that tells you to sew a long stitch around the fabric with elastic thread.  It does gather the fabric, but not enough to match the marks you’ve made on the tank and skirt easily.  Go ahead and leave your regular thread in the machine and baste around the top.  THEN, match the marks you made on the tank and skirt.  This sounds like extra work, but I ended up having to go back and do this because I didn’t know where to match the two pieces together.  These small steps will save a headache.  After you match the MARKS, GATHER the basting stitch to make the skirt fit the tank. This worked MUCH better!  Now, you can sew them together with the elastic thread.

This project was easy and I was really happy with the end result!  And since it ended up costing me exactly $15 to make, I would call it a success!  I didn’t want to post an awkward picture of myself wearing the dress, so here is a cute one of me and my girls before I wore it to church! P.S. Don’t go for the floor length, it’s bulky like a sack of taters!  A 2″ hem under the knee was perfect for me!

June 25, 2012. Fashion. 1 comment.

Design Your Way: Applique!

One of my recent obsessions has been applique.  Before my daughter was born, I appliqued the heck out of onesies and anything else I could get my needle through!  I was so in love with the homespun technique I taught it to my Fashion Design classes, and ever since it has also been their favorite project!  If you don’t know what on earth I am talking about, you do!  Applique is a traditional quilting technique that we have all seen for years, and has recently seen a revival in the DIY Movement.  Here are a few examples from my students last year:

You will need:
Foundation (t-shirt, onesie, bib, ANYTHING)
Fabrics of choice (scraps and fat quarters work great!)
Embroidery Thread & Needle (Super Cheap!)
Fusible Webbing (“Wonder-Under” is my choice.  It’s in the fabric dept)
  1. Trace your design of choice onto Wonder-Under   
  2. Iron to wrong side of fabric 
  3. Cut out design   
  4. Remove paper and iron to t-shirt, etc  
  5. Sew a blanket stitch around the edges to attach the design and make it look super cute!

This links to my classroom webpage, the 3rd video is a quick tutorial on the whole process INCLUDING HOW TO SEW A BLANKET STITCH (and the lady is Australian which makes it even more entertaining!)

January 10, 2012. Tags: . Fashion. 2 comments.

A Glimpse Into the Past

For the past 2 weeks my Fashion Design students have been researching and creating presentations on a particular fashion decade.  This is one of my favorite projects to facilitate and to grade.  The girls have so much fun looking through websites to find examples of Fashion Icons, Make Up and Hair trends, and are even inspired to dress in reflection of their time period.  I always have to break up the fights over who gets the 60’s and pull teeth to get anyone to research the 90’s!  Come on, the 90’s were a terrible decade for fashion……… which makes it all the more fun to look at!

This year I have the special treat of bringing in an actual vintage dress from 1950 to show them.  My grandmother has been divvying out her prized possessions to any grandchild who will take them off of her hands, and of course is always taking requests.  My latest plea was to own her stunning pink floral chiffon dress.  Even as a little girl I saw the absolute beauty of this simple little dress my grandfather bought her when they were first married.  Always a tom-boy, my grandmother claims to have only worn it once (maybe!).   I certainly got more use out of it than she did, since I insisted on playing dress up in it every time I spent the evening at her house. 

I’m inspired to keep a few of my favorite garments as keepsakes, no matter how out of style they become.  Who knows, maybe one day my grandchildren will argue over the right to inherit my “Softball Babes” uniform t-shirts.  But, probably not.

September 21, 2011. Fashion, I love my job!. 1 comment.