Adventures in Dressmaking

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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

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...


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??

Thursday, April 17, 2014

New bedroom decor: a real painting DIY!

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!

Monday, April 14, 2014

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

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

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
1/2 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!)


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 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. Once finished, cut into servings and put into pretty dishes. =)

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 (I used coconut palm sugar, which is light brown, hence the color on mine).
  2. Whip with an immersion blender or hand mixer until fluffy peaks form. Dolop onto servings of crumble.
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.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Maxi dress season, greeted with black and white patterned knit

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?!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Phew! Vintage wingback chair slipcover finally complete

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.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Weekend Inspiration: Dresses, grey couches, and an ode to flourless chocolate cake

It's been... a week! My book manuscript was due to my publisher on Tuesday so I had a couple of high-stress days there for a while, and I'm SO ready to relax and do fun things I love over the weekend! Here are a few!

Flourless chocolate amazingness

We're having several friends over for a dinner party tomorrow, and I'm super excited to make this flourless chocolate cake. I've made it twice now (Christmas and family trip the other week) and it's sooooooo delicious, plus easy and made of basic, pretty wholesome ingredients! (I substitute butter for the coconut oil, and omit the maple syrup and water.) 

Seriously, I highly recommend you try this at home. It's basically chocolate, butter, EGGS!, and vanilla! Perfect for gluten-free eaters and so impressive for anyone else who likes chocolate - better than any dry, scratchy chocolate cake like the ones I remember! Plus, it looks so impressive because it bakes in a springform pan and you can add pretty toppings (I've been doing fruit or homemade fruit compote/syrup), but it's really super easy.
The darling British cooking show I've been into features a flourless chocolate cake, too, in the "Celebratory" episode! Seriously, watch this sweet show with Sophie's perfect accent and it'll inspire you to do whatever she's doing, too. I think I'll top my next flourless chocolate cake with about 5 pounds of fresh berries, too! ;)

Flowers, couches, you know--spring.

It's springtime for real now, so I've been admiring flowers on desks and tables all week (both online and in the office!). So nice to see perky tulips cheering up an otherwise sort of seasonless space again (at my work, at least). 

Spring cleaning, spring re-arranging... I got a little carried away pinning last night while I was supposed to be in bed. :/ Oh, well. Catching up on inspiration! I also absolutely love this entire home tour and am thinking about re-arranging our living room this weekend. Probably after the party! Wonder if we could fit both of our (grey) couches in our living room...

Dresses! And a chair.

I also have some serious sewing goals this weekend!! I have a very cool black and white print maxi dress cut out, and I really need to finish a chair slipcover I started, um, more than a year ago. Oops.

And on a totally different note, I'm also starting to get excited for the summer wedding season, and thinking about what I'll make for my dear friend's wedding since I saw her last weekend and got to hear some of the details! It's at a venue that has peacocks walking around, and her colors have some peacock-inspired blues and greens. I have a lovely shimmery periwinkle-ey purple-ey lightweight poly that would be great with some gathering on the bodice. Maybe I'll draft/modify a pattern to create something a little like Lupita Nyong'o's lovely pale blue Oscars dress!! But less low-cut! And shorter for daytime!
Looks like a fun DIY challenge!

Well, that was all over the place! Such is the way with sudden flashes of inspiration, eh??
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