Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Maternity Capsule Wardrobe

As much as I love sewing, my energy is way down these days. Coupled with all the house renovations, I haven't had much energy left to do too much maternity DIY.

Up until the second trimester I managed to fit mostly into looser regular clothing, but 5 months in, non-maternity wear isn't comfortable most of the time. Buying maternity clothing was overwhelming at first, because I had no idea what I might need, but I'm happy with the basic wardrobe I've ended up with.

In case you're not sure what you might need to buy for maternity wear here's my list of essentials:

Work and special occasions
Around the house
Mix and match with oversized or tops, cardigans, tie waist coats, flat shoes, sandals and boots. 

For pants and bottoms, I've found that low waisted styles tend to slip and I prefer a full tummy panel which will be wearable for all nine months. Until about 4 months, belly bands and elastic waists were enough to see me through until I was big enough for maternity wear. You may be different so go with whatever feels most comfortable for you.

When it comes to undergarments I don't recommend spending too much, because your size can change rapidly and you might need a new bra in a week's time. Buy them as you need. 

Tips: You can find maternity wear that can work both post-pregnancy and as non-maternity wear. For example, look for maternity dresses or tops without obvious side ruching. You can also find maternity shirts that look good slouchy. I'm a fan of long shirts and oversized sweaters any day, so I know some of these will still get regular wardrobe rotation afterwards.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Sewing Your Own Clothes

The Tailor
[ photo: The Tailor by Kirinohana CC]

I've slowly been improving my sewing skills over the years, but I still often a debate whether or not I should sew something to wear or just buy something.

  • You can get exactly what you want. You choose the fabric, quality of the fabric, construction method, and colors.
  • You can modify a pattern to fit you exactly.
  • You get to wear something unique.
  • A sense of accomplishment!
  • It's sometimes cheaper to buy ready made clothing, than pay for fabric.
  • You may have to redo a thing multiple times. Be prepared for mistakes, and not quite right garments. This also adds into the cost.
  • It's sometimes difficult to find trendy fabric colors or prints (depending on where you live).
  • It can take a lot of time.
As a rule of thumb, I will make something if I can't find it easily in the stores, at the quality level I want. This means I'll still buy basic T's and tanks, or garments sewn from fabrics that I can't find myself, or are too complicated for me to sew. It makes more sense to spend time and money on items that you can wear and treasure for a long time.

Sewing is still very useful. Sewing (non-clothing) gifts for friends, family, and the home, like bags, toys, or throw pillows, are cost efficient, and often quick. Plus, nothing beats the feeling of giving something away to someone who will appreciate it for a long time.

Knowing how to alter your clothes also gives you a lot of freedom. You can add new life to old clothing, or just make sure that things have a more flattering fit.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Maternity Pants DIY

DIY maternity pants

It's pretty simple to alter your existing pants for maternity wear! I took a pair of black pants with a stuck zipper, and altered them to fit me now that my belly is growing. Here's how:

Maternity pants DIY

Cut off the waistband of your pants then cut a curve from the sides to roughly 5 inches above the crotch. You may have to cut the curve lower or higher depending on the style of your pants, just make sure it falls below the curve of your belly. If there are any zippers in your pants, stitch them closed.

Maternity pants DIY

Take a piece of jersey fabric, or any fabric with plenty of stretch, and sew a tube the same width as the waistband of your pants. The seam will be at the back of your pants.

Maternity pants DIY

Use the curved piece you cut out of your pants as a template to cut a curve out of the tube that you sewed. The back of the tube can be straight across starting at the highest point of the curve.

Maternity pants DIY

Pin the tube to your pants, right sides facing, centering the seam of the tube at the back of your pants, and matching the curve to the front. Sew all the way around. You should end up with something like the photo above.

Maternity pants DIY

Hem the raw edge of the tube with a zigzag stitch or stretch stitch. And there you have it! A brand new pair of maternity pants.

Tip: Select a pair of pants that fit your hips and legs, but you can't button or zip up. It helps if the pants have some stretch to them.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ombre Plant Pot

Ombré plant pot

Is ombre still in fashion? I'm not sure, but it doesn't matter. My house has grey walls and could use a lot more colour! Without a budget to buy ceramic plant pots, it was DIY time. I painted an ordinary green plastic plant pot (the kind that the flowers came in from the store) to make it a little more attractive.

Ombré plant pot

It looks a lot less plastic and ugly now, right? I didn't even take the plant out of the pot before painting. First I sanded the pot to provide a little bit of grip, then painted it over with white primer. Next, I mixed a pale purple, and painted it from top to bottom, gradually adding a little more red at the time. I didn't plan on it, but the pot matches the flowers in them.

A simple project for a rainy afternoon.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Office Chair Reupholstery

Office chair reupholstery. More work than I expected

This project nearly drove me to tears. Trust me when I say that re-upholstery is expensive for a reason, and well worth the money rather than doing it yourself.

We got a couple of office chairs off Craigslist for a steal, but they were in pretty bad shape. The seats were pilled, water marked, and almost raw in places. One of the chairs even had a tear in the back fabric, and the arm rests looked like they'd been chewed by a dog, but I was determined to rehab them, because how hard could it be to change the cloth on a seat?! (Insert weeping and gnashing of teeth)

The photo above is one of the finished seats. Not bad right? But it took forever.

Office chair reupholstery. More work than I expected

So, innocently I started disassembling everything. Check out the screw layout! I made sure that they would all go back in the same place they came from.

Office chair reupholstery. More work than I expected

This is the tear I mentioned before. I used some embroidery thread and stitched it back up. I think it would have looked particularly cool if I used lime green, or even yellow, but black was all I had on had, so black it was.

Office chair reupholstery. More work than I expected

Now this was the worst part. Even with a staple removing tool thingy (it's a screwdriver type thing with a forked tip, like a snake's tongue, at an angle), removing the hundreds of staples that kept the fabric in place several hours just for one seat. Repeat x 2. If you've got more muscle than me it would probably take you half the time, but it's still no easy job.

THEN I cut out fabric, using the original cover as an outline, and stapled the heck out of it so that the new one would stay. I used a fairly thick cotton with a bit of stretch to it. The stretch was good, but the thickness of the fabric made it hard to manipulate around curves. There was a lot of excess fabric going on, and I did the best I could, but it was impossible to get a smooth edge.

Office chair reupholstery. More work than I expected

Now if you look very carefully, you can see this is a different chair than the first photo. I tried re-upholstering the chewed arm rests, but they turned out so ugly so I decided not to put them back on. You can also see the stitching I did to close up that tear in the backing.

I lost 2 days lost to office chairs that I can never get back. On the other hand, we ended up with 2 new office chairs for less than 14$ a piece, including new fabric. Mind you, the real price was paid for in sweat and blood and tears.

IF you're more patient than I am, you can do it yourself. Here's a tutorial I found for upholstering an office chair. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ikea Rast Dresser Makeover

We've been badly in need of dressers for the bedroom, and two months after having boxes of clothing on the floor, and searching everywhere for dressers that would fit beside our bed, we ended up at Ikea. In the end we settled on two RAST three drawer chests. The dressers are solid unfinished pine, and it's hard to beat the 40$ CAD price tag.
Ikea RAST dresser (photo from catalogue)
There are so many hacks for the dresser online. We opted to do something that several other people have before, and go for a bit of a mid-century look. We stained the outside boards with Minwax dark chestnut, and sealed them with a couple coats of polyurethane before assembling the dressers.


We painted the drawers white with some leftover paint from the house. I'd suggest using a semi-gloss enamel paint if you do this yourself.


There was also a sale on kitchen cabinet knobs when we were at Ikea, so we changed out the wooden ones that came with the dresser for black metal. I think they were a steal for $1.60 a pair! Two weeks (plus a lot of trial and error) later, here is one of the finished dressers.


We kept the insides of the drawers unfinished since no one will see it but us. Now El's confident about staining anything or everything, and I may have some other projects for him to help me with! 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sew & Tell: Drapey Cardigan

I'm in loooove. This cardigan is super generous with the drape and can be worn multiple ways. I found some 4 way stretch jersey which was a dream to work with, and used this free wrap cardigan pattern by Megan Neilsen. I was impressed by how easy the instructions were to follow, and this came together in a couple hours with plenty of breaks in between.

Black Drapey Cardigan 3

It's warm and thick, and as my baby bump grows, it will still fit. You can't see much now but I'll need all that extra fabric in a few months!

Black Drapey Cardigan

I think this last photo is my favorite way to wear it: thrown over one shoulder like a shawl. It's like a blanket. It's like dressing for the post-apocalypse (which despite all the girly clothes I post, is actually more my style).

Black Drapey Cardigan 2

I only made a few slight changes to the design. I increased the width of the sleeves, and added wrist cuffs. I also reinforced the shoulder seams with some extra stitching. This was a very satisfying afternoon project, and I'm sure I'll wear this like crazy over the winter.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

DIY Cork Coasters


When we lived in our old apartment with ancient furniture, it didn't really matter if we used coasters or not. Our tables had rings and watermarks, so it wasn't a big deal. Now is a different story. Suddenly coasters seemed like a pretty big deal since we had new wooden tables. I thought I would buy some, but then I remembered the big pile of cork in the garage. I decided to stencil some designs and cut them out.

You can buy a sheet of cork at a craft store, but also in flooring section of the hardware store. This cork was leftover under layer for the floorboards.


The trickiest bit is the stencilling. A foam brush or a stencil brush works well. To stop smudges, you need to put just a thin layer of paint down at a time, and dab up and down, instead of brushing the paint. Every once in a while you'll also need to wipe off the back of your stencil and give it a rinse.


When the paint dried, I used a mug to trace out circles for the coasters. If I did this again I might go with squares, because they're easier to cut out than circles. Cork is soft enough to cut with scissors but the edge won't be crisp unless you use a knife.


Lastly, I brushed a bit of gold paint along the edges both to stop the cork from crumbling, and for a little extra decoration. I think they would have looked awesome with pink and turquoise edges too.

And that's it! Brand new coasters for free. I also made a couple of hot pads / trivets with the leftover cork. Why not?


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sew & Tell: Summer Kimono Style Top


I dusted off (literally) my sewing machine for the first time this summer. The poor old thing needs a bit of TLC, and some cleaning, but it is otherwise still doing great 7 years on. I sewed a simple kimono top based on this tutorial by Elle Apparel. I opted to shorten the hem, sleeves, and I added a cowl band to the neckline. It's made from this wonderfully soft tissue knit in pale purple with white cherry blossoms. It's super comfy, and if summer nights get a bit chilly, easy to throw on.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sew & Tell: DIY Maternity Band

Belly Band 3

If you're pregnant and want to wear your non-pregnancy pants for a little longer, a maternity / belly band can help.

How it works: leave your pre-pregnancy pants unbuttoned or unzipped, then slip a belly band over top so that your pants don't fall down.

It may sound a little silly, but right now I'm too small to fit into maternity pants, and my regular pants are too tight around the waist, so this is a lifesaver. They can also help post pregnancy when you're in between sizes. I've rolled up my shirt so you can see how it fits.

Belly band

They were out of black bands at the store when I tried to buy one, so using a bit of leftover black jersey, I whipped one up in about 20 minutes, and you can too! See, it's just a tube with 2 seams. In the photo above, I've flipped the band inside out so you can see the seams.

Belly Band 2

I followed this tutorial by Make It and Love It. It's so simple but it works! I'm so tempted to whip up a bunch more in different colors.