The Long-Awaited Kimono

It’s been a while, eh? Now that Baby H has finally started napping  somewhat reliably and I actually have more than 5 minutes a day where I’m not brushing my teeth, showering, shoveling food down my gullet, or catching up on sleep, I might have time to blog again! 😮 [side note- I first wrote this draft three months ago; clearly the napping has been going swimmingly. I have one of those babies that naps anywhere from 30-45 min and occasionally over an hour. I can count on one hand the number of 2 hour naps she’s had. Somewhere out there, a friend of a friend of my husband’s told him that by 6 months, he could expect that our daughter would nap for 2 hours, 3x a day and I would have time to grow a veggie garden, clean the house, and cook elaborate homemade meals with all my free time. Dude, I don’t know who you are or where you are, but I hope karma does.]

I would also like to take this time to formally apologize to every new mom I know, who I quietly judged inside my head before becoming one myself. Forgive me. The best quote I have heard on this topic is “It’s awfully hard to get on that high horse with a baby in your arms.”

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We both know it’s going to be weeks months before you finish this, so I’m just going to make myself comfy…

I’ve had a kimono project in the back of my mind ever since I saw Holly Dolly’s. When I found a cute peachy floral fabric at my #1 happy place AKA FabricLand, I knew just what to do! Actually that’s a lie, here is the original fabric that I wanted to use, but it was like $20/m so I settled on the cheaper alternative.

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I wanted something that would be light for the summer that I could nurse discreetly in. It’s not perfect by a long shot, but the last item of clothing I sewed was a pair of PJ pants back when I was oh, 10 or so? And I hated them and never wore them (sorry, Mom). I used a tutorial from Elle Apparel Blog as a rough guide, laid out my fabric, and got to it!

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Why yes, that is a baby strapped to my body while I sewed. #babywearingforthewin

One thing this project gave me was experience using the presser foot on my sewing machine. I’m super impressed with my little Janome SUV 1108. It came with a ton of accessories that I am slowly learning the different uses for. It was a fun challenge figuring out how to do a rolled hem. Shout out to the people of the sewing sub on Reddit for their tips! The fabric was super fine and hard to work with, so I used spray starch to get it to “stick” and feed better into the foot. I made sure to practice on a few test strips until I got the feel for how to feed the fabric into the foot, and took my time- unpicking was tedious and not suited to the delicate nature of the fabric, so I really had to try to get it right on the first pass. I also used these tips from Megan Nielsen and this video from The Colorful World of Sewing to help me out.

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Test strips, test strips, and more test strips

Et voila.

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Just in time for the fall [Edit… winter] and for baby to start solids, my easy breezy summery nursing-friendly kimono!

-C

Organza and Satin Ribbon Bridal Sash

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My super crafty and creative friend recently got married and although making a bridal sash is totally something she would nail, her to-do list for the wedding was pretty long… like, clear a patch of land in the woods for the ceremony, cut down trees to make the benches, and break her arm in the process long. So she asked me if I would look after it, and I gladly obliged!

You may remember that I made my own sash(es) for my wedding out of rolled dupioni silk roses and pearl beads. My friend wanted me to “copy” one from the bridal shop where she tried on her dress, which had a large silk flower along with feathers and other pretty bits. While I was doing some research on DIY silk flowers, I stumbled on this great blog post from Reese Dixon that describes how to make flowers out of organza.

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Aren’t they gorgeous? After a few quick stops to Fabricland and Michael’s I had everything I needed.

First, I made a large white flower out of some beautiful shimmery organza and 2 small rolled satin ribbon roses using the same tutorial I used for my dupioni silk flower wedding sash, except with 2″ ribbon instead of silk. I am happy to report that although I started off making rolled flowers with hot glue because I was too scared to hand-stitch, after all the practice I got for the whale and fish baby mobiles I made, I can (semi) confidently hand-stitch without (much) tangling/swearing! I made a good chunk of this sash with needle and thread, instead of relying on the all-too-easy-and-sometimes-disastrous hot glue.

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Once the flowers were done, I figured out how I wanted to have them arranged on the ribbon, and set to work making the backing.

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For the backing, I cut an oval of felt to size and cut circles out of tulle. I pinched the tulle circles in the middle and rolled/tucked until they looked pretty, then tied the ends off.

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The next steps I didn’t take photos of because I was too focused on getting it to look right! Once I knew where the flowers were going, I filled in the gaps between them with the folded bits of tulle by hand-stitching them to the felt at the knotted end. Then I added feathers pointing in all directions behind and between where the flowers would go by hand-stitching them 2-3 at a time (they came stuck to a fabric circle that I cut them off of in groupings, then sewed on to the felt). I made sure to attach more feathers than I thought I would want, because it’s hard to get them to lie right- that way, I could cut off any ones that looked odd. Having a bit extra also helped when I accidentally dripped hot glue on part of it and had to cut some of it away…

Once I was happy with the placement of the tulle and the feathers, it was time to attach the flowers. I relied on hot glue for this part since the flowers would have been pretty thick to sew through. The roses were pretty straight forward, I just hot glued them to the felt. But I had to be careful with the organza flower; hot glue pretty much melts anything it comes in contact with, and I was pretty sure the organza was not heat resistant. To make sure the hot glue wouldn’t melt right through it,  I sewed a circle of felt on to the back of the organza flower by stitching through all except the topmost layers (to hide the stitches),  then glued the circle to the felt backing. I forgot to take a picture of sewing the pearl beads to the organza flower, which I did before attaching the felt circle.

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I left the tails of the ribbon pretty long so my friend could just tie it on to her dress, but the back of her dress had really pretty button detailing that she didn’t want to hide. I needed to find a way to join the two ends so that they would meet in the middle of her back like a belt. I could have used a button or a set of hooks and eyes, but then I had a brain wave: I bought a bra extender clip from Fabricland and hot glued the ends of the ribbon to either side of the clip so it was exactly the width of her waist. I managed to hide the clip with a fold of ribbon so you could only see two edges of ribbon meeting.

Want to see it in action? Sure you do!

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Beautiful! Congrats to our lovely friends D&D, it was such a great day and so special to be a part of.

This could have easily been made entirely with hot glue, but I am pretty proud of myself for growing in my craft skill set and improving my hand stitching skills, and I think the end result is a lot nicer than it would have been otherwise! How about you, have you tried your luck at a handmade bridal sash or put on your big girl pants and exchanged the hot glue for a needle and thread?

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One Step at a Time

Now that the weather is getting warmer, it’s time to break out all my favourite spring/summer clothes. Normally I would be super excited about this- I pack away seasonal clothes so it’s like shopping from my own closet when the weather changes- but I got a bit of a shock when I tried on my bright green skinny pants: they don’t fit any more! I knew the winter had been a particularly cold, lazy, snuggly, TV-watching, comfort food-eating one, but I was not prepared for the proof before my eyes.

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So when I saw a post on Honeybear Lane about making one small change to become healthier, it resonated with me. Her goals were pretty reasonable: to go to bed before 11 pm and to avoid eating anything past 8 pm. I’ve decided over the next few weeks to try this too! I know I can’t completely change my habits overnight, so this way it’s a lot more manageable. Trying to make healthier meals, depriving myself of sweet treats, and exercising more sounds too daunting to tackle all at once so I’m going to try it a little bit at a time.

The reason I decided to write a post about this is to commit myself to it- it’s too easy to just tell myself that I’m going to try, and then not stick to it. The first small change that I am trying to make is to squeeze a bit of exercise into my schedule. Nothing huge- for instance, last week I did a 30 min yoga DVD from Jillian Michaels (good God, that woman makes you work) and I joined a coworker for a 20 min jog over lunch. I’m also thinking about hitting up the free swim hour at my local indoor swimming pool. As soon as I feel like this is part of my routine, I’m going to move on to eating a bit better- namely, eating something more substantial than a granola bar for breakfast and including more veggies in my diet. Sounds pretty doable, right?

Wish me luck! I’d love to hear if you’re going to join me- there’s nothing like group motivation!

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Old Sweater, New Look

I love to sew, but sometimes I hate to sew, you know? The tutorials I found online for sewing on elbow patches made it sound so easy:

1) Cut an oval of the fabric of your choice to make a patch.

2) Centre the oval on the elbow of the sleeve.

3) Stitch the patch on.

4) You’re done!

Here’s a more realistic breakdown (for me anyway):

1) Cut an oval of the fabric of your choice to make a patch.

2) Centre the oval on the elbow of the sleeve.

3) Notice that the patches are not symmetrical. Try again.

4) Notice that although they are now symmetrical, the patches are now not covering the worn area of the sleeve, which defeats the purpose of the elbow patch in the first place. Consider the importance of having symmetrical elbow patches vs. the importance of having functional elbow patches.

5) Try again.

6) Now that the patches are semi-symmetrical and mostly covering the worn area (a good compromise is one in which neither party is happy), start sewing the patches on with your sewing machine.

7) Have a minor heart attack halfway through sewing the first patch on when the fabric bunches up, making you think you have ruined your favourite sweater. Call it a night and come back to it after 48 hours.

8) Finish sewing the other half of the first patch and the entire second patch by hand. Be grateful you did not choose a contrasting thread colour, which hides how uneven your stitches are.

9) You’re done!

We took my elbow patched sweater for a lovely “Spring” walk and took some photos by the creek near our apartment. It was snowing and I took off my coat and mitts for the photos.

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The tutorial I followed (more or less) was from Brit + Co. I used one-sided fabric adhesive after I had sewed the patch on, and I only used it because I wanted to keep the frayed and worn areas from getting worse. I also did a zig-zag stitch around the patch before stitching it on to prevent it from fraying, since I used corduroy.

This was frustrating but it’s partly my own fault. Every time I sew something I think “I should put more pins on, but it’ll probably be ok” and it’s never ok. Why don’t I learn? Oh well, I’m just happy I can still wear my favourite cardigan!

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Musings on Fashion

I’ve been reading Leandra Medine’s book Man Repeller and was inspired to write a post about fashion and shopping. If you haven’t heard of the Man Repeller blog, it was started when Leandra and her friends were out shopping and realized that their love of fashion (harem pants, overalls, impractical shoes, statement jewellry) could, in fact, be scaring off men. I can definitely relate to this experience; my husband and I do not necessarily agree on what constitutes a cool/cute outfit. Often I’ll try on a new find for him and he’ll look at me nervously and say something like “Isn’t that shirt too big for you?” (no, it’s boyfriend fit) or “Aren’t you going to be cold in that?” (who cares, these shoes are adorable) or “Won’t your feet hurt?” (see previous). Although my husband might not agree, I must be doing something right because I’ve have had a few people comment that they like my style, and ask for tips on how to put together outfits.

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That’s not to say that I’m always well-dressed. I work in a laboratory, which is not exactly the place to be fashionable- I learned that the hard way when I spilled bleach all over brand new Banana Republic black chinos. I have to wear closed toe/heel shoes that cover the top of my feet (ie, no ballet flats), and they need to be comfortable enough to wear all day between moving from the computer to the lab bench to the cell culture room. Thus, my workday wear often consists of jeans, a t-shirt, and a cardigan, since I’m just going to throw a lab coat over top of it anyway! I guess I’ve gotten a bit too comfortable, because the other day our CEO was chatting with me in the hallway and when I said something about being excited for a shopping trip on the weekend she replied “But you don’t really strike me as the shopaholic type!”

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I wish my mom and sister had been there, they would have died laughing. My family nickname is Imelda (as in Imelda Marcos, the wife of the Filipino president who was known for her excessive shoe collection) and my brother-in-law still teases me about how I declared the year I turned 21 “The Year of the Sweet Boot”, because I kept buying myself pair after pair of boots. I was indignant after my conversation with the CEO, but then I looked down at what I was wearing: well-worn Levi’s and an old Roots hoodie. Part of me was a little bit crushed, and I vowed to let my true colours show more at work. I was further motivated to make more of an effort, sartorially, when I discovered that leggings and tights are classified as “pants” by Health and Safety, so at least I can get away with wearing a skirt or sweater dress until that loophole closes!

For those of you who were wondering how I get dressed in the morning (my husband would say “slowly”), here’s my approach to fashion: first it has to make me feel good. As with anything, confidence can make or break an outfit, and my confidence will entirely depend on if I am in the mood to wear something or not. If I put something on and I’m not feeling it, I keep trying. I usually pick one thing that I feel like wearing on any given day and then build my outfit around it. Pinterest can be a huge help here; some days I will just go on Pinterest and search for a specific item, like “chambray shirt” and see what pins come up to get inspired. This works great as a shopping aid too, you can see what outfits you can already put together based on your closet contents and fill in the gaps on your next shopping trip.

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Chambray shirt outfits on Pinterest

I have also adopted a rule that I was happy to hear echoed in Man Repeller. If I’m out shopping and I see something I really love, I force myself to think of what I already have that will go with it. If I can come up with a few combinations that will work, then I go for it! If not, it goes back on the rack. This is definitely not a hard and fast rule, and I have, on occasion, found myself in the conundrum that I have to go out shopping again to find something that goes with my leopard print flats/green skinny pants/etc. Oh darn!

Putting thought into your attire doesn’t have to break the bank, either. When I got approved for my first credit card at 18, my parents were very worried that their shopaholic daughter was heading for a life of debt. But I’m proud to say that MasterCard has not profited from my shopping habits. I’ve always been a firm believer in spending where it counts, and I have the leather handbags and patent pumps to prove it. But I also have a collection of pullovers, t-shirts, and cardigans that I bought on sale. Following the principle of “spend more on less,” ie, spending more money on fewer, high quality items, means that I have had the same cognac brown leather Roots cross-body handbag since my trip to Greece in 2008 and it still looks great. In 6 years I’m sure I would have spent more than the $120 price tag on multiple cheaper ones that would’ve fallen apart many times over by now (justification: check!). By the same logic, spending more on shoes that I will wear time and time again makes more sense to me than cheaping out on a pair that won’t be comfortable and won’t survive a few nights out or Canadian winters.

I budget what key pieces I’m going to spend my money on, and then I fill in the rest of my wardrobe with more economical options. Case in point: I have a kick-ass pair of riding boots (they were purchased in The Year of the Sweet Boot!) that were also pricey, but 7 years later they are still going strong. I take good care of them and don’t wear them when it’s raining/slushy out. I was looking for new ways to wear them, so I headed over to Pinterest and searched for “skirt and boots outfit”. I found this one with a super cute stripey skirt, a similar skirt that had shown up when I looked for chambray shirt outfits above:

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Boots and skirt outfit on Pinterest

I already had everything else in these pictures, pretty much- all I needed was the skirt. So for the past few months I’ve been on the hunt, and I finally found it at Dynamite for $22. I can’t wait to integrate it into my wardrobe and find more things to wear it with!

What’s your philosophy on fashion or shopping? Do you have any man repelling experiences? I really think it’s true that women dress for other women, not for men.

-C