Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wedding Dress Wednesday: Be Prepared

I know I promised a big reveal today.  I'm sorry!  I didn't get our photos yet!!!  Next week?

Also, my Mom's been traveling, so she fell a little behind in her writing.  So you're getting Bonnie this week!

I'd like to talk a little about being prepared for the worst.  I hate when unexpected things crop up, so I like to prepare ahead of time to minimize the impact.  This seemed especially important where a wedding was involved!

For our guests, I took care of them with my save-a-guest kits, packed full of medical supplies, a sewing kit, safety pins, and about a dozen other useful things.  I know it saved at least one guest from a pounding headache, so it was totally worth it in my book.  (Hey guests - if you know of someone else using them, tell me in the comments!)

Nobody knew this,  but we also had an extra dress and button-down on hand in case someone had a wardrobe malfunction.  It was my Mom's runner-up Mother of the Bride dress and Tommy's runner-up shirt.  Good backups for them, yes, but also good alternatives for similar-sized guests.

For myself, I had a whole variety of backups!  My #1 goal of the day was to get married.  My #2 goal was to not get a migraine.  I had over the counter and prescription meds on hand all day.  I also had some fabulous bridesmaids who made sure I ate, drank plenty of water, and stayed in a relaxed environment. No migraine!

For any post-ceremony wardrobe disasters, I had an ivory BCBG cocktail dress (reception dress).  I figured if something happened to my dress, I'd still look like a bride but be perfectly comfortable in the smaller dress.  I ended up changing into it when I got too hot in my wedding gown.

it looks a lot shorter on the model!
For pre-ceremony wardrobe disasters, I had my Mom, a sewing kit (with extra fabric), and a tide pen.  I also left an extra hour in our schedule for the day to accommodate any issues.  Boy did those ALL come in handy!!!

While my Mom and I were driving down to South Carolina for the wedding, we had a conversation that went kind of like this:

Bonnie: "It seems weird that so many expensive wedding gowns seem to have issues.  Just in the past year, I've been at two weddings where something happened to the bride's gown, and one where a bridesmaid had an issue."

Mom: "Well, just because the dress is fancy doesn't mean the thread and zippers are, too.  Most wedding gowns have the same zippers you'd find in garments from Target."

Bonnie: "How long do you reckon it takes to sew someone into a wedding dress?"

Mom: "Um, about fifteen minutes I'd say."

Fast forward a week, and it was 1:00 pm on our wedding day.  Makeup and hair were perfect, I had the shoes on, as well as the torturous undergarments.  It was time to don the dress!  I slipped it on, my Mom zipped it up, ... and the zipper separated.  My bridesmaids gaped in horror.  We tried to unzip it, but it was stuck at the top.  Everyone kind of held their breath, expecting Mom and me to lose it.  Instead, those years of costuming (and costume emergencies) kicked in, Mom pulled out the needle and thread, and she spent the next 45 minutes sewing me into the dress.  Crisis averted!

I did my first look with Tommy, and we rushed off to get some pre-ceremony photos at the Battery!  It's a beautiful park, but it's 100% mulched.  Those amazing shots we got left us with some souvenirs - namely, mud on my dress.  But never fear!  Mom grabbed a wet paper towel and it rubbed away flawlessly! Thank goodness for polyester!

We absolutely, 100%, recommend the following:
  • Schedule more time than you think you need.  Even with my extra hour, we didn't have time for pre-ceremony family photos as planned.
  • Make sure someone with a sewing kit (and who can sew) is on call.  Have thread that matches the bride, groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen, and parents.  Every single wedding I've attended (and I'm in my late 20's so that's a lot), I've known at least one person who had a clothing issue, many of those being the bride.  I actually bring sewing kits with me to all weddings now, and tell the bride ahead of time, "call me if anyone has a wardrobe malfunction!!!"
  • Be sure you know how to get stains out of your wedding dress fabric.  All fabrics are different, so ask at the store what to do.  
  • Have some form of backup, maybe with a spare dress (for ladies) or button down (for men). 

There's just no sense in letting your clothing mess up your wedding day.  Plan ahead, and it'll all work out just fine.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Sweater Pillow with Buttons

It's officially fall, y'all!

I'm really excited about changing our home decor with the seasons - nothing super drastic, just some little touches here and there to give the essence.  A quick, easy, and cheap way to do this is by changing out your throw pillows.

I've been loving the idea of sweater pillows - the coziness of the textures in sweaters just oozes fall warmth for me.

There are plenty of options on the market - just check my pinterest page!  But I thought it would be cool to upcycle old sweaters for pillows instead!

Every time I drop off donations at Goodwill, I also peruse the store to see what treasures might be lurking in there.  On a recent trip, I spotted two sweaters that had great colors and textures for my pillow project.  At $5 each, they were perfectly on-budget.  I brought them home and washed them on hot and with oxiclean to get them nice and sanitized.

I found pillow forms half-off at Hancock's over the weekend, and those were my materials!

I started with the sweater with the buttons - it seemed more fun.  I haven't gotten to the second one yet.

After studying the shape of the sweater, I realized I'd need to cut off kind of a lot of the fabric - the neck, the sleeves, and the pockets.  This would leave me with sort of a small pillow, but since they were for our accent chairs, that was OK.

I started by pinning the right sides together in my shape.  Sweater knit is super forgiving, so I didn't worry about measuring it for size or anything, I pretty much winged it.

I had to remove the top two buttons - one would go to waste, and the other would get caught in the seam.  After I sewed the seam, I sewed the button back in place.  I moved the extra one to a lower spot, creating a nice line of buttons all the way down the pillow.

I sewed the buttoned seam together to take the pressure off the buttons.  This kept the buttoned part from gaping open.

I sewed three sides of the pillow, and also about two inches on either side of the fourth side.  Then I crammed my pillow form in there, and hand-stitched the fourth side closed.  I mushed the pillow around to get the form aligned well.

Upcycled sweater pillow

And that was that!  About an hour of work and $11 per pillow, and I was done!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wedding Dress Wednesday: Hand beading

Wedding Dress Wednesdays are guest posts written by my Mom, Janet

Last week, I covered how I engineered a button-off removable train.  This week I'll tell about hand-beading the bodice.

The inspiration dresses featured a variety of bodices: One was plain silk, which showed everything (seam lines, underwear, jiggly bits, etc.).  Some were heavily embroidered.  One even had 3-D lace flowers scattered around (which we really liked).  Bonnie liked an open lace design (where the flowers are spaced apart) and I thought it looked lighter, airier, and more summery. 

I shopped around, and found lace I liked in the garment district of LA.  The one I picked is a lightweight lace called Chantilly lace, which is re-embroidered and lightly beaded.  I picked one that had a pretty border in case we needed it (we didn’t) and that looked pretty on top of the dress fabric.  It was only $35 a yard and I got 2 yards to play with.

Lace for Bonnie's wedding dress
Lace for Bonnie's wedding dress - you can see the beading more clearly in this photo
Close-up of the original beading on the lace

I started by examining the floral design very carefully.  You want to be sure that the flowers are going the right way!  No dead flowers!  This lace pattern was actually across the fabric, I guess to facilitate using the border on a hem. 

To get the flowers spaced out well on the pattern, I laid the bodice parts under the lace and wiggled them around until the flowers were scattered in good places on each bodice piece.  I strive for ‘controlled randomness’ – not too crazy but not too lined up.  You should also avoid placing a flower right on the end of the bust. 

I loosely pinned the lace to the dress fabric and chopped around each bodice section.  Save all those extra pieces because you can use stray flowers to fill in gaps at the end.  Also be sure and keep any beads that fall off!

Next comes layering each section of the bodice.  I layered the lace over the dress fabric, then put a cotton underlining beneath them.  The underlining prevented being able to see through the lace and dress fabric. 

I pinned all the edges extremely well, stretching the lace netting so that it laid very flat.  I thought the wrinkles in the lace would iron out, but it was actually a function of how the lace was made, so by stretching it slightly, it lay a lot smoother once everything was all sewn together.  Once the pieces were pinned, I sewed a stay-stitching line about ½” from the edges. The stay-stitch gets hidden in the seam allowances once everything is sewn together.

The most important hint I have is to trim away beading anywhere near a seam!  Sewing over beads is a nightmare – your seams end up wonky and you end up breaking beads and needles.  You’ll want to remove all beading within about 1 ½ - 2” from all edges.  Be sure to examine how the beads are sewn on.  In our case, each flower cluster was attached with one continuous piece of thread.  If you trim off just one bead or sequin, the whole flower cluster needs to be redone.

After the dress bodice is sewn together and you are happy with the fit, you can use those spare beads and sequins to fill in where you had removed them earlier.  I used matching thread and a narrow needle.  Some seed beads require a beading needle, but most of the fake pearls and sequins work fine with a regular sewing needle. 

I like to bead sitting at a table with the item laid out in front of me.  This enables you to slide your hand underneath and control everything.  I use a dark colored towel under my beads – they can’t roll around and you can pick them up easier.

Beading the belt, but I use the same set-up regardless of the project

When beading a gown, I first repair all the flowers where I had to remove beads.  In a few instances, an important flower ended up on a seam.  I wanted ones’ eye to travel smoothly over the lace design and not stop at a seam, so I cut out flowers from the scraps and appliquéd them over seams.  I also used this trick in areas that seemed too sparse.

I appliqued lace flowers on top of seams and in sparse areas
Then I started “beefing-up” the beading.  I added a few on the ends of tendrils where there was only thread.  I followed some main stems of flowers and made some of the importantly placed flowers more heavily beaded. 

I added pearls and sequins to the flowers

One thing I learned years ago was to scatter your beading lightly. Then go back and do more, and repeat until you are satisfied or run out of patience or time!  If you start out heavily beading a section, you are locked into doing the entire dress that way!  

I like to bead more on the neckline and bust area; it leads the eye up to the bride’s face.  The top of the dress also gets seen and photographed more than any other part.  I left the waistline alone since the belt would be there, and having the belt on top of heavy beading would be too bulky.

If your pearls are too white for the fabric, you can dye fake pearls in a weak mixture of Rit Dye.  String them on a thread and dip them in a measuring cup filled with hot water and 1/4t of dye.  Start with a weak solution - you can always add more but you can’t take it away!  Most fake pearls are very white, so this helps if your fabric is ivory or ecru.  Fortunately Bonnie’s lace had plenty of beads we could reuse, so I got to skip this step. 

I kept adding beads whenever I had some quiet time, right up until two days before the wedding!  Then I tacked down the lining and added a personalized tag. 

Next week is the final Wedding Dress Wednesday post!  We'll cover some lessons learned, give some tips and tricks, and do the big reveal!!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dinner Crisis!

By the way, I'm still not sponsored by anyone, I just want to share! 

I don't normally talk a lot about our personal life when it's not involving projects, but I absolutely have to share this one!  I guess it's kind of like a project...

Somehow getting married made us lose the ability to plan and make dinner.  I don't know why or how, it just happened.  Maybe it was the longer commute, the huge list of home projects, or simply the pretty view from the back deck.  Or maybe it's just another symptom of the decision fatigue I've been experiencing since about three months before the wedding.

In any case, we got to the point where we would either eat out, eat pizza, or eat cereal for dinner.  This wasn't good for our health or our wallets!

A friend of mine blogged about losing baby weight, and said she'd been using something called emeals.  I googled them, and sure enough, it's a real thing.

eMeals - Easy Meals for Busy People!

It's like this: I pay about $5 a month.  In return, I get a week of dinner menus, all planned out.  Each one takes less than an hour to prepare (more like 20-45 minutes).  They handle the nutrition and calorie balancing, I just follow the directions.  They also give me a complete shopping list that should cost less than $100. 

So is this actually working for us?  YES!

I now put zero thought into what we're going to make for dinner, what I'm going to shop for, and how much it's all going to cost.  That means more time and money for enjoying married life, and more time and money for projects!!!  And honestly, our back deck beats any restaurant in the area.  I'm also not throwing away all kinds of food at the end of the week because I couldn't figure out how to use it.

One week I spent $80 on groceries.  The following week I used the extra meat I froze, and we were only in town three days, so my groceries were $10.62.  Last week they were about $60.  Compare that to even one night eating out, and we're so far ahead it's crazy!

We're doing the "Clean Eating for Two" program.  All the recipes make exactly two portions, and consist of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean meats.  We're eating some staples, like rice, tomatoes, beef, and chicken, mixed with some items we had eaten only occasionally before like shrimp, jalapenos, and limes.  We're also trying some foods we've never had before, like orzo, kale, and lemongrass, and you know what?  They're yummy!

They also offer programs for singles and families, for people with kids, for vegetarians or other dietary restrictors, and even programs that follow weekly store sales so you save even more money.  I signed up for three months, just to try it, and also found a nice coupon through retailmenot.  {by the way, if you're not searching Retail Me Not for coupons every time you buy online, you're losing out on lots of great deals!}

Here are a few of our recent meals:
Chicken Parmesan with Tomato Argula Salad
Lemongrass and lime shrimp stir-fry
Balsamic Chicken and Greek Orzo

So anyways, that's my new exciting thing I'm up to.  Just wanted to share in case it rescues someone else from the dinner blues!


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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wedding Dress Wednesday: Button-off removeable train

Wedding Dress Wednesdays are guest posts written by my Mom, Janet

I sewed for the public for many years when Bonnie was a little girl.  My specialty was making wedding gowns and bridesmaids dresses.  Back in the 80’s and 90’s, I made a lot of very formal gowns with high necklines, huge sleeves, and long trains.  Princess Diana’s gown was very inspirational to brides back then!

many late 80's brides found inspiration in Princess Diana's wedding gown

Brides would point to a place on the floor behind them and say, “I want it that long”.  On Bonnie’s dress, we started with a modest train idea, one that she could maneuver and dance in.  I made the trial pattern and black sample dress with about an eighteen inch train.

wedding dress "muslin" with 18" train

It was WIMPY!  I modified each A-line skirt section to make it wider at the hem and made the train longer. 

flat pattern altered for wider hem and longer train
I used flat pattern techniques, and “slashed & spread” each skirt section.  We felt that the center front of the skirt was too flat (it was cut on the fold) so I made the center front into a seam and swooped it outward at the hem.  Each piece helped make the silhouette of the skirt more flared and dramatic. Of course, if you make the underskirt fuller, it’s going to take more layers of flounces to cover it!  So I started sewing on flounces and checked how it looked.  The results were lovely! 

ruffled fit and flare wedding dress train

An unexpected bonus occurred during Bonnie’s walk down the aisle – we could hear her dress rustle as she walked! 

In the past, my dresses were bustled by either putting a ribbon loop, which enabled the wearer to swoop the train around on a ‘leash’ and control it, or; through a series of hooks, etc. the length was bustled up into a more manageable length. 

example of wrist loop to control wedding dress bustle

On other dresses, I achieved this by carefully hiding hooks so the bustled fabric fell attractively.
example of two ways to use hidden hooks to bustle a wedding dress

But Bonnie’s dress was different!  I felt that if we bustled up all those flounces, they would be bulky, rumpled and destroy the elegant line of the dress.  I had a dangerously clever idea: 

We’d take the train off!  How would a detachable train work???  Zipper?  Velcro?  Hooks?  BUTTONS! 

I took a deep breath and cut the completed dress off at the desired length!  Yipes!  

I hid the cut edge under the last flounce where no one would see it.  On each side of the cut edge I sewed a strip of matching dress fabric.  I made buttonholes on the dress half and sewed the buttons to the train.  That way, once the train was detached, you wouldn’t see anything unusual (like loads of random buttons). 

I spaced the buttonholes 3” apart and made them perpendicular to the floor, so the stress would be on the end of each buttonhole.

Button-off wedding dress train
I happened to mention to Bonnie that I needed to buy more buttons, (another trip to the fabric store), and she quipped that she wished I had her baggie full of buttons she had harvested off Tommy’s dress shirts that she cut up for his quilt.  Eureka!

We used 33 shirt buttons, recycled from Tommy’s shirts, how personal a touch is that?!!

Button-off removable wedding dress train, with buttons recycled from the groom's shirts!

Detachable wedding dress train
Button-off detachable wedding dress train

After the ceremony, her maid of honor, Katrina, unbuttoned the train and put it in a safe place.  Our design idea worked perfectly, the dress appeared complete, just shorter! 

Bonnie was able to dance and move around the reception with no problem and the dress still looked lovely.


Button-off removable train

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Autumn Yarn Wreath

Last year I saw this amazing wreath on Pinterest, and vowed I'd make one of my own this year.
Argyle Wreath by Itz Fitz

Because I have a lot of other projects going on right now, I looked into buying it on Etsy.  At $45, it's reasonably priced.  I was really inspired by the other wreaths in the sellers shop - they're beautiful!

Yarn Wreaths by Itz Fitz

My only qualm was that the ones I really liked were only 12" in diameter and I felt like they would be too small for our door.  Solution: DIY!

I started with a 16" extruded styrofoam wreath from Michael's.  These forms are really skinny, so I beefed it up a little with strips I cut from quilt batting.  I used about a yard of quilt batting, cut into 4" strips.  I wound these around the form, making a total of three layers.

Next I gently wrapped a thick, chunky yarn around and around the padded form.  I took the whole skein of yarn to cover the entire wreath!

Yarn wrapped wreath
yarn wrapped wreath

To add some quirky fun to the wreath, I made some flowers from wire-edged ribbon.  I pulled the wire on one edge to gather up the ribbon, then rolled it up to make roses.  This was incredibly easy and required zero sewing.  Score!

roses made from wired ribbon

My spool of ribbon had enough yardage to make three flowers.  I hot glued the flowers onto the wreath.  I nabbed some feathers from a hideous floral arrangement that was left in our house by the last owners and was destined for the trash.

bunched feathers

I accentuated the flowers with the feathers by hot gluing them in place.

yarn wreath with ribbon flowers and feathers

And that was that!  Time for the front door!

autumn yarn wreath with ribbon flowers and feathers

autumn yarn wreath with ribbon flowers and feathers

I'm so happy I tried this project!  It turned out exactly like I had imagined it.  It took about one hour and cost less than $20 for all the materials.  What a great kickoff to the season.

How are you decorating for fall?

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wedding Dress Wednesday: Accessories

 Wedding Dress Wednesdays are guest posts written by my Mom, Janet

Last week I talked about the important parts of a wedding dress that you never see.  This week I'll discuss all the accessories that you can see, and which complete the wedding ensemble.

Shoes: Don’t forget to choose a heel height for final dress fittings! Bonnie went through a dozen pairs before she found the “ONES”.  They were all beautiful, but keep in mind you will be wearing them for hours! She did have a fancy pair of flip flops for the end of the evening.   

I heard a funny story the other day, a friend of mine was at a wedding, and a bridesmaid came creeping down the aisle peeking at all the women, she stopped and asked what size my friend wore, turns out the bride forgot her shoes and had to borrow some! What a story! 

{Bonnie’s note: I wish I had worn flips flops all day.   Mine weren’t all that uncomfortable, but I still noticed them while standing up on the altar.   Nobody sees them anyways, so don’t waste your time, money, and comfort!}
Coral and silver glitter high heels {yes I did buy and return six other pairs}

Final choice on wedding shoes, $24 at DSW!

Veil:  We went totally under-board on the veil.   Bonnie wasn’t sure she wanted one at all.   She tried one on while wedding dress shopping to make me happy, and decided that maybe a small one would be ok.  I was glad she’d considered it at all, so I was content with a minimal one.  She saw a picture on a blog with the veil tucked up under the bun, which looked surprisingly pretty and made it hang very straight down the back and not tickle her shoulders or look like a shroud (her words).  

While shopping in the garment district in LA I found a simple gathered strip of tulle on a piece of button cording (it has loops you could pin through).  It was only $8!!!

Veil tucked into bun

Belt:  If we went under-board on the veil, we went totally overboard on the belt!  The nice ones in the stores average about $600, and have a ribbon closure to make them adjustable.  If you know Bonnie, she is allergic to bows, all her life we have had to do ‘bow-ectomies’ to her garments, even nighties and bras.

Given our allergies to expensive purchases and bows, I felt I could make a high quality beaded belt myself!  I made another trip downtown and this time visited all the stores with beaded trims (check out the fabric shopping post).  The ones I was interested in were usually kept behind the counter or under glass.  $20-60 a yard was typical.  I was drawn to the ones made like jewelry, but when I sent Bonnie pictures on my phone, we realized that the silver settings for the stones looked grey on top of a white dress.  I found some lovely ones that were all white pearls and sequins, and would look lovely against the dress.  

I started out by making a 2” wide covered belt to attach the trim to, but you could see the dress fabric too plainly.  Next I made a 1” belt using four fabric thicknesses, and used a skirt hook on the end for the closure (no bows).  It was slightly narrower than the trim, so it didn’t show at all.  I stitched the trim to it firmly and left the end undone until right before the wedding.

The trim was mostly very pretty, but every inch or so it had a jumbo fake pearl and a white plastic sequin.  UGH!

Beaded trim, but afflicted with tacky white sequins and pearls

So I snipped those off, and sewed on smaller pearls in their place.  

If you look closely you can see the before and after effect of my beading.  Most people wouldn’t have noticed, but Bonnie and I did!  Her custom stitched belt that was 100% beaded and sized to fit was only $35 of materials.

DIY pearl beaded belt for wedding dress

Hankie (something old): I love old hankies and even once made a quilt out of some floral ones for our vintage feather bed.  I had been collecting them for Bonnie, and she picked the one with a big ‘B’ appliquéd on it.  The one we bought in Belgium with a lace ‘B’, she tucked in her dad’s pocket.  He presented it to me at the end of the aisle; I was tearing up watching them!

Antique handkerchief with the bride's initial

Jewelry (something new): Bonnie tried on lots of jewelry with her dress.  Between family stuff, loans from friends, and even the entire garment district, we didn’t find quite the thing.   Bonnie had in mind a simple drop necklace and I thought it should look ‘believable’, and be something she could wear for years.  In the end, she found a set at Macy’s that looks like diamonds set in white gold.  Very tasteful and understated!

Faux diamond wedding jewelry
{Bonnie’s note: Somebody at work fussed at me the other day for wearing my nice diamonds.  Ha!}

Garter (something borrowed): Two years before their wedding, when they were still dating, Tommy caught the garter at a wedding.  It came home in his suitcase, and Bonnie found it while packing for the wedding.  She wore it, and intends to give it back to the rightful owner so it’s truly something borrowed!

Tommy caught the garter, and they were next!

Wedding Date (something blue): Bonnie saw some photos on pinterest of wedding dates sewn into the bride and groom's clothing.  We thought it would be cute to do it in blue as her "something blue"!  It was left as one of the very last touches, so please forgive the quality!!!

Wedding date sewn into wedding dress

Silver Sixpence: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and a Silver Sixpence in your shoe.  

...and a silver sixpence for your shoe

Many people don’t know the whole saying, but when I got married one of my mother’s friends from England gave me a sixpence as a shower gift!  It’s supposed to bring financial luck to your marriage.  After lots of hunting, I finally found it and presented it to Bonnie at one of her showers.  Nowadays you can find them without too much trouble on Ebay.

We stuck it in her shoe, in the arch area so it wouldn’t rub.  We used one of those sticky-spots-things you can use on your clothing.  

Check back next week when I describe hand-beading the bodice!